visit the web site

Tuesday, February 19


So, last post I talked a little about our wedding and some things that have been happening and will happen and may not happen...the usual.

It is application time and if you have been with me these past 10 years or so you  may remember how much I hate it. The new thing amongst our dear promoters/organizers is to cash our booth checks with the application and they will refund it if you are not accepted. Seriously? All of our apps for the season are due in the next few weeks. Some of us apply to about a dozen shows per Summer. Sometimes we apply to a couple of shows for the same weekend, like applying to a "safe" college when you are a kid. This way, if you get rejected by one, you still have a show. And if you get both, you decide which is best for you and politely decline the other. This is how the business works. The good shows know this which is why they have a waiting list. With an average cost for a booth is about $250-$350, I know that it is a near impossibility for many of us to come up with $3000 during the time of our season when no money is coming in. So, I have formally rebelled. One of my favorite shows advised us that they are now adopting that police so we should "make sure you have funds to cover the check" Bite me. Last year I made about $300 bucks at that show because we had rainstorms both days. Did we demand a refund? No. Well, this year I responded to the "call for artists" email with a simple: "I'm sorry. I no longer apply to shows the require payment in advance of acceptance".  If I could get my cohorts to do the same it may have an impact. As it is, I think I will have a relaxing weekend and have even more art to sell the next week. Win/Win? I hope so.

So, marriage is fine so far. I have to admit this old broad got a kick out of hearing Russ introduce m as his wife for the first time. There is a giggly teenager hiding in this old body somewhere.

I have been accepted as a team member at an artist co-op in my neighborhood that I have been watching for a couple of years. I know most of the artists and admire them all. The work will all be "made in Buffalo" which is great. The young woman who runs it is someone I have known for years. She is a sweetheart and a talented artist. So, I go in for training next week. LOL  Training!At my age! I love it. Never consider your self finished. There is always something lurking around the corner and it is often delightful.

My old house is cold. The furnace is working, but only when it thinks it should, so we have a cozy house 12 hours out of 24. The "guy"is coming to check it out. Meanwhile, I am here with my laptop, Netflix and a puppy by my side, comforter up to my chin, waiting it out.

And, of course, there are app to fill out! Aargh.  Later....

Wednesday, January 16

reviewing, revising, revisiting

It is January and the cold and snow make the idea of seeing up our art tent on the street seem impossible. But every year, the seasons turn and change  and I start spending more and more time in the attic and I go temporarily broke with show fees.And the next thing I know, we are wrestling with the pipes and drapes of our canopy and sweating with the effort. It is a rhythm in my life that I will miss as I contemplate retiring from the fun and work and frustration of being an art show artist. But, 70 is rearing its wrinkled head with an incredulous look as if to say "Do you KNOW how old you are???"

I just don't feel it. Oh, my body does. I've had some trouble with knee and hip problems and lately nothing is as wonderful to me as hunkering down under a layer of quilts while Winter makes noise outside and the windows rattle and I am scrolling through my options on Netflix or cracking open a new book with my Silkie Terrier tucked against my side.. This will pass and energy will resume. I just wish these applications would wait until the idea of them made me a little tingly with anticipation. Yeh, those days are gone!

There have been some changes. I got married! After almost 25 years together, Russ and I decided to get legalized. We had a small, family/friend wedding in Oregon, officiated by an artist friend in his Zen garden and it was perfect.

I dropped book making for awhile and concentrated more on collage, but I miss my books andI shall return to the press this year.

It occurred to me that if I did fewer shows I would have more to offer at the few I did do and probably make as much money and still have a bit of Summer to sit at the beach or go for a bike ride. I am actually forgetting how to ride and I bought a brand new bike last year so I am ready for Spring. I just need to decide which shows to drop. You develop a personal attachment to some of them.

The big excitement in my life lately is the new storage contraction we got for the kitchen where I can display my pretty enamel/cast iron pots and pans. Pretty sad. But fun.

I work at a theater and so was able to get prime seats for Hamilton which was pretty wonderful.

But mostly it is me under the quilts with my terrier, Oliver, who has developed a skin problem and is going bald. Another trip to the Vet tomorrow. He looks pretty pathetic. At least it hasn't affected him from mid waist up so he is still pretty cute and we have him in newborn onesies to keep him from scratching and chewing at whatever is attacking his pretty blond hair.

These are the things that fill my days lately. And you wonder why I haven't blogged?  Ha!

Well, there actually was one miracle this year. My beautiful daughter-in-law, Leisha, received a double lung transplant that saved her life. It was pretty intense Summer. But for Christmas, I bought her work out clothes and when we were face-timing recently she showed me her jumping jacks and running in place. Never lost her breath. Before the surgery, she couldn't  walk half a block without gasping for breath. Truly a miracle and every day I say a silent thank you to the family that thought of others at one of the saddest times of their lives. We don't know a lot about the donor except that she was young. Check that box on your license, folks. You ever know.

So, that's where I've been. Next post I'll fill you in on what I've been doing artistically you're still with me, that is :)

But right now a Winter storm is predicted and I am collecting books for the duration.

Monday, May 15

a weekend at the mansion

The Knox family is famous in Western New York for their wealth, philanthropy, ownership of the Sabres and establishing the Albright Knox Art Museum in Buffalo, one of the most respected venues in the country for contemporary art. What does this have to do with me? I got to set up shop in their "Summer home" in East Aurora. The Knox Farm show is held inside the mansion, with artists in all of the rooms and in the hallways and even outside at the turnaround.

The show draws really well because it is an opportunity for the public to roam about the house. The Knoxes donated it to the community and it is now a State Park. We were set up in the "gentlemen's closet" which was very cool for a closet. A full wall of built in drawers of several sizes and 2 walls of closet doors. This meant little room for my art work and I was a tad worried, but it turned out great. People came in, out of the bustle of the hallway, and had time to really look at my stuff and read the quotes. It turned out to be the perfect place for us. I setup a few things just outside the door to alert folks to our presence and strung fairy lights around a window and through our frames. It worked.

Not everyone had a good day and I can never anticipate who will sell a lot, who will crash, who will just make expenses. If I were in charge, certain items would not be in the show, but if people are buying it, kudos to the makers. There was plenty of real quality, creative items and it was a pleasure to be in their company.

Downside? No elevator. With the aging of art show artists, schlepping display pieces and product up the stairs is problematic. Upside? Free lunches! Nothing wins the hearts of artists more than free food. The beauty of the venue didn't hurt either.

So, I am sleeping in a bit while Russell goes to the Dr for a follow up on his hernia surgery. Yes, he was schlepping stuff up and down the stairs with a six week old hernia scar. He is the youngest old man I know and he is a gem. Love that guy.

Next up...Kenan Center. Our first "big" show of the season. HopeI am as happy after that one as I am today.

Saturday, May 6

Jake saves the day

The season has started. Set up to do a small Spring show at a beautiful gallery. I had stopped doing the show because, frankly, the sales were so bad it felt like doing penance. But I missed it. My "tribe" is there and I needed them. So, I applied and resigned myself to making just a little bit of money but using the show as a preview of the season, blowing the dust off, deciding where we were going. And that is pretty much how it was. I was set up next to one of my favorite people and there were friends and hugs for days and I traded for an awesome copper and stone bracelet. All in all a pleasant enough weekend. And then we met Jake.

7 years old and full of determination, he strode confidently  to my jeweler neighbor and asked if she had "something with love on it" for his Mother because Mother's day was coming. Aw, man. He insisted he had enough money, although his older sister kept telling him he didn't. He pulled 3 crumpled singles from his pocket and when his sister, patiently, told him he needed 32 dollars, not 3,  for the necklace he had spotted as perfect, he smugly reached deeper into the same pocket (at this point I'm praying that his Dad or someone had slipped him a 20) and pulled out...2 quarters. In his mind, 3 singles and 2 quarters was 32. He was crestfallen when his sister explained the realities to him. And then the magic happened.

My jeweler friend rummaged through her supplies and found a half-finished wrap bracelet, added a charm that said "love" and a pink bead and called the boy over. She said he had enough for this piece of jewelry, was that good for his Mom? and he nodded yes and released the crumpled bills from his curled fingers. I was looking feverishly for something to add to his haul (because by now I was hopelessly in love with this kid) and asked him if his Mom like butterflies as well as dragonflies (the necklace he had wanted to but had a dragonfly on it) He said that she loved both, so I grabbed a box I had made with a little gold butterfly charm on the lid and asked him if he'd like to put his Mom's bracelet in there. Oh, yes, he said, how much did it cost. Nothing, I told him, it is a gift from one Mom to another. It was glorious. He was such a sweetheart and our contributions were more about returning love to a child that exuded it from every pore. We got such a kick out of it. Then the artist set up next to the jeweler on the other side came up to us and asked if we were the ones who gave the gifts to her grandson! We had no idea. She gifted us with a choice from her lovely matted photos. It was one of those "hallmark" moments. Love all around :)

When we talked about it later, we agreed that this was what made the art shows so special. Community, generosity, love, fun and the occasional Jake moment.

So on to the next one in a week. Hopefully it will be better  for us financially. Jake moments feed the soul, but Wegmans feeds the body and I need to go grocery shopping!

Sunday, March 5

suddenly I'm obi-wan kenobi

It seems like only a year ago that I was picking the brain of a coworker in my government job about how to make money at craft fairs. He and his wife were "on the circuit" and they made stuff for work events and since I had tried every craft known to man, I figured maybe this could be a small revenue stream for me. I was already plotting how to take a very early retirement from a job I really hated.

They were true "crafters" and I remember they were making the "hot" items for that year: Country and Victorian. Jerry kept track of trends and pandered to them. I wouldn't call him an artist necessarily but he was a careful and creative crafter. He took me under his wing.

When you start in this business you have no idea how it works. I mean, how do you get to do a show? Who do you call?  Oh lordy, I was naive. He helped me find a few "easy" show to start with and taught me how to apply. I was actually accepted to 3 shows before I had made one sellable item. It was crazy. But it was fun. That was almost 20 years ago now. Wow.

So, anyway, now we are hardened show artists. I still learn something every show from my fellow artists, but we are comfortable in our routines and we know what to do!  2 years ago a show I do added an "annex" for new artists and students. That is where I met Joshua. He is a college kid with a delightful spirit and warmth. I was drawn to him because he works in paper and he works with it in a way I wish I could. He follows his instinct and his muse and makes lovely, whimsical works of art. I am more likely to choose designs and work based on whether it will sell and while Joshua is also hoping to make a profit, his spirit is clean.:) We have become friends and while I am sort of a mentor for him now, he is an inspiration for me. It's a great partnership. We will be doing some shows together this year.

Another friend called me the other day and asked to meet for coffee. She wanted to talk about  being a working artist. She is a talented watercolorist and also a quilter.  We met and I told her everything I knew. I advised that she make a choice between her 2  arts and stick with it. She had a lot of good questions. This is one smart lady. I told her, on a personal note, to make sure her partner is supportive because she is going to need him and he is going to need patience. Not everyone has a Russell. I am so blessed in that area. She brought me a small book with anecdotes on creative entrepreneurship. It was a wonderful coffee date. She is going to "shadow" us at a few shows to get a feel for it and she is happy to pitch in when needed. This will be fun.

I guess I am now the seasoned veteran, importing what wisdom I have to beginners. That's pretty cool. The show circuits need new blood. Notice the average age of the artists you see in their little white tents. Mostly baby boomers. The festival artist pool is aging out and there isn't a lot of new blood to step up. Technology may be the final death knell. If you can sell online, why bother with the hassle of setting up shop on street corners? I love it, but this generation may not. I guess we'll see.

Meanwhile, I will drag my aging butt back out there. I will absorb the energy of the festivals and reconnect with my show friends and eat street food and get inspired and meet wonderful people with whom I will have interesting conversations. And I will always remember my mentor, Jerry, now passed, and feel grateful that he took me by the hand and led me into this wonderful world. Thanks, buddy.

Tuesday, February 28

plotting the course

I have learned a lot of lessons these past couple of years, most of them good. About art and commerce and life and death. Adjustments have been made, new work created, old work improved. I wish it hadn't taken so long. I'm getting old fast!

Let me share a secret about life as a festival artist. You may know this if you've read my blog over the years. It is hard. Physically hard.  You need to be able to lift and tote heavy boxes and display pieces, set up a tent that weighs hundreds of pounds and goes together like a Rubiks Cube. The days are long and weather is always a factor. You may send 12 hours in tropical heat with no breeze, or a rainy, windy day that threatens not only your fortitude, but your work as well.  We won't even think about Winter in Western New York! The days spent off the circuit are spent in whatever space you have designated as your studio. Kiss your Summers goodbye.

And I love every minute of it.

I am not one of those artists that makes boatloads of money. Most of us aren't, despite what you might think when you see people crowding in our booths. I am luckier than most in that my cost of materials is very low and I recycle and reuse every scrap. So, I was getting kind of lazy. My cards, (that are reproductions of original collage), are very popular and once the original artwork is done and the card formatted, become a simple "press and print" function. Same with the prints I sell. They are very popular and people buy multitudes of them.  It became a safety net. I became obsessed with having lots of those things  I hate to admit this, but why blog if you are just going to tell fairy stories? My real art work, the handbound books and original collage and miniature book jewelry? They became the backdrop for those "press and print" items instead of the main event. Pretty sad when you get lazy like that.

Then we had a "situation". I was at my favorite show, the one that brings in twice as much money as any other, the one where people clamor for my cards and I can make as much just in cards as I can for the whole booth at another show. I had to remove my cards. What triggered this unexpected switch is not important. It was reasonable since many shows do not allow them, but it was spur of the moment and we were not prepared. I was pretty concerned abut my ability to even break even. The organizer of the show,( a terrific woman and one of the best in the business), fretted over this the whole weekend and we had many fruitful discussions over the weekend and I just sucked it up and decided to make the best of it.

And a funny thing happened. I had a terrific show. Without the distraction and temptation of the $4 item, people bought my art. All of it.  For the second show at that venue a month later, I brought many more originals and sold almost all of them making that show one of my best ever. You see, I didn't have enough confidence in my art to make originals the backbone of my business. It was a revelation that totally changed my perspective and my work ethic. My collage sells! And if I show up with a large inventory and keep growing creatively, this is going to be  a good year. I'm excited.

But not all changes were happy ones. Some years ago I had the pleasure of being at an after-show picnic at an artist friend's house where we met Richie and Lynne. Amazing folk. Talented artists and musicians, loving hearts, smart, funny, open.  I was at a point in this art show world stuff where it was get it figured out or give it up, And I wound up having quiet conversation with Lynn about how to do this business smart. My eyes were opened. We became art show friends. That means you really only see each other at art show related events but you seek each other out at set up and stay connected through to tear down, sharing life and business stories with the openness of cronies. At one show, Lynn told me she had been diagnosed with appendix cancer. How bad could that be? I thought.  Snip it out, right? Wrong.Now,  I am living with cancer. Treatable, chronic, non-invasive, non-aggressive but a part of my life that shadows all the other parts and Lynn knew this and we talked about it and it seemed she would be OK. But when I mentioned to my Doctor that a friend had this he looked at me sadly and communicated with his eyes that this was not going to be easy. And it wasn't. She relapsed, did the chemo, made an appointment with my Doctor but still I thought she was just too damn special to lose this fight, Her life was too beautiful, her love too enduring, her new grandchild too perfect. And then, late one night, a text from Ritchie, "Lynn is at the end".

Now we see him at the shows, setting up the usual display, but all alone. I offer to spell him for breaks, but he says he's OK. I bring him lunch as if this would be enough to ease his pain. I hug him. I try to find some moments to go schmooze for company. I listen. I mourn. But still he is alone in that booth, surrounded by the beautiful, bright full-of-life illustrations he and Lynn created.

It reminds me that none of us is forever, but that art endures. I think of how many rooms have the stylized, colorful, sophisticated  prints they create, how many note cards have been sent across the world with their joyful botanicals. Lynn lives in these offerings. Her spirit, her artistry, her vision remain with us.

I am blessed to have known her, to have her husband as a friend and mentor.

Gains and losses. Trials and victories. Art and commerce. A year in the life of an art carnie.

And on we go.

Monday, June 13


Yes,I know. I promised to blog again. I blame Facebook. There is instant gratification in the immediacy of sharing your wisdom with your community in a nanosecond. But I have been moved now by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his sonnet about the Orlando shootings. And I am also moved by the people that touch my heart while I am being an artist in my little tent on a street near you.
 I thought that a good way to breathe life into my art show blog would be to feature my favorite encounter, buyer or browser or schmoozer, from each show. It would be sort of a kick starter, get me writing again.

 I did a Spring show in East Aurora, a well off, historic, art friendly suburb. The show was held in the Knox mansion, and we all set up in the different rooms of this amazing estate that is now a State Park. I was in the master bedroom, in front of the massive fireplace, right near a door that was a moveable bookcase.

Pretty cool. I don't expect much of Spring shows. They are primarily a way to get the kinks out, remember how it all works, get the juices flowing, maybe try out a new widget. I had friends in the room with me, and many others in the halls and bedrooms and kitchen of the mansion. I was content to be there, loving the surroundings, not expecting much.

 Then a lady came up to me, holding one of my new collages. It had a quote worked into it that read "Life takes us to many places, love brings us home". She was a tiny thing, probably no more than 4'11" tops. She was wearing a beautifully tailored tomato red wool jacket that was great with her silver hair. Turns out she had decided, at the age of 82, to sell her long time home and move back to the small town where she was born. Her husband was gone, kids lived in other places, her friends were starting to fade away and she wanted no part of that. So, she grabbed her life by the neck and took control of it. There were few people she knew left in that small town, but it didn't matter. "I'll make friends", she said with a soft smile and shiny eyes.

 I told her I was amazed by her courage, that I could not imagine leaving everything I knew and starting again. "But life is all about starting again" she assured me. And she loved my collage which would hang in her new home.

 Every so often, usually after a long night of finishing work at the last minute for a show the next morning, or after struggling with the heavy steel poles of our tent, I think "why in the name of God am I doing this?" Sometimes the answer comes from a nice profit, or a ribbon. Sometimes the answer is in the vision of a tiny silver haired lady in a bright red jacket hanging one of my pieces on the wall of her new life. It is enough. It is more than enough.

Tuesday, September 22

by the sea

We often rent a house at the beach when we are here in Oregon. Sometimes for a weekend, sometimes for a week. This year it was a weekend and we packed the car with kids, grandkids, dogs, luggage, bags of food and headed out. I have a new respect for the "clowns in a Volkswagen" schtick. The kids were remarkably patient considering the level of discomfort.

The beach was at the end of our little road. The Oregon Coast is beautiful, no matter where you pull off to experience it. The State does not allow anyone to "own" a piece of the beach, so no matter where you go there is free, open access to the ocean. There are often huge rock formations in the water, little islands, whimsical but solid.

Off we went, down the road to the beach,adults, kids, dogs. The sun was warm, the breeze cool, the ocean cold and churning. It was awesome.

I have dipped my toes in the Pacific again. Life is good.


That is the only word I can come up with after visiting Bryce Canyon. There are 19 "pull outs" on the suggested route through the park and we stopped at all of them, camera in hand. You could only get  a glimpse of the view as you pulled into the little lots. Thick log railings protected and obscured the view. So, it would slowly reveal itself as you walked to the rail. I couldn't help but say things aloud as I approached. Insightful things, like : "you gotta be kidding!", "Get out!",  "Holy crap!". I took a lot of pictures.
But I also forced myself to put the camera down and just be there. Be at the edge of this marvel, in the warm Fall sun, the soft breeze, the circling hawk. This is where you are supposed to admit to "feeling small". But I didn't feel small. I felt connected, expanded, blessed.

Tuesday, September 15

the crying man

We drove through the Utah wilderness at night, the mountains  unseen but present. Few cars on this lonely stretch of road and little Oliver  is restless. Russ thinks he’s cold, I think he is affected by the unfamiliar toography because his little head swivels back and forth like doggie radar. Once night falls, he is spooked by the looming shadows of the mountains. He trembles until I pull my sweatshirt over him, but soon he has popped his head out to check and the trembling begins again. I hug him to me but that only helps for a moment. I can’t wait to stop for the night, if only to see him happy again.

We find a pet friendly Comfort Inn in Richfield, about 2 hours from Bryce Canyon. Nice place. Beautiful hotel, friendly people, coffee and cold drinks available all night and a crying man in the lobby. I check us in, find that the credit card I am using for hotels is missing. I was very organized this trip. This card for gas, this card for hotels, this card for “stuff”. Losing my hotel card would screw the pooch as they say. I assume I will find it, but the crying man cuts into my concentration and I pull out the gas card and tell her to just use this, I will have to do what the GPS lady does: recalculate. My OCD whimpers.

The crying man is tall, black, handsome, big like an athlete. He has a a trendy hair do, like tiny braids close to his head and a red shirt, loose over his jeans. He is pacing in tiny circles and whimpering. By the time we get into our room, just a ew feet from the front desk, he is weeping. I turn to him and say “are you OK?” but his reply is garbled and my concern makes him cry harder. The women at the desk keep asking what is wrong and can they help. The crying intensifies. I close my door and hope this ends well, but it is sad and a bit scary.

Russell goes out  to find us some food. I peek through the little glass thingy in the door every so often to see what’s happening. His weeping has turned to wailing. It is real and I can feel his heart breaking and nobody can get through the pain to help him. I know they will need to call the cops and they do. I hate to say it, but the events of this past year flash through my mind when I look through the peep hole and see this  black man losing control, with 3 white cops surrounding him. My heart is in my throat. But I needn’t worry. They were so kind to him, so gentle . They tried for quite a while to reason with him, find out what was wrong, let him know they were there to help. His anguish intensified. And then he started yelling for them to shoot him. “Please shoot me, please. Shoot me!” He wailed and pleaded for them to put him out of his misery.  My heart was breaking for him. Russ came back with food and said there was an ambulance outside. He goes out to get our bags.

I wait a few minutes and see that the EMT’s have come with a stretcher and now they and the cops are trying to get the man to go with them for help. They need to cuff him and all hell breaks loose. He is terrified of being handcuffed. He begs, he pleads, he screams, but they cuff him. They have to. 

And then he is on the gurney, tied down, crying, but on his way to help. I pressed my forehead to the door, beneath the little peephole and listened to the quiet and tried to make sense of what had taken 10 minutes to unfold, but felt like a lifetime. I felt so sad for him. For whatever made him cry and ask to be killed by three strangers in uniform.

The desk clerk said he had been working up to this all day. From the time he checked in, he would come into the lobby and pace and stare at the TV and go back to his room. Russ asked the cop if he thought the crying man would be OK and he shook his head no.

It felt kind of wrong to turn on TV, and pull out our fast food, to carry on as if nothing had happened. The two of us and our dogs, safe and happy, looking forward to tomorrow. The big man in a red shirt, strapped down in an ambulance, looking forward only to pain.  I don’t know where to put all of this in my heart’

stormin' the mid west

Nebraska, I hate to say it, but your endless flat fields of corn and brush can be boring. We decided to consider them calming and zen-like, but, truth be told, I read a lot. Around 8 we decided to stop at the next town for the night. We were enjoying the dramatic sky. To our left, clear sky with the beginnings of a golden sunset over the fields. To our right, black clouds with flashes of lightning buried deep within. The ragged edge of the black clouds inched over to the gold and  the light show started in earnest. Rolling bands of lightning that lit the night. We were not yet alarmed. In fact, Russ was taking video.

Then all Hell broke loose and, as loathe I am to use such a hackneyed phrase, I gotta say it was exactly that. With no warning we were slammed with wind, hail, rain. It was like a body blow. The cars stopped dead in the road. Slowly, the drivers got their bearings and began to inch cautiously to a shoulder they could not see. We all stopped then and waited. The rain was so intense, the hail so thick, that the car became a cocoon. There was no light save the occasional lightning and the two red circles of the brake lights in front of us that looked like carnations through the ice. The car rocked. Russ inched forward and it was like driving over rocks. He stopped. The storm didn’t.

I was terrified. All I could think of was that a tornado was coming. We were on the border of Iowa and Nebraska, in the plains, in a violent storm. All I could see was Dorothy riding her bike with Toto in the basket. I saw cars spinning up into the clouds. I ran an endless reel of old movies showing people clinging desperately to door jambs and car doors, only to be swept away and found in trees later. Yes, it seems silly now, but I was out of my element. I can handle a blizzard, this was nature on attack. AT one point I told Russ to please stop inching forward and he said he wasn’t. the car was in park. It was the wind.

The storm seemed to never end. I was whimpering “Oh my God” over and over. I admitted to Russell that I was afraid. Really afraid. I never do that. I am the brave girl. The dogs were silent and still, their ears down. They huddled together. They never moved, never whimpered.  Russ was taking video.

After what seemed like forever, but was probably 5 minutes, there was enough of a lull that you could see out the windows again. A big truck went by and Russ pulled out to follow him. The road was coated with hail stones and it felt like we were riding over rumble strips. I was trembling and my heart was beating so hard I swear my t-shirt was moving to its beat.

When we finally checked into our room, I lay in the bed, taking deep breaths and both dogs came to lie beside me: Quincy tucked himself along my side, Oliver put his tiny paws on my shoulder and rested his head in my neck. I like to think they were soothing me, but it may have been a mutual comforting.

Emergency blasts came over the TV several times in the next few hours, but we were safe, warm, together. I am always thankful when that it the case, but never more than that night.

Wednesday, September 9

stuck in the middle

The world starts to change when you hit deep into the midwest.  New York is green and lush and rolling. Ohio is green but flat. And then you hit Iowa and the air is like a blanket of heat, rich with mist. It feels like work to walk through it. The sky opens up and the shape of the world we live on is revealed. It curves at the edges, dips into the sunset, defies boundaries. Sunsets here are different than the charming ones we have over Lake Erie. They are intense. fire on the ground, gray chasing red across the fields. It is here that I start to feel that we are on a journey. The dogs are calmer here, as if the flat earth and open sky soothes them. We will stop soon. I want to catch Stephen Colbert’s debut.  We will bring in the cooler and snack on tomato sandwiches with tons of salt and mayo. fontanella cheese and watermelon, oatmeal raisin cookies, raspberry tea. I’m hungry thinking of it.  Tomorrow we head toward Nebraska, the last flat state, the entry to the mountains and the world spins and changes again. When we tell people that we are about to drive cross country, the question always is: How long does it take? I want to say “several lifetimes” but they wouldn’t understand. The last sliver of fire is slipping off the edge. The sky behind it is slate and blue with streaks of white. 

My quote of the day? Enjoy the journey.

lessons learned, blessings earned?

It’s been a long time since I blogged. Months and months. Yes, I’ve been busy with shows and work and doctors. But I’m thinking the demon between me and my blog is Facebook. I spend creative time replying, sharing, liking, pontificating, LOLing. No time for creative writing. Enough.

So..Let’s review the Summer show season this way: rain, rain, wonderful, lousy, wonderful, heat, pretty good, frustrating, wonderful and wonderful. I would like to share words of wisdom about making a living as a show artist, but since I haven’t figured it out for myself yet, I would be a false prophet. I’ll put it like this…you have to love the life, love what you do and be willing to eat pasta 4 nights a week. We are on a month-long road trip right now and my show money pretty much is paying for it, so I am content.

What did I learn this year? Well, I learned that it is a balm to the soul when people respond to your work. Since moving into more collage work, what I am showing and selling is part of who I am and that makes acceptance and rejection more personal than I would like. I get a lot of incredible feed back from potential customers, but it is hard for me to close the deal on a purchase, no matter what the price. And, trust me, I am underpriced. As a fellow show circuit artist likes to remind us: we don’t  make anything anyone needs. Well, I think people need art, but I know whet he means.

I love making collage. I do. When I started out, I was a papermaker. That didn’t last long. I liked it, but it was labor intensive and messy. When you can get a beautiful Thai marble 2 X 3 ft sheet for 5 bucks you not only get better paper, you get time to make stuff with it.  So I became a book maker. (Who knew you could make books??) I was unable to part with even a scrap of the papers left over from making books, and so I worked them into collage, starting with cards, then magnets and, finally, large pieces. I work quotations  in because I believe words are art and people respond to them. 

And so, here we are. Another Summer show season “in the books”. Another holiday season on the horizon.  And, in between, a road trip. It’s a good life.

Oh, and speaking of that, Doc says he sees no new cancer and what he does see is apparently scar tissue. He’s been watching it for a while and it has been stable so it seems to be “inactive” or some such thing. So, no more chemo. We are just going to watch it. He smiled at me.  My joints already feel better, my nails are growing back and we are on the road.

As one of my quotes reads: “nothing is worth more than this day”.

Tuesday, March 3

finally, Marge

Marge Piercy went to college with me.Not literally, of course, but her writings taught me about being a woman, an activist, a lover of cats and rain. She gave voice to my fears of what womanhood meant and raised a flag to it, she did not cower. She snarled and purred and chanted about sex and love and loss and periods and the heartless and Janis Joplin. And sometimes she made me smile or laugh out loud. I wanted to be the characters in her books because then we would know each other.

 In my mind she has always looked as she did on her book jackets. Full, lush, a heavy fall of jet black hair and a look of amused irony on her face. I wondered what she would look like now, approaching 80 and I pictured her with heavy fall of white hair, all other things intact. And so it was that when the lady in the front row rose after the intro, I was uncertain. I had noticed her because her jet black hair was so obviously dyed and you could see her scalp through the thinner hair on her crown. When she got up it was slowly, and she walked to the stairs and it broke my heart to know that, yes, this was Marge, and she could barely make the stairs.

 The podium almost dwarfed her, she is a short but not small woman and she read the note on the mike that advised to not adjust it, the sound man would make sure she was heard and the audience chuckled. She held up her new book, she was just seeing it for the first time and her delight in it was real "this is my most beautiful book". Without preamble, she read her first poem and I knew she was still Marge, finally in the same room with me, still able to bring tears with memories of her tough childhood, her cold mother, the pain women inflict upon themselves, the casualties of ill gotten war.

She brought laughs with her poems about how to survive a blizzard. She was luminous, funny, real. And I loved her.

 I was 2nd in line to have my book signed. She fumbled about with the woman first in line, calling for her pens, perplexed when the woman didn't need to have her name in the autograph "are you sure? is it for you?" She seemed, sadly to be, again, the elderly woman with the bad hair in the front row and not the engaging, brilliant woman at the podium. I smiled at her, told her my name was Pat. Cat? Many people think that. No, I said and spelled it. We chuckled. She first wrote "from Pat" and then scribbled it out to read "to Pat" and the rest is pretty much illegible. I wanted to tell her that she brought my womanhood into focus, that she created heroes for me, that her words have always moved me, that I have red almost everything she has written, that she influenced my life, who I became. But I just looked into her eyes and said "Thank You" and she smiled back into mine and said "you are very welcome". It is enough. It is more than enough. I held the book to my heart and walked out into the cold.

Saturday, February 21

what I found

Day 2 of the studio clean and reorganize. I decided that the best way to deal with the chaos without losing my mind would be to assign a small goal for each day. Yesterday was frames. I had them stored in places I didn't remember, so what I found was twice as many frames as I thought I had. That will take me easily into the first few shows. The framed work sells the unframed work, prints, cards, etc. It brings people in, but most people think it will be cheaper to frame it themselves. Listen and trust me. It is not. If you bring it to a framer they will charge you tons of money. If you decide to buy a frame and mats to do it yourself,  it will cost you more. This is not a sales pitch to buy framed work, it is a public service announcement. We get our frames wholesale and many of us cut our own mats. A frame service will charge 20 bucks for mats. It costs me 50 cents.  I usually add 20-30 dollars for a framed piece. Depends on what the frame cost me and how many mats I had to cut. You cannot do this  cheaper.

That was your consumer alert for the day :)

I also found an earring that was 1/2 of a pair I bought at Mt Gretna last Summer and absolutely loved. How it got up there, I have no idea. Now I have to remember where I put the other one.

After I finished upstairs, I baked bread and made marinara sauce and there is baked ziti in the oven.

To continue on my search for inner peace, Russell and I are visiting a local Buddhist group tonight. We have always been drawn to the teachings  and this should be interesting. A friend from work has belonged for years and invited us to be her guest after I expressed interest.

Between my cleaning and baking forays, yoga lessons and now meditation and chanting, I am going to be interesting to live with.

Stay tuned!


Friday, February 20

braving the iceberg

OK, maybe not an iceberg, but I really have to organize my studio so I can actually, you know, make stuff! As crazy as it may feel today, the season starts in about 8 weeks. I have ideas for new work, but  I need to get going on it before the muse gives up on me and moves on.

I brought our little space heater up, turned it on, closed the door. Maybe it will be warm enough to just make sense of things up there. Like frames.... I have bunches of frames from several sources. An artist friend advised me that most of my work would look best in sleek, black, modern, so that's what I have the most of, but you know what? They bore me. I may bring back my original idea of hunting down interesting vintage frames and incorporate those. After all, my work uses recycled papers and things.It seems fitting. I will enjoy hunting through thrift shops and yard sales. So, job one will be to collect, sort and store the frames I have.

The second big job will be to organize my papers. The collage uses scraps of papers, sometimes as small as an inch square. I have tried collecting and storing them by size or color or type, but it doesn't work. I get better ideas sorting through boxes of scraps and coming across a paper that triggers an idea. I think I will just try sorting by size. That will last about a week.

I have spent as much money on boxes and bins and jars and accordion files as on art supplies. Or so it  seems. And yet, I lost my favorite embellishment: a small box of tiny, baby starfish. I love them. I can order more, but it frustrates me that I can't find that box! Russell thinks it fell into my trash can and he's probably right but that doesn't stop me from searching.

We stopped at Hollanders on the way home from visiting the kids and the high, the buzz, I get from being there and buying papers usually spurs me to get going. I got some beautiful papers and they are still rolled up in their tube, waiting for me.

The interesting thing about this cold snap is what it brings into focus. Small things like walking the dogs without freezing feels as exciting as a trip to the Caribbean. Being able to use my studio without thawing it out first feels like a luxury.

It make me realize how sweet the small joys of  life are. And it also reminds me to embrace what is special about this deep freeze. A community united against a common foe :)  Exchanging cold jokes with strangers . A family snuggling under down comforters to watch TV and read books. An excuse to do just that. Hunker down, snuggle, read, watch old movies.  It could be worse.

Monday, February 16

remembering zero

I want to remember this when I am riding my bike along the river this Summer or buying peaches at the farmer's market. It is so cold that even the banister in our old house is cold to the touch. The ceramic, uninsulated floor in the kitchen was so cold when I scooted down there to get a quick it made me hop and screech and run for the rug in front of the sink. We spend most of our evening TV watching in bed, hunkered down under the down comforter with each other and our 2 dogs. They are like having heating pads tucked into your side. It is wonderful except Quincy snores like an old Grandpa. Your nose snaps shut when you try to breathe outside. Your eyes water. Even with gloves on, your hands start to feel unhappy after just a few minutes. This old house cannot heat itself enough to keep us as cozy as we like.
We love our quirky old Victorian, but there are things one must accept when you are a lover of things old. Slanty floors, no insulation, nothing is standard size so even buying a new storm door is a project. The basement is made of huge boulders and only exists under the center oval of the house. The rest of the foundation in uninsulated crawl space, ergo the scary cold floors.  But there are enormous windows and funky little fireplaces are scattered about. The ceilings are high, the doorknobs are glass, the tub has claw feet.
I wonder about the people who lived here in 1887. How did they heat the place? Where did they cook and how. I think the bathroom attached to our bedroom was a bedroom once because it looks like the hall closet used to be a hallway leading to it. And I doubt old houses had en suite bathrooms.
So, here I am, under the comforter, watching a TV show that follows people buying houses and when I listen to what they are turned on and off by I realize we will probably never be able to sell this house unless a young couple with renovation ability buys it in order to live in our currently trendy neighborhood.
I need to get my studio organized and cleaned and ready for the season but it is too cold up there in the unheated attic and I don't think the space heater would do more than offer me psychological comfort.
I have plans for new work that I can't wait to get my hands on, but my hands would be claws under the current conditions. I will have to be patient.
I choose to consider these few weeks as a hibernation, a resting place, a gift. A chance to hunker down with my warm and cozy companions, 2 legged and 4 legged. An excuse to climb up to bed early with a cup of orange zinger tea and a cookie. Before long the days will be longer than the nights and we will sleep with the windows open and soft breezes pushing the curtains into the room. We will delay putting the A/C into the window until the nights are just too stifling. I will go out to our little herb garden outside the kitchen door to pull basil and chives from the sweet soil. I don't want to forget what a simple joy that is.
I want to remember zero.

Sunday, February 8

starving artists?

I just watched a wonderful documentary about poverty in America called "American Winter" It made me think about people's perception  of the struggling class and brought me to tears a couple of times. And it made me think of artists.
I'm sure that the majority of people that visit our little canopies think we are making tons of money for a weekend's work doing nothing of value. Let me divest you of that notion.
When you consider the amount of time spent in the studio making whatever it is you make (not counting here the hours you spend pondering and hoping for inspiration and networking with other artists), the cost of materials, travel, booth fee (in the hundreds believe it or not), jury fees, only the highest of the high end are living large.
I know some scary stories. A high end jeweler had a husband with chronic stomach pain that needed a CAT scan but they had no insurance and the Dr had already done them many favors. There was no cash for the hundreds of dollars needed to pay for a scan. Thankfully, he is OK now. Another artist, after learning she had been rejected from a show that was her best income maker, lamented that she now would be unable to pay her mortgage. A woman in her 60's who is a very talented mixed media artist, lives in an unheated mobile home. Many artists sleep in their vans during show weekends to save hotel costs. Some actually sleep in their canopies and hope they don't get caught. I got a million of 'em.
You might be tempted to say "well, they should just quit this art show thing and get jobs". You probably never met these people. :)  Most of us choose to have  few luxuries in order to live a certain way. It's OK.  We do work hard, believe it or not. This life is not for sissies as I have written before. We choose to live simply for the great luxury of freedom to do as we please in a way that enriches us.
I'm not saying that there isn't a whole lot of bitchin' going on during a slow show. It gets hard to greet your potential customers with a smile when you are slowly losing money. But you do it. Because this is your choice. And the next show may be a winner.
So, don't ever say to someone (as the man said to his son, inspiring the creation this very blog) "look at these lucky people, they don't have to work for a living". We work, we do. And we are lucky. But remember this the next time you are tempted to ask an artist "can you take less for this?"
I never regret leaving the high pressure, low respect civl service job I held for 25 years. It almost killed my soul. Because every Summer I get to be an artist, surrounded by the things I have created, earning the respect that my government job never gave me (but should have) laughing with and enjoying the visitors to my tent. It's a trade off I am happy to live with.

Sunday, January 18

stealing inspiration

There is a lot of chatter on show artist boards and list serves about allowing people to photograph your work. Some folks get all knotted up about it. Post pictures of cameras with lines through them or just signs that say "no photos". This strikes me a a tad pompous, actually. As if our talent is so Louvre-able that hordes are itching to steal our work.

Let's be real. The way I look at it, take a picture and go try to do what I do. I can't even reproduce one of my own collage for a customer. It's pathetic, really. And, to be really honest here, if your work can be copied from a photograph, made and sold, you're doing something wrong. It shouldn't be that easy.  You need to up your game.

I think it is a real problem for photographers and 2d artists because, apparently, there are cameras so sophisticated, they can take a photo of a photo and then reproduce it at will. That would stink, I agree. Those artists should have as many of those obnoxious little signs all over the place as they wish.

But let's also be real about "theft" of intellectual property. There is nothing new under heaven Horatio (or something like that). It's all been done somewhere by someone. Did that great idea come directly from your brain with no input from the outside world or did you notice something interesting in a gift shop in Idaho one day on vacation and that image percolated in your brain for 2 years to be born as an aspect of your own work? What do you think?

I shamelessly stalk the web sites of artists that do what I do. I steal from them. They inspire me. This, for instance, from the Uncommon Goods site:

Sweet, isn't it? It is a collage made of papers, but totally unlike what I do. What did I steal from this artist? The idea of incorporating the writing right into the design. Of course, I think I will need to practice an interesting "font" that I can do and I will probably write it on tracing vellum and weave it into the papers. And my designs are abstract. They don't presume to mimic a seaside as this one does. I don't think I can do that very well. But had I not run across this, I probably would still rely on using computer printing on vellum over handmade paper bits and placing them, static, into the design.  Like this:

This artist inspired me, so I "stole" from her.   If you are truly a creative soul (and I believe almost everyone is) you will, every day, see something that gives you a little tummy thrill when you see it. You will either envy it, buy it or copy a bit  from it. And all of our little ideas will live on, sometimes in a completed work of our own or in little bits in the works of other people. I can live with that. I kinda like it, actually.

So, if you run into us at an art show this year, feel free to pull out your camera. I will not draw a line through you  :)

Saturday, January 17

what I don't know

I have been a bad blogger. Now, it is true that life during show season gets crazy, but that's not it. Facebook has become a release and a habit. Random thoughts are so easy to post there, the need to elaborate on them forgiven. It occurs to me that I am feeling the absence of thought and reflection. So, I am back.

Show applications are coming in already. I actually missed the 1/10 deadline of one of them but they are extending it for me because I have done it for so long. So, deep breath, camera at the ready, pencils sharpened. Off I go.

It is so cold. The body wants to be still, be covered, be resting. Our old house has little drafts that come on from places I cannot track. The furnace never stops running. My studio is too cold to be usable and the space heater barely touches the iciness of the air. They say we are due for a moderation of temperature. Please?

So, I have been hunkered under this blanket, often with a dog on my lap and the remotes for various devices at my side, doing little. But I think. And it occurs to me that I have been unable to make sense of the world lately.

I don't know why Israel and Palestine can't work it out.  I read up on it but the complexities elude me. I want them to just stop.

I don't know how our politics got so hateful and punitive. What happened? Do people really research before they vote? Apparently not. And I don't know why.

I don't know how to use my time properly, dividing it between art and work and home. That inability is what anchors me to this chair, under a blanket, remotes at the ready. The cold is  just an excuse.

I don't know what direction to take  in art. I love collage, I get a lot of positive feedback, I get into some pretty competitive shows with it, but sales are disappointing. Of course, when I compare with friends we all seem to be in the same ballpark financially, so it may not be the work, it just may be that art sales have flattened. It is a discussion we have over and over and over...

I don't know how to be a healthy vegetarian. We use too much dairy, pasta and rice. I need to work on that.

I don't know why people kill in the name of their god.

I don't know why kids send naked pictures of themselves from their iPhones. I remember being embarrassed if a button on my shirt slipped open.

So, I have obviously been pondering things. I blame the weather and this comfy chair and the lack of physical movement needed to switch from TV to Roku to Netflix. But I need to blame myself, too, for my willingness to hunker down and let the world spin without my active participation.

My family surprised me with a late Christmas/early Birthday gift of a beautiful Canon Rebel. Photography is a love of mine. I'm not good at it, the complexities of the technical aspects sometimes paralyze me, but I have a "good eye" and I like what taking pictures does to my creative side. I need a creative outlet that I pursue for joy, not just profit. I will be sharing my  journey on my other blog (also neglected far too long) "Morning Lens".

Hello again. I will be back. Hopefully on a regular basis, as we wander toward Spring.

Sunday, August 24

dinner with friends

I have made good friends on the art show circuit. Soul mate friends. Casual friends. The early morning set up chaos is interrupted often with hugs and jovial reunions as if we hadn't seen each other 2 shows ago. And the question invariable turns to what was your last show and how was it? The "how was it" question translates to  "did you make any money"? Times are tough in art show land and we spend a lot of down time exploring options

Do I "dumb down" my line and make a lot of widgets? Widgets are low priced times like magnets with your art work on them. Do I cut down on shows and wholesale or consign to shops? Boy, that's a topic for its own blog.

So, last night, after the first night of the Elmwood Avenue FOTA, we went out to dinner with 2 couples and caught up and did the "how did you do?" dance. One couple has a line of sophisticated, artful designs of wildflowers. They sell everything from large, framed prints to tiny magnets. They do every well, but even they are starting to reconsider the art show option. The other artist sells beautiful copper plate prints of whimsical people and fairies and animals. She is a fine artist and is discouraged. I have been transitioning from a book artist (people just don't journal anymore) and I am focusing on mixed media collage. With mixed results.

I love art shows. I love everything (almost) about them: the early morning, focused mayhem, the customers, the sense of doing something from your heart. I even love festival food. Usually. I feed off the compliments of the people who come into my booth and comment on my work, even if they don't buy it. Art is a solitary profession. You spend hours every day, alone, in a studio with no one to ask "this look OK?". You put it all out there, a chunk of your soul, for people to judge. Not for sissies. And when you get positive feedback from people, it starts to fill you back up.

But now I wonder if this way of life is going to sputter and die as the baby boomers who populate the majority of the little white tents give up. Not many young people are choosing this life.

This morning I will head back out there, put on a happy face and try not to think of the bills I have t pay or the vacation I may not be able to take after all. Because last night I felt the joy of what following your heart means. I hugged and laughed with beautiful people that I would not know if I didn't take part in this crazy business. Our dinner took two hours but it felt like minutes. Then we stood on the sidewalk and continued to laugh and talk, even though we were all exhausted from the long day.

How did I do yesterday? If you're talking money...not great. If you're talking riches, I killed it :)

Wednesday, June 4

I may be doing something right

I got an email from a friend this morning. She had been tracked down by a women who had received one of my collage prints as a gift.The print had been tossed by the maintenance people at her office (it was on top of a stack of papers or something) and she was trying to find the artist to get another one. She said she loved it and was getting ready to hang it.

Apparently she found out that it had been purchased in Buffalo, so she contacted Artists in Buffalo asking if anyone recognized the work and my buddy, Anne, said oh yes she did.

And so it was that the woman found me and I was able to send her a new print.

So, OK, this is not exactly a sequel to the Holy Grail story or anything, but it was important to me to know that my collage work was so loved by someone that she would go to the trouble to track me down .  It reaffirms, just as the season is starting, that I am on the right track, transitioning from book maker to collage artist. It tells me that maybe I am kinda good at it. It energizes me and makes me want to do better.

The truth will be down by the end of the month. A market and 2 art shows in June. 

Fingers crossed. No, too hard too work that way. 

I am doing what I love. No need to ask for luck, I have it.

Wednesday, May 21

gray skies

My uncle taught me about the beauty of gray days.

 He was an artist who painted on nights and weekends,  taught Spanish to Long Island teenagers during the week. He moved to New York when it became too difficult to be a closeted gay man in Buffalo. I missed him so much when he moved and nobody would explain why he gave up a job he loved to move 400 miles down the highway to do the same job somewhere else. He came home for a couple of weeks in the Summer and every Christmas the holiday officially started when he got off the plane carrying bags from Bloomingdales and Macy's.

I loved him because he "got" me. He wanted me to be a writer and he would critique my fumbling attempts with tact. He taught me about art and theater and both of those things became large in my life.  When I got married and we moved into our first little house, he helped me paint orange crates with red enamel for shelving and bought us a beautiful black, gray and white Raya rug to make us feel like millionaires. He was an art collector and shared his excess with all of us. When I shared a growing fascination with Magritte, he swelled with pride.

Finally, he retired and made plans to move home. He rented an apartment in a complex near Mom's house and they spent their days reminiscing about growing up in a neighborhood of immigrants and ne'er do wells, bringing us to tears with their funny stories. He and Mom dragged out the family recipes and tried to recreate my Grandmother's flan or rice pudding. They went to auctions and flea markets. We all blossomed under this new fresh air and light.

But it wasn't long before he got sick, his 4 pack a day habit turning his move home to a farewell instead of a long 3rd act. It was devastating.

Before that happened, though, while we were unpacking his boxes one October afternoon, he taught me one more thing. I looked outside and sighed and complained about the dark, gray Fall sky and wished for sunshine. He stopped and walked me to the big glass sliders that led to his deck and told me to look, really look. To look at how vibrant the leaves were against the gray. How the light, diffused, brought the world into sharp focus. How the branches looked like pen and ink.

So, this morning, when I pulled the drapes open, I saw a dark gray sky and noticed how my neighbors gingerbread house looked so colorful with that backdrop and how the new tender green of the trees almost glowed with life and I thought of him, 20  years gone now, and how we never know what we leave behind, how our lives touch others.

I thought the best gifts he brought were in the Bloomies bags at Christmas, but it turns out his most important gift was presented on a gray Fall day, surrounded by cartons and chaos, one hand on my shoulder, the other pointing to the beautiful gray sky above.

Wednesday, April 16

dose of reality

I will be blogging more soon, but just to grease the gears a bit I am going to confess.

I watch reality TV. Not the Springer/Maury type, the Housewife and Judge type. Singing competitions. I will add documentaries to the mix just to make me sound smarter, although it is true I am a documentary addict.

The men in my house are amused by this. It does not fit into their perception of me as a relatively intelligent, creative, snarky person. I am supposed to disdain such frivolity for the  manipulative BS it is. And I do, I do. But I watch anyway. They roll their eyes at each other when I settle into my big chair to watch Judge Judy. There was a time when this addiction embarrassed me but now I flaunt it and refuse to be forced to switch to Nova. 

Then I read one of those articles about how certain types of people share the same traits. Creative people, it said, are voyeurs. I read the same thing once about writers. Voyeurs all. Yes! I am not addicted to tacky TV, I am an artist!

Truth be told, my voyeuristic tendencies have always been known to me. I love nighttime with its lighted windows offering glimpses into other lives. At restaurants, I try not to stare as I ponder what the dynamics are and where they were before they came in, where they will go when they leave. A few weeks ago, a table full of older West Side Italian guys had  me mesmerized as I listened to them discharge all the cares of the world over endless cups of coffee in a few sentences each, punctuated by dismissive gestures and sarcasm, their accents bringing My Dad and Uncle to my mind with sweet sadness.

I have been known to peek into medicine cabinets, but I broke myself of that habit because it seemed creepy, even though I understand my own motives.

So, today, watching People's Court, I am curious about why a person would pierce themselves a certain way, what made you choose that outfit for TV. Two women suing each other, one with artfully applied makeup, lots of jewelry, expensive bag on the table beside her. The other has a bad haircut, little makeup, a shirt that screams cheap. They both intrigue me although I find myself rooting for the simpler woman. I picture them getting ready for this, in their real world outside this fake courtroom. This is how my mind works.

When the home buying shows are one, I am most likely to be not as fascinated by the homes as I am by the buyers being interviewed in their old house. Do you really keep you kid's toys there? Look at all the knives in that kitchen. Do none of these people put nice linens on the bed when a camera crew is coming? I have those same curtains! Macy's, on sale.

So, do not judge me, indulge me. It is a harmless addiction. It amuses me and it is free. And leave your curtains open at night. I'm interested in what you hang on your walls :)

Saturday, March 1

springing ahead

I am not going to complain about this interminable Winter. I choose to live in a 4 season climate. Four extreme, identifiable, sometimes glorious, sometimes hellish seasons. Winter is just one of four. Snow is part of it. We deal with it. Shortly after it falls, the plows come barreling, sparks flying from the blade, and the streets are clear. One develops a technique for climbing up a snow bank and down to your car door and back so you can open it and a slow awkward slide and turn to get in. Easy peasy. Spring is wet and green and the air is sweet and soft. Summers are perfect. Sunny. Not too hot, only a few humid days, beaches close by. Fall. Ah, Fall. A riot of color, leaves underfoot, the tiniest tang of chill in the mornings, air that is clear and sharp. So, remembering this, I can handle this infernal, worse than ever Winter. Which doesn't keep me from counting the days until Spring (20)

Deciding to move more into art with my collage work is a new "season" for me. Like Spring, there is a freshness to it, growth. There is also uncertainty, but the promise of something new softens the anxiety of it, makes it feel more like anticipation.

I received my first rejection of the year after several seasons of 100% acceptance. It is a show I've been accepted to before so there are probably more factors involved than just the work, I chose a more popular weekend with no 2nd choice for another. I will believe that to be the reason.

The reality is that people just aren't buying handmade books like they used to when I started doing this 16 years ago. It's all online now. Even I blog here instead of in a book. It is time to move on.

So I dropped a few more apps in the mail today, burned some CD's of images. Realized I have a lot of growing to do in this new art.

Good thing it's Spring.

Sunday, January 19

ennui go

The dictionary describes ennui thusly:"Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom"

I like this word, There is something whimsical about the spelling of it, the sound of it. I mean, who makes a word like this?  But I don't like feeling it. And I was feeling it.

Not sure why, but I do think it happens this time of year pretty regularly. It's probably a combination of let down after a busy show season and the holidays and the gray/black/white landscape that never changes. My instinct is to hunker down into my hoodie and read beach novels. But we know that cannot happen. It is app season, for one thing, and there is much work to do.

Yesterday I had a lovely exchange with a man who ordered a special collage to go into an antique frame he bought at a flea market. He brought the frame to me at the Mayday show in November and I told him I wouldn't be able to get to it until after the holidays. He is a very sweet guy. Warm and funny and energetic. The frame is a beauty and I will confess that I thought it far too special for my little collage.

I brought the frame to my wholesaler and he priced the cost to frame it. I called the man, told him the price for the frame and shipping and what I would charge for the artwork, He said it all sounded fine except for the price.

He thought it was too low and he insisted on paying both of us more. Yep, read that sentence again.

This does not happen. He said he believed people should be paid properly for their work. I stammered a bit but I knew that this is really what he wanted to do. Wait till I tell the framer. He won't believe it either.

It is hard to price artwork. You can't really charge for time. Art is not hourly labor. You can't charge for supplies or painters would be selling their work for 20 bucks. Charge for talent? What is the going rate? So, we try to determine worth at a fair price and often fall short. It is an industry hazard. You need to be really gutsy to charge more for something than you would be able to pay yourself. Most artists, contrary to public opinion, are really not wealthy people. There are some who "rake it in". I am not one of them and I don't know many who are. One of the first pieces of advice I got when I started in this business was to not set prices based on my own pocketbook. Which is a good thing because I would be giving things away.

The response to my prices is all over the place. Some say it is expensive (while holding a 20 dollar bag of kettle corn), many compliment me on how reasonable the prices are. I ponder and debate pricing constantly. It was such a boost to be told I was worth more than I dared to think.

So, my nice man in Rochester seems to have popped this bubble of ennui that was holding me down. For a while there it was a chore to climb the stairs into my attic studio. I felt like I had sand bags on my ankles. Then I would get there, sit in my swivel chair, turn on the TV and maybe get in 20 minutes of work before I found a reason to go back downstairs.

Now it feels as if the sun came out. It is not the money. It is the affirmation that came from being told I was worth more than I thought. This small gesture of appreciation has wiped out the feeling of gloom I had after my last 2, disastrous, holiday shows. I have been encouraged to follow my instinct and focus more on collage work. It's all good after all.

I'm looking forward to a productive day in the attic tomorrow.

Maybe the cure for ennui is promise, described in the dictionary as:

" Indication of something favorable to come; expectation"

Wednesday, January 1

I hate this but I am going to do it anyway

Assessing the year about to pass. I hate it. I think I hate it mostly because of the endless parade, on TV and in print, of people who died this year. And the resolutions. Ack! The endless resolutions to be thinner, richer, kinder, smarter come the new year.

But my business is seasonal which makes my life seasonal. From January to March I have time to be still, to think and reassess. April to August is Summer show time.  September we travel. From October to late December there is a mini-show boom where I try to recoup the money I spent traveling and gather some money for Christmas. Then it rewinds and begins again.

I have been bitching about the application process for art shows every Winter since I started blogging. I will not bore you again. But this year, along with the usual grumpiness comes an awareness that I need to walk away from some favorite shows and risk rejection by trying new ones.

It isn't easy to walk away from shows you have done for a long time. There is something sweet about "coming home" to a venue every year. You know the drill, you know the people. You know where to eat, where the restrooms are, where the best parking is. New shows are exciting but they You don't know what will sell at a new show or even if the customer base of this show will like you.

This year I am dropping one show for sure and another probably. I will apply to two new shows that will most likely reject me and one that has accepted me in the past but I declined in favor of a local show.

I'm reassessing my work, too, and getting deeper into collage, making books my sideline instead of my go-to.

All of this makes me a bit uneasy. Which is good, I think. Better to live on the edge than in a rut, right?

The deadline for the show I am dropping is Monday. It will be hard to let that date whoosh by. I can do this. Onward. Upward, Sideways, whatever.

This life ain't for sissies.

Thursday, November 14


I'm not sure where the time goes. There was a time when I felt compelled to blog almost every day and if I didn't it nagged at me. I do blog in my head a lot!

I had a sweet moment with some art show friends at my last show and I blogged in my head about it which made me think I needed to get back to this. Because it helps me remember, even if nobody is reading me anymore.

So, before I forget, I am going to blog about some special moments from the past show season. To share them and to remember them.

I'll blog about those art show friends later. First I want to tell you about the heart lady I met at Colorscape Chenango. Since this is a blog about being an art gypsy, I'll start by telling you about Colorscape.

A friend has been talking about this show for a while and we decided to give it a go. She said no show treats you better. Intriguing. It is the weekend after Labor Day and our vacation reservations fell later in the month than usual, so we applied and got it. So glad we did. The little town of Norwich, New York was welcoming and apparently filled with art and music lovers because they came out in droves. We didn't make a ton of money, but the experience was so positive it didn't matter. This is why we will never be rich. We met so many wonderful people and my new work sold well.

Which brings me to the "Heart Lady".

This season we experimented with making prints of the collage and selling them just with a backing board, in a clearbag. It was a hit. At Colorscape, one lady spent a lot of time browsing them and I saw her sometimes tracing the outline with her finger. She was older, quiet, sweet smile. I had started to putter behind the tent when she came up with 8 prints. Eight! Well, OK then.

She asked me to hold them for her because she needed to go home and get her money. No problem. Except she didn't come back. With about an hour left in the show and a couple of the prints sold out, I started to put them back in the bin. I had lost one sale already and each print was a few gallons of gas for our cross country drive!

I had barely put the last one back when she showed up. I apologized for returning them and explained that I thought she had decided against them. Oh no she assured me, it just took her a while to get home and back. We went through the bins and retrieved the ones she wanted...and even added one..and she started to tell me  what she was looking for in them.

Some years before she had endured a tough time. Sounded like it was illness related. And she began to wonder what it was all about and she prayed on it and talked to friends about it and somehow, during that time, she asked God or the Universe or the angels to send her a sign and she looked down and there, on the grass, the first few flakes of snow had formed a heart. Not content to accept that, she continued to look for more signs and she began to see more hearts. She said she saw them everywhere once she really started to look. In piles of leaves, in the suds when washing dishes, clouds. She started to collect things with hearts in them. One night, when despair began to take her again, she said to her husband that it was folly, this quest for signs, and she walked out onto her porch. It was evening and a light snow was falling, big floating flakes and some of them fell softly onto the sleeve of her coat. She started to walk back in, brushing the snow from her coat when she looked down a saw it. One snowflake, a perfect heart. Now we all know snowflakes are not heart shaped and so does she. The analytical side of her understood that it was formed by the pattern of its melting.

Doesn't make it any less of a sign, she thought, and called her husband out to see it before it melted totally. Once you start looking, she told me, you see them everywhere.  Signs or hearts, I asked her. Same thing she said with a smile. Then she showed me how some of the shapes of my torn papers or the way some elements came together formed heart shapes. That's what she was tracing. The outlines of  hearts. Her signs.

I thought about her a lot after she left. Wondered about signs and portents and what brings comfort. We were both moved by her. She said once you start looking for hearts you see them everywhere, so I started to look. I looked in the grass, the sky, the trees. I walked the show and looked in other booths. Nothing. My signs may turn out to be a different thing and maybe I won't see them until I need them. But I am glad she sees them. And I'm glad I was able to put a few more in her life.

Friday, October 4

Oregon sidewalk Friday morning


Her eyes, clear and young
and sadly hopeful:
I will write you a poem
to keep me warm.
"compassion" I asked
for there had been so little
that morning
and I could still taste
the tears on my tongue.
She repeated, compassion,
and bent to her tiny typewriter
on the sidewalk
before her.
I only have two words she said
when I came back.
I should have asked her what they were but
I pressed folded bills into her hand
and told her I would be back
but now I want the two words
because maybe
just maybe
that's all it takes
all it needs
to pierce your heart.

Sunday, September 1

X-ray visions

So, the thing with cancer is that even when you're done with it, you may not be done with it. It is a sneaky, foxy disease. Like the cell that snuck back in last year just when I thought all was well. Zap! Gotcha.

OK, so we took care of that and all looks quite promising, but because of the sneaky aspect, one must remain vigilant for the next 5 years. That, for some reason is the magic number. 5 years. You get to that point and they send you off with a "y'all take care now, hear?"

But until then, you must be scanned. My sneaky cell popped up 2 years after my surgery and a year after I ended treatment. I was almost relaxed. Zap. But because of the scans, they were able to snag it in its infancy.

So, OK, here we go again. The quarterly march  to the tube. It's not awful except for the anticipation. The uneasiness starts about 2 weeks before the appointment. All scenarios played out in color and full stereo. Everything from "all is well" to "this is bad" to "get your affairs in order". Honestly, by the time the appointment comes I have worked myself into a state of total acceptance for the worst.

This time all was well again. I knew it, I thought. Deep down.  heh

But the interesting thing is the waiting room. Everyone is there for one reason. To have their innards viewed by a dispassionate computer. In a Cancer facility. Some are like me: survivors hoping to stay that way. But I found myself wondering about them this time. Doing my own scanning..of the couples that wait. Nobody comes alone. I could pick out the patient from the two. The patient was quieter, the smiles softer. The partner tended to fuss about. Bringing magazines, trying to be a distraction. I wish I could tell them to just let us be. We are preparing our heads. It will be OK.

Most of the patients are older, but I did see a family come out of the room. The colorful IV bandaid was on the arm of a sweet little blond girl of 5 or so. Her parents were promising ice cream and her brother skipped ahead in anticipation. It broke my heart. Let her be a survivor counting down, I prayed.

I wondered what lurked inside the waiting patients. were there cancers to be detected, cures to be pronounced?  I heard the woman in the cubicle next to me say she lived 6 hours away and I wondered why she came here. Was her case complex enough that a cancer hospital was needed? It was simple for me, I live around the corner from the place there was never a question. But it put me in mind of  people who drive 6 hours for a CT and what that means.

I have had many of these tests now. I know the drill. I know I will scoot my jeans down to my knees and put my hands behind my head. That the table will slide smoothly in and out of the tube while whatever is whirring around in there sends images of inside me to somewhere behind me. I know there will be a dye injection and that it will warm me for a minute while the tube slides in again and then it is over. Just a couple of minutes.

And while I dress and the nurse removes the needle from my mediport, my pictures are already being read by my doctor and in about 20 minutes he will poke his head in the examining room and pronounce me well. Or not.

When I left this time, Russ had gone ahead to replace a magazine he had forgotten to replace in the CT room. When I saw him coming toward me in the hall I raised my hands in a victory salute and then I noticed a man and small child on a bench, waiting, quietly. When he saw my silent salute he turned away, put his head down. They had been in my Doctor's waiting room before me with their wife/mother. A thin, blond waif of a woman in a pink tank. She looked pale to me. As we waited for the elevator, she came out and joined her husband. He took her hand. They did not look at each other, they did not smile, they looked straight ahead, waiting. I told Russ I wanted to take the next car. She has been in my mind.

I guess we are all carrying some small, soft beast inside of us.  Something nobody sees, sometimes not even ourselves. I choose to name mine "Hope".

4 years to go.

Wednesday, August 28

catching up

I wanted to blog, I did. But I needed a new password and every protocol the system put me through just looped me back to the beginning so I decided to choose sanity. Today it worked.

So, we had Chautauqua redux in August and it was lovely. We stayed on the grounds in one of the funky old rooming houses. It was a room with no view except rooftops and there was a sink in the room, a much loved quilt on the bed, a lazy ceiling fan and a "closet" that was like the cubby in a pre-K class. Loved it. Even the shared bathroom was no problem and I got to spend a little time Sunday morning on one of Chautauqua's famed porches before we crossed the park to our booth. Sales were good and the weather was perfect and I always love being there.

Next up was Sonnenberg and by then I had Russell's chest cold. I wanted so much to enjoy the show, but I was pretty miserable. Hacking, whining, bitching. It lasted through to Elmwood and I am just now starting to want to live. Sales were pretty good but it took a lot for me to walk up the slope to the artist party. But I did it. One does not pass up free food at these shindigs.

Elmwood turned out to be my best show of the year. It was awesome. Sold lots and discovered the profitability of prints. It was a last minute decision. So many of my customers were asking how to frame my repro cards (which is hard because of the size) I decided to size some to 8X10 and print them on heavy, coldpress paper. I packaged them with a backing board and a printed description tucked into the clearbag. I only charged $10 because I was experimenting and they were not limited prints and we didn't use the super duper printer, just a good inkjet. I sold about 25 of them. I was happy.

On the personal side, I saw many friends. Some I see all the time, some I haven't seen in years, some   I see once a year at this show. It is the sweet part of doing a neighborhood festival.

A lady stopped by and gave Russell a dollar. She said she didn't have enough money to buy art from everyone, but she wanted to show her appreciation for how much she enjoyed experiencing it. I guess she gave dollars to almost everyone. Where else could this happen?

And then there was one. It always seems to take so long for the season to start and then it scoots by at warp speed. I haven't taken my bike out in weeks. First it was rainy, then it was many shows in a row and then this cold. Makes me sad. I wonder when I will have enough "air" to take it out again. Maybe this weekend, just for a bit. I do live on a bike path after all. No excuses.

So, up to the attic to get ready for a show I've never done in a town I've never visited. Cool!

Monday, July 29

dreaming of WIlliam Holden, Ithaca and cellos

Russell has been sick. A viral upper respiratory infection according to the Dr. Nothing can be done for it, apparently, but wait it out. Meanwhile neither of us is getting too much sleep due to the incessant coughing and whining.

At some point during this illness, he has become attached to old movies. The black and white kind where the faces are all gauzy and the Americans speak with oddly foreign accents that sound like a combination of England and Connecticut. Nobody curses, sex is apparently accomplished fully clothed and without touching, all events are accompanied by violins and cellos.

Speaking of celllos, Chautauqua was its usual wonderful weekend, even though my sales were not as astonishing as past years. They were still good. We brought out the new Martha Stewart sheer voile panels in pale gray and hung them across the back and sides of the tent. What a difference. Everyone noticed. I loved it. I'll post pictures after next week's show. It made the booth look sort of ethereal, like Russell's old movies. There was even the aforementioned cello music, courtesy of the child prodigy entertaining the park visitors behind us.

Last Friday, we did a show in Ithaca, spur of the moment, and I'm so glad we did. It was a 3 hour commute each way for a 6 hour show which sounds crazy but I made money. Crazy is as crazy does. An artisan market held in the structure for the Farmer's Market. Brilliant. Fun. Academics in attendance. Perfect.

Russell spent most of the afternoon napping in the truck. He was content. Takes a lot to get us down, I think.

I sold mostly collage at this show which tickled me. Made me feel like an artist. And I have 10 days to replenish stock.

Russell is upstairs sleeping but I can hear the faint sound of proper voices speaking perfect English against the cello accompaniment. He is falling asleep to an old movie again. I  think I'll wait a bit and see if I can change it when I get up there. Last night I dreamed that William Holden was in the doorway, smoking a cigarette. I told him we didn't smoke in our house and he raised one perfectly manicured eyebrow and smiled. Creeped me out. Took a while to fall asleep again. Between the spooky apparition and the muffled coughing, it was hard to relax.

 I clicked the channels and found Mike and Frank on American Pickers. They always relax me for some reason. They were  climbing around on rafters, pulling down old gas station signs. Probably from William Holden's time. I looked at the doorway. Empty. Success.