Monday, February 28, 2011

Teresa Sullivan

As a shy, intense kid, I drew almost constantly, created cartoons, and listened to a lot of music. My Dad knew he could keep me happy with scratch paper and felt pens when I visited his office and my Mom knew she could keep getting me to go to church if I got to sing. Since grade school, art and music along with biking and hiking, was a life saver as my family life turned chaotic.

I was a late-blooming rebel, maintaing a grade A average while discovering punk rock and more diverse art. In college I started playing electric bass guitar, co-founding a band called Living Eyes which self-released a 45rpm single in 1989 and still plays live. Although my artwork mostly centered on the band’s show flyers for a time, around 1991 a combination of forces led me to re-embrace art through the medium of beads.

I lived walking distance from a bead store; after having my ears pierced I began making earrings to wear. Then our drummer gave me a box of beads a roommate left behind, and I received a bag of raw earthenware from the tile factory where I worked. I began making beads out of the clay, trading them at the local bead store, and joined the Portland (Oregon) Bead Society.

I fell in love with trade beads, their history, and the challenges of designing with them. Then Joyce Scott’s expressive artwork fired up my interest in seed bead weaving. I realized I could do a lot more than make pleasant things with beads. I began expressing my love of the surreal and the irreverent. The first seed-bead artwork I made is a three-dimensional eyeball with trailing optic nerve.

Inspired by Joyce’s example and that of renowned glass artist Paul Stankard, I slowly but surely transitioned from punching a time clock to a living derived from making and teaching.

I have held workshops since 1997 in Alaska, up and down the West Coast, and from Chicago to Dallas. Exhibiting since 1995, my artwork has been seen in Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and New York City. My first museum solo exhibit, “Station Identification”, debuted at Mesa Arts Center in 2010.

My work has been featured in Ornament, Beadwork and Fiberarts magazines; Lark Books’ 500 Beaded Objects, Kate McKinnon’s The Jewelry Architect, author Garth Johnson’s 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse, and TV program AM Northwest. Visit to see me create a 3-dimensional head, to see me on TV, and to view more artwork.

I have found that whether you want to create art for fun, for a living, or just to stay sane, it brings out your special magic.

Teresa Sullivan creates intricate and monumental sculpture and sculptural jewelry from humble materials using the ancient technique of beadweaving, revealing her love of the surreal and the irreverent.

Her work has been shown since 1995 across the US and abroad, including a Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art invitational in 2008, and a solo exhibit, “Station Identification”, at Mesa Arts Center in 2010. Her work was featured in Vol. 33, No. 3 (April 2010) issue of Ornament magazine.

Teresa Sullivan’s work is also found in 500 Beaded Objects, 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse, The Jewelry Architect; and Beadwork, CRAFT, and Fiberarts magazines.

We are pleased and honored to have classes by Teresa Sullivan at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Classes, why take them?

When I began in polymer clay, there were very few opportunities in person and virtually none online available to me. I had Nan’s book The New Clay and a few little pamphlet type books but that was pretty much it. Craft sites were very few and far between and Vernon's Prairie Craft was the first online polymer clay selling resource in existence.

What I learned, came from hours of study in my studio. I don’t even think we had a guild in the Chicago area when I began – they started popping up after. Lindly and Nan had started the National guild but, remember, the only way to find out about this was through word of mouth, phone calls and letters, posted letters. There was no google, no facebook.

The polymer community took to the internet pretty fast. There is a connection between polymer clay and science and math and email caught on like wildfire. With email and the net, suddenly information could be shared and passed on quickly and efficiently.

Today, of course, information shoots around the globe at the speed of light (almost) and sometimes there is too much information – it can get confusing and one needs good internal filters to separate and file away all this new input.

So, with all that is available on the net, why would anyone take a class? Well, from my perspective, workshops take information and make sense of it. Workshops filter and prioritize information which can be most helpful when one is just starting in a medium.

Workshops can also push a student to the next level. We begin by crawling, then we walk, then we run. In my experience, the in person workshops I teach, help my students walk and run. This is what most of them need – they have obtained information by crawling around, you have to stand up to see what’s off the floor.

I’ve done videos and I’ve written books but none of those avenues made it as easy for me to take my students to the next level as CraftEdu. Videos are great – but we don’t use teleprompters and staring into the black hole that is the lens frequently turns the presenter into a mass if insecurity. Think – deer in the headlights. Turn the cameras off and it’s “I wish I had said this or that!”

Books are great – but there are space considerations and most of the time no space for information that will help students not paint themselves into a corner. We offer steps to an end, we try to give all the hints and tips but frequently, there is no physical space for them.

So, that’s why I love CraftEdu and the platform on which our classes are made. My goal is not just to teach you the steps to make the spinner rings or the hearts, it’s to make you think. It’s not only about the “how” but about the “why “ and the “what if”. It’s about the depth of information - not just what’s on the surface but what lies beneath. It’s about helping you solve problems and if I can do that, then I’ve succeeded for that is ultimately what I’m after – total understanding of the medium we work in. With the platform I have the ability to make absolutely certain that what I tell you is what I mean to, I know you’ll hear every word I mean to say. Of all the teaching formats I have used, it is most like my in person workshops.

Here, at CraftEdu, we present comprehensive workshops on your own time, with a pdf handout. Classes are easy to navigate and you can ask questions and get answers of your instructors. It feels like an online video workshop and some instructors will have video segments, but it ultimately isn’t video in the conventional sense.

There are many sites featuring instruction through pdf handouts and video and I wouldn’t say a bad word about any of them. We learn in different ways and some will find one preferable to another. Some, you check in to a specific time and that works for some students. Ultimately, it’s up to you as to whether you even take workshops and if you do, what format makes you the most comfortable.

In any case, workshops will push you further along your creative journey and that’s the goal of all of them.

Donna Kato is an artist, author (The Art of Polymer Clay - 1997, The Art of Polymer Clay - Surface Effects - 2008, The Art of Polymer Clay - Millefiori - 2009) and instructor teaching at Craft Edu and around the world.

Friday, February 11, 2011

So you want to publish a book

Judith Bertoglio-Giffin’s excellent blog on self publishing answers many questions about self publishing and anyone interest in the same should be able to proceed. I have never self-published a book and I found it very enlightening. Having plugged myself into traditional publishing, my perspective is a bit different and so here is information for anyone who wishes to pursue this publishing avenue.

There are many publishers available to you. So, how do you know which publisher is a good fit for you. As a new author, you’ll have limited control over how your work will be presented.

The best way to determine a good fit in terms of presentation of your work is a simple process of examining your own art and craft books or sitting yourself down at Border’s or Barnes and Noble and spending time in the Art and Craft area of the store. What you see is, most likely what you will get. Is the color good, is the paper a high quality, is the basic layout pleasing to you?

Books by Watson-Guptill (my publisher) will share a look or sensibility and even organization of material (not that all titles will have the same look - much depends on the theme, books with fun and funky material should have a different look). If you look at Judy Belcher’s book, Lindly Haunani’s book and my books, you can see what they have in common. The design is “clean” and uncluttered. There is an overall consistency in the way they look. I have a book by another publisher that gives me a headache. Each project and its step outs has been shot on a different color background – primary colors, primarily –now, this was the decision of the author but my publisher would probably not have stood for this. Others might not be bothered by this but the experience of learning out of a book benefits from consistency – consistency of background of step outs, of the backgrounds in a gallery. The consistency of presentation isn’t something that most people will verbalize, but they will feel it and it eases or troubles the sub conscious mind.

A book, published many years ago, even referred to polymer clay as a material that could be heated or “air dried” to cure. Air Dry? Really? Polymer clay? This was not the author’s fault, That information did not come from her written text but from someone with the company who decided that that was the case and they didn’t send it to her before they printed it on 8,000 copies. So, publishers vary in terms of the level of their core understanding of what you do and how well they communicate with you.

Look at books you own - are they well written? Did you find typo after typo? Very rarely is a book perfect and everyone and every publisher may make an error or two but errors should be just that, rare. After my first book, I received many compliments on my writing. As I had written very little of the finished text, my reply to this was “I’ll thank my editor for you – she wrote it!” I write more of my own text these days but my editor is still the one who puts the final touches on, makes sure that the text is clear and the grammar is correct.

Once you have determined which publisher you’d like to work with, write an outline of what your book will contain. Publishers usually request a sample chapter, too.

Next, is the contact phase of the process. If you can attend a trade show (CHA or CHA Summer) this would be the best time to approach the publisher in person. Editors attend these shows and they are looking for potential authors. You aren’t bothering anyone, you represent an opportunity, for them. Be prepared with your outline and sample chapter, pictures of your work and wear something you’ve made that represents what you will do in the book.

When I began, it was taboo to contact more than one publisher at a time. In other words, don’t pass the same information to 10 publishers at the same time. Make the contact you want, wait for their answer and move to the next. If you are denied by one publisher, don’t take it personally because 99% of the time, it simply isn’t. There are frequently internal decisions that you aren’t a part of.

Contracts are pretty much the same but are not identical. You will always receive an advance on your book but that amount will be taken back after your book begins to sell. It’s an advance against your royalties, not a gift. So, that amount has never much mattered to me. These funds are for you to pay for photography or any expenses related to the book. Some publishers will offer an additional set photography fee and that is paid to the photographer

Some publishers may offer a one time payment, instead of, or as an alternative to royalty payments. I’ve never done this and I don’t even know if Watson Guptill (Random House) even offers this option. Many years ago, I attended a publisher roundtable. One publisher related that they don’t expect a book to sell more than 8,000 copies. 8,000 copies! I nearly fell out of my chair - had I even heard that, I might never have written a book. Most likely, your book will sell more than that but none of us can expect Tom Clancy sales figures.

New authors have little to no say about anything. Yes, it’s true, you won’t have much, if any, say about what appears on the cover. You also won’t have the freedom to put as many images in a book as you’d like so take it from me, you don’t want to shoot 800 images when the publisher limits you to 144. Yup, Vernon shot 800 images for my first book that allowed for 144. He still loves me, sometimes, I wonder why.

Finally, the issue of content should be discussed. There are so many books on the market today. Many of them are essentially the same information offered by different authors and if you have one of them, you don’t need all of them. This is why it is critical to you and your book’s success that the majority of the information is the result of your technical innovation. What you have created. Yes, you can certainly have information that you did not innovate but if that’s the case, you must also give credit to the originator. This is simply being honest.

It took me 10 years to feel I had enough new and unique information to fill a book – 10 years. My publisher did press me to write more books but stopped when they realized that the continual “book a year” didn’t serve them or me very well. It takes time to innovate and re hashing the same information over and over is a waste of energy, paper and ultimately results in too many books that don’t earn as well as one good book. I value my time more than that – it takes at least a year out of your life to write a book.

Make sure that you are happy with the content of your book because you simply cannot take it back and once it’s in print, it’s there for everyone to see and judge. If you’re lucky enough to have an “honest broker” in your life, ask them for their assessment – not for what they think you want to hear, but their honest opinion. If they and you believe you are ready for a publishing adventure, go full tilt boogie and get your creativity in print!

Donna Kato is a polymer clay artist, author (The Art of Polymer Clay, The Art of Polymer Clay - Surface Effects, The Art of Polymer Clay - Millefiori Techniques) and teacher. She teaches many online polymer clay art and craft classes at

When not busy in studio, she happily resides in the mountains of Colorado with husband Vernon, 5 horses, 2 dogs and a new kitty, Dulce.