Liberate Your Art 2014 Blog Hop

Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap Kat Sloma

Round the world the postcards go. Where they stopped, we all now know!

The Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap has wrapped up for 2014, and the fourth year was just as much fun as the previous three. Just when I think I have everything in this swap figured out, there are new things for me to learn about. This year, it was the US Postal Service changing the postcard rate and not yet having stamps available, right before the swap deadline. It keeps things interesting! I didn’t quite meet my goal of 250 participants this year, but that means I’ll just have to keep the swap going another year. ;)

Here are the final stats for 2014:

1254 pieces of art liberated
209 participating artists
10 countries represented

Every year as I open the envelopes, see your art and read your notes, a message seems to emerge for me. This year’s message:

When you liberate your art, you liberate your heart.

Your heart goes into what you create, so when it’s liberated, a little piece of who you are is sent into the world. Because of that, it can be incredibly hard to liberate your art. Exposing your self in this way is difficult, but it’s the first step on a journey that will take you to amazing places. You can’t help but grow and expand your heart as you send your art out into the world.

How do I know this? The first art I ever liberated to others was in the form of postcards. From that small beginning, I’ve continued to evolve the way I share my art, from postcards to cards to individual prints to collections to exhibitions. I have found my voice artistically and I have a confidence in myself around my art I could never have dreamed when I liberated those first few postcards into the world. That’s a very big reason why I run this swap, to encourage others to take this small step too.

Whether you are at the very start of your journey or somewhere further down the road, this postcard swap gives you the chance to go back to the basics. You liberated your art and your heart into the world, where it can do the greatest good. Thank you so much for your participation. I hope you’ll join in again next year!

Now, it’s time to HOP! I have a special bonus for the blog hop participants in the form of a giveaway drawing! At the end of the blog hop, by random drawing from all blog hop participants, I will be giving away:

  • One copy of the book Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art. I found this gorgeous book in the gift shop at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, and couldn’t resist.
  • One 6×9″ fine art print, matted to 11×14″, of this year’s Blog Hop image, shown above. I love how this image came out, and thought the message could be inspiring on your wall. It’s already up on mine!

If you’d like to purchase your own 6×9″ fine art print of today’s image and help me defray the extra expenses I incur on behalf of the swap, I am making it available for purchase during the time of the blog hop. To order, click here if you are within the US and here if you are outside of the US. Postage is included in the purchase price. (Don’t worry, if you purchase the print and then win the giveaway, I’ll refund your money.)

Enough words from me… Let’s hop!

The Transport and Storage of Framed Artwork

As you grow and change in your art, you encounter new challenges and problems to solve. The challenges within the creation of art, you expect. Sometimes though, you encounter problems from directions you don’t expect.

For me, one of those problems has been the transport and storage of framed artwork. It started out with one or two pieces going to an exhibition somewhere. Then it expanded to 10 or 12 for different exhibitions and displays. Now I’m getting ready for my first Art Fairs this summer, and I’ll need a way to transport and store 25-30 framed pieces. These aren’t small pieces either, we’re talking the two-inch (5cm) deep gallery/shadow box frames that I really like to use.

Treescapes Gallery Exhibition Kat Sloma Photography

They look great, don’t they? I’m really happy with them. But… they are a transport nightmare. First off, they are approximately 20×20″ (50x50cm) on the outside. Not a standard frame size. I’ve been toting them around in boxes made for 16×20″ (40x50cm) frames, so they hang out on the top. I had to carry them box by box into whatever building I was bringing them into, they couldn’t stack or lay flat on their sides, and they weren’t protected from the weather. Ever heard it rains in Oregon? Yeah, it was a problem.

Even taking just one or two frames to places was a problem. My boxes were made for four frames, and too big of a box just means the frames will rattle around inside. No box means the frames will slide and shift and bump into things in the trunk or back seat. In my ignorance of handling frames, thinking “it’ll only be in the car for a second,” I’ve broken glass, scratched acrylic glazing, and dented, scuffed and dinged more frames than I care to admit. What a waste! I’m always mad at myself for not thinking ahead as to what might happen to the frames if I stop suddenly or turn sharply.

I needed a new solution. My requirements:

  • Fully enclosed – I need to be able to fully fit my 20×20″ frames fully within the box and to close it, and the box should be flexible to fit 16×20″ as well
  • Lightweight – I should be able to carry a single box up a long distance from car to exhibit or stairs if I need to
  • Reusable – It should be easy to open and close, and sturdy enough to withstand lots of use, in and out of house, car, exhibitions and booth
  • Stackable – They should be able to be stacked in different configurations if necessary for transport or storage
  • Cost Effective – I didn’t want to spend an exhorbitant amount on transport, considering I have a whole 10x10ft (3x3m) booth and display to invest in this year
  • Quick to load and unload – I don’t want to take forever to prep and pack each piece or box. Can you imagine, if I have 25 pieces in a booth, taking a few minutes per piece to pack or unpack each of them? Ugh. I want to get them in and out, as quickly as possible

Oh, and on top of all that, I want a way to see what’s inside of the box while it’s stored. There’s nothing like having three boxes of framed art with four pieces each and needing to find the ONE piece you need for the next show. Everything has to come out, unless you are lucky enough to find it in the first box. Murphy’s law, and my experience, says it will always be in the last box you look in. :)

Now I had my requirements, based on my own experience and needs, and it was time to research. I did a lot of Google searching and reading of websites like Art Fair Insiders. I figured these folks are the ones that do this all the time, why not learn from them? I found some great ideas, like coroplast boxes you could order and boxes you could make from coroplast or wood. (I didn’t even know what “coroplast” was before this research. Now I do!) These all looked great, but they were more expensive than I could afford this year, with all of the start-up expenses I have for an art fair booth. I needed a less expensive solution to meet my needs. I thought I could find Rubbermaid-type containers, but none of them were large enough for this size of frame. Not to mention that their rounded corners and slanted sides would not be very efficient, space-wise.

So, I turned to a good old standby: Cardboard boxes. While a cardboard box is not the ultimate in weather-proof since it won’t survive and protect the art in a deluge, it could meet all of my other requirements and be weather-proof enough to protect from rain in a short trip from the car to the display, with some enhancements.  I’ll go through what I came up with, step by step, in the hopes of giving you some ideas in making your own cost-effective frame transport and storage solution as well as saving a few frames of the world from unnecessary damage.

  1. Find the right size cardboard box. From experience, I knew I wanted no more than four frames per box. Beyond that, if the box is filled with frames with glass, it gets too heavy and awkward for 5’4″ (163cm) little me to carry by hand for any distance. My frames are actually 20.5×20.5×1.75″ (52x52x4.5cm) in outside dimension. The best boxes I found were 22x22x8″ boxes at, which would hold four of my frames. The boxes were $2.39 each with a minimum order of 15. Even though I only needed six or seven boxes, I figured they would wear out with use and I’d be able to use all 15 eventually. Total cost: $54.43 ($35.85 for 15 boxes + $18.58 for shipping).
  2. Find a liner material. From experience, I knew I didn’t want the frames rubbing against each other or even the cardboard box or they could scuff. After looking at how other artists were delivering work to exhibits, I saw a lot of people using sheets or bags of 1/8″ (3mm) polyethylene air foam to protect their work. So I researched and decided the most cost effective thing to do was to order a 24″ (61cm) wide, 350′ (107m) long roll. I could cut sheets and tape into a 24×24″ bag if I wanted to, or cut the material to any size sheet up to 24″ wide. I found a roll on with Prime free shipping for a screaming good deal, $48.33. (The same roll of air foam on Amazon is now $96.73, free shipping with Prime. Still a good deal, compared to elsewhere!)
  3. Find separator material. You need to have a way to separate and protect each frame in the box. I decided to use cardboard sheets cut to the same size as my outer frame dimension, 20.5×20.5″, with a layer of air foam adhered to one side. I would need three of these per box. I didn’t want to buy new cardboard, so I’ve been scavenging by cutting down boxes any time one shows up that has large enough dimensions. (Boxes this large are few and far between, let me tell you.) The box the roll of air form came in was the best – it was double-boxed so I got eight pieces of separator material out of this one box! I could have checked with stores that have large items (furniture or appliances) or purchased something like foam core sheets if worse came to worse, but I managed to scavenge enough from the boxes I’ve received.

OK, now that you have your materials sorted out, it’s time to put the transport box together and load them.

  1. Line the box. Assemble the box first, taping the bottom closed permanently. To line the box, I cut the air foam material to the right size for the bottom of the box and each of the four sides. For the bottom, the easiest way to do this was to take a sheet slightly larger than the bottom, lay it in the box, and then use a craft knife or box cutter to cut along the edges (be sure you don’t cut into the cardboard box!).  For the sides, I created a template from cardboard and then used that to quickly cut out the foam sheets with a craft knife. Then, these were adhered to the box. Based on my husband’s experience with using air foam like this to line boxes for his fragile model train cars, he suggested using silicone caulking as the adhesive. I found some at a local hardware supply store and it adhered everything great but boy, does it smell! I needed to let everything air out for at least a day before I put any art in the boxes. Another option would be hot glue, but my husband said the air foam tends to pop off the cardboard with use. Here’s the box, once it’s been lined:Lined Box Art Fair Frame Transport
  2. Make the separators. Start by cutting your separator material to the same dimensions as the largest frame you want to separate. An easy way to do this is to use the frame as a template, marking the dimensions on the cardboard with pencil. Remove the frame and cut the separators with a craft knife or box cutter. (DON’T try to cut using the frame as the straight edge – I can guarantee that at some point you will cut the frame with the blade, ruining the frame!)  Once you have the separators cut, line them on one side with the air foam. Rather than trying to cut the stretchy air foam to exactly the right size, I adhered a piece of air foam larger than needed to the separator sheet. Once it was adhered and dry, I ran a craft knife along the edge of the sheet to cut the foam. Perfect match!
  3. Load the artwork. After everything had dried and aired out for a while, I loaded the artwork into the boxes. Here’s the sequence:
    Put the first frame in, face down. Push the frame into one corner, leaving a gap on the other two sides. (If these were 16×20″ frames, I would also load a spacer to fill in the additional 4″ gap.)
    Put the separator in, foam side up, pushing into the same corner as the frame.
    Repeat to load all frames. The last frame will not have a separator on top. Fill the gap with large bubble wrap or air pockets, so that the frames are firmly secured into one corner and can’t shift around. The bubble wrap/air pockets were saved and reused from other packages I’ve received.
  4. Close the Box. I wanted a way to secure the boxes closed without taping them every time. I figured after a while, taping and retaping the box would have issues. I found these Globe Guard Reusable box sealers online. These are a great solution! They just slide on the top flaps and hold the box closed. A trial package of 20 was $30.00, which was more than enough for me. I placed one of my Kat Eye Studio labels on it, so in case it gets lost or misplaced, I might get it back. I will also use box tape to reinforce the edges of the flaps, to ensure the box sealer can slip on and off easily for a long time to come.Kat-Sloma-Photography-4370
  5. Add the Labels. I didn’t want to label directly on the box, because I know that the pieces of work I’m transporting will change over time. I came up with this solution using Avery Pin-Style Name Badges. I removed the pin and then adhered four of these to the box with double-sided tape. I slipped identifying tags into each one. The great thing is, the identifying tags will be removed and displayed with the artwork. In an exhibit situation, I would adhere these to the wall or the frame with non-damaging Removable Adhesive Putty. For the art fair, I will use name badges with the pins left on, and pin them to my display. Easy peasy! Now I can see what’s in the boxes while they are in storage, easily change what’s in the boxes AND have labels at the ready.Kat-Sloma-Photography-4391

All done! I’ve made the first two and I’m thrilled with the result. I now have four or five more to complete. The boxes are easy to transport, two at a time, using my new folding hand truck. They are quick to load and unload, because there is no wrapping or unwrapping involved. They fit great inside the back of my vehicle, either vertical, if I have multiple boxes, or horizontal, if I only have one. My artwork is now efficiently and effective protected for storage and transport, and I’m a bit more organized as well.

If you are struggling with a transport and storage solution for framed artwork that’s cost-effective, I hope this helps you! It may seem a lot of trouble to go to, but I’ve damaged enough frames in transport to know the effort is worth it.

Seeking the Heart

Maybe I think too much. Sometimes I’d like to go through life without a care in the world. Happily flitting from one attractive place to another, like a butterfly.

Abstract Tulip Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

But that’s not me. I sit and ponder. I think. I like to know the “why” behind things. I like to understand the connections and interrelationships. I love that “Aha” I feel when I’ve connected two new dots. That takes observing, thinking, and experimenting with ideas.

The outcome of all of that thought is often new ideas and ways of looking at things. In my photography, it’s new ways of approaching an image. Today’s image, Seeking the Heart, is an example. It’s borne out of blending experimentation last fall, visiting art museums in DC over Spring Break, an excursion to the tulips last weekend, an epiphany on a hike this week and more experimentation this morning. It’s the result of thinking about the art I love to look at, and thinking about how to create images that have the same elements and visual impression.

I love this.

Huh. Maybe I don’t think too much, after all.

Sure Signs of Spring

There are three things that are sure signs of spring in our house: My son’s birthday, tulips in bloom and taxes.

Tulip Festival Woodburn Oregon Kat Sloma Photography

My Saturday was filled with all three. First I was up early for a sunrise shoot at the tulip fields in Woodburn, Oregon. Too bad we never saw the sun! It rose behind clouds, leaving us with a rainy, overcast morning. Fun, but wet. I’m still going through my photographs for the best ones.

Then home, to my son’s 13th birthday. Yes, I have a teenager now! The afternoon was filled with teen boy energy, taking his friends to the First Robotics competition and then out for birthday ice cream. And filled with texts, lots of texts. Unlimited texting on his phone was our gift to him this year. It was fun to see his excitement as he heard that little chirp of the text coming in.

And then… Taxes. I had been dreading doing my own taxes this year, partially for the work and partially just for the unknown nature of what I would owe. This year was the first year since before Italy that I was on the hook for doing my own taxes, the company wasn’t doing them for me because of all sorts of craziness that happens with working internationally. Things have changed in our tax situation and I didn’t quite know how it would pan out. But, for all of my fears of what it would be, it came out ok. Whew, a sigh of relief.

Which made me think… All of this pent up dread and fear that I was carrying around the last few months as I thought of the taxes, both the dread of the work and the fear of outcome, and it was all for nothing. The work wasn’t that bad, just a few hours in total, and the outcome was fine, not significantly different from what it’s been in the past. After it was done, I felt so much better. I felt back in control, understanding this was mine to own and affect. I could make changes to affect the outcome, rather than sitting back and allowing it to happen to me.

How many other areas in my life am I carrying around unfounded worry? Are there places where, if I faced my fears sooner, I could leave all of that angst behind and create a better outcome for the future? Because all that worry was wasted energy. Completely wasted and misdirected. This experience was a little reminder that it’s better to face the unknown and take ownership, instead of turning my head away and avoiding it out of fear. Even if my worst fears had materialized, at least I would KNOW what the situation was and then could move on. I would be in control, making decisions on the next steps to change things in the future, moving myself ahead. Not stuck in that horrible place of inaction filled with worry, dread and fear. Blech, I don’t want to be there anymore. It’s time to take stock and make sure I’m not in that place with anything else in my life right now.

It’s yet another life lesson, found this time in one of my sure signs of spring. Next year I plan to skip the whole dread and fear part, move the taxes up to winter, and just enjoy the tulips and the birthday this time of year. I think that will be a much better way to celebrate spring.

Home, Again

Ahhhh, home. There really is no place like home, is there? Sunday we arrived home from a week-long Spring Break trip to Washington, DC. It was a great week filled with history and art and making fun memories. And, as fun as it was, it was still so, so good to get home. So good to sit in my chair, sleep in my bed, snuggle with my pets. It was nice to visit the president’s home, but, fancy as it may be, it has nothing on my little home.

White House Washington DC Kat Sloma Photography

A few years ago, when we first moved to Italy and were in the first blush of a new adventure, we had this idea on the table to take a year off sometime in our future and travel the US. We thought we could live out of our camping trailer, homeschool our son, and go wherever the wind took us. I would photograph and blog. An internet connection, a few clothes and a map, that’s all we would need, right?

Wrong. For me, at least.

What we learned in Italy, with all of the travel we did in those two years, is that we need a physical home base. I am a homebody. We all are, in my immediate family. I need to have my space and my time in that space. I need a place I can store and display the things I collect along my journeys. A place I can mess up and clean up and walk around. It doesn’t have to be a big space, but it needs to be a place with an address. A place I can return to after my adventures.

I was reminded of this, as I arrived home this week. It doesn’t matter where home is, but I need to have a place to return.

Home, again.

Photo-Heart Connection: March 2014

It’s all in the light. Beautiful, heavenly rays of sunshine through the blossoms.

Spring Tree Blossom Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

I photographed a lot of tree blossoms in March. As I looked through the photographs, I realized the photographs were of the blossoms, yes, but they were also of light. Sunlight in the evening, sunlight after rain. The sunlight created the beauty, as much as the blossoms on the tree.

So many of these images were taken in what now seem to be fleeting moments. A chance encounter: Me, my camera, and the right light at the right time. A week or two later, the blossoms are now fading and the rains have returned. As I look at this dazzling beauty from a couple of weeks ago, I am full. Full of gratitude, for that brief moment in time, I was able to be fully present. Full of awe, for what I was able to create out of the experience. Full of hope, the hope that spring always brings along with it.

This is what life is about, isn’t it? Brief moments of time, lived to their fullest. Noticing the sunlight on the blossoms, when it is available. Being present and active and engaged in what life offers up, every day.

This moment in time is all we have. It’s where we choose to be; what we choose to see, to capture, to do with the moment that matters.

This month’s Photo-Heart Connection brings me an important reminder. I so often live in the future, asking myself, “What do I have to get done next?” No matter what I’ve completed, there is always, always something else on the list. But this morning I’m reminded by light on blossoms, blossoms and light now long gone as I write this, that I can’t always be thinking about what’s next. I need to be present in this moment, living fully in the here and now, to appreciate and see what life is bringing me. This is hard for me. So very hard. I think I’ll print and hang this image of light on blossoms in a prominent place to remind me of this month’s message: Be present.

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? Have you been seeing the light on the blossoms, or are you struggling through some darkness? Whatever the message, it’s important to listen to your heart — it’s speaking through your art. I hope you’ll share what you find with us.