Getting noticed in the digital age (or how to take a decent photo)

 

dog blanket scrunched low res

Hand knitted Dog Blanket

The digital age can make getting one’s work seen by others so much easier in many respects as we no longer have to rely on an intermediary such as a magazine or gallery to promote us. While this is not good news from their point of view with so many galleries sadly closing down in recent years, it does mean that without the significant commission payments to the gallery from sale proceeds (usually about 50%), pricing work from the artist’s point of view is more straightforward (although never easy as how does one factor in the time to create a piece of work when that includes a lifetime of education, experimentation and training while getting to the point of being able to create said piece?) and the customer can often get a more affordable price.

However! In my personal experience I have found it is so much easier to sell a piece of work when someone can actually see it in the flesh (so to speak). I think this is partly due to a kind of image numbness one gets these days with the constant bombardment from social media streams and marketing campaigns. Any one who has sat in a coffee shop and observed the activity around them from the other customers who are rapidly scrolling down their i phone screens whilst trying to hold some kind of conversation with the person sat opposite them will understand what I mean by  this. But, I can’t deny that it is also largely due to what has been described in the past by the editor of a knitting magazine as my “terrible photographs!”.

So how do we get noticed in this environment? (Any one who knows the answer to this question please tell me). On the basis that good photos must help (and my 10 year old basic digital camera combined with a cluttered and poorly lit house just can’t do my work justice), last week I booked a professional photo shoot with the lovely Rob Fry  who took some fabulous shots of my work, including these of the dog blanket.

dog blanket lower res

Dog Blanket charts available from my Etsy shop

Now this is a luxury that I can’t afford on a regular basis but then I don’t have the funds to buy the equipment or training to do it myself either. So, after seeing the output from the shoot I’m afraid my response to my title “how to take a decent photo” has got to be (for me anyway), pay a professional 😉

Until next time…..

 

Kitty Cushion

kitty cushion front etsy

Kitty Cushion front

Just to prove to you folks that it isn’t always about dogs with me, here is the front of the Kitty Cushion I designed for Harrogate Knit and Stitch Show. It got lots of admirers and the pattern proved to be popular enough that I had to get an emergency reprint done during the show (thank goodness the wonderful husband was there to deal with such emergencies).

The front is worked from a knitting chart (my version was done using double knitting but intarsia would work just as well) and the back is a simple but effective two colour slip stitch with a rib top. I did mine in two aran weight yarns. The grey is Rowan Kid Classic to give it a little fluff, and the cream is the super smooth Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran as a contrast.

Kitty cushion back etsy

Kitty Cushion back

I think this cushion would look great teamed with it’s inverse on the other side of the sofa so I plan to be making its opposite over Christmas. If you fancy having a go yourself I have listed the pattern in my Etsy shop. Happy knitting 🙂

Dog Blanket (but definitely not for muddy paws!)

Over the past month I have been a bit remiss in posting here due to the frantic production that has been required ahead of the Open Weekend at the Janice Barfoot Sugarcraft Centre 14 and 15 November (see previous post) and Harrogate Knit and Stitch show at the end of the month (what was I thinking!?)  However, I had to take some time away from stitching this morning as I am excited to share with you one of the things I have been beavering away making.  Remember my ongoing obsession with double knitting? Here is the latest product of this, my Dog Blanket (if either of my dogs goes any where near it there will be trouble!).

"dog portrait blanket by Nicky Barfoot"

“Dog Blanket” hand knitted in Rowan Creative Focus Worsted and Kid Classic

Featured in this collection (and working horizontally from left to right in the picture) are portraits of a Doberman, Boxer, Labrador, Weimaraner, Bull Terrier, Retriever, Spaniel, Husky and Greyhound. I’ve knitted my blanket (definitely NOT FOR DOGS) in a wonderful warm and soft combination of Rowan Creative Focus Worsted (the black) and Rowan Kid Classic (grey) and am now looking forward to relaxing in my chair this Christmas in front of a few films snuggled under my luxurious lap warmer perhaps with a cheeky little glass of port on the side table and a bit of stilton.

I have had the charts for each of the dog breeds in the blanket printed into A5 flyers so if you fancy having a go (they will work equally well for intarsia and double knitting) I will be selling them at Harrogate so do come visit stand TG623. I’m also happy to post leaflets out to any of you who won’t be able to buy in person but would still like to purchase so do drop me an e mail or PM me on Nicky Barfoot facebook page if you are interested.

Right, more caffeine required then back to manic stitching.  Hope to see some of you at the Sugarcraft Centre on 14 and 15 November for an open weekend of art and sugarcraft demonstrations, and at the Harrogate International Centre 26 to 29 November for the textile feast that is the Knitting and Stitching Show.

Flying Solo: Diary of an Open Studios Virgin

Saturday 22 August (day1): 

5am: OK, five hours sleep is probably enough and I still have so much to do. Where did I put that list of last minute labels I need to make and stuff I need to bring? I hope our do it yourself exhibition panels are still standing and I don’t arrive to a floor covered in expensive art glass. At least the weather looks good.

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It’s all still up!

10am: Thank goodness, the only things on the floor are the Please do not Touch notices. So much for removable sticky dots. Shouldn’t the removable bit come into its own after use, not during.  Good job I have a huge wad of Blue Tack as back up. “I’ll be fine darling, thank you. See you later”.

12pm: Right, I’ve been around the room a few times straightening, polishing, rearranging. The door is open, the signs are up, the newsletter has been sent, the leaflets and booklets distributed. So come on people, where are you? At least my sister and nephew are coming today. Oh, missed that E mail: “The weather is too nice and I am too lazy”. Guess they’re not coming after all.

2pm: Yay, a car! Oh, it’s just the wonderful husband bearing coffee. “It’s dead out there” he says. “The motorway is a car park, guess everyone is off to the coast to make the most of this last day of summer weather.  It’s going to pee down for the rest of the week”.

Oh great!

2.30pm: Yay, another car.  It’s Tim and Em. You lovely people come on in. Have a wander. Tim, stop chatting to Marc about sport, this is supposed to be all about ME! Look again, don’t stop at once around the room. Ask ME questions, not him. You can talk bicycles anytime.

4.45pm: Can’t imagine anyone is coming now. Perhaps I’ll call it a day and go home. Oh, hang on, that’s the landlord crossing the road. Yikes, hope he’s OK with what I’ve done to his office. “Looks great in here!” “Your life drawing has come on a bit hasn’t it?”.

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“Little Lost Pup” illustrations, off to a new home.

45 minutes later, my first sale is done and I’m ready for a G&T.

Sunday 23 August (day 2): 

Can’t imagine anyone venturing out in this weather. They’ll all be tucked up at home having a PJ day. Oh well, gives me a bit of time to work out this 1940s fairisle pattern (I wonder when charts came in?). It really doesn’t look right. It doesn’t help that there are bits missing and, b*ll*cks (!) I think I know what is going on here. The pattern repeat in each row isn’t over the same stitches as the repeat above and below. Let’s start again. Where did I put those felt tip pens?

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Reinventing a 1940s fairisle pattern. We got there in the end!

Lunchtime: Young people are hovering around the Studentnofee sign outside.  They don’t look like Open Studios followers. They’re coming in. “Hi, are you here for Open Studios?” “Yes” (great, just goes to show one shouldn’t make snap judgements based on appearance then, although the accent suggests English isn’t their first language). They are looking somewhat confused at the stuff on the walls and realisation dawns. “Are you looking for accommodation?” “Yes!” they exclaim. “OK so it may say that this is a letting agent on the signs outside and etched into the glass on the door, and printed onto the blinds, but actually I’m an art exhibition”. More confused looks. “No houses” I say. “OK” they say. Off they go still looking confused.

Mid afternoon: Ooh, actual strangers who don’t look like students pulling up onto the forecourt. In they come.  “Hello, are you here for Open Studios?”. “Yes”. Result! A b line is made for the knitted dog heads. “These are great. I’m pleased we bothered coming. I’d give you more than a one star review”. Excuse me!?! What review? “On the Open Studios website you’ve had a one star review, so we nearly didn’t bother coming”. WHAT! I didn’t even know there was a review process and hang on a minute, I’ve only had friends and acquaintances in so far. Who would do such a nasty thing to me after they’ve seen all the hard work I’ve put into this? Ah, hang on a minute, maybe it was the Twirler I had in briefly at lunchtime. She seemed very pleasant but I did get the impression I wasn’t what she expected when she stood in the middle of the room and did a quick spin. “We’ll give you a good review” they say as they leave. “That’s if we can work out how to do it”.

An E mail comes in from my landlord. “Sorry, I tried to review you on the Open Studios website and only gave you 4 out of 5 by mistake. I thought you click on the stars and light them up until you get to your intended rating (like rating stuff on Amazon). However, it turns out that once you’ve clicked on a star, that star is the review done and you can’t change it”. That actually makes me feel better. Perhaps the one star review was a mistake. Let’s keep thinking that……….

The sun comes out. A couple walk by and come in. “What’s this?” they ask, looking interested. I explain the concept. “And is this all you?” she asks. “You’re brave!”. What does she mean, BRAVE? OK, let’s just suppress that angst. I’m sure she means it as a complement. They did write a very nice comment in the book after all!

IMG_1768

The “life” wall

Monday, Tuesday: A pattern has emerged. More students looking lost and desperate for somewhere to live. Starting to think the words “Open Studios” might be a bit confusing in context with the words “letting agent”.  Starting to think that instead of turning them away I should drag them in. Perhaps I could sell them a picture to hang on that wall that they don’t yet have, or a scarf to keep them warm while they trudge the streets looking.

Mid week: Where did all these people come from? I haven’t had a moment’s rest. I’ve got knitting to do you know! Look at all of those lovely comments in my book. I’m going to have to restock the greeting cards.  This is actually fun! One lovely lady brought me coffee and muffins, and then bought two pictures! I must be an artist! Go me!

Friday: More chats with worried parents looking for student accommodation. Right, you sir are going to have to walk around my exhibition before you are allowed to leave. It’s your fault for turning up in a car with a dog in the back. I am crazy dog lady and much of my work confirms this so you WILL look at it. There, that wasn’t so hard was it! Now you can go and find a home for your progeny.

The final straight: Weekends are definitely quieter than weeks. Who’d have figured? An arty friend pops in and chills out with me for a bit on the red sofa. “It’s probably because there is no one else around here exhibiting. People like to make use of their weekends with a densely populated area so travel time is limited, or visit group exhibitions where lots of different styles and subjects are accessible in one place”. Yep, that’s how I’d do it too!

Monday 31 August (day 10): Last day but no time to reflect. Much to my surprise I’m busy. A lovely morning spent with three lots of people I had invited and had assumed couldn’t make it. Lots of smiles while looking around and then time with me on the sofa fascinated by my workbooks and sketchbooks.  Then my neighbours turn up. How lovely!

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The view from the red sofa

3pm: Starting to wind down now. I should probably think about how I’m going to pack all this up. A bike turns up and another friend pops in. I am chuffed to think she has ridden her bike here to show her support and tell her so. “It helps that it stopped raining” she says.

5pm: It’s over except for the packing and the slight issue of where are we going to put all this stuff when we get it home. I enjoyed this. I got to meet some lovely people who left encouraging comments, I sold some stuff and I got to spend a week, knitting, surrounded by my art work. What’s not to like? I guess it was a brave thing to do after all, but worth it on a number of levels.

Back to the normal routine tomorrow and I know a certain Weimaraner who will be pleased that dog jogs are back on the agenda. I suppose I should also do a bit of the housework that has been put on hold for the past ten days. But then again I am halfway through an exhibition piece with a September deadline so perhaps it can wait a little longer……………

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I shall report you for Weimaraner cruelty if you don’t get those running shoes out!

Hampshire Open Studios 2015

This year I am very excited to be part of this fantastic tradition where over 200 artists and makers in the Hampshire area open up their studios, homes and other venues to show and sell work, talk to the public and demonstrate their working practices.  I have been beavering away getting work finished, framing and mounting, and of course sorting out my venue which has been kindly provided by Studentnofee Property Agency at 24 University Road, Southampton, SO17 1TJ.

open studios flyer

I shall be in situ daily from 22nd to 31st August, 10am until 5pm, possibly drawing, possibly stitching and probably feeding my current obsession with double knitting, and am looking forward to showing you my work and talking about what inspires me and the various mixed media techniques I use.  Do rest assured though that if you would rather be left to your own devices to quietly walk around without my chatter in your ear I shall have plenty of work to do so can leave you to it if you would prefer!  I am also happy to provide a (free of charge) knitting surgery if any of my visitors have UFOs that they are struggling with so bring your knitting, and can do demonstrations on the WIP I’ll have with me if the techniques I am using interest you.

"Nicky Barfoot mixed media pictures"

Some of the framed mixed media pictures which will be on display

The items I’ll have on display will include mixed media work, prints, textile pictures both framed and unframed, and wall mounted sculptures.

"Doggy Doodle by Nicky Barfoot"

“Bert” hand stitch on calico by Nicky Barfoot

If you are a regular follower of my posts you will already know that subject matter is usually (but not exclusively!) canine, feline or life inspired.

"Nicky Barfoot knitted picture"

“Frankie in grey” knitted picture

I will also have a few hand knitted accessories on display such as this double sided scarf in a cashmere and wool yarn (pink) and a rare sheep breed yarn (green).

"hand knitted double sided scarf"

Nicky Barfoot hand knitted double sided scarf

And of course, many of my designs are available as limited edition greeting cards and these will be available to purchase if any take your fancy.

"Nicky Barfoot limited edition printed cards"

Nicky Barfoot limited edition printed cards

Despite the manic last minute preparations, I’m now really looking forward to this event and it would be great to see some of you lovely people next week. The only downside is that as I am exhibiting on my own, I won’t be able to visit any of the other open studios this year.  Mmm maybe I can employ a stand in on one day?  So if you do arrive at the door and are greeted by a bald, bearded six foot plus male, he has to live and breath my art work (being subjected to it on a constant basis) so rest assured that he probably knows as much if not more about it than I do!

Art: A window to the soul and laying oneself bare

Hey, I have a Collector! This has got to be the pinnacle of my art career so far that an almost random (the use of the word “random” not in any way a reflection of this person’s personality who is actually anything but, and is more along the lines of someone who is not related to me and has never had a meal at my house) now has two of my knitted life paintings hanging in his home! Wow what a buzz. To think that someone has connected with my artistic vision and interpretation of the world not just the once but TWICE, although credit has also got to be given to the person many years ago who told me over a cup of coffee that of course one should always work in series.

Selling creative work is a funny old business isn’t it? I was brought up in a world where children were encouraged to ponder on the meaning of life and have opinions but it was also drummed into us that while it might be a fundamental right to have that opinion it didn’t necessarily extend to sharing it and having it listened to (social media is still a relatively new phenomena!). “No one is interested in what you think/have to say” was a phrase I heard on numerous occasions while growing up. Navel gazing was not encouraged as a healthy pastime and debating in a family of five was just too noisy.  And then I ventured into the world of Art where a good dose of anger, opinion and angst can inspire a lifetime’s work and therein lay a problem. What if you don’t think you have any?

“A problem with Beige” by Nicky Barfoot. Hand stitch, paint and cotton applique on calico.

Now I’m definitely not saying that I would trade my safe and loved childhood/early adulthood for the type of emotional trauma that some of the revered artists of our time have suffered (Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois being two who immediately spring to mind) but in the words of talented poet Kate Tempest “enjoying the beigeness” isn’t really going to cut it either.  The importance of the word “Why” was highlighted during college and for every piece of work made there had to be research, context, planning and critical evaluation. It certainly wasn’t acceptable to write an artist statement along the lines of “I just fancied making it” or “I thought it looked pretty” and it still takes me hours to write a 50 word exhibition statement even after practising it for a number of years now.

The problem for me is the exposure.  When I create a piece of work it comes from within, a place that I keep hidden from all but my husband and even he shouldn’t have access to all the dark corners of my brain as it just wouldn’t be healthy. In other words I’m just not used to sharing.  Showing the work without explanation allows the viewer to come to their own conclusions and as long as I don’t have to confirm or deny, they don’t get to SEE me and while the work itself is judged, I’m safe. However, where I am required to verbalise what was going through my head at the time of creating the work and what I am attempting to say with it, I open ME up to judgement, MY thoughts, MY feelings, MY opinions (and no one wants to hear those anyway, right?) and MY emotional state. Now that’s uncomfortable and a little scary!  I think this feeling of laying ourselves bare through our work is why when someone buys a piece it is so special.  We feel a sense of connection to them. They got it! They understand where I’m coming from! It isn’t just me!

“Window to the soul” photograph by Nicky Barfoot

I think that it must be even worse for authors, this feeling of nakedness created by allowing readers a glimpse into your head.  A very talented customer of mine recently wrote a novel and being of a Sci Fi nature and therefore right up my street, I read it. It was a great story and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I have to admit that the first few chapters felt uncomfortable.  I was being given access to a place in the head of a person who I knew well on a professional level but not exactly on a personal level.  Thankfully there wasn’t too much raunch in it as that would definitely have been a step too far!

A friend of mine also bought a picture from me this week.  I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat shocked when she expressed her interest in it as not being one for gushing over previous “stuff what I have made” (although a strong supporter of my greeting card range), I had no idea that she would like it. So, while she was looking at it and knowing that it is probably good practice for me to talk about my work, I explained my vision. Her response was “Well I don’t know about that, I just like it because it looks like she’s walking out onto a stage”.

That theatrical interpretation was exactly the metaphor behind my intention, so it worked for me!

“Woman Awakening” – at defined stages in her life a female will awaken, she comes into existence, and is reborn as a Woman

So, readers (Mum!) I shall keep producing my artistic interpretations of the world according to Nicky (verbalising when required), encouraged by all of the lovely people who have bought my work over the years (blame them not me!). The only slight problem I have now though, is that after this week’s unexpected sales, I no longer have any work suitable for an upcoming exhibition in a few weeks time.  So, I must sign off and get on with some knitting as the weekend is fast escaping me and I still have thirty rows left on the substitute.  Have a healthy, happy and creative week.

Knitted painting, work in progress.