Thursday, November 2, 2017

Touched by Magick

Unbelievable. I just got off the phone and am still in a place of awesome, and I have to share it with you....

A bit of a back story: last Fest season a woman adopted one of my Leaflings, carried it home in its little black origami take-out box, and gifted it to her mother who lives alone. And her mother pored through the info that was enclosed, checked my website out online, and today ordered prints. It was while she was placing her order that Magick seemed to happen.

We talked about our unusual names and where they came from (her Swiss grandmother named her, isn't that cool?). I learned of the hand-carved wooden leaf she's had displayed on her wall for ages, one with a smiling face on it. She explained to me that her adopted Leafling sits snug in a candleholder on her table, so that she sees it every morning as she sips her coffee. And I learned that today is her day off; she cleans houses for a living, a job she describes as 'working with energy.' (This definition makes my socks go up and down; when I heard it, I began to sense that I was communicating with a Kindred Spirit.)

I wrote down her order and we exchanged addresses. When she heard mine, she immediately asked if I was aware of an old building here in my village that has been made into apartments over the decades. I knew just the one!, and we had a long talk about how I used to live there (loved it so much I wept when I left it), how her brother still lives there (he left once but couldn't help but return), and how the place is haunted. (I could write this whole post about that place, but I'll save it for another time.)

Our conversation was brief yet I found it so meaningful. I told her how pleased I was that we got to talk like this, and she said that there was a reason we connected instead of doing business-by-voicemail....

And now as I reread this post I realize how 'meh' I make this event sound, when really it was wonder-filled.

I rarely answer the phone because I fear it, yet today I answered.

And I'm glad I did.
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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Experiment Continues

I did it. And I'm still doing it. I've taken my PWYW social experiment all the way to my biggest-ever show -- the MN Renaissance Festival.

And I wasn't sure what to expect.... Last season when I shared my leaflings there and asked interested customers to simply make a blind transaction (put whatever they wanted into an envelope while I packaged up their leaf), I was amazed at the results. The whole thing was just so interesting -- the good, the bad, the generous, the occasional empty envelope (!), the stories, the interactions -- it was a learning experience for me, and it tapped into what I've wanted to do with my art since Day One: Use it as a way to make a magickal memory through an engaging interaction, one that hopefully allowed me financially to continue to do so again. And again....

At the beginning of this year I asked James if it'd be OK if at every show I did -- big or little -- I asked my customers to pay what they wish for my work. Just for a year. Just to see what would happen. And if I noticed right away that this was a bad idea, I promised to immediately go back to selling my work at price-tag value. He gave me the thumbs-up without hesitation.

Since then, every show has surprised me. I've surprised myself! Talking to strangers has become easier (since I don't feel pressured to groom them for a sale), and my spiel never fails to start a conversation, one that I'm obviously passionate about. As folks listen to the explanation of why it is I'm doing what I'm doing, I watch their expressions change. They come right up to me and pay attention. Some are delighted, some are confused, some are shocked. Some think it's noble of me, some think it's 'ballzy' and immediately make a joke. One woman last weekend said, "You're either clever or very, very stupid." And I understand. Some seem afraid for me, especially when they hear that I'm a full-time artist and that I rent a studio and own a house that isn't completely paid for.

When asked what prompted me to do this, I tell them that right now my faith in humanity needs a shot in the arm, and that usually gets me a nod and a smile (because seriously, whose doesn't, right??). One tipsy gentleman found my words hilarious and assured me that no matter what I do, humanity is going to disappoint me. And to apparently prove his point he reached into his pocket and put something into one of my envelopes, saying, "Tomorrow when you open your envelopes and say to yourself, 'who's the asshole that gave me just a buck??', you'll know that that was ME." And he handed it to me as though it was an insult or a joke or something. Like he was somehow proving to me that everyone's a jerk just waiting to take advantage of naive people like myself. And yet, he'd just given me money without purchasing anything.... He wasn't an asshole at all. He was generous and supportive without asking for anything in return.

See? So interesting....

What that man doesn't know is that his lonely dollar wasn't the smallest or most surprising thing I discovered.* And his dollar donation to my social experiment said way more about himself than it ever said about me or my work or my naivete. I've thought about him often since then. And I hope that someday he quits thinking of himself as an asshole....

Each Fest weekend so far has surprised me by being more profitable than I have any right to expect. I've compared totals to what I would've made had I priced and sold my work as usual, and I've so far been coming out ahead. (Knowing this still gives me a little shiver. Is this just a one-time thing? A novelty? Could this possibly -- *eyes closed, fingers crossed* -- be my business platform going forward?) Even the weekend that I was absent and had someone else behind the counter, someone who isn't Me the Artist, someone who had nothing to lose by exchanging my work for an anonymous envelope -- even that weekend's totals surprised me. Biggest shocker: although I apparently sold all sorts of things for 50 cents, there were no empty envelopes. And although someone took home close to $300 of my work for far less than what it was priced at (no envelope held more than 10% of that total), the end results were still positive.

I've been fascinated. And people have been receptive. And I've been lucky. And people have been GENEROUS.

Two more weekends remain of this Fest season. Weather permitting, they're crazy busy weekends, ones that usually bring in the bulk of my seasonal income. And I'm going to continue with this experiment all the way to the end. If the remaining weekends follow suit, this will be one of my most successful seasons. And it has been less about selling my work than it has been about meeting new and interesting people and getting to better know my customers.

I am having the time of my life.

...

*(To YOU: please know how brave you were to write that letter telling me how much my work means to you and how apologetic you are for not having anywhere near the kind of money you thought it was worth. You thought I was brave, but you are the brave one! I love that my drawing went home with you, my dear. Enjoy it! And expect a big hug when we meet again.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Ever-Turning Wheel of Doubt

I'm confused today. About being an 'artist.' This happens more often than I'd like....

There really was a time when I thought I was All That -- it was a hundred years ago when I was a kid and didn't know any better. I can look back now at my younger self's creations and over-confidence and give myself nightmares. Who was that 19-year-old smart-ass with her little Playskool portfolio waltzing into a downtown business office to apply for a job as a frippin' art director? Seriously?? (Believe me, she had no idea what an art director was, but it had the word 'art' in it, so obviously it was something she'd be amazing at....)

That bitch thought she was an Artist with a capital 'A.' Was she just confused? If she'd had the right training -- gone to art school, been mentored or something -- would things have clicked into place? Would she have understood that THIS is where one begins, THIS is how one grows, THIS is how one makes her place in the Grand Scheme of Art Things? Who knows....

Renting my first-ever studio space has brought all of this to the forefront. I'm renting from artists. I meet teachers who are artists. I take classes with other artists. Some are confident teens (like I once was). Some are confident 60-year-olds (like I wish I was...). I pay attention to them all. And then I question myself.

In every group there's always that artist who is determined to stump or show-up the instructor, or bring the focus around to themselves and their work. When that happens, I find myself thinking, "That kind of behavior bugs me. If they're an Artist, then I don't want to be one...."

And there's always someone wearing what I call an artist 'costume.' When I see them, I find myself thinking, "If that's an Artist, and I just look like somebody's grandmother, then what am I?" (says the chick who has shaved her head, tattooed her body, and is currently gauging an ear.... Gah *grimace*.... Am I not just expressing myself? Have I succumbed to the pressure? Do I think that if I somehow make myself LOOK like an 'artist' that I'll believe I am one??)

This topic consumes me. I talk about it ALL. THE. TIME with James, who I'm sure is sick of it now. But he always listens patiently before marching out the same story for me, the one about his late father who once lived in Greenwich Village and went to art school and may or may not have hung out with Pablo Picasso. Albert was a fabulous artist (I know this because I have some of his works), and according to James he created art more than he talked about creating art, and looked like an old man more than an artist. James recalls him saying often (and I paraphrase): "If you feel like you have to wear a costume or proclaim yourself every time you walk out the door, you're expending more energy acting like an artist than you are in actually making art."

Wise words....

And, as always, thinking at the keyboard helps to clarify things for me. I just reread this post and thought: A person who bakes is a baker. A person who builds is a builder. I make art, so why not just call myself an artmaker? Let the rest of them be artists. It certainly takes the pressure off....

Or -- even better -- why not just be an artist who isn't an ass?

THAT I can do.
...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Leafpower

It's been one of those weeks.

You'd think it was due to the rapid approach of Fest, but MNRF is the furthest thing from my mind lately....

No, there's been other stuff, hospitals and health-related stuff (not for me, for someone I love), and some crazy shenanigans in the White House, and things that have raised my blood pressure and made me question whether or not I went to sleep one night and woke up in a Stephen King novel. The kind where otherwise intelligent and empathetic people suddenly go off the rails and begin wreaking havoc for no apparent reason. Nothing makes sense! It was REALLY not making sense about this time a year ago, but this is off the charts now....

Anyway....

After a couple days of back-and-forth hospital visits spent in a car full of memories, remembering the past and wondering about the future, studying the physical effects of the passage of Time, and being waaaaay far away in my head, I finally got myself in to the Studio. I opened the door there and saw leaves EVERYwhere -- some awaiting their frames, some spread out on my little table, some raked into a pile on the floor, some in various stages of completion, others sticking out of books and bags and boxes, others decorating the walls. Their mess was everywhere. Their scent was glorious.

Dr. Leo Buscaglia
Walking into the room reminded me of an anecdote once shared on PBS by the late Dr. Leo Buscaglia. He told his audience then of his great love of leaves and how one Autumn friends of his raked up a whole yardful, carried them into his house, and dumped the lot onto his livingroom rug. (The camera was focused on some older ladies in the audience when he said this, and the looks of alarm on their faces was priceless. I was reminded of my mother. In fact, when I recall this particular program now, I sense her in the background behind me, aghast, just like those women. But then he went on to say that all winter long, he and his friends hung out in that livingroom, sitting in piles of leaves. Everyone laughed. The audience ladies giggled uncomfortably, perhaps imagining all the eventual compost. I'll never forget the anecdote, and I can recall that feeling of recognizing a kindred spirit out there in Television Land....)

He loved leaves, too.
After hanging up my backpack and sitting down to work, I found that I didn't know how to begin, where to start. Should I clean the room? Would that make me feel better? Make a list? (Lists always soothe me....) Turn on Public Radio and let Capitol Hill wind me up some more? A class of kids was noisily and animatedly creating art outside my door, so there was no chance to stroll around the classroom and get my bearings. I didn't even feel comfortable using the microwave out there for my tea, in case I disturbed them.

Then I remembered headphones. And the audio book I'd bought at a sale -- 'The Dark is Rising' by Susan Cooper (read it years ago and loved it). And soon I was caught up in the tale, and before I knew it there were gilded leaves in front of me, old and crisp things that were suddenly beyond beautiful. Even the imperfect and overlooked ones were now soothing my soul.

Things weren't perfect by the time I left for the day, but they were definitely better. And I'll take that! I'll take that and run with it.
...


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Snapshot of My Afternoon



Tumbledown is in shadow.

A single light illuminates my stovetop where a dozen tiny eggs hardboil in an enamel pan.

Outside, the once busy run is deserted, its hens hunkered down in fresh mounds of straw while trembling leaves overhead give evidence of the gentle rainfall….

And I stand inside at the dark door and watch it as I sip fragrant tea in a favorite cup and enjoy the rumbly thunder.
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Shining Again!


A young mom with a stroller stopped at the end of my driveway today and took a picture of my chalk drawing from last Monday celebrating this week's very fickle sunshine. (It's still there; I'm surprised!)

Her toddler seemed unimpressed, but I suspect she was as cheered by today's in-again sun as I am. And that's saying something! (You heard it first: sometimes this Rainy Day girl just needs a little break.)

Here's wishing that today's happy sun is smiling down on you wherever you are. Enjoy.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Head is Gonna Explode....

Thinking about you. Thinking about LIFE. Thinking about the planet. Thinking about EVERYthing.

So. Much. Thinking....

When the *boom* comes, it'll be epic....

When James came home early yesterday and found me staring into space, lost in some big-ass thoughts, he found me my shoes and my keys and my cap, pointed me in the direction of the studio, and sent me on my way. I'd been home for four straight days, trying to tidy up around here because there's just so much that needs doing. But even though I started out strong, I petered out fabulously and was pretty much just walking around in circles by that time, putting stuff in places where it didn't belong.

It doesn't help that there's the usual outdoorsy stuff now (garden tasks, chicken chores, etc.). In addition to the spring house- and yardwork, there's also the non-stop, stressful, Big News (every day's a new crisis!). Way too much to take in and process; my poor head's all over the map! So hiking to the studio yesterday was apparently just what I needed.

It was late in the day and the rush-hour traffic was loud, but I was able to ignore it as I walked slowly along the river in the shade of enormous cottonwoods, stopping to collect leaves and maple keys and to appreciate the spirea in bloom.... The art center was dark and silent when I arrived. I unlocked the door, breathed in the heady fragrance of paper and creativity, and sighed a big sigh. Of contentment, maybe. Relief.... In the few hours that I was there, I did nothing more than add to my sketchbook, really. (And it revealed to me some surprises, as always. Thank you, blank paper, for all that you do....)

And now today I'm ready. As soon as I press the 'publish' button on this entry, my shoes will be on their way again. North along the river walk, through the colorful tunnel, past the Four Silos and across the overpass, to the art center. To my Safe House, my sanctuary, my place where the world can't find me.

May I never ever run out of rent money. Ever.
...