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Tuesday, January 29

the real attic

Well, here it is, the "real" attic. The pretty header picture is actually a building in Syracuse. We were set up in front of it for the art show there and I loved how the windows opened out like doors. This is how my space looks when it has been tidied,. You can't imagine what it was like when I started cleaning. Scary.

Then I went to make the CD for my Allentown app and, sure enough, they need slides. Had to do some serious begging to find a place that would make up a couple of slides for me overnight. He said there were a few of us needing them for A'town. I need to take control of this procrastination thing.

Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, January 28

good news/bad news

Well, the kind folks at Kenan Center sent an email saying that the images I sent were fine. Now if only the jury agrees!

Bad news is that my foray into luminaria/lamp making did not go well. At all. I need to work on the "skeleton" more, give the shape stability. The one on my work table this morning is staggering and listing as if it had been drinking. As carefully as I measured, the sides have adopted whatever size appeals to them. The sticks on the inside look bare and amateurish. Exposed. I hate to use the word "disaster" but I think it sorta fits here. I'm disappointed but I'll keep working at it. Nothing I do ever was right the first time. Except maybe motherhood.

I may want to construct a cage from wire and add the twigs and botanicals that I want to use after the basic shape is accomplished. We'll see.

I decided to make a cast paper mirror for the jury slides instead. Now THAT I know how to do. I just don't have a picture that is jury quality and I sold all the ones I had so I need a new one. I like this design, so that's what I'm working on this morning. Hopefully, I can get a jury shot that doesn't require that I "erase" the reflection.

Russell cuts wood for the mirror and I draw a design on it with hot wax. When it dries, handmade paper, usually mulberry, is applied to it, sealed, allowed to dry. Then I use paint and powders to create the finish. I like for them to resemble stone or old metal. I let the paper guide me, the colors are random and eventually work together. Or not.

Better get to it, Some deadlines are mere hours away.

My true art is procrastination.

Saturday, January 26

uh oh

I got an e-mail from the folks at Kenan Center. They couldn't open the CD of images I sent for jurying. She wonders if it is a Mac/PC issue, but I always burn the CDs on my Mac with no problem. I have apparently screwed up. She asks if I want to e-mail the images or if I would like them to use my images from last year which she still has. I love this show and don't want to have a mark against me.

I e-mail the images and hope for the best.

This is not good news.

Wednesday, January 23


I make my decisions about my work at night, usually. In bed, with the flickering TV the only light. Just loud enough for sleep-inducing white noise. Russell and the dog both snoring gently, the cat curled in the crook of my arm. I close my eyes and begin to "make" something. I work out the process,imagine the finished product, revise and start again. In my daydream studio there are no spills or accidents, everything works out just right. Many of those night visions never last til dawn. But the ones that do are subjected to the cold white light in the real studio. That's where the fun begins. Or the frustration.

So, anyway, last night I ruminated...again...still... about what to add to this year's products. I have been intrigued by lamps for a long time and I am inspired by the work of some of the artists in my papermaking group. I finished reading a book about paper lamps last night and something in there triggered the decision to try luminaries first. Shades to go around a votive. Using paper with inclusions that will be highlighted by the light. I will make them as miniatures of the lamps I have been making on and off in my head for 2 years of nights now. This will teach me the constructions and also gauge if there is interest. I'm excited about it. Can't wait to try.

And I am going to do the photography thing. I will make cover embellishments for my books using my own photography and maybe even do something on the fly leaf.

So, there you have it. And none too soon. Serious production for the coming year starts in 2 weeks.

Of course, these decisions are based on the conceit that what I see in my head will appear on my work table in recognizable form.

Arts in the Park

Well, the folks in Richmond cashed my checks, so I guess show #1 is a go. That makes us happy, we like this one a lot and it's fun to start the season a little early in a place that is already warm.

This show is held in a lovely park in the city of Richmond, Va. (link to the right). There are lovely houses along the perimeter and one of them opens its terrace to us for breakfast in the morning. (If you want to witness a miracle, check out the middle-aged artists becoming sprinters when the coffee and doughnuts come out.) They have the best parking experts I've ever seen, a few guys who are really funny and good at what they do, get twice as many vans parked along the circle than you would think possible. They tell you "don't look, just do what I say" and it works. Everyone gets to unload near their spots.

The show meanders through the park, around the carillon tower and into the woods. Our first year there we were under the trees which I thought was cool and lovely, but turns out there is a layer of mulch on the ground that sends up a fine cloud of dust. It ruined my books and cards. We spent the whole night cleaning what we could with sticky tape an inch at a time. Nightmare. The next day we had everything in ziplock bags which gave them all the charm of meat loaf sandwiches and our sales were dismal. The next year I asked to be moved away from there and they graciously accommodated us.

There is a nice diversity of work here, a lot of fine craft and some traditional. Makes for a fun show to visit. And if a lot of people visit, that's good for the artists.

The downside? It is almost always held the same weekend as NASCAR which makes getting a hotel either impossible or so expensive it makes no sense to go. One year we backed out because we couldn't find a place to stay. This year I found a hotel first, then applied.

The people of Richmond are friendly and accommodating. We get a lot of teasing about snow and we meet a lot of expatriates from upstate NY. Our sales are usually pretty good. I'm happy.

Tuesday, January 22

the application dance

OK, so here's how it goes. You identify the shows that draw good crowds, buying crowds. You get an application and find out what they want from you. You will need images of your work. Some want slides, others CDs, some still use photos. You will have to describe the images with words that imply artistic gravitas, but without sounding too over-the-top because usually there are other artists judging you and you don't want snorting happening when your stuff is looked at. Sometimes they want an "artist statement" too. If most were honest, I bet they would read something like: "Look, I found out I can do this thing and I like it and it's better than a desk job and people actually buy it and I want to keep doing it so let me just set up at your show. OK?" What they write instead uses words like "inspired by" and "influenced by nature's ever evolving beauty" and "vision". Snorting happens, I'm sure.

Now, I love what I do. It makes me happy. I AM inspired by nature, aren't we all? Creating beautiful things makes me happy and it thrills me when people like it enough to buy it. It makes my soul sing when my work is praised by folks other than family. But I am just not into writing statements about it. get these images. You can pay someone to do it or you can do what I do: take your own and photoshop the bahoosits out of it to correct your incompetence. You fill out the application, attach your descriptions and statements and checks and SASE and whatever else they want, send it off and wait. And wait. See, the June shows want your apps in by New Year's Eve but they don't even look at them until April. Meanwhile you are trying to set up your schedule for the year based on the weekends you may or may not have free. It is frustrating.

The apps I have out right now are for Arts in the Park in Richmond, Va and 100 American Craftsmen at the Kenan Center in Lockport, NY. You will be the first to know how I do. They are both lovely shows which I will tell you about if I get in. If I don't..well, Google is your friend. :)

More about this app thing to come. I have to go write a statement about how nature drives my creative soul.

Sunday, January 20

Starting, stopping, starting again..

Procrastination. Motivation. Disorganization. It all gets in the way. I have 2 applications out, a good start. I have an important one due in a week or so and I want to create something extra nice for slides, but first I have to organize the studio because right now I would be hard pressed to find a pair of scissors in the chaos. So I go up to the attic (which developed some lovely musty smell during my hiatus thanks to a leaky roof and a rug that held the drips for weeks) and make piles and 'areas' and fill garbage bag after garbage bag. It will be better soon.

Meanwhile, I have to keep the creative spark going, and I've been playing with photography a bit. Just to see the world differently, to focus me, to absorb the light and color around me and keep it. I like this one a lot

I'm thinking I might like to use photography in my work. Make a collage for the cover of a book with my own image as the background. I could incorporate some of the actual elements captured in the photo...some beach grass, a branch. When I get a creative idea that I like I feel a scratching against the wall of my gut, a bubble in my throat. It makes me want to go up there and get lost in it. But there are still many bags to fill with art trash, surfaces from which to scrape months of glue overspray. Clumps of hot wax are frozen to the old plate the glue gun occupies. Brushes are dry and curved because after the last show I left them in a water glass and closed the door behind me with a click that sounded like I'd be gone a while and sure enough, I was. I have to throw out the bottles of dried up paint, the thickened glue, the old jewelry that seemed like a real good idea at that yard sale last Spring but now just looks sad and old and tacky. Going, going, gone. Before you know it, there is light and air and room to spread out and clean water for the brushes and all the waxed linen bundles snuggle together in a plastic bin.

2 apps out there but no answers yet. A studio 50% cleaner than it was yesterday. New stuff to unwrap and place in newly organized shelves. A couple of new ideas to look forward to and that little belly scratch of anticipation. A good start.

Thursday, January 17

Oh, that money thing...

Last night I sat here with my laptop and bought paper. Mulberry, Lokta, crinkled, batik print, multifiber. Oh, I tell ya it was fun. $250.00. Dear Lord. This is the thing a lot of folks don't understand. We run into 90% of our expenses before the first show. Supplies, fees, hotel deposits, jury slides, display equipment -name it. So, when a show decides that they will cash your check when you apply instead of after you are accepted, it is a hardship. Especially if you don't get in. I have made the case that that is sort of like handing money over to someone at the door of Macy's just in case you want to buy something and getting it back 2 months later if you didn't. I'm thinking that if you took my money, I had better have a 10X10 space somewhere.

Nobody listens except other artists. I don't fight it anymore, I just grumble under my breath while I write the check.

When I started I was too frugal about supplies and components and tools. Russell had to show me how the right tool makes your job easier and better. I learned that quality components made for a more elegant final product and when your product is better, you make more money and so it goes. Kills my stingy little heart sometimes, but it is absolutely true. I could buy my handmade papers at a discount place but I find the most interesting ones at handmade paper superstore.

I still get my solid colors, the old, dependable basics at where I also get my packaging. Oooh.. but that other place has the most interesting, inspiring stuff. And if you don't stay inspired you might as well hang it up. When this becomes more job than joy it's over.

Monday, January 14

What it's like

"They're lucky, they don't have to work" (Visitor at Allentown Art Festival regarding the artists.)

OK, here's the reality. I am speaking here as an artisan, not an "artist". It's different. This will be about the "product"

Before you can even think about doing your 1st art fair, you have to spend a lot of time deciding things. Things like what you will exhibit and how many and what size and at what price and will it be marketable and which shows would be right for you and which ones will actually take you. Of course, I didn't do it that way. I made prototypes of a book I thought I could make for real and took nice pictures and actually got into 2 shows. We laugh about it now. We did then, too, but with a hint of hysteria.

Art festivals are competitive. Some are harder to get into than others. If you want to do the "good" shows, you have to have work that is not only well done but is different. I had been making paper for another project and was introduced to book arts through those channels. I fell in love with making books. There aren't many who do it and none around here who do it like me. It helps me get into shows.

Once you have your "widget" you have to keep perfecting it, changing from season to season. New designs, added styles, different sizes. And you add other related things. I probably sell more of the other stuff now: frames and mirrors and cards. All of these had to be created, designed, tested, perfected, worked out, I had to find suppliers for the components, tweaking to make it work.

And you keep learning, studying, researching. You go hunting for inspiration and ideas. You learn to do things or you invent them. You work on pricing. Too much and it won't sell, too little and you lose money. You have to be aware of trends, which colors are going to be popular this year.

You make your decisions and you pin your hopes for a successful season on whether or not those decisions were good ones.

All that work and you still haven't made one thing.

Sunday, January 13

It starts now

Art fair season doesn't start in June with the blooming of white canopies up and down the avenues. It doesn't start on a Summer morning with the smells of kettle corn and lilacs mingling in the air. It starts now. In January. When there is no real light until 8am and your studio is impossibly cold and damp. It starts just weeks after the last season ended, with the applications that slide through your mail slot, deadlines in bold font.

I have had many long, rambling conversations with the people who visit my booth. I am usually happy to explain how things are done and share techniques. Why not? I don't feel as many artisans do, that it should all be secret, protected. Instead, I find that once the extent of the work involved is understood, most people are happy to buy one of my pieces rather than try to replicate it. And if they do want to try it, well, great. No country ever went under because it had too many artists.

So I am going to share the journey from cold attic to hot asphalt on these pages. I expect to wander off topic now and then, but 6 months from now I will be out of these flannel jammie pants and into art show clothes. I'll be huggin old friends from the "circuit" and catching up on news of kids, complaining about the juries and comparing hair colors. My regular customers will be stopping by to see what's new and they won't be shy about telling me if it's good or just OK. (they never say it's bad) After months of sending money off for fees and supplies and hotels, the first dollars will come in, stemming the bleeding from the checking account just a bit.

It will seem like the season is beginning, but that won't be true. It begins now.