Monday, July 18, 2016

ps160718 An offer of help: What is the good of money? 

A friend stops in the author’s studio and workshop with a suggestion that if a piece of paper is presented, he can take the investment proposal to someone he believes would finance the startups. This poses a problem because the author is already doing it.

A friend stopped by, and you won’t believe what happened!

A friend stopped by, a man who has been talking with me for three years about the businesses I want to start up. He said if I would write down my business plan, he would show it to somebody who might have money for the startup.
As usual, I was very busy just at that moment, but I couldn't stop thinking about his offer. So I thought to myself, "What would I do with the money?" Here I am, working away, doing my usual mix of activities—multitasking. Now I must add another task to my list: analyze my financial needs.
One approach that occurs to me is to face the fact I'm on the job. I ask myself, "What's my job?" Today I’m creating a one–minute video showing making etched brass badges. This entails a range of skills.
One skill is to start with the design on a computer, using Adobe Illustrator. Every step must be recorded as a video file. Every video file must be organized for the editor, then files must be imported to the video editor. The list of steps goes on and on.
This is my job description for that part of my day. And there's more! Not only do I have to make videos and manage the files, I also have to actually, physically, etch the brass and, on top of that, I have to file more videos my etching procedure. All told, it takes me about eight hours to make a one-minute video—one of about twelve installments—suitable for YouTube or a DVD.
Thinking back to my friend and his offer, I face a dilemma: How can I do my job and still work on an application for money? Moreover, why ask for money?
I read a book titled, "The Mythical Man Month," which explained how by adding manpower (i.e., man-hours or man-months) to a task does not save time and get the task done faster. Adding manpower to a task actually makes the task take longer.
Why is that? It's because of communication, for one thing. Imagine that I must explain to someone how to make the video of using Adobe Illustrator. Not everyone knows how to use Adobe Illustrator. That's a fact. Moreover, not everyone knows how to use a video camera–even a simple webcam or smart-phone version. Then comes file management.
There are the physical tasks, next, such as cutting the metal plate, laminating the laser toner to the metal plate, and all the other steps that I'm describing with my video series.

The solution

To solve my dilemma is to go forward with my incubator idea. Get money to start the incubators and set the stage for training people for meaningful jobs around printmaking, manufacturing the presses for printmaking, and creating support materials that go with the presses and the processes for plates for printmaking.
These tasks are not as mundane as they sound. By that I mean the incubators are set up for fun and games for profit. Taking off from my experience as a teacher, I know that people learn better if they’re playing around, experimenting and solving problems. Extending this fact to the business of manufacturing presses, I arrive at the idea that, by letting younger people incubate the idea (in groups no fewer than three) they can, over time, develop profitable businesses for themselves and a few more people.
But there’s more to this. The man—my friend and I—have been discussing a young woman who has an art history degree from the University of Washington. It seems as though she has a hard time finding a job for which she’s trained and which she likes. Actually, she’s his daughter-in-law.
Her problem is the same for many people who go to art schools, who rack up a big financial debt from student loans, and then go out to find that the only jobs they can get our services such as tending bar, clerking in art supply stores, and waiting tables.
Many of these art school graduates take it in stride, having been taught in art school that they are there to learn to be artists, not to be trained for employment. This translates into the reality of holding down a “day job” so that they can have time to develop their artistic career.
I taught at the University of Washington, and I know the truth of this. What I can offer my friend’s daughter-in-law, the art history major, is a position in an incubator. My incubator is a time-tested method by which college graduates from for example business schools, can get a start to qualify themselves for the business world.
Business students might collectively help each other find internships or, as is popular nowadays, start new businesses. The arts, however, don’t have incubators waiting for graduates from art schools. This is no surprise if you think all art is painting, sculpture, or drawing.
My field, printmaking, is different from those other arts mainly because of technology. Even a simple woodcut requires knowledge of techniques and materials that painters can ignore. Not only that, printmaking is the ancestor of all technologies; this means we can look to new technologies to guide our problem–solving thinking.
What I can offer my friend is an investment in the Northwest Print Center Incubators. The art history graduate can develop a position in one of the incubators. If she finds one or two other people with a similar problem and using new communications methods they exchange ideas, then a new solution might be found.

My job—on top of my daily tasks—is to help.

It may be a reach to connect making brass etchings with art history, and an even further reach to connect art history with a meaningful, well-paid job. But if a startup succeeds, these art majors can own a business! They can work for themselves. There quotes “day job” will not be tending bar, or cleaning homes. There day job will be a meaningful job connected to their college education.
Bill Ritchie plans that printmaking will be taught, researched, and practiced in a community of practice and blends traditional printmaking and new technologies. His press designs and videos are for printmakers globally while he builds local teams to develop the Northwest Print Center and Incubators.