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Tuesday, March 3

finally, Marge

Marge Piercy went to college with me.Not literally, of course, but her writings taught me about being a woman, an activist, a lover of cats and rain. She gave voice to my fears of what womanhood meant and raised a flag to it, she did not cower. She snarled and purred and chanted about sex and love and loss and periods and the heartless and Janis Joplin. And sometimes she made me smile or laugh out loud. I wanted to be the characters in her books because then we would know each other.

 In my mind she has always looked as she did on her book jackets. Full, lush, a heavy fall of jet black hair and a look of amused irony on her face. I wondered what she would look like now, approaching 80 and I pictured her with heavy fall of white hair, all other things intact. And so it was that when the lady in the front row rose after the intro, I was uncertain. I had noticed her because her jet black hair was so obviously dyed and you could see her scalp through the thinner hair on her crown. When she got up it was slowly, and she walked to the stairs and it broke my heart to know that, yes, this was Marge, and she could barely make the stairs.

 The podium almost dwarfed her, she is a short but not small woman and she read the note on the mike that advised to not adjust it, the sound man would make sure she was heard and the audience chuckled. She held up her new book, she was just seeing it for the first time and her delight in it was real "this is my most beautiful book". Without preamble, she read her first poem and I knew she was still Marge, finally in the same room with me, still able to bring tears with memories of her tough childhood, her cold mother, the pain women inflict upon themselves, the casualties of ill gotten war.

She brought laughs with her poems about how to survive a blizzard. She was luminous, funny, real. And I loved her.

 I was 2nd in line to have my book signed. She fumbled about with the woman first in line, calling for her pens, perplexed when the woman didn't need to have her name in the autograph "are you sure? is it for you?" She seemed, sadly to be, again, the elderly woman with the bad hair in the front row and not the engaging, brilliant woman at the podium. I smiled at her, told her my name was Pat. Cat? Many people think that. No, I said and spelled it. We chuckled. She first wrote "from Pat" and then scribbled it out to read "to Pat" and the rest is pretty much illegible. I wanted to tell her that she brought my womanhood into focus, that she created heroes for me, that her words have always moved me, that I have red almost everything she has written, that she influenced my life, who I became. But I just looked into her eyes and said "Thank You" and she smiled back into mine and said "you are very welcome". It is enough. It is more than enough. I held the book to my heart and walked out into the cold.

Saturday, February 21

what I found

Day 2 of the studio clean and reorganize. I decided that the best way to deal with the chaos without losing my mind would be to assign a small goal for each day. Yesterday was frames. I had them stored in places I didn't remember, so what I found was twice as many frames as I thought I had. That will take me easily into the first few shows. The framed work sells the unframed work, prints, cards, etc. It brings people in, but most people think it will be cheaper to frame it themselves. Listen and trust me. It is not. If you bring it to a framer they will charge you tons of money. If you decide to buy a frame and mats to do it yourself,  it will cost you more. This is not a sales pitch to buy framed work, it is a public service announcement. We get our frames wholesale and many of us cut our own mats. A frame service will charge 20 bucks for mats. It costs me 50 cents.  I usually add 20-30 dollars for a framed piece. Depends on what the frame cost me and how many mats I had to cut. You cannot do this  cheaper.

That was your consumer alert for the day :)

I also found an earring that was 1/2 of a pair I bought at Mt Gretna last Summer and absolutely loved. How it got up there, I have no idea. Now I have to remember where I put the other one.

After I finished upstairs, I baked bread and made marinara sauce and there is baked ziti in the oven.

To continue on my search for inner peace, Russell and I are visiting a local Buddhist group tonight. We have always been drawn to the teachings  and this should be interesting. A friend from work has belonged for years and invited us to be her guest after I expressed interest.

Between my cleaning and baking forays, yoga lessons and now meditation and chanting, I am going to be interesting to live with.

Stay tuned!


Friday, February 20

braving the iceberg

OK, maybe not an iceberg, but I really have to organize my studio so I can actually, you know, make stuff! As crazy as it may feel today, the season starts in about 8 weeks. I have ideas for new work, but  I need to get going on it before the muse gives up on me and moves on.

I brought our little space heater up, turned it on, closed the door. Maybe it will be warm enough to just make sense of things up there. Like frames.... I have bunches of frames from several sources. An artist friend advised me that most of my work would look best in sleek, black, modern, so that's what I have the most of, but you know what? They bore me. I may bring back my original idea of hunting down interesting vintage frames and incorporate those. After all, my work uses recycled papers and things.It seems fitting. I will enjoy hunting through thrift shops and yard sales. So, job one will be to collect, sort and store the frames I have.

The second big job will be to organize my papers. The collage uses scraps of papers, sometimes as small as an inch square. I have tried collecting and storing them by size or color or type, but it doesn't work. I get better ideas sorting through boxes of scraps and coming across a paper that triggers an idea. I think I will just try sorting by size. That will last about a week.

I have spent as much money on boxes and bins and jars and accordion files as on art supplies. Or so it  seems. And yet, I lost my favorite embellishment: a small box of tiny, baby starfish. I love them. I can order more, but it frustrates me that I can't find that box! Russell thinks it fell into my trash can and he's probably right but that doesn't stop me from searching.

We stopped at Hollanders on the way home from visiting the kids and the high, the buzz, I get from being there and buying papers usually spurs me to get going. I got some beautiful papers and they are still rolled up in their tube, waiting for me.

The interesting thing about this cold snap is what it brings into focus. Small things like walking the dogs without freezing feels as exciting as a trip to the Caribbean. Being able to use my studio without thawing it out first feels like a luxury.

It make me realize how sweet the small joys of  life are. And it also reminds me to embrace what is special about this deep freeze. A community united against a common foe :)  Exchanging cold jokes with strangers . A family snuggling under down comforters to watch TV and read books. An excuse to do just that. Hunker down, snuggle, read, watch old movies.  It could be worse.

Monday, February 16

remembering zero

I want to remember this when I am riding my bike along the river this Summer or buying peaches at the farmer's market. It is so cold that even the banister in our old house is cold to the touch. The ceramic, uninsulated floor in the kitchen was so cold when I scooted down there to get a quick it made me hop and screech and run for the rug in front of the sink. We spend most of our evening TV watching in bed, hunkered down under the down comforter with each other and our 2 dogs. They are like having heating pads tucked into your side. It is wonderful except Quincy snores like an old Grandpa. Your nose snaps shut when you try to breathe outside. Your eyes water. Even with gloves on, your hands start to feel unhappy after just a few minutes. This old house cannot heat itself enough to keep us as cozy as we like.
We love our quirky old Victorian, but there are things one must accept when you are a lover of things old. Slanty floors, no insulation, nothing is standard size so even buying a new storm door is a project. The basement is made of huge boulders and only exists under the center oval of the house. The rest of the foundation in uninsulated crawl space, ergo the scary cold floors.  But there are enormous windows and funky little fireplaces are scattered about. The ceilings are high, the doorknobs are glass, the tub has claw feet.
I wonder about the people who lived here in 1887. How did they heat the place? Where did they cook and how. I think the bathroom attached to our bedroom was a bedroom once because it looks like the hall closet used to be a hallway leading to it. And I doubt old houses had en suite bathrooms.
So, here I am, under the comforter, watching a TV show that follows people buying houses and when I listen to what they are turned on and off by I realize we will probably never be able to sell this house unless a young couple with renovation ability buys it in order to live in our currently trendy neighborhood.
I need to get my studio organized and cleaned and ready for the season but it is too cold up there in the unheated attic and I don't think the space heater would do more than offer me psychological comfort.
I have plans for new work that I can't wait to get my hands on, but my hands would be claws under the current conditions. I will have to be patient.
I choose to consider these few weeks as a hibernation, a resting place, a gift. A chance to hunker down with my warm and cozy companions, 2 legged and 4 legged. An excuse to climb up to bed early with a cup of orange zinger tea and a cookie. Before long the days will be longer than the nights and we will sleep with the windows open and soft breezes pushing the curtains into the room. We will delay putting the A/C into the window until the nights are just too stifling. I will go out to our little herb garden outside the kitchen door to pull basil and chives from the sweet soil. I don't want to forget what a simple joy that is.
I want to remember zero.

Sunday, February 8

starving artists?

I just watched a wonderful documentary about poverty in America called "American Winter" It made me think about people's perception  of the struggling class and brought me to tears a couple of times. And it made me think of artists.
I'm sure that the majority of people that visit our little canopies think we are making tons of money for a weekend's work doing nothing of value. Let me divest you of that notion.
When you consider the amount of time spent in the studio making whatever it is you make (not counting here the hours you spend pondering and hoping for inspiration and networking with other artists), the cost of materials, travel, booth fee (in the hundreds believe it or not), jury fees, only the highest of the high end are living large.
I know some scary stories. A high end jeweler had a husband with chronic stomach pain that needed a CAT scan but they had no insurance and the Dr had already done them many favors. There was no cash for the hundreds of dollars needed to pay for a scan. Thankfully, he is OK now. Another artist, after learning she had been rejected from a show that was her best income maker, lamented that she now would be unable to pay her mortgage. A woman in her 60's who is a very talented mixed media artist, lives in an unheated mobile home. Many artists sleep in their vans during show weekends to save hotel costs. Some actually sleep in their canopies and hope they don't get caught. I got a million of 'em.
You might be tempted to say "well, they should just quit this art show thing and get jobs". You probably never met these people. :)  Most of us choose to have  few luxuries in order to live a certain way. It's OK.  We do work hard, believe it or not. This life is not for sissies as I have written before. We choose to live simply for the great luxury of freedom to do as we please in a way that enriches us.
I'm not saying that there isn't a whole lot of bitchin' going on during a slow show. It gets hard to greet your potential customers with a smile when you are slowly losing money. But you do it. Because this is your choice. And the next show may be a winner.
So, don't ever say to someone (as the man said to his son, inspiring the creation this very blog) "look at these lucky people, they don't have to work for a living". We work, we do. And we are lucky. But remember this the next time you are tempted to ask an artist "can you take less for this?"
I never regret leaving the high pressure, low respect civl service job I held for 25 years. It almost killed my soul. Because every Summer I get to be an artist, surrounded by the things I have created, earning the respect that my government job never gave me (but should have) laughing with and enjoying the visitors to my tent. It's a trade off I am happy to live with.

Sunday, January 18

stealing inspiration

There is a lot of chatter on show artist boards and list serves about allowing people to photograph your work. Some folks get all knotted up about it. Post pictures of cameras with lines through them or just signs that say "no photos". This strikes me a a tad pompous, actually. As if our talent is so Louvre-able that hordes are itching to steal our work.

Let's be real. The way I look at it, take a picture and go try to do what I do. I can't even reproduce one of my own collage for a customer. It's pathetic, really. And, to be really honest here, if your work can be copied from a photograph, made and sold, you're doing something wrong. It shouldn't be that easy.  You need to up your game.

I think it is a real problem for photographers and 2d artists because, apparently, there are cameras so sophisticated, they can take a photo of a photo and then reproduce it at will. That would stink, I agree. Those artists should have as many of those obnoxious little signs all over the place as they wish.

But let's also be real about "theft" of intellectual property. There is nothing new under heaven Horatio (or something like that). It's all been done somewhere by someone. Did that great idea come directly from your brain with no input from the outside world or did you notice something interesting in a gift shop in Idaho one day on vacation and that image percolated in your brain for 2 years to be born as an aspect of your own work? What do you think?

I shamelessly stalk the web sites of artists that do what I do. I steal from them. They inspire me. This, for instance, from the Uncommon Goods site:

Sweet, isn't it? It is a collage made of papers, but totally unlike what I do. What did I steal from this artist? The idea of incorporating the writing right into the design. Of course, I think I will need to practice an interesting "font" that I can do and I will probably write it on tracing vellum and weave it into the papers. And my designs are abstract. They don't presume to mimic a seaside as this one does. I don't think I can do that very well. But had I not run across this, I probably would still rely on using computer printing on vellum over handmade paper bits and placing them, static, into the design.  Like this:

This artist inspired me, so I "stole" from her.   If you are truly a creative soul (and I believe almost everyone is) you will, every day, see something that gives you a little tummy thrill when you see it. You will either envy it, buy it or copy a bit  from it. And all of our little ideas will live on, sometimes in a completed work of our own or in little bits in the works of other people. I can live with that. I kinda like it, actually.

So, if you run into us at an art show this year, feel free to pull out your camera. I will not draw a line through you  :)

Saturday, January 17

what I don't know

I have been a bad blogger. Now, it is true that life during show season gets crazy, but that's not it. Facebook has become a release and a habit. Random thoughts are so easy to post there, the need to elaborate on them forgiven. It occurs to me that I am feeling the absence of thought and reflection. So, I am back.

Show applications are coming in already. I actually missed the 1/10 deadline of one of them but they are extending it for me because I have done it for so long. So, deep breath, camera at the ready, pencils sharpened. Off I go.

It is so cold. The body wants to be still, be covered, be resting. Our old house has little drafts that come on from places I cannot track. The furnace never stops running. My studio is too cold to be usable and the space heater barely touches the iciness of the air. They say we are due for a moderation of temperature. Please?

So, I have been hunkered under this blanket, often with a dog on my lap and the remotes for various devices at my side, doing little. But I think. And it occurs to me that I have been unable to make sense of the world lately.

I don't know why Israel and Palestine can't work it out.  I read up on it but the complexities elude me. I want them to just stop.

I don't know how our politics got so hateful and punitive. What happened? Do people really research before they vote? Apparently not. And I don't know why.

I don't know how to use my time properly, dividing it between art and work and home. That inability is what anchors me to this chair, under a blanket, remotes at the ready. The cold is  just an excuse.

I don't know what direction to take  in art. I love collage, I get a lot of positive feedback, I get into some pretty competitive shows with it, but sales are disappointing. Of course, when I compare with friends we all seem to be in the same ballpark financially, so it may not be the work, it just may be that art sales have flattened. It is a discussion we have over and over and over...

I don't know how to be a healthy vegetarian. We use too much dairy, pasta and rice. I need to work on that.

I don't know why people kill in the name of their god.

I don't know why kids send naked pictures of themselves from their iPhones. I remember being embarrassed if a button on my shirt slipped open.

So, I have obviously been pondering things. I blame the weather and this comfy chair and the lack of physical movement needed to switch from TV to Roku to Netflix. But I need to blame myself, too, for my willingness to hunker down and let the world spin without my active participation.

My family surprised me with a late Christmas/early Birthday gift of a beautiful Canon Rebel. Photography is a love of mine. I'm not good at it, the complexities of the technical aspects sometimes paralyze me, but I have a "good eye" and I like what taking pictures does to my creative side. I need a creative outlet that I pursue for joy, not just profit. I will be sharing my  journey on my other blog (also neglected far too long) "Morning Lens".

Hello again. I will be back. Hopefully on a regular basis, as we wander toward Spring.

Sunday, August 24

dinner with friends

I have made good friends on the art show circuit. Soul mate friends. Casual friends. The early morning set up chaos is interrupted often with hugs and jovial reunions as if we hadn't seen each other 2 shows ago. And the question invariable turns to what was your last show and how was it? The "how was it" question translates to  "did you make any money"? Times are tough in art show land and we spend a lot of down time exploring options

Do I "dumb down" my line and make a lot of widgets? Widgets are low priced times like magnets with your art work on them. Do I cut down on shows and wholesale or consign to shops? Boy, that's a topic for its own blog.

So, last night, after the first night of the Elmwood Avenue FOTA, we went out to dinner with 2 couples and caught up and did the "how did you do?" dance. One couple has a line of sophisticated, artful designs of wildflowers. They sell everything from large, framed prints to tiny magnets. They do every well, but even they are starting to reconsider the art show option. The other artist sells beautiful copper plate prints of whimsical people and fairies and animals. She is a fine artist and is discouraged. I have been transitioning from a book artist (people just don't journal anymore) and I am focusing on mixed media collage. With mixed results.

I love art shows. I love everything (almost) about them: the early morning, focused mayhem, the customers, the sense of doing something from your heart. I even love festival food. Usually. I feed off the compliments of the people who come into my booth and comment on my work, even if they don't buy it. Art is a solitary profession. You spend hours every day, alone, in a studio with no one to ask "this look OK?". You put it all out there, a chunk of your soul, for people to judge. Not for sissies. And when you get positive feedback from people, it starts to fill you back up.

But now I wonder if this way of life is going to sputter and die as the baby boomers who populate the majority of the little white tents give up. Not many young people are choosing this life.

This morning I will head back out there, put on a happy face and try not to think of the bills I have t pay or the vacation I may not be able to take after all. Because last night I felt the joy of what following your heart means. I hugged and laughed with beautiful people that I would not know if I didn't take part in this crazy business. Our dinner took two hours but it felt like minutes. Then we stood on the sidewalk and continued to laugh and talk, even though we were all exhausted from the long day.

How did I do yesterday? If you're talking money...not great. If you're talking riches, I killed it :)

Wednesday, June 4

I may be doing something right

I got an email from a friend this morning. She had been tracked down by a women who had received one of my collage prints as a gift.The print had been tossed by the maintenance people at her office (it was on top of a stack of papers or something) and she was trying to find the artist to get another one. She said she loved it and was getting ready to hang it.

Apparently she found out that it had been purchased in Buffalo, so she contacted Artists in Buffalo asking if anyone recognized the work and my buddy, Anne, said oh yes she did.

And so it was that the woman found me and I was able to send her a new print.

So, OK, this is not exactly a sequel to the Holy Grail story or anything, but it was important to me to know that my collage work was so loved by someone that she would go to the trouble to track me down .  It reaffirms, just as the season is starting, that I am on the right track, transitioning from book maker to collage artist. It tells me that maybe I am kinda good at it. It energizes me and makes me want to do better.

The truth will be down by the end of the month. A market and 2 art shows in June. 

Fingers crossed. No, too hard too work that way. 

I am doing what I love. No need to ask for luck, I have it.

Wednesday, May 21

gray skies

My uncle taught me about the beauty of gray days.

 He was an artist who painted on nights and weekends,  taught Spanish to Long Island teenagers during the week. He moved to New York when it became too difficult to be a closeted gay man in Buffalo. I missed him so much when he moved and nobody would explain why he gave up a job he loved to move 400 miles down the highway to do the same job somewhere else. He came home for a couple of weeks in the Summer and every Christmas the holiday officially started when he got off the plane carrying bags from Bloomingdales and Macy's.

I loved him because he "got" me. He wanted me to be a writer and he would critique my fumbling attempts with tact. He taught me about art and theater and both of those things became large in my life.  When I got married and we moved into our first little house, he helped me paint orange crates with red enamel for shelving and bought us a beautiful black, gray and white Raya rug to make us feel like millionaires. He was an art collector and shared his excess with all of us. When I shared a growing fascination with Magritte, he swelled with pride.

Finally, he retired and made plans to move home. He rented an apartment in a complex near Mom's house and they spent their days reminiscing about growing up in a neighborhood of immigrants and ne'er do wells, bringing us to tears with their funny stories. He and Mom dragged out the family recipes and tried to recreate my Grandmother's flan or rice pudding. They went to auctions and flea markets. We all blossomed under this new fresh air and light.

But it wasn't long before he got sick, his 4 pack a day habit turning his move home to a farewell instead of a long 3rd act. It was devastating.

Before that happened, though, while we were unpacking his boxes one October afternoon, he taught me one more thing. I looked outside and sighed and complained about the dark, gray Fall sky and wished for sunshine. He stopped and walked me to the big glass sliders that led to his deck and told me to look, really look. To look at how vibrant the leaves were against the gray. How the light, diffused, brought the world into sharp focus. How the branches looked like pen and ink.

So, this morning, when I pulled the drapes open, I saw a dark gray sky and noticed how my neighbors gingerbread house looked so colorful with that backdrop and how the new tender green of the trees almost glowed with life and I thought of him, 20  years gone now, and how we never know what we leave behind, how our lives touch others.

I thought the best gifts he brought were in the Bloomies bags at Christmas, but it turns out his most important gift was presented on a gray Fall day, surrounded by cartons and chaos, one hand on my shoulder, the other pointing to the beautiful gray sky above.

Wednesday, April 16

dose of reality

I will be blogging more soon, but just to grease the gears a bit I am going to confess.

I watch reality TV. Not the Springer/Maury type, the Housewife and Judge type. Singing competitions. I will add documentaries to the mix just to make me sound smarter, although it is true I am a documentary addict.

The men in my house are amused by this. It does not fit into their perception of me as a relatively intelligent, creative, snarky person. I am supposed to disdain such frivolity for the  manipulative BS it is. And I do, I do. But I watch anyway. They roll their eyes at each other when I settle into my big chair to watch Judge Judy. There was a time when this addiction embarrassed me but now I flaunt it and refuse to be forced to switch to Nova. 

Then I read one of those articles about how certain types of people share the same traits. Creative people, it said, are voyeurs. I read the same thing once about writers. Voyeurs all. Yes! I am not addicted to tacky TV, I am an artist!

Truth be told, my voyeuristic tendencies have always been known to me. I love nighttime with its lighted windows offering glimpses into other lives. At restaurants, I try not to stare as I ponder what the dynamics are and where they were before they came in, where they will go when they leave. A few weeks ago, a table full of older West Side Italian guys had  me mesmerized as I listened to them discharge all the cares of the world over endless cups of coffee in a few sentences each, punctuated by dismissive gestures and sarcasm, their accents bringing My Dad and Uncle to my mind with sweet sadness.

I have been known to peek into medicine cabinets, but I broke myself of that habit because it seemed creepy, even though I understand my own motives.

So, today, watching People's Court, I am curious about why a person would pierce themselves a certain way, what made you choose that outfit for TV. Two women suing each other, one with artfully applied makeup, lots of jewelry, expensive bag on the table beside her. The other has a bad haircut, little makeup, a shirt that screams cheap. They both intrigue me although I find myself rooting for the simpler woman. I picture them getting ready for this, in their real world outside this fake courtroom. This is how my mind works.

When the home buying shows are one, I am most likely to be not as fascinated by the homes as I am by the buyers being interviewed in their old house. Do you really keep you kid's toys there? Look at all the knives in that kitchen. Do none of these people put nice linens on the bed when a camera crew is coming? I have those same curtains! Macy's, on sale.

So, do not judge me, indulge me. It is a harmless addiction. It amuses me and it is free. And leave your curtains open at night. I'm interested in what you hang on your walls :)

Saturday, March 1

springing ahead

I am not going to complain about this interminable Winter. I choose to live in a 4 season climate. Four extreme, identifiable, sometimes glorious, sometimes hellish seasons. Winter is just one of four. Snow is part of it. We deal with it. Shortly after it falls, the plows come barreling, sparks flying from the blade, and the streets are clear. One develops a technique for climbing up a snow bank and down to your car door and back so you can open it and a slow awkward slide and turn to get in. Easy peasy. Spring is wet and green and the air is sweet and soft. Summers are perfect. Sunny. Not too hot, only a few humid days, beaches close by. Fall. Ah, Fall. A riot of color, leaves underfoot, the tiniest tang of chill in the mornings, air that is clear and sharp. So, remembering this, I can handle this infernal, worse than ever Winter. Which doesn't keep me from counting the days until Spring (20)

Deciding to move more into art with my collage work is a new "season" for me. Like Spring, there is a freshness to it, growth. There is also uncertainty, but the promise of something new softens the anxiety of it, makes it feel more like anticipation.

I received my first rejection of the year after several seasons of 100% acceptance. It is a show I've been accepted to before so there are probably more factors involved than just the work, I chose a more popular weekend with no 2nd choice for another. I will believe that to be the reason.

The reality is that people just aren't buying handmade books like they used to when I started doing this 16 years ago. It's all online now. Even I blog here instead of in a book. It is time to move on.

So I dropped a few more apps in the mail today, burned some CD's of images. Realized I have a lot of growing to do in this new art.

Good thing it's Spring.

Sunday, January 19

ennui go

The dictionary describes ennui thusly:"Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom"

I like this word, There is something whimsical about the spelling of it, the sound of it. I mean, who makes a word like this?  But I don't like feeling it. And I was feeling it.

Not sure why, but I do think it happens this time of year pretty regularly. It's probably a combination of let down after a busy show season and the holidays and the gray/black/white landscape that never changes. My instinct is to hunker down into my hoodie and read beach novels. But we know that cannot happen. It is app season, for one thing, and there is much work to do.

Yesterday I had a lovely exchange with a man who ordered a special collage to go into an antique frame he bought at a flea market. He brought the frame to me at the Mayday show in November and I told him I wouldn't be able to get to it until after the holidays. He is a very sweet guy. Warm and funny and energetic. The frame is a beauty and I will confess that I thought it far too special for my little collage.

I brought the frame to my wholesaler and he priced the cost to frame it. I called the man, told him the price for the frame and shipping and what I would charge for the artwork, He said it all sounded fine except for the price.

He thought it was too low and he insisted on paying both of us more. Yep, read that sentence again.

This does not happen. He said he believed people should be paid properly for their work. I stammered a bit but I knew that this is really what he wanted to do. Wait till I tell the framer. He won't believe it either.

It is hard to price artwork. You can't really charge for time. Art is not hourly labor. You can't charge for supplies or painters would be selling their work for 20 bucks. Charge for talent? What is the going rate? So, we try to determine worth at a fair price and often fall short. It is an industry hazard. You need to be really gutsy to charge more for something than you would be able to pay yourself. Most artists, contrary to public opinion, are really not wealthy people. There are some who "rake it in". I am not one of them and I don't know many who are. One of the first pieces of advice I got when I started in this business was to not set prices based on my own pocketbook. Which is a good thing because I would be giving things away.

The response to my prices is all over the place. Some say it is expensive (while holding a 20 dollar bag of kettle corn), many compliment me on how reasonable the prices are. I ponder and debate pricing constantly. It was such a boost to be told I was worth more than I dared to think.

So, my nice man in Rochester seems to have popped this bubble of ennui that was holding me down. For a while there it was a chore to climb the stairs into my attic studio. I felt like I had sand bags on my ankles. Then I would get there, sit in my swivel chair, turn on the TV and maybe get in 20 minutes of work before I found a reason to go back downstairs.

Now it feels as if the sun came out. It is not the money. It is the affirmation that came from being told I was worth more than I thought. This small gesture of appreciation has wiped out the feeling of gloom I had after my last 2, disastrous, holiday shows. I have been encouraged to follow my instinct and focus more on collage work. It's all good after all.

I'm looking forward to a productive day in the attic tomorrow.

Maybe the cure for ennui is promise, described in the dictionary as:

" Indication of something favorable to come; expectation"

Wednesday, January 1

I hate this but I am going to do it anyway

Assessing the year about to pass. I hate it. I think I hate it mostly because of the endless parade, on TV and in print, of people who died this year. And the resolutions. Ack! The endless resolutions to be thinner, richer, kinder, smarter come the new year.

But my business is seasonal which makes my life seasonal. From January to March I have time to be still, to think and reassess. April to August is Summer show time.  September we travel. From October to late December there is a mini-show boom where I try to recoup the money I spent traveling and gather some money for Christmas. Then it rewinds and begins again.

I have been bitching about the application process for art shows every Winter since I started blogging. I will not bore you again. But this year, along with the usual grumpiness comes an awareness that I need to walk away from some favorite shows and risk rejection by trying new ones.

It isn't easy to walk away from shows you have done for a long time. There is something sweet about "coming home" to a venue every year. You know the drill, you know the people. You know where to eat, where the restrooms are, where the best parking is. New shows are exciting but they You don't know what will sell at a new show or even if the customer base of this show will like you.

This year I am dropping one show for sure and another probably. I will apply to two new shows that will most likely reject me and one that has accepted me in the past but I declined in favor of a local show.

I'm reassessing my work, too, and getting deeper into collage, making books my sideline instead of my go-to.

All of this makes me a bit uneasy. Which is good, I think. Better to live on the edge than in a rut, right?

The deadline for the show I am dropping is Monday. It will be hard to let that date whoosh by. I can do this. Onward. Upward, Sideways, whatever.

This life ain't for sissies.

Thursday, November 14


I'm not sure where the time goes. There was a time when I felt compelled to blog almost every day and if I didn't it nagged at me. I do blog in my head a lot!

I had a sweet moment with some art show friends at my last show and I blogged in my head about it which made me think I needed to get back to this. Because it helps me remember, even if nobody is reading me anymore.

So, before I forget, I am going to blog about some special moments from the past show season. To share them and to remember them.

I'll blog about those art show friends later. First I want to tell you about the heart lady I met at Colorscape Chenango. Since this is a blog about being an art gypsy, I'll start by telling you about Colorscape.

A friend has been talking about this show for a while and we decided to give it a go. She said no show treats you better. Intriguing. It is the weekend after Labor Day and our vacation reservations fell later in the month than usual, so we applied and got it. So glad we did. The little town of Norwich, New York was welcoming and apparently filled with art and music lovers because they came out in droves. We didn't make a ton of money, but the experience was so positive it didn't matter. This is why we will never be rich. We met so many wonderful people and my new work sold well.

Which brings me to the "Heart Lady".

This season we experimented with making prints of the collage and selling them just with a backing board, in a clearbag. It was a hit. At Colorscape, one lady spent a lot of time browsing them and I saw her sometimes tracing the outline with her finger. She was older, quiet, sweet smile. I had started to putter behind the tent when she came up with 8 prints. Eight! Well, OK then.

She asked me to hold them for her because she needed to go home and get her money. No problem. Except she didn't come back. With about an hour left in the show and a couple of the prints sold out, I started to put them back in the bin. I had lost one sale already and each print was a few gallons of gas for our cross country drive!

I had barely put the last one back when she showed up. I apologized for returning them and explained that I thought she had decided against them. Oh no she assured me, it just took her a while to get home and back. We went through the bins and retrieved the ones she wanted...and even added one..and she started to tell me  what she was looking for in them.

Some years before she had endured a tough time. Sounded like it was illness related. And she began to wonder what it was all about and she prayed on it and talked to friends about it and somehow, during that time, she asked God or the Universe or the angels to send her a sign and she looked down and there, on the grass, the first few flakes of snow had formed a heart. Not content to accept that, she continued to look for more signs and she began to see more hearts. She said she saw them everywhere once she really started to look. In piles of leaves, in the suds when washing dishes, clouds. She started to collect things with hearts in them. One night, when despair began to take her again, she said to her husband that it was folly, this quest for signs, and she walked out onto her porch. It was evening and a light snow was falling, big floating flakes and some of them fell softly onto the sleeve of her coat. She started to walk back in, brushing the snow from her coat when she looked down a saw it. One snowflake, a perfect heart. Now we all know snowflakes are not heart shaped and so does she. The analytical side of her understood that it was formed by the pattern of its melting.

Doesn't make it any less of a sign, she thought, and called her husband out to see it before it melted totally. Once you start looking, she told me, you see them everywhere.  Signs or hearts, I asked her. Same thing she said with a smile. Then she showed me how some of the shapes of my torn papers or the way some elements came together formed heart shapes. That's what she was tracing. The outlines of  hearts. Her signs.

I thought about her a lot after she left. Wondered about signs and portents and what brings comfort. We were both moved by her. She said once you start looking for hearts you see them everywhere, so I started to look. I looked in the grass, the sky, the trees. I walked the show and looked in other booths. Nothing. My signs may turn out to be a different thing and maybe I won't see them until I need them. But I am glad she sees them. And I'm glad I was able to put a few more in her life.

Friday, October 4

Oregon sidewalk Friday morning


Her eyes, clear and young
and sadly hopeful:
I will write you a poem
to keep me warm.
"compassion" I asked
for there had been so little
that morning
and I could still taste
the tears on my tongue.
She repeated, compassion,
and bent to her tiny typewriter
on the sidewalk
before her.
I only have two words she said
when I came back.
I should have asked her what they were but
I pressed folded bills into her hand
and told her I would be back
but now I want the two words
because maybe
just maybe
that's all it takes
all it needs
to pierce your heart.

Sunday, September 1

X-ray visions

So, the thing with cancer is that even when you're done with it, you may not be done with it. It is a sneaky, foxy disease. Like the cell that snuck back in last year just when I thought all was well. Zap! Gotcha.

OK, so we took care of that and all looks quite promising, but because of the sneaky aspect, one must remain vigilant for the next 5 years. That, for some reason is the magic number. 5 years. You get to that point and they send you off with a "y'all take care now, hear?"

But until then, you must be scanned. My sneaky cell popped up 2 years after my surgery and a year after I ended treatment. I was almost relaxed. Zap. But because of the scans, they were able to snag it in its infancy.

So, OK, here we go again. The quarterly march  to the tube. It's not awful except for the anticipation. The uneasiness starts about 2 weeks before the appointment. All scenarios played out in color and full stereo. Everything from "all is well" to "this is bad" to "get your affairs in order". Honestly, by the time the appointment comes I have worked myself into a state of total acceptance for the worst.

This time all was well again. I knew it, I thought. Deep down.  heh

But the interesting thing is the waiting room. Everyone is there for one reason. To have their innards viewed by a dispassionate computer. In a Cancer facility. Some are like me: survivors hoping to stay that way. But I found myself wondering about them this time. Doing my own scanning..of the couples that wait. Nobody comes alone. I could pick out the patient from the two. The patient was quieter, the smiles softer. The partner tended to fuss about. Bringing magazines, trying to be a distraction. I wish I could tell them to just let us be. We are preparing our heads. It will be OK.

Most of the patients are older, but I did see a family come out of the room. The colorful IV bandaid was on the arm of a sweet little blond girl of 5 or so. Her parents were promising ice cream and her brother skipped ahead in anticipation. It broke my heart. Let her be a survivor counting down, I prayed.

I wondered what lurked inside the waiting patients. were there cancers to be detected, cures to be pronounced?  I heard the woman in the cubicle next to me say she lived 6 hours away and I wondered why she came here. Was her case complex enough that a cancer hospital was needed? It was simple for me, I live around the corner from the place there was never a question. But it put me in mind of  people who drive 6 hours for a CT and what that means.

I have had many of these tests now. I know the drill. I know I will scoot my jeans down to my knees and put my hands behind my head. That the table will slide smoothly in and out of the tube while whatever is whirring around in there sends images of inside me to somewhere behind me. I know there will be a dye injection and that it will warm me for a minute while the tube slides in again and then it is over. Just a couple of minutes.

And while I dress and the nurse removes the needle from my mediport, my pictures are already being read by my doctor and in about 20 minutes he will poke his head in the examining room and pronounce me well. Or not.

When I left this time, Russ had gone ahead to replace a magazine he had forgotten to replace in the CT room. When I saw him coming toward me in the hall I raised my hands in a victory salute and then I noticed a man and small child on a bench, waiting, quietly. When he saw my silent salute he turned away, put his head down. They had been in my Doctor's waiting room before me with their wife/mother. A thin, blond waif of a woman in a pink tank. She looked pale to me. As we waited for the elevator, she came out and joined her husband. He took her hand. They did not look at each other, they did not smile, they looked straight ahead, waiting. I told Russ I wanted to take the next car. She has been in my mind.

I guess we are all carrying some small, soft beast inside of us.  Something nobody sees, sometimes not even ourselves. I choose to name mine "Hope".

4 years to go.

Wednesday, August 28

catching up

I wanted to blog, I did. But I needed a new password and every protocol the system put me through just looped me back to the beginning so I decided to choose sanity. Today it worked.

So, we had Chautauqua redux in August and it was lovely. We stayed on the grounds in one of the funky old rooming houses. It was a room with no view except rooftops and there was a sink in the room, a much loved quilt on the bed, a lazy ceiling fan and a "closet" that was like the cubby in a pre-K class. Loved it. Even the shared bathroom was no problem and I got to spend a little time Sunday morning on one of Chautauqua's famed porches before we crossed the park to our booth. Sales were good and the weather was perfect and I always love being there.

Next up was Sonnenberg and by then I had Russell's chest cold. I wanted so much to enjoy the show, but I was pretty miserable. Hacking, whining, bitching. It lasted through to Elmwood and I am just now starting to want to live. Sales were pretty good but it took a lot for me to walk up the slope to the artist party. But I did it. One does not pass up free food at these shindigs.

Elmwood turned out to be my best show of the year. It was awesome. Sold lots and discovered the profitability of prints. It was a last minute decision. So many of my customers were asking how to frame my repro cards (which is hard because of the size) I decided to size some to 8X10 and print them on heavy, coldpress paper. I packaged them with a backing board and a printed description tucked into the clearbag. I only charged $10 because I was experimenting and they were not limited prints and we didn't use the super duper printer, just a good inkjet. I sold about 25 of them. I was happy.

On the personal side, I saw many friends. Some I see all the time, some I haven't seen in years, some   I see once a year at this show. It is the sweet part of doing a neighborhood festival.

A lady stopped by and gave Russell a dollar. She said she didn't have enough money to buy art from everyone, but she wanted to show her appreciation for how much she enjoyed experiencing it. I guess she gave dollars to almost everyone. Where else could this happen?

And then there was one. It always seems to take so long for the season to start and then it scoots by at warp speed. I haven't taken my bike out in weeks. First it was rainy, then it was many shows in a row and then this cold. Makes me sad. I wonder when I will have enough "air" to take it out again. Maybe this weekend, just for a bit. I do live on a bike path after all. No excuses.

So, up to the attic to get ready for a show I've never done in a town I've never visited. Cool!

Monday, July 29

dreaming of WIlliam Holden, Ithaca and cellos

Russell has been sick. A viral upper respiratory infection according to the Dr. Nothing can be done for it, apparently, but wait it out. Meanwhile neither of us is getting too much sleep due to the incessant coughing and whining.

At some point during this illness, he has become attached to old movies. The black and white kind where the faces are all gauzy and the Americans speak with oddly foreign accents that sound like a combination of England and Connecticut. Nobody curses, sex is apparently accomplished fully clothed and without touching, all events are accompanied by violins and cellos.

Speaking of celllos, Chautauqua was its usual wonderful weekend, even though my sales were not as astonishing as past years. They were still good. We brought out the new Martha Stewart sheer voile panels in pale gray and hung them across the back and sides of the tent. What a difference. Everyone noticed. I loved it. I'll post pictures after next week's show. It made the booth look sort of ethereal, like Russell's old movies. There was even the aforementioned cello music, courtesy of the child prodigy entertaining the park visitors behind us.

Last Friday, we did a show in Ithaca, spur of the moment, and I'm so glad we did. It was a 3 hour commute each way for a 6 hour show which sounds crazy but I made money. Crazy is as crazy does. An artisan market held in the structure for the Farmer's Market. Brilliant. Fun. Academics in attendance. Perfect.

Russell spent most of the afternoon napping in the truck. He was content. Takes a lot to get us down, I think.

I sold mostly collage at this show which tickled me. Made me feel like an artist. And I have 10 days to replenish stock.

Russell is upstairs sleeping but I can hear the faint sound of proper voices speaking perfect English against the cello accompaniment. He is falling asleep to an old movie again. I  think I'll wait a bit and see if I can change it when I get up there. Last night I dreamed that William Holden was in the doorway, smoking a cigarette. I told him we didn't smoke in our house and he raised one perfectly manicured eyebrow and smiled. Creeped me out. Took a while to fall asleep again. Between the spooky apparition and the muffled coughing, it was hard to relax.

 I clicked the channels and found Mike and Frank on American Pickers. They always relax me for some reason. They were  climbing around on rafters, pulling down old gas station signs. Probably from William Holden's time. I looked at the doorway. Empty. Success.

Thursday, July 4

so far, so meh

OK. 3 down. I hate to keep whining here. But June is the month that puts me in the black and starts to actually put income in the bank. I am still sweating fees. Not a good sign.

I have written about Roycroft before and you can read what I would have written by checking the archives for June each year. The Cliff note: They moved the show from the Roycroft campus to a parking lot and basically ruined a  lovely show. That about covers it.

The interesting new wrinkle is that one of the participants of the art show that runs the same weekend came to take an informal survey. It seems that they are feeling the move also.  The shows used to be across the street from each other and offered a beautiful combo of art and craft with only a street light to slow the trek between them. Now there is some talk of them moving to be closer to us. Interesting.

And while I'm being a brat, let me also complain about the set up with booths literally touching side to side AND back to back so that set up is a nightmare and there is no air at all. It was sweltering. Just 6 inches behind would have allowed us all to raise the back wall for desperately needed air. Also, no help present at set up that I could see. No volunteers to offer breaks during the day. No coffee in the morning to get the jets fired up (unless you wanted to buy it0. Just little things that wouldn't matter if the show was still the joy it used to be.

Funny thing is that about half of the artisans said they hated the new location and 4 years was enough time to see if it would work. Many said they would not apply next year unless it moved back. The other half love the new spot with it's big parking lot for customers and say their sales have never been better.

Makes no sense to me. But, no time to ponder. My beautiful Emma is visiting. We are picking up our new little trailer today. There is a big show next weekend and I need to get ready yet again. And of course, there is a picnic this afternoon.

I will not whine about the rain.

Sunday, June 16

bitchin', rollin', laughin'

OK, first the bitchin' :  I've done a certain Christmas Gift show for many years. Last year I was wait-listed which was not a total shock because they are known to "rest" an artist every few years and I was due. They did call me in off the list, but I was short of product due to my surgery down time and then I was  happily in Michigan with my brand new Emma. I had to turn it down. This year I am healthy and, as far as I know, no grandchildren are expected in November. So I applied again.

Now, I have been spoiled this year because I was accepted to I was getting a little too relaxed about this stuff. I won't say "cocky" because, trust me, not in my drawer of possible attitudes. So, when my friends started posting that they got this show, I checked my mail. Nothing. Nada. I  checked the next day. Nope. Huh?

Now, I am not bemoaning the fact that I may have been rejected. But nothing? Irritates me. We have seasons to plan, people. Don't play with us. The deadlines for other possible shows are whooshing by while you play with us. The Summer show at this facility was awful and now this for the Winter show? I may be done with the whole lot of ya.

OK, so much for the rant.

I got out on my bike yesterday after struggling to get the rack on my car. Russell is away, attending the college graduation of his youngest. (yay Max!) and I have become way too dependent on him over the years, so I dug the contraption out and proceeded to put in on upside down until I remembered that You Tube can teach you anything and there it was. Done! But my struggles were just beginning.

My new bike, with a step through frame, does not want to sit politely on the bars of the rack. The rack is  designed for the top tube to rest on. Ain't got one of those.
(I figured if I was going to end a sentence incorrectly, might as well start the next one with ain't). I got it on there, but I have bruised forearms and a sore back. Still,  I had a lovely day by the water on my bike.

The trail at our local park winds through trees, along the Erie Basin and Niagara River, into the Canalside Boardwalk. That's Canada over there...

When I got to Canalside, I grabbed one of the ubiquitous Adirondack chairs, sat under a tree, ate lunch and finished a library book that is due Monday. 

I could have stayed all day, but I had to work that night for "Book of Mormon". Since I had a ticket for the show, I only had to work until curtain and then I could sit with the "civilians" and be entertained. And oh, I was!

Oh! And that bike rack problem? The same friend who turned me on to the step-through frame, also told me about an adapter bar you can get so the bike can rest happily on the rack just like a "real" bike!

Such a simple solution for such a vexing problem! Dashed off to the bike store before work to grab one. 

The lesson for today? I guess it is that you may start the day bitchin', but you have the power to end it laughing. Well, usually.

Depends on what the mail brings tomorrow.  ;)

Tuesday, June 4

Show #1 "in the can"

I understand that in the film industry, when a project is completed, it is said to be "in the can". Well, my first show is completed and I can say with conviction that it is "in the can". Not going to explain exactly what can that might be.

Yes, day 3 was not much better than the others. Major disappointment.

There was the traditional artist breakfast meeting Sunday morning and the topic of few customers, few sales was, naturally, addressed.  With no resolution that I could see. It certainly isn't the quality of work:

So, I will have a while to ponder the options for next year. I have a real soft spot for this show. It would be hard to pass on it. But I may have to.

Onward and upward to Allentown in a few days. Sending good vibes out into the stratosphere.

Sunday, June 2

slow start

Oh man. I don't expect a windfall from this show. ( 100 American Craftsmen at the Kenan Center in Lockport.)  It has been in the middle of the pack for me. But it is traditionally the show that starts to even the scales. Maybe I can sock a few bucks away. At this rate, I'll be lucky to sock a few socks away.

I'm not sure what the reason for the insanely low attendance was. We all have theories and we had plenty of time to spout them as we wandered amongst each other's booths and commiserated.

It was very hot. High 80's which is like death for this show. First, most of us here in the Canadian border towns don't take kindly to anything over 70-75. It starts to hit 80, we get ornery. Then, the arena where the show is held has no A/C.  The place is cavernous. It would be like dropping an ice cube in your swimming pool to cool it down.

Overheard in the Lady's Room: "they charge us 8 bucks to get in here and there isn't even A/C?"

Maybe $8 is too much. I think it used to be $6. I think it should be $5. The rationale is that this is a "high end" show, so people come here to spend big bucks and 8 bucks is chump change. I don't agree. It would be smarter to charge us all an extra 50 bucks for the booth, scale down the artist party and the artist breakfast and let the folks in for nothing or a tiny fee like 2 bucks. What drives sales is attendance. Especially at a show like this. Outdoor festivals are different. You can get hundreds of thousands of people but maybe most of them are there for sun and beer. That will be my rant for next weekend.

So, anyway, the dearth of business led to an abundance of schmoozing and I got to know some artists better. Like the leather guy next to me that set up his first ever booth at Woodstock. He has a picture of himself there with his long curly hair, selling belts from a crate. He makes beautiful bags now, that sell for hundreds of dollars. And I heard him laughing with customers all day. At least he has fun. He says he's almost 70 now and he has perspective.

I got to know the son of one of my favorite artisans and to see his amazing pencil sketches. He will be one of us soon.

A few had trouble with their Square card readers or didn't know how to program to app for sales tax or edit  products and I became the go-to tech wizard. My son would be rolling and laughing at that.

Russell and I had time to discuss re-doing the new layout for the booth. It has issues. Actually, we had time to re-do it right there, but I nixed the idea.

Even the volunteers who man the admissions table seemed depressed so I promised everyone I talked to that today would be so busy and happy that our biggest problem would be where to spend all the glorious extra cash in our pockets.  I will be chatting with my shoppers and sending out good vibes I chose this life, good and bad. I knew there was no guaranteed pay check.

The only guarantee is that you will be doing work you love and that your office will be a festival of some sort and you will be, almost always, treated with respect by the people you deal with.

Beats the old government job hands down.

It is gray and damp today, bring on the people!

Friday, May 31


Wasn't I just whining about the applications? Seems like it. And yet, here I am, the morning of our first show of the Summer season.

I already reconnected with some friends during set up last night and today will be filled with catching up, hugs, news from the Winter. I love this community of artists. People care about each other, celebrate the successes of their colleagues, share their inside info and step ladders. I have never worked in that kind of environment. I think it is what keeps me loving this gig.

So, tonight I get to try out our new display and layout. (Thanks to display racks and bins from a closing Blockbuster) It's the first time in 15 years I've traveled to a show without my trusty floor racks.

I have a new widget: Travel Journals. I designed some fill-in pages, attached square envelopes to the inside of each cover, bound in a pocket in the middle and added some photo/scrapbook pages in the
back with spaced binding. We'll see how they go. It will be my most expensive book because of all the components.

So, I have a few hours before we head out to the venue.

Guess I can make a few more goodies this morning :)

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 27


Mom has been gone 2 years now. Seems impossible, but it's true. And I guess Memorial Day makes you think of people you've lost, so I've been remembering My folks and Russ' Mom who I loved dearly.

There was no big inheritance when Mom passed. Her little house wasn't worth a lot of money. It's sale didn't buy me a Mercedes. It paid some bills, made gifts to kids, socked a little away. Done. She died believing we would be set for life from her bequests. We let her believe it.

But I inherited other things that turn out to be priceless. A metal ice cream scoop with a knobby handle that outperforms all of my WIlliams/Sonoma fancy-dancy scoops. A huge wooden butcher block that she made pasta on every Sunday morning and then, as she got older,  just on special occasions.  It serves as the surface of my stainless work table. A recipe book with notations on the inside covers. A green vase I bought for her at an antique shop when I was newly married and thinking myself sophisticated. The white plastic beaded earrings, impossible to describe, that she wore on all special days. So much a part of her, that I clipped one to my bag when my son got married. I felt she was there.

A pair of knitted slipper socks with outrageous felt flowers that I hide in the bottom drawer but pull out on stormy Winter nights. Some paintings that were on her walls so long they left light rectangles on the wall when we took them down. (Mom was a smoker).

Every day I touch things that were a part of her, a part of our lives growing up. I sense her smile when I pull on the ugly socks. She always believed being cold gave you a cold. "Put on a hat!"

Today I listened to the last voice mail she left. I do that every so often. Hear her voice. But she is closest to me when I scoop out some ice cream or run a sponge over the worn wooden block on my work table.

Sunday, May 19

best made plans..

I would have tons of stuff ready for the season by now if life had cooperated. Have I made that argument before? Probably.

Most of February was spent at my son's house in Michigan, tending to his beautiful daughter while Leisha transitioned to being a working Mom.

Then, in March, there was the grand studio redesign I wrote about at the time.

Oh! And I was organizing a show to benefit the WNY Peace Center which took up way more time than I anticipated. That was in May.

The best distraction was a surprise offer from friends that were driving to Michigan for the weekend. Come with us, they said and so I did and I got to hold the charming Emma in my arms yet again. That was last week. I brought her cold home with me and Russell and I have been down for the count. Small price to pay, I think.

So, as usual, I am behind. But excited. Once again, I was accepted to all the shows on my list. There is much to be said for competing in an uncrowded field :) Many of my more talented friends were not so lucky and I don't know what to tell them.

But, on I go. Slow and steady, eye on the prize, insert your own cliche here...


Rollin, Rollin....

I love to ride a bike. I'm lousy at it. I have no strength in my legs so a 5 degree incline fatigues me. I am clumsy. The pedals are never in the right place for me to push off so there is often an awkward rolling and stepping dance that happens while I try to get the right pedal at 2 o'clock. Meanwhile, 5 year olds on trikes are passing me and joggers are waiting patiently for me because they can tell that should they step in front of me when i find my right pedal, there is little chance I will be in control of the bike when I roll into them. It takes me a while. And then there is the mounting issue. I can only get on the bike from my right side which means I have to fling my right leg over the saddle while my left leg bears my weight. My left leg with the bad knee. Not happening. By now I am sure any sane person reading this is wondering why I try. Because I like it. I love rolling along, feeling the breeze. I feel younger. I see things along the routes that please me. I want to be healthy. I was going to give up, but a friend turned me on to "step through" bikes which are basically "girls" bikes with an even lower cross bar than usual. I tried it. I liked it. I bought it. I still need to figure out that right pedal thing and those hills will get flatter as I get stronger. My son insisted I buy a helmet, so I did. He gave me a grandchild. It is the least I could do. I took my Granny bike to my neighborhood park which just happens to have a bike path that runs along the Niagara River and Lake Erie and meanders through the parking lots of some pricey lakefront condos before it empties out onto a marina and the Canalside boardwalk. Every so often I stopped to take photos of a sea gull or the winding path before me or Canada Geese chillin' on a gentle wave. I came home hot, tired, happy and proud. Look out, world. She has wheels.

Monday, April 15

the case of the mysterious night visitor

I am defecting to the "other side" and helping to put on a show. I am the jury and the record keeper and the "let's focus" person. It is in 3 weeks and my mind tumbles about  at night, making lists in my head and checking off boxes and worrying if anyone at all will come.

So it was that Sunday morning I was wide awake, pondering. 5:30 am. Wondering if I should get up, start the day, or do what most of the rest of the city was doing...pull the covers up and snuggle back in. And that's when I saw it. A soft, yellow pulsing light outside our window.  I waited a bit but it continued and I worried about ambulances in front of friend's homes and I went to look. There, under my window, was a black SUV, facing the wrong way on our one way street.  Flashers on. Odd, I thought.

Then it pulled into a driveway and backed onto the street going the right way. And stopped right under my window. The driver was staring at our house and then looked up and stared right at me. Or so it felt. I started to feel uneasy. He pulled away, to the corner, and turned onto the main street. Our house is on a corner, so he had been at the back side of the house, now he was driving past the front of the house. Except he didn't drive past. He stopped. In the bike lane. Facing the wrong way. And stared at my house again.

I was going from window to window, trying to track what he was doing. Why was some guy casing our house at 5:30 am? I heard him exchange sharp words with someone and the passenger door opened and another guy darted out and ran toward the house. My heart was starting to beat a little faster. I couldn't see what the guy was doing. A few seconds later he ran to the car, jumped in and the car sped away.

What the heck?

Oh well. Probably nothing. I went to get a glass of orange juice, plopped in an ice cube, turned out the light and stood there. I couldn't go upstairs without figuring out what those guys had done at the front of our house. I slipped on some shoes and a jacket and quietly slipped out, walking cautiously to the front of the house. It was eerily quiet, just a soft, early Spring breeze. And then I saw it. On our front step where nobody goes. something reflecting the light and moving softly in the breeze. I stopped. tried to squint and see what it was without going too close. I mean, you never know.

I took a few more steps and saw that the object was a cylinder of some sort. I looked up and down the street. Empty and silent. I walked closer, bent down, picked up...

the New York Times.

Tuesday, March 19

this is what I was thinking...

So, I lamented my studio mess and confessed to letting years go by with furniture that not only didn't work, it leered at me from the corners and dared me to try to make it work. As my business grew and I added items to my list of goodies, more nooks and crannies needed to be found. Then I added collage which really threw things into the maelstrom. Collage requires bits and pieces of odds and ends to be within grabbing distance. They need to be handy so that as you are looking for just the right bit to finish off a piece it leaps up from the pile and calls to you.  The only thing my supplies were calling was "help" So, after watching years of renovation shows, I realized that what needed to be done was a demolition. I would have to strip the hulk of its stashes of stuff, dismantle it, take all the supplies from their corners and cubbies and toss them into a free for all so they could be seen and stored anew. I gathered bins and boxes and buckets and proceeded to search and destroy. Russ came upstairs, gasped and wondered when I had lost my mind. I told him not to worry, just get the hutch off the top of the hulk. I had a vision.

I surveyed the chaos with grim determination and a sense of certainty. I could see it. Russ came up with a sledge hammer and crowbar (the hulk would not die, it had to be pounded into submission) He had trouble seeing what I saw. I think he was contemplating setting a match to it but we do live there after all.. I had to work that night. Just a few hours, but it was a welcome break from the dust and oppression of what I had created. The sound track from Les Mis was playing in my head... I showed the picture of the demo to a co worker and he paled and gasped. Oh, ye of little faith. While I was at work, Russ scooted off to the home improvement mega store and when I came home he proudly showed me the new counter he built that skimmed over the desk portion of the hulk, a file cabinet and my mat board shelves. A whole wall of counter. With the hulk gone and the desk flush against the wall it was like doubling the room size. I was psyched. The next two days, I organized, labeled, cleaned, swept, tossed, re-imagined. The demo was a good idea. From total chaos comes comes inspiration. Or was it desperation? Anyway, here it is:


  The rugs are for my dogs to sleep on. They like to keep me company. Oliver's little bed is tucked in the back right hand corner. Jutting out on the right is my mat cutter. If you could see to the far left, there is metro shelving with cut mats and mat boards, organized by size.

That doll on the right side counter? That's Wanda the Walking Doll. My grandparents gave it to me when I was just a few years old and I was never allowed to play with it because it was "special". Mom would bring it out every so often and wind her up and let her skate along the floor and then back in the box she went.  She hangs out with me now as a reminder that you take beauty when it is offered.  Some things are not meant to be saved until later. She winks at me now and then, I swear.

Friday, March 15

what was I thinking??

As it is every Spring, my studio needs to be transformed from the end of season chaos to the fresh beginning serenity I crave. This usually involves a couple of days of heavy cleaning, reorganization and tossing of paste hardened brushes and glued-together scissors. It is a chore I dread every year and I whine about it every year but I am happy and smug when it is done.

So what did I do this year? Is that not enough? Nooo. I have been working around a behemoth computer station that belonged to my son when the attic was his. Removing it seemed to be like trying to get that boat you built in the basement out of the house.. Then, while I was whining and puttering, I looked closer and realized (after 10 years) that the top part could actually be removed. I called Russell up to confirm what I was seeing. Yep, piece of cake, he concurred.

This is so embarrassing to admit. I have grumbled about that hulking thing for 10 years! I made efforts to utilized the shelves and cubbies in it, but it was meant for technology, not scraps of paper and book boards. The worst part is that its height meant it could only go so far against the slanted attic walls, robbing me of precious feet of space.

With the "hutch" part gone, the desk could be moved flush to the wall, I would have more space, I could use the flat surface to organize supplies. Simple? Well, so it would seem. But first I have to empty that out, stash the stuff, make room by moving boxes of paper off of other shelves and on and on...  aaarrgh! As of today, you can't really even get in the room.

I may take a picture. Don't judge me.

Today I must finish this. The season is fast approaching. The Small Press Book Fair is in a couple of weeks. I can do it.


Sunday, February 3

2:50 am

 That's what time it is now as I ride the rails through snow covered flashes of roads and lights that seem untethered to anything real in the dark. I imagine people turning over in their sleep as the rain whistle hums through their windows. I love the train. I love the comforting sway, the  passengers curled up against the windows or sprawled over 2 seats, sleeping, the intimate sound of their snoring  part of the sound of the train itself.

I am on my way to Emma. Emma. How absurd that I have a granddaughter, that I am off to spend a few weeks tending her while Leisha transitions back to working. It is hard to articulate how it feels to have this child of my child in my life. It is unseemly that I am a Grandmother. I feel too young for the title even though many of my friends achieved this milestone at a much younger age. I feel a love for this peanut of a person that is hard to describe. I often just scroll through her pictures and get lost in them. Staring at her like some sort of obsessed fan or something .

Yesterday I had my first CAT scan since the surgery. It was a long day. 2 hours in radiology, most of it waiting for the drink they give you to coat my innards. Then getting the IV and finally the scan itself which takes 5 minutes. Reminds me of what Mom used to say after every holiday dinner. "All that work and it's over in 5 minutes"

Then the biggest wait of all, learning the results from the Dr. I love my new Dr. He is kind and funny and real and very skilled. He knocked on the door and, as he opened it , I felt my heart beat faster. Once you've had a bad scan, you never are comfortable again, I believe. The door opened wide and there he was, big grin and 2 thumbs up. All normal he said and I told him that was a great way to enter a room.

Now I could focus on Emma. Russ wanted to drive me, but the lakes did their magic, dumping unexpected mounds of snow, filing the air with swirling white. The whole trip is from one a Great Lake to another and the thought of squinting through white powder for 8 hrs was not appealing to either of us, although Russ  is always game to give it a go.

So, all I need to do now is make the bus to east Lansing ontime. But, you know it doesn't mean a whole lot to me. All will be well. I have 2 thumbs up to prove it.

Thursday, January 17

seeing stars

OK, I've been a bit grumpy. It's the application blues. I have it every year. Plus, my studio is a disaster and I can't work up the motivation to go into the cold attic and clean up. Russ is away for a few days, and I am missing him. So, when I buckled up Quincy to take him for a walk, I was just hoping he would pee quick so I could get back in my big chair and continue to grumble and procrastinate.

I was not my best self this morning.

There was a soft snow in the air, barely there, tiny dots of white against a gray sky. Perfect back drop for my mood.

And then a flake landed on Quincy's shiny black coat. I don't know why I noticed such a thing, but I did. It was a perfect star. 6 or 8 points, it was too tiny to tell for sure. The center was lace. I could see the flake perfectly against the black and it stopped me cold. (no pun intended. maybe) I mean, you see those blown up photos of snowflakes all the time, but how often does one present itself to you in all it's miraculous perfection, just big enough for the naked eye to admire? Not one this tiny for sure. Life is truly magical, I thought. Just look at that. My cliche alert did not go off. It was just too perfect.

I reached into my pocket hoping to find my iPhone so I could take a picture. Of course not. I pondered whether I would be able to run in for my camera. I looked  back at the flake and it was evaporating. First the points, then the outside of the circle, then the lace. It melted in slow motion, leaving a soft white haze before it went away totally.

Well, so much for miracles, I grumbled to my whiny self, and I coaxed Q to hurry, promising cheese when we got back inside. A flake drifted by, landed on my lashes and I brushed it off. Then I looked down and saw that my coat had little flakes all over it. Star flakes. Perfect. Tiny. Lacy.

Look at me, all covered in stars, I thought. It was a gift I realized.  A bubble rose in my chest, pushing the grump out, letting the star gazer back in.

I can do this.

Monday, January 14

ready, set...

Well, the first app has been mailed. Here we go again. Fill in the blanks, gather the pictures of your creations, try to explain your creative process in a way that impresses whoever is going to read it, write the checks (app fee and booth fee), hope they clear, check off that box on your list, file the paperwork. Wait.

There will be one of those every week or 2 now for a while. I will procrastinate and grumble until I have mere hours to get it to the post office. As I mail the last of them, the first of them will be letting me know if I got the show or not.

I have to readjust my attitude, I think. This is business, not personal. If they don't choose me, so be it.


Some years ago, after doing a run of awful shows, I decided to try for one show every year that seemed "out of my league". Since I wasn't expecting good news, it was exciting when I got it. And I got it more often than not. Last year I tried for one in Michigan near my son and his family and was "not invited" but it was a last minute rush job. This year I will submit better work and try again. It's a long shot, but I made a vow.

My life, for many years, ran on a September to June schedule. Grade school, high school, college, teaching. I still feel a sense of anticipation in September. Now it's a May-December schedule with a preamble. It is the rhythm of my life. The anticipation comes with the first warm afternoon.

So, off and running. OK, walking, but getting there.

Thursday, January 3

dewey would flip a decimal

I actually love the way libraries work now. When I hear about a book that sounds interesting, I log into my account, request the book and my branch emails me when they have retrieved it for me. If I don't want to wait a couple of days for that, I can see which libraries have the desired book on their shelves and I can do the work myself.

Today I went to pick up 2 books that I had requested. I scanned my card at the self service kiosk, put the 2 books on the desk, the computer scrolled out the titles, I pushed the button for email receipt and I was on my way.

Before I go any further, let me say that I love most technology. I own almost everything Apple has come up with in the last 20 years. Their products intrigue me. But for some reason, today I got nostalgic.

I had a flash of memory. The little envelope on the back cover, the card with all the stamped dates on it, the friendly (usually) librarian adding a new date on the card and sliding it into the envelope, handing the book to you. When I was a kid, I liked to think about the people all these dates represented and wonder what books they had taken out. Some of the dates went way back. Like 5 years! and it seemed like ancient history to me.

Now there is no connection to the patrons that came before you. The book is clean, free of history. Every once in a while something falls out from between the pages. A receipt from the drugstore. If you're lucky there is a note written on the back. Or a ticket stub. Once I was gifted with a postcard from Denmark. They were having a great time, the place was amazing but they missed home.

I love my library, but it has become a cold place. There used to be people behind the desk that knew me, that would ask how I was. Now it is sort of like going to the drive through car wash.  In and out in record time, little or no human contact.

But at least there are still books. Standing there waiting for you. Some of them with yellowed pages, some still smelling of printer's ink. All of them holding something you didn't know before. I wonder how long libraries will exist now. How long before we only read books on a glowing screen and the simple pleasure of holding a book and turning the pages goes the way of the little stamped cards?

This may explain why I love making books. I watch people pick them up, cradle the spine, fan the pages, run a hand over the cover, smile. It is almost sensual.

It's the least I can do :)

Thursday, December 27

sidestepping the cliches

It would be easy to draw a Christmas story replete with imagery of the miracle baby and gathering of wise guys and making do before the manger was put together but I won't.

We came together at the home of my son and his wife to celebrate the Holiday and to enjoy the new baby. And we did. There wasn't time or room for a tree, (the baby's furniture hunkered in a corner of the living room while her room was being painted)  so I wired together bunches  and swags of greenery and decorated doors and windows and the mantle. Gifts were piled on the hearth. It was pretty cool, actually.

 I was there for 2 weeks before Christmas, Russell and the other grandparents arrived on the 23rd. But before that, I had quiet time with my granddaughter. Holding her for the first time was a heart quake.

She gained almost 2 pounds in 3 weeks and she will never again be as tiny as she was in this picture.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas day we had one baby, 2 parents, 4 grand parents and 5 dogs. It was glorious. Billy and Leisha tormented me with Christmas carol parodies from shows like South Park and I still find myself  softly singing "Ding, fries are done" as I putter around the house. They will pay for this. 

We left for home right after Christmas dinner, deciding to beat the coming snow storm by outrunning it. It worked. We got home at 5 am under an oddly pink night sky, napped, ran for food and then hunkered down to enjoy the feeling of being trapped in a snow globe, kept warm by a fire, some quilts and new memories.

Heavenly peace, indeed.

Saturday, December 22

meanwhile, in Michigan

I used to post a lot, about everyday things and big things and art show stuff. Then I got side-tracked by life, I guess. It is easier, somehow to write of small things that loom large, than it is to write of the major  
life events that rattle the earth beneath you. That takes time and thought and perspective. For a while it seemed too big of a job and blogging should not be a job.

So, OK,  I got cancer again and had surgery again and was pronounced clean and fit again. The procedure I had, (over and above removing the small tumor that was nestled in fatty tissue and not, thank God, in an organ, was elective.) I had to keep reminding myself of this during a recovery that seemed to be taking eons longer than I thought. I'm OK now. Moving along...

I became a Grandmother in November. I'm not sure how to explain that feeling. It is one part "am I really this old???" and 99 parts "what a miracle".

My granddaughter, Emma Rachel (her middle name is my Mother's) was delivered early due to complications my brave and tough daughter-in-law suffered. My daughter-in-law has Cystic Fibrosis but has not allowed it to impact her life in any measurable way.
I admire and respect her and love her.  Emma spent some scary weeks in the NICU, tubes everywhere, but she is home and gained 2 pounds in a month and is beautiful and what a miracle. I watch my son, besotted by this peanut of a child, gently tending her and it fills my heart.

On the art side, I had none of my usual Christmas shows for various reasons which impacted my Christmas shopping  and will really hurt when I start sending out applications in a few weeks. I need to make some decisions about shows but I'm having trouble settling back into normal. My studio looks like a victim. It will take many hours of concentrated work to get it back to workable space. But I love this time of year. Out with the old, everything in order, clean brushes and new pots of glue. Beautiful. Promise.

I have been here in Grand Rapids staying with my son and his family for a couple of weeks. Lending a hand, tending to chores, providing moral support for Emma's first bath, first nail clipping. I helped pick out her first Christmas dress and went with the kids to help choose paint colors for the nursery.  I'm not sure how much they actually need me, but it has been good to feel like they did. Emma's other grandparents will be here for Christmas, after which we will leave and they will stay for a few weeks. I may be back in February for a bit.  It is a sea change from the easy, cozy life Russell and I have been living, but it is good for all of us, I think.

And so it goes. Life and all its surprises.

I missed writing my blog, it seems. I'm going to try to get back in its good graces.

To write of simple things, to make yourself really see them is like an act of grace. I haven't just missed writing the blog, I've missed what the act of writing it gave me.