Posts Tagged ‘folk art’

Noblesville (Indiana) Democrat for July 15, 1892

A Big Snake Story

Last Friday morning Samuel Applegate and George Farris, two young men of this city whose reputation for truth and veracity cannot be questioned, saw a strange sight which they converse very freely about.  They were driving north on the Cicero Pike between the Lake Erie car bridge and the wagon bridge when their attention was attracted towards White River when they noticed what they at first supposed to be a large dog splashing in the water.  Closer observation changed their opinion as to the character of the animal.  A few moments later they saw the entire body of the monster, which had the form of a huge serpent twelve feet in length and perhaps three feet in circumference with a forked tail.  On catching a glimpse of a man, the animal immediately disappeared and has not been seen since.  It is supposed that it came down White River from some larger body of water during the recent floods.


In the 1820s this monster, painted by Indiana artist George Winters, was said to inhabit Lake Manitou in Fulton County.

When Hamilton County Historian, David Heighway, shared this story with me the wheels started turning. Why wouldn’t I carve the Noblesville Sea Monster?


We will see where this leads over the next few weeks.

For more information about the Noblesville Sea Monster read David Heighway’s article here.


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I’m carving birds again! Stop by and visit with me and see my new work on Small Business Saturday from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm at Homespun’s new location at 869 Mass Ave. I will be carving — a new style murder of crows and larger owls. In addition to birds I’ll have boats, whales, a polar bear, ukuleles and leatherwork. Stop by and see the new shop space and visit. (Homespun will be open as a preview shop — moving here after the holidays.) Congratulations to Amanda and Neal on this move to cool larger digs!

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From the current issue of TravelIN.

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I finally began to move forward with my full sized tundra swan in flight. When completed it should measure fifty-four inches longpith a wingspan of seventy-two inches. My largest strongly, not surprisingly, is to find the space to do this in my tiny crowded shop.

I work, mainly, using two inch thick white pine planks. The cheeks on this swan are three inches thick so the head and neck (the only carved portions of this bird) blank had to be glued up from two pieces of wood.

The trick to a strong and successful glue joint is perfectly mated wood pieces. Before glueing the pieces I flattened them with a bench plane. I then glued them using a waterproof wood glue. It’s important to apply even pressure so I used lots of clamps (six) and thick cauls.

After the glue had set (twenty mins.) I removed the clamps and sawed the head and neck in two profiles. I saw the profile first and tack the scraps back into place before sawing the outline from the top. I then cut a “handle” at the end of the neck to provide a clamping surface.

Like any carving the next step is to knock the corners off–carve off the corners at forty-five degrees to make the piece octagonal–and begin the rounding process. These corners roll in at the beak to form the top and bottom surfaces. The tip of the beak is left square and will be shaped much later. It’s always a good idea to leave extra wood in areas that may be particularly delicate.

Waterfowl heads are thickest at the base of the cheeks. The sides of their heads slant inward. Unlike ducks, with a pronounced cheek line, swans heads are simply tapered. Using a small hand plane I define the flat sides of the head.

More about this later.










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When the idea for this project was beginning to gel I wrote my emerging thoughts here and here. It’s been about a month and it’s time to get started in earnest. I would love for you to be part of the project.

Here’s what you can do to help get the ball rolling:

– If you have an experience or story with a bird in urban Indianapolis, contact me and we’ll set up an interview. The interview is painless and should not take a lot of time. We will discuss the project, fill out some simple paperwork, take a few photos and chat about your experiences with Indianapolis birds. Your experiences do not need to be unusual. Simply having a favorite bird may be enough.
– Let folks know about the project. In order for this project to be a success I must reach a variety of folks with a variety of backgrounds and a variety of stories. Post notices on your Facebook. Tweet about it. Talk to birdy (and not so birdy) friends and neighbors.
– Visit this blog often and keep track of progress.
Look for birds in urban Indianapolis. It’s spring migration time and a wide variety of interesting and beautiful birds are passing through.

There are some great ways to become involved with Indianapolis area birding:

IndyParks offers birding walks.
Amos Butler Audubon Society offers trips and monthly educational meetings.
Indiana Audubon Society offers outings and trips.
Hamilton County Parks offers bird walks and educational programs.

I’m sure that there are others, but these are the programs that I know about today. If you know of others, please share them here.


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Just finished these two pieces before they go out. Commissions cost no more than stock pieces and are usually turned around in under two weeks.



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Yesterday I attempted to post this from my new iPad.  I failed.  There is a learning curved and importing images is much more difficult that it should be.  I’ll get it worked out.

At the Indiana Artisan Marketplace I had a copy of Frank Chapman’s Bird-Life in my display.  The book, an early informal color illustrated bird guide,  features wonderful color plates by noted bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuente.  The cover features a multi-color typeset image of an American Redstart.  This print is quite striking.

I had carved a redstart, based on this illustration, that was offered for sale at the show.  I was demonstrating carving and painting throughout the show.  I was itching to do some metalwork and my eye fell on the redstart carving.  I took the piece around the corner to my demonstration shop, cut and shaped a pair of wings from a lithographed tinplate cigar box and re-created the redstart.

Here ’tis!

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I love this show and the fine women that run it, but it didn’t look like I was going to be able to participate this year.

Good news–Circumstances have shifted a bit and 50 Little Birds will be on hand.  We are a late entry so please do what you can to let the folks of Bloomington know the birds will be on hand!

Bloomington Handmade Market

Bloomington Convention Center

Saturday, April 7, 2012

10:00 – 5:00

Thanks to Sally, Nicole, Mia and Jessica!

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Thursday I am delivering a webinar through Traditional Arts Indiana–Social Networking for Artists and Performers: Developing and Maintaining an Online Presence.  In order to offer links referenced in the webinar and to drive traffic to this blog (That’s what I’m teaching folks to do, right?) the links are listed below.

I want to thank my daughter, and Traditional Arts Indiana intern, for roping me into offering this opportunity to share this information.  She prepared the fantastic graphics filled with screen shots of my social media sites and pages.

I want to make it very clear.  I am not an expert on social media.  I’ve never made a study of best practice or explored all of the options.  My strength is that I’ve been at it for a long time.  I’ve always had a need to reach out to other artists and to the folks that appreciate artists.  In college I wrote letters to individuals and to magazines.  When the internet emerged I was right there on listservs, in “old school” chat rooms and forums.

Through these efforts I learned the secret techniques of chalkboard signwriters in Australia, spent a summer living on a wooden boat, spent two weeks in Hawaii building ukuleles, hosted a major ukulele festival and now I’m developing a strong group of followers that are collecting my bird carving series, 50 Little Birds.

Setting Up a Website/Blog


WordPress offers all of the tools required to develop a blog.  But don’t think of it as a blog.  Think of what you build at WordPress as the fastest, cleanest and most flexible website builder on the web.  Best of all is that it is free.  It’s also pretty easy to get started.  Just jump in.  Read the tutorials and directions.  Try new things.  You can–and will–learn on the fly.

Getting People to Read your Blog

Maybe the best thing about starting a new blog is that no one will read it–really.  It takes time and it takes effort to develop a following.  So start posting and don’t give a thought to who is reading it and what they are thinking.  There is no one out there.

Posts can be short or long.  I mix it up.  Some bloggers just post pictures.  Don’t worry too much about content.  It will come with practice.

Purchase a nice web address and follow the directions so that it leads to your WordPress site.  They are cheap and are one of the many ways to gets folks to visit.  My web address is 50littlebirds.com.  Everyone that knows my product will remember it.  (While you’re at it get a gmail email address that matches your website address.  Mine is 50littlebirds@gmail.com.  Again, no one will forget it.  If you don’t want to give up your regular email address you can forward mail one way or another so you don’t miss a thing.)  Add your blog address to your email signature so folks are reminded to check it every time they open your email.

When you are ready, tell folks about your blog.  Send out emails.  Tell your friends on Facebook (More on that later).  Print it on your business cards, your hangtags and your flyers.  Make it easy for folks to see, find and use.

You will begin to get traffic.  Be patient.  Building a following will take awhile. WordPress makes it really simple to see what traffic you have and where it comes from.  These folks will begin to follow you and like your posts.  This is great.   The followers get an email of every one of your posts.  When folks comment it is important that you reply.  No one likes to be ignored–ever.  Say something gracious and begin to build a relationship with your followers.

Visit your followers’ blogs, and if so inclined, follow them back.  You will begin to build a network–not unlike Facebook–of folks that are truly interested in who you are and what you do.

Visit other WordPress blogs and comment.  This may be the single most important factor in attracting traffic.  Search engines, like Google, measure the number of links going to a website.  Lots of links = important content.  When you comment on another blog you build a link from that blog back to yours.  This is gold.  I blew off this bit of advice until about six months ago.  When I began visiting blogs and commenting my traffic went through the roof and continues to climb.

As you learn to use WordPress add links to your other online activities–Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  There are many tutorials and guides to lead you through the process.

Always include a picture.  When folks see an image they want to know more and are more likely to open and read (and forward!).


You probably have a personal page on Facebook.  Use this to talk about your work and to recruit followers.  Send them to your blog.  Tell them about shows. Don’t go overboard.  The goal is to make them aware of what you do and get them to subscribe/like your business page.

Now set up a business page–even if you don’t feel like you are a business this is the best way for artists to share their work and ongoing projects.  I post to my Facebook business page several times a day when I’m doing something that I think is interesting.   I may post a picture and short description of a new piece or a picture my booth set up at an art show.  I do a lot of field work and often post photos of the forests or lakes that I’m exploring.  It lets folks know that you are working, thinking and creating all of the time.

This is best done from my iPhone.  A can shoot a photo, write a caption and post from just about anywhere and it only takes 2-3 minutes. (I suspect that an iPad is in my future for this.)

From your business Facebook page create events and invite friends.  I have an art show in Greenville, Ohio next month.  Every one of my followers will be invited.  They may not be anywhere near Greenville, but they will know about it and may forward the invite to friends that do.


Forums are the bulletin boards of the internet.  Folks with similar interests will post questions and answers and offer information.  I build the MidWest UkeFest completely from forum participation.  Find a forum that interests you (If you sell on Etsy they are there) and participate.  Make sure you follow the rules, often blatant advertising is not allowed.  You don’t have to be blatant.  If you offer expert advice and incite, folks will be interested in what you make or do and will follow up.  Often you may announce relevant blog posts and link them to the forum.  Remember that links to your site are gold.


Many folks, myself included, don’t really get Twitter.  Twitter allows folks to post short messages to their followers.  These notes are fleeting, but can reach many, many folks.

The best way to develop a large following is to be pro-active about it.  When you begin you may follow up to 2000 folks, so follow 2000 people right away.  Don’t worry about your interest level in these tweets.  You don’t have to read them, you are quickly establishing a presence.  I did seek out folk/art/traditional art/tourism folks to follow.  Many of these folks will immediately, like lemmings, follow you back.  This is your core of followers.  You will pick up other, more interested and relevant followers over time from links on WordPress and Facebook.

Link your WordPress account  to Twitter and every one of your blog postings will be announced to your Twitter followers. It’s hard to believe that folks are sitting around reading their Twitter feeds, but they do.

When I list a new carving on Etsy I tweet the listing.  Make sure to mention Etsy in the tweet.  It’s not unusual for me to get 20-30 hits on an Etsy page within seconds of posting it on Twitter.  You can set up Etsy to automatically send your new listings to Twitter, but I don’t use it.  I like to watch the hits jump up when I do it myself!

Seek out and read about building blog traffic.  There are loads of blogs about this!


My storefront is hosted at Etsy. I stated that carefully.  I don’t say that I sell on Etsy.  Etsy is not liked eBay and other sales sites that generate their own traffic.  Etsy is wonderfully popular, but your items will not sell if you simply list them and sit back.  You must work, all of the time, to drive customers to the storefront and to make purchases.

I don’t want to take a lot of time talking about Etsy marketing today.  It’s an amazing service that supports listing products and collecting money.  It is a wonderful and inexpensive virtual storefront.  Within their forums are hundreds of posts about how to drive sales.

You must drive your customers to Etsy.  This may make up a great deal of the content in your blog and facebook posts.  List new work and point folks to your Etsy storefront.  Write about field work or new technique and send folks to Etsy.

(Note- Don’t tell live customers at sales about your Etsy storefront unless they ask a direct question.  If they think they can go home and take their time purchasing at their leisure you may have lost a sale at the show.)

  Square – Point of Sale Credit Cards

Though not social networking the Square may be the best thing that ever happened to independent artists.  For less than 3% a transaction and no monthly or service fees you can set up and account and begin to take credit cards this afternoon!  The Square works with smartphones and iPads to put a credit card swiper and cash register in the vendors hands.  Even the cardreader is free.  At a recent weekend show, I used my Square and had the entire proceeds from the show in my bank account the following morning.

QR Codes

QR Codes (Quick Response Code) is a barcode-like square symbol that when scanned with a smartphone will lead the user to any website, image or phone number.  Codes can be generated on many websites and downloaded as a jpeg.  These codes are beginning to show up on major brand products to that consumers can find additional information.  I have a QR code that I keep posted in my booth at art shows.  I also have a huge one on the cargo box on my bicycle.  There are folks that cannot resist scanning and seeing where it leads them.


Pinterest is the new kid on the social media block.  It has been labelled, fairly or not, a women’s social network.  (That’s fine with me, most of my customers are women.) Participants virtually pin favorite images from the web onto their virtual bulletin board and can browse and explore the images pinned by friends.  There is potential for finding ways to get images of your work pinned in strategic and popular place. I’ve only begun to explore this.

A Bit About Tone and Voice

Social networks like facebook and Twitter are just that–social.  Folks don’t like to be advertised to.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind to avoid annoying your playmates.  Provide leadership, information, leads and advice generously.  Folks can overlook the occasional plea for some business if it’s offset with something of value.  Several years ago I was called to task on this.  They were right, I appeared pushy.

Just remember the rules your parents taught you–be kind, be generous, treat people like you wish to be treated.

Post Often

I try to post daily on Etsy, WordPress and Twitter.  I don’t, but that’s the goal.  When you post consistently folks will have reason to check in.  If things go unchanged for days or weeks they will give up on you. On busy days I might post a few pictures or re-blog something that someone else wrote.  When I have time I’ll write longer pieces like this. Tell your story.  Get something up there.

Learning More

There are many great resources that can lead you to develop strong social media skills.  Check out the bookstore. Search the blogs (and leave comments).  Watch what others do.

My favorite resource is Craftcast.  Host Alison Lee (Also my little sister’s name) taps fantastic artists, usually in fiber, precious metal clay or silver to discuss their creative thought and journeys.  Every once in a while she interviews someone regarding maximizing social media.  Most of what I do comes from these interviews.  Her shows also feature current events and marketing hints.   Listen to the podcasts (available on itunes) and glean what you can.  Unfortunately the descriptions tell very little about the content of each episode.

If you have comments or questions regarding how I use social media (remember, I’m no expert) feel free to comment here.  I answer all blog comments–I know you don’t want to be ignored.

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I’ve been absent from keeping up this blog over the last week and apologize.  I’ve been preparing for the Indiana Artisan Marketplace beginning in just a few hours at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  I can’t take a lot of time for build-up, but this is the finest art/fine craft show that I’ve ever been involved with — as an artist or as a buyer.  This is not a show to be missed.

(Aside – This group really treats their artists right.  We pulled up the van yesterday and a volunteer loaded my stuff in for me!)

I’ll try to post images throughout the show from my iPhone.  If I am able to move around (I expect to be busy) I will try to share the work of other artists.

50 Little Birds has two booths this year — I hope that I am the plate spinner that I think I am — one will be my sales booth and a second bootht o teach and demonstrate bird carving and painting.  Please stop and chat a bit.

I would like to thank friend and woodcarver, Dennis Maddox, of Noblesville for his help yesterday.  There were a few construction glitches and he was the man to solve the problems fast.  Dennis has been carving at local golf coaurses.  It seems that golf course like to turn their dead trees into large carvings.  Recently Dennis carved a huge golf club for Crooked Stick Golf Course and a trio of Great Blue Heron for the golf course at Eagle Creek Park.

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