Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Solstice

It's less than a handful of days before Christmas here in Minne-snow-tah, and there's NO SNOW. I'm having a heckuva time getting into the spirit....

Feeling a bit desperate today, I tried wrapping gifts while listening to instrumental holiday music. I enjoyed some eggnog, took a bite or two (or ten) of peanut brittle, and even threw a top hat on my wraith -- "Old Blue Eyes" -- and dubbed him the Ghost of Christmas Future. But his Dickens vibe still didn't put me over the edge. And Dickens always puts me over the edge at Christmastime....

There were cards in the mail and brown paper packages (sans string) on the doorstep. And snow could be smelled on the air....

Still.... No 'holly jolly.'

I stood for a long moment at the front door and breathed in the scents of woodsmoke and the promise of snow. Twilight had come early in tints of slate and lavender. My Little Free Library was a shadow at the curb. Rowanberries trembled on their branches in the chilly December gusts, while a rabbit sheltered beneath the tree in a stand of frozen coneflower heads.... 

Suddenly I got it. And gone were thoughts of Burl Ives and Toys R Us and Amazon Wish Lists and whether or not I should schedule a haircut before Christmas. I'd been focusing on the wrong stuff.

(*Deep breath*)

So now I pour myself a glass of wine and raise a toast to that rabbit, that twilight, those shadows and wintry scents. And to you.

May the season wrap you in its wintry arms and fill your heart and spirit with peace. Happy Solstice.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Focusing on Sparkles

Something on Facebook this morning triggered a full-blown case of the panics (dang anxiety....), so I've spent my day working hard to focus on sparkles. Here are a few of them:
  • A decent night's sleep.
  • Soft clothes! (And matching socks.)
  • A long walk in the wintry wind.
  • Wispy clouds across a robin's-egg sky.
  • Hearing the mailman at my front door.
  • A postcard from a dear friend.
  • Cat on my lap, cockatiel at my shoulder, and a sleepy rattie in my pocket.
  • Twilight shadows in a silent house....
  • The hum of the fridge and the rhythm of the faux firelog.
  • Mac-and-cheese thoughts of tonight's supper....
  • The liquid jade color and sweet seafoam taste of my cup of matcha tea latte.
  • Typing to YOU.
Love you, my friend. I hope your day has sparkles in it, too.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Coffeehouse Update

They're framed. And they're UP.

A mini collection of my '50 Shades of Fae' is currently displayed at Avant Garden, and I think it all looks wonderful. I couldn't be prouder!

I wasn't sure what to expect, exactly. This being my first time hanging my work in a coffeehouse, I was under the impression that I took my work there and hung it up my own self so no one would have to take time out of their day (or their busy schedule) to do it for me. But that's not how it's done, apparently. I was asked to leave it and trust that all would be done to my expectations.

When I got the heads-up that my work was in place and on display, James and I walked in to the Village to see it. Don't laugh, but I was a bit apprehensive. Originally my plan was to look at the floor all the way to the coffee counter where I'd order a beverage and peek obliquely around until I got my bearings. Perhaps this sounds silly, but just being in the same room with my work feels LOUD somehow, like I'm screaming for attention. (Yes, I want it to be noticed, but I don't want to be noticed. Does that make sense?....)

I needn't have worried.... I left my art in very good hands. And I made a video for my Grandbugs about the event in case you're interested. (It's not long, I promise!)

As I sat at the table beneath my work that morning, I couldn't help imagining those little faces watching happy customers, occasionally making eye contact with them, perhaps even generating a smile or two. I hope so! And I hope they continue to do so through this holiday season.

I'm LUCKY to have my work on the wall of such a cool place! Thank you, Avant Garden, for this opportunity.

P.S. If you get a chance to and you're in the area, please stop at Avant Garden! You can find directions and info HERE. I recommend the hot spiced chai. Or the house blend, if you just want a simple coffee. Say 'hi' to the wonderful people there and take a moment to look at my work, OK? I hope it makes you smile. :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Autumn, Art, and Avant Garden

I walked in to the Village recently to do commerce, and afterward treated myself to a bowl of tomato basil soup and a grilled cheese sandwich at Avant Garden Coffee House on Main Street. But lunch wasn't the main reason why I went there. The reason I stopped was to get a feel for the place.

My Youngest had made arrangements earlier for me to visit with the manager there about possibly displaying my artwork. She did this unbeknownst to me and told me later only after she'd gotten the OK; a surprise (a pleasant one) but it still put me a bit on the spot.... I have a heckuva time tooting my own horn, so it warms my heart to know that my Girlz like my work enough to talk it up. Still, this would now mean stepping out of my comfort zone.

I'd visited Avant Garden before, but not in recent months. And I wondered if my new work would be suitable.... Are little fae faces 'edgy' enough for a jazzy coffeehouse?

The booth I chose for my lunch was in a corner where I could survey the place. Markered names and handwritten suggestions to 'Make Art' and 'Earth Without Art is Just 'Eh' decorated the bricks on the wall next to me. Overhead were displayed framed hand-drawn designs of tattoo flash. As I enjoyed my tomato basil soup and listened to some jazzy 40s music I tried to imagine my work there, little fae faces looking down on folks with mugs of hot black coffee in their hands and interesting conversations on their lips. I think I could see it....

Walking home afterward was a treat. The soup was just what my tastebuds had been jonesing for. I had the sidewalks to myself, and the sky promised rain at any moment -- my favorite weather. I passed kids on the playground. I collected bouquets of fallen ginkgo leaves, perfect for pressing. In my head I was now busy imagining myself as a regular at 'the Garden,' stopping in with my sketch gear for a bowl of soup and some drawing time, or meeting friends there for coffee and conversation.

Edgy enough for a coffeehouse??....
It began raining as I opened the back door, and soon I could hear thunder. Good weather for being indoors, organizing my portfolio.

On the day of the appointment, my Youngest planned to meet me ahead of time so that she and I could go there to pitch my work together. But I forced myself to go alone. It's been years since I made the rounds with my old beat-up portfolio, and I cringe a little now when I think on it. About the chutzpah of my 20-something self back then, proudly showing off what was at the time some pretty crappy work. (From this age and this angle I know it was awful, but my young self certainly didn't think so. She imagined shaking the art world like a pitbull with a kitten. How ballsy. Did I really think I was All That? And if so, why can't I think so now?.... Hmm.)


I recall years ago watching a young person with a portfolio get on the Metro Transit bus I was riding, and I remember how fascinated I was by her. What was her story? Was she en route to an art school? Was she about to pitch her work to an art director? What wonders were hiding in that portfolio? Was art her job? And if so, how cool is that?? At the time I was commuting to an office in the City where I was a busy receptionist, and being a full-time artist was my happy little fantasy. That hip young girl with her portfolio gave my imagination wings....

So it was a proud moment for me when I walked in to the Village, carrying my portfolio. Past schools and churches and apartment buildings and offices, past dog-walkers and leaf-rakers and exercise-takers and lunch-goers. I wondered if they noticed me. And if so, were they thinking the same thoughts, pondering the same questions? Did they wonder what awesome creations were in my case?  Did they think, "How cool would it be to be a full-time artist?" When I walked past the area's School For the Arts, I imagined kids at their desks watching me through the window and thinking, "There goes an artist. And she's happy. I can be a happy artist, too."

I was happy. Still am, too. I met with a cool guy named Brad who looked at my work and was OK with it, so we talked wall space and contracts.

And then I had a chai and it was killer.

P.S. Visit Avant Garden's website (here) to see directions, pics, and a list of beverage items. Then go there to the brick-and-mortar store, say hi to Brad (or whichever Kindred Spirit is at the counter), order a killer chai, and look at some art. Who knows? Some of it may even be mine. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thank You, Flower Fairies

Some days it's all about hanging in there. And about leaning heavily on those little golden things that make getting out of bed worth it.

Today's been one of those days, and this week's been one of those weeks....

That being said, I'm grateful today for Facebook friends, crisp autumn leaves, a rattie handwarmer in the front pocket of my hoodie (thank you, Max), some sunshine and exercise, a new haircut with bangs again, and the surprise this afternoon of a second heavenly-blue Morning Glory blossom at my mailbox.

I love that shabby chipped paint around my window, too....

It's a surprise because I didn't plant heavenly-blue Morning Glories. I planted Grandpa Otts Morning Glories. And this week when I needed them most, the heavenly-blues arrived in all their wonderfullness.

Thank you, morning glories.
So grateful.

And now I share them with you.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Addendum to an Earlier Post

My previous post on this subject may have given the wrong impression.... And I should remind myself (yet again) that it's neither fair nor a good idea to think aloud at the keyboard when I'm stressed and then press 'publish.' Not a good idea....

So what am I doing now? Adding to the whole thing. Writing more. Digging a deeper hole, maybe. But I hope not.

I've never wanted Fest to be about making money. That sounds silly, I know, since I'm a crafter there.... But since the very beginning I've not given a whole lotta thought to what I want from the place and what I can bring to the table.... Pretty stupid, I know. But I don't claim to be a businessartist.

No other Ren Faire makes me feel like this. I've visited bunches and I can take them or leave them. To me, the MN Renaissance Festival is a feeling, not a business. (Correction: It is a business, I know it is, I'm not 100% silly. I get that it's a business like Disney is a business. But I swear when I'm in the Magic Kingdom that shit is REAL.)

I've written before about what it was like for me to visit Fest the first time. I went there on the worst possible day, I swear. There was rain and mud and cold. But it was a perfect storm for me. Add the fallish weather, the low-hanging clouds. Cue the lute music. Curtain opens and there's Bruce Loeschen's amazing black-and-white half-timbered shop looking like something out of an old English high street. Candles glowing in its diamond-paned windows.... BOOM. I was home.

(Below is Bruce's own art of his remarkable shop as it looked back in the day. See what I mean??)

Art copyright Bruce Loeschen.

On a side note, you'll notice that I've still not managed to share much of my amazing trip to England because it defies description. Setting foot there was like revisiting a past life or something, a spiritual experience. It spoke to my soul.... Fest did as well. Just like in England, there were spirits there. Shadows. Threads of something ancient and timeless.... I can look at other Faires and see that they were once someone's idea, then someone's money, then someone's business on someone's land. They're an attraction like any other themed attraction. But not my Fest. Mine is a portal.

Since that first visit as a patron back in the 70s, my goal was to be a part of that magickal place, a part of that Tribe. But I didn't know how to make that happen, exactly, as I could offer it nothing. My abilities as an artist was all I thought I could bring to the table. So that's the direction I took.

Would that I had done my homework FIRST before leaping in with both feet. Instead of being a crafter I could have signed on to work for a crafter, and for the price of gas, a costume, a day pass, and a commitment I could have tested the waters. I'm sure a season of that nonsense would have knocked all the magick right out of me. As it was, my first year there as a bonafide crafter couldn't have been worse -- weatherwise, saleswise, stresswise, fill-in-the-blank-wise -- but that's another blog post. Even so, all that awfulness only anchored the magick in me more.

That's unfortunate, really. Because selling flat art there is HARD.

I'm convinced there's no dang way a flat artist at Fest can make a profit. Ever. I'm convinced! Not unless they're an incredibly savvy businessartist. Or not unless they're already popular there with a host of rabid groupie fans. (And in my head now I'm seeing Twig the Fairy repeatedly putting her kissprints on little canvases and making million$....)

Here's my hero hard at work. Photo is courtesy of his website -- GO THERE.

Recently I got an email from my Fest hero, the aforementioned Bruce Loeschen, the incredible pen-and-ink artist whose work inspired me to send a slide or two to the Fest jury waaaaaaaay back in the day. He's been retired from the Fest scene for years now. And when he mentioned the place in his email to me, he went on to describe working there as one of the hardest things he's ever done. Fest, for him, was similarly frustrating, saleswise, as it continues to be for me. I can remember our after-hours conversations about it, too, over wine and candlelight. At the time I couldn't imagine anyone visiting his shop and not falling under the spell of his work, buying it ALL, and making him rich.

I'll say again that after 30 years I'm no more popular there than I was as a clueless newbie setting up shop for the first time. Am I part of the Tribe? Via seasonal contract only, perhaps. I've made a handful of friends there that are family to me now -- castmembers, customers, fellow crafters, all of them have my heart, and I wouldn't give up our friendships for anything. Not all are local, and the Fest season is the only time I get to reconnect with them. They appreciate both me and the art I create. And I continue to slog away every season trying new things and hoping to sell enough to pay my bills.

That being said, I'm learning that reconnecting with them is my focus. It's what keeps me at Fest, trying to make sense of this art-selling thing. And I hate that there are Big Annual Fee$ associated with being able to do that, simply because I made the choice 30 years ago to be a crafter there.

Hmmmm. If it wasn't so greedy-sounding, I'd almost consider bumping up the price of hugs from 'free' to a quarter.

And maybe then I'd have a season where my Taxperson doesn't make fun of me....

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Printing and Pondering....

Printing, printing, printing. And pondering.
A busy 3-day Fest weekend fast approacheth, and it's Wednesday already and I still don't know where to start.

My dear old Epson is inked and printing, so I am accomplishing something. But as I do so I'm far away in my head, thinking hard, and typing my thoughts in a blog post that I'll probably not publish as I can already sense it'll be too dang angsty....

But BOY. Does it ever help to write....

Each year I find myself trying something new and different, artwise, and sharing my fresh creations at my shop at the MN Renaissance Festival, which is the only art show that I do now. In some cases, my work is 'fresh' simply because my style has changed out of necessity; as I age I've begun dealing with issues like arthritis and poor eyesight and an unsteady hand.

But over the years I've also learned that I'm completely disinterested in revisiting subjects that I concentrated on earlier in my career -- photo-realistic pen-and-ink or pencil drawings that almost always generated oohs and aahs but rarely generated sales. Mostly I'd just hear comments like, "My little girl can draw like that! You should see the amazing portrait of *insert-name-of-current-popstar/celebrity-here* that she created -- it looks just like a photograph!" (Gah....)

As is expected (I imagine) of someone who never went to Art School, I went through a few phases. There was the wildlife phase, and the series of nudes, and the 'punny' stuff, and the art I was hoping seemed 'edgy' but really wasn't. I was still learning through personal experience and getting my forms down with the intention of eventually creating work that relied more on imagination and less on photographic reference material. I was making internal changes, too, of course. Discovering myself. Each fresh wave of work attracted its own set of critics and connoisseurs, but I never felt as though I'd really found my niche....

Then I was given a grandchild. And everything I drew after that moment became more imaginative and whimsical. Suddenly there was color! And an element of nostalgia. And in my head, my Target Customer became someone like myself, someone with childhood still in her blood.

THIS is where I want to concentrate the time that is left to me. I want to spend the rest of my art days drawing sweet and happy creations that make people smile and remember that there's more to life than working one's ass off chasing a buck. I want them to remember what it was like to watch clouds and whisper to butterflies, and to see the world with eyes as big as saucers.

I feel as though my art has taken THE right road now, finally. But I can't help but think that where Fest is concerned it's too late....

This is my 30th Fest season. During all my years there I've seen many artists come and go, folks that I tend to refer to as 'flat artists', who create 2D originals and prints that have to be framed and are therefore flat. Very few of us diehards still remain. I keep thinking that THIS is the year I'll get noticed, isn't that funny?, because if it hasn't happened yet it never will....

I've made many friends -- both castwise and patronwise -- over the years, and most of my time at Fest is spent reconnecting with them. Two customers spoke this year of how visiting me is 'like a show,' worth the price of admission. A castmember said that visits with me are a highlight of his Fest experience, and his wife adds that if she had to choose between me and my art, she'd choose time spent with me....

What does that say, exactly?

Some stuff I've known forever. Like the fact that I'll never be a 'famous' Fest face. Even after 30 years of drama and crazy in the same location in the same Fest neighborhood, only a handful of folks there even know who I am. And out of costume, less than half of those would ever recognize me. That will never ever change.

But what I thought of as my slowly-increasing circle of clientele isn't a customer base at all. It's a group of strangers-turned-friends to whom I stepped out of my comfort zone at one time and introduced myself. And, in turn, they liked me. And they purchased a piece of my work BECAUSE they liked me. And not necessarily because they saw my art, fell in love with it, and wanted yet another thing to frame and find space for on a wall somewhere.... So apparently I'm not selling art so much as I'm just meeting people and making friends.

That means it's not about my work at all.


This season especially, I'm fast-forwarding to the near future when the MN Renaissance Festival will be moving to a new site. The reason for the move is not my story, and you can find more info if you really wanted to. (Here's an article, for instance. And here's one, too....) But when I think about the expense of moving my shop or rebuilding, I get the heebie-jeebies. I won't live long enough to recover that expense, for one thing. And I'm at an age now where lugging marine-grade plywood and building a shelter to code isn't something I want to waste a minute -- let alone a summer -- doing. (And no, I can't afford to hire someone to do it for me.)

And seriously? If my art isn't Mayfaire's 'draw,' what's even the point? Why not just throw on a costume, scrounge a pass, and spend future seasons giving away free hugs? I won't make any money, but I won't lose any either.

And THERE'S a refreshing thought.

No more would I be paying a fortune every dang season just to see my friends. No more printing costs or building maintenance costs or lease fees or anything. And the funny part? Nothing would change. AT ALL. Folks would still find me for a hug. And they'd still not buy my work....

It seems like a win/win. And reaching that conclusion today makes my gut breathe a big sigh of relief. I think I've nailed it. I'm on to something! Granted, this has stared me in the face for decades now and I could've saved myself all sorts of time and money if I'd just made eye contact with it already. (I'm nothing if not unobservant and clueless....)


I think this is IT, really. I kind of do.

And until 2017 -- which I'm understanding will be Fest's first season in its new location -- I'll keep paying big bucks to continue on right where I am, doing just what I do. And encouraging anyone who's always meant to purchase from me and hasn't yet to take the opportunity to do so NOW.

Because if I'm interpreting the signs correctly, that opportunity is packing its bags.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Reflections on 2nd Weekend

If 1st Weekend of the MN Renaissance Festival was a bit wonky for me, 2nd Weekend tried hard to make up for it.

It began showering me with blessings right away on Friday evening, from the huge dragonfly sunning itself in my ivy to the two bats that circled the interior of my shop before roosting in its rafters to the dear friends who kept me company until nearly midnight as I did last-minute work.
This was MADE for me!

Saturday began with the ever-appreciated coffee. A Fest friend who once caught me spooning granules from a jar of Instant has been hand-delivering a cup to me every morning now for years. And as if that wasn't enough, there was also a still-warm blueberry scone, and later a slab (only word for it) of banana cake and a homebaked loaf of quickbread so dang moist it wilted my princess hair just by opening the bag and inhaling its fruity fragrance. And I must not forget the ground cherries (or as I like to call them: 'sweet little fairy presents wrapped in tissue paper leaves').

Jimmy and his brother, both looking too sharp for words.
And that was just the foodstuffs. Did I mention the handmade woolen beret, complete with monarch butterfly charm? Or the surprise of the aforementioned princess hair? Or how about all the regenerating hugs. Or the visit from some fave customers who made my day by telling me, "Don't take this the wrong way BUT -- visiting you is worth the price of admission because it's like a show." (That comment still makes my socks go up and down.)

And the images.... I saw a woman wearing an octopus on her shoulder. And a tough-looking dad with tattoo sleeves and sunglasses carrying around his little daughter's American Girl doll. I saw familiar faces I haven't seen in ages. I saw my friend Jimmy in his wedding clothes, I saw my friend Jamie propose to his lady -- both gentlemen so dang excited to enter this new phase of their lives that their emotions were infectious. (I'm not used to guys like that. It was heartwarming. And a little heartbreaking, too....) And I saw the most beautiful Blood Moon rise over the Fest grounds just as our own Minnesota Morris Men glided -- haunting and bell-less and beautiful -- over the site, bestowing their blessings.

I reconnected with my favorite fairy ever on Sunday and also met her real-life fairygrandmother, whose wings may have been concealed, but her beauty and sparkles and grace and magick weren't. And I released a monarch at the end of the day and it brought back comedian Scott Novotne and his family! So even my butterflies brought me gifts.... I'm not worthy!

On his daughter Kinsey's hair is the butterfly responsible for my brush with fame.
As always, I learned a lot about myself on this second weekend in a row of stepping out of my comfort zone. Not necessarily good stuff or bad stuff. Just stuff.... A short-change artist took advantage of me earlier in the day, not surprisingly. A dear friend tried to buy me a beer and I somehow negated the gesture (how does one even do that?). And try as I might, I couldn't hide from the probing tendrils of the soul-sucking energy vampires that I swear descend on Fest every year and search out my heart. I think I'm prepared every season, too, and then BOOM.... There's a lesson to be learned there, obviously. Stuff to think about and put into perspective.

Mmmm. Home again. And in Recovery Mode.
By Sunday night I was as friable as a cicada husk, and getting out of garb was a big old effort. During the course of doing so, the resident bandersnatch began its lumbering ascent of the exterior of my shop, scrabbling and heaving itself to my roof before once again attempting to return to the crawlspace in my ceiling. I had hardly the energy to repeat my annual can-you-at-least-wait-until-after-season plea let alone try to frighten it away with the end of my broom....

It's now the day after. And even real food, rattie kisses, Epsom salts in my boiling-hot bath, and a good night's sleep haven't managed to repair me....



According to my Fest friends and neighbors the weekend was $urprisingly $weet, which is so unusual for an early weekend, especially one that coincides with the State Fair. But it wasn't for me, which isn't so unusual. And once again I'm learning things about my art and what it brings (or doesn't bring) to the table. I'm not sure if I can put the lessons into words yet, but it's pointing to being less about my work and more about me.

And I'm not sure yet how I feel about that.

But it's giving me lots to think about....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Weird & Wonderful 1st Weekend

Sweet little lion man!
First weekend of Fest has come and gone. I don't think I even tasted it....

Sadly, last Saturday -- Opening Day -- was the first time in 30 years I've missed an entire day of Fest when it was in progress. I did so gladly (there was a family emergency to which I gave my caring support), but missing that first day knocked me out of alignment with the Fest Flow, and being there on Sunday felt like I was in a parallel reality where I could watch and observe but not really interact. Friends walked past me. Familiar faces looked through me. I felt like my season needed a quick reboot.

Funny thing, I can recall years ago being 'kidnapped' during a Fest day and led to an on-site trailer backstage where Cast friends were taking a break from the dust and the heat to watch a movie. Actor Gerard Butler was in it and many of my female friends needed their daily swoon, apparently. Because I had no idea who he was at the time, this movie was meant to be my initiation, and so I politely hung around to appreciate a few of his scenes while James manned the shop (we both worked together in a single shop back then).

But being indoors on a Fest day and watching a movie -- even for half an hour! -- was enough to throw off my weekend, and I can still remember how odd it felt to return to 'work' again afterwards....

Last Saturday I'd gotten on-site after the evening cannon, so already I was confused. In my head it was the Friday before Opening Day. But that super-charged, storm-on-the-horizon energy wasn't there.... My shop already had a 'lived-in' feel to it, having been open to customers and friends for an entire day. The wonderful women who took over for me in my absence had made it their own, moving things around to fit their needs, setting up the counter to their own taste. Showing up now felt a bit like an intrusion.... 

Add to that the fact that, because of the previous day's rain, I was unable to drive on-site to unload, so many of my props, products, and costume pieces were left at home to avoid having to lug them all somehow on a shuttle bus from a far-away parking location. That meant butterflies as well. Things just weren't the same.

In addition to the 'surrealness' of missing Opening Cannon, it was doubly hard to come off a day of sadness and put on a smile. I'm sure no one I spoke to could tell how wonky my first day's experience was unless I told them so; I like to think I'm pretty good at hiding all that when it's necessary.


Even though I was there for Sunday only, I still enjoyed a lot of hugs and highlights: Familiar faces, folks I only see during the run of the show, customers who are like family now.... I held a sweet boy whose impending birth I kept a secret last season when his expectant mama shared with me her happy news. When we were finally introduced and I took him in my arms, she burst into sweet tears. Priceless.... I saw a ghost and took its picture!... And before the day was over, resident bat 'Bacardi' flew circles around the shop before tucking in behind my mirror.... It was a weird and wonder-filled day.

And when everything was over and I finally checked my phone, it was to discover that other Festfolke had posted updates and highlights, which were wonderful to see, as I didn't leave Mayfaire that Sunday other than to visit the privy. 

I learned via social media that some of the Usual Suspects weren't a part of Fest this season, and that broke my heart. And I saw tear-jerk-worthy posts from former Festies who spent First Weekend curled on the couch, wallowing in memories and wishing they were with us all on-site. It made me want to buy them all plane fare and comp tickets so that they could join us. I'd still do so if I could.

And now 2nd Weekend fast approacheth. James tells me I'll feel normal again once I return to my regularly-scheduled routine. He's right, I'm sure. And I'll take care to write again next week and share the highlights.

Until then, my friend! Huzzah. :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Me and the 'M' Word

These are just Ones but they still make me nervous....
Exactly a year ago I wrote a pre-Fest post that I never finished and never published....

It was all about the 'M' word -- 'money' -- and how I just can't seem to wrap my head around it.

I joke that I'm allergic to money. I know people who are killing themselves to earn it, and others who are asshats because of it. Money makes me anxious, it keeps me awake at night. I hate thinking about it; it ties my stomach up in knots....

Yes, I get that money "makes the world go 'round" and all that. I may be silly but I do understand why it exists. And I do understand how ridiculous it is to pretend it's not important.

But dang. I wish it wasn't so necessary....

Now that the Fest season is looming again the 'M' word is uppermost on my mind. I'm forced to once again acknowledge that dollar sign, make tentative eye contact with it, awkwardly renew our strange little relationship and dance the uncomfortable dance of commerce. Because I have a business (if you can even call it that) Fest's seven busy weekends are essentially all about the Making of Money; there's no getting around it. And if I'm smart I'll figure out a way for the two of us to get the heck along. Learn those dance steps already. Take it to the next level....

Ideas for this year's products have been fleshed out, and now they need printing, packaging, framing. Sums are adding up quickly and I already have costs to recoup, more bills to pay.... I must sell my work in order to pay those bills. And then sell it some more so I can hopefully live frugally again for another year so I can do it all over again.

Fest -- aka The Minnesota Renaissance Festival -- is my primary gig now. I used to do other shows, but doing so took its toll, and now that I'm the age I am I find that all the travel and set-up drains me almost as much as the Meet-and-Greet. And although I can apparently act like an extrovert when necessary, the recovery time needed afterward is phenomenal, and I eventually discovered that Fest was about as much spotlight as I could take; the remainder of the year gave me barely enough time to bounce back.

But I couldn't give up art shows completely. Fest was my first, it's where I began. And I found that being somewhere where folks can find me, see me, meet me, talk with me, is somehow tremendously important to my sales (boom: my Catch22). I'd have thought just the opposite, frankly -- that I'd be my own worst enemy -- but my records show that I have far better sales when I'm in attendance and actively engaged than when I'm not. So it helps a LOT to 'gird my loins,' step out of my comfort zone, and make the most of every Fest moment, and I do what I can.

Even though Fest is seasonal and occurs for only seven weekends in the fall, it keeps my boat afloat from one year to the next. But just barely. And only if conditions are right. Throw in some bad weather (or a host of other unforeseen predicaments/situations) and the final numbers can be disastrous. It doesn't take much. Even an afternoon of Too Many Chatty Friends Crowding Out Too Few Buying Customers can send me over the money cliff....

I know I could do better. I'm just not sure how, exactly. I don't want to be That Artist who goes for everyone's wallet. I've been around artists like that, who can't bother to be nice until you show them the color of your cash.... I want those who visit my Fest shop to walk away with a good memory, even if they don't buy anything.

Well-meaning folks tell me that I need to 'take my business seriously' (I do, don't I??) and they offer me suggestions: Illustrate their e-story/children's book/graphic novel 'for the exposure.' Draw more birds of prey with 'something dead in their talons.' Create cartoony caricatures of impossibly-proportioned female superheroes, or draw manga/anime vampires, or otherwise fill-in-the-blank. Others tell me to suck it up already and sell my work as tattoo flash. Or design calendars, license my characters, do a Mary Engelbreit and create an arty empire!

The list goes on....

And I listen. I really do. All are sound ideas even if some of them give me the heebie-jeebies. Few of them interest me, though -- I want to draw what I want to draw.... Plus, the logistics of making their suggestions happen is all so weird and complicated to me. Tattoo flash? Calendar printing? Licensing?? None of those things just happen. They require something that I don't have. Money, for one thing. Connections, for another. And for the rest I really wouldn't know where to start.

Not only that but the seven weekends of Fest already feel like Big (Scary) Business to me. In addition to being around-the-clock work, they also mean having to step out of my comfort zone so dang far that I have to retreat to the rabbit hole immediately afterward. Plus, I get as much attention there as I could ever want in my entire life.

So it's my own fault that I'm not as successful as maybe I could be.

Imagining my art on Hot Topic t-shirts or in the pages of Faerie Magazine is both fun and frightening. And even the happy little fantasy of it in my head feels like too much attention. That Mary Engelbreit-like empire sounds terrifying, too. I can't help but equate it with being rich and famous, which to me is one of the Seven Levels of Hell.

I know I should be 'in it to win it.' Or if winning isn't my thing, I should at least run with intent. I have a business, after all; maximizing my profits should be my goal, right? But the money part isn't what's important to me about being an artist. Creating things that make people smile is. I just wish brightening a person's day could also pay an artist's bills....

It frequently frustrates me to be that person who can't seem to figure this art thing out, especially since I've been doing it forever and am still just as clueless. And it doesn't help that I'm surrounded by a host of creative folks who are winning the game. I know they're savvy and work HARD, yet in comparison they make it look like boom, boom, boom -- success! What does that tell me? That for all my decades of trying to do this thing, I still suck so badly at it that maybe I should just throw in the towel.

But I can't throw in the towel. I might not be a businessperson, but I am an artist. I love what I do! Especially when it brightens someone's day. When that happens, the feeling is inde-freakin'-scribable. It's as if my heart blew a gentle kiss and it came back full circle like a solid-gold boomerang at full speed to knock the wind out of me and fill me up again x 10. WHOOSH. I just want to do it all again -- wash, rinse, repeat.

That process -- idea, creation, share, surprise, smile -- defines my work and why I do it. Add money into the equation and it tips the scales negatively. Something doesn't work out right. Does that make sense? I can't explain it.... It's like I'm happiest when I'm creating art in secret, to be gifted to an unsuspecting soul who just needs a pick-me-up. I don't even need to see them receive it! I don't even need to know who they are. Just creating that art with the intention of sharing it is healing for me somehow; it fills my well, and I do it as much for myself as I do it with others in mind. Going on then to imagine that my creation will be just what that person needs when they need it most is satisfying to me. Almost like payment.


But in the Real World it's not at all like payment. And payment is important.

Maybe I just need the right someone who can take what I do and make it work for me, financially as well as spiritually. Maybe I just need a big-ass dose of Art Management, or a semester of Biz101, or simply some sense knocked into me.

Or perhaps I'm just an artist who fears success. Ouch.


I find that rereading this post kind of makes me like myself. Go figure.

And that's a surprise that I needed today.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It Certainly Is

I'm thinking about this today.

Not necessarily the 'supporting' part so much as the 'work' part.

Because I'm up to my neck in it.

And it's both exhausting and exhilarating. :)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Day in the Life....

I wake to the sounds of lovebird Thurston downstairs shrieking from his cage, and a frantic look around tells me that the cat's not in bed with me. I immediately wonder if I left someone's cage door open overnight and Boo has taken notice.

Still half asleep and disoriented, I stub my toe on the door frame as I run for the stairs. Tattletale Thurston is fine, but I discover Lily's cage is open. She's safe on her perch as usual, now looking at me in alarm.

What was the problem? Thurston thought it was high time he was fed....

He's not the only one. My whole house is hungry.

Before bothering to turn on the kettle, I begin feeding the 30+ monarch caterpillars that are enclosed in their little beer cups on my kitchen counter. One by one. Leaf by leaf. Each 'cat' is studied (is it eating?, thriving?, otherwise healthy?). Each cup is emptied of its poop. Each leaf remnant is replaced with fresh milkweed. Each 'cat' is transferred onto its fresh leaf with a paintbrush....

The task takes time but could be so much worse. I've fostered 100+ caterpillars at one time in the past; feeding that many is a full-time affair. And today I'm also collecting info, taking pics, measuring one caterpillar in each instar phase -- all to be used as props and documentation in any opportunities I may have at this season's Fest to teach others about the monarchs.

Knee-deep in my caterpillar routine there's a familiar 'thunk' at my back door. I know what it is. This happens every morning on the days that I feed Lily and Thurston but fail to bring their spent seed and leftovers outside to the feeder. Sure enough -- moments later there's a scrabbling outside my kitchen and soon a grey squirrel is peering in the window over my sink, giving me the stink-eye as I stand at my counter.

I pause in my routine to bring seed outside to the feeder and I see him hiding behind the trunk of the mulberry, watching me with one eye. I see the chipmunk, too, hiding in the hostas. And beyond is Bad Bunny in a patch of blooming clover. Wrens dart from birdhouse to birdhouse, chittering. A monarch flutters up from the back corner, reminding me that I must check that dwindling milkweed patch for eggs and caterpillars. My back garden is full of activity and I long to pull up a patio chair, enjoy a cup of coffee, and just watch it. But there's too much to do....

A quick walk through the dining room in search of my reading glasses reveals the turtles in their tank,  finished with their breakfast now and further worrying a strip of plastic caulk in the corner of the aquarium. I pause to remove it and to appreciate their wonderfulness. Tiny turtle hatchlings, so small and perfect, almost like jewelry. And with SO much personality!

I quickly check Nell in her terrarium below them and notice she looks 'different.' Long hairy tarantula legs poking at odd angles from the end of her hollow log. A quick blow into the screen top doesn't make them retract, but it does make an additional pair of legs appear at the other end! The effect is bizarre and makes me think of a slinkydog or a pushme-pullyu. But it's just that she's moulted. I must remember to look for a jar or a specimen box just in case the moult is all in one piece (because how cool would that be??).

About the time I've finished feeding and checking on the others -- James's beta fish, his snake Syntche, the little housemouse, rattie Max -- Boo appears. It's foodtime for her, too. I've wondered where she's been hiding since my frantic wake-up call revealed she wasn't in bed with me. Or in any of her other hide-outs. Or underfoot, as usually happens first thing in the morning. Who knows where she's been? But wherever it was, I'm sure it's cozy. Someplace I'd like to curl up in if I were a cat.

I feed her before putting on my shoes and grabbing my tool caddies -- two cardboard 6-pack Guinness carriers wrapped in duct tape and outfitted with a pair of scissors, a bottle of drinking water, two ziploc containers lined with moist paper towels, and a little bottle of WD-40 in the event my bike -- 'Gladys' -- is especially squeaky. I pack everything into her basket and we're off.

And then I remember: I fed everyone but myself! Good thing I brought an apple. :)

The day is glorious. A Calvin and Hobbes day. The sun is warm on my back. The clouds are billowy overhead. I reach Postage Stamp Pond and it's too pretty for words, but I'd best keep my eye on the bike path so I can be sure to dodge the occasional pile of dog poop and the dozen or so fly-covered toads, all squashed into the tar by bike tires. Some sad in the midst of my happy.... The poop disgusts me. The toad bodies just break my heart. I love toads. I used to see so many of them when I was a child, and now it seems there are so few. So when I suspect they're being targeted on the walking path, it pains me. Although, to be fair, when James and I walked it recently at the very end of the day, it alarmed us how the toads looked just like rocks in front of us as they lay basking in the heat of the day-warmed path. Had we not been vigilant we'd have squashed a dozen or so between us. They didn't move, even when we prodded them with a toe. Perfect targets....

I ride to where the path meets the busy road. And instead of crossing and continuing on, I turn around, leave Gladys to graze on the verge, and begin to collect milkweed. Dried white spatters tell me where I harvested leaves the day before; the milkweed juice is opaque as paint. There are bees everywhere, and electric blue 'darning needles.' A family of Canada geese eyes me warily as I inch along, but I ignore them. My hunting turns up nothing but a single monarch egg.... I fill a plastic container with enough leaves for my existing herd and return to where Gladys waits on the bike path.

Back again in my cluttery kitchen I put the leaf with its little monarch egg into a shotglass full of fresh water. The ziploc containers with their fresh milkweed leaves get placed in the fridge; their contents will come in handy tonight when I feed and check the late-stage caterpillars before bed. It's afternoon now and all the monarch work is over for a bit, I think. But then I remember the little patch of dwindling milkweed at the bottom of my garden and I go outside to check it.

Happy day! -- three more hatchlings.

Work's not over yet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Wonder-Filled Visit

My champion -- aka the Grandson -- visited for a bit not long ago. As soon as his seatbelt was unbuckled he hit the ground running, and I could hear him excitedly shouting all the way to my back door.

"Gwamma! Guess what?" he said as he navigated the back step. "The Wild is in the pwayoffs!"

"The Wild?" I said. "The playoffs? Cool! They must be good at basketball."

He gave a puzzled look as I held the door for him. "Gwamma, don't you know anything about hockey??"

I do, sort of. I was teasing him. But it appears that I'll have to know a bit more about it in future if I want to earn his undying love and admiration.... He attempted to educate me as he peeled off his cap and shoes, filling me in about the stats and players and teams I've never heard of.

"The 'Blues?' The blue whats exactly? The Blue jays? The Blue birds?"

He rolled his eyes. "Gwamma, they're just the Bwoos. And the wed team is the Fwames."

"The 'Flames,' huh?"

"Yep. And they're wed because fire is WED."

"You don't say!" :)

First it was a game or two or twelve of Angry Birds. ("Gwamma, I will teach you how to pway. Watch and learn.")

Then it was outside for some croquet action. "Hey.... Did you buy this game Up North??" (Someone's obviously played croquet at a cabin.) Nevermind the stakes and hoops; we spent our time in the sun knocking each other's balls out of play and laughing as they rolled into the garden and under the vines.

In the course of our game we paused to watch the busy chickadees as they carved out a cavity in my locust tree. (The face of my Green Man merely looked amused as birds took turns darting in and out of his moustache.) The grandson was captivated, but only for a bit. Then it was back to the competition! He was The Wild and I was The Bwoos and there was no way he was going to let me win The Pway-Offs. :)

I didn't try too hard. And he made sure to encourage me after every swing I took that missed.

All too soon his mom phoned to tell us she was on her way, so before he left for home again we took a break for Freezie Pops.

It was a VERY good day. :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My New Ride

Looks like a 'Harriet' to me.
On a sunny Sunday a month ago, James and I took a different route home through the Village and we passed a big antiques shop that had metal trellises and galvinized tubs and other garden-type stuff out front. And there, chained together near the entrance, was a bunch of rusted bicycles. 

This one caught my eye.

What I liked about it so much was that it kind of reminded me of the bike I had as a kid. (Granted, mine was turquoise and had a 'buck seat' in back instead of a wire basket in front, but nevermind....) And this old rusty one looked like it was missing its little girl....

Well. I was old and rusty and missing my 'little girl', too. We had a lot in common.

I carefully looked her over, inquired inside about her, and asked James for his opinion, too. But I still walked away, wondering if this interest was just a momentary bout of silliness. I swear the bike looked hopeful for a second and then crestfallen! And on the rest of the way home, I kept revisiting memories of my own bicycle and the adventures we had together. It's been 40 years since I last rode a bike, but I can still remember the thrill. Who wouldn't want to revisit that if they could?

The memories were so strong. They kept me awake that night....

So the next morning I walked back to the antiques shop -- this time with some art money -- and I asked again about the bike. It took forever for the ladies there to find the key that would cull her from the rest of the herd, and afterward I tried to perch on her seat and urge her forward (in spite of her flat tires), just to see if I could do so without being frightened. When I saw that both feet could touch the ground easily, I bought her without thinking too much and walked her the rest of the way home.

James filled her tires that evening and dared me to give her a whirl around the block, but I was too self-conscious. What if I fell? Skinned my old knee? Broke my old hip? A friend my age had warned me: she tried out a new bike before purchasing, fell in the parking lot (to her embarrassment), and didn't hurt herself so much as scared herself, and she cautioned me to at least get a helmet before getting back in the saddle. So I used the 'lack of helmet' excuse to keep from riding her in front of James.

But the next morning? Safety gear be damned. I had to see if I could DO this after all these years. 

I was wrong. It's a 'Gladys.'
So I leapt on my new ride (a lie; I very sedately walked it to the curb, perched awkwardly on its seat, and tentatively got it going in a wobbly forward direction without falling off) and pedaled her around the block a few times. No sharp turns, no hard stops. All as easy-peasy as possible. Every passing car gave me a wide margin. And I imagined myself looking like a juggler on a unicycle, comically over-exaggerating my actions to make the audience think that at any moment I'll hit the ground. (That wasn't acting.)

There was much squeaking and jerking and flailing, but after a few near mishaps we sort of hit our stride together and I experienced a quick rush of memory: me as a kid on my Big Bike, the arch of its turquoise frame like the neck of a horse. It was my steed, carrying me to adventure. I'd kick it forward and throw my leg over its back like a trick rider, then gallop down the street no-handed, the wind in my hair....

No lie: that wind in my hair once again was exhilarating.

I rode again the next morning, this time to Postage Stamp Pond and back. Baby steps. Even though I'd lubricated some of her moving parts, we still groaned and squeaked our way through the streets. She didn't try to buck me off or turn me back towards home again like the day before, either! Progress. As we trotted together around the neighborhoods I kept thinking about a name. This bike looked like a 'Harriet' to me, and all the way home again I kept trying it out in my head.

That afternoon my Eldest phoned to ask me about my purchase and to surprise me with a tune-up at the nearby bike shop. A tune-up! Suddenly everything had gotten serious. But, I wondered, when my bike and I showed up for our appointment would the guys there laugh her out of the place? Would they laugh ME out of the place?? There was only one way to find out.

Not wanting to ride her there and risk wiping out spectacularly (or otherwise looking ridiculous), I walked her the few blocks to Jerry's Schwinn and braced myself for the comments. But the young man there who'd written up the order ran a hand over her neck and said, "Ooooh, a classic. She's in really good shape!" He could tell at a glance that some parts would need replacing and he wasn't sure if they were even available anymore, so it would take a few days before I'd know whether or not she could be restored to decent ride-ability. But he promised to take good care of her.

As I returned home, I kept imagining what I would do when it came time to pick her up again, promising myself that I'd get James to drive there with his car so we could just load her up in back and I could try her out again in private. But within a few days I got a call saying she was ready, and to my surprise I immediately hung up the phone and walked there with my claim slip. A different man was behind the counter. "So the Beast is going home!" he laughed, and I cringed a little bit. This would be interesting....

I almost look like I know what I'm doing!
As he led my rusty steed out from the back room he said, "I tried it out and have to say it moves pretty well for an old tank." More cringing. With the subtraction of my tune-up I had just enough dollars in my pocket for a helmet, so I chose a blue one and tried it on for size. The man showed me how to adjust it to fit, and I paid for it without taking it off. "You gonna ride 'er home?" he joked as he held the door for me. I hesitated. Originally I thought I didn't have enough for the safety gear, and that would've again been my Big Excuse. But I was armed now. So I gingerly climbed aboard and took off.

And I didn't stop.


I rode along the river, past my high school poetry teacher's former cottage with its white picket fence, past grand new homes made of brick and stone and money. I struggled up little hills, my thighs burning. I flew down little inclines, my braids flying. 

As I pedaled, I kept thinking about the little girl whose bike mine might have been. Did she go on adventures? Pretend her bike was a horse? Did she take it to the library for some summer vacation reading? Ride it to the corner store for gum or popsicles or comic books?

It's been a glorious month since my bike and I first made eye contact, and during that time we've been everywhere together, or at least everywhere that doesn't involve traffic or other bikes or too many obstacles.... Not comfortable with the name I'd dubbed her, my new ride insisted on being called 'Gladys,' a far better fit. And at first she tried throwing me from potholes and steering me into ponds, but I think that had more to do with my 'bikemanship' skills than any headstrong attitude on her part

Interestingly, James has also fallen for her charms. He's surprised Gladys with a fancy bike lock (as if anyone would steal her) and has tempered her old seat with a new gel-filled cover so that this rider isn't quite so saddle-sore after galloping across summer afternoons of sunshine and butterflies. (He's also checked into getting a similar bike of his own!)

Since my purchase I've seen other 'coaster bikes' for sale at flea markets and novelty shops. Others in far better shape than Gladys. Higher priced than Gladys, too. But she and I are a good match. It makes me happy to think I've rescued her from possibly becoming some woman's garden ornament, and I imagine her gratefulness for this second chance at adventure. Yeah, a new bike might possibly have been cheaper than the repairs I just paid for (not by a long shot, as it turns out). 

But you can't buy good vibes and memories.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Head's exploding a little! I need to change things up, I'm thinking.

There are readers here -- friends in real life -- who don't make a habit of commenting on my blogposts, but will contact me via email about them. And that's perfect!

That being said: I'm learning that the recent accidental postings (OK, not so recent; it was a month ago) of my daily email blast have resonated with some of them, and their comments remind me of a conversation I had with my Eldest ages ago, one in which she told me that my daily email needs to be my blog. It's more 'me.' Because I don't edit myself there like I tend to do here.

Why, exactly? That's had me wondering....

I feel like I have to be careful here; Mayfaire is my biz and I worry about its 'brand.' Would sharing my scars and my daily highs and lows hurt my biz? I haven't wanted to take that chance....


Should I create a second blog?

Wondering, wondering.... And I've been wondering now for weeks.

It's not the only thing that's making my head explode exactly. There's a whole buttload of stuff going on right now that gives me tons to think about:
  • It's summer vacation!
  • I'm having Trip-of-a-Lifetime flashbacks
  • What's up with my Etsy store??
  • Monarch butterfly season here at Tumbledown has begun
  • Fest prep is underway
  • How can I turn my recent creations into Fest products?
  • My gardens are SHAGGY and in need of attention
  • My house is shaggier....
  • And -- it's summer vacation! (My inner child can't seem to get around this and knuckle down.)
Yikes! I'm not sure where to focus my attention.... But that's normal for me, isn't it?

So now you know: In the weeks that I've been silent, blogwise, it's simply the usual chaos here. Making everything crazier than it needs to be is apparently my superhero power. :)

I'll try to get things under control enough to write again. Until then!

I heart you, my friend,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oops x 3

Big thankyous to the well-meaning reader who let me know I'd done it again, only this time for multiple days in a row: I sent a daily email out to a handful of family and friends and accidentally included my blog's link in the group, so last week the Maily saw three days of Happy Thotz it wasn't supposed to see.
Was I perhaps unaware, she wondered? Oh yeah. And so yesterday I finally corrected the problem (unlike last time when I think I said I would and then immediately forgot about it).

This has happened before, you'll recall. My blog's e-address has an asterisk next to it in my contacts list -- just like the names of the recipients who hear from me every day. This time, though, everything went undetected. And because a dozen or so readers have already seen or received the errant posts, I haven't bothered to delete them. They're nothing spectacular anyway, and at least they make my blog look like something's happening here.


I really have made adjustments this time and am confident that these blog thoughts and my daily Happy Thotz will no longer cross paths.

But really? Why is this even a thing??....

(*wondering, wondering*)


Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Thoughts for 5/15 (w/pics)

Yay -- it's WEEKEND EVE. My favorite day of the week. From here, the weekend stretches out like an endless vacation; Monday isn't even a thought on the horizon! Fridays are so hopeful, aren't they? Let the happydancing begin. :)
Barbara Ann Kipfer's FIVE THINGS TO BE HAPPY ABOUT (from her book 14,000 Things to be Happy About):
  1. Lobster pots.
  2. Spending a weekend alone with the cat.
  3. Liberty silver dollars.
  4. Ribbon candy.
  5. A balcony resting in the top branches of an oak tree.
Henry W. Reich's FIVE THINGS THAT REALLY PISS ME OFF (from his book 2,501 Things That Really Piss Me Off):
  1. Wine in a box.
  2. The people next door.
  3. The floor plan of my house was laid out by Maurits Escher.
  4. I never saw J. Edgar Hoover in his party frock.
  5. The incredibly loud sound of dripping water the morning after some serious drinking.
  1. A 'Home Sweet Home' sign.
  2. Bubble wands.
  3. Remembering what I went into a room for....
  4. Using a book's dust jacket as a bookmark.
  5. Flicker bulbs.
Nope. No poopyheadedness allowed today. It's Weekend Eve!
The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.
    ~Franklin P. Jones
It rained all day yesterday -- a quiet, drippy, soaking rain that cast the house in shadows. All the pets hunkered down for the day; Boo curled upstairs on her pillow, the birds tucked their heads under their wings. Even Max, in his very fragrant cage, lay wound in a ball so tight I couldn't tell where he ended or began. The only 'sunlight' was the basking lamp in the aquarium warming two very tiny turtles, each with their head and legs stretched out in a happy turtle yoga pose.... I spent my day creating an art piece for a group installation while streaming episodes of the original 'Dark Shadows' series. The piece is due SOON and I've been stewing about it for months, mostly because it's highly personal and tackling the subject has proven to be one of the most difficult things I've done, artwise. So it helped yesterday to have my thoughts taken up by a show that really made an impact on me in childhood. I think it's funny that 'Dark Shadows' was never watched in my own growing-up home (that I can recall), so I probably only ever saw a dozen episodes at my friend Julie's house. Its time slot was brilliant as it was broadcast just as kids were getting home from school, but did she and I really tune in every afternoon? I doubt it. Did we watch it over summer vacation? I don't think so.... So yesterday I thought about it all as I surrounded myself with art supplies. If I'd really seen only a handful of episodes, why did they make such an impression on me? Was it the way the show was filmed? Videotape made me feel as though there was no television between me and Collinwood. There was no hiss and hum of film, no gauzy 'this was shot yesterday' kind of thing to it all. It felt 'live.' And so my childhood self had no problem inserting herself into those cobwebby sets. Was it the shadowy Gothic atmosphere? Did it call to something inside me -- some fascination with the invisible and the supernatural -- that I hadn't found the words for yet? Or did it just appeal to my deep love of rainy days and mystery stories?.... I did make some progress on my art. And after a whole day of back-to-back 'Dark Shadows' episodes, I'll admit that they began to run together. But today they're still going strong, and I'm interested to see how any changes that have been made in the series over the seasons will affect me. I don't remember it being in color. I don't remember the Time Travel story arcs. This should be interesting. And hopefully some art will be created, too....
Me here: This wonder-filled watercolor is by one of my fave illustrators, Charles Vess, for the cover of a book by one of my fave authors, Charles de Lint. This little Emporium is something I'd love to own and live above. Everything about it -- from the framed Mucha poster to the shelves of hardcover books, the case full of tchotchkes to the tall shadowy ceilings -- just sings to me. What a wonder! And if the figure in the painting was wearing a black t-shirt and readers and had salt-and-pepper hair held up with a fork, that would be me.... :)
THE DAILY FLAME (Message from Your Inner Pilot Light, courtesy of Dr. Lissa Rankin):
Dear You:
Do me a favor, my love. Make some space in your life for me to fan my flames. 
Busyness, chaos, and clutter limit my oxygen, whereas sacred space, silence, and free time help my home fires roar.    
Your Inner Pilot Light
Me here: Oh dear. I'll try to address the chaos and clutter, but I can't make any promises....
(Me here, again: Want your own daily message? Visit for "daily email reminders from the core of who you are about how to live, love, heal & thrive.")
NEW: The MUTTS Comic of the Day:
Artwork copyright Patrick McDonnell
NEW! Suggestions from The Check Book -- 200 Ways to Balance Your Life by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie:
Pay no attention to time for an entire weekend. Don't set your alarm clock. Cover all the clocks in your house. Don't wear a watch. Simply let things happen when they happen.
A LITTLE SOMETHING: says that some of today's celebratory events include:
International Day of Families
National Bike to Work Day
National Chocolate Chip Day
National Pizza Party Day
O. Henry Pun-off Day
Straw Hat Day
Enjoy your Weekend Eve! May there be art, books, a movie, loved ones, and time spent outside under the sky.
More on Moonday,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Thoughts for 5/14 (w/pics)

Happy rainy Thursday! Here we go:
Barbara Ann Kipfer's FIVE THINGS TO BE HAPPY ABOUT (from her book 14,000 Things to be Happy About):
  1. Playing Crazy Eights.
  2. A flawless sea.
  3. Heat-resistant, clear-glass mugs.
  4. Abandoning all your senses to a field of wildflowers.
  5. Heavy Romanian crystal.
Henry W. Reich's FIVE THINGS THAT REALLY PISS ME OFF (from his book 2,501 Things That Really Piss Me Off):
  1. Pete Rose has not been elected to the Hall of Fame.
  2. There's no longer a distinction between fame and notoriety; it's now all just celebrity.
  3. Naming airplane luggage after Amelia Earhart and expecting it to arrive at its destination.
  4. Not being allowed to play on the Net all day at work.
  5. Pork barrel legislation, especially when introduced by congressmen who loudly proclaim their aversion to high taxes and government waste.
  1. A friendly letter in the mail. (<3)
  2. Hot coffee, cool shadows, soft rain.
  3. That satisfying feeling that comes with tucking a bedspread underneath the pillows.
  4. Binge-watching an old favorite series.
  5. The smell of a newly-sharpened pencil.
We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
    ~Albert Einstein
Yesterday was all about cleaning and exercise. And after all the vacuuming was done, I took a long walk along the bike trail, past little ponds and the backyards of generic beige houses. I saw Canadien geese with their goslings, and mallards with their ducklings. I heard redwing blackbirds in the trees and saw milkweed fingers pushing up through the grass. It'd been months since I'd last passed it, but there was the shaggy and overgrown yard of my favorite house on the trail, with its paint-flaked birdhouses and weathered picket fence. I reminded myself to let the homeowners know just how much I appreciate their aesthetic.... I hadn't meant to walk so far, but I couldn't help continuing on to Pheasant Ridge. I discovered where the fire was, the one that James and I saw from a distance not long ago. All the cattails and brush in the wetland area was nothing but char. Sad.... And then it was home again, to a letter in the billbox and a glass of mead to read it with. Tacos for supper and a murder mystery on the telly. And now today it's all about drawing while streaming old episodes of Dark Shadows. Everytime I hear that theme song I can remember being small-ish (Ten? Eleven?) and sitting on the edge of her bed in my best friend Julie's room while she swooned over Barnabas Collins and I swooned over the dark, Gothic interior of Collinwood. (Or the 3-room set of Collinwood; I had no idea it was a stage and not the wonder-filled, shadowy, maze of a mansion that I imagined it to be.) And then years later when it was rerun again on television, I can remember occasionally calling in sick to work so I wouldn't miss the highlights. I can remember Barnabas's old cobwebby house with its crusty woodwork and dust-covered windows, and artist Sam Evans's cottage studio with its bachelor interior and enormous window, and the sensation that all was being videotaped live. A perfect show for bringing back the memories....
Me here: Bad photo, but here's a little interior shot that I found online of Sam Evans's painting studio from the series. As a kid, I couldn't imagine a better place to live/work, with easels everywhere and diffused light from that window. I imagined the outside of the cottage to be shabby and overgrown, not realizing again that it was just a set, and that the windows were frosted and foliage-covered for a reason.
THE DAILY FLAME (Message from Your Inner Pilot Light, courtesy of Dr. Lissa Rankin):
Dear You:
You're asking me what I really love to do? You care how I want you to dress? You're paying attention to who I like to hang out with?    
I've SO been waiting for you to ask!  
Because if you let me guide you in your career, your relationships, your health, and your life, all the pieces will naturally fall into place.
Grateful you asked,
Your Inner Pilot Light
(Me here: Want your own daily message? Visit for "daily email reminders from the core of who you are about how to live, love, heal & thrive.")
NEW: The MUTTS Comic of the Day:
Artwork copyright Patrick McDonnell
NEW! Suggestions from The Check Book -- 200 Ways to Balance Your Life by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie:
Get yourself a coloring book and a box of crayons and color a picture for someone you love.
A LITTLE SOMETHING: says that today is:
National Buttermilk Biscuit Day
National Dance Like a Chicken Day
The Stars and Stripes Forever Day
Underground America Day
Enjoy your day today. And may there be a shadowy, book-filled corner there where you can take a break and read and dream.
More tomorrow,