Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gratitude Artist Life

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

11.1.11 (Today) marks my ten-year anniversary as a full-time artist. Before that, I was running my own business selling beeswax and candle-making supplies from my Web site and, during the winter holidays, shows. Lumina Candles & Art served me well. I had started it in the early 1990s after my friend Jamshid gave me a honeycomb beeswax candle as a gift some years before. At the time I just needed a hobby to compensate for my 60-hour workweek doing image preservation for a photo lab in Austin, Texas.

The preservation job involved retouching negatives with special dyes (sometimes with the aid of a microscope), and then making a print on fiber paper and painting on that. Not airbrush style. My work still looked like a photograph, like the original before damage. I was also fortunate enough to work on projects involving the preservation of images in the collections of such clients as National Geographic and the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, Stokes Imaging Services succumbed due to poor money management. I went down with the ship, but decided then (1995) to leave the photolab industry, learn what the Internet was, and take my hobby business more seriously while I continued to study sculpture.

My friend and fellow lab technician Mark gave me a 2-hour lesson at his home about what the Internet was and how to teach myself how to write my own Web pages using the free resources online. One of the best two hours I ever spent! I built Lumina's business up and quickly learned a lot about Web site content and marketing.


I took the art plunge in January 2001 because I had just spent the previous four months working incredibly long hours with very little sleep. I was up all night packaging beeswax orders to make sure that everyone had the holidays they wanted – at least what I had control over. I remember telling my father that January that I felt like the “Christmas whore” and I was exhausted. But that kind of crankiness also told me that I did not like who I was when I spent four months without making any art. I thought my family deserved better and I gave Lumina to some friends on this day ten years ago.

That first year as a full-time artist, I used up all of the money I had earned with Lumina, mostly in bronze casting. However, I also realized that my art had improved dramatically with full-time attention. To this day, no matter what my other concerns, it is my need to grow my work and express ideas that drives me. The fact that I keep learning more and more is what lifts my spirits.

I can also tell you that this is no easy road. But I have been very lucky and very grateful to all that have helped me along this path. While I still struggle with ideas of what it means to be self-sufficient, my understanding of generosity has expanded. My life is such that I have had to learn how to accept things from others more than most perhaps. I know that each person who buys me a meal, treats me to a museum, gives me clothing or a place to stay for the night, a ride or exposure to something great, tells someone else about my work or even finds me (or becomes) a client, saves me money or time and is part of what allows me to continue my life. Everything is connected. I no longer see a person’s generosity as belonging to “during that time” because I have learned that EVERYTHING that I receive from another FREES me to apply my own earned resources to my larger goals.

Pictured here is my half-life-size bronze sculpture “Reginald.” I began working with the model in the late summer of 2000. The sculpture then sat in my studio for many months while I shipped beeswax all over the US and beyond. I then cast him in 2001. That first casting was sold in October 2001 from my Web site to a gallery in West Hollywood, California. (I still have never physically met this repeat buyer.) Art sales from artist’s Web sites were not so common then. And if I had been surprised by what the Internet allowed me to do with candles and beeswax, I was even more grateful for what it could do and has done for art and artists.

So, with an attitude of gratitude, I want to thank you. No matter what the timing is or the duration of your joining me on this journey, you are a part of it now. Like it or not, we live in a culture which trades in (or values) money or time. Do not ever underestimate the power of a kindness you give another.
How wonderful, really.

Thank you,
Kelly Borsheim

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