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Monday, July 27

Sunday in the park with chaos-part 2 of the Canandaigua mini drama

Sunday morning, early, back to the park we go. We have to set up the rig from scratch again, so we needed time. Beautiful morning, sunshine, light breeze, not too hot, the lake sparkled, a sailboat was already out, enjoying the peacefulness. I was filled with good vibes.

What could go wrong?

The man who had secured his tent with boulders from the shore, brought boxes of coffee and dozens of doughnuts to thank his neighbors for saving his butt the night before. It doesn't take much to energize a crew of art carnies. A box of doughnuts is usually enough. Add fresh coffee and this guy was a hero.

There was a lot of swapping of stories about the night before and stories of other shows and other storms and soon there was a lot of laughter and somehow a cheer broke out, a rah-rah moment extolling the art show gods for people and sales. We were having fun again and I thought that this day would save the weekend.

Sometimes I crack myself up.

The first indicator that this might not be the great day we hoped for was the quiet. The quiet brought on by no people. At one point I checked my packet again to see if I got the start time wrong. Nope. 10 AM.

Once the people did start to come it was an exercise in patience. I've seen this behavior before but not so many times in one day. I call it fantasy shopping. A customer comes in and asks about, say, the mirrors. I explain the technique. Then she starts to debate colors. She asks her companion if that one would fit in the den. Or maybe she should get 2 since she can't decide between them. They measure the width. Yes, that would fit. Maybe combine a large and small, for effect. Do I have any other colors? No? That's OK, this should work. We engage in chatter about decorating with organic items. They decide on a color. On and on and on and then...they walk out. Huh? I had a couple examine each and every collage frame, make a pile of them (one for Grammy, that is perfect for Sissy, this for Henry) then leave the pile and walk out. Another woman read every quote in every journal, picking and choosing, walking the booth over and over with a pile of books in her arms, only to put them down and go. This happened so often that when someone actually did buy something it startled me.

But that was nothing compared to the gathering storm. Russell was on the second leg of his trip to bring the correct vehicle back. I was sitting behind the booth eating lunch. And a wind gust hit. I waited. Sometimes these are little dustups that rattle your shelves and move on. But it just got stronger. My chicken went flying. My tent was rattling and dancing. I grabbed a leg of it but that was going to do nothing. I jumped up and grabbed the center of the workings and held on. I figured if the wind could pick up the tent, the displays that are tethered to it, the weights on the legs and a pudgy old woman, it could have it all. Even the expensive tents were rattling. Everyone was hanging on. I turned my back to the show because the wind kept lifting my shirt and nobody should have to see that. Minutes went by, minutes that seemed like hours, but finally it seemed the wind was slowing. I turned around and saw people pointing, hands over their mouths. I checked to see if my shirt was down. I followed the crowd out into the opening and saw this

That tent used to be sheltering this artist and her work

The wind picked it up and carried it over 3 rows of booths before it got snagged. But not before it did some serious damage.

I couldn't imagine what else could go wrong. Silly me. There are many circles of hell.

Shortly after the "event", people actually started to come out. And shop. Well, what do ya know? Maybe we could salvage this weekend after all. I tidied the shelves and was having fun with the customers and then Lynne, the director, hustled into the booth and said that a storm was coming. It was in Rochester. It would be here in 27 minutes. I could button down or pack it up. My choice. I started to strip my shelves before she was gone. I called Russell. He was 10 minutes away. I told him to hurry.

By the time he got to me, I had everything down and packed except the booth itself. The skies were getting dark. We got stuff to the van, broke down the tent and displays. We asked our neighbors if they needed help, but most were doing OK. (We all tend to have a carefully choreographed routine and a well-meaning helper often just disrupts the rhythm.)

As we closed the doors of the van, the first fat drops fell. By the time we were on the road it was a blinding rainstorm.

I had made enough to cover expenses and pay for Quincy's Vet appointment on Monday.

But I learned a lot. If you have doubts about the organizers of a show, listen to your instincts. If the show's website is still not updated from the year before, that's a clue. If they come out and tell you the show still isn't full, but they're working on it. That's a clue. If you tell show buddies that you're doing the show and they roll their eyes...big clue. If the organizer says she's not putting a link to your website on the show website so you don't get spammed? Run.

I'm not blaming the organizers for the weather, obviously. I sincerely appreciated the effort they made to alert us all to the coming storm and get us safe. The Security Guards were on task and helpful both days.

But you have to advertise a show. You have to keep the quality of work up. If you can't "fill a show", just make it a little smaller. You need to have a website that is up to date and full of information about the show and the artists that will be there.

I remember when I was eighteen and I tried Peppermint Schnapps with a beer chaser. Never gonna do that again. I always wanted to try this show. I've tried it. Sometimes you try new things and they bring you joy. Sometimes you throw up into your shoes.

meanwhile, in Buffalo

There was a photo walk last week. A bunch of folks walking the city with cameras. There were similar walks all over the world. The winner here was taken in my very own neighborhood, just a few blocks up the road.

You might want to click on this one.

It occurs to me that the people who make fun of Buffalo have probably never been here.

Thanks to photographer Terry Cervi for capturing this vision of my hometown.

cue the locusts-part 1

I mean, seriously, it's the only thing we have not had to endure this season. I feel like Helen Hunt in that movie about storm chasers. A storm coming? Cool! put me in a little nylon tent with a metal frame and send in lightning. I can handle it.

This weekend we set up in the charming town of Canandaigua on a Finger Lake of the same name, right along the shoreline. Ah, feel those lake breezes. Remember them.

I have been considering this show for a decade but it was always a conflict or I forgot the deadline or something. This year I remembered, but the ensuing dance with the organizer of the show over apps not confirmed and a phone number that only gave you a message that the voice mail was full and emails that went unanswered for weeks resulting in decisions made that caused more problems when the email was finally answered and on and on. The Universe was speaking to me and I kept saying shush.

So, our assigned set up was Friday afternoon. This meant an extra 90 mile commute each way for us since the show started on Saturday, but we didn't mind. Oh, if only we could have seen the future.

We picked up our sign in packet and we were able to pull the van up right behind our spot. That was great. Some spots have long "dolly-in" spots. I was feeling lucky. The setting was beautiful, the sun was out, but uh-oh. As I took a video of the idyllic setting, I noticed the sky.

But we soldiered on, got the rig up and secured, then headed back home where I could finish up some last minute details, get a good sleep, and be ready for the show weekend. We decided to take the Beetle to the show Saturday morning instead of the van because we had already transported all the big stuff. Great. That would save gas.

We were halfway there when Russell turns to me and says "How will we get the show home?" I was perplexed. What did he mean? We'll just pack it up as always and stow it in the van. The van that was in Buffalo. And we were spending the night in Canandaigua. There was a moment of stunned silence as the reality sank in, followed by several miles of laughter. It was too late to turn back, he would have to go fetch it on Sunday. So much for saved gas.

But, ya know, the fact that we could laugh about's a great thing.

If a storm had formed overnight there was no evidence of it Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day. We had high hopes. There were customers early. The show wasn't packed with people, but the ones that were there seemed to be buying. I was encouraged. Sadly, by noon, the crowd was very thin. (Note: beware of a show that advertises "no crowds". Seriously. That was one of the attributes this show proudly announces)

We were blessed with great neighbors and that lake view and good weather. And then, right as we were getting ready to button up for the night, the wind hit.

This was no "gust", this was sustained wind that knocked shelves of pottery to the ground with a sickening crash, that lifted a 10X20 tent off it's moorings, that had people chasing their product across the lawn. The sky darkened again and the problem was what to do.

The man with the 10X20 that lifted, went to the edge of the lake and transported a half dozen huge boulders to his spot and tied them to the frame. We were all impressed that he could carry them. As his neighbors helped keep the canopy from flying, he secured the sides and center with his makeshift weight system. It worked.

I was too worried to just button up and go. We dismantled the display and stowed it in the "good" canopy of our neighbors and left just the frame up. We would come early Sunday to set up yet again. And then Russell would have to drive to Buffalo to get the van and come back. Are we having fun yet? be continued....

Tuesday, July 21

another new widget

With much of my new "stuff", the ideas come from customers and they germinate for weeks or years or moments, eventually resulting in a "eureka!"

Last year a kindly gentleman told me that if I did something with a reference to grandchildren, I'd sell them all. I had been avoiding specific quotes on my frames and cards, believing broad appeal to be better than targeting.

Dumb. I know. I know.

I found a quote that I loved ("Grandchildren fill a space in your heart you never knew was empty") and put it on cards, frames and my collage easels. He was right. Sold 'em all. Now I have things about children and parents, too. Sell 'em all.

A couple of years ago, a customer asked me if I had any smaller journals. I was only making the 9X7 then, a size that had been dictated by the dimensions of my mould and deckle as I was making my own paper at the time. I eventually moved on to using available papers so I could focus on the things I wanted to make, but old habits die hard, I guess. I researched the sizes other book binders made and found that 5X7 was really popular. I started making that size. Unlined pages, but they still have a quote on the flyleaf and the binding is embellished, just simpler. They are $5 cheaper than my least expensive large journal. I sell 'em all. I think it impacts on my sales of the larger books, but that frees me up to be more artful on the bigger books sometimes. So that is a good thing.

Then customers started asking for even smaller books. Books that could travel, that could be stuffed in a purse or pocket. I pondered it.

Then I started thinking about the young girls who lovelovelove my books. They pick them up and stroke the covers and fan the pages and cradle them in the crook of their arm while asking "Please, Mom?" Some parents "get" that encouraging their kids to write is worth $20. Some say "Oh, you'll never write in it" and walk out leaving the kid to put the book back and give up. Sometimes the child pulls out their money and starts to count out wrinkled bills and quarters which is when I have been known to put the book in a bag and ask the child to accept it as a gift from me, the only condition being that she promises to write every day, (Old English teachers never die, they just get more annoying) Russell does it, too. I'll come back into the booth and he'll say, "Now, don't get mad but..."

Little books would be great for little girls.

When I get my paper cut for the inside pages, I always tell them I want the waste. I knew I would find a use for it, if only to make pulp for castings. Often the waste is 4" square. Eureka!

I call them "Pocket Books", they are a petite 4 1/2" square with a stab binding and a simple embellishment at the tie. No lines, no fly leaf, just a simple book for travelers and little girls. They would be great as "gratitude" journals, too.

Russell thinks they will impact sales of the small journals. I'll have to observe that. And I have to figure out pricing. They are still, after all, handbound books, one-of-a-kind.

And, of course, they'll be cheaper to give away. ;)

meanwhile, at my "real job"..

So, I wandered into work this morning expecting the usual echoing quiet of a theater at rest and saw this:

which was a good thing because it meant that the next huge step in renovation was happening..the carpet. For decades, the stairs had been covered with carpeting that was reminiscent of the 1920's decor originally there, but it wasn't historically correct and as it started to wear, it was "repaired" with red duct tape. A real indignity for this grand old place.

But now, after years of research and fund raising, new carpeting that replicates what was there back in the 20's is about to be installed. But first they had to strip the grand staircase of the old stuff

What they found was pretty rough

The real work begins now, truly "step-by-step"

SInce I only work a few hours a week in the Summer, I will be able to watch the project unfold at high speed, the tedious part unseen

When it's done, the grand staircase will have a runner down the center, with the newly polished terrazzo exposed along the edges. It will be beautiful.

And to think they wanted to tear the place down for a parking garage 25 years ago.

Friday, July 17

barkyard morning

Russell takes Quincy to the dog park every morning and evening. He does that because puppies need to run and we want him to be a social dog. I often say I'm too busy in the studio or not awake yet or something. But Russell tells me that the morning at the Barkyard is good for him, too. The facility has been recently moved and upgraded and he says spending the early morning in the park, by the water, cup of tea, dogs playing, owners schmoozing, is good for him, too.

But with "Daddy" busy for the next few mornings, it was my turn to go. I'm not good at leaping out of bed and into the car, so we weren't there as early as normal and I think Q was resigned to missing his play date this morning, but I surprised him.

He gets almost frantic in the car when you get to the 2nd traffic light before the entrance. I'm not sure what he sees that cues him to proximity. You can't see the park. But the water comes into view there and that might be it, because when we drive by water going anywhere he perks up. It may be the Peace Bridge looming or maybe even just the colorful Burger King. But that last quarter mile or so is a test of patience and endurance.

He leans out the window, panting as we pull up and drags me to the gate. Then it is time to unhook the leash and let him go. He runs and wrestles and chases with little rest except for the few times he comes to me and leans against my knees. But then he is off again.

I chat with some of the owners I've come to know and it is peaceful and fun there, even with the frantic dogs flipping each other and yapping.

Today I saw what Russell means. A sailboat drifted slowly along the shore, a beautiful Australian Shepherd ran gracefully along the perimeter, Quincy wrestled with his favorite playmate, a Great Dane, a flock of geese flew overhead. It was ridiculously bucolic for an urban park.

Tomorrow I'll bring my coffee.

Wednesday, July 15

loving Quincy

I can admit it now. When we first brought Quincy home from the shelter I was not in love. I thought he was cute, my maternal instincts were in full tilt, but I didn't love him. I was still mourning Jake. Everything about the new puppy just brought home the fact that he wasn't Jake. Jake was soft and golden and serene and devoted and cuddly and smart and sweet and mellow and trained. Quincy zoomed and nipped and wiggled and yipped and chewed and chased the cats and pooped in the dining room.

We discussed, briefly, whether we could handle him or if he should be "re-homed". I would weep with frustration and sadness. We had brought a new dog in too soon, but we had to. Our Summers are such that he had to be manageable by June, able to travel with us by September.

This new puppy was trying so hard to get into my heart, but I was still having times of intense sadness, missing my golden boy. I refused to let the new dog eat from Jake's bowls or play with his toys.

I started a blog "written" by Quincy in an attempt to make him real to me. That helped. We bought a collar that keeps him from pulling when you walk him. That helped. He slept in bed with us, often with his head in the crook of my neck. His jagged milk teeth gave way to real doggie teeth that could hurt you only if he tried. He never tried. We brought him to the barkyard almost every day and he would come home too happy and tired to have the zoomies.

I let him carry around Jake's Bobo toy.

Then, one day at the dog park, a feisty dog pushed him to the ground and growled and snapped in a way that sounded threatening to me and I raced to where they were, yelling "hey! hey!" and Quincy got up and leaned against me as a child would, a child who was being teased in the playground.

I guess that was the beginning.

I scrubbed Jake's kong and filled it with peanut butter and treats for Quincy.

In the dark days of my sadness and confusion over the dog thing, my dear buddy, Anne, gifted me with a framed photo by a mutual friend that has a quote from Anatole France: "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened"

My soul has been kept awake by many beloved pets in my life, Q is just the latest.

He has learned to sit and stay and give his paw and do a high five and lay down. He chases the ball, brings it back and actually lets you have it sometimes without a struggle. When we are tossing toys for him in the house, he will bring the toy to me, then Russell, then me. Back and forth, sharing the game. When he is tired, he takes himself upstairs and hops on our bed, his head on a pillow. When he knows he is about to be leashed to go out, he stands at the table by the door, one paw on the surface to keep himself up, the other waving in the air, excited and beckoning.

He is cute and funny and still full of puppyness, but now we can see the fine dog he is becoming.

This weekend was his first weekend away from us, tended lovingly and with infinite patience by "Auntie Ree" our friend, neighbor and devoted dog tender. We kept in touch by phone and email. He drove her to distraction the first night, but she is wise about dogs and they came to an understanding.

And at some point, maybe Sunday morning, a realization hit me.

I missed my dog. I missed Quincy.

I loved him.

Monday, July 13

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Chautauqua brings out the Dickens in me. This truly was a "Tale of Two Craft Shows", though. I'm punning purposely. I also adore alliteration.

OK. Let me start with this humble confession. I am not "cool". I am not one of those artisans that sniffs haughtily and says "just show me the money" inferring that you could set up a show atop a nuclear energy plant with a suspicious leak and that would be just fine as long as people bought your stuff. I love some of the venues we do, the fun of being there is part of my personal profit and loss statement. And I love Chautauqua. How can you not love a place dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, culture and spirituality?

Granted, I love the fact that I can make a nice profit there, too. I may not be cool but I am also not stupid.

Chautauqua looks like this on a lazy Summer day:

I swear you can feel the stress leaving your body, dropping off your fingertips into the perfectly manicured lawns.

So, we arrive at the gate Friday morning within a few minutes of our assigned time and proceed to unload. The weather is perfect and I choose to believe the dire forecast for Saturday is just a big mistake.

The chaos of set up

becomes our cozy booth

and even though sales were not as brisk as last year, I am content. As a precaution, Russell rolls up the rug in case it rains and we head back to our bare bones efficiency unit, too tired to stroll by the lake or stay for the concert.

We'll do it tomorrow, we say.

But, what we do "tomorrow" is try to stay dry and alive. The storm hit early, with pounding rain, blinding lightning, thunder that rattled the bones. All all that separated us from that was an art canopy that bobbed and weaved with the wind, its sides fluttering, the top groaning, the frame dancing. I sat on my tall artist chair with my feet up and watched the rain start to flood our little piece of the world. Few brave souls ventured out.

I'm sure most of them were doing what I fantasized..curling up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. Not the art carnies. We were huddled inside our tents, wincing at the thunder and wondering what it was we found so awful about those office jobs.

In the midst of it, one of the show's committee persons unzipped our front panel and peeked in. She was holding her slicker closed with one hand and trying to keep a hat on with the other. She was checking to see if we were OK and if we needed help. This is not normal. At most shows, if a storm hits, the committee heads for the nearest bar, sips mojitos and watches us through plate glass, pointing and giggling.

Or so I imagine.

Amazingly, a couple of hours after it started, the storm ended, clouds parted, blue sky, sun, birdsong. We tidied ourselves and our booths and pretended nothing untoward had happened. But kept a close eye on the sky.

The customers came out from their cozy cottages and wandered about. There were some rumbles from above and just as we were set to close down for the night a shower moved through, but we were encouraged about tomorrow and headed off in a group of eight to have dinner and conversation.None of the pictures came out, this is the best:

I won't do the "from L to R are:" because I didn't ask any of them if that was OK, but the artists among them are Cheryl, Tim, Laura and Elizabeth. Not that you could recognize anyone from a photo like that. But we had fun.

Then came Sunday. A perfect name for a perfect day. Sun. All day. Not too hot. gentle breezes. It was an apology from the Universe. People came out in throngs. The strawberry shortcake sale helped.

I love this show. For the sales, sure, but also for the strawberry shortcake and the young boys chanting "Chautauqua Times 50 cents" in the early morning and violin music drifting in and out with the breezes and the streets filled with bicycles and the bathing suits hung over porch railings, children splashing in the fountain. I am not cool. These things make me happy.

You can't buy happy.

Wednesday, July 8

fun with wordle

"wordle" is a fun site that lets you make "word clouds" out of selected text. I just saw one done from Sarah Palin's resignation speech and it was quite enlightening. Or something.

So, this is the dreaded Artist Statement that I had to write up for the Lewiston show. I should have sent this

And this is the "methods and process" I send for the juries:

This is the sort of site that captures you for hours when you really should be up in your work room getting ready for the weekend. Ahem.

Go try it. :)

Saturday, July 4


Because we sometimes don't believe that one person can make a difference, remember Rosa Gibson today.

And she loved her community garden where she grew vegetables and even figured out a way to make use out of some old donated shoes, something that became very popular here.

"People were bringing shoes of their loved ones, of people who had passed and they wanted to fill those shoes with life once again,"

She did so many big things, but there was something about the shoes....

The appropriate thing to say now is "rest in peace", but I doubt Rosa was ready to rest. Maybe I'll just say "well done". And thank you.

........Rosa Gibson.........

Thursday, July 2

drip, drip, drip....

Ok, seriously, it has to stop raining now. Really. The sun must come out. This is abnormal. My house is finding drips it never knew it had. There is one tiny one right behind my chair in the attic, so I put a little plastic bucket there, one that held my binder clips. It keeps the carpet dry, but it also makes me a bit twitchy with the rhythmic ping ping ping... After hours of working, the bucket held about a teaspoon of water. Impossible. I imagined a quart.

The basement is damp, the bedding feels clammy, my shoes squish, my finger tips, I swear, are crinkled as if I had been soaking in the tub.

There is no soothing sound of rain on the roof because it is drowned out (no pun intended) by the sound of rain pounding on the metal of the air conditioner.

All of my work is taking longer to dry because the glue/acrylic/paint/sealer is having trouble drying in the urban rain forest.

Normally, I am fond of showers. Normally, our Summers are warm and sunny, punctuated by the occasional, necessary, refreshing soaker. Maybe thunder and a flash of light here and there. Makes the air smell good, washes the streets clean, greens up the lawn. And then the sun comes back out for a week.

But now, after a run of rain storms that would have made Noah arch a brow, the air smells of mold, the streets are cluttered with damp bits of paper and bits of leaf and seed pods from trees that are heavy with the weight of relentless showers, the lawns are mud.

It makes me want to sleep. I can't sleep. I have a show in a week, a big one. I can't let the dripdripdrip, the sounds of tires on wet pavement, the heaviness of the air sap my energy.

Well, maybe I'll go to sleep early and wake up early and start early and maybe the sun will be out. Yeah, that's it.

The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow.....