Sunday, September 23, 2018

180923 Living into the future 

We’re 76. My wife and I find ourselves thinking and saying out loud, “We’ve lived into the future.” Strolling through the Seattle Center, for example. In the forenoon before a rock concert, a nearly naked teenage girl, her body painted silver, is strolling, too. She and her friends are excited because one of their rock stars, Lady Gaga, is performing tonight.
“We’ve lived into the future,” we say. When we were that age, to walk almost naked and painted silver would have led to arrest and life in an institution for the insane. Parents of such a girl would be grief-stricken and her life would be derailed. Not today. This is the future, and we are living in it.
We are grateful, but just a little disturbed. Why is it that forty or fifty years ago to walk mostly naked and painted was insane but today it’s okay?
On another day it’s crowded again but this time it’s not a rock concert at the Key Arena. The crowd noticeably high number of non-white Asians. One of them is coming our way, beaming and smiling while a knot of people crowds around him to get his autograph.  He’s a star, but not a rock star. He’s a gamer, part of a team competing in Dota 2.
We learn Dota 2 has prize money in the millions of dollars. To win one-million dollars by destroying your opponents may be average. I’m not sure because I haven’t studied the numbers in depth; I’m too old and indifferent to the subject. This is the future. It’s not my business.
What is my business is to ask, in a region that has a company like Valve – a main driver in the video gaming world and sponsor of Dota 2 – why not have an International Print Center Incubator?
It’s because printmaking is not only hard to do, it’s slow. There’s no climatic moment, a day when a participant can take off all her clothes, paint herself silver, apply pasties and a G-string and walk through the Seattle Center. There’s no way an adoring crowd of people will crowd around a printmaker to get a souvenir or autograph.
I am part of a population of slow-moving old people in the USA, a country that – according to estimates in the headlines – may be on the verge of bankruptcy. Yet money flows like a river through e-sports tournaments like Dota 2 and for rock concerts.
Daily I challenge myself to answer the question. Today I am reading The Ponzi Factor, by Tan Liu. He writes about the stock market, how it’s a world disconnected from the reality that was investment financing. The stock market, in his book, sounds like a parallel universe like my imaginary place, Emeralda.
Money is not attached to reality. The flow of dollars to buy Dota 2 software from Valve – expressed in US dollars – is real enough. Winners of Dota 2 tournaments can truly purchase a new Ferrari or better – maybe a mansion in a paradisiacal country or whatever they fancy. It’s real money – so far.
What about the 7-year old named Conrad, son of a couple who bought one of my Mini Etching Presses? At his school, is there an etching press like his mom and dad’s? While his friends are talking about Pok√©mon Go, if he pipes up and tells about his first drypoint, what will they say?
Can Conrad’s teacher relate the calculation of a roller on a Mini Etching Press – its mass, weight and circumference? Can STREAM enter the day’s work in Conrad’s classroom?
My wife and I lived into the future, but we are not part of the times it appears – not as much as a tiny number of individuals – such as Conrad’s kids’ number in the USA (about 28 million kids 4-11 years old).
I leave this essay now, it’s time to go to our gallery and pick up where I left off reading my 2013 book, Press Ghost Investor as I parallel Liu’s book with mine. It’s another story, my way of figuring out what to do.

Friday, September 21, 2018

180921 Why read the Ponzi Factor?

My paperback book, The Ponzi Factor came yesterday. It’s about investment profits. The subtitle is The Simple Truth About Investment Profits. How I learned about the book, I am not sure. It was probably on my Facebook page. It piqued my interest because I’m working on an investment scheme for the International Print Center Incubators, and one of the people I mentioned it to said it sounded like Ponzi Scheme.
Ponzi sold fake stock. Tan Liu says all stock that does not give the shareholder a vote, does not pay a dividend, and has no intrinsic cash value does not fit the classic definition of shares in a company. Instead of paying shareholders a piece of company profits in the form of dividends, shareholders can profit only by selling their shares at a price higher than they paid.
Which is okay. If the value of the shares goes down, of course the investor loses when they sell. When they sell at a loss, they realize their loss.
I make art, but I have never profited by it. I made a salary teaching art classes. Occasionally I still get income from instructing people on how to make prints, a type of art form. I never feel like I’m teaching art. How can anyone teach the ineffable?
Teaching art, or about art, is a different topic. My sense is that the aesthetics associated with the word art are more a matter of brain science than a field called art that’s dominated by people who reject science, technology, engineering and math in their daily lives except to benefit from scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.
This, too, is a different topic. However, printmaking is my thing and it is because it is the interface of STEM and Art. I like STEAM, therefore, in the efforts of educators to correct educational policies for young people. I like STREAM, too, the efforts to put Reading in the mix.
The Ponzi Factor is part of this interest of mine. I read Tan Lui with interest in learning how I can use an artistic creation I call artistscrip to finance the International Print Center Incubators. I think I can combine the art I made over fifty-four years’ time as scrip to put money into working capital for IPCI.
If someone remarks that my scheme reminds them of the Ponzi Scheme, then I study the Ponzi Scheme like I never studied it before. Tan Lui says the whole stock market is a one big Ponzi Scheme because it is not based on products and shares of profits coming from sales of products.
The closest I came to marry the aesthetics of creation of mine to a balance of product and the art experience is the Halfwood line of etching presses. People bought it for both reasons – its aesthetic merits and its potential to produce the owners’ prints. To the people who bought the press, it looked like a hammer looks to a carpenter.
The press is a potent thing. It has potential. Like a fresh battery, if a person puts it into a device, the device works on the energy of the battery.
Artistscrip must be the batter to make IPCI go. [I noticed a typo – the “y” was not on the word, “battery” so it was funny because, yes, a batter has the potential to make a go of it!]

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

180919 Shot in the arm

Yesterday my wife and I got our flu shot in the arm. This morning I got a “shot in the arm” when I found an entrepreneur kit on the STEAM group Facebook page. For years I have been scanning the Internet for these kinds of metaphors – products and services to bring attention to STEAM (and STREAM) education initiatives.
My offering is a unique one where art is brought into STEM by printmaking. I made a DIY etching press to be part of a kit for teachers and home-schoolers. Printmaking is not only an art and craft, it’s the ancestor of all technologies and therefore it’s suitable for STEM, STEAM and STREAM. All these depend on printing from the beginning of recorded history.
It is printing as much as painting that we find human records on the walls of caves and overhanging cliff walls.
Now, thanks to my miniaturized, functional presses and online instructions by thousands of printmakers, anyone can learn how to make plates and print them. My DIY Kit has been tested and proved effective, but only in a limited way.
When I saw the “entrepreneur kit” on the STEAM Facebook page, it was a shot in the arm in an otherwise sleepy morning for me.
The idea behind this kit is that the teacher or team of teachers can buy the $350 kit and have the kids work out the figures for a fund-raising project. They’ll end up going door-to-door or standing in front of grocery stores selling lip balm.
Why not prints they made, suitable for framing or greeting cards?
I wonder where the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math come in? Not as sexy as robotics I suppose; and lacking in competition like hackathons and such – but worth thinking about.
I think this is a better idea because the world doesn’t need 300 flavored lip balms. Personally, I think the product is dumb and blinders the kids. It even misleads kids into thinking, “I need lip balm” and “I need it flavored.”
Now I am looking forward to re-working this advertisement and substituting the Mini Etching Press and its features to suit my offering.
This is just one of the concepts intended for the International Print Center Incubators. Can I find the entrepreneurs for the top?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

1800913 Bridging performance and printmaking

“Show me the separation between two cultures and let me build a bridge across it.” This is what I heard from Eboo Patel on a PBS interview. He said he saw the importance of interfaith education coming to the fore, and he wanted to be part of the next chapter in the 21st Century. He started hundreds of chapters in his college interfaith organizations on US college campuses. He said college campus are the treasures of the country and extremely important to world peace.
I also want to be part of the next chapter, and I also want to work for world peace. That’s why I stretched my experience when I was a college professor. I wasn’t in the religious field, however the arts have a kinship with religion. It takes faith and devotion to pursue an art career. So, too, with teaching art. I didn’t teach people to be artistic, however. I offered my insights into what art is in the application of printmaking – a technology.
Across my computer screen today I see a message from a performance art organization: The Seattle Theater Group (STG). This organization is seeking, “young ambassadors to work with our major theaters.” They are seeking young people who are interested in the “arts industry jobs.”
I think my work is directed to the same age group, but it is the “printmaking arts industry.” Understanding printmaking as an “industry” goes further than printmaking has has gone before, that is, as an adjunct to painting and drawing. As an industry, similarly as theater has taken in an industrial component, printmaking has taken a performance aspect.
From the world of performing arts, in this case, theater, STG has a lesson for me. They are an organization which encompasses the major theaters, the venues that provide a range of jobs for people who love theater, theatrics and theater-goers.
When I was a professor of printmaking, my vision of printmaking as part visual art and part performance art was rejected at the UW, unfortunately. That I offered to teach ways that technology enters printmaking was rejected, too. Finally, I was rejected because I exerted pressure to change things.
Yet, today I’m part of the next chapter, as Eboo Patel described his place in interfaith understanding. I, too, want to build a bridge, and I want to do this in a way that’s appropriate to our region – the Pacific Northwest. That is why I work on the International Print Center and Incubators. That is why I adopted a technology platform and engineering principles such as concomitant engineer – imagining a center in place before the actual thing exists.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

180908 What is artistscrip? 

 Artist + scrip, the joining of an artist’s will to produce scrip. Artistic will initiates making, the same will which initiates a painting, sculpture or pottery-making. Where there is a will, there is a way an artist, crafts person or designer will make something. Where there is a will, there may be an invention, discovery, creation or imagined product or process.
This human propensity to explore and make things is not only artistic, as the science, technology, literature, engineering and mathematics are also initiated by similar will or inspiration. My invention (if that what it is) came when I face two challenges:
One, finance the development of an International Print Center and Incubators - IPCI?
Two, dispose of sixty years’ accumulation of works in arts, crafts and design?
The first – financing – amounts to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. The second amounts to a thousand or two thousand physical pieces.
Artistscrip is preceded by several kinds of artistic creations: artistamps, artist’s cards, and artist’s books. All three are variants of government and commercial enterprise: postage, games, and a blend of literature and craft. All three contribute to the invention of artistscrip.
Artistscrip borrows from those metaphors, but finds its validation in scripophily, the hobby of collecting stock certificates for their intrinsic design and novelty but not of their value as ownership in companies.
Artistscrip borrows its meaning from another financing method: crowd funding. Crowdfunding has become popular in the past twenty years as an alternative to stock offerings and big money backing. Thanks to the Internet, artists can raise money for projects by casting a wide net to get money in small amounts adding up to what he or she needs.
Financing the development of the International Print Center and Incubators can be achieved by crowdfunding. But what about the second challenge – emptying our gallery of thousands of art objects?
By declaring each object to be a certificate like a share in IPCI, each object is given scrip form. By prompting the same responses that make scripophily a popular pursuit, artistscrip becomes more attractive, even, than the work of art itself!
Valuation of works of art is a complicated process, and valuation of my works of art is not possible because I have not striven to make my art collectible in the commercial and collecting community. By choice I did not make art to participate in the conventions of art galleries, showings and collecting.
Those works that sold did so simply on their visual appeal. The most recent sale – a ceramic – sold for $150. The one before that, $90. The one before that, about six months ago, $3,750. Valuation by conventional means, however, is still impossible because the professional valuator charges hundreds per hour for her work, not to mention attorney’s fees associated with dispensation of artists’ family inheritance.
Entering the conventions of the issues arising from over-production of artworks is a swamp of quicksand and in it is usually advisable to destroy the works or give all away (if any depository can be found).
Artistscrip is the happy joining of a purpose – IPCI – and a means to the end. One might call artistscrip a “work of art” in and of itself insofar it results from a creative mind, a solution to a problem. There is no International Print Center & Incubators in Seattle – that is the problem. The solution is to develop it with artistscrip whose basis is my lifetime’s work.
My lifetime’s work has been both in making works of art, craft and design, and in striving for a center printmaking, prints, and printmakers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

mr180903 My own jobs act 

Robert Grudin wrote about the ideal trio working on a project: “Ideally, a bold and lavishly imaginative individual should begin a project; a methodical and tireless individual, who stands in awe of his partner’s brilliance but is affectionately critical of his excesses and lapses, should be in charge of the middle; and a third individual, patient, elegant and scrupulous, deeply impressed by his colleagues’ joint achievement but aware that it will fail without his serene overview and inspired refinements, should complete the work. Even more ideally, these three should be one and the same person.”
I am like that one person who tries to be all three, and it’s because I am a traditional inventor, using all the tricks known to invention. Fortunately, I have turned to using both traditional tools and technology.
Now I can put this inventiveness to good use – and what better purpose than to create jobs for people who want to work on and in the International Print Center and Incubators? For weeks I have been working on an invention to finance IPCI I call artistscrip. It’s a method for marketing and selling the contents of our family art gallery.
For example, I am about to design a brass plaque, a component of an artistscrip example. I imagine a person trained to make these brass plaques – the same kind of brass plaque one finds on trophies and in art museums. One might question this – after all, in this age of mechanization, it would be cheaper to have them made by a company.
However, at IPCI we create jobs, even though it’s true that we could cut costs by sending out for the product. The making of the brass plaque is like a printmaking process, and that’s why we do it in house. We train a person to make these plaques, and in the next hour we might train the person to print plates made by the same process I call silitransfer etching, a kind of kitchen printmaking.
The key to the success of IPCI is that the incubators are based on scalability, because only if the startup can be scaled up will it create enough jobs to have a positive impact on many peoples’ lives.
Compare, for example, the job I’m creating (etching 1,000 brass name plates by hand) can be scaled up. I’ve proven the process is interesting and eye-catching. At the time a reader sees this essay, 91,000 people watched my Youtube video on the subject, and ten percent received “likes.”
I viewed another startup in Seattle pitching for investments. The business is a pottery-making studio. This is a friendly community pot shop which needs funds for some purpose – perhaps operating costs. It is not scalable. It would be scalable if the entrepreneur could demonstrate they want to develop a franchise to facilitate thousands of pot shops like theirs. I see problems with it, however. For one thing, it’s not EarthSafe by my definition because the shop consumes a lot of electricity to fire the ceramics, and energy is a number one concern globally.
Participants in her startup have no opportunity to recoup the expense of their work – they pay as they go. A tiny minority may become professional potters; however, they will face the same problems all potters face in marketing and sales and their living expenses. They will have wasted their time. The pottery was not conceived as a scalable nor extensible project. It benefited only the pot shop owner. In a way, the pot shop is like the printmaking shop, but the printmaking shop is scalable because it addresses consumers’ needs and wants in more reasonable ways.
Compared to etching brass plates by hand, my members will be participating in a community with potential for steady employment as the artistscrip concept is adopted by thousands of artists and their communities of supporters. They work in a milieu of other startups connected to printmaking. The technique for brass plates is the same as the technique for making “badges” for halfwood presses, games, toys and more. The milieu includes creative makers in new technologies, such as 3D printing, computer graphics, web design, etc. The International Print Center & Incubators is itself an extended, scaled entity rooted in printmaking and branching into other markets.
I have my models to work from – an aging artist with an inventory of works on paper “suitable for framing and hanging” but with only the artistscrip (not the real artwork itself) to be consumed by an already saturated market for original art.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

es180902 Labor making 

If not for labor, what is IPCI good for? 

Artistscrip is intended to be money-making by labor-making. Today is Labor Day, and I am laboring over the subject of inventing artistscrip. I started this task a long time ago and recently I made progress in its design. I need help – like the farmer in his field with too much hoeing to accomplish. I will never be able to do it alone.
Until someone comes along who shares my interest in developing the International Print Center and Incubators, I will labor alone. I’m not complaining. It’s good work and someone has to do it. When someone comes along who can “hoe” like me, then they can invest time in learning how to make artistscrip work the way it’s intended.
There are a great many “weeds” to rout out. The first and most stubborn is cynicism, reluctance to open the mind to this new idea. Such is the bane of inventors, the nay-sayers, the nemeses who are in plenty. In the arts, this is particularly common because the arts are a common part of consumer habits of thinking.
Thus, to put an artwork on a sheet as artistscrip immediately links the conventions around consumer art to a different world – a world where there is no International Print Center and Incubators. Seattle is this place. In other cities there are print centers, and consumers know this. In fact, most consumers and print producers will point to several in Seattle as “centers.”
The word “incubators” is foreign to most artists, or, if the word is used it is used in connection with business and technology (or hatching chicks!). There has been only one instance of an incubator in the arts, and it was almost forty years ago and lasted only seven years. It was known by its participants as Triangle Studios.
Triangle was an incubator for young artists who wanted to participate in the art world as it was known then in Seattle. There was an emerging class of art buyers who were less interested in the old Northwest School and more interested in what artists under the age of thirty were doing. A few sharp art dealers saw this new market and opened art galleries to provide for it.
Triangle was one spot where the new ideas could gestate and develop. The experiment in an art incubator was successful, and when the artists were sufficiently confident financially, they left Triangle Studios and worked in studios limited to production. Now they are in their ‘sixties and their stories complete.
IPCI is not that kind of incubator, because there is no emerging class of consumers who are so interested in what artists under thirty are doing that they will pay thousands of dollars a year to purchase it. Besides, it was not printmaking that made the artists of the 1970’s and 1980’s independent. Printmaking was a minor part of their output. Printmaking was valuable only in the social lessons those young artists learned plus an introduction to basics of new technologies like video and computer-aided art.
IPCI is not focused on production of that bygone era. IPCI is focused the creativity that is assigned to artists but not to their products. IPCI is focused on experience and labor-making of the sort described in the two popular terms: the experience economy and the creative economy. IPCI has printmaking at its core, but not making prints alone. The act of making prints is more important than the print, for it is the action that people respond to (and spend money) and not the prints.
This does not exclude buying prints, but largely so. That’s why the core concept behind artistscrip to develop IPCI is not for the products called prints, but for the action of participating in the development of a city asset – the International Print Center and Incubators. The product is the stock certificate, conceived in the spirit of concomitant engineering, where the process and product form a continuous loop, or spiral.
Labor is involved now in my making of actual, physical certificates, the elements that I invent that go into it, the models I use to design it (such as the companies that sell decorative stock certificates of real corporations) and the features that make the certificate link to the Internet.
The labor comes from managing the story, the images, the links on the web, and hands-on etching. Already I am getting closer to the engraving of the printing plate for the certificates. I’m happy to be in contact with an engraver in Brazil for one of the colors, and one in Maine. In Hungary I have a contact whose specialty is in theories about traditional banknote engraving and cybercash.
Now I must go back and “labor” in my studio on this fascinating stage of my development of IPCI.