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Wednesday, June 30

by the sea..

I don't live near the ocean, but I do live just a few blocks away from a Great Lake which sure as heck looks like an ocean because it goes on forever. Well, at least to Cleveland.

I know the simple joy of sitting at the edge of the surf,sifting sand through my fingers and letting cool waves lap at my toes. All of the kids at one time or another have been packed into the car, their feet on coolers of snacks, for a cheap afternoon in the waves. I have taught 4 dogs to swim, even though I prefer the wade out and flop down technique for myself. I have gone to the water when I needed to think or cry without interruption. I know the cycles of the Lake from Spring to Spring as well as I know my own heartbeat. I know when the ice forms and when it melts and when it gets warm enough to swim and when it gets too warm to be a respite from the heat. The sound and smell and feel of the Lake is part of me. The sailboats and windsurfers and tugs are a backdrop to everyday life.

All of this chatter is just to say that I know how this would feel if it was in my backyard

and it keeps me awake at night to think of it. Every day, video of the disaster, of the pumping well like a severed artery, of beautiful birds slicked with oil and unable to fly. Every day, for months. The beautiful waves, the life within them, soiled by greed and negligence.

Wind. Water. Sun. They don't spill or kill or leave waste we can't define.

Please. What are we waiting for?


Tuesday, June 29

maiden voyage

So, this past weekend was Roycroft, usually one of my best shows. Great selection of artisans in the Roycroft tradition on the grounds of the historic Roycroft campus. The Copper shop is usually open and antique dealers set up in a back corner. Across the street, an art show with painting and photography, etc. Bliss.

So, naturally, since it was perfect as is, it had to be changed. Long boring story short, construction on the main road forced some decisions and we wound up on the parking lot of an elementary school. I've whined enough about it for days now, so I will spare the blog from my petulance. It turned out OK although not stellar, but it was not the gem I look forward to every year. Nobody knows what will happen next year.

But! We got to use the new/old canopy for the first time. We only had a couple of missteps, like putting the top rails on the bottom, but these were things that made themselves apparent right away and were easy to fix. And I love it. I love the spaciousness of the tall ceiling free of the mechanism the pop-up has. Loved the heavy vinyl walls, so study compared to the nylon we had before. A wind kicked up late in the day and the new tent just sort of yawned while the pop-ups danced and fluttered.I almost wished for rain just to see how it would hold up, but I didnt want to wish that on my fellow carnies. I felt at home in my new space, comfortable and safe. What a difference.

There is still some tweaking to do on the display in general, but I think it is getting pretty good. Since I have a combination of things that need shelves and wall space and racks, it can get tricky.

And now no shows until the end of the month which is making my budget tremble. But it gives me time to build stock and visit the Long Island branch of the family and enjoy time with the youngest of our blended family, Max, who is visiting from Oregon for a few weeks. Such a gift. We haven't seen him since October.

Speaking of blended families and gifts, the 2nd oldest "blender", Harvest, presented the family with Jackson Riley yesterday.

It doesn't get much better. :)

Tuesday, June 22

romancing the hut

OK, so last month we schlepped down to Pittsburgh and bought a used Craft Hut canopy. I have been avoiding the "real" canopies since we started this odyssey into art show world a dozen or so years ago. Too expensive, too complicated. 4 cheap canopies and some scary storms storms later, we caved.

My first outdoor show of the year is this weekend. We had to drag the canopy out of the storage room and clean it up, set it up, organize the parts our way. Make sure we knew what we were doing. I was still a little concerned about setting it up. We are used to a pop up tent that has no parts to assemble. We are used to its idiosyncrasies. We've learned to live with its faults. While I envied others their fancy dancy "pro" canopies, I often felt happy to have the pop up when I would watch them laying out parts and assembling, especially in the rain. But I knew once the tents were up, there was no question who was safer, dryer, cozier.

Anyway, Russell said he was confident that he would remember how to do it. We brought the folder of info Larry gave us when we bought the tent just in case. But Russell has a good mind for logical, construction things, so I wasn't worried. We brought everything to my Mom's suburban back yard so I could scrub the components while Russell organized the parts. I dragged the canopy top to the lawn and began scrubbing. I looked over at Russell and he was holding a pole in his hand and staring at it as if it had fallen from the sky. I was not reassured.

But it was like most learning activities. Once you get the first piece in place, the rest made sense. And so it was. There were some moments of confusion, adjustments were made. A panel was found to be missing a zipper but we had an extra. Before you knew it, the thing was up. I love the roominess of it. It feels like a cathedral without the zigzag mechanism of the pop up overhead.

OK, bring on the rain, the wind, the typhoons, We are ready to weather the storms. Although I much prefer sunny, 75, light breezes off the lake. If that's not too much trouble.

Sunday, June 20

alice waters makes breakfast

I just think everyone should see Alice Waters make this beautiful, simple, elegant meal. Even if you aren't a foodie, I challenge you not to sigh when she plates it up :)

Monday, June 14

fun with craigslist

I love craigslist. I've never actually bought anything there, but I've come close. I claim to love "vintage" things but the reality is that I'm cheap and since we are needing a new table and chairs for the dining room, it's time to start perusing the castoffs of others. Actually, I did find one that I would spring for if I had the bucks right now. I'd probably have those bucks if I did Allentown. But nooo...OK, I'll quit whining. It's over. But this little set was from a model home that is being dismantled and I found it soo sweet and perfect for a dining room that doubles as an office.

It will be sold before I can save for it. Goodbye sweet dining set. We could have had such a nice time.

There is more to be found on the list than cheap furniture, though. There is entertainment. For instance, today I will share some of the photos that made me just shake my head in wonder, because if you are taking a picture of an item you are going to sell, that picture says a lot. You want the item to look its best, to reflect its possible worth as an addition to a new home. Sort of like brushing out the puppies before you put them in a box that says "free!" SO I am amused and bemused by photos like this:

Look! Under all the garbage there is a table for sale. The photo represents how the table will look when it is part of your real life. Well, if your real life is messy and clueless, that is.

"Honey, clean off the dresser before you take the picture for craigslist"
"I did"

This ad read "my roommate moved out and left this mattress":

Uh, it looks like your roommate left something IN the mattress. I'll pass.

Found the remote!

Now, I'm not sure what condition this mattress is in, but I know this person obeys the laws!

And proud to show ya!

You, too, can have this chair to throw your shirt on!

Now that may be a throw, which would be even sadder than a shirt, actually.

Hot water tank? Shelf? Cooler? Pick the item for sale:

But this is my favorite. If you can't tidy, use the crop tool. people!

OK, that was fun. Something to do with the morning coffee. Now it is studio time. Have to take Mom to the Doctor today. Her appointment is at 3:30, but she wants to leave at 2 because she has to go to the bank first. Both destinations are less than a mile from her house. It's going to be a long afternoon.

Sunday, June 13

two steps back to grumpy

So the past few days have left me feeling the love, appreciating the vagaries and surprises of life.

( Cue the bluebirds and rainbows.)

And then the Allentown Art Festival came. You know, the one that finds me unworthy 50% of the time so that instead of making a paycheck this weekend I have to actually watch people walk past my house with their pockets full of cash that will not be spent on my artwork. When you get juried out of a show in another part of town or, better yet, of the state, you can pretty much forget it's happening and go about your business. When it happens right in your neighborhood, it can be sort of like having someone poke your butt with a knitting needle every few minutes.

So, I faced the irritation head on, spent a lot of time on my porch greeting visitors with a "Good Morning!" as they walked by gawking at the city dwellers. (Yes, people, we actually live here. And we like it!) I made calls for the Artists in Buffalo guide, read my newest library book, tried to have a peaceful, happy afternoon. Then I got antsy. I decided to go out.

I hooked up Q, grabbed my keys and headed for the driveway. We don't actually have a driveway. The house next door is for sale and the owner told us to use his. Works for us, our back door opens right out onto it, and it makes it look like his house is occupied.

Except that day, it apparently was occupied because there was another car in the driveway. Right behind mine. Not only that, but it stuck out onto the sidewalk which really makes me seethe because it is so inconsiderate of people in chairs, pushing strollers, using walkers. It screams discourtesy and a total inability to think of anyone but you.

OK. No problem, Someone must be working on the house. I went over, rang the bells. Nothing. A woman catching sun in the yard next door said she heard music coming from the upstairs earlier. Other than that, we were without enlightenment.

So, what do you do? If it was my driveway I would have had the thing towed. Not my driveway. I hovered about the offending and offensive vehicle, trying to figure this out. While I waited, a guy in a wheelchair came by and had to navigate through curbs and flower beds to get by. I apologized and said I was trying to find the owner. He smiled and said it happened all the time, not to worry. That made me even more grumpy. I couldn't find the phone number of the owner of the house to ask if someone had permission to be at the house. Frustration ensued. I checked every so often, still there. At one point I half sat on the front bumper, watching folks walk by, hoping one would say "Hey! Off my car!"

When the whackamole who did own the car finally walked by, there was no reaction to me lounging on the chassis. The pair, a man and a woman, just walked by and up the stairs to the house. "Hey! "I called. "This your car?" The man gestured to the woman behind him with his thumb. "You're blocking me in!" I said with just a touch of incredulity and scorn. She eyed me, determined I was harmless, and said without expression or apology that she would get her keys.

Excuse me? No apology? No sheepish expression? You pull your car into someone's driveway, behind one that will have to stay where it is until you get your behind back from the art festival (for that is where they were- I could tell by the kettle corn). Let's not even mention your total lack of concern for those using wheels to navigate the sidewalk you blocked. And your total response is that you will get your keys? Grrrr..

I decided to just go in the house, hook up Q, and get ready to go. There would be nothing to be gained by confronting the twit. For most of us, the immediate reaction to "Oh, just park here" would be to ask what about the owner of that Beetle in the driveway. You can't give someone common sense or courtesy by scolding them. She would have to go about her rude little life without my wisdom.

And so, Q and I took a bit of a ride, away from the chaos being visited on our usually quiet Avenue. I wasn't able to actually go anywhere. It was too hot to leave the dog in the car and I didn't really have a plan except to get away for a few minutes. Clear my head. Put distance between me and the knitting needles and gawkers. And it was good.

I have no words of wisdom for the driveway blocker except this: That trend of letting your bra straps hang out past the straps of your tank top is so 90's.


Friday, June 11

Steve comments on Mary

Usually, on this blog, you just approve comments that come in and they attach themselves to the end of the post and maybe people see them and maybe they don't.

I received this most wonderful comment on my post about Mary and I thought it was too special to be read "maybe"

What a beautiful post... My eyes filled with tears too, at the thought of your beautiful little "breathe" magnet ending up in the hands of someone who is special to you... And in the hands of someone for whom something as simple as "breathe" means so very much...

Thank you for telling us about your friend Mary, and her new lungs and liver -- and her new life -- and looking forward to seeing her without a wheelchair or oxygen, and seeing "just Mary"... It's amazing, and sometimes beyond understanding, what the gift of organ donation can do for someone. There is some family out there who suffered an incredible loss -- and in their time of grief, chose to step back for just a moment and think of others -- to think of the Mary's in the world who are dying, who they -- in the midst of their grief -- may be able to help...

And now your friend Mary is alive and thankful, and clutching a little magnet that says "breathe"... I can't wait until you get to see "just Mary" too... And I'll bet that she can't wait to see you and speak of the amazement of these little connections...

I know how Mary feels, and I know what it's like to have friends like you in our lives... Ten years ago, I was in a chair and on oxygen -- I had a double lung transplant in April 2000 (no liver...) After living almost 40 years with crappy cystic fibrosis lungs -- breathing normally is freaking mind-blowing, even after 10 years... My life was saved by a beautiful 17-year-old girl who told her family twice in the month before she passed, how strongly she felt about organ donation. I think of her throughout the day, every day...

You take care... Thanks for brightening my day with your post about Mary... And when you see her, give her a hug from a guy in Chicago who also breathes with lungs that were a gift...

Love, Steve

You never know who reads your blog or why. I don't think I know Steve and I know he is unaware that my son's "very significant other" lives with CF, too and that I have come to know about this "crappy" disease through their loving relationship.

He can't know how much his reference to 50 years meant to me.

I will surely give Mary a hug from Steve and one to my son's sweetheart, too.

Thanks, Steve.

Thursday, June 10

Just breathe

At Kenan last weekend a woman bought one of my little magnets. It says "breathe". She said she was buying it for a friend who was recovering from a lung transplant. Wow, I said, hope she does well. So far, the woman said with a smile. And off she went.The exchange made me think of an art carnie friend, Mary.

We first met Mary 10 or 12 years ago I think, doing a little dog of a show that few people came to and the ones that did couldn't get to us because of the layout. It was horrific at first, then it became funny. We were new at this business and it took me hours to go find the man in charge and make him take away the barriers. Today it would take me 5 minutes and if he didn't do it I'd have all the other vendors in a wedge formation.

During the hours of inactivity, as is my nature, I went and schmoozed with the other marooned artists. That's where I met Mary. She was selling, if I remember right, incense holders that were bottles with beads and wire embellishments. They were funky and fun and even without actually selling any, she was having fun. For the life of me I can't remember if she was visibly ill then. We just connected.

Over the years we graduated to better events and at almost all of them I would see Mary, who had given up her art show life shortly after the debacle. But she liked to attend them all. At first she was walking around with an oxygen thing. Then we would see her and she would be in a wheelchair. Next year she'd be walking around. Some times she looked really good, others made me think I might not see her again. I never asked what was wrong, we never discussed it. We were fellow art carnies and we enjoyed each other. Nothing else mattered.

Then, a couple of years ago, there was a human interest story on the local news about Mary needing a heart/lung transplant and my heart sank. This was serious, then. I thought of how she always acted as if whatever was wrong with her was a minor inconvenience. After that, when we met, we could acknowledge the presence of the oxygen tank and wheelchair and speak of how she was doing. The curtain had been pulled back. She remained upbeat and positive, shrugging off concern.

She didn't come to the Kenan show, but I don't think she usually does, so I wasn't concerned.

Then, tonight I got an email from a friend of Mary's. It said, in part:

I'll bet you didn't know that Mary finally received her double lung and liver transplant on May 23rd, and is still in Hospital in Pittsburgh doing pretty well, considering. You came to mind today as Mary received a card from her friend who purchased it from you at the Keenan Center show. A beautiful magnet saying "breathe".

I don't know how these things happen. But how wonderful that they do. So, it was liver, not heart. I thought as my eyes filled with tears. And she is doing well.

And she has my magnet. "I hope she does well" I had said to the lady.

I so hope she does. My brave fellow art carnie. I expect to see her at the Christmas shows. No chair, no oxygen. Just Mary.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, June 8

100 American Craftsmen

Well, actually, I think now there are 109. But it is still a "small" show. Not one of those that exhaust the shoppers and strain the patience of the organizers. The work is very high quality (I am always thankful they let me participate!) and the organization that puts it on: the Kenan Center in Lockport, NY, couldn't do it better.

So why was almost everyone bummed about sales? Beats me.

Over the years I have heard every rationalization for the success or failure of an event you can imagine. From the economy to politics, weather, advertising, the design of the postcards, hockey playoffs or football games, too many jewelers, too many potters, too many artists, not enough artists, on and on the theories fly but there is seldom agreement or enlightenment.

Here's what I think. When a group does everything right, there really is no "reason" for anything. 2 years ago I made almost twice as much at this show as I did this past weekend. The economy was certainly no better and I remember that it was so hot outside and inside the arena that people seemed to want to bolt the venue instead of shop and schmooze. But they spent money that year.

I had nice exchanges with shoppers, lots of compliments. My art pieces got positive attention but no buyers. They bought the low end stuff like crazy, but seemed to stall at around $25.00. And so it goes. There are no guaranteed paychecks in this business. You pitch your tent and hope for the best.

Chalk it up, move along, stay positive. I made enough to cover the expenses for the next couple of shows and buy some groceries. Not bad.

And I do love that show. So many friends are there. The committee treats us like rock stars. The customers are smart and art-oriented for the most part. I will apply to this show every year until I'm done. Some years I will be bummed about sales and some years I will be giddy over how good I did. It's the way of this life.

A little over 2 weeks until the next one. Deep breath. On we go. Maybe the weather will be perfect and hockey playoffs will be over and the oil spill will be contained and Obama will have surprised us all with a little incentive check.

I can dream.

Friday, June 4

true beginnings

Yes, I did a show last week, but 100 American Craftsmen has been the true beginning of the season for me for quite a few years now. I'm crazy about this show for a bunch of reasons, the biggest is the homecoming sense of it. From the women manning the registration desk (Hi hon! Welcome back! You look fabulous!) to greeting old art carnie friends after a Winter away with hugs and laughter. it is a joyful beginning for me.

It is also a gathering of some of the best craftsmen around. I'm always amazed that they let me in. This is all craft, no "art". Jewelers make up a third of the show, followed by blown glass, pottery, metalwork, wood. It is one of the few shows I do that actually has a category for paper and I am not the only one in it.

This weekend I will be set up across the aisle from one of my favorite people, Cheryl Olney of Louise's Daughter and back to back with my blog buddy, Terry Stephan and his bead genius wife Betty

Most of the folks will be setting up today. These are just the ones that opted for a head start like we did. Today all I have to do is clip my lights to the frame and set up my stuff. I've left some busy work to do when I get there, like tagging my books, because I want to be there early, unrushed (is that a word?) focused on the weekend ahead, no distractions except for the welcome interruptions of old friends, coming together again, in a world so few people understand, griping and moaning and laughing about the work we have chosen to do with the silent understanding that we really wouldn't have it any other way.