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Tuesday, January 26

breaking the surface

I fel like I've been swimming under water. Quiet, isolated from the air and light around me. Just gliding along, eyes ahead.

The trouble with swimming under water is that you miss things. Like the sun. And people. And obligations. Plus your fingers wrinkle up.

Now, I could batter this metaphor within an inch of its trite life, but I'll skip to the chase and report that I have taken a deep breath, organized my paperwork, checkbook and schedule and resurfaced here in my real life, ready to take it on. It wasn't easy. If I may return to my metaphor for just a moment, coming back home after a month on the Island with my son sort of gave me the bends. My rhythm was broken. I had no transition time. My mind and body rebelled.

I'm better now.

The sight of my 2010 binder pleases me. The check marks indicating "done" are little victories. I have an urge to buy office supplies, always a good sign. I have a couple of ideas for new widgets this year which I will share should they ever exist. Before you know it, the season will be here. Oh, God of Art Show Carnies, let me be ready this year. I really really want to be ready this year.

2 apps in the mail this morning, 2 almost ready to go tomorrow. Then a week to get ready for the first show of the year. Good thing I came up for air.

I may float every so often, but got to keep my head above water from now on. Life is waiting.

Thursday, January 14

pondering craft

I will admit that sometimes people ask me when my next craft show is and I cringe a bit. Because "craft show" brings to mind the kind of work that is, well, less than artful. I don't like being called a "crafter" because I don't want anyone picturing me carving decorative doodads out of old milk cartons. This is, admittedly, a bit of undeserved elitism. I am equally uncomfortable when I am referred to as an "artist", though, so you need not worry that I have become hoity toity. As one art carnie put it, the only time I refer to myself as an artist is when I ask where the artist parking is.

My problem is not with the term craft, it is how that term is perceived. Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft movement was all about craft. Beautiful, artful, intricate work in wood and metal and clay and paper. One of my favorite shows, 100 American Craftsmen at the Kenan Center is a showcase of the best of the genre. I am always amazed when they let me do the show. Same with the Roycroft Summer show and the Chautaugua Crafts Alliance. They are dedicated to the art of craft.

There has been a lot of discussion amongst my fellow art carnies about the start of the art. The craft fair phenomenon really sprung out of the 60's generation, the majority of whom are now experiencing their own 60's generation. When you look at the people in their little canopies, you notice that most are graying. Will new blood rise up to take our places when we pack up the bungee cords and shelves? Or will the movement dry up with us? Add to this the explosion of imported craft from China that is copied from American artisans, mass produced to mimic their work and sent back to sell for pennies on the dollar. If you think your local craftsmen copied an idea they saw at Pier One or Joanns, think again. It was most likely the other way around. Trust me.

All of this musing is to share a snippet of an article I read by the woman, Carol Sedestrom Ross, who started one of the premier craft shows in the Northeast, Rhinebeck. She talks about how the movement surged and then faltered and how it is changing with the times. I found this most interesting:

What is happening now is what is called a "pulled" movement because the public is very tired of mass produced things and prefers handmade so it is pulling the movement forward. There is now a huge appetite for craft in the US. I heard a lecture last Friday by John Naisbit who wroteMegatrends. He is most famous for his "high tech, high touch" concept, that is, the more technology we have in our lives the more things we need to touch to remind ourselves that we are human. It was the industrial revolution which started the craft movement and now it is the technological revolution 100 years later that is really pulling it forward.

Yep. I believe this. After a several years of recalled Chinese imports, losing ourselves in Solitaire without touching a paper card, connecting with friends through Facebook, even when they live across the street, we are pulled to things crafted with care, one at a time, by the person selling it to us. There is a connection. The item becomes special, treasured, remembered.

Ross also says that she notices in tougher times that people may not be able to buy, say, a full set of handcrafted dinnerware, but they will buy one special piece to accessorize the ones they already have. They are still drawn to artful things and want to own them.

So, I am optimistic about the future and proud to be a craftsman. I am encouraged by the younger folk coming up to fill our empty canopies when the time comes. I've begun to notice craft taking on an edgier, contemporary look. Maybe those art and craft fairs we love so much will continue to bring some dazzle to the long hot Summers.

But I have miles to go before I sleep and there are apps waiting. Enough musing. I have work to do. Creative work, one of a kind stuff. Apparently there is an appetite for it. :)

Saturday, January 9


I was walking along this afternoon, running errands, nothing special, and I felt this surge of lightness, a bubble of happiness and I wondered what triggered that. I mean, I am usually pretty happy, but this little bubble made me want to skip or grin or something.

And I thought that it might be that my kid and my Mom were, for now, safe and settled finally, but it wasn't that sort of heavy-duty, relief-filled happy bubble.

The sun was out, making the snow sparkle and melting the icy sidewalks. I was loving being back in my neighborhood. My short shift at the theater had been busy and fun. A book I requested from the library was in and I was about to pick it up. There was a bottle of wine in the car that I would use in a recipe later.

It occurs to me that most happiness moments are triggered not by something like winning the lottery, although that could go a long way to make me ecstatic. No, lots of happy moments come from things like picturing a book on a shelf with your name on it or feeling the sun on your face in January.

and we're off

First app is in the mail, it begins again. I am, as always, totally irked that the first one is an important one and it comes while the Christmas decor is still struggling to be boxed up and when the bank account is trembling, especially since this is a show that cashes the check right away whether you get the show or not. It is also hard for me to gear up to create something new and fresh so soon after the last season ends. In January, my activity of choice is to wrap up in a quilt and read books by the fire.

I tried. I went up to the studio, which, by the way, at the end of the season looks like the set of the disaster movie of your choice. Wind could have done it, maybe an asteroid. No human could create the chaos in there, so I'm thinking maybe aliens. But I digress.

I dragged myself up there, brushed debris off my chair, cleared a spot on the work table and tried to create a new book design so charming and artful that jury members all over New York would gasp in admiration when the image was revealed.

Yeah, right. What I actually did was scape the embellishment off an existing book, re-sewed it and stared at it for a while, trying to conjure inspiration. For a while I have toyed with the idea of adding bead fringe to a binding, going for a gypsy look. So, I did that. It was actually kind of fun, but I couldn't get a good photo of it. And, truth be told, while it is probably a design that people will like, I doubt it will bring a jury to its knees.

New York show season pretty much runs from June to December. Is it really necessary to have entries for June in the mail while the New Years baby still is running around in a diaper? Seriously, show committee type people, once you get these frozen apps in the mail, how soon do you actually open them up? You can't wait a couple of weeks?


You know, a lot of this is my fault. I declared early on that I would take pictures of my best work all year so that when jury time came I would have a whole library of photos to choose from.


OK, so this is mostly my fault, I get it.

It is not my fault, however, that the next app asks for slides. Slides! Nobody asks for slides anymore. Even CD's of images are becoming old school, it's all online now. Slides. Cripes. Should I do the CV on a cave wall with a chisel?

I'm beginning to detect an attitude problem. Deep breath.

Tomorrow I will do my yearly studio cleanup. It will psych me up. All those clean surfaces, washed brushes, sharp scissors. Tools in clear pockets and totes. Papers assorted by color.

Then I can sit by the fire with a book and wait for inspiration.