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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 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.


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 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. 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.

Tuesday, November 11

Veterans Day

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

~Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

Thursday, November 6

simplesongstudio DOT com! - a saga

OK, back to business.

I used to have a web site. It was kind of fun. I put all my stuff on it. Books, frames, cards, bookmarks. And custom wedding guest books. I sold none of the easy stuff, but I sold a lot of custom guest books. Ah, the custom guest books.

Can we talk about custom work?

Here's the thing. If you are an artist and sell custom work, you just may end up selling a leeeetle bit of your soul. Because if a customer wants a book with twigs and pine cones painted silver for a Maine wedding in December, you will be out in your yard gathering materials and then spray painting them which is against every aesthetic you hold. If they get to choose a special piece of poetry or a snippet of their song for the flyleaf you might wind up printing out the Pina Colada Song in Edwardian font.

Oh, and brides. Brides are insane. I'll leave it at that.

So, I eventually pulled the custom books off the site and sort of let the thing die as a sales tool. I used the site as a brochure, information. And then one day I went to sign on to show someone a design and it was gone. Typing in the name brought up a music site. Huh? Apparently the email that was sent reminding me to renew the domain name never got to me. My name was gone.

Now, I don't want to sound all schmoopy here, but when you start up a small...very and nurture it for 10 years, that name means something. Yes, I own it here in New York, all legal like, but if you typed it into a browser, this music thing came up. And then, just to make things intolerable, someone started using my name on the West coast.

How can that be? This is not a common name. But one day I googled me and got a company in Oregon. I think it was Oregon. (It wasn't a web site, but it was another company called Simplesong.) Anyway.. I became obsessed with getting the domain back. The current owners (domain robbers!) had it for 2 years. I hovered over it like a mosquito. The renewal deadline came and went. One day, the listing said "pending delete". Eureka! I hovered and buzzed. And hovered. I asked a friend who knows these things what was up and he said they usually hold them for a month or so to let the owner renew. (News to me, it was reassigned to those music people 5 days after my expiration. Harrumph. Buzz)

Eventually, a chirpy customer service woman told me it would be released at the end of October and I asked if they just automatically went live like at midnight or something and she thought that sounded right. Wrong. I waited a few days and got a chirpy male customer service rep who said it would be any day now. And, he claimed, it would be at 10 am Mountain time. (this reminded me of the animal control officer I called some years ago to rescue a raccoon from my garage. He assured me that they would not kill the little guy, they would take him to the park and release him. Oh, good, I said, experiencing a Disney moment, hung up and realized a whole bunch of guys in a city garage were now laughing their name tags off.) I checked the domain name at noon Eastern time and had a vision of a nerdy guy in taped glasses snorting his name tag off. When I called to ask about that, another chirper said she had never heard of that time thing but would ask, She had me on hold a long time because, I assume, they all had to get control of the laughing and snorting. When she composed herself and got back to me, she said it would be available whenever someone got around to it and I should just check periodically. I swear she shushed the geeks behind her.

And then, in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, I switched off the Bills game in disgust (interception) and headed for my attic studio, but stopped to check one more time and there it was. Available. I guess it was 10am Mountain time somewhere. I bought it back. Huzzah!!

Now what?

Everyone who has a widget to sell thinks there is a fortune to be made on line. Some do very well, but they are the smart guys, the ones who know about things like "optimization" and "meta tags" and "spiders". There is a whole language devoted to web sites. A language I have never learned. A language I resist learning, truth be told. They spend lots of time and energy on growing their sites, promoting, updating, keeping the products current.

It makes me tired to think of it.

Plus, I truly still enjoy the shows. I get jazzed up on show mornings, setting up my carnie tent. I love the people who stop by-mostly. It's telling to watch them browse my widgets. To see what draws them, what they put down, what they pick up. So, I'm not going to try to replace my shows with a web site. That much I know.

But I have my name back and I want to use it. When people ask if I have a web site I want to say yes.

Not now, though. 4 Holiday shows in the next 5 weeks. No time to try to remember what meta tags are. But come January, those long, cold nights when it is too cold to go up to the unheated 3rd floor, I'm going to sit by the fire with my laptop and resurrect

Why not? Move forward, evolve. Change.

Seems to be the right time for that sort of thing. :)

Wednesday, November 5


I've never seen this before. I've never witnessed an election night that had people gathering in public places to celebrate. I don't mean the rally planned by the Obama campaign. I mean, people in New York and San Francisco, Seattle. College campuses.In church halls and community centers. In neighborhood parks. I've never witnessed joy like this for an election.

I haven't witnessed joy like this in America for years. For any reason.

The pundits will debate all the reasons and implications. Me, I'm just going to allow this new sense of hope to settle into my soul, into my bones.

I'm going to risk feeling joy for a while.

Tuesday, November 4


"Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

- Arundhati Roy

Monday, November 3


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

.....emily dickinson