Shop Local: Party with the AAArtists and The OAK Team

February 22, 2010 at 4:12 am (Shop Local)

In 2005, I was juried into the Artspace Artists Association (AAA). I credit the day I was juried into Artspace as the turning point in my career, for it was at that moment that I went from kitchen table crafter to a professional artist.  

Many of you may have visited Artspace, a historic building in downtown Raleigh’s City Market. It is my home away from home. It is where I create (all of my jewelry components are made in Studio 109A), and it is where I have exhibited my work time and time again. But for me, what makes Artspace special is not just the building itself, but the artists within the building who make up the Artspace Artists Association (AAA).

The Artspace Artists Association (AAA) is an organization of professional artists working together to promote growth of the individual artist, to provide an environment of interaction with other artists and with the public, and to foster the mission of Artspace.

There are over 90 members of AAA, over 40 of which have studios in the building. All of the artists are juried into AAA through a rigorous two-stage jury process. The first stage is a slide jury made up of Artspace artists. The second stage is an object jury made up outside jurors (not affiliated with Artspace).

The Artspace Artists Association provides exhibition opportunities for the artists by renting the Upfront Gallery, awarding a People’s Choice Award monthly, and promoting the artists through local advertising and special events. In the past, AAA has supported itself through membership dues and participation in community events, like the Fayetteville Street Paint Out.

This year, in order to continue providing services and opportunities to its artists, AAA is planning a couple of fundraisers, the first of which is this Saturday night at The Berkley Cafe.

Unlike most art fundraisers, however, you will not have to fork out a lot of money at an auction or even get dressed up for this one.

“We don’t get out much, but when we do, we like to party,” says fellow AAA artist Melinda Fine. “It’s going to be a foot-stompin’, hip-waggin’ good time.”

Fine who has coordinated this event, along with her studio partner Alison Overton, have arranged for Terry Anderson and The OAK Team to play, while Berkley Cafe Owner Jim Shire, is generously allowing AAA to keep all of the ticket sales.

“Terry Anderson and Jack Cornell of The OAK Team have been playing in bands in the Raleigh area since the late 70’s – first The Fabulous Knobs, then the Woodpeckers, which morphed into the Woods,” says Fine. “They have a big and loyal following in this area, but only play here a couple times a year. We are fortunate that they will play one of their few local shows as a fundraiser for AAA.”

Fine adds that Anderson and company are  fun to see live. ” They will have everyone laughing and dancing all night long,” she says.

Tickets for this event are $8.00 in advance (available at Artspace) or $12.00 at the door. As the past President and current Vice President of AAA, I will be dusting off my dancing shoes to attend, and I hope to see you there too!

So this week, don’t just shop local, party local with the artists of The Artspace Artists Association.

The deadline for the next jury for membership into The Artspace Artists Association is April 1st. Click here for a prospectus or visit to apply.


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Fashion Focus: So Long Bryant Park

February 17, 2010 at 6:02 am (Fashion Focus)

In 2006, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, pleaded with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to keep New York’s Fashion Week under the tents in Bryant Park.

While Wintour may have won the battle, it seems that due in part to the recession, that Bryant Park Corporation has won the war. After seventeen years in Bryant Park, Fashion Week will relocate to Lincoln Center starting in September 2010, making this week’s runway shows the last in the garment district.

Wintour has been seated front and center at this week’s New York Fashion Week shows, a scene that was well documented in R.J. Cutler’s  The September Issue.

On a rainy afternoon last October, I was one of the last to see The September Issue here in Raleigh. The film closed before I even had the chance to publish my blog post on The September Issue (posted October 18. 2009). It didn’t seem to really matter though that the film had closed here in Raleigh, because my September Issue blog post continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog. If you missed The September Issue in theaters, fear not fellow fashionistas. The DVD comes out next Tuesday, February 23rd.

As I said last October on this blog, it wasn’t so much the unprecedented access to Wintour that surprised me about the movie, as much as it was the amazing artistry of Vogue’s Creative Director Grace Coddington.  Coddington’s collaboration with Vogue photographers results in visionary photographs, which taken outside the context of the magazine stand alone as works of art. Coddington is also seated front and center at many of this week’s runway shows, along with Vogue’s Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley, who is also featured in Cutler’s documentary.

For me, however, this month has been less about fashion and more about fantasy, diving into creating work for my upcoming Through the Looking Glass group exhibition tentatively scheduled to open at Artspace next fall. Coincidentally, while researching Louis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland online this week, I stumbled upon Grace Coddington’s Wonderland inspired photo shoot for Vogue, first published in December 2003, beautifully photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Below you will find a video containing all of the photographs from this spread.

On a sad note, the start of this week’s Fashion Week was plagued by the sudden death of Designer Alexander McQueen. McQueen’s collection was supposed to be shown at New York Fashion Week. The event was cancelled. I stumbled across McQueen’s work online last year and was dazzled by his collection which pushed the envelope.  “McQueen’s pieces were about the extreme. His runway shows featured fashions that reminded me of royal garb, with high collars, super-cinched waists, and hats.” [Elizabeth Wellington, Fashion Columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer] “We are devastated to learn of the death of Alexander McQueen,” said Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue. “He was one of the greatest talents of his generation. . . . In such a short career, Alexander McQueen’s influence was astonishing – from street style to music culture and the world’s museums. His passing marks an insurmountable loss.”

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Copycat or Coincidence?

February 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm (Artist Musings)

The  January 2010, the winter issue of Metalsmith Magazine, Volume 30/No.1/2010 includes an Opinion article written by Harriete Estel Berman entitled, Copycat, Copyright, or Coincidence.

“How often have you said or heard,  ‘That looks just like . . . (some other artist’s) work.’   The arts and crafts community is suffering from ‘copycat-ism’ or more accurately, infringement of intellectual property or copyright infringement.  It is infecting the entire art and craft community, from schools and universities, to wholesale/retail shows, stores, galleries, books and even award competitions….” [Harriete Estel Berman, Copycat, copyright or coincidence? An Opinion in Metalsmith Magazine]

Although I haven’t read the article (just Harriete’s blog post summarizing her opinion), I LOVE the fact that she has opened this up for discussion.

A few years ago, I mentored an aspiring young artist. She worked with me in my studio and at shows for just about a year. After she graduated, she decided to start her own jewelry business. Now, I have to say, when she first started working for me, she showed me her sketches, which I thought were brilliant.  She saw the world much differently than I did, in three dimensions. So, when she went out on her own, I was proud, just like a mama bird seeing her baby fly out of the nest.

A few months after she graduated, I ran into her at a show. I had a booth. She had a booth. After the first day of the show, several other artists accused her of copying my designs, some actually confronting her and upsetting her deeply. While I did see similarities in our booth display (and I suppose some of the designs), I did not take offense. At another show several months later, this young artist told me that she was sorry and that she never meant to copy my designs or hurt me. She asked me for advice on how to grow her business.  I told her that she didn’t have to look to me for inspiration because if she stuck to her original design aesthetic, those early sketches which made her jewelry unique and special, she would be successful. That is exactly what she did, and today she is a successful designer creating brilliant, unique pieces of wearable art.

This wasn’t the last time another artist was accused of copying my designs. Many of the images I use in my designs are in the public domain and widely available. At another show, one of my customers asked me how I felt about another jeweler copying my work. She was using the same images I use and transferring them to polymer clay (which is exactly what I do). Her finishing techniques were not as good as mine nor was her attention to detail or craftsmanship.  I assured my customer that most savvy collectors would be able to see the difference between my work and her work and that I wasn’t concerned. That other artist went on to find her own “voice”, experimenting with her own techniques, and started designing jewelry that was unique to her and looked nothing like mine.

I was accused in both of these instances, particularly the first instance, of being a coward… not saying enough or doing enough to stop these artists. I didn’t think of it as being cowardly. I thought of it as taking the high road and sticking to my own design aesthetic, having faith in the fact that my designs were unique to me and that the buying public would know it.

So, having been a victim of copycat-ism (more than once),  here’s my advice to young artists to avoid being accused of being a copycat…

1.  Find your niche. I often tell young artists, “do one thing well and try to do that one thing better than anybody else, then you will be successful.” If you try to incorporate a lot of mediocre techinques into your work, mixed media, metals, clay, found objects, and wire wrapping for example, you will end up with at best an inconsistent body of work. What makes my work unique are my signature, hand-formed image transfer beads, a technique which I have perfected over the last six years. The end results are pieces that are easily recognizable as mine. For example, a few months ago, a woman walked into my Raleigh studio. She had purchased a necklace of mine at a gallery in Philadelphia. Even though she and I had never met, she was able to make the connection between her necklace and my work because of my signature, hand-formed image transfer beads. In my opinion, that is the secret of my success as an artist.     

2. Take a class, learn a technique (not a project). For me, I find that the most offensive copycat-isms come after someone takes a class. Often times a student walks away with a finished project, reproduces that project over and over again, and tries to sell the end result as their own. I have been very fortunate to take classes from some great artists. In almost every case, I left the class with a finished project. In every case, I waited months (sometimes years) before I figured out a way to incorporate the techniques I learned in the class into my own work. For example, several years ago, I had the pleasure of taking a class from Nan Roche. Nan taught extruding and chain mail techniques using polymer clay. Several months later, I incorporated Nan’s chain mail technique into my Les Regrets necklace. As you can see, my necklace looks nothing like Nan’s class sample. 

Nan Roche: Braids, Plaits, and Chains: Exploring Extruded Clay

Lauren Van Hemert: Les Regrets Necklace

 In another example, I had the pleasure of taking a class from Louise Fischer Cozzi. In that class, Louise taught translucent coloring techniques using acrylic paints. Years later, I incorporated Louise’s translucent coloring techniques on my Trapeziste pendant. Again, my necklace does not look anything like Louise’s beautiful Sophie Necklace.

Louise Fischer Cozzi: Sophie Necklcace

Lauren Van Hemert: Trapeziste Necklace

In both of the above classes, I took a class, learned a technique, and figured out a way to use that technique as a tool in my own work. 

The only time I ever had a concern about someone copying my work came at a wholesale craft show. A gallery owner, also an artist, approached me about my Trapeziste necklace. He was interested in every detail of the piece and came back to see it several times. After asking me how it was made, sculpted, and painted, he decided to buy it, although he didn’t want the one I had on display, he wanted a new one, a perfect one, sans fingerprints and cracks (trademarks in my opinion which make the piece look handmade and not mass produced).  I was convinced that this artist, gallery owner, was going to copy my design, make a mold of it, and cast it in glass. I ended up copyrighting the design with the United Stated Copyright Office.

Copyrighting a piece is a very easy thing to do and just requires three essential elements: a completed application form, a non-refundable filing fee (around $35), and a nonreturnable deposit (a copy of the work to be deposited and registered with The Copyright Office). I do not copyright every piece, however, in the case of my award winning Trapeziste necklace, in which Catherine Thornton and I worked hard on creating a one-of-a-kind pendant that could be easily molded, I thought it was better to be safe than sorry.

I thank Harriete Estele Berman again for opening this important issue up for discussion on her blog. I encourage you to post your comments to continue this discussion. Until next week…

“Under the present copyright law, which became effective January 1, 1978, a work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created. A work is created when it is ‘fixed’ in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. Neither registration in the Copyright Office nor publication is required for copyright protection under the present law. There are, however, certain advantages to registration, including the establishment of a public record of the copyright claim. Copyright registration must generally be made before an infringement suit can be brought. Timely registration can also provide a broader range of remedies in an infringement suit.” [Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts, Circular 4o, Rev: 11/2009]

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Valentine’s Day: The Love Letter

February 8, 2010 at 3:15 am (Artist Musings)

Many people know from my artist statement that my love of ephemera started almost twenty years ago when I decided to put to paper my family history. I started with my maternal grandfather, Ralph, who told me Turkish folktales and sang to me while he played the mandolin.

After my grandfather died, I interviewed my maternal grandmother, Rebecca, or Betty as we called her, to find out her story. At 17, she met my grandfather and they crossed the state border to get married, since she was too young to marry in the State of New York. During my interview, she went to the closet and took out a pink department store box full of  photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, menus and programs that documented their life together. In that box, were small pieces of paper with notes, love notes that my grandfather had written to my grandmother and placed under her pillow throughout their fifty plus years of marriage.

My grandfather’s notes inspired me to create Postcards and Letters, a series of necklaces and bracelets that celebrate true love. At the centerpiece of this collection is a love letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning written in 1845, which I have affectionately transferred to clay and hand-formed into beads.

Love Letter Necklace

“I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett, — and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write, –whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me — for in the first flush of delight I though I would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration — perhaps even, as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some little good to be proud of hereafter! — but nothing comes of it all — so into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew … oh, how different that is from lying to be dried and pressed flat and prized highly and put in a book with a proper account at bottom, and shut up and put away … and the book called a ‘Flora’, besides! After all, I need not give up the thought of doing that, too, in time; because even now, talking with whoever is worthy, I can give reason for my faith in one and another excellence, the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought — but in this addressing myself to you, your own self, and for the first time, my feeling rises altogether. I do, as I say, love these Books with all my heart — and I love you too…” [Letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett, January 10, 1845]

Another one of my favorite pieces from this collection, photographed beautifully by Robert Diamante, is this French script necklace. For this piece, I transferred pieces of a vintage, French marriage contract to white polymer clay. The necklace is strung with crystals and pearl “coins” and finished with a marcasite clasp.

It was almost twenty years ago that my Grandma Betty showed me that box filled with handwritten love notes from Grandpa Ralph. And though I didn’t know the name for it at the time, that is when my fascination with ephemera began. All of these notes, letters, photographs and clippings told a story – a love story – of my grandparents.

So this Valentine’s Day, forget e-mail and skip the text message. Sit down and handwrite a love letter to your sweetheart. After all, how would Robert Browning’s letter translate if it read… I ❤ U 4 EAE [I love you, forever and]?

Love Letter Bracelet

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