The Art of Fact-Finding – Turning Needs Into Wants


I timed myself this morning in making our bed. I’ve got it down to 1½ minutes and I’m so proud but please don’t tell my wife.

The reason I do it quickly is that it’s simple and rather boring.

Some things in life are really simple. When we do simple things, such as make the bed, we go into autopilot, in other words we automate it so it takes as less of our conscious attention as possible. That way we can focus on something else. We speed up simple processes because they’re boring.

Now fact-finding with our customers in a face to face interview is quite simple. Collecting information to populate a form is not difficult. Hard facts are needed to fill in a form most of the time. Once we have the facts, we as fully trained and educated financial advisers, know the products the customer needs and telling is simple too.

Telling is not selling – especially not rapport selling.

Rapport selling fact-finding involves getting into the tricky bit. Not just asking questions to get facts but asking a variety of questions simulating a discussion to open up opportunities with our customer, finding softer information to help us link our products to them personally. Knowing what drives them to do what they do, get them feeling concerned about their shortfall of cover, excited by a goal they had in the back of their mind.

Above all, get them wanting what we have to sell. Turning needs into wants is the tricky bit but the most rewarding for them and us.

So how do we do this?

You need some skills and some process. Skills come in your ability to ask the right question, make this come over as a conversation and a genuine interest in your customer and to have first class listening skills.

The process is this:

o Prioritise the customers needs, and take one at a time

o Discover the situation around the need

o Turn the need into a want

o Gain commitment

Like any process, you can adapt as you go but it’s important to follow some structure. What’s more important is that your customer goes along with you. Ask them to join in your journey. Tell them where you’re going to take them. Explain the process in benefit terms so they know exactly what’s going to happen and what is expected of them.

“I’d like to spend some time exploring your current situation by asking lots of questions. I’ll be doing lots of listening if that’s OK as you talk about yourself, your situation, your goals and dreams and the issues you have surrounding your personal finances. That way I’m able to give you the very best service and advice. Is that OK Mr Brown?”

Prioritise needs

Have a priority of needs which, hopefully, your customer has agreed with and actually prioritised for you. Typically this is the reason for them seeing you or being referred to you in the first place. Companies use all sorts of acronyms to help you decide needs and each fact find page is usually devoted to a particular need.

o PIMPSIO – Protection, income replacement, mortgage, pension, savings and investment, other

o PEPSI – protection, earnings replacement, pension, savings and investment

o SLIM – savings, life protection, insurance, mortgage

Above all though, the customer decides the priority, not you. And you take one need at a time.

Discover the situation

Fact finds are usually populated with the usual situation type information. Name, policy details, amount of cover, date of retirement, shortfalls of cover needed etc etc. Now you need this of course, but you also need softer information. You need their feelings about the cover they have, what they know about alternatives, you need their priorities, their objectives, their aims for their family. You want to discover what they thought of their previous adviser, how much the state provides when they retire or die.

These are just examples of their current situation.

Lots of open questions, probes and just good old fashioned silence and listening will give you this information.

Turn the need into a want

The principle here is that people are driven away from pain and problems or towards pleasure. Think about this in your life? What spurs you on? It’s probably one of those two.

This bit is the clever bit and most tricky too. There’re three avenues you can explore that’ll get the customer thinking of wanting some solutions. They can discover the problems they face if the current situation stays put, they can see that some goals might be out of balance or off target and this can cause a problem or they might re-discover or re-ignite a goal that spurs them into taking action.

Take life and protection needs. Having a lack of this can cause people problems especially when the cause happens. They die or are off work long term with an illness. Your questions should let them consider the problems for them personally and the consequences too. Your questions can allow them to think about what sort of solution will solve these problems and turn the need into a genuine want for the products. A good mixture of questions – open and probes, summaries, pauses will bring dividends here.

Careful about going in like a bull in a china shop. You’re dealing with personal information so we do need to be sensitive. Care with your question style and tone. Use lots of “tell me…” and “I’m curious” and “I’m wondering”. Also make sure your question tone rises slightly in the sentence. Really important that because the opposite, a falling tone, suggests a command and will be interpreted as an attack or an interrogation.

And you don’t want that do you?

Take savings or investments. Having these or wanting this need area requires an end results. Why are they saving? A rainy day, a holiday of a lifetime, an income on retirement, a new car, a house. This list goes on. Your questions will let them explore these goals, vision the goal clearly, discover the pleasure achieving this goal may bring. This will be enough to turn this need into a want.

What about re-mortgages? This is big business these days. Is this a need motivated by getting away from pain or towards pleasure? That depends really. You might ask what their concerns are with the mortgage they already have. They might be anxious about paying a higher rate of interest than other people or having to make payments for longer than they wanted. Here we have a problem.

Explore this further to see how it affects them personally and you might find them driven by the desire to get a better rate of interest or the prospect of paying the loan off earlier than planned. You could explore the problems of remaining with their existing lender and maybe the personal consequences. This getting away from the pain might be their motivation.

So to bring success in the fact-find we turn the need into a want. A yearning desire for some advice. Maybe this is a little utopian, but this process armed with the right questions and acres of listening will get you along the road.

Gaining commitment

Along the way of exploring needs with your customer, you’ll want to get little dollops of commitment along the way. Subject to affordability, they’ll be interested in having a look at more detail shortly. Enquiring about affordability at an early stage is a brilliant way of preventing an objection later down the line.

All the time you’re building a vision of a package of options that will take away this pain or give them the pleasure they definitely want. At the end of the formal fact find process, we need to announce that this is what we’ll show them and they can look at the options and make some decisions.

There’s not much more I can do to turn the bed-making process into a more interesting and stimulating task, unlike fact-finding. But I think I’ll stick with the 1½ minutes and keep quiet. The pain of having other jobs to do around the house is too intense.

The next time you carry out a fact find, focus on the trickiest and more stimulating part – that is to turn the needs you’re discussing into wants. Remember away from pain and problems or towards pleasure.

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Source by Paul Archer

Sleeve Tattoo Designs – Tribal, Japanese and Dragon Tattoos Around Your Arms Or Legs


Sleeve tattoos are pieces of body art that’s performed on the limbs of the body and tend to wrap around the limb in a sleeve-like fashion. Done in 3 different ways: quarter sleeve, half sleeve and full sleeve, this type of tattoo is now one of the most popular types of body art performed.

Sleeve tattoos, like every other type of tattoo tend to have their most prominent and most common types of designs. For example: Tribal, Japanese and Dragon sleeve tattoos are constantly requested in tattoo parlours throughout the world.

Tribal, Japanese and Dragon tattoo designs generally have a very artistic and spiritual look and appeal to the tattoo and are therefore very popular among male tattoo enthusiasts. Females who enjoy getting tattoos rendered tend to go for more feminine artwork, such as flowers and animal sleeve tattoos.

As with any piece of permanent body art, sleeve tattoos cannot be removed without using an extremely invasive procedure that will damage the skin for the rest of your life, leaving ugly scars. This is why I advise spending as long as you possibly can, looking and considering different and original tattoo designs. The best piece of advice I can give you is to not go for a generic design that you know thousands of other people already have.

There are a few really good tattoo galleries on the internet that contain thousands of different pieces of original artwork that you probably haven’t ever seen before. The beauty of these websites, is that you can simply print out the design you like the most and take it straight to your tattooist.

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Source by Todd Jarvis

Painting Business – 13 Point Checklist of Essential Tools Most Needed to Start a Painting Business


If you are considering starting a commercial or residential painting business you will only need some basic low-cost tools to start with. You can buy other tools as more jobs come along and with your down payments. Here is a list of the most essential painting business tools needed to get you started.

1.) Quality Cage Frame – Also known as a paint roller. Wooster and Purdy both have strong, commercial-use cage frames sold at most professional paint stores.

2.) Extension Pole – Get yourself a good medium-size fiberglass extension pole for rolling out walls and ceilings.

3.) Wall-Sander – I always sand walls and ceilings before I roll them out. It cleans up cobwebs and anything else that needs to be knocked down to make the walls and ceilings smooth.

4.) Roller Bucket – I use Wooster’s roller bucket. It is tall, square and has a lid. It is made out of durable plastic and balances a lot better than a paint tray and washes out easy. It’s a must have.

5.) Cut-in Bucket – I like to put some paint in a small plastic bucket for cutting in. There are small 1-gallon buckets of drywall compound that when empty make a great cut-bucket plus they have a lid. They will last for years.

6.) Step Ladder – A regular wooden 5-foot step ladder works perfect for most homes. If I need a 6-foot ladder I have an aluminum one for that. Most of the time all I need is my 5-footer and I am only 5’6″ so there you go.

7.) 16′ Extension Ladder – Great for stairwells or ranch-style exterior jobs. I use my 16-foot extension ladder more than any other size. I also have 20′ and a 24′ extension ladders, but i couldn’t get by without my little 16-footer.8.) Drop Cloths – I like using the runner type the most. They are inexpensive, light to carry and can be moved around the room easily. I also have 9 x 12’s on hand.

9.) Fluorescent Light – Interior painting without a fluorescent light is nearly impossible, especially on a cloudy day. Fluorescent light is a nice white light that is great for painting and shows up the colors in their true form.

10.) Tool Bucket – An empty 5-gallon bucket makes a great tool bucket. I keep my pliers, a hammer, razor-blade knives, a caulk gun, etc., in my tool bucket.

11.) Small Fan – I bought a $30 blower type fan made by Stanley Tools from Walmart. It dries out walls and ceilings quickly so you can get back to work cutting in and moving around the room without it being wet.

12.) Drywall compound – I hate Spackle. It flashes under paint jobs. I use the Sheetrock brand of 90-minute quick-dry drywall compound found at Lowes or other hardware stores for around $11 a bag. It will last me all year long. It is the powder formula and is easy to mix up right on the job with water and a small cut bucket. This way you don’t have to carry a heavy 5-gallon pale around with you that can also freeze during the wintertime and can get lots of chunks in it over time.

13.) Caulk Gun – I use painters caulk all the time to fill small gaps between woodwork, trim and walls. Most paint stores have it on hand. I use the 35-year interior/exterior type.

So there you have it. If you are considering starting your own painting business and want to know how much it will cost to get started this list will help you. I would guess off hand that everything on the list totals around $300. If you already have a step ladder and even a small extension ladder, this will cut the start up cost down considerably.

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Source by Lee Cusano

Paragliding Rapid Descent Techniques Reviewed


Hello! My name is Owen and I was a paragliding instructor in England for a number of years. Nonetheless, all information supplied here is merely referential, not advisory, and any actions you take are entirely your own responsibility. Paragliding is a hazardous sport, and you should check with a fully qualified instructor before attempting any of the following manoeuvres. If you have not qualified at a fully endorsed and licensed school then you have no business being in the air, except as a paying passenger.

This article is about rapid descent techniques. As paraglider pilots we spend most of our time trying to get up, and a very small amount of time trying to get down. Unfortunately the times that we do want to get down are usually the most serious, and all the praying in the world won’t do any good; good training and pre-planning will. If you get yourself into a situation where you have to use a rapid descent technique then you have already stuffed up, but we’re dealing with an invisible element here, so that’s not hard to do.

Big Ears

The most commonly taught rapid descent technique is Big Ears. As this is usually taught in schools it is commonly regarded as being a safe technique, which it mostly is, but I have seen it go very, very wrong on more than one occasion. Changing the shape of your wing from its optimal flying form is a risky process, but it can be better than the alternative if conditions have changed. Most accidents with the Big Ears technique occur because of bad training or a lack of understanding of the forces involved. Here are a few points to bear in mind (though these suggestions are constantly updated, and so should definitely be verified with a current instructor):

  • Each “ear” should be pulled in one at a time, not together. This point is debatable, but as the main danger of pulling in the ears is that the angle of attack is increased (due to the glider descending at a steeper rate), pushing the glider closer to stall-point. It is therefore preferential to lessen the sudden change in angle of attack by taking it in stages, one ear at a time. You will often see pilots pulling in both ears together, but this can go disastrously wrong, as I have personally witnessed.
  • A good way to reduce the angle of attack is to use you speed bar. Before pulling your ears in you should make sure your foot is resting in the speed bar stirrup, and then once your ears are in and your wing has stabilised to push out on the bar, though not necessarily to full stretch. Be careful not to use your bar before pulling your ears in, or you could get a front tuck.
  • The wind gradient is your enemy in this case. You may well be using big ears because of increased wind speed, but it is the descent through the wind gradient to lower wind speeds that can cause a deep stall, brought about by the increased angle of attack. A deep stall at low levels is very dangerous, because you do not have time to recover. Again, speed bar can help to prevent a deep stall, but remember that it is when you think that you are near to safety that the danger is at its greatest.
  • DON’T pump your ears out. This technique used to be taught in schools (pumping the brakes to exit Big Ears), but it is now comprehensively discredited. Pulling on the brakes would increased your angle of attack further, putting you closer to a stall. To exit, simply release the a-lines and allow the ears to unfurl themselves. On some higher performance gliders the ears may stay in, so if you’re flying anything over a DHV 1/2 glider READ THE MANUAL before you fly the thing.

B-line stall

This manoeuvre is intended for use at a good height (over 500 feet at least) only, and should not be used close to the ground. The danger is that the glider will not recover and will enter a deep stall. To recover a deep stall you should apply some speed bar, which will decrease your angle of attack back to normal flying range, but at low level this may not be an option. B-line stalls are for escaping cloud suck, not for landing.

Spiral dives

Spiral dives are also an up-high method of descent, and not for low landing. Spirals are very disorientating, and it is possible to black out due to the g-forces involved. Another danger is lock-in, where the wing will not come out without pilot input (or may actually tighten in the turn when the brake is released), which coupled with the disorientation and speed of descent might mean a big, you-shaped hole in the ground. In theory entry-level gliders should pull themselves out of spirals quickly and automatically, but recent evidence suggests that this is not always the case, due in part to variable factors, such as pilot height, weight, centre of gravity, and whether or not you are using a cross-braced harness.

Another problem with spirals is that unless you know what you are doing with them, and bad exit can land you in more trouble than you started with. Spirals need to be exited slowly, because otherwise all of the energy (and there’s a lot of energy involved in a spiral dive!) gets converted to lift, and your wing goes behind you and then dives in front. Assymetrics can easily occur at this stage, and before you know it your wing is performing its own improvised spiral and you’re along for the ride. Scary.

Tight turns (wingovers)

Tight turns will get you down, but your wing is inherently unstable in the process, and coupled with the wind gradient and any low-level turbulence you might encounter, you’re just asking for a collapse. Not recommended.

Pilot-induced asymmetric tuck

Similar to Big Ears,this technique involves collapsing just one side of your wing. This means that you have no real options for reducing your angle of attack, and the side of the wing that is still flying has a much higher angle of attack. Also if you collapse too much of your wing at the wrong moment, you may end up with a full frontal, or a collapse-induced spiral. Big Ears is the safer option, which is why it is taught in schools.

All in all Big Ears comes across as the safest rapid descent technique for low-level flying, while B-line stalls are the most useful for high-level stuff. Any of the above techniques should not be attempted for the first time when you need them, but in schools or on properly-run SIV courses over water, with a recovery boat in attendance.

The main danger with any of these techniques is ignorance, especially with Big Ears, which is so often performed incorrectly due to pilots not keeping themselves up-to-date with the latest developments in the sport. Remember: you may be a qualified pilot, but the sport is still young and the air unforgiving. Keep current.

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Source by Owen Webb

Antique Yixing Zisha Teapot Market – Analysis


When I first moved to China, I knocked around the back streets and roads, as I always do. During my explorations, I bought a few old teapots. Personally, I always rely on my own judgment in buying art. I have made my own art, in a number of mediums; I bought my first ceramic art, back in 1970. I studied art, I have had friends who are artists, and I have been dealing in various forms of art since that first purchase (which was sold only with the sale of my country inn, in 2000). I did not spend a lot of money on those teapots, and I liked them. As it turned out they were fakes of very famous teapot art, so I was not off the mark in my old teapot appreciation.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about Chinese Yixing zisha teapots, old and new. As it turns out, for old teapots, many people started making copies (fakes) of old teapots and aging them (bathtub full of dirt; then, dry). Actually, I am familiar with the basic techniques from my business making furniture and folk art reproductions and my other business of buying and selling the real thing. To make aged painted furniture, for example, we used old nails and milk paint and buried it in manure for a week. Brass can be aged by putting it in a place with fumes from ammonia. Then, we just used old glass with bubbles in it to make cabinets that looked antique. The point is that that is nothing new. People have been making both fakes and reproductions of many forms of art for many years.

In teapots, the situation is much worse, on a number of fronts. First of all, the way in which teapots have been signed by an artist, off and on, over the past several hundred years, is with that artist’s or factory’s stamps, which have the Chinese characters of their names, sometimes, somewhat stylized. The stamp is usually on the bottom of the pot, which appears to have begun with the Gong Chun teapot. Later, marks were also included on the underside of the lid, and underneath the handle, although there are variations. We have also heard of a tradition that the direction of the stamp should be along the axis of handle and spout facing front, but, then, we have seen that particular rule also violated. Before the late 1800’s, it was also common for carved lettering to appear on teapot surfaces. Some specific details also apply to certain periods. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, wooden seals were used with Chinese characters but no actual names. In the 1960’s, a cooperative was formed, and all teapots were stamped only with Zhong Guo Yi Xing.

However, it was also common, during that period, for artists to put their own seals under the lid. During the cultural revolution of 1966 to 1976, artists were not permitted to put their seals on teapots but were assigned a number. The point is that it is easy to make a copy of the stamp from the original stamp impressions on original teapots, which can also be done with carved lettering. Before the 1960’s, impressions of the original seals were taken with red wax, which made a slightly smaller seal that the original. These days it is done by computer. In comparison, it is much more difficult, for example, to forge the written signature of an artist, Chinese or Western, although that also is not impossible, and many forged paintings of past artists have turned up over the years. In fact, the use of a black light can also sometimes help to reveal fakes, in paintings.

The next thing is materials. As I mentioned, when we made reproductions of furniture and folk art, we used nails that were made by a company the same way for 200 years. We used milk paint that was also made the same way for several hundred years. Then, we could also get hardware that was antique, and we could even get wooden boards that were several hundred years old. We, then, finished pieces with our own homemade finishes, using the same materials that had been used for making finishes for hundreds of years. In teapots, there is old clay available because, for example, teapot artist families have been buying clay from Yixing mines for many, many years and have passed some of it down through the generations. However, one of the real differences for older clay and older teapots is that the particle size of the rock powder making up the clay was about twice as large, in the mid-Qing Dynasty, about three times as large in the early Qing Dynasty, and about five times as large, in the Ming period. Thus, at least you should expect teapots to appear rougher, the further back you go, although that same sort of roughness can be seen even with more recent clays.

The other thing about teapots is that, although actual original teapots by a famous artist have a definite appearance, that is only an approximate circumstance. First of all, since each is made by hand, there might be slight variations from one to the next, although minor. Secondly, there is nothing equivalent to, for example, the “signature” brushstrokes that one might observe in an oil painting by a famous artist, for teapot art. For example, we recently saw a copy of a teapot by a contemporary artist with whom we are familiar. There was nothing at all wrong with it, technically, but it happened that the signature was put at an improper place, according to our knowledge from owning an original. In fact, we would have bought the copy, but it was also priced at a higher price than we have to pay for originals. More importantly, part of the actual learning process for making Yixing teapots is to copy those of your mentor and of other famous artists, so copying masterworks is even built into the instructional system of the art. We even have an artist friend who specializes in making copies, down to the last detail, of famous teapots, although he does not sell them as anything more than reproductions. We see other great copies of famous and not so famous contemporary and past teapots, all around. From what we hear from our dealer sources and from our sources, in Yixing, itself, over ninety percent of the famous-name or antique teapots that have been sold over the last few decades, as originals, are actually fakes, especially those that were sold to foreign buyers, during that time. We have seen similar numbers quoted in other articles about antique teapots.

Yixing teapots have been sold to the rest of the world for several hundred years, having been shipped with tea by European tea companies to European countries. Even as early as the late 1600’s, both Dutch and English potters made fake Yixing teapots because the ones being imported from China were all the rage. Others were also shipped to Asian countries, for example, gongju teapots to Thailand. So, it is not impossible for old Yixing teapots to be found outside China, in addition to those that were not shipped outside but were later purchased by foreign buyers from mainland sellers. However, with those shipped in earlier centuries, you have to figure that not many were shipped, in the first place, and few survived since most people did not consider them to be that special and ceramics are easily breakable. Even the Sunbeam Tiger automobile from the 1960’s that I owned in the 1990’s only had about one third of the original production left by that time, just twenty-some years later. In addition, as you go back in time, there were very few teapot artists; it is not the thousands that we have, today, someof whom mass produce teapots. As a result, Yixing teapots bought by foreign buyers from China over the last several decades are considered by most of us, in China, today, to be fairly suspect.

We recently were, in fact, approached by a foreign seller who said he wanted to sell his collection of about one hundred antique teapots beck to China. Over the last several years, many foreign sellers have sold their teapots through local auctions, knowing that there was a price bubble in some sectors of the teapot market. This seller, who approached us, through the internet, sent us some pictures of rather common looking teapots, which he told us to show to any dealer and they would immediately know what they were. Now, we are not experts in antique teapots, but we know some, in dealers, and in Yixing multi-generational teapot art families. We also see thousands of teapots, both old and new, at the many teapot dealers, shops, studios and galleries that we pass through. We see fakes that are sold as fakes and fakes that we know are fakes from experience. Indeed, we had seen similar teapots, somewhere in our wanderings, but we sent the pictures along to our experts, too. What we got was ridicule for wasting their time.

In the end, making copies has been part of the art, itself, and copies and fakes have been around for centuries. The first wave of copies, in the twentieth century, was actually commissioned by several respected companies in Yixing and Shanghai, in the early 1900’s. They had the best artists of the day make copies of famous teapots from earlier periods, originally intended as reproductions. Eventually, those showed up in circulation offered as authentic, in later years. There was another wave of making fakes of all sorts of teapots beginning in the 1980’s, prompted by increased foreign demand due to the normalization of cross-strait relations with Taiwan, and it continues into today. Indeed, China is, now, famous for its copies of everything, and we see all sorts of things copied, from cigarettes to IPods and more.

Of course, as with any other art, provenance is a key in purchasing old and new teapots. For newer teapots, artists actually make up hand-written certification that it is their teapot, and that can be passed on from one owner to the next. It is much like getting the publisher’s certification for a 20th century lithograph by a famous artist. That is at one extreme. However, we even know a contemporary teapot artist who told us that he met a Taiwanese man at an exhibition, in New York City, who bought what was supposed to have been a teapot made by that artist, and he had paid around $20,000 for the teapot. He even had a written certification, but when the artist examined it, he said that the certification and the teapot were not genuine. He could tell because, although the forged hand-written signature was very good, the artist is actually left-handed, and the certificate was signed by a right-handed person. Our friends, in Yixing, who are both teapot artists and historical teapot scholars, tell us that often they see foreign collectors, who truly believe that they have authentic teapots because the good fakes are the only ones that they have ever seen or owned. I have even seen others comment on that in articles and blogs.

A few months back, my assistant was careless with a contemporary teapot that we have in the gallery and broke it. To make up for it, she went to a dealer, on Shamian Island, in Guangzhou, near the White Swan Hotel, the most expensive foreigner hotel, in town, who she thought might tell her where to get it repaired. Instead, he sold her an exact replica of our teapot that he said was made by the artist’s grandfather. It had a stamp on the bottom that was the same family name, and it was made to look old. Fortunately she paid only around $40 for it because after I got back from a short business trip, we called the artist, and she told us that her grandfather never even made teapots. So, there are even fakes, on the market, by people who never existed, which is something you could only know, if you have the right connections. It even seems that some of those foreign buyers do not even know the proper history of the teapots that they have bought. For example, just the other day we saw an advertisement on a Taiwan E-bay-like website to sell a gongju teapot, which teapots were actually made in the late Qing Dynasty, but on the website it said that it was from the Ming Dynasty, only a few centuries off the mark. Even the experts sometimes have trouble either detecting copies or in dating teapots. It is said that some experts are still arguing over the authenticity of the original Gong Chun teapot housed in the Museum, in Beijing. Of course, the Gong Chun teapot has been copied over and over, though the centuries, and even some of those copies can be valuable. In fact, we have a nice copy, and we see copies with various variations, everywhere, in the teapot markets.

At the other, provenance usually consists of the chain of ownership of the item. In that regard, sometimes a certification from a reputable art dealer is enough. On the other hand, I once bought a 19th century European painting by a known artist, from a reputable dealer with whom I had had many past dealing, and he had gotten it from a restorer, who gave his guarantee that it was authentic. In the end, I discovered that the artist’s name, just like one of our current artists, Xin Ming Xuan’s name, was misspelled in some major references about art 19th century artists, and the incorrect spelling was that, which was used to sign the painting I owned. Apparently, the restorer had “restored?” the signature, too. In the end, the dealer did take it back, but I saw it some years later, offered, again, by another dealer as an original.

As we said in another recent blog, we like to take the guess work out of art, at least, to the extent that that can be done. To that end, in teapots, we have contacts in many of the older artists whose work is being sold, in both originals and copies. We also have contacts in several teapot art dynasty families, so we can completely authenticate some teapots back through over a hundred years. We also have friends who have done a lot of dealing and research in older teapots, who know all of the tricks and pitfalls in the fakes markets.

As I said, I am not a superme expert in antique Yixing teapots, but I have a lot of on the ground experience in general teapots and the teapot markets, in China. I have been an expert, in a number of fields, including quantum field theory, functional analysis, securities and econometric analysis, merger arbitrage, securities law, fine inn keeping, art, making “antiques”, investment psychology, life in Modern China. I have also learned that one can find and use experts to help fill in knowledge and experience, and I can learn from them while I am using their services. In the end, currently, we do little buying in older teapots unless they are simply nice older teapots at reasonable prices, whether or not we know the name.

We like good art, and, while we would never say that a price on a work of art was too high just because of the dollar amount on the price tag. I have spent millions of dollars, personally, on art over the years. However, as an investor, I understand reasonable versus bubble prices, no matter if it is oil prices, the price of the Chinese stock market, prices for folk art from the 18th century, or real estate prices in Guangzhou (the real arbitrage, there, is to rent: we pay Y3,000 per month rent, whereas the owner has a mortgage of over Y8,000 per month = losing proposition for the owner). Teapot prices are already too high for works of some contemporary artists, never mind those for works of famous dead artists. A true indicator of that fact is the number of foreign sellers over the last few years who have put their old teapots up for auction, in mainland China. In other Chinese art, everyone is looking to go the other direction and sell outside the mainland, be it in Hong Kong, London, or New York.

You can see some Yixing teapots and links to some other antique teapot sites on our site and blog. You can easily find a number of references about zisha clay, Yixing teapots, famous teapot artists over the last several centuries, and teapot art by searching the web.

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Source by Craig Mattoli

The Purpose of Modern Dance


The Problem

Modern dance is one of the hardest genres to define by technique. Modern isn’t necessarily fast or slow or done to specific music, or any music. It doesn’t necessarily highlight specific physical skill or tell a story. It isn’t necessarily anything. And it can include everything. This is fine and great from the view point of many choreographers and dancers because in theory it gives them endless possibilities to play with.

The problem is that “endless possibilities” makes modern dance really hard to talk about and really hard for general audiences to understand. (This is important as they are the ones paying the bills.)

This identity crisis is understandable for an art form whose only purpose seems to be not do what was done before. Studios and even colleges often don’t have time to get into the theory of Modern dance. However, only those who take the time to learn where modern dance came from with have what it takes to give it a serious future.

Define the Purpose, Define the Genre

The heart of this problem has a lot to do with the fact that modern’s original purpose was very, very vague. Something like, “Push the boundaries set by ballet! Break the assumed rules and find a new way to move!” That is an inspiring place to start from, but a definition like “modern is movement that is different…” doesn’t give us much to work with.

As modern dance developed so did the purpose. Each era had its own twist on what the purpose of modern dance should be. And interestingly, each purpose has a surviving following today.

The Original Purpose

The beginnings of modern, fortunately, are well documented. We can read the thoughts of the founders to understand what the purpose of modern dance was for them. As we know, a strong purpose was opposition to the rules of ballet. Doris Humphrey talked about the very beginnings of modern dance:

“This is not to say that the ballet form was bad, but only that it was limited and suffered from arrested development- a permanent sixteen, the the Sleeping Beauty herself. So well established was the formula over so many hundreds of years that, as the twentieth century dawned with its flood of new ideas, there was considerable resistance to any change from the light love story and the fairy tale, and there still is.”(The Art of making Dances Doris Humphrey, p.15-16)

And as Hanya Holm put it, “You should not dance academically. It has no departure, no breath, no life. The academician moves within a group of rules. Two plus two are four. The artist learns rules so that he can break them. Two plus two are five. Both are right from a different point of view.” (Visions, p 78)

Ok, so they originally wanted an alternative to the rules and structure of ballet, but what did that mean? A genre has to have definitions of what it is and not just what it isn’t, right?

To Martha Graham modern technique was the beginning of getting closer to the heart of dance in general. Martha herself said, “The function of the dance is communication… Dance was no longer performing its function of communication. By communication is not meant to tell a story or to project an idea, but to communicate experience… This is the reason for the appearance of the modern dance… The old forms could not give voice to the more fully awakened man.” (Vision, p.50)

In “The Vision of Modern Dance: In the Words of Its Creators” (edited by Jean Morrison Brown, Naomi Mindlin and Charles H. Woodford), they describe her work this way:

“Martha Graham had also begun to develop a new dance technique… For the first time American dancers were creating new movements for new subject matter, and reflecting their own era rather than a previous one. Their movements evolved from the meaning of the dance, rather than from previously learned steps developed by peoples of a different culture. In the process of finding new techniques to express their art, these modern dance pioneers broke the existing rules; indeed, that was their intent, for they were… anti-ballet, anti-the past.” (Vision, p. 43-44)

The founders didn’t agree on everything, but they all agreed that the old rules of dance were too restricting and that the purpose of modern dance would be to explore new possibilities in movement. In 1900’s-1930’s, modern dance was current and exciting because it reflected the change that everyone wanted. As this initial excitement wore off, the purpose of modern dance began to shift.

The Purpose of the 3rd and 4th Generations

Modern dance went through a subtle but interesting change between the 40’s and 60’s. The genre had been around long enough by now that the excitement of a new way to express ideas had calmed down. Now, instead of continuing to invent new techniques people were excited about practicing the techniques that had been created. Dancers wanted to learn the “Graham technique” or “Limon technique” and perfect this new dance genre. Dancers also forgot about the ballet boycott and started taking ballet class to strengthen their modern technique.

“By the 1960s, technical proficiency had become an end in itself for modern dancers, rather than the means to an end. Technique became set and strict, codified in the style of the originator, with emphasis on greater and greater achievement. Only those teaching in the Laban-Wigman-Holm tradition included improvisation in their classes. Aspects of ballet were incorporated increasingly into modern dance classes, ballet barres were installed in modern dance studios, and many modern dancers took ballet classes regularly. Thus the wide philosophical gap between the two dance forms began to narrow.” (Vision, p.137)

The new purpose of modern dance was to take what they already had and make it better. This meant creating “modern technique” and guidelines, the very things first and second generation modern dancers were trying to avoid.

Anna Sokolow, a second generation modern dancer, feels veer strongly that “…an art should be constantly changing; it cannot have fixed rules.

“The trouble with the modern dance now is that it is trying to be respectable… We should not try to create a tradition. The ballet has done that, and that’s fine- for the ballet. but not for us. Our strength lies in our lack of tradition. Some say that the big change came in late 1920s, and now is the time for the modern dance to assimilate and solidify. That’s all wrong, because it is like building on still another tradition. Without change there can be no growth, and not enough change is going on today.” (Vision, p.108)

There were enough new dancers that wanted to learn the new modern technique for what it was, and not explore now options, that they “won.” Techniques were solidified and rules were made.

We see that today some companies continue to preserve the original technique and ideas of its creators. Kind’of like a living museum. Recently, the Martha Graham Dance Company announced specifically that their new purpose is to preserve Graham’s work.

So, modern dance has gone through its own growing pains as it tries to decide whether the purpose is to keep true to the philosophy of always exploring and changing or to preserve the new techniques we gained. Some chose technique, some chose philosophy, and some tried to do both. This three way split in the purpose made it even more difficult to give a clear definition of modern dance.

In an effort to keep things straight, the dance world created a new sub genre. Modern dance was now the techniques and rules created to preserve and improve upon the originators’ work. The dancers who wanted to keep the philosophy of modern and continue to reinvent the movement were now referred to as post-modernists.

The Post-Modern Agenda

So the next generation has tried to keep the philosophy of the original modern dancers by continuing to work against the established techniques. Except now, often the establish techniques are the modern techniques of the originators! So, how do you reinvent a reinvention?

Currently post-modernism is in a new shift. Maybe they’ve reached a point where, as Don McDonagh said, “There were seemingly no rules left to be broken… By the end of the seventies there was nowhere left to go in stripping away traditional practices.” (Vision, p. 199)

The Post-modern agenda is to continue to break the rules, and because this has been done for a century now, is running out of things to try. (Maybe this is has something to do with the reputation that modern has now of being hard to understand and sometimes just plain weird.)

McDonagh continues…

“The generation of the eighties and nineties began to work with new, non-conventional forms of theatrical presentation… [They] continued to create works that did not require dance training, but emphasized highly skilled, gymnastic bodily control… Other choreographers shaped tumbling and aerial acrobatics into specter spectacles… The human voice reciting narrative or descriptive material at times became an accompanying sound for dances.” (p. 200)

Popular post-modern experiments have turned to test, not only the definition of modern dance, but dance and even art in general. Speech has been added, music taken away, and technique reduced to “pedestrian movement” (aka walking around the stage.)

Mary Fulkerson, a self proclaimed post-modernist explains it this way. “Modern works seek to show, to communicate something, to transcend real life. Post-modern works seek to be, to question textures and complexities of real life.” (“Vision of Modern Dance”, p. 209)

Ironically this statement sounds so similar to what the creators of modern were saying nearly a century earlier.

Going Forward

Graham trained, Erick Hawkins had this to say, “More than ever in history, society needs the rich variety of powerful artists who don’t ape science but who explore sensitivity and don’t wipe out the senses.” (Erick Hawkins, p. 14)

Modern dance has come full circle: recognizing the norm, questioning and pushing boundaries, and then becoming the new norm as the specific techniques are accepted.

The goals of breaking the rules of ballet, and then of dance and art in general, have been accomplished by many brave and passionate modern dancers. Now it is time for modern to enter a new phase. It has matured into its own genre and needs to embrace that. So what is the purpose of modern dance now that the rebellion has run its course?

Martha Graham still has the answer. “The reality of the dance is its truth to our inner life. Therein lies its power to move and communicate experience.” (Vision, p.53)

This is the purpose of modern dance that will endure: to put self expression first. It of course is not always successful, but a dedication to communication is what will continue to distinguish modern from other dance genres.

Modern has done us a great service as artists. By exploring everything that can be called dance, everyone has a chance to find a place that works for them. The doors of free movement have been opened. Now it is time to take what we’ve learned over the last hundred years, and use it to express what is in the human soul.

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Source by Ashleigh Miller

Make a Small Room Look Larger With Art Wall Decals


If you have a small place there is no reason to stare at plain white walls. Decorating the walls in a smaller living space is often challenging but makes all the difference when creating a cozy space. No matter how small the room is, if it is warm and inviting, it will make friends and family feel right at home. Here are a few tips to make a room look larger with art wall decals.

Choose the right pattern or theme to create the illusion of a bigger space. There are literally a multitude of themes and designs to choose from when decorating the walls in your place. Choose light-colored backgrounds that match with colors in your decals to coordinate the room colors. For example, nature designs with earth colors of green and brown would look good on a wall painted in tan or butterscotch. Match accessory colors to accent colors in the design to complete the look.

Keep the space open by careful furniture placement. Placing furniture in an open design makes a room look bigger. A simple couch and chair in a matching solid color with an accent rug or small table makes a cozy living area for sitting and relaxing with friends.

Choose a pattern or design of art wall decals to match the color and furnishings of the room. Some people like a nature theme with trees and or a modern Art Deco look with odd shapes or bold designs. Large patterns are fine with minimal furnishings and can become the focal point of the room. Place a couple of lovely decorative mirrors where they will reflect the wall scenes to make it appear as if the scene continues into another room adding to the illusion of more space.

Additional decorating tips:

Let functional spaces do double duty if possible. A bookshelf placed in a corner can double as a place to store small trinkets and knick-knacks without cluttering up the space. The right light fixtures can add depth to a room when placed close to a mirror or other reflective surface, the brighter the light the larger the room looks.

Reasons to decorate with decals:

· Decals are not only stylish and attractive, but create a look that is all your own.

· Economical way to decorate because the designs can be removed when you decide it’s time for a change.

· Create a focal point to draw attention away from problem areas such as uneven walls or oddly-shaped corners.

Wall decorations such as decals, stickers or stencils make a space unique and express the owner’s personal style. They are suitable for just about any room in your home, from bedroom to kitchen; decals are a great way to decorate the way you like. Even if your landlord will not let you paint, there is no reason to have boring white walls when art wall decals are so easy to use and remove when you move to a new place.

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Source by Lisa Musser

Sleeve Tattoo Designs – Tribal, Japanese and Dragon Tattoos Around Your Arms Or Legs


Sleeve tattoos are pieces of body art that’s performed on the limbs of the body and tend to wrap around the limb in a sleeve-like fashion. Done in 3 different ways: quarter sleeve, half sleeve and full sleeve, this type of tattoo is now one of the most popular types of body art performed.

Sleeve tattoos, like every other type of tattoo tend to have their most prominent and most common types of designs. For example: Tribal, Japanese and Dragon sleeve tattoos are constantly requested in tattoo parlours throughout the world.

Tribal, Japanese and Dragon tattoo designs generally have a very artistic and spiritual look and appeal to the tattoo and are therefore very popular among male tattoo enthusiasts. Females who enjoy getting tattoos rendered tend to go for more feminine artwork, such as flowers and animal sleeve tattoos.

As with any piece of permanent body art, sleeve tattoos cannot be removed without using an extremely invasive procedure that will damage the skin for the rest of your life, leaving ugly scars. This is why I advise spending as long as you possibly can, looking and considering different and original tattoo designs. The best piece of advice I can give you is to not go for a generic design that you know thousands of other people already have.

There are a few really good tattoo galleries on the internet that contain thousands of different pieces of original artwork that you probably haven’t ever seen before. The beauty of these websites, is that you can simply print out the design you like the most and take it straight to your tattooist.

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Source by Todd Jarvis

Home Martial Arts Tips DIY – Make Your Own Martial Arts Punching and Kicking Bags and Targets


I work with a lot of students that study martial arts on their own at home. Many follow my video training series, while others use our online dojo to add more value to their own fitness martial arts program. Some of these home study martial artists have their own training strategies and are just looking for an additional edge to add more value to their own efforts. These students are all in need of training gear, ideas, tips, tools – you name it. Anything that will help them to improve their martial arts skills while training at home.

Whether you want to save money or just add some unique training tools to your home dojo, the best multi-use (discount, do it yourself) martial arts training item to date are TIRES.

Why? Because there are so many things you can do with tires. Here are a few ways to put them to use:

TIRE MAN DUMMY

Get yourself a bunch of car tires and stack them up on top of each other. You will want between 5-10 for each stack that you make. Just stacking them up will already give you a great punching and kicking tool. Because the tires are made of a very hard rubber, they can take a lot of beating with little or no wear and tear.

If you want to keep the tire stack from falling over, you can devise a way to keep them on top of each other. One simple way is to just put them on top of a pole type device – for example, take one tire and fill it with cement, in the middle of the cement place a wooden or metal pole. Then, simply stack the tires up over the pole. Another way to keep them together would be to drill holes in the rim of each tire and then thread long bolts or tie them up. If you cut through the tire (breaking the circle), you can pull it open and wrap it around a solid beam, tree or other structure that won’t allow the tire to fit over the top. Street light poles and telephone poles are great if you live in an area that offers such a freedom.

These tire dummies are amazing. Here are just a few of the benefits:

* You can attack them with shoes on – for a more realistic training practice

* You can hit them with sticks and wooden swords without fear of damaging the dummy

* You can use them for protection against dangerous surfaces in your training area

* They take up some of the shock and different tire styles offer various levels of flexibility

* Tie them up for swinging targets

With some creativity you can create a very realistic training dummy. You can even place wooden poles through the tires to resemble limbs and for something that is closer to a Wing Chun Dummy.

You can usually pick up tires for FREE at a local tire shop. We were able to gather a few truck loads of tires in only a day for our martial arts camp in California. We used them for paintball obstacles, fitness tools for the martial arts training course and stunt protection as well as training dummies.

Whether you hang them, half burry them, wrap them around trees or stack them up to knock over – tires of various sizes can offer a world of amazing training possibilities. Take a look the areas where you have the option of training in and consider what you can do to improve your home dojo.

Though making your own tire man dummy will cover most of your training, you can consider other ways to put them to good use.

Visit NinjaGym.com – NinjaGym™ Martial Arts & Fitness Blog: Health Tips for Mind, Body & Spirit, Ninja Training, Ninja Weapons and Gear.

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Source by Rick Tew

Various Types Of Bonsai Trees


Some people believe Bonsai trees are a particular species, but any kinds of plants, shrubs or trees can be grown using Bonsai growing techniques. Bonsai is an Oriental-based art form that involves miniaturizing any species, but trees and shrubs are favorite choices. Various types of Bonsai trees may include elms, oaks, maples and cedars or pines, and junipers are interesting when miniaturized.

Growing Bonsai trees started as a Japanese art, but it spread to the Chinese, making these two countries some of the largest exporters of Bonsai soil, planters and tools. There really aren’t many secrets to be learned, because growing various types of Bonsai trees has become popular, throughout the world. The key is properly pruning, training branches and of course confining roots is important, to miniaturizing any species.

You can select fruit bearing trees, like a lemon tree or a flowering shrub, such as an azalea. They will still produce flowers and fruit, once they have matured, but they will be miniature in size, when using these growing techniques, properly. Some people choose to start a Bonsai orange tree or grapefruit tree, from seeds of their store-bought fruits. Since a Bonsai tree can grow for 100 years, you may find these trees will flower, bear fruit and dropped seeds may start an offspring of your flowering or fruit bearing Bonsai tree.

It isn’t unusual to find Gingko, Fichus, Jade, Mimosa or other types of ornamental species and Oriental miniature species are used in Bonsai gardening. Since this artistically expressive method of growing and training miniature trees has been practiced for centuries in Asian cultures, it is not unusual to find Chinese Elms, Japanese Maples or Bamboo. Traditional Japanese plantings included plum, cherry and pine trees.

Various types of Bonsai trees can include popular shrubs, such as boxwood, yews and even, lilacs or hibiscus can be grown with these methods. While some people prefer evergreen species, such as Juniper, Cedars or Pines, you aren’t limited by the species of plants you select. In fact, you can turn a giant species, like a California Redwood or Sequoia, into a Bonsai tree!

It is possible to get Bonsai starter kits, but you can nurture your own saplings from starts found in your own backyard. Growing various types of Bonsai trees is a matter of personal preference, but you can attempt to miniaturize any species found in your local nursery or your neighbor’s backyard garden.

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Makler Heidelberg


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Source by Judy Jenkinson