"I Can See Plastic -- Everywhere"

I've been working on my Recycle Series of jewelry for eight years.

Plastic-bottle-Herbal-EssenceAs an artist and visual thinker, I'm well aware of the huge investment consumer brands put into their packaging with alluring, beautiful jewel tones and shapes.  As an avid recycler I'm also aware that so much of this consumer packaging is for single use -- then just thrown away.  Until recently, I was primarily dismayed about the enormous quantity of plastic that gets thrown away, or perhaps recycled (for those who have an activist mindset and a curbside recycling program.)  

I've come to realize that the plastic pollution problems are much larger than most people realize. 

A lot of single-use plastics go to landfill, and a very small percentage of the plastic is actually recycled.  But vast amounts of plastics are improperly disposed of and get washed or blown into the environment where they do not degrade for hundreds of years.  A new documentary exposes the huge quantity of plastic that is accumulating in our oceans.

In parallel with the oceanic accumulation of plastic, I also learned that black plastic is not recycled (even though it is made of recyclable material).  These two insights launched my current work in progress titled,  Black Plastic Gyre Necklace. It is about the vast quantities, big and small, of plastic in our oceans. The use of only black plastic to appear more threatening.

Coincidentally, while working on my Black Plastic Gyre Necklace, I kept wondering how so much plastic gets into our oceans.  With heightened mindfulness during the past few weeks, I become aware of how much plastic, especially black plastic, is littered on our streets. Yes, in the streets and yards or on sidewalks and shrubs.

Plastic-Waste-street-gutter-oceans

As one example, I saw this black plastic takeout tray, black plastic spoon, and cellophane laying in the street while on my way to the gym.  I'm always in a rush in the morning and promised myself that I would photograph the trash and pick it up after class.  But then for one reason or another, day after day, I would forget. 

Each day I was again confronted by the same black plastic takeout tray and made the same promise to myself.   After a few days of repeated negligence, I also noticed that the tray inched its way along the curb and soon realized it was inevitably heading toward the storm sewer.  Just a little bit of wind or a push by a car tire, it inched its way toward the storm sewer leading to the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. 

Finally, I photographed it and picked it up. One small crisis averted, but every day I started seeing more and more black plastic in the street.  I feel like I'm in a weird version of the Sixth Sense movie -- "I see post-use plastic everywhere."

black plastic sharpie pen laying in the street
This Sharpie pen laid on the street for days.  Crushed by cars, the tube was broken, but the black pen cap proved to be indestructible. I photographed it, picked it up and took it home. 

The pen cap is now incorporated into the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace.

No wonder plastic accumulates in the ocean and waterways. It lasts forever.     

Now I am really paying attention.  In the two block walk to the gym, I almost always find plastic litter. 

Plastic-strap

This white plastic strap is really tough. You can't break this. You can barely cut it with scissors.  There were two of them. This is what they use to strap boxes and furniture so they don't come apart. 

Plastic-strap-closer

Next there was a plastic bottle. There is nothing "Super Green" about a plastic bottle.  

Green-plastic-bottle-sidewalk-trash-close-large

I photographed it and then picked it up. This is becoming a very smelly and distasteful experience in plastic waste awareness.

Green-plastic-bottle-sidewalk-trash-closer-large

Before I get to my car there is a plastic baggie laying on the storm sewer grate.  

So this is how plastic is getting to the ocean....

Sewer-with-plastic-bag

This plastic baggie was used for perhaps an hour or two but is now on the brink of going into the storm sewer, floating through the waterways, draining into the San Francisco Bay, and suspended in the ocean for centuries.

Where does my responsibility end?

Sure I picked up the plastic along the street where I walk, but every day there is more. 

This was on 43rd Avenue in San Mateo.  Within these two blocks are several restaurants with takeout food, e.g. Papa John Pizza, Round Table, a taqueria, Molly Stones grocery store, and CVS pharmacy. They all have plastic packaging and takeout food. Every business and every person who walks that two blocks should be responsible for keeping it clean and cleaning up the trash. 

San Mateo has a new Adopt-A-Drain program. I've already volunteered to take care of the storm sewer near my house. At home, I have captured a considerable quantity of organic debris and plastic waste from going into that one sewer. Is that enough?

By 2022, the City of San Mateo will be required to prevent all trash from entering the Bay through the storm drains to meet mandates set by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, but who is going to help?  It occurs to me that we will all pay for this trash left in the street, one way or another.

 

Plastic packaging has to be redesigned.

Berman-Harriete-Recycle-fuschia-black-bracelet

Right now the burden of dealing with plastic waste is on the consumer and they are doing a terrible job. Consumers recycled only 9.5% of plastic waste in 2014.  Another 15% was combusted for energy, while 75.5% of what was collected was sent to landfills. China used to accept America's plastic waste, but no more. We need to think about how we can reduce the quantity of plastic waste, now

Future posts will include assembly and progress on the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace and some concrete, but easy steps for reducing plastic.

Harriete

 

Related Posts:

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace - Jewelry Brings Awareness to Environmental Crisis

Plastic Recycling Facts and Figures


Daily updates of plastic found on 1 block of 43rd Avenue, San Mateo

plastic waste in the gutter

Cellophane and a chapstick- February 14, 2018

 

Pure-fresh-gum

Pure Fresh Spearmint Gum plastic package - February 16, 2018

 

Plastic-bottle-in-street

"Nice" purified plastic bottle (crushed) - February 16, 2018

 

Bottle-cap-in-street

Plastic Bottle Cap  - February 16, 2018

 

Dental-floss-plastic-in-street

Plastic Dental Flosser -  February 16, 2018

  

 

 

 

 

 


Black Plastic Gyre Necklace - Jewelry Brings Awareness to Environmental Crisis

Do you know that black plastic is rarely recycled?   When I 've asked around, not one person so far has known that black plastic is not recyclable. 

Most people think that the recycle symbols indicate that it is "recyclable," so did I, but it is not.  This was recently verified by my local recycling center.  The recycling center, ReThink Waste, is now helping to bring this issue to wider attention and issued the following message on Twitter and Facebook to help me collect black plastic for a new artwork. 

Black plastic is not recycled (even if it is labeled as recyclable) because most plastics are sorted by optical scanners that cannot "see" or recognize black plastic. Essentially black plastic can't be differentiated from other trash, so it goes into landfills, or even worse, goes into our oceans and waterways. (More on this topic in the next post.)  

Yet black plastic is used pervasively for catering, take-out, deli containers, and microwave packaging. Pay attention to this issue and you will be shocked!  Black plastics in the form of food containers, pen caps, bottle caps, black spindles, etc. -- all go to trash.

Here is one example.  Shown below are twenty 12-inch diameter bowls from one event catered by Lyfe Kitchen. Lyfe Kitchen sells take-out and catered food marketed as sustainable. But there is nothing sustainable about using black plastic containers.
Black-plastic-bowls-waste-1200


I contacted Lyfe Kitchen about the use of black plastic.
They responded: "...we are in the midst of a packaging vendor transition on the West coast. We have been diligently looking to source a more sustainable option for our catered salads container pictured here."

To bring more awareness to the issues surrounding black plastic I made this bracelet years ago.

Black-plastic-recycled-jewelry

 Now I am immersed in making a "Black Plastic Gyre Necklace" that will be 24-feet long. The "necklace" will wrap relentlessly around a model, again and again, to convey the accumulation of plastic debris that is clogging waterways, strangling animals, and damaging coral reefs.  The piece is intended to highlight the impact that plastics are having in our oceans and rivers.  

For the past six weeks, I have been frantically cutting tentacle shapes from black plastic containers to create the gigantic Black Plastic Gyre Necklace to meet an exhibition deadline.

IMG_20180108_203727060

The shapes are cut from black plastic forms such as this container (below) clearly embossed "Go-Green" -- yet it is nearly impossible to recycle.  This is an example of what is called "greenwashing."
Go-green-black-plastic-Sara

 There is nothing green about this black plastic.

GO-GREEN-container-and-cut copy

 I'm finding that the enormous variety of black plastic items allows me to cut out some very interesting shapes. 

Black-plastic-nosa1contribution-martha-husick

Interestingly, each black plastic container inspires different shapes. The above photo includes exquisite shapes cut from a  Noosa yogurt lid. The lid was soft yet flexible, ideal for cutting curvilinear shapes. I can't imagine why this brand uses black plastic lids.


Black-plastic-insert-cookie

Why do cookies and candies come with a black plastic insert? Only because I think someone thought it looks good or sophisticated. This is another example of unnecessary plastic waste in packaging. 

One of those 12" black plastic salad bowls (shown above) provides a lot of plastic. In the photo below, I am starting to cut it up into pieces for the necklace.   

Black-plastic-bowl-cut-beginning1
One black plastic bowl can generate so many parts, producing a messy pile of great shapes (below) that will go into the necklace.

Black-plastic-bowl-cut-final

Every day I spend hours cutting black plastic for the necklace to meet the deadline.

IMG_20180108_152748770

If you would like to contribute your black plastic to this project, contact me to drop off your plastic or mail it to me. The idea is to raise awareness about plastic in our environment and become an advocate for change. 

Stay tuned for more posts about progress on this necklace and the local makers who I hired to help meet a tight deadline.

This Black Plastic Gyre Necklace is destined for an exhibition titled, Uneasy Beauty. Curated by Suzanne Ramljak, it will be in an exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum. If you're ready for more, check out the page on my website that has more images and information.  


Harriete
IMG_20180108_173309135

 


Thanksgiving 2017 in Black and White

Black and white thanksgiving theme
This year my Thanksgiving table theme was in black and white, a reflection of the current propensity for political and social polarization.  

With a small group this year, our conversation topics brought everyone into thoughtful and civil debate. Some controversies were acknowledged but remained unresolved.  In particular, the recent revelations in the news about inappropriate behavior by men in power positions are leaving everyone shocked.

#Metoo can't be ignored, nor should it be. I don't know any women who haven't experienced inappropriate advances. The widespread public revelations could lead to a huge pivot in society. Although I remain circumspect about accusations without evidence, I tend to believe the women. Where will this lead?  How will social behavior and expected norms shift?

   White roses and white pumplin

The black and white theme included white roses flowers and a white pumpkin.

Black and White flowers arrangement with whtie carnations, gerbena daisies with black center, and white rosesWhite carnations, white roses, and white Gerbera Daisies with black centers continued the motif. The black bowl worked well as a framing device for the flowers and foliage.

Black and white Ebonette

This year the black and white theme was inspired by my collection of Knowles Ebonette vintage dishes. Designed in 1954, they are of a classic mid-century modern design. Every plate was hand painted with the black and white lines so they vary quite a bit. The dinner plates have a slightly squarish shape. The bowls are slightly irregular. It seems the blank ceramic for these dishes were painted in different patterns.

The Edwin M. Knowles Company "ceased operations in late 1962 citing a lack of foreseeable profits.   This was largely blamed on tariffs which were said to encourage the importation of foreign dinnerware at prices so low that E. M. Knowles could not be competitive."

The current debate on "made in America" is not a new topic.
Black and white Thanksgiving table.
I also used my vintage gold plated flatware and gold and black glasses. All mid-century modern that I have collected for years.  

In closing, I wanted to share one secret for a memorable table setting  that can be used anytime you want to set an amazing table -- it is as simple as a roll of paper. Sometimes I feel inspired to paint the paper or more often I discover a roll of gift wrap that offers great colors or patterns. A great pattern on the table can inspire a new way to look at the dishes you already own. 

Harriete

 


HTTP to HTTPS and the future security of the web.

 Http-https
Recently I got a really scary warning from Google about my website. It said:

 
"Chrome will show security warnings about this website..."
 

It continued: 

"Starting October 2017, Chrome (version 62) will show a “NOT SECURE” warning when users enter text in a form on an HTTP page, and for all HTTP pages in Incognito mode.

The following URLs on your site include text input fields (such as < input type="text" > or < input type="email" >) that will trigger the new Chrome warning. Review these examples to see where these warnings will appear, so that you can take action to help protect users’ data. This list is not exhaustive."

Internet security is a big issue these days. I certainly did not want my website visitors to see this and feel my website was not secure!  This warning is enough to throw me into a nauseous spasm of internet inadequacy. Most of my silver repair business is with people emailing me through my website. None of us can afford to lose potential customers.


HttpsHTTPS is the future of the internet.  If you look at all the major retailing sites, they have migrated from the original HTTP address to the newer and more secure HTTPS.  Sticking my head in the sand (or retreating to my metalsmithing studio) would not fix this problem.  I could not go out and water my plants or snack my way through this problem.

https is also the reason for this post. I checked a random but broad selection of artist's, and maker's websites to see if this post would be relevant. Many had the old http prefix which makes them "not secure" in the current internet standards.  I even found the http prefix on art organization's websites. This is a serious issue.  

Ultimately, the solution came a lot easier than I initially imagined.  The "Help" contact on SquareSpace, told me the 1, 2, 3 steps to fix the problem. I am most grateful for their chat assistance. 

Take steps to keep your web presence secure.

Another security issue I noticed on artists' websites is that they posted their email. WARNING: 
Do not post your email online. Bots will capture your email and send you unsolicited email. Instead, provide a link to an email program or have a contact form instead.

Is your website working for you? Is it establishing the web presence and visibility for your work?  If you can't be found on the internet, do you even exist?  Well, not much in the commerce and visibility of the web.   

Harriete 

PS. Are you guessing about the ideal size for images on social networks? Here  is a guide for Social media image sizes in 2017


D.I. Y. Photo Quality Compared to Professional Pics

Truth-cu700
The accessibility and ubiquity of digital cameras and the Internet have both good and bad sides.
  The ability to pick up a phone and take a picture allows everyone to produce a photo. Work in progress can be easily documented and shared directly from the studio. A  Pinterest board or Instagram can represent your work.  Or does it?  When does easy and instant imaging mislead makers into thinking that they have done all they need to do? 

I've been thinking about this a lot recently.  Every phone brand brags about more and more pixels -- Is that all there is?   

Berman-Harriete-Estel-TRUTH-comparison

In April, 2017,  opportunities from CNN and KQED required quick access to images of work in progress that could only come from my phone's digital camera.  A few weeks ago, I had a chance to compare photos side-by-side from my phone and from my professional photographer, Philip Cohen.

Above and below are a couple of examples with my phone image on left and Philip's image on the right.

Alternate-Facts-Bracelet-comparison
Photo (left) by Harriete of bracelet in progress.                Photo (right) finished bracelet by Philip Cohen
   Alternative Facts Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman  

O.K., passable on the left, but better on the right.  Then a further hurdle of photographing "Fabricating TRUTH" Fruit Crate with the three bracelets -- an impossible shot with a small digital camera or phone.  Lighting, the background, and an extended depth of field with the precise focus all become critical factors that an amateur quality, consumer phone camera can not "auto focus".
HB-6001_Print-WebFile
I am convinced that professional quality photos are essential, but what is your opinion? 

If the quality and range of digital capabilities are discernable, what are the consequences to your art or craft future when photos are good enough ....  or are they?

Dave Yoas recently invested in professional quality photography for his artwork. He realized that he had been tolerating "good enough" and wanted to improve his images.  In the following photos, Dave agreed to share his D.I.Y. photos (left) compared to the photo magic of professional photographer Philip Cohen (right).  

Bearly-Dreaming-comparison
Photo (left) taken by Dave Yoas.                                                     Photo (right) taken by Philip Cohen
"Bearly Dreaming" by Dave Yoas

Dave Yoas told me that he was using a digital camera with a tripod to take his own photos. Those are good steps.  But you may not be conscious of the D.I.Y. quality without seeing the comparison.  Notice how the colors seem so much more vibrant in the professional photos. And the whites are whiter. 
Dames-N-Flames-comparison

Photo (left) taken by Dave Yoas.                                                     Photo (right) taken by Philip Cohen
"Dames N Flames" by Dave Yoas

In the side by side examples above, I formatted the image comparison so that the objects were close to the same size, but the comparison between the D.I.Y. of Dave Yoas and a professional photo goes further.  In the next side by side comparison, note how the object is framed within the photograph.  The photo by Dave Yoas fills the frame of the photo close to the edge. In contrast in the photo by Philip Cohen (right) there is more breathing room around the object rather than crowded to the edge.

Good-Ol-Daze-comparison
Photo (left) by Dave Yoas.                                                                 Photo Credit (right) Philip Cohen
"Good ol' Daze" by Dave Yoas

This extra margin of space surrounding the object is very practical for posting on social networks where cropping may be outside of your control. The extra margin of space within the frame is also visually more comfortable. In the photo below you will see what happens in the example photo (left) when the frame of the image feels as if it is cutting off part of the object. Cropping the object too close to the edge of the photo feels crowded and cheap, kind of like a crowded exhibition where the work doesn't have room to feel important. 

Mid-Century-Mojo-comparison
Photo (left) taken by Dave Yoas.                             Photo (right) taken by Philip Cohen.
"Mid-Century Mojo" by Dave Yoas
Mid-Century-Mojo-Philip-Cohen-CU
"Mid-Century Mojo" by Dave Yoas                                        Photo Credit: Philip Cohen


Again, the colors in the professional quality photography are much more vibrant. 

Close-ups can also be a critical component to sharing your work online or in a juried opportunity.
It gives the viewer more information about the texture, materials or techniques.  Dave Yoas told me that he thought the details by Philip Cohen were images that he was incapable of capturing on his own.

There are many tricks available to the professional photographer.
 Highlights from a shiny or reflective surface can be fixed in Photoshop by the professional. 

In the photo below, Philip Cohen photographed each object with the same lighting, and then assembled the triptych in PhotoShop. This avoids that difficulty of finding one large wall big enough for displaying all three artworks at the same time.  The lighting can be consistent and even over all three artworks avoiding highlights and dark corners when photographing a large wall.  

What-every-boy-wants
"What every boy wants" by Dave Yoas                                      Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

I am convinced that professional quality photos are essential for anyone who is truly serious about their art or craft. The ease and convenience of your digital camera or cell phone are amazing, but they are not a substitute for professional quality images.  The consequences of sub-quality photography may be costing you more than a professional photographer.  

I asked Dave Yoas why he decided to spend (no, I mean, invest) in professional quality photography? 

"To tell you the truth, I have spent “many” hours trying to capture the “essence" of my work. All the books and tutorials, all the equipment, light diffusers, and hours lost were not worth it. Philip's work is a good investment." After buying the equipment and spending the better part of a day in photography, the resulting images were still "not representing my work."  

Yoas also mentioned that it has become increasingly rare to walk into galleries these days to show our work. "Everything is electronic." The photographic images represent our work. 

What are your thoughts about professional photography?

Harriete

Related Posts about photography for art and craft:

Eliminate Glare in Photographic Images with Digital Magic - A Photographic Tutorial by Philip Cohen

“Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen

Photographing Your Artwork? Bounce Cards Add Light and Fill in Deep Shadows

Documentation of the TRUTH

Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer

GUIDE to PROFESSIONAL QUALITY IMAGES 

Working with Digital Images Effectively

And a whole lot more posts:

 


Documentation of the TRUTH

Images have always been the indispensable mode of communication for artists and makers.   With the Internet, the power of the image travels much further.  Photographic images especially share one person's perspective of reality with the world. In recent years, more than ever, images convey an experience and inform an audience through social media such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  The value of documentation with images sometimes supersedes the ephemeral event.  For makers, having images ready to transmit whenever needed, can be a key to success.  

During the months that I worked on TRUTH and the related bracelets, I took documentary photos. The studio shots brought great visibility to this work through CNN and KQED (local PBS station.) Even though those photos weren't professional quality it permitted me to participate in the political commentary of the moment.  Despite the ease and convenience of taking photos with the amazingly versatile smart phone cameras, you want your final documentation photos to be professional quality. It would have been much less expensive to simply accept the in situ, in studio shots, but I know that professional quality photography needs a professional photographer with professional equipment and professional skills. For me, that is Philip Cohen, for more than 28-years and counting.

TRUTH-photosession-back-view

When I arrived to pick up my artwork at Phil's, I took some photos of his photo set up.  I find the behind-the-scenes set up insightful. What is outside the camera frame is rarely shown and it reveals the tricks that a top notch photographer keeps handy.

TRUTH-photosession-light-angles

Of course, the lights and the camera are on a tripod.  That is step one for a good shot...and we rarely do that with our phones. That reminds me that a stand for my phone might improve my quick shots.  Note that the lights shine up into the umbrella for a bright diffuse light.  Buying those umbrellas doesn't cost that much, and they can be really handy for reflecting light.

TRUTH-photosession-front-view

Notice the large cardboard covered with aluminum foil. This reflects the light in a bright diffuse way, and by tilting it up or down it can reflect more light exactly where you want it. This works even if you don't have photo lights.  In the photo below, you can see this same cardboard from another angle.

 TRUTH-photosession-2

Note also the small cardboard with aluminum foil in the front of the set-up. If you look in the other photos you will see it is propped up on an easel right outside of the frame of the finished photo.

HB-6001_Print-WebFile

Fabricating TRUTH by Harriete Estel Berman   Photo by Philip Cohen Photography. 

In my next post,  I will compare my quick cell phone photographs to those by a professional for your review & opinion. 

Related  Posts:

Fabricating TRUTH with a Web of Lies

Fabricating TRUTH - Speaking our own mettle

Guide to Professional Quality Images

Working with Digital Images Effectively


Fabricating TRUTH with a Web of Lies

Ever since the January presidential inauguration, I have been repeatedly dazed by both shock and dismay.  In addition to stepping up my political activism significantly, I have been channeling my fears and frustrations into "Fabricating TRUTH" along with three new bracelets. Today's post shows the final steps for one of the bracelets, "Web of Lies". 

Harriete Estel Berman soldering Web of Lies
Harriete Estel Berman soldering the decorative edge to Web of Lies Bracelet


Confidentially, I must confess that the final steps of finishing any artwork fill me with anxiety -- so much concern that I sometimes even delay finishing. Does that happen to you?

Will the final results be equal to my original imagination?  I always find the end of a project scary. I am worried that the last steps will ruin weeks to months of work.  

For these bracelets, I never made any drawings or models.  I've never made anything similar. In the beginning, it was more of a concept with little idea about how I'd even construct each bracelet. It was all in my head, nothing more than a mental image.


Gary Roepelle at Monsen PlatingDespite my concerns, I pushed forward.  

Because I imagined that the "Web of Lies" bracelet should be gold plated, I had to find a plating shop which is becoming increasingly difficult to find. But instead of a problem, this adventure led to a surprising highlight.  A fellow silversmith, Gary Reopelle, who owns Monsen Plating in Berkeley, CA, agreed to plate my "Web of Lies" bracelet.

Gary is a rare breed.  At 76 years young and tough, there aren't many silversmiths and plating shops anymore. A rare breed in another respect because there surely aren't' many Republicans in Berkeley either -- but we were highly aligned with our hand skills, silver repair work.

Gold-plating-solution-Rio-GrandeThe gold plating solution is cyanide-based and has to be shipped with a hazardous materials surcharge, so this would cost close to $200.  But it was really important to the concept of this bracelet to have it gold plated.

Trump-in-gold-ballroom

The gold plating on the Web of Lies Bracelet was an important symbolic component for the bracelet because Trump properties and branding ostentatiously uses the appearance of gold, (even if it is plastic or paint) as a symbolic motif. The superficial gold is a pretense of value, so thin it is essentially fake.  

If you aren't familiar with the Trump brand, this photo (left) is a stellar example of the prevailing decorative motif. 

 

 

  


Electro-cleaningElectro-cleaning is always the first step for all plating. Removing the buffing compound, fingerprints, and every speck of dust is essential for good plating. This was followed by a rinse with a hose. All the waste water (even from the cleaning tank) is considered hazardous waste and has to be disposed of in compliance with environmental protection standards. It costs over $600 to dispose of one tank of "rinse water." No wonder plating in so expensive. 

 

 


IMG_20170614_132736830The photo (left) shows the Web of Lies bracelet with a nickel plate. It looked fabulous already. Nickel plating has a hard smooth bright finish.  There was an intermediate step of a copper plating (before this) for great adhesion of the plating. Each of the plating steps took only minutes as the shape of the bracelet was easy to handle.  Nickel plate is necessary so the gold plating does not alloy with the brass construction or copper plating underneath. 

Gold-plating-web-lies

The photo (left) shows the gold plating solution. The gold molecules in solution will plate on the bracelet.  This is as much skill as intuition. Gary kept adjusting the volts and amps to get it to plate just right (shown below). So exciting! 

Gold plating..... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusting-reostat-plating

In the photo below you can see Web of Lies gold plated.

Gold-plated-web-of-lies

I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Gary Ropelle, owner and master at Monsen Plating for his skill and generosity. He and I are in the same increasingly rarefied silver repair business. He has a lifetime collection of hammers (left) and forming tools (right) that made me jealous.  A lifetime of accumulation for working with metal.
Hammers-Monsen-Plating  Steel-shapes-Monsen-plating

 

 

 

 

 

Monsen Plating also had another feature that I greatly admire .... space for tools and equipment. 

Tools-Monsen-plating

In contrast, my studio space is squeezed into a two car garage.  Whether doing silver repair or artwork, I often dream of having a gigantic studio in my next lifetime. In the meantime, I am working as fast as I can.

Stay tuned for my next post with behind-the-scenes photos of Philip Cohen's professional photography of TRUTH and the three bracelets. 

Harriete 

 


Remaking a Maker

James Carter metalwork photo credit by Hap SakwaMetalwork  by James Carter 
Photo Credit: Hap Sakwa

Recently, the noted jewelry photographer, Hap Sakwa wrote to me with a question about reinventing his future. With his permission, I thought that others may appreciate "listening in" to our conversation....so here it is.



Question from Hap Sakwa: 

Hi Harriete, 

Sakwa 1970'sBowl by Hap Sakwa circa 1970's

Along the way, we've met a few times.  You may remember me as a jewelry photographer.  But, once upon a time, I was a 'maker'.  Now I'm a little of both, but more interested in 'making' again and of course the difficult task of selling.  I visited your website, as I knew we were kindred spirits - 3D cultural anthropologists. 

Sakwa sculpture1980'sSculpture by Hap Sakwa circa 1980's

So, here I am "Ask Harriete". Where does a reinvented artist show his work in a virtual world, where galleries seem to have been replaced by coffee shops?  I naively thought I could spring back to life like the flowers in the Carrizo Plain, using my previous resume as a bona fide artist with 'museum credentials' to launch my 3rd incarnation. HA!  It's like starting over......... scratch history. 

Thanks for looking and any thoughts would be very welcome.

Hap Sakwa

Reply from Harriete:

Sakwa 1990's 2Teapot by Hap Sakwa 1990's

Hap,
Of course, I remember you and your work. You always took absolutely superb photos. 

Yes, in not too many years, the entire art /craft world has changed, or at least that is my impression.

I can certainly understand the sense of finding so much changed and becoming discouraged. I used to think that I knew the "recipe" for selling my art -- now all the ingredients are different, especially the traditional ingredients for art/craft fairs, wholesale, and high-end retail.  

Sadly, fewer and fewer galleries remain, especially those that would say "make the best you can and our job is to sell it".  Those days are gone, and I don't want the pressure to make "art for less" or do another theme show for less. 

Art-Nouveau-candlesticks-polished

Consequently, I have changed my approach in the last 3-4 years. I focus more on my silver repair business, Berman Fine Silverwork , for revenue. I do not compromise on quality. I do not work cheap. I prefer to keep my business small and manageable so that I can work on my artwork in between.

My artwork has to squeeze in between all my other responsibilities and jobs. That is nothing new but I make and create exactly, I mean exactly, what I want to make. No consideration at all to what will sell. Too much 'stuff" out there in the marketplace is focused on low cost. But it is extremely difficult to compete on price alone when so much is manufactured or even "made by hand" by third world labor.   Certainly, for me, it is quite unfulfilling to just produce work that is cheap or not aligned with my values.

Web-of-lies-bracelet"Web of Lies" Bracelet
 Harriete Estel Beman

I do recommend to follow your heart because you never know what may come your way.  For example, I recently felt compelled to prioritize efforts related to my political concerns as a result of the 45 administration. Much to my surprise, this different focus opened new networks and contacts and a couple of publicity coups with great visibility arose.  These were great opportunities. Not many artists or makers get to have their work featured on CNN.  I am very excited, but it was entirely unexpected.  I didn’t know anything would come of it. But as is my habit, I actually had photos of my work in progress and was able to show this work even though it wasn’t complete. Guess the old Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared." is working.


My secrets for success are not so secret:

  • A website dedicated to your artwork is a must. 
  • A social networking presence is also expected. Yes, at least four or five or more major social networking sites. Mix it up. Experiment. Think of it as brain exercise. 
  • Interacting within the social network to some extent is necessary -- but constant self-promotion with a "look at this work" is not cool. It has to be more like a "sharing" rather than a request. This may seem like a small difference but that is actually huge in the reception.
  • Focus on making work that is at least "good" to "great" first.
  • Look for opportunities without any expected outcome.
  • Create visibility by providing resources or opportunities for others. You could create some visibility with your new work, by offering “tutorials” on how to photograph work with a cell phone and achieve good results. That is just a suggestion.  I'll bet you can think of tons of ideas. Of course, there is no substitute for professional photography, but that has to be when the work is done and ready for the big world.

 

 

Vase, Hap Sakwa  circa 1990'sVase Hap Sakwa circa 1990's
Photo Credit: Hap Sakwa


REPLY from  Hap Sakwa: 

Hey, Harriete Berman............ thank you so much for a speedy reply and a great and thorough letter........... although, I must add that it was profoundly sad and disappointing. It's like starting over......... scratch history.

There was one piece of advice you offered that really rang my bell........... Do not make work to sell. Make work that is good to great first. The other 'stuff', I'm working on, but it's tedious and uninteresting. I do understand the requirements of the digital age, so I will do what needs to be done. I intended to struggle forward, making what I want and reaching out, trying to find an audience. I'm even doing the spring Open Studio here in Sonoma County. Even if the work doesn't sell.......... I want someone to see it. 

Sculpture Hap Sakwa 2017Sculpture by Hap Sakwa 2017
Photo Credit Hap Sakwa

I won't keep you but wanted to say thanks for your thoughts and advice.
Obviously not encouraging, but valuable wisdom.

Hap
Hap Sakwa Art 




Fabricating TRUTH - Speaking our own mettle

IMG_20170320_155059415_HDR truth fruit crate label
Since the Inauguration, the political situation seems to turn every day a bit sideways or upside down.
After the Women's
March, I felt paralyzed.  Truth, which I thought was an absolute concept with a clear definition, was being repeatedly perverted, dismissed as fake, and replaced by fabricated alternative facts.

Then I realized that a piece that I had worked on several years ago had more resonance than ever.  It was inspired by a fruit crate label (from around 1930) that signified quality.  The brand name was "TRUTH".   

 

 

Truth-newsletter


IMG_20170221_161211771_HDRThe irony was obvious.  Here I was also fabricating TRUTH.  But unlike the current administration, mine is made by hand, not made up.

Putting everything aside, I started fabricating several companion pieces: ALTERNATIVE FACTS,  Circular Logic, and Web of Lies -- all as bracelets to be juxtaposed with TRUTH.  

Creating tangible artworks with symbolic meaning helped me express my perspectives about the current political mess. But as I sat at my bench spending all my free time on political work to vent my frustration, I wondered why I was dedicating so much time and effort to fabricating TRUTH instead of my other projects or just having a good time.

Would anyone ever get to see these pieces beyond the lone page on my website?

Alternate-Facts-Bracelet-500

To my amazement, my political protest jewelry was shared with a larger audience on the political pages of CNN.  YEP! CNN.   CNN included my work in an article, "How artists are marking Trump's 100th day in office" and it was posted last weekend written by Shachar Peled, CNN.  

CNN actually found my work on the local San Francisco station, KQED, arts series, "First 100 Days: Art in the Age of Trump" where there was an excellent feature article by Cleo Noveno, Fabricating ‘Truth,’ One Tin Can Bracelet at a Time.

In preparation for my interview with Cleo Noveno, I practiced with my husband to articulate the ideas behind this work. It is one thing as an artist to make something based on intuition, but it is another skill entirely to be able to articulate the ideas to a different audience using words.  New work always takes me weeks to months to verbalize and I had one day to figure this out.

Why jewelry inside TRUTH?
Why jewelry to articulate political issues?


It was then that I started thinking about historical jewelry and metalwork that has expressed powerful and important political and patriotic ideas throughout our nation's past. There are many examples.   

Sons-of-liberty-bowl
Sons of Liberty Bowl
Dimensions: 14 x 27.9 cm (5 1/2 x 11 in.) The irregular finish is the fire scale from the original fabrication. 

The most famous American example of metalwork expressing a political and even patriotic idea is the Sons of Liberty Bowl, which is more commonly referred to as a "Revere Bowl."   This silver bowl was fabricated by the famous Paul Revere prior to the American Revolution. It was commissioned by fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty and "raised" by hand (a metalsmithing term for the fabrication of the bowl in metal) by Paul Revere in a patriotic fervor.  It was then engraved by hand with the names of the members of this secret political group. Engraved deeply, it represented a pact, a resolution.

These brave patriots literally engraved their names in history.  "The Liberty Bowl honored ninety-two members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who refused to rescind a letter sent throughout the colonies protesting the Townshend Acts (1767), which taxed tea, paper, glass, and other commodities imported from England. This act of civil disobedience by the “Glorious Ninety-Two” was a major step leading to the American Revolution."  

Sons-of-liberty-not-to-rescindBut take special note of their engraved pledge at the bottom,  it says, "Voted - Not to Rescind."

There is plenty of additional text engraved on the bowl 
including the provenance of the bowl. It is worth taking a look at the many images and information on the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Metal, work hardened, fabricated with sweat, and engraved permanently with political meaning, the "Sons of Liberty" bowl is described as one of three most important objects in the United States of America. This bowl stands with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  

Throughout world history, there are many examples of jewelry reflecting political sentiments.

Iron-jewelry-19th-century Some very famous patriotic jewelry is a series of Prussian ironwork from the 19th century. 

As Prussia fought wars with Napolean, the government asked its patriotic citizens to give their gold jewelry to the government to fund the war efforts. In return, they were given this finely made iron jewelry.

Antique-Berlin-Iron-JewelryAt a fraction of the intrinsic value, it had another value instead. Imagine giving up your gold jewelry for this iron replacement, but wearing this jewelry must have been a visible symbol of your patriotism in that time.

  

 

Holloway BroochWhile researching for other historical political jewelry, I found this brooch designed by painter, Sylvia Pankhurst around 1900.  Sylvia's artwork and imagery gave the Suffragette Movement, and more specifically, "the Women's Social and Political Union, its coherent visual identity."


This Holloway Brooch (left) was presented (after imprisonment) to ex-suffragette prisoners at a mass demonstration at the Albert Hall on 29 April 1909."

Fabricated in silver it represents the portcullis symbol of the House of Commons in London, including the gate and hanging chains in silver. Superimposed on top was a broad arrow in green, white and purple enamel.  The three colors green, white, and violet were symbolic for the slogan "Give Women the Vote.  

Political activism for women's right to vote was a hard won battle we still seem to be fighting more than 100 years later.  I appreciate the parallel to the political activism and symbolism of the Suffragette jewelry and the parallels to what is happening in politics.  You may enjoy reading more about the Suffragette movement. 

Suffragette-pinFor wealthy women supporting the Suffragette Movement fine jewelry was also sold. This brooch (right) was shown in the Madeline Albright book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The first letter of each color Green - White - Violet were translated into gemstones and pearls.  More information about Suffragette Jewelry.

 

Victory-bakelite-pin Moving into the 20th century, there are examples of patriotic jewelry like this V for victory pin. (It looks a little odd, but the plastic has yellowed giving all the colors including the white and blue a soft yellowish cast.)

 

Vintage-1960-peace-signA final example for the moment is the Peace sign pendant. Considering that the peace movement was generally of the counter culture, I wonder if there ever was a more precious peace sign. 

 


These examples only 
begin to touch on the idea of metal work and jewelry with a political message.  There are more...

I.M.A.G.I.N.E.PEACE-NOW.posterThe recent exhibitions and catalog about gun violence Imagine: Peace Now includes a wide selection of metal work with a political statement that also runs counter to the right wing agenda. 90 decommissioned gun  are transformed into art objects.

Organized by Boris Bally it sends a visual message about the impact of gun violence.

The beautiful catalog includes professional quality images of all the work.


If you think artists have something to say in this political climate, say something.

Catalog-book-IMAGINE-exhibitionOne way is to VOTE for this show on USA today.

Vote here to support the next exhibition venue in a competition sponsored by USAToday.  (scroll down a little for the "VOTE" text.) 

For all the artists and makers reading this post I want us to remember and hold close to our hearts, that a visual image carries the weight of words.   A visual image can represent or unify a vision more readily than a speech. This is why political marches include signs. Our work has something to say, and others of like mind would like to see it and share it with an even larger audience. RESIST!  

Send me an image of your political work.

Options:
Leave me a comment for how to get in touch,
I will reply, and then you can send an image of your political work.  
Email me directly by clicking on the envelope below my profile photo in the left column.  

I will add images to this post. I am thinking about writing an article.

Where is a show about the politics of our time?

Harriete

 

RELATED POSTS: 

Using a Gun in Whole or In Parts - The Meaning of Materials

Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer

"Previously Owned By . . ." ADDS Value IF you have the Provenance

Lineage, Provenance, Maker Marks, & Macchiarini


Advancing Science Even Though I'm Not A Scientist

IMG_20170422_121158001_HDR
Recently, I participated in the March for Science, San Francisco. It was important to lend my voice and my presence to support to such an important topic.  

IMG_20170422_122602361There were thousands of people from every part of the community and many great signs....but this one really resonated with me.

GOT POLIO?
ME NEITHER. 
THANKS SCIENCE

I am old enough to remember the fear of polio. When the first vaccines were available, everyone, I mean everyone, stood in line at the local high school to get vaccinated. The lines were blocks long.  I remember seeing every person I knew, and many who I didn't, stand in line. No one complained about the inconvenience because this vaccine would prevent polio. The vaccine was free.  It eliminated the pervasive fear of polio that came every summer.
 
I'm not a scientist, but I think it is important to support science. Walking in the March for Science was a visible statement along with a mass movement.  But there are many other ways that any individual can help at any time.  One option is to participate in a medical research study as a healthy NORMAL control subject.

With emerging technologies to inexpensively study genetic markers, DNA, and manage volumes of information, medical research is changing. Now with something as easy a saliva sample, studies can look for genetic markers for disease -- but many studies take much longer time to complete due to a lack of a reference population.  They need more NORMAL people to compare samples and distinguish non-disease from disease.

The future holds the possibility of treatment for many diseases before there are even symptoms. Medicines are being developed and studied to understand their effectiveness based on an individual and not the whole population.

IMG_20170422_124306031_HDRGOOD MEDICINE relies on Good Science.
This is not a futuristic dream.
 It is now.

This is where every artist and maker can help advance science. By agreeing to participate in research as a healthy control, you can advance science. A small amount of your time, saliva, blood...or other samples can advance science. Many of the studies that I have participated in were only a survey or demographic study. Your participation in science can change the world. 

IMG_20170422_122949895_HDR
Below are three places to sign up for a study as a control subject. You can just participate based on your availability, whether there are study centers/universities near you,  your interest in a research topic, etc. Perhaps there is a disease that runs in your family that you would like to understand better and change the treatment for future generations. You always have the choice to participate in a study as a healthy control.

Michael J.Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research matches you up to studies. Not all studies relate to Parkinson’s

Research Match will match you up with a number of different studies. You can say no to anything that you don't have time to do. 

Verily Life Science — a Google life sciences company owned by Alphabet — is finally kicking off the massive study it first announced three years ago. What is a healthy person? Sounds really interesting, doesn't it?

Harriete

IMG_20170422_135331899_HDR


Creative artists, creative accounting -- the reality or the fiction of a "serious" business

RedflagThere is a myth out there that artists and craftspeople keep poor records for their businesses. I am not sure if it is true. The only thing that I know for a fact is that the I.R.S. will not look kindly at "creative accounting" and sloppy records. Creative artists and creative accounting don't mix.  Neither do personal and business bank accounts. During two audits, the first thing that the I.R.S. "dragon lady" asked me both times is "do you mix personal and professional money."  This is an I.R.S. red flag.

My experience has shown that as long as you properly organize and manage your accounts and can substantiate all expenses and income . . . the I.R.S. will accept your records and give up looking for more problems. That is exactly what you want.  So be prepared and start now by improving your accounting practices.

As a real life story, the questions below come from Lora Hart* regarding her art business accounting.

"How do you handle the financial aspects of teaching? Do you deposit all monies collected into a business account?

Answer:
If your teaching and art/craft business are integrated roles, each enhancing the reputation for the other,
then all income and expenses can be attributed to your business and should flow into one business account.

Deposit the income for teaching and workshops into the business account. 

Deduct expenses for teaching and your art/craft business from the same account. 

Keep your business account separate from any personal accounts.  Use your business account exclusively for all business-related income and expenses.

Jeans-money-two-pocketsIt may sound like a simplistic example, but it is as fundamental as having two pockets -- whereby all your business income and expenses go in and out of your left pocket, while all your personal income and expenses go in and out of your right pocket.  Ultimately it is all your money -- you just need to organize the transactions accordingly.

"Do you deposit money from sales of goods and sales of materials/supplies into the business account and workshop fees directly into your personal account?" 

Answer:
The key concept is to clearly identify whether a transaction (income or expense) is business-related or personal -- and then use the correct account accordingly.  It is really that simple.

Do not use your personal account for any business or teaching activities. Deposit workshop fees directly into your business account.  It is most convenient to use a separate credit card for all business and teaching expenses and pay for the monthly invoice from your business account. 

 

"I teach way more than I sell, and this is my only income.  I started out putting all workshop fees into my personal account, but then sometimes had to advance money to the business account to buy supplies for students. I'd like to really figure out the best way to handle it all this year."

Answer:

Deposit-slip-exampleAs mentioned before, if teaching is related to your business, then the teaching income and workshop fees should be deposited into your business account.  
And only business expenses related to teaching or workshop supplies should be paid for from the business account.  Just keep all business-related transactions flowing through the business account.

Bank-my-business copyThe owner of the business account (i.e. You) can transfer money into or out of the business account from or into your personal account as needed.  It is like paying yourself.   Just keep personal expenses flowing separately and exclusively through your personal accounts.
Bank-personal copyI actually keep my business checking and business savings at a separate bank from my personal checking and personal savings. It is less likely to mix them up.     

The I.R.S. has pages of recommendations for sole proprietorships that are very informative.

 

 

Is there a specific percentage that one would give themselves and percentage that stays with the business? I assume that I shouldn't just take money from the business account because I need a car tune up and don't have that in my personal budget (Have never done this - just an example)." 

Answer:
It is not necessary to split funds by some algorithm.
 It is very important to clearly identify whether a transaction is business-related or personal -- and only use the appropriate account for that particular transaction.  But you can transfer funds between your business account and your personal account as needed.  

 

"Should I figure out an hourly wage and just pay myself that? Is all of my teaching income - personal income or should some go to the business?"

Answer:
There is no absolute answer to this question, but there are plenty of precedents to consider teaching income as related to your art business and that you should deposit your teaching income into your business account. When necessary, you can transfer funds from your business account to your personal account.  I'd recommend keeping enough money in your business account to cover business expenses during an expensive month (as I can't stand the anxiety of worrying if I have enough money to cover my next automatic credit card bill).

Start by keeping track of your business-related transactions.  Track your teaching income and workshop income as business-related revenue on one page.  On a separate page, track your teaching expenses and workshop expenses.  I keep separate pages for these items because it is easier to get totals and look for mistakes.

 

"Do I write myself a check to cover personal expenses?" 

Answer:
No, at least not directly.  
I hope that it is very clear that you should never, never use your business account to cover personal expenses. You can transfer funds from the business account into your personal account and then use your personal account to cover personal expenses.

The recognition and clear separation of what is business related and what is personal are essential to survive an IRS audit and require a certain mindset to diligently keep organized.

For example, if you are driving to a show, then car expenses (per mileage allowance as outlined by the I.R.S.) plus parking fees could be deducted as a business expense.

In other situations, car expenses (per mileage allowance) could be deducted if your teaching job is paid as an independent outside contractor, but not if you are an employee. 

Harriete 

Thank You to Lora Hart for these questions. View Lora Hart's work on her Instagram account.

RELATED POSTS on ASK Harriete: 

My morning coffee with the I.R.S. MAN - Tips to prevent or smooth your audit with the I.R.S.

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Is Your Travel for Business or Leisure?

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is an Acceptable Receipt for a Business Expense?

More posts about Business Accounting and Tax Information on ASK Harriete 

Monopoly-Run-Money-Flower-pin-back

  Monopoly-Run-Money-Flower-pinRun for the Money Flower Pin (front and back view) $475 


Multiple Revenue Streams - Are You Swimming in the Right Direction or Up a Creek with the I.R.S.?

During my I.R.S. audit (many years ago), the very straight laced agent raised the issue of aggregating all my income and expenses for my multiple activities on one Schedule C, i.e. for Harriete Estel Berman as a sole proprietor.

What are my "multiple activities"? 
Harriete Estel Berman working on silver repair In every day life this includes my silver repair business, production of artwork, writing, lectures, and exercise instructor several times a week.

Check-it-out-Home-Energy-SMCSince every one of these activities generates revenue and is dependent on one person...
me, I thought of it as all under one proprietorship, i.e. ME.    The I.R.S. agent gently rocked her head and commented that some people mix disparate activities to cover up ill-gotten gains.  She recommended using a separate Schedule C in the future to report each activity, but she did not enforce compliance retroactively since all income and expenses were itemized and reported accurately.

Harriete-ExerciseI'll bet that a lot of my readers also have multiple revenue streams. This is the life of most artists. While it may be too late for 2016 now that your taxes are already done, this is the time to rearrange your record keeping for 2017.  

What is the correct approach for multiple revenue streams?

I try to keep it simple, accounting for clearly distinguishable income and expenses that are unrelated activities.  For example, the exercise instructor income and expenses are now separate. Expenses related to exercise instruction are deducted as unreimbursed employee expenses in accordance with the I.R.S.

Since the silver repair business uses the same tools, studio, and skills as my artwork, my artwork and repair activities are still integrated for both income and expenses. Same for lectures and writing since they are so closely related to the artwork. Everything is documented line by line in my Excel revenue and expense documents. 

Legally, there have been several precedent-setting cases regarding taxes and creative accounting for creative people (including makers and artists). If you are interested, the three articles below are worth reading to highlight the principles of tax reporting for artists and makers. I find these articles fascinating.

This first link presents the tax case of Susan Crile (artist) most clearly. 
Tax Court Judge Appreciates Art More Than Your Average Revenue Agent

Another very clear explanation is provided by Case Review: Crile v. Commission of Internal Revenue. "The decision the Court reached helps artists to remain artists, even if they are not making a profit from their work." 

And a similar article in Forbes Magazine,  Susan Crile Paints A Picture Of Tax Court Victory For Artists, highlights this exceptionally interesting case in which an established artist offset her teaching income with generous deductions as an "artist."

A very important point in this example is that "the economic losses she actually sustained in her art business were substantially smaller than the tax losses reported on her Schedules C, owing to the inclusion of many personal expenses when calculating her business income." 

Crile won in her first court appearance, but may still be sued over what the IRS perceives as excessive deductions.  To avoid IRS audit, I would recommend deducting only ordinary and necessary business expenses every year with a conservative justification especially if you show a net loss year after year.  

If losses are persistent, the IRS may question whether you are conducting your business with the intent to earn a profit.


Twitter-bird-white-on-blueI've heard lots of people say (including the I.R.S.) that a "business" should earn money at least 3 out of every 5 years.  For the sake of argument, I just wonder how that holds water when companies like Twitter have not ever made a profit.  "10 years later, Twitter still isn't close to making money".   In fact, Time magazine reports that "Twitter Has Lost a Staggering Amount of Money."

So why can Twitter continue to lose money, while an artist can't? There are no easy answers to making money for artists or Twitter, but acting like a business is important. To minimize the risk of trouble with the IRS, keep your expenses conservative.

Harriete


The Power of Your Dollar

Politics in America is now front and center. You can't avoid a political discussion whether you lean to the right or the left.

Illy COFFEEPOT a symbol of political protestOur country was founded on political action.
 One of the earliest political actions by American colonists was a boycott by colonial women who stopped buying tea because it was taxed by England. This is why to this day, coffee is more popular in America than tea. Boycotting tea was a political statement.  "No taxation without representation" became the voice of American political activism almost 250 years ago.
 
I try not to politicize the information on ASK Harriete, but I just can not stay silent as the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are in jeopardy -- despite their negligible impact on the budget accounting for only 0.003% of federal spending.  That is 3/1,000 th of a tax penny.
 
"The NEA and NEH are vital to innovation and creative expression, cultural and artistic understanding, and scholarly research. The NEA and NEH support cultural institutions like museums, libraries, universities, and public television and ensure that all Americans have access to arts and culture." Your local or national art organizations have probably received NEA grants at one time or another. Your local PBS station is definitely dependent on NEA or NEH funding.  
 
Elain-Salinger-HuddleSaturday night in a Huddle, I learned that the current administration intends to divert funding from a wide range of education and cultural programs (including the NEA and NEH) to fund the production of more nuclear weapons. (This shocking shift in priorities was announced at a town hall meeting  in San Mateo with U.S. Representative Jackie Spier.)
 
Learning from our colonial ancestors, the power of the dollar can affect politics and the art and craft community. I am using postcards of my art for writing to all my Senators and Representatives. Save funding for the arts!

Collect Your Money Pin by Harriete Estel Berman“Women hold the purse strings — this has been true for a long, long time.”  "There are many steps that each of us can take that cost us nothing and take no time. One is to boycott T___P brands. Brand specialist "Shannon Coulter began a boycott campaign on Twitter with #GrabYourWallet.... "  A spreadsheet (linked below) lists over 50 companies to boycott based on whether the company sells T____p products," etc.

"The list includes Macy’s, LL Bean, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, Zappos, Amazon, T. J. Maxx, Lord & Taylor, and Bed Bath & Beyond." "Companies such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Jet, have been removed from the list after they stopped carrying Trump products." Use your dollars wisely. You can choose to buy or not buy T____p products, boycott stores, or call customer service desks and let them know your opinion.

The power of the dollar is in your pocket.
 Yes, your pocket. How do you spend your dollars? Or align your art and craft with your political allegiance?  In this polarized, dismantling of the arts and education trend, everything has become political.
 
Harriete

RELATED POSTS: 
Trump reportedly wants to cut cultural programs that make up 0.02 percent of federal spending

ART NEWS REPORT: TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PLANNING BUDGET CUTS THAT WILL ELIMINATE THE NEA, NEH

Here’s What You Can Do To Protect National Arts And Culture Funding
 from the Huffington Post

TRUTH an artwork by Harriete Estel Berman
TRUTH - an artwork in progress.

 

 


Read My Jewelry - Jewelry with a Voice and Visibility

Read-My-PinsOriginally, this post was going to be exclusively about the book, "Read My Pins" and the remarkable exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. There is much to say -- a lot more -- about how jewelry can make powerful statements for the wearer, to the viewer, or from the maker. 

As a jeweler, jewelry maker, metalsmith, jewelry collector and avid fan of all kinds of jewelry, I believe in the power of jewelry to express insights, emotions, and meaning far beyond the initial perceptions of beauty and craftsmanship.  "Read My Pins" excels in such revelations showing how Madeleine Albright used an expansive repertoire of her pins to convey diverse signals such as cooperation, dissatisfaction, special interests, sympathy, cultural awareness, or common cause throughout her career.  Much more on this amazing exhibition below.   

But let me start with a contrasting message that came to my attention this weekend to consider even more seriously the power of jewelry to convey a message.

The cover photo of the February issue of Vanity Fair Mexico shows Melania Trump "eating jewelry."  What does this say to you?  How do you think the Mexican readers should interpret the image?

Melania-Trump-Eating- Jewelry

The message seems to be simply about conspicuous consumption and extravagant surplus.  Clearly, the First Lady of the United States, is pleased to show her privilege and position.  Unfortunately at the same time 50% of Mexicans live in poverty and there is a struggling U.S. middle class that is less than 4 months from economic ruin.  This image parallels an infamous historical quote, "Let them eat cake." 

Compare this to the empowering messages of jewelry in the book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The exhibition displayed pins and dramatic brooches worn my Madeline Albright during her tenure as Secretary of State.  To a feminist metalsmith I must remind myself (and anyone reading this post) that Madeline Albright was the first woman Secretary of State and the highest female official in U.S. Government at that time.

Every pin in this exhibit could initiate a conversation about the power of jewelry to communicate a message.  Madeline Albright used these pins and brooches for such purposes very effectively for years.

I loved the exhibition "Read My Pins" for many reasons. The entire exhibition was crowded with energy, enthusiasm, and thought provoking themes.  Over and over, the intrinsic value of the materials was irrelevant.  The "real" value was always based on the message and the context. 

This Atlas pin (below) holds the weight of the world -- symbolic of the United States role in many turbulent political situations in this world.  What message could be more important when worn by the U.S. Secretary of State and remains ever present in my mind during the past week.

Hercules-Read-My-Pins
Atlas Pin purchased by Madeline Albright in Paris. No attribution to the maker. (Photo from the exhibition)

A brooch could represent a concept (e.g. "sting like a bee") in an international negotiation.  Quoting Madeline Albright "I believe the right symbol at the correct time can add warmth or needed edge to a relationship."
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Suffragette-pin

The pin (left) was from the Suffrage Movement. "The green, white and violet colors of the gemstones and pearls signify, respectively, hope, purity and dignity. The first letter of each word, (GWV) suggests an apt acronym: "Give Women the Vote' ." Jewelry can send an important political message empowering women to stand up and be counted in marches demanding the vote and social change. (Quotes are from the description labels from Legion of Honor exhibition.)

 

 

 

Dove-and-eagle-read-My-pinsBoth the "Read My Pins" exhibition and book provide an important insight into the voice of jewelry. Jewelry can be important in so many ways. The message can be ennobling, enabling, even empowering such as in the next pin with an eagle and dove asserting both strength and a passion for peace.


 

Madeleien-Albright-with-Yaser-ArafatJewelry represented both power and a message when worn by Madeline Albright.  The photo right shows her wearing the bee pin above while negotiating with Yasser Arafat about the Middle East. 

Jewelry with emotionJewelry can also have emotional resonance. Quoting the museum label:  "In 2006, on a visit to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, Albright was approached by a young man who gave her a small box. 'My mother loved you,' he explained, ' and she knew that you liked and wore pins. My father gave her this one for their sixtieth wedding anniversary. She died as a result of Katrina, and my father and I think she would have wanted you to have it. It would be an honor to her if you would accept it.' "

"Albright wears the Katrina pin as a reminder that jewelry's greatest value comes not from intrinsic materials or brilliant designs but from the emotions we invest in them. The most cherished attributes are not those that dazzle the eye but those that recall to mind the face and spirit of a loved one."

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This brooch of fused "shattered" glass (designer unknown) reflected the "shattering of a glass ceiling," a significant milestone for all women and reflecting support for another woman Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton.  Women in our country are not reaching the heights of leadership (corporate or political) in proportion to our share in the population.

Hidden-FiguresThe communication power of jewelry often aligns with social change.  In the movie, "Hidden Figures" the painful realities of discrimination against women and African-Americans -- or both -- in the early 1960's are presented in this powerful story.  In one scene, a simple pearl necklace symbolizes the growing awareness, acceptance, and empowerment of one of the female figures.

The "Read My Pins" exhibition and book are engaging, fun, educational, and thought provoking.  Each piece opened new doors or revealed new humanizing insights or highlights on topics familiar from newsreels but often distant and foreign.  I enjoyed almost every aspect.

For the contemporary craft world, I was a bit disappointed that so many of the pieces had no attribution to the maker and that so few contemporary makers were represented.

Many of the pins in the exhibition were antique or vintage collectibles, essentially manufactured costume jewelry. Lack of attribution is typical of such consumer products, but there was a significant number of obviously hand made pins purchased or given to Madeline Albright in foreign countries or purchased in the 20th century.

Many of the 20th century pins had no maker attributed to the work. What a shame? Would a painter sell their paintings without a name or initials on the front or back? To every maker reading this post, be sure to mark your jewelry (or other media) in some way.

Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver
Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver, 14k yellow gold

My second disappointment with the Madeline Albright collection is the lack of contemporary jewelry.  I am thrilled to say there were pins by Helen Shirk ( left,) Carolyn Morris Bach (below right) and  Gjis Bakker (cover of book), but not many other examples of jewelry by a contemporary hand. And even a smaller number of examples of contemporary jewelry with the maker's name. 

Get the book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box from your local library or bookstore. It has background for a good number of her pins, and it is very interesting. 

Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach
Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach (US); 18k yellow gold with 22k gold plating, silver, fossilized ivory, copper

Think about the power of jewelry and the voice that can resonate so much about our politics and social change.

Harriete

Read-My-Pins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Tax Season Is Upon Us - 2 Rules for Audit Survival

Penny-dollarI've been working to reconcile my 2016 taxes whenever a few minutes of sharp mental acuity arise.  Numbers are not my thing, but I like to have some financial awareness of the past year figured out before going too far into the new year. This year my records worked out to the penny! 

For sure, more expenses always seem to tally up than I anticipated.  Yet, the beginning of the year is when you need to know whether you made money in the last year so that you can be ready to pay income taxes while there is some money in the bank.  

I've been audited by the IRS twice in my career.  They red flag home-based businesses some times to check on abuse or sloppy records.  Fortunately, good record keeping and a few other tips allowed me to survive both times without any "extras" due.

So here are my top two super simple rules for artists and makers to keep their business accounting on the up and up -- separate your business accounts and keep receipts.  The rest of this post will explain what I mean, followed by a list of posts about accounting and my experience with the I.R.S., all written from my personal experience as an artist, not an accountant. 

 

SEPARATE-ACCOUTNS
RULE 1. Separate Accounts 

The first thing the I.R.S. will ask is if you co-mingle any personal and business money.  They do not allow any personal expenses to be written off as business expenses.  Therefore you should maintain separate credit cards for your business and personal expenses. You should also have separate bank accounts for business and personal money.  If you co-mingle personal and business accounts, the I.R.S. is going to dive much deeper into your records looking for inconsistencies in your records.

RECEIPTS-FOR-EVERY-EXPENSE
RULE 2. Receipts for every expense
The I.R.S. wants proof, not memories, of your itemized records.
 No fudge factors work here.  The I.R.S. will ask you to account for specific expenses in each category to the penny, and ask for specific receipts....such as "show me your advertising expenses for August 2016."  This is their quick way to look for sloppy records. If you don't have receipts for your records, the I.R.S. will dive deeper into your records looking for more inconsistencies in your records.

Track each expense in the appropriate expense category. You MUST have a receipt for every single expense. Period. Then take your receipts and itemize each expense in the appropriate category for your records.   For example, printing business cards would go in advertising, while shop supplies has it's own expense category. It turns out that the I.R.S. has "formulas" for the total of each category in each business. 

Track your revenue exactly.  I use a separate Excel page for each revenue stream so that the totals are a lot easier to figure out. (In the past I used different columns for various revenue streams. Sure, in theory that should work, but finding an inconsistency in my numbers took hours and hours.) Now a separate page for each revenue stream seems so much easier.

I know that the I.R.S. has many more rules.... but the overarching advice is that you must "Act like a business."

Besides the usual overarching goal of making money, I try to keep my record keeping simple and straight forward.  I track my business activities on a CASH basis to record "cash out" expenses and "cash in" revenue.  I don't buy an accounting program, but use my own Excel document which I can improve and modify each year. I am not going to spend money on some "powerful" accounting program when the real work is writing in every expense and revenue item.

I know that the 2 rules above seem so obvious....but I hear stories about people making up numbers for their business, or they approximate their expenses and revenue.  These won't get you through an IRS audit.  I was scared to death when I was first audited.  Fortunately I had separate accounts and all the receipts.  The headache of regular record keeping is minor compared to having an IRS agent sift through more and more accounts due to inconsistencies.

Previous posts about accounting for artists and makers:

I Covered My Expenses” and Other Forms of Delusion & Denial 

Time, Effort, Knowledge, Recognition, Appreciation

Hobby or Business? Criteria for the I.R.S.

She Sells Wholesale. She Sells Retail. Is She Selling Wholesale at Retail?

Avoid the Red Flag of IRS Form 1099

TAX TIME, Tick Tock, The Tax Clock is Ticking

Video Workshops from the I.R.S. - Am I a Business or a Hobby? - OR - Make Your Business More Business-like!

I.R.S. sign

Morning Heartburn with the I.R.S.

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Avoid Problems and Penalties - A Final Word.

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Withdrawing Inventory Items for Personal Use? Very scary!

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Is Your Travel for Business or Leisure?

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is an Acceptable Receipt for a Business Expense?

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Cost of Goods SOLD and Jail House Orange - A Fashion Accessory Nightmare

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is Included in the Cost of Finished Good besides your best guess?

Surviving the I.R.S. - Cost of Goods Sold, Are you ready? Watch my head explode!

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - No change!

My morning coffee with the I.R.S. MAN - Tips to prevent or smooth your audit with the I.R.S.