Art Office Beta

Shewie! The past two weeks have been fun, a little bit wobbly, and very encouraging! Let me explain. The Beta Test Group is comprised of the following five artists: John Engelbrecht, Hope Spragg, Oglesby Finlay, Anna Reishus, and myself (Carla Baudrons). I personally knew one of these humans, and am having such a blast getting to know the rest. You can click on their page links through the drop-down menu “Current Members” to see more of the type of artwork they do.

This team’s session has been more involved than the Alpha group. We’re getting more into the nitty-gritty of how things work, and how they could work better in future iterations of Art Office.

One big thing we’ve discovered is that individual artists tend to have conflicting and fluctuating schedules. There have been many scheduling conflicts, and we’ve had to troubleshoot how to work around them as best we can. If Art Office were a real office, and a real M-F 9-5 job, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but the fact that we’re a bunch of rag-tag hustlers, either with day jobs, children, health issues, or all of the above– means that it can be a challenge to get us all together at the same time.

The workaround that we’ve implemented for the time-being is to move our Weekly Review Meetings to the weekend. Our Weekly Goals Meetings will remain on Mondays, but it seems like Saturdays are generally better days for capping the week off.

Another issue we encountered was that Zoom doesn’t allow two meetings at a time with the same host account, and PS1’s account was already booked for our Wednesday Open Studio Hours time slot. (In case you’re just learning about Art Office– our Open Studio Hours are a live stream of all of our artists at work in their individual studios.) So, what we’ll probably end up doing is switching the day, but for now, I was able to figure out a way to stream us live through a couple of different applications. I’ve mentioned it before, but I am not tech-savvy, so this was actually quite a challenge for me to figure out. But I did it! Woohoo!

One more problem we’ve run up against is something I anticipated from the start. See, the original idea was that literally, we all would be in the same room, feeding off each others’ physical presence to be more productive. However, since we are virtual, that means we don’t necessarily feel that positive peer pressure during our daily grind. It’s so easy to forget that we’re responsible to each other when we’re all self-quarantining to some degree.

Keeping track of our daily activities, following our Plans of Action, and clocking in and out are all helpful tools, but no substitute for human presence. Aside from our two meetings and Open Studio Hours every week, I haven’t figured out a solid solution to that dilemma. One idea that I had was to create an inspirational poster, with photos of our team members above the word, “Responsibility” or something, and a cheesy quote underneath. I dunno, we’ll see.

One of my goals this past week was to get the Art Office instagram page up and rolling. I did not accomplish this goal, and at our Weekly Review Meeting, I explained to my team why:

I quit social media a couple years ago-ish. For a few reasons; for one thing, I realized I was spending an ungodly amount of time on it. Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and “Vero” (remember that?), I was spending an embarrassing number of hours every day on my phone and computer. Why?

Addiction to virtual self-esteem, plain and simple. I– like all of us– want people to like me, and want other people to see that people like me. I also want to be successful, and I want other people to see me as successful. Therefore– like most of us– I sculpted a virtual version of myself to live on the internet and feed my self-esteem from the “safety” of social isolation. Of course, after a while, I realized all this and decided to quit cold-turkey until I could start again from a more healthy place.

Enter Present-Tense Carla.

Fear had me in a choke hold all week about Art Office’s instagram. I decided to open up to my coworkers and explain my situation. And guess. what. happened. Like the incredible team they are, they gathered around me in support and offered a suggestion that I hadn’t (and couldn’t have) seen:

Instagram takeovers! Yes! While I was absent from social media, this thing called “takeovers” started trending on all the different platforms, and it is such a good idea. Everyone probably already knows this, but I just recently learned, so here’s for the grandmas out there: A social media takeover is where a group delegates one member to be the sole poster for a period of time (usually a week, I think?). I imagine this is going to work so well with our team, because we all have such interesting and different perspectives. So YAY TEAM! This is yet another example of how Art Office is working.

Okie dokie, I think I’m going to put a period right here.

Alpha Test Group Crushes It!

Ahoy!

The Alpha Test Group has been going so well, if a little bumpy. We’re figuring it out as we go. The Alpha Group consists of three members and myself. They happen to be two of my sisters and one of their partners.

Erin is an incredibly skilled human. She would call herself simply a “textile artist,” but she actually can do so much more. I’m probably going to leave a few things out, but she is a seamstress, quilter, painter, dollhouse interior decorator, crocheter, bookbinder, and leather worker. She made me the most fantastic backpack for Christmas one year, I use it all the time and get so many compliments.

Erin has an “essential” full-time job, so she doesn’t have a lot of time for creativity, even during the pandemic. Before joining Art Office, she estimated that she spent under five hours per week working on her art, and has committed to bumping that up to around ten hours weekly during the period. Already, she’s created a beautiful table cloth, as well as done necessary research and planning for her upcoming quilt project. Go Erin!

Anna Laura is also a creative powerhouse. I’m sure she would say that her strengths lie primarily in the creative writing field, but I’m here to tell you that they extend pretty dang far beyond that. She has a young child though, and lots of other obligations in life, so her time is stretched thin. Prior to signing up for the program, she also guessed that she spent under five hours every week on her poetry and writing, and she’s committed to increasing that to upwards of fifteen hours.

Like a lot of us do though, Anna Laura bit off more than she could chew during her first week. Her goals were lofty, and– as they say– life happened. When we all met for our Weekly Review Meeting at the end of that first week, she explained her situation and decided that the next week, she would plan for more attainable goals.

And that’s what it’s all about! Instead of taking a “failure” to mean that you are a failure, shifting your perspective and allowing that experience to inform your future plans! It’s so easy to get down on yourself if you’re alone, but Anna Laura strengthened her resolve to learn from her overcommitment by sharing it with us. We all understood completely and praised her for her insight. Hooray Anna Laura!

Stephen (Erin’s partner) is a mind-boggle to me. I thought that my sisters and I grew up in a pretty musically-inclined family, but compared to Stephen, we’re chopsticks-playin’ fools! (Sorry, sisters.) Stephen is a composer and conductor, of some import! As well as an essayist and damn good mixologist! He makes lots of music for some pretty famous people, but tends to neglect his own creative impetus. Like Erin, he was spending under five hours per week working on his own writing and compositions before joining Art Office, and has committed to increasing that to around ten.

For myself, I’d say I was spending practically zero hours weekly on my art before Art Office. And I’ve committed to clocking twenty hours at least every! single! bleeping! week! in my home studio, on my own artwork. And so far, so good! I’m working on a deck of oracle cards right now, and have been for the past year or so. I’ve gotten more done in the past two weeks than in the past six months! Very, very encouraging.

Something happened last week, that I wasn’t anticipating, and therefore was not prepared to deal with. I completed my goals early. So I was left with half the week in front of me, with nothing concrete to work on! Naturally, I allowed myself a pat on the back, but after that, I started to slump. A nice little proverb or something says that “Without a vision, the people perish.” So true. I absolutely need something in front of me to reach for, otherwise I feel like I’m just floating in space.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have these grounding thoughts during my mid-week drift, and accidentally ended up spending the rest of the week.. mostly just sleeping. Next week (this week) is going to be different!

Part of the “Goals Sheet” we fill out and share with each other every Monday is a “Plan of Action.” It’s the place where we think critically about the individual days of the week, and how our individual goals can fit into them comfortably. It’s easy to get burnt out by having too many goals in one day. Planning for balance throughout the days and hours probably would have helped me tremendously last week. So– like Anna Laura– I’m going to put this lesson to use this coming week and do my best to structure my goals evenly and thoughtfully throughout the next seven days. Hooah!

Tomorrow is our first Beta Test Group meeting. I’m so excited! I’ll do another post next week to let everybody know how it went.

Art Office!

Hi guys!

I’m getting ready for our very first Art Office meeting this evening. We’ve got one group already going. At first I was calling them the Gamma Test Group, because Gamma comes after Beta in the Greek alphabet, but then I realized.. they are the first test group, so shouldn’t they be the Alpha Test Group? So I Googled “why beta test not alpha,” and I learned something new! Turns out, the terms are used in the tech industry, and an Alpha Test is one that’s performed on software– looking for bugs and such. Then the Beta Test is carried out by humans.

Now you know.

Anyway! I’m getting ready for our first meeting, ironing out the wrinkles in my plan, making sure I know what I’m going to say. I have to admit, I’m pretty excited. Nothing has really excited me like this in a long, long time. It feels like the real beginning of something.

I was daydreaming earlier about the brick-and-mortar edition of Art Office. I envisioned me, coming out of my office ringing a triangle and yelling across the great expanse of cubicles, “All right everyone, conference room in five. Get to a stopping place, this is a mandatory meeting.” Everyone looks up and rolls their eyes, but then smirks a little. We love role-playing. When we’re all in the conference room, I shut the door and shove my hands in my pockets, look down at the floor, and let a tense sigh fall loudly out of my nose. I look up, look around at my “staff,” slowly, for effect, then say, “It’s come to my attention…” (big pause), “…that it’s RYAN’S BIRTHDAY!!” And then a few people burst in with cake and confetti.

I’ve only had one surprise work birthday “party,” if I can call it that. My boss got me a cake and everyone signed a card, and there were no candles, so one of my coworkers stuck his lit cigarette in the middle. It was one of the greatest days. I think that was year twenty-three. A good year.

I’ve never worked in a real office before. I remember going to the bank with my parents when I was super young and absolutely falling in love with the cubicles. I couldn’t stop pushing on them. They were so soft and perfect for putting tacks in! I’ve never stopped wanting one. There was an office going out of business last year– here in Iowa City– and they were giving away all of their cubicles, desks, chairs, and tons of other office supplies. They said they just wanted it to go to a small business or start-up who needed it. At the time, I was only just starting to formulate the concrete idea of Art Office, and figured I shouldn’t jump the gun. I probably still shouldn’t even be thinking about it yet. It’s so hard for me not to think five steps ahead.

Okay, well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this first blog post from Art Office. I’ll let you know how the meeting goes.