Hello dear readers!

In this blog post I’d like to share some great insights from another awesome conversation at the 2017 SNAG conference. I got the chance to have a chat with Michael Radyk, Director of Education for the American Craft Council, and Paul Sacaridiz, Executive Director of Haystack Mountain School of C.... They both had some valuable thoughts to share from their backgrounds as makers, members of the educational and academic arenas, and participants in shaping the craft community. I snagged them in between sessions for a casual chat about how they see the field and advice for building a strong career.

Part of what drew me to this blog was the feeling that we don’t talk enough about the nitty-gritty details of being a working artist -- things like money, and making a living, seem to be harder to talk about than I wish they were. Sacaridiz and Radyk both agreed that the emphasis on professional practices is out of balance with the importance of this topic, and Radyk spoke a bit about how he’s thought about this issue throughout his career:

“...I’m seeing it from my perspective as the director of education but I’m also learning so much as an artist and… professional practices, it’s like this kind of arc that comes and goes. I was never taught anything about my career in school. When I was a professor at SCAD or Kutztown, that was the main course that I wanted to integrate into the curriculum…  it goes way beyond just having a website, so that’s the challenge.

“Finding people like Kristin Mueller [executive director] from Peter’s Valley, to come and speak to Kutztown, and working with local people, but some of these local people also have kind of a national presence, because they’re pulling their students from all over, so I think that was really important for professional practices. People who were doing craft shows, people who were exhibiting, bringing them to talk to the students. And getting everybody on board, to know that that’s an important issue.”

I agree this broad perspective is so important! Once again, there isn’t only one path to a right answer, and people from many different experiences will share a broad range of ways to succeed.

We also talked a bit about the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, now rebranded as CERF+, an organization that helps artists prepare for a resilient career and make it through emergencies, (including providing grants and planning assistance -- check them out!!) Radyk’s worked with CERF+ in the past, and Sacaridiz is currently on their board. I’ve also worked a bit with CERF+, for a panel discussion about steps I’ve taken towards planning for a long-term career (getting business insurance and developing good stretching habits!) Sacaridiz and CERF+ brought a panel discussion to the NCECA conference this year, and I’m harboring hope we’ll get to see them as part of SNAG’s conference next year.

To wrap up, I asked Sacaridiz and Radyk what their advice to someone like me would be -- a couple years into a full-time practice, and someone who wants to do this as my career. They had some great thoughts:

Michael Radyk: “Always think about, in the back of your head, that long-term. What are your short-term goals, long-term goals, have plan A, B, and C. I think that’s really important to always have that, be really on top of what the overall arc of your career can be. Long-term. And be willing to change, be willing to just take risks, that sounds cheesy but it’s so true.”

Paul Sacaridiz: “Lift your head up. I think that the other danger of being in the studio all the time for one who makes their work as making their living, is by necessity you’re kind of this [head down working]. So I think to be very aware of what the field is doing, and how your work relates to things that are very different from your work. And to also kind of draw a series of circles, and to know what’s out there. Like what’s in a hundred or two hundred mile radius of you, what’s happening, who [is] leading… Know your field, so who are the leading writers, what are the leading institutions, who are interesting collectors, what are shows to be in. Specifically things you also won’t do, like who’s writing about work that’s very different from yours, who’s putting together exhibitions that you might not see yourself in, but that you’re interested in. Just to know the ecosystem of it, and to know the players and to get to these things…

To get to [conferences], I think is an investment in your career. To take advantage of workshop settings would be another thing I would suggest, because you come and you network and meet people, and it’s so rich. So Haystack, we award 25% of people who come full scholarships.”

All of this advice really resonated with me. Paul Sacaridiz also recommended applying to TA at Haystack, and I’ve put their March 1st scholarship deadline on my calendar for next year (you can sign up for their mailing list on their website, to make sure you don’t miss out.)

One last resource Sacaridiz shared with me is craftschools.us, a joint venture between five U.S. craft schools which includes a podcast series called “Make/Time,” that I can’t wait to dive into -- it looks awesome. The site also has scholarship info and other cool programs and initiatives. I encourage you guys to check out CERF+ and craftschools.us, and check back in for my next post, coming soon!

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