Promotion: the Artists Achilles Heel

I think a lot of artists are under the assumption that creating a body of work for a gallery show is the hardest part of any exhibition . I would like to propose that creating the work is actually the easiest part;  while promoting it is the most difficult part.

Promoting ones work is never easy for an artist; it feels weird to blow your own horn over and over again to get noticed. But in this new reality of everyone being an artist and every artist being a small business person, a part of the emerging creative class, that is exactly what you have to do. Blow your own horn; time and time again.

The idea for this show was a pipe dream of Me2 and myself over a year ago. It wasn’t until I pitched the concept to Bryan Ohno last summer did we have any chance of it becoming a reality. Since that fateful pitch,  I have been laying the ground work for promotion. I have been trying to be an active member of the gallery, creating connections with like minded friends, letting existing friends know what I would need if it all came together and  then not being shy about asking for it, giving away my work to promote interest and of course building up my social media profile across four separate platforms.

And this from the person (me) who quit all social media except Instagram over a year ago because it was ruining my life. Now I find myself so deep down the social media rabbit hole I wonder if I will ever escape again.

Yet I have been overjoyed by the response from friends both online across all media and in real life. Friends are putting up posters around town and on the Eastside (read Microsoft campus), other friends are using their own business and personal networks to get the word out, many friends are sharing the event via Facebook, I have received lots of personal responses to e-mails expressing congratulations, regrets and of course a few “Yeah! We wouldn’t miss it!!”

I am definitely reaping the rewards of having spent a good chunk of my life’s energy on the internet and in real life creating connections and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So if you are one of those mentioned above, thank you!
Thank You !!! Yeah right, Thank You, You Rock !

Yet I feel it won’t be enough and I am asking for your help. We have joined our respective boats together here on StuckinPlastic and for this I am grateful. Now we need to make some waves with this amazing toy, plastic, LEGO, friendship boat we have created together.

I want you to share the information about this show with your friends, circles, groups and connections. We are a global community and our reach is incredible. It will be fun to see exactly how far we can spread the word and make our collective plastic, fun loving voices heard.

Why ?

Because we know you care, you care for the toys, for toy photography, for the creative toy revolution we all stand for.

This show is as much about YOU as it is about us; you who have supported us , you who want to join us next time, you who want to stand proud when you are with family and friends taking a toy photograph.

Help spread the word. The more waves we make online will only lead to more interest, (hopefully) national press, international awareness and put toy photography right where it belongs…in the spotlight. Because the world needs a little more joy and a few more smiles.

~ xxSJC

So, how to help us get the word out ? Just download this image and share it on the social media platform of your choice and link it to us and tag it with #ohnolego here on the web, on FB, G+, Reddit, Tumblr, … 

If you know of anyone who we should contact, please let us know in the comments. No lead will be overlooked and TLC will be included.

Rest assured we will repay all your efforts and energy by paying it forward! We believe in good karma. 😀

inlegoweconnect

Grateful

It’s a beautiful spring day here in Seattle. Basking in the lovely sunshine inevitably turns my thoughts to all that I have to be grateful for. I did a series of “grateful” posts back in August and it seems like an appropriate time to add to the list.

First up, I am grateful to Bryan Ohno. Bryan and I go back a few years when I was a part of his previous gallery. I was flattered that Bryan called me out of the blue nearly 20 months ago to invite me to be a part of a group show with my underwater photographs. I appreciate that Bryan was open to my new toy photographs even though it is outside of the art he normally shows. His openness to hosting  the upcoming show In LEGO, We Connect is testament to our mutual respect and I want to repay that faith by delivering a kick ass show.

Second on my list is my wonderful friends at KEXP. Throughout this stressful winter they have grounded me with their friendship, support and our mutual love of music. I know they have no idea how much they have helped me grow over the past six years of my near continuous volunteering and this is how it should be.  The many adventures and experiences I have enjoyed with them have tested me in ways I would never have thought possible. All the video I have shot with them has rubbed off on me and informed my photography in countless ways. It has truly been a win-win situation.

Third on this list is my amazing partners: Me2 and Avanaut.  Me2 deserves special thanks for giving me this platform to voice my artistic joys and doubts and share with you all that is wonderful about toy / macro photography. I am grateful for Avanaut and his willingness to say “yes” to both joining us here on the blog as well as in Seattle next month.  I look forward to meeting them both in two weeks(!!) and showing them my beautiful city and introducing them to all my amazing friends who have helped to make this all possible.

No matter how many doubts I have between now and the opening (and trust me there will be a few), I already know I have “won” because I have the most amazing people in my life… and for this I am grateful.

~ xxsjc

Who or what are you grateful for?

Exploring (robot courtesy of Gordon)
Exploring (robot courtesy of Gordon)

I’m a Toy Photographer, Not An AFOL

Yesterdays post by Pinar, explaining what LEGO sets she likes and why, made me take stock of the sets I am attracted to and why. I will be frank, I am a toy photographer who specializes in LEGO, not an AFOL. I know, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

Pinar and I have similar tastes in the sets we like to purchase and play with but for different reasons. Her favorite sets revolve around the licensed sets for Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and Star Wars because she enjoyed either the movies or video games that support them.  I like these sets because I can play with them in ways that go beyond the original source material.

It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to turn the antics of Jack Sparrow into some serious pirate play. Star Wars can work both as a metaphor for life with the anonymous Stormtrooper or reflect a love of space and exploration.  I love the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit franchises not only because I love the books but because I am a big fan of fantasy and magic. I love to bring that sense of the improbable into my photography.

It was obvious The Lone Ranger franchise  would struggle, not only because  it is a mediocre movie, but who plays cowboys and Indians anymore? Talk about an outmoded stereotype. Luckily we where given the Tonto mini figure who remains one of my favorites to photograph. What a face!

With the imminent arrival of Scooby Doo I cant help but think of the far superior Monster Hunters theme. With the introduction of a Scooby Doo haunted mansion, we have an updated version of those classic monster hunters only now with Scooby and Shaggy doing the ghost hunting.  It will be interesting to see if this theme has legs beyond a few sets.

All this brings me to my favorite Lego line to photograph: Chima.  For me, as a photographer, I find their lack of pop culture baggage to be refreshing. The figures are some of the most intricate and beautiful LEGO has every created and they are a joy to photograph. I love the birds with their wings, the elephants, lions, crocodiles, spiders…the list goes on and on.  They are a photographers dream. I have watched a few episodes of the TV show that supports the theme so I have a general idea of the back story; butI find that it is just as easy to create my own.

I feel sure that LEGO knows what it is doing with all these different themes and licensed sets. No matter what your tastes or needs are, I know you will find something to satisfy you; whether it is a trip down memory lane or inspiration for a new photograph. It is this diversity that keeps LEGO strong across all age groups

~ xxsjc

What is your favorite theme to photograph? 

What is your favorite theme to collect?

Confessions of an AFOL – Part 2

Now that I have confessed my feelings about the new licensed Lego themes, let’s take a look at the old ones, shall we?

Let’s start with Star Wars. Now we all know how great the films are and how revolutionary they were, especially the first three. I watched them for the first time in 2003 and I liked them but never had the opportunity or the desire to watch them again. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know everything about the films including memorizing the music and all the characters; I just played the Lego Star Wars video games instead. I played them on multiple platforms: PC, PSP, Mac or whatever I had whenever I could. Now I am the proud owner of four Yodas, three Han Solos and three Luke Skywalkers!

Other licensed themes I have enjoyed more through video games rather than the original movies include: Indiana Jones, Batman, and Harry Potter. I love the backgrounds and how they recreate the entire film using Lego. I am often sad when the game ends and can’t wait until the next one comes out.

If it is a movie I thought was ok, like Harry Potter, the games give me a chance to rediscover the movie in a different way. If it is a movie I already love it gives me such a joy to see all my favorite characters come to life once again in Lego form. The best examples of this are the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lord of the Rings video games. I had enjoyed the movies and seen them several times, but when characters actually talked in the game, rather than gibberish, this made it possible to make jokes as well as re-live those films over and over again!

Now the newer games (Batman 2, Marvel, the Hobbit) have all gotten better and funnier because of all the speech included. So I have enjoyed the games for the games they are, even though the sole reason I played them originally was because of Lego.

So where does this lead us?

Lego video games helped me be interested in the films and I watched them again. As I watched, I thought about how certain scenes were integrated into the films. As I played, I learned more about the characters and liked them even more, which resulted in me wanting to get the mini figures (or the sets). If anyone told me that I would get an AT-AT set, the first thing I’d say (before playing the game) would have been “What’s an AT-AT?” Now it’s a bit different, to say the least.

Maybe this is marketing at its best: watch, play, get the set, play more, watch more, like more. It seems to be working well for the producers and the fans alike. After all, who wouldn’t want a Jack Sparrow she can carry with her all the time?

Maybe Lego needs to take a page from it’s own book and think about how they can cross promote these new licensed sets so I will become as big of a fan of Scooby Doo and The Simpsons as I am of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. Although I can’t promise this about Simpsons… oh well, we’ll see!

Pinar

jack sparrow

Confessions of an AFOL – A Response

I am sure this is not the response you are expecting from yesterdays post Confessions of an AFOL – Part 1 by Pinar. I think the comments on this post  cover a lot of territory and you should give them a read. It is not for me to criticize LEGO,  I generally vote with my check book, so my thoughts took a different direction.

I enjoy many aspect of this worldwide toy photography community and I am blessed to have so many international friends who willingly share their lives and cultures with me. It has been a wonderful and enriching experience. Occasionally I get a glimpse of my own country through foreign eyes and honestly, it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I just have to read The Short News (which originates in Australia) for some cringe worthy story emanating from the US.

Yesterdays post by Pinar (who lives in Turkey), really got me thinking: If LEGO is a Danish company with a world wide global fan base, why are so many of their sets based on pop culture and entertainment products that originate from the USA / Hollywood? Like Pinar, I have been feeling  lackluster about sets like Back to the Future, The Simpsons and now Scooby Doo. I am not a fan of the entertainment / pop culture that the US spews out on a daily basis and it makes me sad that it casts such a long shadow over the LEGO corporation.

Sure licensing is not new to LEGO and many attribute licensing the Star Wars franchise as key to turning the company around financially. No one can deny the success of the Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings sets either.  But what about the Lone Ranger Movie sets? Sure these gave us Tonto, one of the coolest mini figures ever, but is that enough?

Personally I would like to see Lego develop more sets from their Lego Ideas platform along the lines of Peter Reid’s Exo Suit, NASA Mars Rover, the Birds and of course the Research Institute. To me these sets offer a wider range of play not just a trip down memory lane.

But then maybe I am wrong and you guys would like to see LEGO develop a line of products based on The Brady Bunch next?

~ xxsjc

What kind of sets do you think LEGO should produce? Free play, nostalgia or movie franchise based sets?

The Sea Casts its Spell
The Sea Casts its Spell by Shelly Corbett

Confessions of an AFOL – Part 1

While I was waiting for my iPod to charge up the other day, I decided to do something different. Instead of playing games, I decided to write about something that I have been thinking about a lot these past few days. Specifically those licensed sets Lego has released or is about to release: Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Simpsons, Dr. Who, Big Bang Theory, and Scooby Doo.

I have seen so much excitement towards these sets on Instagram that it has made me feel weird that I don’t feel any of that excitement myself. I even wrote about it on a friend’s picture as a comment, which I will repeat here:

“I only saw “Back to the Future” last year, and the only reason I watched it was because it got turned into a set and all the Lego community was so excited about it. Me? I was bored. I just couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. Thankfully, I made it till the end without sleeping, but by that time I was sure I was never getting that set.”

The only thing I remember about Ghostbusters is the theme song with the catchphrase “Who ya gonna call?”. Frankly the movie wasn’t that memorable. The Simpsons… gosh… as much as I love animation of all sorts, I just never warmed up to that family. The jokes seem cheap and I have never understood why people loved it so much. Maybe it’s a culture thing? As for Dr. Who – I stumbled upon it as I was going through the channels, and could only bear it for 15 minutes. It was THAT bad. I have never seen Big Bang Theory so I can’t comment on that one. Scooby Doo has the same level of stupidity for me as The Simpsons. In my opinion, it may be one of the worst animated series of its time.

Now, that brings me these questions: How and why? How is almost everyone in the Lego community so excited about these series and why am I not??! I get that everyone has different interests, that’s why there are so many different themes. I may like pirates and someone else likes space, or ninjas and so forth. But whenever the subject of one of the themes mentioned above comes up, everyone is like “Oh my God! I can’t believe they are really making this into a set!!” And that’s about the only thing I share with others: “I really can’t believe they are making that into a set!!”

I love anything related to Lego, so why do those new sets have no effect on me? Why don’t I get even a little bit excited? And don’t give me the “You’re getting old” excuse because I’m fine purchasing other sets and mini figures. I spoke to my father who is also a huge Lego and movie fan and neither of us was able to come up with any logical reasons.

I wish I could give you a conclusion, but I simply don’t have one; I wish I did. I would welcome your thoughts on this subject. Is there anyone else in our Lego community who feels the same way? I hope so. Otherwise I’m just one strange lady who’s babbling about stuff…

Pinar

PS: Special thanks to @ryanbabylon2929 for the inspiration and @lego_86 for getting me to confess 🙂

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter - Henry David Thoreau
One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter – Henry David Thoreau

 

Ai Weiwei and Lego

As you all know I love my documentaries and especially ones about artists. Last week I watched a documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and of course it left an impression. If you are not familiar with Ai, he designed Beijing’s National Stadium which is often referred to as the Birds Nest. After his arrest in 2011 his travel has been severely curtailed and he has not been allowed to leave Beijing. This documentary tells the story of Ai’s activism through art which ultimatly led to his virtual imprisonment.

Ai is very active on social media and I soon found myself following him on Twitter and Instagram which then led me to his show in the famous United States prison, Alcatraz. By now you are asking yourself what does this have to do with Lego?  Well, it seems Ai created six large carpets out of 1.2 million LEGO bricks to depict 176 political prisoners. (More information on the Alcatraz show can be found here and here. )

Trace, the show’s most ambitious work, consists of six large carpets of Lego blocks that depict more than 175 prisoners of conscience, past and present Photograph: Mae Ryan
Trace, the show’s most ambitious work, consists of six large carpets of Lego blocks that depict more than 175 prisoners of conscience, past and present Photograph: Mae Ryan

It seems that our beloved LEGO brick is continuing to evolve from a children’s toy to a medium that in the right hands, protests a few of the many injustices of the world. Maybe this children’s toy is growing up?

As I continue to grapple with my own art, I am inspired by a man on the other side of this planet who uses his art to change the world. I follow him on Twitter and Instagram as a reminder that everything is not awesome.

~ xxsjc

Have you seen this show? Would you be interested in seeing this installation?

Do you think LEGO bricks are an appropriate medium for a political statement?

 

It’s Not Art You Are Buying, It’s Time

Sisyphean Task

When buying from an artist/maker, you’re buying more than just an object/painting; you are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experimentation. You are buying days, weeks & months of pure joy. You aren’t just buying a thing, you’re buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a moment of someone’s life. Most importantly, you’re buying the artist more time to do something they are passionate about.

I found this quote floating around the internet as an unattributed meme and found it to be very accurate. It doesn’t matter if you are buying the creative output of a photographer, a musician, a fine artist or your local craftsman…the effect is the same. By purchasing someone’s creative output you will be telling them that what they do has value and that you want them to continue. You are buying them more time to create and delve deeper and farther into their craft.

I know I have talked about the importance of supporting artists before with my post on So You Want to be an Artist, but I think it is well worth our time to revisit important topics. Yesterday’s post by Avanaut on Michael Paul Smith brought this line of thought back with a vengeance. Before I had even finished reading the post I had already purchased Mr Smith’s upcoming book. (Of course the fact that it would be signed by the artist was an extra added incentive.)

So I urge you, if you see someone creating something that effects you in some way, buy it. It does matter if it is a song,  a book, a painting or even a photograph, by purchasing what you love you are sending a very clear message to the creator: this is valued. This goes double for all those beginning photographers out their starting on their own professional journeys.  Ask yourself,  what have I bought from an artist lately? How do I support the arts? If I want people to support my work, how can I support their work?

It may seem like a little thing, but trust me, buy from an artist and you will give them the gift of time. It is a gift beyond compare.

~ xxsjc

If you enjoyed the movie about Michael Paul Smith and learning what drives him, you should definitely check out Marwencol. It is about a toy photographer who creates amazing photographs with an equally dark back story as Mr Smith. 

Care to share the last thing you bought from an artist?  My husband and I traded for an 82″ High Wheel Hare. Can you top that? 

Eureka! (or the joy of toy photography)

People enjoy photography for many reasons; documenting their daily lives,  a creative outlet, an opportunity to be a part of a new community or just the cool toys they get to play with . Me, I crave that Eureka! moment. You know the one…when you look through your view finder and see your photograph  just as you envisioned it. Or maybe it’s later when you check your shot on your camera or computer screen and you see something that makes you go “wow!”

I had two of those moments while I was in Las Vegas for the #vegastoyphotosafari. Honestly, they are what I Iive for.

The first came on Saturday while we were shooting as a group in the desert. I knew I’d gotten the shot I had been thinking about long before I arrived in Las Vegas. I turned around and raised my arms and gave a victory shout. Wikitoybox was watching me and started laughing. I didn’t care, it was just one of those great uninhibited, joyous moments.

The second time came late on Sunday evening when we were shooting photos near a colorful fountain. Even though I had my ISO turned up it wasn’t enough to compensate for the changing low light. My shutter speed slowed down and created some seriously freaky effects with the skeletons I had placed behind Deadpool. I showed the results to krash_override and we both were equally fascinated with the crazy in-camera effects.

After 30 years of taking photos it’s nice to still feel those moments of joy and exhilaration at capturing something new and surprising with my camera. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world and I truly hope you have had one (or many) yourself!

~ xxsjc

Have you ever had one of these eureka! moments? If so, would you care to share it with us?

Landing Party

Fair Play – Part III

At the risk of beating a dead horse  I want to revisit the issue of fair play and Lego System A/S that we talked about last week.  Me2 and I don’t always see eye to eye and his habit of adding the TM symbol to his words has always seemed pretentious to me, but after last week I think he is on the right track (he just promised me he will elaborate on his Why™ in another post here pretty soon).

Our original post was re-posted to Reddit and the reaction was alarming in its passivity. It seems that most fans in the Lego universe are more than happy to let Lego roll right over them without even a whimper as they believe it would only impact those who would want to sell their work. The over riding sentiment expressed in the comments was that Lego was well within their legal rights and that we, their customers, fans and LEGO artists need to watch our step.

Seriously? What has this world come too when we think corporations have the right to tell us how to create, show and ultimately sell our own creations? What would Andy Warhol have said if the Campbell’s Soup company had sent him a cease and desist order when he first exhibited his now iconic soup cans? I am pretty sure he would have laughed and kept printing his silk screens. So why are we taking this sitting down?

If the Andy Warhol example is too esoteric for you how about this one which hits a little closer to home: Peter Reid. If you are not familiar with Peter Reid he created the fabulous book LEGO Space published by No Starch Press. Oh and he is also the guy who designed Lego Ideas #6135: Exo Suit. You may have heard of it? You probably own one since Lego has been selling it for a few months now. I want to respectfully point out to Lego System A/S that you can’t have it both ways.

Recently a related issue was brought to my attention regarding a popular company (Ikea) and it’s enthusiastic fans (IkeaHackers). Last summer Ikea tried to shut down the popular web site that is dedicated to finding new and more interesting ways to use Ikea furniture. There was a public outcry and Ikea backed down. I guess it doesn’t pay to piss off your devoted core.

Do you really think that if Lego System A/S got nasty and removed ALL photos with Lego imagery off RedBubble and related sites (yes, including Flickr since the basis of the IP infringement claim starts at publishing and Flickr has been making noises about monetizing fan art uploaded onto their website) that the outcry wouldn’t be as outraged as the Ikea controversy? I am pretty sure it would be more financially damaging in terms of bad publicity and a pissed off fan base than any revenue lost due to these “illicit” products.  No one likes a $14.6 billion dollar bully.

Personally I think we are all well within our rights to photograph our toys and sell the images as a unique piece of art to enjoy in your home (we are not talking about licensing stock photography here to be used in a commercial campaign as that is a completely different topic, and we fully recognize that). I am pretty sure most of these artists photos would not be confused with Lego’s own marketing campaigns or franchise business and the financial damage (if any) the company might be incurring is well lets be real…it’s minimal and far less than the community gives back exponentially. If Lego doesn’t like us creating art with their shiny plastic bricks and having us share this with the world, than they should speak out now with a clarified Far Play notice rather than these random take down notices.

This whole fair play discussion is not about the ultimate sale of a piece of art (that is just the financial recognition that someone liked what you did), but about the fact we should own the unrestricted rights to do with our art what we want (as long as it does not violate any other laws like discriminating or racial ones), which is to share, publicize and ultimately gain some financial recognition from it if we choose to do so.

I for one will continue to promote my work with the ultimate end game of monetizing it. While I am not interested in selling through RedBubble, I applaud those who do. If I ever get a “cease and desist” order, personally I am going to laugh all the way to the fireplace where I will promptly burn it.

So I say to Big INC™, I am not afraid of you and I am tired of being bullied by you!

~ xxsjc

Should we let this topic die a slow death or keep talking about it?

Who knew?
Who knew?