Arisia 2019 - Go or Cancel?

By Terri & Ariela

Well, frak. It sums up our feelings.

Well, frak. It sums up our feelings.

When the Internet blew up surrounding several accusations of mismanaged Incident Reports by the Arisia Corporation’s Executive Board, we faced a very difficult decision. Do we stay with a convention that has been a very important source of both income and fun for us, or do we boycott as many are doing? This was compounded by the fact that Terri is now living in Israel for two years, and going to Arisia means an expensive international plane ticket.

Neither of us wants to support an environment in which assaults are not taken seriously or handled properly. While Arisia has an extensive Code of Conduct and a dedicated Incident Response Team, it’s clear that changes need to be made in who this team consists of and how they manage both official and unofficial reports.

Our difficulties in making this decision were further complicated by the vagaries of space and time. Ariela first heard about it on a Thursday night, when Terri was already in bed. By the time both of us were up the next day, Terri was about to bring in Shabbat. And what with one thing or another, by the time we managed to sit down and have a discussion about what to do, the window for a principled exit to effect change had closed: the former president had been kicked out, most of the EBoard had resigned, and an external review team had been contracted to revamp the IRT processes. At this point, publicly stepping away would signal dissatisfaction with the changes that are taking place, not disgust with the initial problem. And while we think that the changes made so far are not sufficient to call the problem fixed, we want them to continue this process.

Because of these efforts, we are cautiously giving the convention a last chance. We will be watching carefully to see how these changes are implemented. If we are unsatisfied, we will no longer be attending or exhibiting at Arisia until we can be sure that everyone in attendance is safe.

We ask that if you choose to boycott the convention, you support the artists and vendors who rely on it for their income. These people do not deserve to be punished for the actions of others. We will be posting a list of all of these in early January, before the convention.

Etiquette Q&A: Inquiring about a Commission When You Aren't Sure You Can Afford It

by Terri

Image shows a hand holding a fan of 100 dollar bills. You may want art and not possess this amount of money. We hope you follow this advice.

Image shows a hand holding a fan of 100 dollar bills. You may want art and not possess this amount of money. We hope you follow this advice.

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than the product releases, you’ll know that one of our personal soapboxes is the fair payment of artists. Our friends and family are pretty conscious of it, and most of our online followers already chime in with our ‘Fuck You, Pay Me’ art print when someone talks about working “for exposure” or anything similar.

Occasionally someone will ask us about the propriety of asking an artist about a commission if they aren’t sure they can pay for it. This is a reasonable question. Our answer is yes, you can, but be respectful about it.

Here are some specific ways to approach an artist respectfully in this situation:

  1. Be polite and clear about your limitations

    • State up front that you have an upper limit on your budget. If you have a hard number, say it outright.

  2. Give them as many details as you can about what sort of work you want them to do.

    • Let them know if you are willing to cut back on your request if it means it will be within budget;

    • Tell them you want to hear any ideas they have for trimming costs.

  3. Thank them for their time and consideration.

    • Let them know that you understand that they might not be able to work in your budget and you respect that.

  4. If they tell you no, respect that no. Do not argue.

All of the above only applies to an individual inquiring about a paid commission. You can also discuss the option of some sort of installment payment plan, if that is acceptable to both parties.

Charities/non profit organizations are another matter. If your organization is asking for a donation in kind, then that’s precisely what you should ask for. Never frame it as a job for no pay or reduced pay. Don’t act like you are doing them a favor by asking them to contribute their work (a good match between artist and institution will result in both feeling like they get something out of it; if you feel the need to frame it as a one-way benefit, that’s a warning sign to an artist and it should be one to you, too). Your organization should also be prepared to accept no for an answer without arguing, same as an individual. Unlike an individual, you may also be inclined to pressure the artist by declaiming the virtues of your organization and what a good cause they would be contributing to. Do Not Do This.

In sum, make it clear you don’t think you are entitled to their work, and be respectful of the artist’s boundaries.

Arisia Prep is Bananapants

by Terri

Arisia is less than a month away. While we're also prepping panels, costumes and menus, the Arisia Art Show is a huge focus of our attention. Since we take so much more art there than any other show we exhibit at, Ariela and I have had to come up with a good system to ensure that she is not lugging too much matted art from Chicago. Last year Ariela brought most of the art to Boston with her along with the clear bags, hanging tabs, labels and stickers. I went out to Blick and bought ALL THE MATBOARD* (plus linen hinging tape, drafting tape and spray adhesive). We then had an epic matting party in my office.**

This year, she mailed all of the art to me ahead of time. We also ordered pre-cut backboards, more bags, & die cut stickers and had everything shipped directly to me. We still have not yet ordered ALL THE MATBOARD, but I already have just about everything else. I will be cutting the front frames once we order it, and then we will have another epic matting party when Ariela gets to Boston.

We have already had one exciting equipment failure (Ariela's printer decided that NOW was the best time to die, necessitating an express trip to Office Depot), but so far everything seems to be going OK.

So here are some picture of the already bananapants process, which is going to get Even More Bananapants as we get closer to the con.

This is sad art that the printer decided to eat.  [Image shows three different art prints that have color layers in the wrong places, chewed corners and black ink on their edges]

This is sad art that the printer decided to eat.

[Image shows three different art prints that have color layers in the wrong places, chewed corners and black ink on their edges]

The new printer calmly doing its job.  [Image shows a printer on top of a bookshelf with a print half completed coming out of it]

The new printer calmly doing its job.

[Image shows a printer on top of a bookshelf with a print half completed coming out of it]

A new treat for this year's art show - Stickers!  [Image shows a pile of colorful die cut stickers in plastic hanging bags]

A new treat for this year's art show - Stickers!

[Image shows a pile of colorful die cut stickers in plastic hanging bags]

ALL THE ART!  [Image shows a pile of unmatted prints and greeting cards on a wood floor]

ALL THE ART!

[Image shows a pile of unmatted prints and greeting cards on a wood floor]

Backboards. It turns out that it's cheaper to buy pre-cut matboard for the back of a print than it is to cut them ourselves.  [Image shows stacks of 11x14 and 8x10 backboards plastic wrapped together, surrounded by brown packing paper]

Backboards. It turns out that it's cheaper to buy pre-cut matboard for the back of a print than it is to cut them ourselves.

[Image shows stacks of 11x14 and 8x10 backboards plastic wrapped together, surrounded by brown packing paper]

 

 

 

*I almost blew over waiting for my rideshare home.

**This involved discovering that one Does Not Buy inexpensive mat cutters and sending Matthew out to Blick to pick up a new shiny mat cutter at 9 pm.

We're Incorporated!

The logo of incfile.com, the company we used to incorporate.

The logo of incfile.com, the company we used to incorporate.

By Terri

We're coming up on the second anniversary of Geek Calligraphy as a business. Anniversaries are often good times to take the next step in the life of a business. So we have an announcement to make:

Geek Calligraphy is now Geek Calligraphy LLC!

While the distinction may not mean much to you our readers, to Ariela and me it is a Big Deal. Because we are no longer a sole proprietorship, Ariela is no longer the only one of us with a legal stake in the business. If something happens, we're both protected, which is very important to us not only on a practical level but also as an expression of our ideals; in case you missed it, workers' protections are something we care about.

It also allows us to do Fun Accounting Tricks that keeps the business money separate from our personal money (which is something our accountant has wanted us to do for a while). There are other reasons to do this, most of them legal and money related. These reasons are mostly boring to the average blog reader who comes here for the art, so I will not bother you with them further. Suffice it to say that this is a milestone and we are proud of it.

In addition, we would like to remind you that shipping deadlines are approaching fast! In order to have something arrive before חנוכה, it needs to be ordered by December 6th. חנוכה being 8 days long gives you something of a grace period, but it starts on December 12th and ends December 20th. You don't want to miss it all together. As for Christmas, the USPS has a deadline of of December 19th. In order for the art to be ready to ship by then, you need to place your order by the 14th.

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Getting Your Art For The Holidays

Image shows a chibi Ariela under a pile of boxes and cardboard tubes saying "a little help, please..."

Image shows a chibi Ariela under a pile of boxes and cardboard tubes saying "a little help, please..."

Thanksgiving is a week away, which means that the $_WINTERHOLIDAY shopping season will soon begin in earnest.* As such, we wish to make you aware of the purchasing deadlines we will be using to make sure that you (or the recipients) receive your purchases in time to celebrate. 

As per our FAQ, we generally ship USPS First Class. That requires the item be mailed by December 19th to guarantee delivery for December 24th. In order to give Ariela adequate processing time, we will require the orders to be placed by December 14th to make sure that there is enough time to get things printed, matted and shipped to you.

If you were looking for the perfect חנוכה gift from us, that needs to be ordered by December 6th to ensure arrival by December 12th. And may we suggest the Police Box Mizrach?

No matter what holiday you celebrate, our newest greeting card makes the perfect accompaniment to any gift. Be sure to pick one (or a pack) up with any order you place in the next two months.

 

 

 

*Despite Michael's best efforts to declare otherwise, the $_WINTERHOLIDAY season does not start until the day after Thanksgiving. At least not in our establishment.

One Artist's Tips for Taking Care of Your Hands in Cold Weather

by Ariela

Chicago seems to have jumped straight from summer to winter, skipping most of fall entirely. Bloody Hands Season is upon us, so here are some of my strategies for taking care of the appendages that let me make art.

Mostly, it boils down to two things:

  1. Don't let your hands stiffen up; and
  2. Moisturize.

Cold hands get stiff and restricted movement interferes with line quality. Dry skin gets paper cuts more easily, in addition to peeling and cracking on its own, hence these steps. This can be harder than it sounds when your office is very cold. In addition to being uncomfortable and distracting, cold makes moisturizer absorb more slowly, even into thirsty skin. Moisturizer residue on hands + paper = sadness. I also have poor circulation in my hands (thanks, genetics!), so my hands get cold and cramp up very easily, even if I am wearing lots of layers on the rest of my body. Doing calligraphy in gloves isn't a practical option, so I have developed some other strategies for coping.

My ink-stained fingers wrapped around a mug with a tea strainer sticking out. 

My ink-stained fingers wrapped around a mug with a tea strainer sticking out. 

Before I get started on art each day, this is what I do:

  1. Apply a heavy-duty moisturizer all over my hands.
  2. Don rubber gloves and wash dishes in HOT water.
    The motion and the heat help limber up my hands, and the heat also helps the moisturizer absorb into my skin more quickly and thoroughly. Also, this gets the dishes done.
  3. Make a hot beverage in a mug. The mug is important.
  4. Start calligraphy. At the end of every line, put down the pen, wrap both hands around the mug of hot beverage and take a good sip.
    Drinking something hot warms me up, but the key point here is the hand motion. Unlocking my fingers from around the pen stretches them, wrapping them around the mug heats them.
  5. Reheat and refill beverage as necessary.
Fingerless mitts designed and knit by Terri. Nine years of hard use and still going strong.

Fingerless mitts designed and knit by Terri. Nine years of hard use and still going strong.

When I am working just in pencil, I can wear fingerless mittens, like this pretty purple pair that Terri made for me back in 2008. When I work with ink, though, mittens are a no-go. All it takes is a drop of ink on them, then when I put my hand back to the art it will soak right through my guard sheet and the entire piece is ruined. (A guard sheet is a piece of paper I put on top of the art so that my hand, with its sweat and oils, will not rest directly on the art.)

Hand Stretches

Stretching your hand and arm muscles is something to do year-round, not just when it gets cold, but it's extra important when it's cold and also more difficult - stretching in the cold is more likely to lead to injury. So I try to put on my mittens when I do my stretches, and I try to do some extras when I am in the shower and know that I am adequately warm.

If you don't already have a series of hand stretches you like, these are some good ones to start with.

 

Take care of your hands and happy cold weather!

Signing Off For Tishrei

by Terri

Image shows chibi Ariela with swirly eyes under a large weight with 'Jewish Holiday Calendar' written on the side together with a calendar showing many days blocked off.

Image shows chibi Ariela with swirly eyes under a large weight with 'Jewish Holiday Calendar' written on the side together with a calendar showing many days blocked off.

Wednesday night begins the cycle of fall Jewish Holidays that we blogged about in our post "Tishrei Is Coming." Both Ariela and I are observant of the restrictions imposed by these holidays, which means that regular blogging and frankly much work becomes difficult over the next four weeks.

So while you may see Tweets and the occasional Facebook post when we feel something needs to be shared, this blog is going to be quiet. While we will be taking orders for prints and greeting cards, they may be slower to ship than usual. We probably* will not be taking ketubah orders for the next few weeks. 

If you are observant of these holidays, we hope that you have a joyous and meaningful holiday season and a good & sweet new year.

.תחיו ותזכו ותעריכו ימים. חג שמח, ושנה טובה ומטוקה

 

 

 

 

*Obviously emergency ketubah situations do happen and we will make our best effort (with applicable rush charges) to meet your needs in that case.

Fun With Flowers

by Terri

Stock photo of a bouquet of flowers in a green glass vase. It has pink roses, baby's breath, ferns, pink & white lilies, purple statice flowers, forget me nots, blue daisies and a purple flower not tagged. Photo via  123rf

Stock photo of a bouquet of flowers in a green glass vase. It has pink roses, baby's breath, ferns, pink & white lilies, purple statice flowers, forget me nots, blue daisies and a purple flower not tagged.
Photo via 123rf

When advertisers exhort us to "say it with flowers," they often don't know how deliberately flowers can talk. While everyone knows that roses mean romance, did you know that daisies mean innocence? Or that larkspur means haughtiness? And that's only according to this flower dictionary.*

When we set out to make our Covertly Hostile series of cards, we took inspiration from the Victorian** custom of using flowers to send messages without words. People used to send each other bouquets that could be anything from a poem to a gorgeous insult. According to our favorite dictionary, the stock bouquet pictured means something along the lines of: "You are my true love because of your innocent, elegant, beauty and loyalty." And that's just what I could figure out from the flowers I actually know. 

The knowledge that flowers can carry intricately coded messages is not longer quite as popular as it used to be. This helps us create our Covertly Hostile cards - the average person doesn't dissect the image of a bouquet of flowers the way the Victorians might have. This means that they usually see "generic pretty thing" and leave it at that, and you can feel free to say exactly what you need to.

 

 

*There have always been multiple flower dictionaries. Flowers could have incredibly regionally specific meanings, that often contradicted meanings from the next county over.

**While the Victorians took the custom to their usual elaborate conclusions, flowers have carried meanings since at least Shakespeare.

Employing A Sensitivity Checker

by Ariela

Old Economy Steve longs for the days when he could avoid people telling him how offensive his views are.

Old Economy Steve longs for the days when he could avoid people telling him how offensive his views are.

Sensitivity readers have been quite the hot topic in some parts of teh interwebs lately.

What is a sensitivity checker? When a creative type, in my case an artist, wants to use cultural elements from a culture not their own, you employ someone from that culture to act as an expert guide, telling you things that are important to know, and giving feedback that should help you to portray the culture in question accurately and in a way that is not offensive. This can cover anything from preventing embarrassing errors like those from our Jewish Stock Photography Fail Blog, to the horribly offensive error of making Nazis the good guys in a Holocaust novel supposedly told from the point of view of a Jewish girl (we won't link to that book, but here is a scathing review by Katherine Locke). 

In some ways, it is no different than consulting any other expert so you don't make ignorant mistakes, but here the stakes aren't just your own embarrassment but the possibility of perpetuating oppression of real people. 

I recently had my first serious sensitivity check. Our product release next week will include a picture of a keris, which is a Malaysian dagger with serious cultural significance. That's the sort of thing you don't want to just assume you can just chuck into a piece of art when you don't know anything about the culture surrounding it. Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, we were connected to Jia-Ling Pan, who was incredibly helpful. We highly recommend her, if you need a sensitivity check for anything from Malaysia. (Let us know if you would like to be put in touch; she said she would prefer a referral than a link.)

Here are a few basic takeaways from the process.

1. Pay them.

This should go without saying, but alas, it needs to be said. Giving someone a crash course in the intricacies of one's culture isn't a privilege, it is work. Listening to and answering questions, many of which may be ignorant and even offensive is hard work. Giving constructive feedback is work.

This is true for art and even more true for reading a manuscript, which takes a heck of a lot longer.

Pay them. If one cannot afford to pay someone from the culture one is writing/singing/art-ing/movie-making about to do a sensitivity check, then one doesn't get to play in that sandbox.

This doesn't mean you don't get to create, just that this particular avenue is not available. Lack of money sucks. It sucks for you as a creator, but it also sucks for people whose culture gets trampled over insensitively and are then asked to help someone else make sure they're doing it right for free. Sensitivity checkers need to be paid.

2. Listen to what they have to say, and give them space to talk.

You employ a sensitivity checker because they know things you don't. Sometimes that means answers to your questions, but other times that means telling you the answers to questions you didn't even know should be asked. Give your sensitivity checker some unstructured space to talk rather than framing everything within a Q&A. Your questions are shaped by your own assumptions after all, and they may not translate into the culture you are trying to learn about. You might even wind up getting more material out of it in ways you didn't anticipate.

3. Accept what they have to say.

Sometimes a sensitivity checker will say things you don't want to hear. You have to be willing to go into the check alert to the possibility that you might have to rework part of your project, a lot of your project, or even scrap your project entirely. The earlier you ask, the less likely this will be, so check early and often! Though even that is not a guarantee.

It's never easy to hear negative feedback, particularly when it means losing a lot of work. If you are only interested in affirmation and will come up with reasons why you don't need to take the negative feedback too, don't bother to have a check done at all. 

Mary Robinette Kowal has an excellent blog post about this. Please check it out.

4. No Group is Homogenous.

As in any group, different people will react to the same thing in different ways. Just because your sensitivity checker reads things one way doesn't mean that other people won't have a different take. Having more than one sensitivity checker is a good idea, particularly if the source material is emotionally significant or you are using a lot of it. And even if all your readers say it's fine, there's no guarantee that someone else will not be offended. Which brings us to:

5. Your creation is your responsibility.

If someone else is offended by the thing you made, even if you had a sensitivity checker, the responsibility is yours. It is not the job of a sensitivity checker to tell you how to do something so that you cannot be criticized for it; they're just there to give your their own read, and possibly make a best guess at how others may feel. The mere fact that you hired a sensitivity checker is not a shield against criticism, and if the work offends someone, then it is not the sensitivity checker's fault. It is on you to own up to any damage caused and decide how to proceed, apologize, make amends, fix it, etc.

Coda: Sensitivity checking is not a substitute for #OwnVoices

#OwnVoices is a campaign to lift up the work of people in various marginalized identities telling their own stories. It is not enough to have white people telling stories centering People of Color, or straight people telling stories about LGB people, or cisgendered people telling stories about trans people. No matter how skilled or well-intentioned the creator, they will not get it all. People have a right to portray themselves. And we should support them when they do by patronizing their work.

That said, I am very much not in the camp that says it is never okay for someone to portray a person outside their own identity. That leads to other kinds of erasure and normalizes the idea of homogenous societies. But when we do paint pictures of other people, with words or brushes or songs or cinema, we need to make sure we do it with care and respect. That's where sensitivity checkers are so important.

Find a Sensitivity Checker for Your Own Work

There are lots of people out there who do this work. Writing in the Margins is a great directory if you are looking for someone to keep you from accidentally putting your foot in it.