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Monday, April 26

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As much as I like to natter on about being an art carnie, I am, in fact, a businesswoman. *shudder*

I like to think of my art business as a glorified excursion into funky art land, but it's not. Every year I do what any CEO does. I review and adjust and calculate and analyze. What will I need to do to make this season a success, based on what I know and what I think.

I know the economy is shaky although it seems pretty stable here. Western NY has had years to adjust to recession and while some areas are in a downward spiral, we seem to actually be surfacing here. At least I hope so. But I still need to be able to offer work that is affordable to a range of spenders.

So, here's the plan. Last year, as every year, my photo frames flew off the shelves.

I will continue on with those, working on the collage element which I think is getting better every year.

The magnets I came up with in the Fall have been immensely popular. They are only $5 at the shows and I can't seem to have enough of them. Same with the cards. Those are only $4.50. Both of those items give people a chance to walk away with a little bit of art. And they add up nicely. Usually, they pay the expenses.

The heart of Simplesong, the books, are getting a boost with a new design. When I started making a smaller journal (5X7) at the suggestion of a customer, Russell thought they might impact on sales of the full size journals and he was right. But the problem is that I was basically just making the full size journal a bigger version of the small one. When I started to do some more intricate books, with raised collage on them, they always sold first, even though they were more expensive.

I am not the fastest learner, but I do catch on eventually.

This year, I'll have tons of the smaller books and then a selection of more intricately embellished bigger ones. I've been working on a new idea. A cut out window with a little melange inside. I'm planning to use vintage jewelry and botanicals and beads, etc. I'm enjoying the experiment phase.

Last season I added book earring to go along with the little book pins and, although they are a true pain in the patootie to make, I will have them again this year. They make me and the the customers smile. And they sell.

I'm also experimenting with mixed media collage and, if I get any done that I like enough, I'll share those, too. Jury is out on those.

I want to have a booth full of lovely things that are made mostly from the most humble of all materials: paper. It pleases me to take those sheets and scraps and bits and make artful things from them. Because until I did, they were just...paper scraps. I wonder if my customers really appreciate that.

I use paper the way others use clay or wood or paint or silver. I learned to use it by learning to make it. I respect its beauty and toughness. It is forgiving and adaptable. Now that I buy most of my paper instead making it all, I get to see the incredible variety. A sheet can look like bark or a rainbow or a painting. It has the ability to energize me when I think there is not a drop of creative energy left in my brain.

So. some of my business decisions are made by crunching numbers and analyzing trends. The rest are made when a color or a texture catches my eye and my imagination.

I don't know too many CEO's who can say that they had a really good fiscal year due to a new shade of banana bark.

Monday, April 19

Quincy & Frasier

When we first brought Quincy home from the shelter, every city noise made him hide. The shelter was deep in the country and he didn't know what traffic sounds were, let alone sirens and bus backfires. The TV freaked him for a while. I spent a lot of time comforting him and encouraging him to not be afraid. He got used to it all in time. Now he is fearless. Or so I thought.

We do not live in a quiet house. The TV is usually on, even when we are not in the room. Or there is music. The radio in the kitchen is usually tuned to NPR when I am cooking. I have a propensity for "girly" computer games that click and whirr as the jewels drop and I am known to sing loud and often, sometimes in a Lucy falsetto, for no reason whatsoever and without warning. None of these things make the dog's ears perk. He does bark at dogs on TV because we think he sees the TV as a window and there is a dog out there.

A month or so ago, Quincy woke from a deep doggy sleep he was enjoying snuggled between his two people on a warm quilt and he began to howl. As if he was in pain. Or fear. We petted and comforted him and he seemed to be fine as he dropped right back to sleep. It happened again the next night. We were perplexed.

And then, about a week ago, I was watching an old Frasier re-run as I drank my morning coffee and, as the credits rolled and Frasier sang about "tossed salad and scrambled eggs", Quincy began to whimper, then cry and then, for the first time in his young life: howl. The first one sort of worked its way out as if he didn't quite know what it was or what it was going to do. It was a baby howl. Then he pointed his chin to the heavens and let rip a series of plaintive cries that intensified as they went on. I could only stare at him in amazement and then did what any sadistic pet owner does. I replayed the theme song. He did it again.

I couldn't wait for Russell to come home.

We watch Frasier a lot. Some of those jokes never get old. Quincy didn't just now hear the closing theme. And then I thought about his "nightmare". Both nights I had gone to bed and turned to "Project Runway" hoping to stay awake long enough for the runway show. Well, that didn't happen, but Frasier comes on right after that and now I'm thinking that is what woke him (and us) up. The song. Did the song play into some doggie nightmare he was having at the time and now it is a fear thing? Did he just now realize how annoying that "tossed salad and scrambled eggs" line is?

You tell me.

Sunday, April 18

sunday papers

It's a gloomy Sunday morning and I'm sitting in my big. cozy leather chair with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. Sort of. The newspaper is on my laptop. For some reason, this morning I am missing the newspaper, especially the fat Sunday one.

For as long as I can remember, Sunday morning meant going out for the papers..plural...and bagels. In good weather, I often had a dog with me, enjoying the walk. In the Winter it sometimes meant digging out the car from a snowbank, but only a blizzard would cancel the trip. Every so often I would be seduced by a telemarketer type extolling the virtues of home delivery, but invariably the paper would come later than I like or be delivered to a part of the house I never check or it would be snitched from my back steps and I would go back to making my paper/bagel run.

This morning, I am feeling nostalgic about the Sunday papers. I would always get the local and a NY Times. For ages, the Times would come as early as the local and I would snag them both. Then there was a change. Something to do with printing schedules. But the Times said that now we would get the Midwest version. There was an outcry. We live in New York, not the Midwest! The Midwest version was without the Metro Section or Real Estate or The City. The Midwest version was not the "real"NY Times. Politicians got involved. A deal was struck. We could get the "real" paper, with all sections intact, but we would pay a fee. It was worth it to get the paper labeled "local".

The move to paperless technology came slowly. The web sites got better. Easier to navigate. The paper was always here waiting to be read. Free. Current. Local. For a time, I still went out for the papers, but this morning I realized it's been a couple of years since I last brought home papers with the bagels. This morning I'm missing that.

There are no crossword puzzles to curl up with, no coupons to clip. I never read the silly Times wedding story on line, but I never missed it in print. That Metro section I whined about missing. Never read it on line. I do miss the magazines. The local paper had it's own Sunday magazine for a while, but eventually let it go in favor of "Parade". Gag me. I think we still get ours once a month but I don't even know that because it's been so long since I grabbed a copy.

I tend to buy a paper when we do art shows. You have to be there so early, long before any people come. And it can be a pleasure to sit in your artist chair at the back, early sun on your face, fresh coffee, the sounds of people getting ready, the calm before the rush. Some shows actually give you breakfast goodies. Donuts or bagels, yogurt, juice, fruit. There is a place in heaven for those show promoters. I usually pull the crossword puzzle out and slide it onto my clipboard just in case it gets slow. I stash the coupon sections into my tote for later.

But most mornings are like this one. Go online. Check e-mail, Facebook and the blogs. Read the paper. Contribute to the demise of print media. when..we get an iPad, I imagine that will be the end of our ritual perusal of the magazine racks at Borders. Will all those magazines be online? Who knows? There will be enough of them to amuse us for a while.

And then one day I'll be scrolling through an article instead of paging through one and I'll wonder if a certain magazine is still in print and I'll realize that I miss the heft of a thick, glossy magazine in my hands, the annoying subscription postcards, the odd little ads in the back, the faint, sharp smell of ink.

We move on. Technology seduces and changes us, often for the better but not always.

Next Sunday I'm going to hook up Quincy and take a walk. We'll buy the papers and some bagels. If it's warm enough, maybe I can even sit on the porch, in the sun, and let a breeze annoy me by ruffling the pages. Pages, after all, may soon be a thing of the past.

Sunday, April 11

trying to enjoy the detours

You sort of plan out your season, this show on that weekend, with an eye towards a few detours for rejections. The danger comes when there are more detours than you'd like. When the route has become comfy and scenic and has the best rest areas and suddenly there is a blinking sign in the road that says "turn back". And you aren't prepared.

OK, I was sort of on cruise control there. And 2 of my best shows turned me back. One with a "no" and one with a "maybe". Some juries are still out and the inability to see the route clearly is causing me stress. So, I hit the web, commiserated with carnie friends, and I learned a lot.

I learned that a few people I assumed were immune from rejection had, in fact, been rejected by shows that should have been thrilled to have them apply. One was rejected from a show that had awarded him "Best of Show" the year before. Some artists apply to 50 shows in order to book 20. With jury fees averaging between 25 and 50 bucks, that is one big roll of the dice.

Some invest in professional photography for their slides and wind up getting rejected after having been lucky for years with their own photos. Some get rejected because their booth photo wasn't good enough, regardless of how good the art was. Hey, the show has to look good, right?

A lot of folks think that we just sort of sign up and show up, unaware of the hassle involved in securing that 10 foot hunk of curb real estate. Oh, no, folks, this is like American Idol. A bunch of aspiring participants, a panel of judges, a final group of contestants. Who will get to be on the stage?

I have a few good shows locked up and I'm hopeful for the others who are still pondering my worthiness. In the interim I have revisited smaller shows that I had put behind me. As one of my friends said, "Let's take this season for a spin!"

OK, but watch out for those detours.

Thursday, April 1


It came upon us gently, a little at a time. A few afternoons that nudged you to shed your coat. A shoot of green through dried leaves. A sudden desire to dust off the bike. And then this morning the door opened into warmth, a gentle breeze, sun.

We opened the doors at work so that it felt like we were set up on the street. I ate my lunch at a dusty table in the courtyard, a long overdue library book open on my lap.

When you live in a 4 season kind of place, the dawning of the seasons are events to be celebrated, commented upon, squeezed of every nuance. Spring is especially loved. Everyone with a camera took pictures of daffodils this week, I bet.

I lost out on a good show today, irritated me. What do these juries want? But then an email that began "congratulations" and another show was added to the yes column. It's been a tough app season. I'm feeling anxious. But then I rolled down the windows on the car and drove home with sweet air swirling around me and it mattered less.We were going to go for dinner at a place where we could get milkshakes. Perfect. Winter would be officially over then.

I changed into jeans and sandals and we headed out, through our easy city neighborhood. There were knots of people on the parkways. Spinning frisbees to each other, strumming guitars, hugging while they walked. We stopped for a light and then, as we began to move again I saw them. Away from the others, a boy and a girl. In the middle of a circle of budding trees. Their coats were in a muddle on the grass and he was spinning her. He held a wrist and an ankle and he twirled slowly and effortlessly while she reached out and up. There was no sound, they were too far away, but I could sense smiles, laughter, freedom, youth. Round and round like a dance, like a game.

I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes and smiled. I couldn't see the spinning lawn, feel the dizzying rush or the wind in my hair. But my toes wiggled free in the sandals and I held my hand out against the soft air as we drove. And life was good, juries be damned.