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October 2014

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

The I.R.S. wants to know you are a business. That's it, plain and simple. One way to prove this is it to make a profit.  But if you are generating enough revenue to overcome all your expenses, there are several other criteria used by the I.R.S. to establish that you are a business. 

A couple of articles in the news recently focus on artist Crile in a legal battle with the I.R.S. -- Crile v. Commissioner. The New York Times article explains why a Tax Court Ruling Is Seen as a Victory for Artists.   Read it first.

Then the Forbes article, Artists Rejoice! Tax Court Concludes Painter's Activity Isn't A 'Hobby' gives more technical information that you can apply to your business. It includes the nine factors to differentiate a business from a hobby. The author doesn't exactly sound sympathetic to artists/makers. Keep reading...

Pages 2-4 get far more interesting with definite "Takeaways" for everyone in the arts that they can apply to their creative business.

Artists Rejoice! Tax Court Concludes Painter's Activity Isn't A 'Hobby'

More articles about hobby vs. business issues and the I.R.S. below:

Susan Crile Paints A Picture Of Tax Court Victory For Artists

STAY TUNED . . . It looks like Crile took too many personal expenses under the umbrella of her art business. The writer of this article was not optimistic about "part two" of her case with the I.R.S.  

Craft World Sucks Like Vampires

In honor of the "all souls" season, I couldn't help but resurrect an issue from an earlier post.  

The craft world is being sucked into a vampire movie. The cast of characters are being overwhelmed by zombies sucking the life blood of the craft's tradition of creativity, quality, and mastery of skills. We are catering to an economy increasingly filled with copycat workshops and "me-too" tutorials that erode ethical behavior and diminish respect for original work, uniqueness, creativity, and intellectual property. 

Vampire-Craft-MovementHow about THIS story? See if it sounds familiar to you? Names have been removed to protect the innocent and the guilty, but I do have permission to share the story.

A response to a post on ?????:

A previous "blog post struck home. I began teaching out of economic necessity, then wrote my first book simply to have published proof of my right to be intellectually associated with the development of my specialized techniques. These techniques are now being devoured by the crafting world. Only one person labels her work stating from whom she learned the technique (from my book), but others don't and simply copy my work."

"And then there are people who not only learn the technique from my book but even copy the workshop format that I described on my blog." 

"At long last I am in a position to sell my work through appropriate venues and so am planning to retreat from teaching. I've met some lovely people through workshops, but a lot of vampires too -- such as those who teach my technique the following week after they get home from my workshop, and then ask if I have any printed handouts."

"Then there's a person from (city, state, country) who even takes my words and represents them as hers (as well as using my technique for spectacular financial gain). All this is only the tip of the iceberg."

Unfortunatley, the basic thread of this story is becoming more common -- the merchandising of making exploits new technologies and brings in fresh blood, but comes at a cost as well.

Publishers and books on craft media are increasingly suggesting to include instructions and tutorials.  Exciting, interesting, or innovative work is no longer enough to assure sufficient sales.

The new D.I.Y. and experiential economy is a double edged sword. The crafty scene creates new opportunity for a larger portion of the population to buy into the romance of "craft" and the joy of making.  Great news for some venues.  

Yet, I feel some disappointment that this increased interest in craft is not generating a rising tide for mastering craft skills, innovation, and signature artistic voice.  I am particularly concerned about "ring-a-day" projects and weekend "by-the-numbers" tutorial copies.  Are we sucking our own life blood from craft or giving it a transfusion? 

At first I thought this technology enabled popularity was interesting and a growth of a new market for craft, but now I am not so sure. It seems that the only thing that craft has sold is the romance of making.  


We are not developing a new audience for buying our work. Instead we are developing a craft economy of wanna-be artists "I love your work and want to make one for myself"  along with crafty people selling their work at bottom prices to recover their costs.

but, I will still applaud those dedicated to careful development of an artistic voice that has something to say.


"Recycle, Repurpose and the Meaning of Materials" Lecture


You're invited to my lecture at The Magnes Collection. Three of their menorahs (shown below) will be on display as discuss these objects along with some of my Judaica work within the framework of Recycle, Repurpose and the Meaning of Materials.  This lecture will be followed by a Q&A discussion with the audience. This event is free. 

Please join us for this lunch time event - Wednesday, October 29, 2014. The talk will begin at 12:00pm, noon and end around 12:40pm. Then there will be about 20 minutes for the audience to ask questions. 

The Magnes Collection: 
2121 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 93704

One block from BART in downtown Berkeley.

Hanukkah-Menorah-Al Farrow-2008-35_1
Hanukkah Menorah by Al Farrow from Gun parts 2005

67-1-4-47_1Brass-Tray-Hanukkah copy
Repurposed brass tray used as Hanukkah lamp, Italy, 17th century


Crimped metal sheet Hanukkah lamp, USA, 1909

Repurposed Hanukkah lamp from tin and sheet metal, Morocco, 20th century

Here are some questions...what are yours?

What is the difference between recycled and repurposed materials when used in artwork?

Does the selection of certain materials imbue meaning in the finished work and how does this contribute to a viewer's perception of the object?

Related Posts:

Museum Storage of the Collection at The Magnes Museum

Tzedakah Boxes at The Magnes Collection

Museums Save Ordinary as Extraordinary

The Magnes Museum Collection Cradles Extraordinary Objects and Textiles

Witness to the Silence of Addiction

During the past three years, I have thrice been a witness to the destructive impact of alcohol.
Lives devastated by lies, deception, and self-delusion. Bodies destroyed by toxins and neglect. But I wonder if we as a culture all share some responsibility in our unwillingness to speak up or speak out. Thus I have decided to write this post to overcome the embarrassment of continuing to hide what I have discovered as a serious problem in our society.

DON'T READ ANY FURTHER if you don't want to know anymore.


From time to time we likely become aware that family members or friends appear to drink too much or are taking drugs frequently.  If we tell ourselves that this is "none of our business", this is the silence of addition. Speaking up is and should be our responsibility.

I don't know when or how, but "too much" can eventually devolve into a downward spiral of addition.  Yet at the early stages, we, as witnesses to such behavior, feel the risk of being ostracized or criticized as prudes for raising a voice.  Social pressures drive us to avoid uncomfortable and awkward interactions.  But denial or politely ignoring the behavior is a mistake. 


The cost of addition for our loved ones is enormous -- not just in lives, but in lost potential and broken hearts. Emergency rooms take in addicts off the street, rehydrate them, and send them back to repeat the alcoholic binge again in 24 hours. Who pays for the hospital visits? You do.  All of us.

When we hear that emergency rooms are closing...I now understand at least one reason why.

The statistics say that 80% of alcoholics are destined to repeat their drinking cycle. I will not argue with the statistic, but I question the effectiveness of a system that offers superficial treatment that is so chronically ineffective against such powerful addictions.

I wrote this post because being silent about the impact of drug and alcohol addiction perpetuates the idea that it is someone else's problem. Now I realize that it is everywhere, in everyone's family, our next door neighbors, and in our neighborhoods.  It has been a disturbing revelation.

My younger cousin died from his addictions to alcohol and drugs. He left children without a father, and left his father devastated by the loss of his only child.

A neighbor's nephew whom we have known for 26 years is now in jail for another D.U.I. after multiple episodes of living in his car. 

My brother-in-law has descended from a productive professional life to living on the streets. He recently disappeared from a rehab facility and I spent hours, day after day, weeks, looking for him. What an unfortunate circumstance compared to the potential we know that he has. Now found and in his fourth rehab, we fear he is destined for relapse despite our hopes for a miracle turn around. 

Since finding my brother-in-law, I have been deeply involved as his round-the-clock sober living companion, nurse, confidante, enforcer, manager, advocate, chauffeur, etc. My determination to "save one life" exposed the depths of the problem and a harsh realization that the signs were there all along.

Early intervention is crucial. Once the downward spiral has taken hold, no kindness nor show of love and caring and tolerance/intolerance is powerful enough against the demon of addiction. "Hitting bottom" takes on lower and lower definitions repeatedly, and beyond imagination. 

In conclusion, three recommendations:

1) Never give money to the addict. Never. The addict will exploit your sympathies and hopes, but inevitably only follow past behavior with more drinking and addiction. The person will use any excuse or heart string to take money, but they will never be able to help themselves.

2) Please consider donations to your local charities that support recovery programs.

3) Please support local drug abuse and addiction programs with your tax dollars.

The existing programs are overwhelmed beyond their resources and must turn desperate people away. They can only deal with the immediate needs.  They lack the resources to retain residents long enough to find the root causes of the person's addiction and to train the client to manage their lives more productively and self-reliantly.


To Direct or Redirect 404 Error Pages? That is a Question.

When I made my 404 error page for my website, I naively made it a "404 redirect" page.
OOPS-Flower-Design-404-Redirect "redirect" means that when you land on my 404 page, in about five seconds it takes you back to the home page. This is an optional approach to how to use your 404 page. 


LA-County-Museum-404-redirectEver since, I have discovered that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art uses a 404 redirect, I feel much better about this decision.

LA-County-Museum-Art-homeWhen you land on the 404 error page for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it automatically takes you back to the home page and navigation. 

So your 404 Error page can be static....or a redirect.

What do you think is best? 

For Wordpress users I recommend this video titled, SEO WordPress Panda Fix - Webmaster Tools 404 Errors to learn how to create a redirect for a broken link or URL that you have changed.

Abracadabra - What Is Said Will Be - I Create as I Speak

Hanukkah-light-Magnes-tin-89-16a-bSTARDuring my tour of The Magnes Collection, Dr. Daniel Viragh shared fascinating insights from the Hebrew he was reading on various historical objects . . . and then a startling factoid was mentioned. It turns out that "Abracadabra" -- those magic-inducing words that we think come from the Disney movie Aladdin and Arabian Nights -- actually have roots in the ancient Aramaic language.  The phrase has a meaning; "What is said will be." Wikipedia says Abacadabra means "I create as I speak."

In my opinion, the literal meaning and the passage of this phrase through the millenia demonstrates the power of words. 

This resonated with me a lot.
 I've embraced the 21st century idea of writing down my goals to align myself with the power of postive thinking, yet here is a similar thought expressed in an ancient language.

Hanukkah-light-Magnes-tin-89-16a-bSTAR-circleIn other words, people from thousands of years ago, also had the idea of stating their goals, and repeating their goals, to bring forth the power to make it happen.  They weren't calling for magic, they were stating a call to action with a plan.

So instead of wishful thinking or hoping for luck, you may benefit by actually stating your goals and understanding the action plan needed to make it happen.

Speaking about the power of words reminds me to invite everyone to a brief Hanukkah-light-Magnes-tin-89-16a-blecture at The Magnes Collection. My lecture topic is "Recycle, Re-purpose and the Meaning of Materials." The Magnes is calling this a "Pop up lecture". We will look at a tin and glass menorah from their collection (left), along with examples of my work.

The Magnes Collection is at 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA.  
This is a block from the BART station, and close to the Univeristy of California, Berkeley Campus.


How to BE a Presentation God

For artists and makers, an invitation to give a presentation about their work provides a fantastic opportunity to reach a new audience. After all, aren't you the world wide expert on your work? Yet, time and again, artist lectures too often turn out to be 45 minutes of tedium. 

My own fear of such a fate causes me to constantly seek out and read books or guides for tips to improve my presentation content and presentation skills. While there is no substitute for practice, a superb book on this topic recently came to my attention.  How to Be a Presentation God  brings the expert perspective of Scott Schwertly offering his "no excuses" outlook on creativity. And gaining insight into creativity is always inspiring for the artist inside us all.













Schwertly's website Ethos3 is definitely worth a look, especially the remarkable presentation using what they call Motion Design. Once you start watching, it is impossible to stop watching. Click on the video below.

I'd like to share a few paragraphs from his book and hope that it might inspire you to either read the book or take the philosophy back to your studio.

"The first ideas that come to your head are most likely the easiest, most conventional, and the most boring ideas you will have." "Your brain will sabotage your efforts at brilliance by attempting to find the easiest, most accessible solution for any problem it is faced with."

"A great way to hurdle this unfortunate mental obstacle is to begin every brainstorming session thinking about what not to do.  Work with partners to determine what is cliché, what is expected, what has been heard over and over and over and over again. Record these ideas and you'll begin to find the empty space- the place where you have an opportunity to approach the topic from a fresh angle, Introduce a new idea, or catch your audience off-guard. Accomplishing a sense of originality is like putting a massive sail on the canoe of your presentation. It will take you further than even your hardest work." (Page 69, 71)


I think this idea from Schwerty applies to both work in the studio and for presentations. 
For example, I took a bold risk for a lecture at the Matrilineage series of lectures for Syracuse University. I gave my entire lecture while standing at an ironing board ironing on stage. Seven years later, I met a young woman who introduced herself to me as a student in the audience. She said it was the only artist's lecture she remembered in the four years of art school.

Moving on... to a comment about creativity that I thought was worth noting from Schwertly: "Contrary to popular belief, creativity is both culture and practice; it is not a gift that some people just have and others don't." page 71

For me, one of the top "lecture sins" is when the speaker does not connect with the audience.  For example, I sometimes get the feeling that the speaker is trying to prove how smart they are.  In such cases, a comment from Scott Schwertly comes to mind -- "My mission when on stage is not to stun the audience with illustrious vocabulary and capacity for arcane bits of knowledge. It is to efficiently transmit a valuable concept or idea to their heads with as little interference as possible. If a 10-year-old can't follow me, then an adult whose attention is split between his or her Blackberry and my voice can't either." Page 74 

It is super interesting that the author separates creativity and execution. "Creativity is about solving a problem; ...Execution is the sterile, technical implementation of your creative ideas." (page 133)

Grap the book and

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