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Wednesday, December 31

once more into the breach...

Well, I ask you to open my studio door at the end of the season and not imagine a war having been fought there.

Really bad. Really.

So, I have some time off from the theater, my first app due in 10 days, a need to keep busy, a snowstorm outside. There will be cleaning.

I am going to organize. Again. There will be plastic bins and labels. Old storage stuff that never really worked is already at the curb. New shelves are ready to be filled with those labeled plastic thingys.

I have the most trouble letting go of things that I may use someday maybe if just in case I might somehow.....gone. Unpainted paper castings, A book that just need a repair...for 2 years now. Mirrors with designs that just didn't work. Cast bowls that never sold, the edges cracked from schlepping to show after show. Gone.

I started this year with the same cleaning spurt, but this time I am actually redoing things. For instance, my paper cutter is on a surface just about 6 inches too low so I always hurt my back when doing any prolonged cutting. That will be moved up. Things i had stored right near my work area will be stored away unless it's something I use daily. Stuff like that.

And so we start again. A clean room, a clean slate. A new calendar book. New plans.

Guess I should get up there. One more coffee.......

Sunday, December 28

seen in New Jersey

We maneuvered enough jug handles to actually get into a mall on Christmas Eve for some last minute supplies (tape,wrapping paper) and my 1st purchase for the coming business year (calendar book).

And guess who we were parked next to?



On Christmas Eve. You can't make this stuff up.

And there is apparently a fleet of these trucks, because check out the number on the front bumper:



I wonder what kind of guarantee you get with this crew? Lifetime?

Eternity?

Saturday, December 27

driving New Jersey

OK, so we were happy to be going elsewhere for Christmas. It was way better than staying home and staring sadly at the corner of the couch where the dog always slept. The weather looked promising, which in these parts means no blizzard or ice storm predicted. We would get there early, spend quiet time at the Holiday Inn, and then the welcome distraction of family and food and presents. This would be a good thing.

Billy called and said I was to open our gift before we left. It was a GPS gizmo. How cool. So, we were ready to hit the road. We had gas, we had the GPS, we had a backup MapQuest printout. This would be a breeze. Then we got to New Jersey.

Most of New Jersey is very pretty, not the chemical spewing skyline or gritty urban landscape immortalized in the "Sopranos" opening credits. But this was not enough for whoever is in charge of New Jersey. No. What could they do to make the place even more memorable? Why they could invent jug handles!

Oh, what are jug handles you say? Pull up a chair. Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long ago, a mall appeared. And then another. And the people came and it was good. The car dealers saw and they came. Hotels were built. How to feed these pilgrims? Let there be a Chili's and an Olive Garden. Add a movie theater, a supermarket, a drug store. The line of pilgrims grew. And stalled. They beeped and beeped. (Beeping your horn is the unofficial theme music for New Jersey) Get us to the promised lands, they demanded. Beep. Now!. Beep.

And so the jug handle was born. The pilgrims were not to make left turns. No. Left turns made the horns beep, bogged down their progress. Let them turn right! Yes! If you want to turn left, you turn right and swoop around (quickly or the horns beep) and soon you are going straight and voila! you have cut the line and you are free to turn willy nilly. What a concept. These little detours to freedom are called jug handles. As in "take the jug handle right after the 2nd light".

This works once you understand the concept. Before that, you keep driving further looking for that elusive left turn lane so you can get home. Eventually you end up in Pennsylvania or something and you ask a local what the hell is up with New Jersey.

We had not used the GPS at first because, after all, we were just going to the mall next to our hotel. Ha! Foolish pilgrim. Once we turned her on (the GPS voice is always a woman. Why is that?) she tried to tell us. "turn right! turn right! sigh. recalculating" I'm sorry, GPS Lady, we should have listened. On the way home, when we no longer needed left turns, we just needed to get out of New Jersey. she guided us past the lanes that would pull us out of the jug. "stay left! stay left! Phew!" and I swear she lit a cigarette when we were safely back in New York where left turns just had special lanes with arrows, if anything at all, and the roads had no handles to avoid.

journeys

I took a break from the blog 12 days ago because we had just learned that the beautiful swimming dog in the last post had an illness that would take him from us in days. We spent the next week loving him and saying goodbye before we let him go, peacefully and with Russell whispering loving words in his ear.

Some day I will write of this almost perfect dog and his place in our lives. But now I am taking deep breaths and moving about my life, stepping around the little land mines of ragged, chewed up teddy bears, a brush full of golden fur, a plastic tote with a handful of dog food left at the bottom.

Jake was a gift we had the enormous privilege of loving for over 8 years. His journey has been completed but he left big old floppy footprints all over our hearts.

Monday, December 15

Saturday, December 13

seasons

In my head, this life has 3 seasons: Application, Summer and Holiday. Right after Holiday and for a few weeks prior to Application there is a brief respite called "life". This is when you cram in Christmas prep, Christmas celebration and Christmas clean up. If you celebrate Christmas. If you don't, I guess you get to actually read a book or something.

So, today's show was the last of the Holiday season. It was, appropriately enough, in a gym, 4 hours long, had few sales but good hot chocolate and very nice attendees and organizers. I believe the Universe gave me this show so I wouldn't feel weepy about the year ending. I had never done this one before, but the proximity to our house, the fact that it was in a pretty classy private school, the date being the traditional weekend of Women's Gifts..it seemed worth a try.

You can't be right every time...



We didn't win any of the raffles, either.

I had a lot of time to think about the year while I sat behind my table



and I thought about the year to come, too. Made some decisions, pondered changes. That's the thing, you see. Even at the end of the year, with exhaustion sucking the marrow from your bones and a pain like an ice pick between your shoulder blades, the idea of a new season gives you that little scratch of anticipation in your belly. And you begin to look forward, even before you've had a chance to look back.

Say what you will about the frustrations and uncertainties of this business, I've never had a "real" job that made me feel that way.

We packed up in no time, loaded the van and headed home. All of the inventory I had left fit in one small tote.

Jake was waiting when we got home and I walked him to the corner. He dropped to the snow for a roll about when the air was suddenly filled with bird song. We both looked up to see the sky filled with birds that swooped in like a dark curtain unfurling against the sky They started to fill the trees




singing and calling to each other. Once they all flew into the sky, swooping away and back in perfect formation, dipping and rising before they broke away and settled back into the branches. I wonder what that was. A salute?

And then they lifted off again, this time with purpose. No sweeping gesture this time, just heading out and away,





Their season over, too, I guess and the street became eerily quiet. Jake went back to snow rolling and I gave him a few minutes before I called him to follow me back to the house.

No show to get ready for, no supplies to order, no reason to hit the attic. I changed into jammy pants and an oversized hoodie, curled up in my big leather chair. Made a cup of Ovaltine. Really.

A few weeks of life before Application Season. Quiet, soft days with no deadlines. My version of flying South.

If I wasn't so tired I'd swoop.

Monday, December 8

another mansion, another show

This show was part of Open Studios weekend. About 20 of us gathered in the beautiful rooms of Gilda's Club and set up to sell, donating 20% back to Gilda's. It is a wonderful collaboration between the Bliss and Bejewelled artists and Gilda's organization. More about the Club later.

(Just one thing. I need to apologize now for the quality of some of the photos I'm about to share. I know, I know, I have promised all year to learn my camera. And I will. Really. But wouldn't you rather see something a little blurry and with odd color tones than nothing at all? )

I was assigned to the art room which was a utilitarian space, not one of the elegant rooms with plush furniture and flattering light. This was a good thing. Not only did we get vinyl floors I didn't have to worry about, there was bright light and a supply cabinet that turned out to be a source for emergency borrowing. A stapler, a pen, a marker. (Yes, Mom, I returned everything). I will take functionality every time. I thought my little space worked out pretty well



Until I saw Danielle's colorful, welcoming "shop"



and Robin's clever utilization of the wash up area (under the black drape) as shelf space



I need display help. A mentor. Someone with vision. I've had those table covers for 10 years. (Note: Add to list of January projects "research display options) We've made strides on the outdoor set up, but indoors...not so much.

I mean, it never occurred to me to either cover up or temporarily remove the art projects on the bulletin board behind me. Not until someone complimented me on "my" mandalas and asked how much they were. Oh man.

Anyway...Friday night there was a fund raiser/reception./preview with food and music



so we had shoppers who were juggling wine glasses and miniature food as they browsed. Saturday and Sunday were open house style and many many people came. 

This was a lovely weekend.  Many old friends



Paul Morgan of Avalon


Brian Nesline in what I jokingly called the "Faces of Buffalo Wing"


Anne Bliss...a major reason for the success of this show



Chary...her work sparkles and so does she :)



Mary Stephens, not just a talented designer, the force behind the growing Buffalo Indie Market

and Gingerbread houses!









The house was filled with laughter and art and cookies. People came in out of the cold, stomping snow off their shoes, unwinding scarves, taking in the light and warmth of the house. They sipped coffee and nibbled cookies and engaged us in conversation as they shopped. I spoke with many women who were cancer survivors, members of this club. (As Gilda said "a club you never wanted to belong to. That's where the name comes from) I was taken by their spirit, a certain defiance, courage. They bought things from me that had quotes on them about living life fully, seizing the day, moments that take your breath away. I'm thinking about them today as I go about the mundane day-after-show paperwork.

Yesterday I found myself drawn to the "It's Always Something" room. It is a small room, all white. Walls, furniture, drapes. The decor, what there is of it, is nautical. Maybe I was drawn to it because there has never been a day in my life in which a white room would have been possible. But I would stand in the doorway and wonder what stories the walls would tell. The furniture is oversized and overstuffed. A person would be held and comforted by furniture like that. And by images of the sea, By the canvas of white walls. I pictured this as a haven, a place for conversation and connection. I imagined people bringing troubles there and having them washed clean. I have no clue what the room really is for, but for me, this weekend, it was a symbol of this beautiful idea.

I'm thinking Gilda would be proud.

Thursday, December 4

deck the halls---and lobbies

Sometimes I decorate for Christmas. I go all out. Fresh greenery. Little tableaus on the mantle with my collection of hobo Santas. Sometimes we go away and I skip it. Sometimes we stay home and I almost skip it, usually because we are so totally frazzled from a run of Christmas shows that all I want to do is sit under a quilt with a stack of newly checked out library books, all the remotes and a quart sized cup of coffee. One year I cut a twig from the cherry tree, strung it with colored lights and stuck it in a big apothecary jar. That looked pretty nice, actually.

Now, at work, there is no halfway, no lit twigs. Every year the boxes come out



and a crew goes to work





Yes, a crew helps, but one of these things really, really helps



It took a couple of days, but it looks pretty good I think












The pictures aren't very good. I have trouble shooting indoors. I need to read the manual, I do. I will. But I do have one outdoor shot



A 3 day show starting tomorrow and a one day bazaar the next weekend. How much energy will I have for decorating this year? I'm thinking less than a triple A battery, about as much as you get from scrubbing your feet across the carpet and then touching the cat's nose.

This may be a twig year. But at least I have the office.

Sunday, November 30

in the news, in the mall, at the bazaar

Well, the day started as it always does. Coffee and the newspaper. Except that nowadays, the newspaper is blinking at me from my laptop. I find that I read less of it now, what with the ability to scroll quickly past anything that doesn't immediately peak my interest. Not sure that is a good thing. So, I'm scrolling past 90% of the news when I see they have a feature on interesting places to buy gifts and it is focused on gift shops in museums and galleries. Well, that was cool, so I scrolled slower and there, in the paragraphs devoted to the Historical Society gift shop is this:

"A postage-stamp-sized pin by Pat Sorbini is actually a miniature book, perfect for “short stories, brief notes, haiku.”

Well, I know most of my art show friends are pretty blase about this sort of thing, but when you're quietly scrolling through the news and your name pops out at you like that, it jump starts the morning, I gotta tell you. And, I must admit, the fact that I was one of the few singled out sort of puffed me up for a few moments. It was sweet.

After a brief stop at the farmer's market for apples, pears and cider, it was off to breakfast at Amy's. Amy's is a place near the University that caters to students and professors and anyone who ever was one of those things. None of the plates match, patrons have drawn art on the paper placemats and they are pinned to the little cork strips in the booths. If you get there early enough, you can get breakfast for a dollar or something. They have wonderful food for the rest of the day, too. Plus, when we walk in, anyone who takes care of us says "over medium with rye, home fries, no meat, right?" Yep.

We were out early because I was going to a "doorbuster" sale at the craft store. This is not something I do. Ever. I would rather pay double than fight crowds and stand in long lines to save a few dollars. This is why we are not rich. Well, it's one of the reasons. But there was a sale on buttons. There is never a sale on buttons, I use them on my bindings. We are not talking about plastic disks with 2 holes in the middle. I have found buttons that are carved Victorian ladies, funky squares, spirals. They are wonderful for the books but they only make financial sense when they are on sale and yesterday they were 50% off and we had a coupon for 20% off the total purchase before noon. Had to go.

After I looted the button aisle, we were off to the Christmas show at St. Gregs. I have heard about this show for years, so many high-end artisan types do it. Unusual for a church bazaar venue. And this is one mama of a craft show, I have to say. 2 buildings filled with vendors and buyers. They even had kettle corn. We saw lots of people we knew, which was fun. When you go to a show as a visitor, you can actually look at stuff and talk to people. Who knew? And there were lots of people I knew would be there and some I didn't expect. I don't think the show would be a good fit for us, but it was fun to go.

By the time we got home, there was just enough time for lunch and a shower before I had to work at the theater. I have Open Studios in 5 days and I made not one thing all day. My ears are ringing from stress. A whole day lost. But it will be fine. I'm up early today. Well, I was up early then I felt the need to blog...

Because it was a day of surprises. Your name in the paper, buying apples at a market you thought had closed for the Winter, a doorbuster sale with no lines, a fellow artisan I hadn't seen for years, except in email, visiting St Gregs as I was..a busman's holiday.

Not a lost day at all. Perhaps there is no such thing.

Thursday, November 27

attitude of gratitude

Yes, of course, I am grateful for the 4 kids and 2 grandkids that bring such joy and frustration and love to our lives. And, of course, the sibs, the Moms. My Russell. All of them. My blessings. Amazing graces.

But this is an art blog, so let's not get too schmoopy. As an artist of sorts I am grateful for other things.

My bone folder. Number one. Could not work without it. Don't know who invented it. Don't know if it is a recreation of a medieval tool that was, like, really bone or what. It folds, it scores, it makes paper behave, it chops it dices...I kiss you, my bone folder. I am thankful for you.

Glue. Think about it. Sticks, bottle, sprays, tubes. None of my stuff would be together without it. Who invented glue? Thanks whoever you are.

Other artists and artisans. I get advice, wisdom, sarcasm and affection from them. Considering that at your average art/craft show we are all competing, that the 40 bucks spent in my booth is now not gonna be spent at yours, I think that is amazing. Where else are you going to learn which shows to apply for and which ones to dump? Which credit cards processors are the best? A good place for art supplies. This Spring a potter let us photograph his shelving system and then proceeded to tell us how it was made and even where to get the components cheap. I cherish this community of art carnies that schlepp their wares to festivals every Summer weekend, hoping for the best.

Artist amenities. If you are a show organizer and you gave us any or all of the following: free coffee at set up, breakfast, artist-only porta potties, after show reception, booth sitters, goodie bags, name tags with correct spelling..thank you, thank you.

Hyatt's. Sure, most of our stuff is bought from wholesalers, but to actually have an art store...in the neighborhood..where they say "Hey Pat" when I walk in? Thanks.

Artichoke French. That's all I have to say about that. Thanks.

Shows that cash your check AFTER you've been accepted. Smooches. Although my bank prefers the stealth cashers that submit the application check any time between the day I wrote it and the day of the show without warning. They adore those little $30 bonuses. It's part of why First Niagara didn't need bailout money. They have me.

Most of all...all those folks that handed over their hard-earned money to me in exchange for one of my creations, thank you. You didn't just help us pay the mortgage, you gave me the greatest compliment an artist type can get. You looked at something I imagined and created and you liked it enough to buy it and bring it home. I am grateful for you. You keep me going.

Yes, soon I will be posting a rant about this business, I now have 7 applications on the mantle waiting. Inside those festive looking mailings, you just know are absurd requirements. Like certified checks, photos of me in the studio, copies of invoices from suppliers, an "artist statement" about where I get my inspiration.

But this is Thanksgiving Day, no complaining allowed. Just gratitude.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 25

Sunday, November 23

mansion merchandising

When you decide to try your hand at selling your works of art and craft, you pretty much have to accept that you will prop up a tent or open up a card table anywhere you are told. I have done shows at the foot of a ski hill, in gyms that smell of old socks, in church basements that require you to carry your stuff down narrow, winding stairs or, worse yet, UP narrow winding stairs. We have done shows on city streets, in parks, in parking lots. It's part of the game.

But at Kenan, you get a mansion.





I mean, this is the ceiling, OK?



This could spoil you for the next cafetorium gig.

So we got our little area set up OK, but did some more tweaking the next day. This was basically it, though...



And, most important, the people came. And came. Saturday was a constant stream of people through the house.



On Sunday morning, they gave us a little breakfast in the Greenhouse. We schmoozed with our fellow artists, drank coffee, gossiped, ate muffins, laughed, drank orange juice. It was a nice way to start the last day.

Sundays are usually pretty slow at shows and this Sunday was very slow. But the weekend, all told, was a good one. So far, the anxiety about the effect of our country's financial malfunction on the art show circuit has been much ado about little.

Phew.

2 more shows and then we will have come full circle on this blog..a year in the life. But I'm having too much fun, so I'm going to carry on. You do want to know how my web site goes, right? And marketing the book pins should be a real page turner. Don't wanna miss that.

Two more shows to get ready for. But not tonight, Tonight I'm blogging and reading and eating Chinese take-out.

I earned it. :)

Friday, November 21

It's a set up

I've written about the Kenan Center before. In June we do 100 American Craftsmen which starts our local "season". Their Holiday Show comes at the end. It is wonderful to have the year book-ended by these lovely shows when we are lucky enough to be accepted to both.

100 American is held in the arena, but the Christmas show is in "The House" and outlying buildings.





Our first year, we were in the Education Building which was lovely. Then we were "moved up" to the house in a back room. This year we got a plum. The living room. I can't explain the difference, I'll show you.

Last year's spot..to the left where the chair is. You can't see the radiator that was in the middle of the wall. Just 2 of us set up there in the back room which was also the exit from the show. An interesting challenge.



This year



It's not going to be easy. Our spot meets up with the adjoining area in an "L" shape and since the other exhibitor hadn't come yet, the configuration we came up with is probably temporary. He needs access to the back of his area, our space is small so we can't afford to lose much,



It will be fine, always is. Now I have to find my iPod (for Christmas music), dig out another table cover, finish some books, gather the list of things I forgot yesterday, print some signs, cut up business cards and hang tags.

No problem. I have 3 hours.

Sunday, November 16

the women gather

Well, the holiday crazies have begun.4 shows in 5 weeks. The degree of largesse our families can expect this Christmas directly tied to our net sales. No pressure.

" Women's Gifts" is a tradition now. It's been held for about 10 years, I think, and has a following. Unfortunately, the followers are used to coming to the show in mid December. Many of us were concerned about the date change and we were right, I think. Sales were down for most of us.

But that's the bad part. The good part? Well, for starters, the show is held in an old church that was renovated as an arts complex by Ani DeFranco. The place was falling apart. Literally. Chunks of it toppled onto pedestrians until they taped yellow tape across the sidewalk to keep them away. Scavengers stripped the place. The city contemplated demolition. They do that a lot. No structure too elegant that it cannot be reduced to rubble in an afternoon.

Thank God for people like Ani.









So, in the mist of all this newly minted elegance, a festive, eclectic craft show sets down. All women. Artisans, musicians, chefs. It's an estrogen bonanza. There is laughter and hugging and tales told. Girls will be girls after all. Haircuts are examined, diet tips exchanged. We talk of our children and our art in conversations that dance and wander in turn as the set up moves along. By 10 am it has been accomplished. A maze of light and color. Music playing. The aisles fill with shoppers and browsers.




Women's Gifts is a carefully unjuried show. The mission is to celebrate the creativity of women, all women, and to encourage those who are just beginning to consider the possibilities of selling their work. But most of the participants are seasoned veterans, accomplished artists who have adopted this show with affection and who know enough to get the application returned within hours of receiving it. This makes for a nice combination of wonderful, professional work with a sprinkling of fresh ideas.





So, OK, most of us had fewer sales than normal, we think because of the date change. But, on the plus side, I managed to get all my stuff displayed in a scant 6 foot spot. I was so proud.



and even better..I got to see some sister-artists that I cherish in this community of art gypsies:






Ah, those classy artist types. I'm gonna pay for that last one. :)

This is a bittersweet time of year for me. It is great to have good venues for holiday sales. I see lots of friends. It is a festive and anticipatory time. But...you have to store some of those profits away like a squirrel with the last chestnut of the year. I have 2 applications for next year already, sitting on the mantle, staring at me. Waiting for jury photos and checks. My supplies are depleted, my hands ache, the studio looks like an unnatural disaster hit.

But this morning, I sit in my big ol' leather chair, writing about and remembering the show. I can share the pictures and the stories, but there are some things you can't explain. You can't explain how women bond, almost instantly sometimes, as if there was a soul-mate detector in the ovaries. It's hard to describe the communication between women, silent and subtle, messages sent with a look, a touch, one lifted brow, a tilt of the head, a smirk.

Women see each other with their hearts, I think. And today, my heart is full, even if my purse isn't.