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Thursday, April 30

i called your boss today

When you first wandered lane to lane before settling on one, I thought, well, new to the neighborhood. And when you went straight in that lane even though it was left turn only, squeezing me into the traffic on my right, I remembered all those times I realized I was in the wrong lane and had to squeeze over. Sure, when you finally did turn left, there was no signal involved, but, again, no stone throwing here.

Finally, we were on Delaware. Many lanes, lots of room and, hooray!, you settled yourself into the right lane, allowing me to finally drive past you on the left, leaving your annoying driving behind me. Or could I? Just I I drew even with you, your truck came into my lane, forcing me to move into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, the folks in that lane were alert and made room for me. I beeped at you so you would move out of my lane and I looked up at you to get your attention. You looked at me with disdain and spat some insults...into your cell phone.

Ya know, let me clue you in on a secret. If you are going to drive like a whack-a-mole, talking on your phone, forcing people off the road, ignoring all the rules, being a general menace, do not drive a truck with "call 825-mycompany" on it. Just sayin'. Because the right person who is just angry enough is gonna call 825-mycompany and tell the folks there that they employ a traffic menace and give them all the gory details.

Oh, it may not stop you from doing it again, but maybe it will and I gotta tell ya, Felt good.

Oh, and your boss was pissed.

Wednesday, April 29

Good news

Got accepted to Chautauqua again. That really makes me happy. Last year there was amazing. It was Writer's Week and my journals and book pins flew out the door. This year it is National Geographic week, not quite as sexy.

Funny thing,. though. Last year I wrote about how they send out this half sheet of paper with "accepted", " wait-listed" and "declined" on it and they highlight one of them. Pretty primitive, but I gushed that they could send it out on recycled catalog pages as long as the answer was "accepted".

Well, this year, I pull the envelope out of the mail slot and it is thick-ish. Drat! Last year I was expecting bad news because the envelope was thin, so I'm thinking that this time they sent back my checks. No. This year they have nice letters and a brochure and a list of hotels.

And a pretty blue slash over "accepted".

Excuse me, I need to complete my happy dance.

Wednesday, April 22

earth day reverie

The 1st Earth Day was in 1970. I was in college (yes, I am veryvery old) and Ralph Nader was coming to speak. Back then, Ralph was all about Chevys and what was in your hot dogs and how we were polluting the air/water/earth. He had yet to run for anything as far as I remember. I had done my part, I thought, by infiltrating the St Patrick's Day parade that year with a "radical environmental group" , carrying a hapless trout in a big glass jar, "threatening" to dump said trout in the Buffalo River where it would surely die an immediate death due to pollution. After being politely led out of line somewhere on Main St, we proceeded to the river where we expected someone, anyone, from the media would be there to hear our pleas and give publicity to the river's plight. Alas, they were all otherwise occupied with the parade, finding the dancers and bands and drunks and shamrocks way more newsworthy. We were a sorry bunch that gloomy March morning and I can't for the life of me remember what we did with the fish.

Then, in April, there was Earth Day. The first one. This was exciting. The world was waking up, change was coming! ( I was veryvery young.) And Ralph was coming. He was young, too. He had a shock of dark hair and was perpetually disheveled and scholarly looking. A very romantic figure. I was scheduled to teach that day, earning student teaching credits but Ralph was coming. I called in sick.

I don't remember which building on the UB campus was designated for his speech, but it was overflowing so they put speakers outside so the faithful could hear him. And that was my karma. TV crews filmed the "hippies" on the lawn with their signs and balloons and baseball caps with leaves sewn on them. So it was that my beaming, innocent face became part of the local news that night. I didn't see it, but the principal did. A friend called to warn me. From then on I was known as the resident radical and barely escaped with my 20 credits. My friend teased me about that for years, bringing the story out for laughs and memories.

Almost 40 years? Impossible, I think. And what happened? I look around and see some positive change, but I know there is a hole in the atmosphere and the ice caps are melting under the polar bears. It makes me very sad. But the old girl keeps spinning, laboring under our weight and our carelessness. Mother Earth, wishing her kids would take responsibility. Giving life, beauty, even as she struggles

We old girls just keep on.

So, for both of us, do a few good things every day. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, unplug your chargers, recycle, stop with the bottled water already. Just those few things, what a difference it would make.

Do it for your Mother.

Sunday, April 19

new baby!

Russell comes home yesterday after a mysterious trip to Olean for "wood". Yes, I thought it was a long way to go, but we have a really really old house and a lot of the stuff we need to restore it cannot be found at Lowes, so the concept wasn't all that odd.

He brings in a big box and tells me he bought me a present. A present? In a big box? For what? He is smirking.

Totally clueless, I open it and there is the beautiful baby, skin like velvet, honey colored, nestled in styrofoam to protect her beautiful lines:

Pretty, isn't she?

This is a finishing press, used by bookbinders for..well, finishing...but when Russell saw it at the Book Fair we did last month, he saw it as a tool I could use for binding my exposed spine books. (Now I clamp them to a board with some Sears construction clamps to drill the holes, then I move them to the edge of my work table for sewing.) This press lets me do both without moving the components to different work surfaces, keeps things aligned and provides another pressing. It's a beautiful thing.

I would never have seen it that way, but he did. I would have been tied to the traditional uses of the equipment and passed it by. Now I'm thinking I can use it as an extra press for boards, too. Very cool.

The press was made by TeMPeR Productions. It is worth having just for the workmanship and the silky touch of the wood. All of his things are a joy to look at as well as being wonderful tools for the book arts.

You know, some men bring home flowers, candy, trinkets. My guy sees me and brings home a gift that speaks to my work, validates my progress, encourages me to grow, makes my days a little easier.

I guess I'll keep him.

Saturday, April 18


That's how many times this blog has been viewed in the past year. Who are these people?

Granted, I can see that some hits came when people googled stuff like "what is the view from the attic in the movie "Clueless" or "room with an attic view". Sometimes they were looking for one of the sites I link to.

But, seriously, a surprising percentage of those stats came from direct hits to this blog. Let's see, subtract me and Russell and my brother and my kid and Max and a few friends in Oregon and some loyal friends, you still get manymany strangers visiting the attic. Pretty cool.

I was going to blog for one year, just to show a "year in the life" of an art carnie. But that exercise has developed a life of its own. I think I'm addicted. There are also a few friends who email me when I haven't posted for a few days. "Are you all right?" Heh.

So, whoever you are, thanks for stopping by. Say hello once in a while.

Friday, April 17

return to sender

Last night there was an email for me with the heading "travelocity confirmation" or some such thing and it was my son's itinerary for his visit in 2 weeks. I was beyond thrilled to see it. I had been waiting impatiently for him to tell me when he was coming. I replied with one of my usual sophisticated communications. I think it was about 15 "yay!"s signed "mama". And then I went to bed and slept like a baby..or like a Mom whose kid was coming home.

This morning, bleary-eyed, coffee mug in hand, I signed on to my email and there was a letter titled "travelocity incident" with an official looking number beside it and my heart dropped. What had happened. He wasn't coming? Aw, c'mon!

What I read sent coffee into my nose:

Email Correspondence
Response (Sharon T) 04/17/2009 12:50 AM
Dear Valued Member,
We received your e-mail, however, it appears to be meant for another party. Please re-direct your e-mail to the intended recipient.
Sharon T
Travelocity Customer Service

Apparently, Billy hadn't sent the itinerary. Travelocity had. Oops.

Well, maybe I gave a chuckle to someone plugging away in a gray cubicle somewhere. I forwarded it to my son so he could snort coffee, too. At least I hope I forwarded it to my son. I may want to recheck that.

This brought to mind an email incident that changed the course of my book arts business.

Some years ago I did what all artisans are encouraged to do. I started a web business to sell my work. I was pretty naive about e-commerce, but I had visions of cash heavy envelopes stuffing my mail slot while I went about my business in pajama pants and a t-shirt, taking many breaks for coffee and TV. *snort*

What I sold the most were wedding guest books. They were quite the deal (pricing has never been my strong suit). The pages were personalized, there was a flyleaf with their names and the date and a quote they chose. But the biggie was that I actually made paper specifically for the book cover, often using flower petals that matched their theme. I think I charged about 50 bucks for them. I was crazy.

Well, I thought I was nuts until I started working with brides and saw what nuts really looked like. But that's another post. Let me tell you about my last bride.

Well, actually brides, plural. It was my first same-sex wedding book. The women were charming and friendly. We actually had a personal exchange going in the midst of the business. They told me about their love story, the wedding, their sadness about the reluctance of their families to accept them. Emails went back and forth as we decided on colors and how the book would be personalized.

They ordered the book in the Spring for a Fall wedding and we decided I would make paper for the book with petals from Autumn flowers in shades of gold and rust and soft yellow. I told them then that I would make the paper when those flowers bloomed and that they would have the book in plenty of time. And that, I thought, was that.

The first warning came in May. When would I send the book? OK, obviously the part about needing the flowers was missed. I responded, reminding them that (as I stated romantically in my "about us" on the site) the botanicals I used were from my own garden and, therefore, seasonal.

OK, they wrote, but when would they have the book?

Now, let me pause for a moment and re-visit the wacky brides theme. I can understand how a person would want to get details just right and I know a lot of advance planning is needed for most of a wedding. But the guest book? You need that on the day of the wedding. It doesn't need to be fitted or reserved or tasted. The worst part of doing the books was the nagging via email. Where is it? Where is it? OK, I am making something just for you, using all your very specific details. The color is sort of plum but more rose with a touch of violet. Flowers on the binding but not too big or too small and in ivory not white. No ribbon please, but some satin cord...blahblahblah. Yep, get that right out for ya. Remember, I was also making the paper. Aaargh!

So, I wrote to them again. I was making the paper from Fall flowers. It was too early for Fall flowers, in fact, the only flowers blooming at that moment were daffodils. I could make pretty paper from those, but realistically, just chill, plan your wedding, I'll send the book in September. Plenty of time.

But can we get the book early?


I responded with a suggestion that since there was obviously some stress happening over the book order, it might be an idea to make different paper. Paper that could be made from botanicals available now. I could make a pretty moss paper and use Fall embellishements.

No, we want Fall flowers. We'll wait. Perfect.

June 1st..Is the book ready?

I was juggling several Summer brides about then. Measuring silk calla lilies to exactly match a bouquet, shopping for flowers that looked Hawaiian for a destination wedding, picking red flowers to make paper for a rock singer's bride who was wearing a bright red ball gown. I was getting real tired of weddings. I responded to the women that perhaps they should consider looking elsewhere for their book since it was obvious to me that I would not be able to give them what they wanted (Fall flower paper) in the time frame they needed (now).

Folks, when you intend to forward a letter, you do not hit "reply". Bride #1 wrote to Bride #2 that she thought they were being scammed, That they should have known better than to just pluck someone from the internet. They would never see their money again. Stuff like that. Stuff I was never meant to see. But I did. It was a message from the Universe. Get out of this business.

I hit "reply" and wrote that although I didn't think they meant for me to see that correspondence I was glad I did because they helped me make an important decision. I was obviously not suited to work weddings. My personality was too laid back, I could not respond to the urgency the participants felt. I needed to work in my own time frame.

What I was saying in really nice terms was "Ya know, I don't need this crap". And I didn't. I thanked them for helping me get out of a business I was just not enjoying. I told them I had already credited their charge card. I wished them well. I provided links to other guest book makers. I said there were no hard feelings.

Oh, there were follow up e-mails. Apologies. Explanations. But I was feeling free. Custom work was too much like a job, I realized. Making books in colors others wanted, decorating them in ways I would never choose and then putting my name on it. No. I posted on my site that personalized books were no longer available, uploaded some pictures of books I designed that folks could buy if they wished, finished up the last of the orders and boxed up a rainbow of silk flowers I hoped to never use again.

And then I did a happy dance.

The women wrote to me a few times. Chatty letters. They obviously felt they had hurt my feelings, but they really hadn't. They had turned a light on for me. The last letter I got said they had postponed the wedding. It was now planned for Spring. They were hoping by then to have helped their parents accept them enough to attend the ceremony. I wonder how it all turned out.

As for me, I have never looked back. I only do custom work now for friends or if I get an offer I just cannot refuse.

Now, when something comes up, like a week of son-shine, I can close the studio door and not worry. Works for me.

Saturday, April 11


We were not close friends. We worked at the theater together, shared some laughs, some stories. I enjoyed her, liked her very much, came to admire and respect her as she fought the illness that claimed her this week.

She wore black, loved rock and roll and her kids. She was irreverent, funny, smart and did not suffer fools.

The last time we worked together it was just the 2 of us. Improv. There was a seating snafu and she looked at me and said "Don't look at me", she shrugged and held her hands up and laughed and waved me in to deal with it. If you knew her, you got the joke.

She left early that night. She had just started chemo again after a year of believing she was free and she was tired. "I thought I'd get more time" she said, regarding the remission. "Maybe 3 years".

I told her to go home, rest, don't worry about me it's under control. "Rest", I said "So this time you get 10 years" and she looked at me with eyes that told her truth, hugged me and said goodnight. Thanked me for "always being so nice" to her.

I hoped for the best, but that look in her eyes stayed with me.

She was truly a warrior. Brave and determined. Losing the battle does not mean you were not a valiant opponent.

I'll miss you, kiddo.

travel plans

No, it is not too early to be planning our annual September road trip.

Yes, it is true I have made little progress getting ready for the upcoming shows.

No, we cannot go on vacation if I have a lousy season.

Yes, my success plan for this year was to have twice as much stock on hand.

No, I do not.

Yes, I'm going up to the attic and I will make many things every day from now on.

No, I won't but that sounded good.

Yes, I will share where we are staying: Donovan Place

No, I am not worried about being ready for the season.

Yes, I'm going to the attic right now,

Thursday, April 9

light bulb moment

I'm at the computer getting things together for my Elmwood app and I see the A'town app on the computer's desktop so I opened it to see if I could use the same descriptions for Elmwood.

And I'm staring at stuff that makes no sense to me. The descriptions of the books are of work I did years ago. Huh? Was I having a mini stroke here? Then I remembered.

A'town still uses slides. I had forgotten about that. So, back in January , I quickly had some made up and went about the business of finishing the application. But when I looked at the slides, they were defective. I'm sure it was my fault, but the images were cut off at the corner, one of them wasn't cropped so the edges of the material was showing. Weird. Since I had, of course, waited until the last day, there wasn't time to redo anything, so I went into my stash of old slides and pulled some out. I used a couple of slides from years ago. I thought they'd be "good enough".

There are land mines in this business. One of them is cockiness. A show always lets you in, so you get sloppy when you apply. A few years ago I would have found a way to get the right slides made. This year I just sent what I had. It would be good enough. Except not.

A good lesson. Well, several actually. Don't get cocky and don't wait until the last day. Now this is something I know but it needs to be stamped into my spongy brain with a branding iron or something.

The branding iron today was a letter from Allentown with my slides inside. Sorry.

That's OK. You taught me a lesson, never a bad thing.

Plus, Roycroft said yes and Fairport thinks they have room for me. So I will have 3 shows after all and the one I lost was the least profitable of the 3.

Oddly enough, it's all good. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 8

a network

That's what we art gypsies have. Artists on the surface, carnies at heart, setting up our traveling shows, enticing you in with our cleverness. And all of us connected, somehow, by our addled creative brains and by a shared psyche that makes us feel at home under a 10X10 canopy. A network.

We share our frustrations and successes freely. Last year, a woman I mightily admire, who also exhibits as a paper artist, won best of show and, when her name was called, I sort of yipped and applauded wildly. A customer turned around and asked did I win? I said, no, someone I really admire did and she thought that was so special. Not in our world.

(yes, there are curmudgeons and unpleasant people, too. I choose to ignore them)

So, when I was feeling frustrated by the application process yet again, my friend Conard sent me words of wisdom and turned me back on the path. Then another friend, the memorable and talented Don Olney, husband of the equally talented and memorable Cheryl, sent words of commiseration and nuggets of an idea for alternative paths we can take.

I will connect with Don about Buffalo's Urban ARTisans, maybe send him scurrying off to book hotel lobbies all over Rochester. And maybe at Kenan we can schmooze about it over snacks in the parking lot. Network.

We are happy to be members of the new Burchfield Penney Art Gallery and, while visiting the gift shop, I was pointing at things and saying "Look! Annie's jewelry! Molly's journal's! Anne's photographs...and on and on" The shop manager said she was so impressed by the camaraderie and lack of competitiveness between the local artisans. Me too.

So, today, when I was comparing dates with someone else anxious about the Allentown notices, I found myself really hoping she would get in. It is her best show. Sure, I still want to open my letter and have that ribbon fall out (A'town has us wear these ribbons that look like you just were voted prized heifer at the fair), but I really want her to get in, too.

Because the network is made up of all of us, connecting, bitching, praising, gossiping, sharing, whining, celebrating. We need it, because nobody outside of this life could ever understand it.

We need each other.

Tuesday, April 7


Well, it isn't looking good for Allentown this year.Seems like most folks have their "yes" letters, but not I. This is not good because, if I remember correctly, A'town sends out the yes letters first, the no letters next. Not a good sign. And really unexpected. Since I'm pretty sure Roycroft will also be disappointing, I'm adjusting my plans.

So, with a deep breath and Conard's "don't angst" advice still fresh, I am off to the studio to get book pins ready for my merchandising blitz to libraries. If I get enough of them to bite, it will replace the lost A'town income. It would also be a cheaper way to sell my widgets.

Then maybe I'll contact those shops that have been wanting my things. Why not? I guess it doesn't matter how you sell your work, it just matters that you sell it.

Eye on the prize. Leave your angst at the door.

I'm trying. I am.

Sunday, April 5

oh, my friends...part 1

My last post was the predictable application season whiner. Two of my friends from the art show world left comments, both of which were enlightening to me.

First was Terry, who writes a blog of his own about this crazy life: Changing Lanes

Terry's wife is a mega-talented bead artist and they travel about to shows together. I think Terry has called himself her "roadie" or something in the past, but I think he most likely is her rock. We commiserate at times about the irritations of this business. His comment reflected that and it made me chuckle.

Then there was my friend, Conard. With his wife, Sandy, Conard handcrafts beautiful leather items and has grown a solid business. I have known him for a long time now and he has been a trusted source of wisdom about this life. But there is more to him than wisdom born of 30 years as an artisan. I can't do him justice in a blog, but suffice it to say he is connected to this world and this life in a way that, to me, is a combination of hard-nosed reality and rich spirituality. We have had many wonderful conversations over the years that had nothing to do with art show life. He always makes me think, he turns a light on for me. His comment was to focus on the positive, visualize where I wanted to go, take my power back. As usual, a few words from him and I feel a shift. He's right, of course.

He made me think. Why the angst, I asked myself? Why the irritation with a process I have come to know very well over the past 10 years? And, since Conard had turned the light on for me, I looked around and there was my answer, smirking in the corner of my addled brain.. I'm a control freak. Oh, yes, yes I am. And this process is control freak's nightmare.

No control over your season, over your money, over your business. Ack! The brain rebels. Well, my kind of brain does.

But my friend is right, angst is counter-productive. Focus on what you want. And you will have control. Well, well.

There is more to say about art show friends. A comment by a gallery shop manager had me thinking about this as a topic the past few days. I will write about that, but these 2 buddies jumped the line. They both have hugs coming. :)

Terry and Betty

Conard and Sandy

Thursday, April 2

a stamp and a prayer

That phrase keeps running through my head as I assemble my applications for the year. You jump through all their hoops...slides or CD's or photos. Pay now or pay later. Write an essay /write a description /write about your process /write about your artistic vision. SASE. Photo of you at work. Must be postmarked by. Must be received by. If you're late, you're toast. Or we'll charge you extra. Or we won't even open the thing.

So you send it all off, on time, and then you wait. You wait for them to get back to you while the clock ticks away and the opportunity to add another show evaporates as the deadlines whoosh by. So, if they say "no", you are staring at a gaping hole in your calendar. A hole that means, in effect, you're out of work.

I know I whine about this on a regular basis. My whining gets even more annoying when they want payment in advance. But this is the part of the business I hate. Hatehatehate. I've got a bunch of apps out there now and, so far, I only know the answer to one. And the season starts in 8 weeks. Ack!

Now, I accept that part of my problem is that I am not motivated enough to market my work though other venues like shops and on my web site. The few shops that have my stuff literally had to coerce me. Of course, when I visit a shop and see work by friends all lit up and saying "buy me", I realize I'm nuts. I need to work on marketing. I do. I will. Soon.

But, for now, I dash to the mail slot hoping to get a glimpse of what the future holds. Usually it holds a sale flyer from Aldi.

Oh, and note to the show organizers out there: My artistic "vision" is that I get to eat on a regular basis and, if I'm really lucky, pay the mortgage.

But, hey, take your time. No rush. I'll be over in the corner conversing with the Lord.