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Saturday, August 30

gearing up

The men in my family tolerate with amusement my inability to go on vacation without lists, reservations and zip lock bags of necessities. Russell invariably announces that we travel differently. That if he "was alone" he would just go where the wind took him and he would be fine.

Then somebody needs neosporin and I pull it triumphantly from a zip lock bag and that ends the debate.

So, while Russell and Max float unburdened through these last few days before our road trip, I am checking off things to do on my mental list, tossing and turning at night, remembering and forgetting, worrying and calculating. It is a trade off for the fact that Russell will do 90% of the driving and 100% of anything that requires a strong hand, back, knees.

I feel guilty about the cats. They are so attached and they will be alone for weeks. Yes, they have each other and "Auntie Jo" will come in every couple of days to refill their dishes and scratch their heads and talk baby talk to them. I still feel like they are staring accusingly at me. "How come the dog gets to go?" says the cartoon balloon above their heads.

I have the laundry done, stacks of tshirts and jeans wait to be packed. I've washed up an old soft comforter for Jake to sleep on in the car and then again at the cottage. His shot records are packed in with his food, kong and bobo. There is a bottle of water and dishes for him to eat and drink from.

My personal bag is stuffed with library books, camera, iPod, chargers and volume 6 of the NYTimes Sunday crossword puzzles.

It won't be all fun. I have boxes of half done books and frames for the Portland Market.

That means I have work to do when we get to Oregon. But trying out the market will be fun. Another trade off.

The mail has been stopped, the refrigerator cleaned out. It is almost time to go. Whatever has been forgotten will remain that way and we will survive.

One last day to wrap it up. This time tomorrow we will be heading west. West to the other coast, to our kids, old friends, a landscape as foreign to New York as the moon, yet familiar and comfortable from years of visits. I'm looking forward to morning coffee at the Beanery,

sitting outside with the paper, Jake at my feet, old friends welcoming Russell home, happy to see me, too. The air in Oregon smells like Christmas, I always say, and I find that I miss the mountains covered in Douglas fir,

the tiny espresso shops that bloom in parking lots and vacant fields,

Nearly Normals.

Yep. the road calls. Now, where did I put those ziplock bags?

Thursday, August 28

thanks, Bill

"People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

Bill Clinton

Tuesday, August 26

thanks, Hillary

"...a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad. And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they're shouting after you, keep going.

Don't ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going."

...Hillary Rodham Clinton,8/26/08

the fifth floor

She manages a gift shop and wants to wholesale my book pins. Can I meet her with samples to get things going? Of course. She lives just blocks from me in an aqua blue post modern fiasco of a high rise that is as out of place on the mansion studded street as a yurt and I am tickled to finally see the inside. I push the buzzer beside her name and she sings out "hello, hello..." and the door releases.

Inside it is sadly institutional, but when the elevator reaches her floor she is waiting at the end of the corridor, motioning me in. I remember her now from the weekend's show. A small but sturdy woman with a shock of reddish brown hair and a disarming personality. She is the mother of the woman who wants the pins for her book store in Boston. She ushers me in and the first thing I see is the city rooftops, hills to the distance (what are they??), and light. Light everywhere from the windows that stretch across the front and side of the main room. It's like Trump, I laugh and she agrees. Who knew?

It is a smallish apartment, but there is a baby grand piano covered in family photos, traditional and antique furniture, abstract art and collage cover the walls. She is so happy to see me. She loves the little pins. We get to chatting as women will. Soon I know her children, her husband and his challenges. I know she lives here now because of a condition that made climbing the stairs in her 3 floor home impossible. I think she may be just a few years older that I, but she is almost 20 yrs older and I am amazed. We talk about living in other places and how dear old Buffalo just calls to us, about missing our kids, about responsibility and yearning for carefree days. About art and craft and creativity.

Her husband shuffles slowly down the hallway toward us, eyes me quizzically. He has a soft, warm face under a baseball cap and a twinkle in his eye. I know the twinkle is fading, she has told me of his illnesses, but he is so sweet to me, so charming.He repeats my name several times and smiles. He wishes me well on "my endeavors" although he has no idea what they are and his wife has told him she will show him after dinner. He says goodbye to me and says he hopes I come back soon and turns back to his room. Isn't he sweet she asks with love in her eyes and in her voice and I agree, that yes, he is. The rest of the time, I can see him in a room at the end of the hall, watching his TV, waiting, I think, for his wife and his dinner.

It is time to go, she has so many things to be responsible for and dinner time is coming. She shows me the little kitchen with another city view and tells me how great it is that the apartment has 2 full baths. Then she walks me to the elevator and we talk more as we wait. When the door pings open, we touch hands, then hug and then she gives me a kiss on each cheek because of our shared European heritage she says and as the doors close she is showing me how the Dutch lightly slap each other's cheeks because they are not as demonstrative as we Italians and Greeks and I laugh and call goodbye through the quickly shrinking open space between us.

Sometimes you can't measure how good a show was for you just by counting out money. Sometimes you are rewarded by less tangible things. Like a half hour on the fifth floor with the windows reflecting the sun sinking toward the lake and 2 people showing you things you forgot about love and friendship, commitment and acceptance, and about the common language of women.

elmwood ave festival of the arts

This is our favorite show for several reasons. It is in our neighborhood, a neighborhood we love. It encompasses all the, dance,visual, craft, theater. It has a family component that introduces kids to creative arts in a hands-on way. As a result, the atmosphere is easy, happy, celebratory. The customers as well as the artists comment on the ambience. And that results in better sales for many of us. It's all good.

Now, there are some, uh, issues, when setting up a show on a city street. You will have assorted "street people" bending your ear about love and art, looking for cigarettes, preaching their specific gospel. The locals will not understand that just this weekend it might be smart not to ride your bike or push your stroller down the middle of the street while the artists are trying to set up or take down their booths. I almost beheaded a cyclist who was weaving in and out of the chaos of tear down Sunday night. Most of the merchants on the street will love exposing their shops to the 100,000 visitors, but some will consider us an annoyance to be dealt with while they try to capitalize on the influx of people with money to spend.

But, in the end, it is about the people who come into your little 10X10 corner of the world and buy your stuff and give you props and share a story or 2. There was a woman who came in wearing a t-shirt with a grainy photo of a man ironed on to the front. She had sad, tired eyes and her face seemed almost frozen into a mask that would shatter if she smiled. She told me her husband had died 2 weeks before and she was getting the frame for his picture. I touched her hand and said I was so sorry for her loss and her composure slipped for just a moment. The frame she selected read "The most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or heard but must be felt with the heart". I still choke up thinking of her.

On a lighter note, so many friends stopped by. People I see all the time, some I only see a few times a year. Co-workers from the theater and from my old government job. Return customers who love to tell me what they already bought of mine and what they think of my new stuff.

Sunday was supposed to be cloudy with a passing shower. Turned out to be a passing typhoon. The opening salvo had customers hanging with me under the canopy waiting for the "shower" to pass.

It did pass, but every time it came back, the rain was harder, the thunder louder. I was sad to think they might cancel the kid's parade that marks the end of the festival every year, but they toughed it out, taking advantage of a short respite from the storm. I love this parade for so many reasons. It is festive and chaotic and colorful and joyful. It usually marks the end of the outdoor season for us since we have been taking September to travel. I'm not sure who loves it most, the kids or the adults, but here are some pictures. You can decide for yourself.

And on we go. The Central Library called about putting my miniature book pins in the gift shop again. I have a wedding guest book to finish today. I need to get some books ready to sell in Oregon if I get a spot at the Portland Saturday Market or the one in Eugene

Just a few days before we leave on vacation. But first, the attic calls.

Tuesday, August 19


We live on a beautiful avenue lined with old houses and pots and pots of colorful flowers.

We had a pot, too. We planted it every year but it was never very lush and, since it was at a bus stop, folks would sit in it. The pot cracked, the flowers withered and every year our pot would be the one that broke the line of pretty.

So, this Spring I said to Russell, let's get a new pot and really plant it with cool stuff....away from the bus stop. He was eager. We got the pot, the soil, and waited for our interminable Buffalo Winter to end so we could plant it with majestic bloomage. Well, Spring is also the time of year when I start getting so busy and distracted with art show stuff. I have only myself to blame. When Russell called up to the studio that he had found some "stuff for the pot" and did I want to come help, I demurred. He could do it just fine. I trusted him. Later that day I saw greenery poking up past the rim and smiled. wondering what kind of flowers he got. He was vague about it and, as I said, I was busy.

As time went by, he would add stuff, usually because I was concerned that the pot was so green. Where was all the pretty? Oh, there was lots of decorative grass in there, he would assure me and he would add some little purple flowers or something and I would be appeased for a few more weeks.

I don't know when I started to get suspicious. I know I mentioned how TALL the thing was and he beamed. And then one day I actually looked at the thing and I said to that....CORN?? He grinned and admitted it was and wasn't it so cool?

I looked down the avenue at my neighbors pots, filled with petunias and impatiens and geraniums and coleus. Lush, beautiful riots of color. And then I looked at our pot. Of corn.

It actually has 2 corns growing, he boasted. Look at the beautiful silk!

Well that is kind of cool, I admitted to myself. Then I looked to my left and to my right. Across the street. All those pots, looking sort of the same. The gardens the neighborhood is so proud of that there is a tour every year that brings out the suburbanites in herds. All very beautiful, but so traditional. And I looked at Russell grinning about his corn. I saw it as he did. How beautiful the purple striation of the leaves. How proud and tall it stood. The little corns with their beautiful manes of silk. The few flowers nestled in the stalk acknowledging what the pot was expected to hold. The absurdity of it on a city street in the garden district.

And I laughed and went for the camera. Whimsy. I live for whimsy.

But next year, I plant the pot.

Monday, August 18

Hammondsport festival of craft

This is a sweet show. Notice I didn't say "great show". Because if you measure them in terms of profitability, Hammondsport falls in the mid to low range. It is not the fault of the organizers. Sam and Carol do a great job. They get the people there, they have a crew of helpers that do everything from help you unload to popping up your tent.

I call them the busy bees because of the yellow shirts.

Short of forcing people at gunpoint to spend money, I'm not sure what else they can do. Most of the work is very good, although we did have the dreaded lucky bamboo. Hammondsport is in the Finger Lakes, on Keuka Lake, wine country. Beautiful spot.

It's a lazy little show, even the artists feel Zen-like

There is a lot of traditional craft which usually means a so-so show for us, although it does provide for some moments of whimsy

Lots of us got that golden commodity...back space, so we could spread out and socialize, I got some finish work done

All in all, a pleasant weekend. we spent the night with good friends, had a raucous, laugh-filled dinner out with a bunch from the show.

I had a margarita.

Who needs a lot of money?

Sunday, August 17

favorite hammondsport moment

I came back to the booth just as Max was finishing a sale.

As the woman left, I asked, "What did you sell?"

"A gallon of gas" he answered.

Cracked me up.

More on the show next post.

Friday, August 15

65 gallons of gas

You get to this point in the season and it becomes a act of courage to open the studio door. The little rushes of pride you got in the Spring when a new design came together has become exhaustion vertigo. That surprising new source of art paper now gets an exasperated sigh when they fail to spring a new design that will motivate you to make something of it. And your best sellers become an albatross because you need to make more of them because they sell but you're tired of making them over and over because they sell and yet you can't decide not to make them for the next show because, well, they sell.

Two shows left before our vacation and the stress of earning enough at them to finance the jaunt is taking its toll. Every stash I've put aside has had to be spent on an unexpected emergency. (are there any other kind?) So, I crank up production, the thumb throbs, the vertigo makes me nap when I should be creating.

People love my little collage cards. I use the leftovers from my larger products, so the cost is minimal. But they are labor intensive, the little devils. It isn't easy to take scraps of paper and tear them into little art works. The colors have to work, the sizes of the bits have to be just right. You need to have enough blank space for the quote to rest on, but not so much that it looks unfinished. I usually add a skeleton leaf for texture and the size and color and placement of that embellishment is a challenge sometimes. Sometimes I paint a bit of a design at the edges. And all of that needs to come together in a design that looks more whimsical than planned.

Last night, as I pulled card after card onto my work space and tore pieces of paper and glued and positioned them, fighting the sticky fingers that made tweaking almost impossible, my vision blurring, my back aching, I had a vision.

My cards sell for $4. Gas is at about $4. Every card I sell is a gallon of gas! Eureka!

Last night I got us to least. The thrill is back.

Monday, August 11

you may be an artist if...

You get distracted by the colors in your supply box

and then feel compelled to take a picture of it,

crop and retouch in photoshop and post it to your blog.

Stay tuned for synchronized glue sticks and brushes with hardened bristles.

I think I'm on to something.

Friday, August 8

getting a grip

Here I am, midway through the season, feeling the pain. Thumb pain. This is not carpal tunnel. Maybe carpal thumbal? The pain is right at the joint of the thumb into the padded part where, I assume, all sorts of tendons and stuff are. Anyway, see how easy this looks:

Can hardly do it. It is caused by hours and hours of using this tool....

Ah, the bone folder. Indispensable tool for book binders and anyone in paper arts, generally. It smoothes and burnishes and folds and helps you handle paper. I cannot work without it. Sometimes it gets lost in the chaos of my studio, hidden in a pile of paper scraps or under one of the other tools I never put away when I am finished. I have found it in the pocket of my jeans, in the glass of brushes. I don't know why, I'm sure I had a reason at the time. But when that baby is missing I am lost and nobody rests until it is found. But every task you do with it, involves applying pressure with that thumb. By July, I am usually unable to open a jar or hold a quart of milk. By August I am on an Advil drip.

The problem is exacerbated by an addiction to the computer game, Zuma

I am willing to sacrifice only so much for my art.

Interesting note: While researching on the web for home remedies for bone folder thumb, I found that there is a common malady these days called "blackberry thumb" which is not about fruit, it is caused by obsessive texting. Fortunately, I have an iPhone. Phew.

So, I work for an hour and then take a break. That seems to help a bit. The hard part is not playing Zuma as break-time fun.

Tuesday, August 5

to market, to market

Well, with the last 2 shows being less than stellar and much of the profits going to keeping my car and my cat up and running, I'm re-visiting my thoughts about selling my wares in the Pacific Northwest to help finance our vacation next month. I've had promising correspondence with Eugene Saturday Market and Portland Saturday Market in Oregon. Interesting places. I was on a committee to get one started here, but the idea sputtered.(Although, we do have Buffalo Indie Market now and that is growing nicely).

So, I'm thinking I can bring out some books and frames and cards. They pack well, take little space. The tent and rack can go on the roof rack and we can beg and borrow the rest from friends in Oregon. Feels like a plan. Max and Jake wouldn't be squished. The only casualty would be my fantasy of an actual vacation.

Vacation. As in absence of work. Leisure. Goofing off. Slacking.

Sometimes I crack myself up.

Monday, August 4

on the avenue, park avenue

This is a street festival. Billions of people come. There is art and craft and food and music and porch parties and street performers, and, yes, drinks in a monkey head. In short, the kind of show that I find fun to visit, but I wouldn't want to sell there.

Which is good, because I didn't. Not much, anyway.

Some folks did really well, some tanked. There often is no rhyme or reason to this stuff. It just wasn't my kind of crowd. But then I noticed this odd phenomenon. In the art show business, we refer to the "conveyor belt". It's when the crowd just flows by your booth, never stopping in, as if they were on a moving sidewalk with no ability to step off the ride. Usually, though, they at least glance your way. Not here. I called it the conveyor march. They marched by the booth, purposefully, as if there was a bus at the corner they had to catch. It was a stride, not a stroll.

Hup, two, three, four...

OK. The veterans told me the Sunday crowd would be bigger, better, more likely to shop. Cool. I could wait. And they were right. Mostly. The crowd WAS bigger, better. But they also did the eyes ahead march, just in a denser cadre..

What's up with that? Slow down, people. There is stuff to be seen here. Relax, have fun...

So, anyway, we tried it. Saw good friends, ate unhealthy food, shopped, sold some stuff. Could be worse.

Sunday, August 3

happy birthday Max!

Yeah, I'm a little late, but it was a show week, What can I say?

First time I met you, you were this little guy..maybe 6? Your Dad had to kneel to get a hug from you and you patted his back like you were comforting him. This tiny hand..pat,pat,pat. I always remember that.

Anyway, now you are a man..all mature and stuff:

But try to keep your inner child alive, OK? Don't get too serious too soon. :)

See you next week!


Well, I could write about the show I did today (Very disappointing). Or I could share an email I just got. I'm going with the email. We can talk about the show tomorrow.

Here's the back story: I was set up next to 2 very cool women at a show a few weeks ago. Sally hand-paints silk and then makes clothing of it. (I get tired just thinking about it.) Very beautiful stuff. So, she is visiting in our booth and spots the little book pins and asks if I ever made them without the pin. Just the tiny book. I said I could, but what would one do with it? Well, it turns out she has a good friend with a bad case of breast cancer. Sally wanted to make up a goodie bag for her, to cheer her up, and thought the little book with an appropriate title charm would be something the friend would enjoy. I said I would make one up and send it out and that it would be a gift from me to her friend. I wanted the energy to be between women, heartfelt not purchased.

And I actually did it! No small feat in my disorganized world. I did it up in happy turquoise and purple with a tiny pewter bar on the front that said "believe". Sally wrote when she got it and thanked me and I said my pleasure and that was that.

Today I got this email from Sally:

Hi, Pat,

I just wanted to report on your mini-book's journey. I wrote text in it for my friend and on each page I put one little phrase recollecting a pleasant memory she had told me about. All about her. You had put "believe" on the cover and I told her to believe in the power of these thoughts to heal. I mentioned stuff about her dog, her precious nieces and nephews, a couple of travel references she had relayed. Anyway, it was a HUGE hit, far and away above the more expensive glass, ceramics, etc. that I sent with it. It brought tears to 3 adults' eyes.

I just wanted you to get feedback about the bookmaker's art! Books travel.

Well, make that 4 adults with tears in their eyes.

So, I could sit here and grumble about the tens of thousands of people that marched through the show today, eyes straight ahead, ignoring the artists and crafters, their hands full, juggling 7 dollar hot dogs and drinks that had been poured into a monkey head. I could do that. I'm really good at it. Funny. Bitchy.

But instead I am going to picture that tiny book, in the hand of a much loved woman. A book I made in my attic while thinking of her and her struggle. A trinket made into treasure by her friend.

Friday, August 1

park avenue - no, not that one

This Park Ave is in Rochester. I've been hearing about this show since I started doing this art/craft show stuff over 10 yrs ago. I didn't apply for different reasons over the years, but now that we've dropped the other 2 Rochester shows we used to do: Clothesline and Corn Hill, it was time to give this one a shot.

No dogs are allowed at this festival (I'll believe it when I see it), .but the poster features-yes-a dog. The artist says it's because Park Ave is "dogs everywhere". OK then. Where will they go this weekend, I'm wondering.

When we ask our buddies on the circuit about this show, every single one says it is a "party" show, so lock up your booth at night. Not sure what makes them say that

Hey, we've done Ellicottville. Nothing can faze you after that. Besides, this show looks a lot like Allentown/Elmwood and I like city shows.

The weather looks promising. What more can I ask?

Yes, I see the 4 story inflatable beer bottle. It will be fine. It will.