Atypical Notion

What I Learned From My First Exhibition

ArtLaura McGuiganComment
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Last week I attended my first exhibition, Raw Reveal, at the Howard Theatre here in Washington DC. I didn't know what to expect going into it, and in fact went into with no expectations—nothing around sales, interest, clientele, setup, nothing. As the show went on, I kept note of some interesting things that should help me for future shows and exhibitions. 

Getting Set Up and Being Prepared to Improvise

I wasn't sure how much room the stuff I had would take up in a car, and because Zipcars are so expensive for how long I would need one (about a day) I decided to rent a UHaul van. It was overkill in hindsight, but cost about $50 for 24 hours of rental, which sure as hell beat the $120+ rental for a Zipcar. 

When I got to the venue, I realized that because I was up against a wall, I couldn't place the grid panels they provided against the back to act as a backdrop and instead had to create a stall out of my space. This meant that I had to reconfigure my work and my set up on the fly to optimize for this unexpected change. I also shifted one of the panels during the beginning of the show to corral more people as I noticed people completely overlooking me.

I was also fortunate/unfortunate to end up at the bottom of the first set of stairs as you enter the venue. This was good because I was the first thing people saw and given my layout, a lot of traffic backed up here, getting me more eyes. But it was also not great because people had just gotten to the show and either didn't want to buy anything just yet, or were so distracted by the myriad options in front of them that they completely overlooked my work. 

In hindsight I would probably move the table with my prints out to be parallel with the back wall where my banner was, so that people could more easily see them without feeling like they were coming into my nook (twss). I think that would have increased print sales, which I was suprised were so low. Which brings me to my next point.

Low Print Sales

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I know I said I went in without any expectations, but I did figure my prints would sell better than they did. After all, my whole schtick is affordable prints and fine art—I want to maintain that accessibility so I put a lot of effort into prints of my work; purchasing a scanner and printer, calibrating, printing 10 copies of 5 different prints, and packaging them nicely. I think I ended up selling about 5 prints total, which was surprisingly low. I'm not sure if it was the venue/audience/setup of the show, or how I presented them (being tucked into my nook), or even the particular prints themselves. I still want to try to promote them more, and I'm hopeful at later shows this year I'll be able to hit the right audience and perfect my presentation. 

Oddly the work that sold the best was my $75 - $100 range of originals, which I sort of assumed would be the highest impulse buy of folks at the show. I'll likely try to incorporate more in that price range in the future for shows to see if my theory holds true. 

Talking About the Work

Holy cow I do not do well with people. I clam up and think they are judging me and oh god is there something in my teeth, what's my hair doing, am I grimacing? Constantly asked — what was your inspiration? This is something that perhaps I need to dive into more and put more thought into, but I'm inspired by so many different things that it's hard to coherently talk about it. It ends up being a jumble of 'I'm a designer of 10 years who loves blending organic and geometric, bold colors, whitespace, watery forms, juxtaposition, blah blah blah' — one of my goals is to clarify it a bit. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm in such an experimental phase where only a couple pieces of my work look like the others, so it's hard to nail it down, or if this is just how it'll always be. 

I had a good conversation with Marta at Latela Gallery last night (with whom I'm doing a 5 week consultation course) about speaking about my work and about my practice. It came down to not feeling obligated to tell too much, because it's not always peoples' business, but also it could be overwhelming. Perhaps the person asking me about my inspiration just wants to show their engagement with me and isn't sure what to ask. She suggested giving a quick bit for the piece closest and turn the question back to them; what do they see, what does it make them feel? I'll have to work on my elevator pitches, but also in gauging the person with whom I'm having the conversation to see where their level of involvement and interest lies. 


So, would I do it again?

I get a free show in another city from RAW for hitting my ticket goal so I'll likely do that. I'd like it to be an important city like LA, SF or NYC, but those are far and the logistics makes my head hurt. As for another one in DC, I'm not sure. If it was specific to the type of work I did, I think I might, but I think these shows were more for the fashion and hair and make up crowds; I didn't get a sense there were a lot of people interested in my work. Now, that could have had to do with my location at the show, or the fact that it was my first show so I had put a lot of effort into the production of it so it was disappointing that it ended up how it did. Maybe I'm just overthinking it. 

I do plan to continue doing shows, generally. In fact I have two upcoming in DC at the end of September and the beginning of October. I'd also like to try hitting the market circuit this winter/spring. Below are the dates for my two upcoming shows! 


Upcoming Shows

Art in the Alley
Saturday, September 24th, 6p-10p

Takoma Park Street Festival
Sunday, October 2, 10a-5p

My first exhibition: RAW REVEAL, August 17th!

Art, LifeLaura McGuiganComment

You know, Instagram really needs to make it clearer that direct messages have been sent — back in June someone from RAW reached out to me as she was scouting to ask if I'd be interested in participating in an upcoming art show at Howard Theatre, here in DC. I didn't see the message until a week or so ago, the very last week for submissions. 

RAW is an independent arts organization, for artists, by artists. It was started in LA in 2009 by Heidi Luerra after realizing there had to be a better way for artists to get exposure. They now include artists from all walks of life—photographers, painters, jewelers, musicians, hair stylists, make up artists, fashion designers. The event ends up being a crazy awesome mix of exhibit hall and fashion stage. 

Now, I'm not really a people person, so I'm going into this with a bit of hesitance; I know its good for my work/brand but my anxiety around crowds is no joke. There ends up being about 800-1000 people that come to the show, which is a CRAZY amount of people seeing my work in such a short period of time. So, shut up anxiety, here we come!

I'm working on a slew of new work, including jewelry, to share at the show. It really is an awesome opportunity and I'm interested to see how successful or not it is for me. In order to truly have a great time though, I need YOU ALL to come!

Tickets are $20 and I have a goal of selling 20 of them. The details are below:

When: Wednesday, August 17th, 7-11pm
Where: Howard Theatre, Washington DC
Cost: $20

CLICK BELOW TO SUPPORT ME!

Please click the image above to get your ticket — ensure that the artist listed is Atypical Notion. I do hope you all can support me! :)  

A Successful First Week (Month?)

ArtLaura McGuiganComment

Today marks a week since I launched my online art presence under Atypical Notion! I had previously used this moniker for my interior design blog and it felt right for what I wanted to do with my art and craft. Something not quite familiar or down the same beaten path. It felt true to me as a person, which was one of the reasons I even got the domain years ago. 

So last Wednesday, on sort of a whim, I launched my online store and branded digital presence on Squarespace. I had plans to use Etsy to sell, but one of the things I really wanted was a place to showcase my work, and build my identity as an artist. Squarespace made it super easy to do so and I liked the approach of a monthly fee over a transaction fee — felt less nickel and dime-y. 

Last Wednesday marked a month since I began my artistic endeavor full time. Kismet, I suppose (honestly I hadn't realized it was exactly a month from the Monday I started focusing on this 100%). I've made a lot of mistakes so far; undercharging on shipping (and even the work itself), failing at basic math in order to create frames for my work and wasting wood, making a mess of our house (sorry, Eli!), spending way too much at Ikea and Home Depot, and not understanding how to get clean and crisp scans of my work for future prints. 

Ah well. It is what it is. That's kind of been my motto for awhile. It's all a learning experience and fortunately I was able to save up to make a few of these mistakes. 

I think the thing I'm most excited and also stressed about is that all my work sold out within a week. I truly appreciate the support from friends and family in these early days, gives me a small lift to continue experimenting. But will the next round be as successful? There's a much clearer pressure to produce work this time around, without the guarantee that it'll sell as well as the last time. I also want to diversify my work and hop into jewelry design a bit more seriously—I have the supplies all set and ready, but the rush of the last week's successful launch sort of put that on the back burner. I'm obviously not making the money I was when I was at my startup job, and I'm okay with that—but what happens when the savings runs out? Finding that balance between accessible work and paying my mortgage is looming in the distance.  

There are some fun and exciting events coming up in the future that I wouldn't have expected—commissions, showcases—I feel like a real artist, starving and all. ;) For now, it's back to experimenting and building an audience. Can't wait to share what's next with you all. For now, here's an uncomfortably awkward studio selfie from a couple weeks ago.

Answering the Call

LifeLaura2 Comments
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  I quit my job. With nothing lined up.

I should probably be freaked out about it, and every once in awhile I am, but I have an important reason for doing it. Over the last ten years, I've been a graphic/web/user experience designer, working on solving other people's problems as my own problems sat in a vault. Every once in awhile I could hear a tap from the inside of the vault — let us out, we have a voice that needs to sing — but I would just turn the volume up on my headphones and reluctantly dive back into the work I had to do. I padded that vault with small projects here and there to muffle the voices coming from inside — moving from job to job in search of a new creative project, focusing on interior design and reworking my homes again and again — all in an effort to quell the voices that got louder and louder.

I thought the voices I heard from the vault were telling me I needed control of my environment, both creatively and day-to-day. I found that in 2012 in the form of a budding startup that needed a designer to brand them, create amazing experiences for them, and help define the culture of design and creativity within the company as it grew. As employee four, and ultimately Head of Design, I had a unique opportunity to flex my creative muscles and define the shape of a lot of things. But as the company grew in its success, so did the number of challenges that ultimately clawed away at the barrier I had built up around my vault. I started to hear the voices again, and grew concerned, since I had what I thought they wanted me to have. I began painting as a way to hush them but ultimately life took over and the volume on the headphones became deafening. I flitted through life, stepping from one life event to another in a daze. I started seeing a therapist, taking Prozac and Wellbutrin and trying to practice meditation exercises as frequently as I could remember. I started to think this was just how it was supposed to be. I was miserable.

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And then I read this article. The fire started small again, but this time it burned deeper, hurt more. I suffered the fire for 2 more years, until my 30th birthday when I removed myself from the world, hung with the Mayans, stared at the ocean and read several books (including Elle's "The Crossroads of Should and Must") that have led me to this moment. Well, the moment two months ago when I gave notice with a jumbled reason of being "ready for my next thing". I was still processing it—it aligned with other company events, and I took it as a sign—but knew I must do this. I found the combination for that vault and let it fly open, years and years of musts pouring out. To say it's been overwhelming is an understatement, but I must wade through it. It's hard to explain it to others—others who are so used to 'work', to having to be in an office from 9-5, that that is the status quo, the requirement. But it was a should for me, and I felt trapped, as I have for almost 10 years.

As though the planets had aligned, Elle's 100 day challenge began shortly after I gave my notice.

I raced to the art store and spent $300 on supplies. New brushes, canvases, paint and more paint. I went back 3 days later for more. And again a week later. My must is exploring my art, my desire to create, in a way I never had before. I've always dabbled in art, excelled at it in high school and college, but ultimately an artist should go into a field that is secure, i.e., design. And that's when the vault was built.

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But the vault is no more. Our library got turned into a studio. I spend at least an hour a day in there, and on weekends, most of the day. I explore techniques that are foreign to me, try to find my voice and answer the call. I hope to produce a body of work that resonates with an audience and allows me to find some viability in the call. But I'm keeping an open mind and giving myself a couple months to explore and see what becomes of it.

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I feel like I have so many gifts to give the world, that I actually enjoy pursuing, and now is the time to explore them. Perhaps Atypical Notion will stay as is, perhaps it will turn into something else — but it's time. It's been time for awhile, and its finally time to quit hitting snooze. I can't wait to show you what I can do.

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Quiet Statements: Enamel Pins

StyleLauraComment
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I've noticed a trend coming full force over the last few months: enamel pins. I think they are a great way to add a little style to an outfit without being an overstatement. Below are a few of my favorites that might be considered overstatements - but those are the best statements, no? enamelpins2

1: Anxiety Alliance / 2: Just Let That Shit Go / 3: Humans are Idiots / 4: I Like Cats / 5: Prefect / 6: The Future is Naps / 7: Nope / 8: Dead Mac / 9: No Fucks / 10: Bad Bitch Club / 11: Full of Shit / 12: In Cats We Trust / 13: Cat Cleaning / 14: I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

Which one's your favorite? Is there another you've seen around that speaks to you? Share it!