Saturday, June 28, 2008

Do I need a new model?

Things started out amicably enough. He was right there, usually in front of the TV or playing a video game in the basement, and always willing to help me out. He seemed to instinctively know the right way to wear my vintage hats--like a young Barbara Stanwyck, perhaps, or even Grace Kelly. That kind of elegance, that poise, cannot be taught.

Lately, however, I've been wondering whether I'm wrong to confine myself to just one model. I've had this happen before, you nurture their talent, teach them everything you know, and then one day New York calls, or Milan, and they're gone on the next plane without a glance back. To a life so exciting, even our new Halo 3 game cannot compete.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still happy with his work, but there's something I can't quite put my finger on. Some glint in his eye, a distance perhaps, that tells me he's thinking more about his next career move than my needs. Take these photos from our recent photo shoot--he starts out happy enough, but by the end... well, you be the judge.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Branching Out: The Pear Project

Beginning this week, I'm pleased to say that, in addition to my Etsy shop, some of my jewelry will also be available on the Pear Project, a website that carries a variety of goods made by artisans from all over.

Brooke Fuller, founder of the Pear Project, runs the business from her studio in North Carolina. In addition to being a savvy marketer, Brooke is a photographer, jewelry maker, and big believer in using recycled items (her bracelets made from repurposed tin are a great example).

"Artisan goods for everyday life" is the Pear Project's tagline. "A purse can come from a department store, or you can buy something unique that was made in a small quantity," Brooke explains. "Not only do you have a gorgeous bag, but you are also supporting an independent artist or craftsperson who is making a career out of what they love."

The shop carries bags and purses, household goods, jewelry, fine art prints, and paper goods "with a modern twist and utilitarian appeal, hand picked from a variety of submissions," she says. This is a small venue (one of its advantages), but it's expanding and constantly adding new artists and items. Here are a few of the other goodies you'll find there. (Guess which one's mine.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Studio

The headline is a bit of a joke. I've been looking at other blogs with pictures of cute little cabins in the backyard, full of windows and light with ivy climbing the sides, where the artist can be an artiste. What I have here is a corner in the basement with a few shelves and a card table. But, on the plus side, the basement is three-fourths finished, a project we started and abandoned more than a year ago (and, if I had to bet, one that will remain undone until some time far in the future when we sell the house).

My basement also has a number of windows and a rarely used air hockey table that I can spread things out on (when I was growing up, it was a rarely used pool table; every basement needs something like it). So I can't complain. I don't imagine I'll ever get a little freestanding studio of my own, but if I can train my kids not to set their Nintendo controllers down in the middle of my work bench, at least I'll have my own little corner.

....And, on an unrelated note, here's a picture of a new necklace I finished this week. Why not?

Monday, June 16, 2008

My blog's smarter than I am

I just found out my blog is a genius. Yep, that's right. (Oh no. Did it just drop a few IQ points? Do geniuses say "yep"?)

Someone in the Etsy forums gave a link to a site that will rate the readability of your blog, from grade school to genius. The Blog Readability Test supposedly rates what level of education is needed to understand your blog. Of course, it says nothing about the quality of the layout or features, the value of the information, or the uniqueness of the views presented. And having a high level in the blog world is not necessarily a good thing.

I used to work on a professional journal where we thought it was fine to challenge the reader, even make them crack their dictionaries once in a while, but publications with a broader audience often find it necessary to "dumb down" the vocabulary and monitor the length and complexity of the sentences.

I'll admit I'm a snob though. I cringe (don't we all) when listening to speeches by our fine leader, still-President Bush, and it's sad to compare that with the level of thought and range of vocabulary displayed by your average person not fifty or seventy years ago. Our knowledge of words is contracting, and our patience with complexity has all but disappeared.

I could lament this sad state of affairs, along with the decline of the American newspaper and the quality of our education, but instead I'll share this quote by the great Nobel Prize-winning writer V.S. Naipaul: "There can be no showing off in literature. You want simply to be read." I think this applies to blogs as well.

Genius, shmenius.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Debra Drexler: The Pre-New York Show

My friend Debra is leaving in a few weeks for a one-woman show in New York at the Blue Mountain Gallery, but she held a preview for a few friends at her St. Louis studio. Debra's on sabbatical this year from her job as a professor at the University of Hawaii, so she's been splitting her time between St. Louis (home) and New York (opportunity).

Here's a few of her new paintings, from a collection she's calling Pool of Reflection (but another friend fondly dubbed Volcano Heads). My pictures are not that great (a little skewed), but the paintings are really striking--very large (as is most of her work) and with wonderful colors and movement. I'll be going to New York myself later this summer to catch the show (it runs July 8 to 26) and as many other New York sites as I can cram into five days!

A few other photos from the preview: Debra with a painting of the red tide, in honor of our ill-timed trip to Florida last fall, and
Debra in one of the hats I made her model for me (and I'm still grieving that they don't fit me).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Saturday sales

Oh yes. Saturday garage and estate sales, and I came home with a bunch of good stuff but nothing so cool as these hats. Upright Midwestern church-going hats these are (Methodist, I would guess, or possibly Presbyterian). The woman who sold these to me said she remembered her grandmother dressing in her little suits and gloves and then putting on the hat right before she went out the door. Neat as a pin.

I remember my own grandmothers (both Methodist) doing the same (though their hats are long
gone), as did my mother for a time. My mother-in-law continued wearing her hats to church (Lutheran) until last year, when she no longer felt well enough to attend, and she loved the comments and compliments, especially when she pulled out the lovely fake leopard skin hat from the fifties. I've got a few of her hats now, but they're too small for me, whereas these lovelies came from another big-headed woman.

Big enough for my 13-year-old son (agnostic) to model for me, right before he took off for a boy scout car wash.

Now that's something grandma didn't expect.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Making the bears dance

A few days ago, in an argument in Etsy forums, the following concept was raised by vintage seller and seamstress PetitPoulailler:

“According to RG Collingwood, Principles of Art, what distinguishes the artist from the craftsman is that the craftsman has a precise notion of what she is constructing. The artist, in contrast, performs her creations to learn what they become. And in learning what they become, the artist informs herself about something previously unknown to the artist.”

It’s an interesting distinction—and not one that should be seen as a putdown for craftsmen. It’s just a different approach to the visual arts. I think the distinction can also be seen in literature. The writer of literary fiction begins with questions or a vague direction and ventures into the unknown, whereas someone writing genre fiction (such as mysteries) would begin with a plot—a detailed map of the journey and destination.

I would consider my own jewelry firmly in the artisan camp, though there is still an element of surprise and serendipity involved (plus what my art teacher mother would call "the happy accident"), which makes me think that the boundaries between these two ways of working are not always so clear cut. Even with a map, there is going to be the occasional detour or insight that pushes the piece in an unexpected direction.

One of my favorite quotations (only tangentially related, but I never get a chance to use it!) is by Gustave Flaubert:

“Language is a cracked kettle on which we bang out tunes to make the bears dance, when what we long for is to move the stars to pity.”