Friday, April 29, 2011

Mary Ott to Know

Familiar face Mary Ott is exhibiting her prints at the Touchstone Gallery. Read about her process on the Screenprint Society Blog.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Week 9 - Watch Me Climb!

It’s Week 9 and I am still climbing. The picture at left is actually my 6 year old son at Earth Treks but you can click here and watch me climb

I recently received another pledge for $250. This puts my campaign at $1,850. I am pledging $150 to round my total to $2,000 with 6 weeks to go. I am getting closer!

What inspires me? Failure. I hate to fail. I am okay with losing. Losing and failure are two different things to me. When regardless of what you do to make the situation better, the outcome does not turn out in your favor, you lose. When you don’t do all that is within your power to make the situation better, you fail.

I learned about failure from Lou Salerni, a teacher I had when I was in college at SMU. One day, I was working with Lou on a monologue for an audition. It was Romeo, from Romeo & Juliet and I was trying so hard. I was doing this terrible, terrible British accent because that is what I thought Shakespeare was supposed to sound like. When I was done, Lou said, “Why don’t you try it a different way. Let’s give the character a Cuban accent. Try the monologue again.” I thought Lou was crazy and felt a little uncomfortable. Up until then all I had been doing in my Voice and Diction classes in college was trying to get rid of my accent and here was Lou asking me to bring it back. “Okay,” I said, “I will try it.“ What did I have to lose, I was already doing a lousy job. So I tried it and it was great. I instinctively found the natural places to pause, the right words to emphasize. I really understood the monologue the first time. When I finished I said, “Lou, that was great, but I can’t do it like that for my audition.” “Why?” he asked me. “That’s not how its supposed to sound,” I said. “So what” he said. “I understood you and it was more interesting than the first time, when you were trying to sound like somebody else.” “Listen,” he said, “if your going to fail, fail on your own terms, not because you made a choice that somebody else was expecting you to make and didn’t work out. When you fail this way, you know why. You know that it is something that you chose to do. You took responsibility. And, Jose, if your going to fail, fail big. Make a BIG choice, so if you fail, it is obvious why. When you make a small choice, a safe choice, you can never really be sure why. You can always wonder, well what if I would’ve done a little more. No make a big choice and let there be no doubt as to why it worked or didn‘t.”

I thought about Lou again after I took the job of Executive Director at Pyramid in 2007. My first 6 months at Pyramid were my toughest. Here was this 27 year old organization that had only had one director since Day 1. I felt pulled in so many different directions. The Board knew what was best for the organization and what they wanted me to do. The Founder knew what was best for the organization and what she wanted me to do. Staff knew what was best for the organization and what they wanted me to do. Many people who had been around Pyramid much longer than I had knew what was best for the organization and what they wanted me to do. I wanted to do such a great job and I was trying so hard.

So one day, it hit me. I knew what needed to be done. I was just afraid to do it. I was making decisions based on what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. The Board, the Founder, Staff, but I was failing. I needed to make some important decisions. Yes, they were going to disappoint some people and make others upset, but if I didn‘t make them, then Pyramid was going to lose or win based on what somebody else thought. That day, I decided to stop failing.

Pyramid is in a much better place today (and so am I) because I remembered what Lou had said. I figured out the difference between losing and failure. There are times I forget. I blame others for what is not working, run from difficult decisions. I fail, but like I said, I hate failing, so I stop, move beyond my comfort zone, go beyond what I think I am capable of and risk failing on my own terms.

I hope I inspired you today.

Make a contribution, in any amount to my Pyramid Atlantic fundraising campaign by clicking here. Have a great week.

SO, its crunch time! 7 more weeks to go and $1,000 to raise. If you were thinking about contributing, but wanted to wait to see how far I would get, now is the time. I am almost there. A contribution of any amount will get me that much closer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Image Source

Johnny Carrera of Quercus Press shows off his first screenprinted tee shirt. Find out more about his image and amazing book containing thousands more on the Screenprint Society Blog.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Week 8: We Solve Problems Everyday at Pyramid

Hey folks, its week 8 and I hope you are doing well. What inspires me this week?

Problems Not creating problems, but solving them. We solve problems everyday at Pyramid Atlantic. “How do you get all the colors to register perfectly? How long do you beat the pulp for paper so thin you can see through it? How do you make the pages in the artist book look like the branches on a tree?” You would not believe how much problem solving goes into printmaking, papermaking and book arts.

Where did I learn how to solve problems? At home. I remember my earliest memory. I must have been like 4 years old and I remember waking up one day and finding nobody home, except for my brother. I can remember this clear as day. I remember the green carpet in the living room. The big RCA television. The sun coming through the window. I remember walking through the house looking in every room. Nno one was home, but me and my brother. I remember thinking “I need to get out of here. I need to find an adult.” So I took my brother by the hand and we walked, in diapers, three blocks to my grandmothers house where my grandmother promptly called my mom to find out where she and my dad were. That's me, my brother Rob and my sister Liz in the picture.

Where did I learn how to solve problems? At work. When I worked at the DC Arts Commission, my title was Manager for Special Projects and New Initiatives, but it should have Manager for Special Problems and New Solutions. My boss Tony Gittens would call me into his office and he would say, ‘I want to do a city-wide music festival” or “I want an Arts Festival on U Street” or “I want to create a grant program for emerging artists,” and it was my job to go make it happen. My job was to get on the phone and contact artists, look at performance spaces, write the contracts, get the permits, call reporters and pitch the press releases. It was awesome! I loved being able to book a band in 24 hours or a poet for a reading in 48 hours or a presenter for an awards show. I loved learning how to cut through the red tape of city government and make it possible for artists to create, for communities to come alive with arts performance and for people to come out and enjoy it.

I felt like Superman saving the day for the good citizens of Metropolis.

Being a problem solver has served me well at Pyramid. I have been able to work with a community of artists & volunteers, business leaders and elected officials, to re-energize a 30 year old organization. We have made our greatest liability, our building, our greatest asset. We discovered a model for our workshops that impacts the bottom line and the lives of the students who are filling them and coming back for more. We have invited groups like Washington Printmakers Gallery, DC Sonic Circuits, Copiosity, Project Youth Outreach and Playback Theatre, artists like Kari Minnick, Marcie Wolf Hubbard, Shanthi Shanthi Chandra-Sekar, Jessica Buckley, Franc Rosario, Carol Parker to call Pyramid Atlantic home & in doing so, we have found a much larger place for ourselves within the area’s vibrant arts community.

Being a problem solver has served me well in my personal life. Its helped my wife and me to figure out how to both work to support our family and find time for one another in the busy chaotic lives of young parents to keep our marriage if 15 years alive.

I fail too. Believe me, I have failed many, many times and when I fail, I fail big. But, I believe in solutions and I believe that when I fail, I am just that much closer to finding a solution.

I hope I inspired you this week.

I am at $1,600 at week 8, with 8 weeks to go. I need to raise $1,400 more to support Pyramid Atlantic's awesome arts programs. I am committed to raising $3,000 for Pyramid and sending you, my friends, a message of inspiration every week for 16 weeks so that you may be inspired too & help me reach my goal.

Make a contribution, in any amount to my Pyramid Atlantic fundraising campaign by clicking here. Have a great week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Letterpress Birthday Card Fundraiser Sets for sale!

The Letterpress Birthday Card Fundraiser sets are now available for purchase online!

For photos of the sets and all the individual cards + instructions on how to purchase, go to our special Birthday Card Fundraiser page!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Letterpress fever!

The Letterpress Studio has been booked solid for about a month now. An army of Birthday Card fundraiser printers, brides-to-be, crafters prepping for fairs and newbies just getting their feet wet have kept our presses extremely busy!

See pics from all of the above over at the Pyramid Letterpress blog!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Costume Collaboration!

Teaching Artist in Resident, Anne Albagli, has spent the last few weeks developing and creating costumes with Mr. Mayo's class at Silver Spring International Middle School. These rock stars are writing and filming their own movies and needed authentic costumes for the shoot! The Alien Walrus head, the Green Machine head, and Leaf head are all made with cast paper mache, onto which the students built up unique forms for their specific creature. Most of the materials for the rest of the costumes were made with simple materials - such as paper, spray paint, burlap, leaves etc. The time machine, though, used cardboard as a base with all kinds of creative gadgets and aluminum attached. Check out the fun photos we took at Silver Spring International Middle School! To learn more about Mr. Mayo and the amazing work he does with his students visit To learn more about Annie Albagli and her work visit . Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time For Inspiration

Hey folks, its week 7 and do you know where your inspiration is? It’s right here. I am at $1,600 at week 7, with 9 weeks to go. I need to raise $1,400 more to support Pyramid Atlantic's awesome arts programs.

So, what inspires me? Time. I believe that with time, anything is possible.

At Pyramid, I see artists use time carefully, like surgeons, carefully, cutting into each minute. Slowly. Deliberately. Rush and you’ll hurt the process. The work is never finished, but each day, you get that much closer. I see young people use time to learn a new skill. To practice it over and over and over until finally, full of pride, they invite you over to see what they can do.

I did not always understand time. When I was a kid, there was never enough time or too much. Trips ended too quickly. The school day went on too long. I tried to cram something into every minute, and still there was more that I wanted to do. When I got to college, I caught up. I was on scholarship and could take up to 18 credits per semester, so I packed my schedule. I took everyone there was to take. I didn’t care if it was part of my major or not.

When I graduated from college I didn’t waste anytime. I graduated form SMU in Texas on a Sunday and was in New York City the next morning. It was time for me to get on with my life, get into a show, get an agent, get on television, get into graduate school, get out of graduate school, get another agent, get into another show. I think about that time today and it’s almost like it never happened or like it happened to somebody else. When my first son was born, it felt like I went from 0 to 60 in a couple of seconds. It was time to be a dad, time to have a steady job, time to buy a house, time to mow the lawn, time to get life insurance, time to get a better paying job, time to plan for retirement, time to workout, time to have a playdate, time to coach his soccer time, time to get to sleep, time to get up.

Today, I think I get it and Pyramid has helped me get it. When I first got here, I honestly felt that I needed 34 hours in a day to get it all accomplished. There was so many meetings to attend, so much I wanted to show my staff, so many events to go to, so much I wanted to tell my Board, so many project I wanted to do and so much I had to learn about running an organization. My first two years were insane. About a year ago, I finally got it. What did it.

You know, I was really at my wits end. I felt like I was doing everything I could and still there was more to be done. Pyramid was not “there” yet and this made me depressed and I fell into a pretty deep, dark depression and I was not sure how I was going to going to get out of it. I remember being at a baseball game with family on my son’s birthday and feeling like I was drifting away. It hit me that day. Time was mine to lose. Time was mine to waste. Time was mine to cherish. Time was mine to value.

I went to see a doctor the following week. I found time to stop. I found time to reflect. I found time for gratitude and hope. I found time.

I love time. Time makes all things possible. I have plenty of time these days and in good time, I am learning all that I need to learn and doing all that I need to be doing.

Like I said at the beginning I am committed to raising $3,000 for Pyramid and sending you, my friends, a message of inspiration every week for 16 weeks so that you may be inspired to help me reach my goal.

I hope I inspired you this week and you will make a contribution, in any amount to my Pyramid Atlantic fundraising campaign by clicking here. Everything helps.


PS: This is me finding time to hang out with my brother in law. Time well spent

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Insipration Heading Your Way

Hey folks, its Week 6. I received two donations in the mail this week, which put me at $1,500 after 6 weeks. Thank you for your support in helping me raise money for Pyramid Atlantic’s programs that serve artists, youth and community.

Like I said at the beginning I am committed to raising $3,000 for Pyramic and sending you, my friends, a message of inspiration every week for 16 weeks so that you may be inspired to help me reach my goal.

So week 6: What inspires me? Luck. I am talking about those things in my life that have just happened to me. I have had no control over making them happen. I was just lucky they did.

Like where I was born. I was born in Miami in 1970. In the late 70’s and 80’s it was a place unlike many other cities in the United States because of its large Cuban community. There were Cuban police officers, businessmen & business women, bus drivers, teachers, doctors, lawyers. You name it. In Miami, when you spoke Spanish in public, no one corrected and told you to speak English. Hundreds of restaurants served Latin food, Spanish music played on the radio and you would go to parties and dance Salsa and Merengue. Everyone hugged and kissed each other to say hello. Men AND Women. I hugged and kissed my dad even when I was 32 and he was 64. Miami was a great place to grow up.

This is me at age 5 graduating from kindergarten

Or like where I went to college. In 1988 (a terrible time for fashion) I was graduating from high school. Southern Methodist University came to my high school to hold auditions for their Theatre program. I did not want to go to SMU because it was in Texas and I did not know much about the South, but what I knew, I didn’t like. I wanted to go to college in Chicago at DePaul University (but could not afford it). My drama teacher recommended I audition for SMU, just to practice. I did and was accepted to SMU in as an alternate. Being an alternate meant that the only way I was going to go, was if somebody who got in, turned them down. Well, that was never going to happen right? Well, Melissa Brown was accepted into Julliard in NYC so I was accepted into SMU and received a full scholarship for 4 years. At SMU, I met a Dance student named Lisa Shriver who 4 years later would introduce me to her friend in DC, Lisa Waldman, who I would marry.

This is my friend Lisa Shriver who introduced me to my wife, Lisa.

Or how I got my job at Pyramid. About 3 and a half years ago, I mentioned to one of my mentors, Alec Simpson, that I was looking for a job. He said, “you know, there is this place, Pyramid Atlantic, that is looking for an Executive Director.” He suggested I submit my resume. What’s Pyramid Atlantic, I asked him? What do they do there? I said sure, why not. I didn’t know Pyramid Atlantic, but figured, I had nothing to lose.

This is my mentor Alec Simpson who suggested I apply for the job of Executive Director at a place called Pyramid Atlantic.

I am very lucky. I happened to be born at a time and in a place where I learned at an early age that I had the potential for great things. I happened to go to a high school where there was a teacher in who encouraged me to audition for a school that I didn’t know anything about and what I did, I didn’t like. I happened to call my mentor when I was feeling stuck and he urged to apply for a job at a place that I had never heard of until that very day.

Everybody doesn’t get this lucky. But I did. I am grateful everyday for my good fortune and the opportunities and challenges that I have been presented with. There are smarter people, people who are more talented than me, and people who work harder than I do and many never got the breaks that I did. I know that. I am the lucky one. I had nothing to do with a lot of it, but here I am the beneficiary and I will not let this good fortune, go to waste.

I hope I inspired you this week and you will make a contribution, in any amount to my Pyramid Atlantic fundraising campaign by clicking here. Everything helps.

Thanks for listening and please share with a friend who you might want to inspire today.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Introducing Screenprint Society Blog!

Along with shiny new tabletops installed last Saturday, 
Screenprint Society now has a shiny new blog: Feedback welcome!