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Sunday, March 28

Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

I do love this little show. It reminds me why I chose the book arts, even though I have had to learn to be pragmatic about my designs in order to make a living at it. Rubbing elbows with young artists who make charming little books out of cereal boxes makes me smile, makes me proud in a funny way.

We are allotted 1/2 a table. Yes. 4 feet of space, 2 chairs, another table backed up against yours so that "oops, sorry, excuse me, coming through, look out" are the order of the day. Nobody complained. I resisted the urge to bring everything I had and focused on what I thought was most appropriate for the fair.

I think it worked.

The fair is in the Karpeles Manuscript Museum which used to be a church, so we were surrounded by history and Spring sun through stained glass. Behind a row of tables, enormous organ pipes reached to the ceiling,

But the most inspiration came from the other lovers of books and words and paper that sat behind the tables, row by row, up and down the steeply slanted floor.

A woman with short blond hair and a little girl voice explained her books to me. "This isn't for sale or anything and it's not like really a book because the inside is just things I like" Something like that. She had chap books of her own poetry, the covers were tissue and the pages were a pamphlet and the poems were touching and ethereal. I so wanted to buy one but in the rush of things I never got back to her.

There was an "office journal" which had signatures made of ledgers and business forms sewn into a calico cover.

Beautiful, professional leather journals, books with latches and clasps, with pressed copper cutouts.

I was in heaven.

There were small publishing houses, too. Mostly with books of poetry or literary fiction. A little bit of everything book.

Dashing about, announcing workshops, soothing sellers, answering questions, assigning spaces, collecting fees..Chris Fritton, unflappable book fair organizer

Organizers for some of the "big" shows we do could take a lesson. Just sayin'

I sold some things, schmoozed with friends, got inspired. And then the buyer for a museum shop that sells some of my things came by, liked the new photo journals and we talked about me doing a line of them specifically for the shop!

I think it was a good day.

Saturday, March 20

crafting a life

So, today I was a vendor at a Women's Conference for Buffalo for Africa. I didn't know much about them when I heard of the opportunity, so I did what we all do. Googled. And I was moved by what these people do for the women and children of Africa who suffer so much, not only at the hands of their tormentors, but through poverty and struggle.

There were workshops on Darfur and human trafficking. Things you can only try to assimilate. The keynote speaker was Maureen Orth, a respected journalist/activist and the widow of Tim Russert.

She spoke of the injuries suffered by many of the women and children as a result of repeated rape. But she also related the story of the school she helped establish and the positive changes being made. It was a sobering and powerful speech.

During a break I visited with the vendors who were selling items from the different countries as a fund raiser and I bought a little embroidered pouch with a peace dove inside for Russell and a small, carved musical toy for the mantle. Then I spoke with a woman who was selling jewelry made of paper beads by women of Uganda.


I am a papermaker, paper artist and I know paper beads. Here we use imported papers and foils and tissues. But the Ugandans use strips of magazine pages and packages and junk mail. They craft beautiful beads that bear little resemblance to the recycling project they are, and they are sold to finance a growing industry there that is making a difference in the lives of their community. I picked up a strand of rainbow colored beads and I swear I could feel the energy of the woman so far away that had spun the paper strips round and round to make the necklace draped across my palm. I rubbed my thumb over the fine ridges and imagined her. I chose a multi colored strand because I liked the free spirit of it and I thought it must have been fun to make.

All of us art carnies out there, selling our lovingly crafted work, are working to help support our families. Granted, for us it is more about needing a new car or fixing a roof than simple survival. But my fellow art carnies in Uganda, thumbs up to you. We, all of us, know the feeling of working with the joy of creativity. What you have done with this simple idea is amazing.

"Bead for Life" and "Grassroots Uganda" are 2 of the organizations helping to promote the artisans of Uganda. A visit to their website will bring some color, a smile for your day. While you're there, visit the store. Treat yourself. Reach out.

There are so many sadnesses in the world. I often feel powerless and sad. Will a strand of paper beads change the world? No. But hundreds of them will change a community. A community of sister artists who daily face trials I can only begin to comprehend and who carry on, spinning strips of color into dreams, crafting a life. Creating hope.

Sunday, March 14


I almost have the little photo journals worked out and ready to meet their public. Along the way, I learned something not related to the book arts. I suck at numbers and exactitude. I have OCD about fractions and decimals.

Well, I didn't exactly just learn this. I've known this since about 3rd grade when math became more than tidy little boxes of numbers that easily added up under a straight line and little gold stars appeared on the paper. I still don't really know the times tables, having to count backwards or forward from the one I do know to get to the ones that stump me. (6 times 9 = 6 times 10 minus 6) I changed my major in college when I realized I needed statistics for a degree in journalism. Huh?

Anyway...the covers are photos that are exactly 4X6, I had my paper cut exactly 6 inches. My OCD kicks in when I try to imagine that those two places, blocks apart on Delaware, will cut things exactly 6 inches. Then I have to cut the cardstock exactly 6 inches and all those things have to line up ...aaarrrgh! This, for some reason, turns my brain to mush.

But, I'm coping. My photos look pretty awesome and I'm proud of them. I'm going to take shots of local landmarks, too. I feel calmer thinking about that part.

And the gorgeous finishing press that Russell surprised me with last year is finally getting used for the "perfect binding" these books use. That's fun, too.

I took a test once to see if I had left or right brain dominance. It came back that my brain is apparently neither, the traits of each testing...precisely...even.

Well, that explains a lot, I'm thinking. One side thinks up an idea and the other side makes a list about why it won't work. One side sees all the housework that needs to be done and the other wants to go out and take pictures of dried leaves on brown mud. Then the other side sees the need to rake. Then the rake makes pretty shadows against a fence. Then the fence seems to need painting.

One part of me hates to be late, the other abhors clocks and watches.

One part of me makes lists and keeps a calendar. The other side forgets where they are.

The analytical me likes to figure things out, the other me often wanders off before the answer is revealed.

And so it goes. Does it help to understand all this? Ha.

I know the pretty pictures make me want to make books of them and the stress of the precision only lets me make a few at a time. I can handle that. As long as there are no flash cards involved. Which means...

Hmm...there's an idea for book covers. Old flash cards! Maybe playing cards. Like Old Maid. I should go to Amvets, they probably have old cards....wait, what was I talking about...?

Friday, March 12

when worlds collide

You can just sort of wander along, living your life, batting at deadlines and obligations, nonchalant and in control. Then you turn around and notice there was stuff following you and about to gain the lead. Oh man.

So, here I am with a week to show #1, feeling good about what I've made so far and what I have planned, thinking I have soooo much time to finish up. But, no. We have Mom patrol (more on that later), house stuff, long days at the theater, on and on. Not to mention needing to pick up supplies and have paper cut to size, laundry piling up. Sales tax due next week and I've lost my ledger. Struggling with a Zapplication that has a tomorrow deadline.

Now, I am the Queen of multi-tasking. OK, maybe the Princess. I parcel out the days in hours. I dedicate one hour to housework, then an hour in the studio, then an hour with TV or a book, then an hour cooking, etc. When you have a miniscule attention span, small nuggets of activity work best. And I'm realizing now that my supply of hours is smaller than I would like.

Some things take more than an hour. Like Mom Patrol. Mom was going along fine (for 87) until December. Up to that point, her increasingly eccentric behavior and fading memory were her worst problems. And since she didn't recognize them as problems, she was cool. Then an bad diagnosis of what turned out to be a massive bleeding ulcer, landed her in the hospital and deflated her a bit. They found a heart valve problem common in older folk, but other than that she should be fine now. But she's less than she was. She's smaller, somehow, her face bears a look of wary defiance. She confuses easily and has a mean ol' temper. My brother and I take her to doctors who assure us she's OK while she curses under her breath. I take her shopping, pushing her around in a wheelchair shopping cart while she points to what she wants with her cane. She is demanding and unreasonable most of the time, but we try to understand.

Now she wants to drive again. The snow is melting, she wants her wheels. She's not gonna get them. My brother and I talk strategy. This is gonna be ugly. I know that when I go there today it is going to come up. I want to crawl under a quilt and take a nap.

But I can't. I have to Zapp that app, do that laundry, make a dozen cards and prep some boards for covers. Then I put that hat aside, and don the daughter cap. That one looks like a battle helmet, I think.

It seems to me that if you make your living as an artist type, you should be able to make your life artist-like. But that never happens. Everyone I know in this business is juggling kids and parents and car repairs and leaky roofs and tiny bank accounts and unreasonable art show juries.

Better go back to Zapping that app. Took me hours to figure it out yesterday. Got one picture uploaded. Today should be easier, right? Easier than telling Mom she just can't drive anymore.

Sunday, March 7

picture this

I tell you, the only thing that gets me up in the studio this time of year is a new idea. Yes, I should be getting ready for the coming season. Yes, I vowed to be ready for the coming season. Yes, I have a show in 2 weeks that I should be getting ready for. Yes, yes, yes. OK?

But it's so cold and I haven't heard from any of my apps yet. I mean, I might be rejected from all of them, so why bother? Right? I look outside and can't even imagine that in a matter of about 10 weeks or so, it will be show time and I will be pitching my little white tent in a neighborhood near you. Well, unless they all reject me of course.

I needed a boost, a kick in the patootie. So, I played. My hobby is photography. I have what they call a "good eye" but over the years the math component, the science of the art eluded me. I have no brain for numbers. The smaller number, bigger lens F-stop thing stopped me every time. Huh? I just want to have a photo that looked like what I saw, what I wanted. Don't make me do math.

Digital cameras changed my life. Now I could take 40 shots of the same thing and one was bound to come out. There was no cost or shame in putting 39 pictures in the "trash". It made me giddy. And I ended up with a few really lovely photos. What to do with them? I made another blog, just to post the rare "keepers". Otherwise, they sat in my laptop, in iPhoto, doing nothing.

Then, while looking for ideas for making a better photo album, Google gave me a video of a woman using photos as covers for a journal. I got giddy again.

I ran with it. She just glued photos to a text block, which I guess is OK if you are making one for yourself, just for kicks and giggles. Not good enough for an art show or to sell, though. My experiments began.

Next time you are browsing at an art/craft show, thinking "I could do that", I want you to ponder, instead, how that widget came to be. For instance:

#1-I glued a glossy photo to a coordinated card stock, left a border to compliment the colors, used polyester/cotton quilt binding as the binding overlay. The exposed cardstock cheapened the photo, the cotton buckled under the weight of the glue, the adhesive from the text block oozed out onto the 1st page.

#2-Glued photo to cardstock, still left the edge showing as it was a softer color, used coordinated color paper for binding edge. Nope. Need to use a more distinctive color for the binding, stop letting card edge show.

#3-Cardstock under the photo, not showing, cotton binding glued differently...

OK, I'll stop now since you are most likely snoozing. I've made a half dozen of these things and I am almost there.

The covers will be borderless photos printed matte not glossy, mounted on card, sprayed with acrylic, the binding edge will be silk paper..a compromise between fabric and paper. The front and back cover will be different scenes of the same shoot. Are ya still with me? Here's a group shot:

This book has the Newport, Oregon Yaquina Lighhouse on the front cover. The back is the interior staricase. Cute, huh?

Yes, these photos I just took of the books as they sat on my chair this morning are not among those of which I am proud. They will not be book covers.

Flower beds at the Chautauqua Institution...a long shot and a closeup:

There you have it. The evolution of an idea. Still has a way to go, but almost ready. Each book will have a notation of what the photo is and I will credit myself as the "photographer". I think that out of the 2000+ pictures in my iPhoto library, I should have a dozen that are good enough to use. I guess that makes me a photographer. Not.

( I know a couple of amazing photographers that run in my carnie circle. I have great respect for what they do. I can't do that. But I may do enough to make some books.)

And I'm still trying to come up with a good design for a photo album.

Monday, March 1


Once Summer starts, if I'm lucky, most of my weekends are working "holidays". Those festive Summer festivals that many people plan as part of their Summer fun are long and tough for us, even though we do enjoy them... most of the time. For the art carnies it means waking up and getting going in the dark, the grunt work of set up, the long hours of exhibiting and, hopefully, selling, followed by the exhausting chore of breaking down and packing up.

So, when a Winter weekend of fun beckoned, I looked into the future and decided to grab for it.

First, a grown up "sleepover", a group of women friends in the country. Good food, conversation, wine, laughter, "chick flicks" on DVD. Some of them I knew very well, some just a bit. But there is a funny sort of "secret handshake" syndrome amongst women. Put a bunch of us together, no men or kids, and any strangeness falls away. I wonder if the same thing happens with men.

I slept in front of the fire under a soft quilt while the snow piled up outside and the wind chimes on the porch sent gentle music into the silence. It was wonderful but I'll admit I did miss Russell. And I wasn't the only woman who sent whispered conversations into a cell phone that night. Sisterhood is powerful and all, but it's nice to have your sweetie on the line for a goodnight call.

Then, it was off through the snow, back to the city for the Powder Keg Festival, the oddly named Winter event downtown that featured the world's largest ice maze and snow tubing down the off ramp of the Skyway Bridge

It was fun. There was Zydecko music, too, and broom hockey. All sorts of stuff. The big Winter sun threatened good weather, but the snow and cold held in long enough for most of the events to go forward.

Now, after all that, it was understandable that I chose to spend the rest of the day in that big chair with a book and my laptop and TV competing to keep me there.

All of which means I now have just a couple of hours to make an app deadline for a show I really love to do. You would think that since I love the show I would have been getting that app ready weeks ago, right?

I may change my business name to "Procrastination Studio".