Joy of Process – Kathy Wills

Polymer Clay Jewelry by Kathy Wills

Growing up in her parent’s hobby shop, Kathy Wills’ mother sold dollhouse miniatures, exposing her at an early age to polymer clay crafts. She could not find her knack creating miniature food or kitchen items, but she found her niche with jewelry making. 

Studio Tour Artist Kathy Wills in her Studio

The process is important to her, as she can experience the joy of playing and experimentation with color, shapes as well as technique. Each jewelry piece is a one-of-a-kind creation, and her memories of a piece are not of the finished product, but of the journey of making. “The product is a happy bonus. I enjoy mixing color and shapes as well as experimenting with new techniques,” says Wills, “What is really more memorable to me is the fun I had in making it.”

“I love to use color and create bright, cheerful pieces,” she says, and indeed her work is full of vivid colors and bold shapes. However, her technique is anything but simple. Wills uses complex processes to mimic natural materials, such as turquoise.  The realm of possibilities with polymer clay is endless and Kathy considers herself in a state of perpetual learning.

Meet & see the working studio of Wills along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

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Craft and Play – Andrew Storie

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Andrew Storie in his studio

Andrew Storie is the Preparator and Gallery Tech at Tulsa’s new Hardesty Arts Center, and though he started with a career in graphic design, Storie continued to hone his skills and creativity in sculpture. A background as a commercial artist led him to favor works that exemplified expertise. “I am interested in concept, craft, and presentation in my work,” Storie said, “I like functional and form oriented works in almost equal measures.”

Sculpture by Andrew Storie
His interest in craft and presentation, combined with his tendency towards functional objects, leads his sculptures to have a quality of play and interactivity. “I find a great deal of interest in playing and I encourage people to play with the “toys” I make”, he says.


His wood-hewn masks evoke an eastern aesthetic, sometimes investigating Japanese mythology; while his sculptures seem to recall an era gone by, when toys were hand-built by artisans. He enjoys involving viewers through interaction, granting them a vehicle to create alongside him. “In a way it allows me to play with all the other kids,” says Storie. 

Meet & see the working studio of Storie along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Pressured to Submit?

Are we pushing people towards versions of success they don’t want? 

That’s what occurred to me when rereading the Jackie Battenfield book The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love.

We spend a lot of our Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) energy promoting opportunities for artists—things artists can apply for like call to artists for exhibitions, grants, training and the like. We constantly encourage artists to “submit.”

Meanwhile, Battenfield emphasizes that artists should consider readiness, stating “understand where you are in your development rather than define your practice by where you think you should be” (emphasis mine).
Notes from Artist INC program about planning artists’ careers

By sharing and encouraging people to take advantage of opportunities, we aren’t suggesting that they are required or right for everyone, but it might seem that way (especially since we can be relentless about promoting upcoming deadlines).
However, I am tempted to add more caveats to our calls to artists to encourage artists to consider, reconsider and weigh the opportunity more. 
Oklahoma Artist INC facilitators & administrators at Kansas City training

Over the past few days, a strong crew of Oklahoma artists, Kelsey Karper (from OVAC), and I have been trained to facilitate the innovative Artist INC in Oklahoma Citythis fall (check it out!).

The program underscores deliberate planning to reach artistic success. To really find sustainable careers, artists have to set their goals and be aware of dreams.
So we will keep encouraging people to apply, hoping that artists have the capability to apply and hear about the opportunity, but at the same time know that they can choose not to apply for good reason sometimes…

Watch for all our call for entries here or sign up for our email list to get direct notifications about artist deadlines. 

From Design to Raw Creation: Nicole McMahan

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Nicole McMahan in her studio.

Inspired by her carpenter father, Nicole McMahan uses installation art and furniture design to take her from the technology of design into raw creation. Her new work combines her interest in patterns with her connection to wood through bright colors.

McMahan has her BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Tulsa, and has her own design studio, look ma! creative, where she has designed publications for organizations like Living Arts of Tulsa. Graphic design is about solutions,” she says, “The challenge to solve what begins as a thought and create a visual piece from that is very satisfying to me. I love the process from start to completion. And I love generating ideas; not just new ideas, but also improving on ideas.”

Nicole McMahan, Trailer Park Tongue/no. 01/Home, circa 1977, Mixed Media, 36x40x36

With her background in design, her primary work is in print media, but she explores and incorporates painting, furniture design and installation. “The tangible outcomes of both design (printed piece on paper) and other media (installations, furniture, mixed media) give meaning to my work and tremendous satisfaction,” says McMahan.

She has exhibited in OVAC’s Concept/OK with an installation based in trailer park culture titled Trailer Park Tongue/no. 01/Home, circa 1977. “This piece began as a very conceptual idea that I was unsure of in its final form,” says McMahan. “Instead, I approached it as a personal work for myself, yet it turned into an engaging piece for others to formulate their own ideas and thoughts”

Her studio is decorated with a wall mural drawn by her own children, a must see for any visitor. 


Meet & see the working studio of McMahan along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio Tour. For more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Fantastical Fashion – Valentin Esparza

Val Esparza, Empire in Denial, Palm Leaves, Cotton, Canvas Dress,  60″x42″x2″

Valentin Esparza started creating his art “by accident,” as he says, at a friend’s sewing party. 

“I made a bag with this fabric I found at Living Arts and fell in love with, and continued making bags. Eventually it escalated into dresses,” says Esparza. Since then he has fallen in love with sewing and textiles, creating alternative fashion pieces that seem like costumes from fantastical plays. 

 “Often I will grow completely obsessed with the score of a film or an artist and focus on designing with a certain character in my head that goes with the music. The fashion shows are developed like scenes in a play,” he said. His avant-garde fashion is sometimes created with non-traditional elements, such as tree bark or bullets. 

Tulsa Art Studio Tour artist Valentin Esparza, in his studio 
Esparza also designs t-shirts, and creates original screen printed shirts. Refusing to design for the sheer sake of putting out products, he creates works inspired by his environment in Tulsa for his production line of T-Town Teez. His large studio is not only his production house for his fashion and art, but also a place of learning, where he leads workshops with youth on the process of screen-printing. 

Meet & see the working studio of Esparza along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Spaces: Exploration of Art Venues, Notes 5: Non-profit Venues

On Saturday, March 9, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition offered the Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Spaces: An Exploration of Art Venues.” During this workshop, five speakers shared their experiences with different art venue types including retail, restaurants, commercial galleries, non-profit venues, and auctions/secondary markets. In this series of blog posts, we share notes from each speaker thanks to ASK Committee Co-chair Sarah Atlee.
Glenn Herbert Davis, Tulsa
Over, Mixed Media, 11′ x 13′ 5″ x 5′ 11″
Glenn Herbert Davis: Not-for-profit, university, and alternative spaces
These types of spaces will often be self-funded and are often funded through grants. Sales tend to be anomalous, rather than the rule.
When showing at this type of venue, an artist will need to transport and/or ship their work, may be giving public talks, and may spend some time in residence. There is often an educational programming component. A university, for example, usually covers at least part of these costs, and may offer the artist a stipend.
Glenn’s work is mostly site-specific installation, often with performative or time-based aspects. His work does not often lend itself to sales.
Advice for showing at a university:
Ask for what you need.
Don’t question policy. (Example – if you are required to install between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, respect that.)
Respect the time of the people who are helping you.
Be as practical and forthcoming as possible. Keep lines of communication open.
Don’t expect venue organizers to drop everything for you. Be prepared to work within their limitations.
Be organized, and do the job you agreed to do.
Every exhibition involves a practical exchange of services and time (which may or may not include money). There are no gifts.
Glenn looks for interesting, ambitious, enjoyable, low-cost things to do. If he can get paid in the process, even better. By creating repeatable, packageable works, he opens up a wider range of potential venues. He makes sure to have detailed documentation and instructions for disassembly and reassembly.
Glenn uses Sketchup to create 3-d models of his work for proposals. He encourages physically visiting an exhibition space, not just relying on floor plans provided.
Not-for-profit spaces typically review submissions by committee, rather than a single person. The committee may be separate from the venue’s institution. There may be members who are brought in specifically to review your work. Keep in mind that when your submission is under review by a committee, they are on the lookout for reasons why you might be too much trouble to deal with.
Not-for-profit exhibition cycles tend to be shorter than commercial venues. Glenn will often have about five days to install, followed by the opening, then about three weeks of exhibition time before takedown.

Spaces: Exploration of Art Venues, Notes 4: Galleries/Secondary Markets

On Saturday, March 9, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition offered the Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Spaces: An Exploration of Art Venues.” During this workshop, five speakers shared their experiences with different art venue types including retail, restaurants, commercial galleries, non-profit venues, and auctions/secondary markets. In this series of blog posts, we share notes from each speaker thanks to ASK Committee Co-chair Sarah Atlee.
Painting by David Crismon
David Crismon: Galleries and secondary markets
After your work leaves the studio…
Price your work to cover your production costs. If you’re unsure about how to price your work, a gallery can offer guidance there. [Holly Wilson mentioned that it is very important to have your work priced the same at every venue, so as not to undercut anyone.]
50% commission is typical for commercial galleries. Keep in mind all that the gallery does to earn that portion: overheads, promotion, hanging and lighting, shipping, and more.
A gallery might be more interested in selling your work than in its content.
David recommends asking friends for gallery recommendations.
Auction houses mostly sell work by artists who are deceased, though occasionally work by living artists is sold at auction. An auction house will typically take a flat percentage from a sale below a certain dollar value, after which their commission will increase incrementally. Auction houses may inflate prices, in part because they invest a lot of money into potential sales by producing expensive catalogues and other advertising.
For living artists, auction prices will affect that artist’s retail prices.