2015 begins right now. Sitting in a clean reorganized studio, along with my dream list of projects to begin, and just a few on my list to finish up, I am ready! The refresh button has been hit and I had time over the holidays to shake off the cobwebs, do some maintenance and lay the ground for the year ahead. I’m just sorry I’ve not been here filling you in during 2014, for it was a rather odd year.
First things first, if you have read previous entries – you might be interested to know my home spun company, Box Fifty Four has transpired to be nothing of what I anticipated. I shared my idea of being a small label and music production company, but by early spring last year, I felt the short sharp shock of understanding the reality of working for free, or choosing the option of working to make a living. It felt like a gamble, as often those types of projects do, so I chose the latter, for my mortgage company would not be supportive if I worked with no pay. Box Fifty Four as a music project could not sufficiently survive and follow the older model of the independent label as I had wistfully dreamed. I had romanticized once again, but I’m glad to say, I was quick to understand, recognize and acknowledge this, and it was easy to let go and rethink.
What became abundantly clear to me; that the music business no longer accommodates much of my skill set. That, in fact, I have in effect been made redundant, in part due to a collapsed industry that has seen sharp royalty shifts, downward revenue streams and new methodology services that pay artists little return, and do not afford the luxury of having someone like me onboard.
A musician can make a living, albeit much harder than previous decades, and touring is really the only sure way to guarantee income. While sync licensing deals for use in television and film and gaming are also a valid income, they are not a weekly or monthly event due to the burgeoning plethora of music all working music supervisors receive; combined with not living in a major metropolis held some great disadvantages. I decided it was time to shift my focus and get on with whatever it was I was really meant to be doing. Slightly unclear of where I was heading, I decided to try my hand at a few things and see what landed.
It was not the first time in my life I found myself without a real focus. As a ‘project’ based thinker, I saw that I had become limited in my process because I got stuck in what I thought I should be doing and not focusing on a less linear path. My careers had morphed into several versions, but in reflection, they were all the same skill set – primarily marketing and branding of a variety of creative products and companies. It was a time of process. I was finally ready to let go of all my old paradigms and now the hard part came, finding my focus.
I decided the best thing I could do was ride the tide, a process where I just opened up to the signs of the process of change. I’ve been here before, and rather than living in fear, I believe in jumping off the proverbial cliff and diving into the water of discovery. I’m fortunate that I have the fundamental belief that I can absolutely do whatever I want. I may not always succeed, but I will always try hard before I accept that a project may not fly. This time it was a question of what is it I wanted to do.
I stretched out beyond my comfort level and tried some crowdfunding to see how it worked, and ran my first Indiegogo campaign to fund local musician and artist Naim Amor solo vinyl project; a limited edition vinyl pressing of his latest recording with fellow musician and friend Thoger Lund. This included co-hosting a community dinner for 100 people one night under the stars in Spring to help fundraise. We accomplished our goal, and it allowed Naim the opportunity to release his beautiful album ‘Hear The Walls’ (available on Ft. Lowell Records).
My photography saw more public views with inclusions in an exhibition in New York, as well as being published in papers, albums and websites. Opening up The Guardian one day, there was a photograph I took in my driveway staring back at me. That was such a treat. The process of photography is for me simply a joy, so receiving any opportunity to get my pictures out there is always extremely gratifying.
I also got the chance to contribute what I could to Sylvie Simmons self-titled project ‘Sylvie’ (Light In The Attic). A stunning and sparse album of love and lament played, sung and written by Sylvie, who moved temporarily into a travel trailer that we parked in our driveway as her hotel during the recording. The photographs I took were used throughout the album artwork. I couldn’t have been prouder of her accomplishment, and of the photographs that were included in her very first release.
Howe Gelb’s ‘Dust Bowl’ continued to spark. This album is a self-released sketch of his accompanying and fuller record ‘The Coincidentalist’ (New West Records). This charming collection of stripped down songs was a home recording he compiled and we packaged to put out on his label (Scatterland) through Bandcamp. He now sells this only on tour. I continued on the laborious task with digitizing the Giant Sand photographic archives for a proposed ‘coffee table’ book I’ll complete this year. Finally, Rainer’s reissue project (Fire Records) started its kick off early in the year and we moved forward with seeing the first of a series of 8 albums unfold.
It was a year of designing and developing my skillset as well, pushing my knowledge to improve my process. My graphic work and the challenges to learn new techniques on the computer transcended my skills to a new level, and I mastered more webbery magic in web site and app design.
Other projects included putting together 2 local marketplaces for artists and makers. Fortunate to work with Tucson’s unique Mercado San Agustin, a beautiful European style marketplace with an open outdoor courtyard located downtown. Here we put together two events, a Spring and Holiday Bazaar, bringing 50+ artists and makers out of their studios and into the public for a few days of the season to sell their wares, enjoy the ambiance and create a unique handcrafted community marketplace. Always fun, always challenging, I really enjoy putting these projects together and look forward to doing it again this coming year.
Then there was my first introduction to Tucson Modernism Week in 2014. This is a annual week-long event encompassing the celebration of all things mid-century modern in Tucson – specifically architecture and design. My role was to partner with a print publisher and produce a free ‘keep sake’ limited edition book for visitors to take home. It was my first time raising funds to produce a book like this, as well as working with 3 Story Media who created the content. I was very proud to be a part of a great team of people and we accomplished our goals and deadlines.
Between projects, life delivered some of the usual unplanned twists and turns; my son had two surgeries on his feet. My husband had two surgeries on his eyes. So I drove a lot to and from hospitals and doctors offices. Both are doing fine now. We installed a chicken coop and raised our first flock, and I learned the invaluable lesson of the zen of raising hens. The dog finally went completely blind, due to a birth defect, but still managed to kill 3 chickens despite it all (we suspect chicken radar). I cried at each ones death, and realized farmer was not in my skill set.
We went to the wilds of a peninsula in Baja, Mexico and took long walks on miles of empty beaches, as well as trekking to the wilds of suburban Los Angeles and taking long drives down busy freeways. According to my smartphone, I walked a total of 860 miles over 320 morning walks with one blind dog and wore through 2 pairs of trainers. We demolished our kitchen (and have yet to rebuild). We built a brand new vegetable garden (since the chickens destroyed the original one) and started a serious crop growing project of which I am an enthusiastic novice.
New projects involve a new life force. Now I have had some time to do some reflection and regroup, I’ve stepped back from thinking of my career as a race. With age, has really come some wisdom. By choosing the work as a lifestyle rather than a career, I have found a new mental and emotional freedom that allows me to be so much more able and capable.
Ambitions these days have become more focused on creating a balanced lifestyle for myself and my family, and that means doing projects I’m inspired by and choosing to live on less. With the demise of the middle class (of which I would most certainly refer to as my roots), we all find ourselves juggling finances, prioritizing our spending, and focusing on the simpler smaller and more basic needs. I’m happy to pick food from my garden; salad, herbs, greens, peas, onions and every day am thankful for the hens eggs and for the short commute to my work.
Being available for my 13 year old son because I work from home has also bought about a new found freedom I hadn’t known before. I can be flexible with my schedule. If he’s sick with a cold and home from school, I’m home to make sure there is a pot of chicken soup made. I’m proud to be thrifty, find a great deal or discover a second hand shop where I can buy a set of 6 beautiful glasses for $3.00. It’s not that I don’t like luxury or pampering, it’s that I haven’t compromised my happiness for a job that I don’t want, I want quality in all the things in my life, and if that means having a little bit less financially, so I have more time to do the things I love, that works. It’s made me more aware on so many levels.
Working out of your garden shed brings certain freedom and also some downfalls. So I’ve been thinking more about this blog and why I should write it. What can I contribute that might be of interest? Here, in a fully equipped rather beautiful garden shed I live a Pinterest reality. My full time studio still known as Box Fifty Four, is affording me a very simple, yet productive and creative life. I have days when I’m not sure, and then days when I’m really clear. The isolation of not going to an office or interacting daily with others can both be wonderful and rather daunting. It is a path of solitude, one that is allowing me to develop and grow as an artist. I am trying to now use this process to fully realize some of my own creative dreams and this takes a lot of discipline. Fortunately, I’ve got the discipline of working every day down from being self employed my entire working life, but the focus can be the struggle. Perhaps this part of the journey is most interesting, and I am drawn to telling you how it unfolds.
I have arrived at the gate of 2015 knowing that I had better get back on my journey, after contemplating a year that passed in a place of the unknown. In this moment, I feel comfortable at the idea that I really don’t know what lays ahead, and I want to continue to develop my skills and work on the projects that inspire me. It’s a great place to start the New Year. It’s a blank page that is yet to be written. Check back with me in a few weeks and see what appears on the page. I promise it will be interesting and I’ll include the good, the bad and the uncomfortable.