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Welcome to Art Fair

Every year, during the hottest week of the summer, Ann Arbor puts on a giant art fair, shutting down streets downtown and welcoming thousands of people over four days.

I’ve been to Art Fair several times, but this is my first time working on campus during the event. As the artists set up their booths, I walked around town grabbing some of the behind-the-scenes shots.

It’s fun, seeing the event before the event starts. A lot of the art was already on display, but many artists didn’t have their tent up yet, and their wares were sprawled out on the University of Michigan lawn, waiting for hanging.

There were these weird juxtapositions, like fake cactus and palm trees baking in the Midwestern sun, or giant metal sculptures just hanging out on University Ave. And hot. Everything was hot.

Should be a fun couple of days, trying to get into work.

For a few minutes yesterday, though, the setup gave me a great chance to wander around and see what I could see.

A suggestion: If you find an artist you like at one of these art fairs, a good way to support them is to buy a small print or notecard, especially if you can’t afford one of their bigger prints. I found one from photographer Amber Tyrrell that I really liked, so I bought a notecard from her. Three bucks and some change is an easy vote of confidence.

Any little bit of support helps the artists, helps the arts economy, and makes the whole humid thing seem worth it.

Paid Stuff and Fun Stuff

Paid Stuff vs Free Stuff

Working on personal projects is something I still try to do, it’s very important to me. I also believe it plays an important part in developing your own style, staying creatively motivated, exploring new ideas and learning new things…I try hard to produce personal projects fairly regularly, even when I’m busy with actual work. I try to produce and post something usually once or twice a week.

GIF artist Al Boardman talks about personal projects in a way a lot of artists do: It’s important to do the fun stuff and the paid stuff.

The paid stuff keeps the lights on, but the personal stuff keeps you, you.

And it’s usually the personal work that makes people sit up, take notice, and ask if you’re for hire.

Break Time

Break Time

Jon Wilkening is taking a much-needed break from his work, and from social media, this month.

Good for him. And it’s such a Today thing to do. I’ve seen so many blog posts lately where the authors are taking the month of July and turning off all social media.

I do that from time to time, usually on vacation or around the holidays. I find that I usually don’t miss much, and what I do miss, I don’t know any better.

Taking breaks from your hobby can be helpful, too. Last winter, after I finished my portrait project, I needed to step away from photography and recharge. The same thing happened this spring when I got my new job: my brain needed to work out other things than exposures and apertures.

So take a breather. And don’t feel guilty about it.

Albion Anagama Documentary

Ken Shenstone, owner and operator of Albion Anagama ceramics kiln in Albion, Michigan, is the focus of my new documentary, Albion Anagama.

Ken (with Anne Beyer, blurred behind him) gave me full access to his pottery studio last fall, and I followed his team through the whole kiln firing process.

The Albion Anagama kiln is the largest of its kind in the United States.

Give it a watch, and let me know what you think!

Albion Anagama

I made another thing.

It’s a documentary on the Albion Anagama, a ceramics kiln owned and operated by Ken Shenstone – the largest of its kind in the country.

Albion Anagama was my last big project for Albion College, a documentary about community connections and creativity, and how two Albion alumni (Ken and Anne Beyer) run this crazy kiln on the outskirts of town.

They fire up the anagama kiln once a year, and we covered it for the college last fall. I interviewed Ken and Anne as they were starting the kiln process, and followed them through the whole project.

The story is right up my alley: couple of artists, tucked away in the countryside, making great work with this esoteric process that goes back thousands of years. Ken’s studio is a great setting, the people were fun, and watching the magic happen was something special.

In the film, Ken and Anne talk about the process of ceramics, what it takes to get the kiln fired up, the kinds of art they hope to make, and what kind of legacy Ken hopes to leave behind. It’s a lot to cover in 30+ minutes, but we did it.

Making Albion Anagama was a lot of fun, and I can’t thank Ken and Anne enough for seeing my crazy idea through. This film was a different animal than my last venture, Bringing Back the Bohm: It features two people instead of a half dozen, and follows one project from start to finish as it happens. It’s a story on a smaller scale, but it’s still a good story.

Now it’s available for everyone to see. Please give it a watch. I’ll bet you’ll learn a thing or two, just like I did.

Photographer Interview: Becca Waterloo

Here’s one from one of my many favorites on Instagram, Becca Waterloo (@oolretaw – get it?). Becca is an architect and photographer in Chicago.

I love Becca’s use of light, her explorations around the Windy City (a truly great city), and collaborations with other creatives.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Becca Waterloo, an architect working in the West Loop. I graduated from IIT in 2011 with a bachelor’s of architecture. Being a photographer is a weekend hobby,. I typically take portraits, engagement sessions, city hall weddings and family portraits. I also frequently co-host/attend Instagram meetups, #communityfirst is important to me and I love collaborating with talented Chicago photographers.

How did you get started in photography?

I’ve had a camera as long as I can remember, whether it was the film cameras you load and have developed at Walgreens, manual SLRs, and now digital cameras and smart phones. I have a couple of photography classes on my repertoire from high school and college. It’s just always been a personal interest since I was a little girl. Visual memories are important to me to keep.

What do you like about your photography?

With an architectural background, I love honing in on the details that people don’t really notice. I am obsessed with composition and geometry in photography, negative spaces, natural light, and color. I can’t get enough color. I am complemented for my ‘laser vision’ and noticing the things that people never see, so to have that natural eye is something I am thankful for.

I like your work for its variety – urban scenes, lush greenhouses, bits of where you are and what you’re doing. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

Thank you! I’ve always been drawn to texture and color (brick walls, graffiti) so thankfully living in an urban metropolis allows me to find a lot of that. I LOVE the West Loop and Pilsen because there’s endless amount of murals, stickers, graffiti, and opportunities, so I frequently bring people there for their portraits. Conservatories are also tied for a favorite place to shoot. You cannot beat the light anywhere else, and the textures, colors, and compositions are so easy to work with.

What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

I think playing with light is my favorite thing to do. I am really bad with the technical side of photography, so I rely heavily on natural light and the subjects I’m given. I love negative spaces and silhouettes, so you’ll see a lot of places and things that are just shown through the lighting from that day. If a room is too dark, I don’t even bring out my phone/camera. I LOATHE the flash, and I time my shoots when the light is best and most flattering. An Instagram meetup is the farthest I’ll go with  exploring, so my Instagram is the best way to represent how I see life day by day.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I booked an entire year of sessions with my cousin, Sam, a personal stylist who hires me to take her photos for her social marketing. Having a monthly session with her let’s me toy and use her for ideas that I’ve want to try. They don’t always work, so I enjoy laughing with her when that happens. She doesn’t judge when I want to get artsy, and let’s me practice the technical stuff, because I barely ever use my SLR.

I also co-host Instagram meetups with my friends a couple of times a year, so follow along @oolretaw to learn about the next one!

Find more of Becca’s work on her blog, her Instagram feed, and her website.

Photographer Interview: Kathryn Trattner

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kathryn Trattner and I write and photograph things. I work full time for the Metropolitan Library, my local library system in Oklahoma City, and when I’m not second shooting I spend the rest of my free time with my two toddlers.

How did you get started in photography?

I started taking photography seriously about a year ago. A very dear friend (@robynicks) is a talented wedding photographer and she needed an assistant. I volunteered and loved it. It’s so amazing to be included in someone’s big day, to see everything come together, and Robyn is amazing and fun to work with. Over time assisting became second shooting, I bought a DSLR, and photography has taken over my life. In a good way.

What do you like about your photography?

I love the details. I make a point of noticing them because so often they’re the first things I forget. I tend to get lost in the big picture stuff so it’s nice to take a moment and notice something that might otherwise be overlooked. Especially at weddings, you remember the faces and the main event, but it’s easy to forget how the flowers looked or the lace on a dress. Those little things add a layer of richness to memory.

Right now I have a three and one year old and I’m constantly taking pictures of their hands or feet, photos of them sitting with their backs to me. I’m always going to remember the big things, like the first tooth or first steps, but the way their hair curled just the tiniest bit after a bath, the little hands no bigger than my palm, I don’t want to forget those either.

You describe your work as capturing details, and little slices of life. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

Everywhere. I feel like I’m constantly taking pictures in my head, even when I don’t have my iPhone or DSLR handy. Anything and everything can be beautiful or interesting or arresting.

Why is it important for you to capture your surroundings?

Part of my obsession with details in my desire to always add another layer to my writing. I need to be able to paint a picture with words and photographing details feeds my writing. It’s also a nice escape when I’ve sat too long at my computer and it feels like my brain has turned to mush.

What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

I’m not sure there are any themes to my work. Maybe someone outside looking in would see a pattern but for me there isn’t one.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

Over the next year I’ll be second shooting lots of weddings and special events. But the biggest thing I’m excited about personally is my upcoming trip to San Francisco. I’m so excited to photograph a city so different from the one I live in.

Follow Kathryn’s work on Instagram and her personal portfolio site.

Artists In Jackson: Justine Melville

Justine Melville

“Putting the energy into my work – dying fabric, taking the color out, ice dying – there’s a lot to it. The process is a good focus for me. It helps calm me. And I really enjoy the product I get.”

Read Justine’s profile at Artists In Jackson.