Back in the Studio!
I will confess, I have been back in the studio for a couple of years now, but frankly updating this web site was not on the top of my list. I would rather make glass! I took a 5 year hiatus to earn a law degree (done!) and am happily back at my artwork. Today in the kiln I have spring green vitrigraph bubbling along awaiting a pull in a couple of hours. I dragged out my cats from long ago and am busy designing pieces around them. One kiln is cooling from a tac fuse full of experiments, the slumping kiln is fallow, and the third is - unwell. I have been enjoying making dragonflies and butterflies and other garden-y things full of color and light. I have a new cricut, too, and that has allowed me to make tags for my work - something I've needed to do for a long time, but there is always a long list! I'm particularly pleased with my new botanicals series - check out the New wall work section.
Not quite my name in lights, but...
This has been an exciting few months. I was offered a show at a local museum (to take place October 2013), I was featured in Tallahassee Magazine www.tallahasseemagazine.com/January-Feb…, and then in The Crafts Report in March viewer.zmags.com/publication/2696f06d#/…. I am busy working on pieces for the show (pix soon I hope). It's wonderful to be recognized. It's more wonderful to have people happy with my work!
New Work in October!
It has been a HOT summer in Tallahassee. We ordinarily have humidity, but this summer has been exceptional - lots of rain (and the mosquitoes that come with it) together with many, many 99 plus days. However, I've spent the summer in the studio, playing with many new ideas. I've designed a new line of botanical vessels; a new line of both vessels and vases with wonderfully curvy vitrigraph stringer; and some other things I'm not even ready to hint about yet. WATCH THIS SPACE!!
Wholesalecrafts dot com
Galleries can now purchase my work on Wholesalecrafts.com. If you don't know about this site, it's fabulous - all password-protected and safe for both artists and retailers. I'll try to keep everything current, although I'm still mastering how they want images to be uploaded! Thanks in advance...Cheryl
Zero Waste (It's Easy Being Green)
One of the things I love about glass is its infinite possibility. Of course, sometimes that possibility is like a blank page – those sheets of glass, all lined up in rows, staring at me – just daring me to raise my cutter and violate their solid perfection, as if I could make something worthy of them. But I digress. The possibility that I mean today is the fact that fusible glass can be re-fused if it breaks, doesn’t work out quite the way I planned, refuses to cooperate – you get the drift. Gil Reynolds (I think) says, “Never refuse to re-fuse.” My grandmother understood this perfectly. She raised 5 children in the midst of the Great Depression (and one of them’s my Mom, who turned out great). She was a quilter back when you didn’t go out and buy fabric – you used the cloth from old clothes, flour sacks, worn-out blankets, and whatever else you could find. Oh, and you also didn’t quilt it in a fancy Bernina sewing machine – her quilts were tied with embroidery floss. Mom just found one of her quilts and gave it to me – I’m thrilled. Grandma was amazing. Anyway, I run what I call a “zero-waste” studio – every scrap of glass gets used, re-used, re-fused, whatever! As I was cutting glass for a project today, I started thinking about what the life of a sheet of glass is in my studio. First, it arrives crated from the factory, interleaved with textured paper to keep it from breaking in transit. I don’t have a loading dock (next studio!) so I pry off the top of the crate, and hand-carry each sheet to the studio and slot it into its proper place. I keep clear glass in one place, opalescent in another, iridized clear glass in a third, and then transparent glasses. A single sheet of glass is about 2 feet by 4 feet, and weighs about 9 pounds. And yes, the edges are sharp! As a guy at Art Glass House in Coco Beach said, “Glass bites.” That sheet could sit in the studio for weeks or months before its turn comes. I grab the sheet – tonite it was a light green transparent for some palm plates – and mark with a Sharpie where I want to cut. These particular pieces needed to be 4 inches by 14 inches. You might guess – glass never is quite the right amount for what I need. There’s always something left over – or the piece that doesn’t break quite right after it’s scored and then can’t be used. So what happens? Well, if the piece is big – say, half a sheet – it goes back into the storage rack. But all those other pieces – the loose bits ,cut-off edges, and bad breaks – go into a series of bins by color. I have plastic bins on shelves (I think they were intended for kids’ toys) to store glass by color, so I have a couple of bins of greens, one with yellow, one with reds and oranges, etc. I only use Bullseye Glass, so it’s all compatible. Once glass lands in the bin, one of 3 things happens to it. Either it gets used in a high-fire melt, which I use to create the gems that are in my vessels and mermaid vases, or it gets put into a flowerpot and re-melted for vitrigraph stringer (those wonderful, loose, organic lines that I pull hot from the kiln) or it gets made into frit. Frit is a nice word for crushed glass, and I make this by heating the glass up and dropping it into cold water. This is not ordinarily a good idea, as it shatters the glass, but that’s the idea with frit! So that single sheet of glass might show up in a series of palm plates, then in the gems in a mermaid vase, in vitrigraph stringer and in frit. Oh, and if a piece doesn’t work out, it goes into a big tub where I keep my hammer. Yes, you guessed it – I smash that uncooperative piece of glass into bits and…well, it just keeps on going. Grandma called it “Waste not, want not.” Gil calls it re-fusing. I call it zero waste. How cool is that?!
The Hardest "Easy" Question
I lost count a long time ago of the number of times I’ve been asked, “How long does it take you to make…” whatever. It would be so much easier if I could figure out a simple answer, but there isn’t one. Where do I start? With the years it’s taken me to learn the technique (that sounds pretty dodgy, but I’ve heard artists do it. In truth, every piece of glass is a learning experience, so I could just say “all my life.” I don’t think that would make anyone happy though). If I start with the piece in question – it’s still not that straightforward. Where is the beginning? From the time I pick out and order the glass (arrange for shipping, give directions to the semi driver, haul the glass into my studio and regret the absence of a loading dock?) Or I could go back farther – time I spend establishing a wholesale account, getting a business license and a tax license and then filing quarterly taxes (which by the way are due, come to think of it!) I could start from the time I start the components for a specific piece – but even that’s a little fuzzy. How about the time I spend scraping off the last batch of kiln wash, mixing a new batch and brushing it on? Where do I count the time that goes into a piece that doesn’t work – but ties up the kiln nonetheless? Just today I pulled out a beautiful vase – except for the split down one side. Now I need to make another vase, in the same colors, for the gallery that ordered it, and decide how to recycle the glass that went into the first vase (which is, incidentally, one of the things I love about glass. No waste!). And what do I do with the time that work is in the kiln, so I’m not physically touching it, but I am monitoring the firing cycle? Glassmaking isn’t a continuous process. I make a component and leave it to fire, while I go tend to something else – something that needs to be sandblasted, or polished, or ground – or shipped, a process that consumes my entire large kitchen with enormous boxes, bubble wrap, and those blasted peanuts. Then I go back into the kiln room, pull a piece out of the cooled kiln, and clean it so it can go on to the next step. Once it’s dry, it either goes into another kiln or waits for kiln time- even with 4 kilns, two very large, there’s always scheduling issues. Thick pieces, for example, take a LONG time to fuse – they need to heat up slowly, and cool down even more slowly. While I’ll take out a vase blank from the kiln when it’s still a couple hundred degrees, thick pieces don’t get touched until they are cold – the outside of the glass cools way before the center, and taking out this kind of glass too early can ruin a piece entirely. Speaking of which, where do I put the time that I spend fixing my equipment – my wonderful tile saw that seems to have a problem with the pump that sends water onto the blade so glass doesn’t break from the heat of cutting? What about the time I spend cleaning the studio so I can find things again – a process which generally ends up with me yelling about something else I’ve misplaced in the process of cleaning. Oh, and then there’s hanging – the archival adhesive that takes 7 days to set up and needs 4 steps of cleaning the glass first, not to mention figuring out how to prop it up while it dries, and where it will be safe from me and the marauding dashund. Right now I’m using a corner of the kitchen (hubby’s out of town!) to prop up a huge vase that needed a base to counterbalance its weight while the adhesive does its magic. (I do love this adhesive, but 7 days? Seriously?? Of course, once those 7 days are up, that adhesive is stronger than the glass, so I guess I can give it a week.) My methods are a constant juggling act – what’s on the cutting table, what’s in the kiln, what’s waiting for the kiln, what glass am I running out of, which supplier has the fugitive glass, what needs coldworking or design work. I love it all (okay, not sandblasting, but I tolerate it for the effect.)
But I’m really hoping that, when you ask me how long it took to make a piece, you’ll understand when I start with, “It depends….”!
I can’t remember which of my many wonderful instructors told me that if you work in glass, there should be a reason. Why glass, and not some other medium? I love glass. I love the way that it bends light, and sparkles, and the way it can be both transparent/translucent and opaque. Glass is magic to me. It’s alchemy in modern form – who needs gold when you can have glass?
But the question of “why glass?” has stuck in my head for many years now. I’ll be working along, assembling a piece or drenching myself cold-working and there it will be, that question, echoing in my brain. I think I’ve finally stumbled on the answer.
I wanted to be a quilter. My grandmother, who died when I was just 13, was a wonderful, crazy, inventive person. She never had any money, but that didn’t slow her down one bit. Once when I was staying with her, we found a stuffed bear on a trash heap. I wanted that bear, even though it was pretty faded. Not a problem! We bought several packets of 10-cent kool-aide and used that for dye. Back then, you could buy the kind with sugar or without sugar (maybe you still can, but I haven’t had Kool-Aide in many years). Even though we bought the kind without sugar (which was much cheaper anyway) that bear was still a little sticky. So, I called it Candy.
That was vintage Grandma. Once Grandpa’s truck didn’t pass inspection because of a dim tail light. Well, she wasn’t about to go out and buy a new tail light! Instead, she bought a cheap bottle of bright red nail polish and painted the inside of that tail light. Passed inspection!!
I’m not sure whether Grandma made her crazy quilts because they didn’t cost much – she made old-fashioned quilts, the kind that were made from fabric that used to be my dresses and my brother’s shirts. They were backed in hot pink, which I loved. Quilts make me think of her, and of her wonderful attitude toward life. Given lemons, Grandma wouldn’t stop with lemonade – she’d beat the pants off Martha Stewart in a creativity contest.
It turns out that Grandma’s quilts and glass have at least one thing in common – they’re recycled. Not every glass piece I make (who am I kidding?!?) turns out the way I want it. Some are downright ugly. But I never throw them away. What would Grandma say?? Instead, I recycle every bit of that glass into something new. Roger Thomas, a wonderful glassmaker in the Pacific Northwest, says that you can always find a beautiful square inch in anything. Sometimes I leave a piece that doesn’t feel right in a corner for months, or years, until it’s ready (and I’m ready) to be something else.
Grandma’s not the only reason I work in glass. My dad is an engineer, and I grew up at a dinner table full of talk about mechanics. Whenever Dad had a case – he did a lot of accident reconstruction – he’d buy a new version of whatever it was that caused the trouble. Sometimes that was very cool, like when we had to help test a go-kart. Other times it was a little annoying – Dad had so many cases about faulty wiring that he was always unplugging everything. It’s very hard to make toast in an unplugged toaster – I should know, having tried so many times.
Glass is amazingly mechanical. I re-wire my kilns when the relays fail, replace elements and thermocouples. I run a tile saw, a wet-belt sander, an orbital sander, a sandblaster with its compressor and very annoying piping that always seems to clog. I trouble-shoot the pressure pot (with a little help from my friends). And then there’s the technical aspects of glass that have nothing to do with machinery – coefficient of expansion, annealing, setting up the kiln furniture to contain a thick casting, and calculating firing schedules. It’s dirty, and messy, and wet – and I love it. But there’s no way that I could do it if I hadn’t had Dad to teach me not to be afraid of tools (and dirt, and grease, and a little blood).
I doubt that either one of them would have predicted that I would become a glass artist. But in hindsight, it’s perfectly clear why I work in glass.
Spring, Pollen, Creativity
I learned early on in my glass career to keep working even if bleeding - blood burns off in the kiln. (Okay, in all honesty, there is a point at which there is TOO MUCH blood, and then I have to stop. Sometimes it's just that I've been lashed by the very pointy end of a vitrigraph stringer - those things are like needles! Other times, I judge my own tiredness by the frequency of injury - if I do something stupid, or keep cutting myself, it's time to pack up for the night.) But snot??
I haven't always had allergies. I don't remember any as a kid. But they say that if you live in Tallahassee long enough, you'll develop them. I think I actually figured out my allergies in Maryland, but now that I'm back near Tallahassee, man are they HERE. So how is it that I find myself in my studio, making wall art of ... flowers?? The streets are full of the petals from ornamental pear, cherry, Japanese magnolia (too early for my standard magnolia to bloom) and this weekend, for the first time I noticed the wisteria. It is magnificent - in between sneezes.
It's hard to whine too much - after all, many of my friends around the country are still dealing with the cold (at least not snow, just now!!) but...(excuse me while I sneeze. Again.) even my cats have allergies (and not just to the dog!)
Good thing snot burns off in the kiln, too.
Check out the launch of Wholesale Artists Guild. It's a great group of folks (if I do say so myself) but you can blame them for all the prices disappearing from the web site. There are big differences in selling retail (like at shows) and selling wholesale (through galleries) and pricing is just one element. Easier to take prices off than to confuse everyone!!
So click away - www.wholesaleartistsguild.com - and have a GREAT 2011!
10 Things I Learned on my "Summer" Vacation
1. I don't really understand the significance of tango.
We started our trip in Buenos Aires, where we spent 3 beautiful days wandering the neighborhoods of this very clean, cosmopolitan city with its wide avenues and purple and orange jacaranda trees. We visited El Caminito in La Boca, the ¡§Disneyland of Tango, and did our best not to get pulled in by the relentless street barkers (we've encountered much worse!) One night, we went to El Querandi, a classic tango show in an old neighborhood; they¡¦ve been doing their show for more than 100 years. The tango is lovely, but it's just a dance to me. They also have "sung tango" and I understand that even less. We managed not to come home with tango T-shirts, coasters, posters, or other schlock. We did manage to see their major monuments, including an obelisk that looks a lot like the Washington Monument, and this amazing flower sculpture that opens every morning and closes every evening. The people were friendly and kind, and we enjoyed our visit. It helped that John secured a room in a very nice Hilton with hotel points ¡V there is some advantage to all his travel, even if it¡¦s hard for me to remember that during the year.
2.Timing really IS everything.
We left Buenos Aires on board the MS Veendam, with our first stop in Montevideo, Uruguay. We got off the ship and wandered around a perfectly lovely seaport, full of typical tree-lined city squares, a few nice art galleries, and a lot of street murals, many of which paid tribute to Torres Garcia, the city¡¦s most famous artist. But it didn't feel remarkable at all. We headed back to the ship for lunch (hey, it's free there). After lunch, we went back into town (on a mission to find Diet Coke). Instead, we found a vibrant, amazing city full of laughter, amazing looking food, and crafts. Apparently we just had to wait for the city to wake up! Next time, we'll eat in town.
3.Exotic animals don't usually hang out in comfy, sunny places.
We sailed for two days from Uruguay to the Falkland Islands (yup, those Falklands) which are pretty close to the middle of nowhere. The islands are basically a big peat marsh, with nothing taller than 3 or 4 inches. They raise a lot of sheep, and the sheep shelter in the undulations of the land. There are a few roads, in town (Port Stanley) but if you want to go anywhere else ("Camp") you take a land rover and invent your own road. Really. So we went on a long overland journey to see Rockhopper penguins (which are pretty doggone cute, even if they would make lousy pets). The drivers dropped us at what must have been, if not the end of the universe, then close: the edge of a cliff. We climbed out of the land rovers and into the biting wind. As if to greet us, it began to hail. So there we are, in the open, facing the cliff, freezing. What's that I hear? The land-rovers zooming away?! There was a tiny, one room shack with a heater --John could tell you more about it as he spent most of the next hour inside -- I had a new camera (thanks Honey!) and I got some great shots of the penguins, including their chicks -- but it was COLD.
4.History and geography are a wee bit controversial.
Once we got back into the land rovers (warm!) I asked our driver what he thought we needed to know about the Falklands. He didn¡¦t even pause before telling me, ¡§They don¡¦t belong to the Argentines, that¡¦s for sure!¡¨ So Argentina calls the islands the Malvinas, and is still trying to ¡§reclaim¡¨ them. Great Britain calls them the Falklands, and the inhabitants are very devoted to the queen and the British pound sterling (man, is it expensive there!) It seems that Argentina isn¡¦t real happy that the Falklanders recently discovered oil, so now they¡¦ve cut off food and other supplies ¡V no ships or planes can come from Argentina or Chile to the Falklands. They get their milk¡Kfrom England! Next, will England send her navy? So, who owns the Falklands? It depends on where you¡¦re asking.
5.The explorers don¡¦t get enough credit.
Yes, you know. Those explorers ¡V Magellan, Sir Francis Drake, Velasquez, etc. ¡V that we all studied in school. Sure, Columbus gets his own day, but that was all about the ¡§discovery¡¨ of America. These guys survived storms in tiny, wooden boats. As we were leaving Port Stanley, a storm began to kick up. It was definitely the most adventurous ¡§tender¡¨ experience I¡¦ve ever had ¡V those are the small boats used to get to and from the ship when the harbor isn¡¦t deep enough to anchor. What should have been a 20 minute ride turned into more than an hour ¡V as we bounced in the waves and tried to avoid the cold water splashing in the (sealed) windows. With that much time, it was hard not to critique the boat, which doubles as one of the ship¡¦s lifeboats. Hmmmm. As if that wasn¡¦t adventure enough, as we headed toward Cape Horn (yup, that¡¦s the Drake Passage), we encountered a huge storm with gale-force winds, and 90 foot swells. It only lasted for about 36 hours, but it felt like weeks. Somehow those explorers managed without GPS, weather forecasts, stabilizers, room service, sea-sickness meds, or (possibly) a talented captain who provided updates on the public address system. Neither of us got sick, but we just got lucky I think. The captain helpfully told us that it was the worst storm he¡¦d ever encountered in 27 years at sea. Thankfully, he kept that news to himself until after the storm.
6.¡§Summer¡¨ can mean many things, not all of them warm!
It wasn¡¦t just cold in the Falklands (hey, with all that wind, what choice is there?). From 90 degrees in Buenos Aires, it fell to below freezing as we approached Antarctica. Yup, it was still ¡§summer¡¨ there ¡V we could tell because it stayed light until nearly 11:00 at night. If summer is this cold in south South America, I¡¦m not coming back for winter! Once the storm subsided, we made our way up the Beagle Channel (named after the H.M.S. Beagle, with Darwin on board) to the Avenue of the Glaciers. Since the storm threw off the timing on everything, we didn¡¦t reach the glaciers until around 7 pm (rather than noon, as planned). Glaciers are also not part of my definition of ¡§summer.¡¨ They were beautiful, if cold. The next day, we cruised the Chilean fjords. I think ¡§fjord¡¨ is a code word for ¡§cold.¡¨
7.You know those photos of the explorers kissing the ground when they landed? And planting their flags? I get that now.
Boy, does it feel great to walk on solid ground that doesn¡¦t move under your feet (although after 3 days at sea, with storms, it still pretty much feels like everything¡¦s moving even after it stops). We anchored in Usuaia (Yoo-shwhy-ah), Argentina, gateway to Tierra del Fuego (and a handy place to fix the ship). The city prides itself on being the ¡§end of the world.¡¨ We took a wonderful tour on land and a catamaran through part of the national park, and saw tons of birds including cormorants, swans, and geese, and sea lions. Sea lions are a lot less excited about seeing people than people are about seeing sea lions. It¡¦s a good thing that my digital camera can store a lot of photos ¡V it takes a lot to catch a sea lion actually doing something (other than sleeping, which seems to be their default setting). Unfortunately we didn¡¦t get to see Usuaia itse, so we just have to take other people¡¦s word for the preponderance of signs regarding the ¡§end of the world.¡¨ I guess if it¡¦s not the end of the world, you can see it from here.
8.The cold makes some people wimp out on the penguins. Not sayin¡¦ who¡K.
Next stop: Punta Arenas, Chile. John figured he¡¦d paid his penguin dues, so he headed off for a city tour while I went off to see the Magellanic penguins (okay, it¡¦s cool that Magellan got things named after him, but he still doesn¡¦t get enough credit). Magellanic penguins burrow, and they were still prepping their chicks for the cold, cold world, so I just saw the adolescents and grown penguins. Again, very cute! And not quite as cold (but quite cold enough, thank you for asking).
9. Mother Nature always wins, and yelling doesn¡¦t fix anything.
Once we departed from Puenta Arenas, the captain put the pedal to the metal and zoomed for Santiago, Chile. It turns out that in a cruise ship, that isn¡¦t very fast ¡V about 20 knots, or 23-24 mph. We know this because there was a forum ¡V it was supposed to be on shipboard life, but turned into a Q&A on the storm ¡V which was interrupted by an extremely irate woman who was incensed that she and her husband might not make it to Santiago in time for her $4,000 business-class flight. She definitely had my sympathy (not!) This, and we had two and a half DAYS to go. The storm did cause us to miss a day of scenic cruising through the Chilean fjords, and a port (Puerto Montt, in Chile) ¡V not to mention various forms of havoc (smashed china, falls, sandwiches for dinner) ¡V but all in all, we survived relatively unscathed. At the time of the storm, there was another ship that sustained much more damage (it was a smaller ship, nearer Antarctica) and a French yacht that we¡¦re still not sure made it. The sea is immense, and it certainly feels that way when you¡¦re in the middle of it with no land in sight.
10.There¡¦s no place like home.
Okay, I might have known this last one before, so thanks, Dorothy. We spent the day in Santiago touring the city, which is beautiful, drinking pisco sours (which are hard to explain) and longing to be on the flight home. We enjoyed seeing the city nestled at the base of the Andes mountains, as well as the much warmer weather. But we were ready to be home. We didn¡¦t even want to shop, which is a rare day indeed. So it was great to finally get to the airport and board the plane. A day and a half and several customs hoops later, we walked through our front door, with our luggage and wonderful memories. John, of course, is already planning the next trip. Despite the 25% cruise credit we received due to the storm and its impact on our itinerary, Cheryl is insisting that it NOT be another cruise, just yet.
May 2011 be a year of happy travels, whether near or far, for you and yours. If you¡¦d like to see the pictures that accompany this letter, they are on FaceBook at this link: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=100471&id=1138585167&l=77a65306a5 If anyone wants to see a short video of what the storm was like, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvJz4f2CRdM
It’s nearly 1:00 a.m. and I am driving home from an out-of-state show, nearly an hour late after making a wrong turn when I got off the highway to rescue my GPS unit, which went flying off the dashboard during a sharp turn and disconnected. Without it, I am lost in the middle of small town Georgia. I can’t see out the back of the car, nor out my right-hand window or mirror. If I drove a standard transmission car, I wouldn’t be able to shift, the vehicle is packed so tightly. I couldn’t “fit a snake,” as my fellow show artists put it. Just like me, 99 other artists from this show are headed home tonight, to as far away as Indiana. About half the artists are lucky enough to be “local” – within 100 miles or so.
Today, the third day of a three-day show, began at 8:00 a.m. when I packed and checked out of the hotel room, thanking the owners for the show discount on the room. After working the show all day, breaking down the booth and packing the car, I’m trying to get home tonight, listening to an audio book, drinking caffeinated soda and running the air conditioner to stay awake. I feel like I understand the circus life, packing up the moment the show closes, stripping down and packing up all the decorative touches, only to begin again in another town.
This was not a good show. After paying the jury fee (around $30.00) and the booth fee (around $325.00 – which doesn’t include electricity), plus the cost of hotel ($210.00 for 3 nights) gas (call it $80.00) and food (not counting what I brought from home, around $30.00), I needed to make $670 plus cover the cost of materials – and my time – before I’d make a single dollar. That doesn’t even begin to count the cost of creating a show booth –folding tables, table covers, grid walls, stands, signs, a carpet. It also doesn’t include the cost of taking credit cards, bubble wrap and packaging or business cards and a web site – as well as photos of the art for the signs, cards and the web. Artists always start a show “in the hole.” That’s why it’s so difficult to hear potential customers tell each other that they could create an item “for much less,” ask artists for a discount, or ask why we charge sales tax (some more nicely than others). They don’t mentally add up all these other costs, which are invisible to them. We artists know this, and we understand, but it’s still hard to hear.
An art show begins way before the first customer walks through the doors. Six months to a year earlier, I applied to the show, sending in images (this one was digital, which is easier) and paying the fees. This show was juried, which means that a group of people judged the quality of my artwork based on images of the work, as well as a photo of my booth. If you don’t get into a show, you never know why – was it the work itself, the quality of the photos, the color of the table coverings on the booth – or did the juror simply dislike glass? I am lucky to have a wonderful local photographer, Mika Fowler, whose images are superb. I’m on my own for the booth shot – and it’s obvious.
I work on a show for at least two or three solid days before it opens. It takes me a day to pack the car, including drawing up inventory lists, checking off all the items I need, and bubble-wrapping my glasswork. Then there’s driving to the show, and setting up, which takes a minimum of two to three hours from the time I pull in and receive my assigned 10 foot by 10 foot space. It’s sweaty, rough work. The show floor looks like a storage bin convention, with artists pushing, pulling, carrying, and dollying their own motley assortment of sturdy containers. With each show, artists build their booths from the ground up – an outdoor show needs a tent (top, frame, sidewalls, and weights to hold it down so wind doesn’t turn it into an airborne agent of destruction not only of my own work, but other artists’ work as well); furniture (tables, hanging panels, and items needed for display); as well as all of the items necessary to make a sale (credit card machine, receipts, cash box, packing material). An indoor show requires an artist to create a space without using a tent, which is harder than you might think! Each artist creates the 10 by 10 foot space that’s to become “home” for the next three days – complete with neighbors whose work may or may not be compatible with your own. At least at this show, I didn’t spend three days trying to talk over the sound of a neighbor demonstrating hand-carved duck calls!
When the promoter’s voice comes over the speaker system announcing that the show is now open, we artists have already been on site for at least an hour, uncovering tables and wiping off dust or dew, setting work in place and turning on lights. We hide all the mess (extra inventory, Tylenol, duct tape). And then it’s show time – time to smile and ignore those duck calls, the forgotten items (where the heck are my business cards??), and the piece that broke in transit. The booth is ready – having transformed a patch of dirt into a worthy backdrop to showcase artwork – and the real worry sets in. Did I bring the right type of work for the area? Has the promoter sufficiently advertised the show? What will the weather be like? What other events are competing for potential customers’ time, attention and money? But above all else: will they come? Any show is a gamble. No matter how good the artwork, if the people aren’t there, you can’t sell. When there is a good crowd, the excitement builds. The collective adrenaline of many artists together with people who love artwork is a great combination. But if the crowd is sparse, the collective anxiety of the artists creates a bleak atmosphere. This past show was in a great venue, and the work was very good – but it was a brand-new show, with a brand-new promoter, and lacked a track record or sufficient word of mouth. And the crowd wasn’t there. Next year, they will probably come, because word will spread. But that’s next year.
I left the show with $360 in sales, leaving me behind at least $310. And that was after I had a relatively good day on Sunday, with a large sale and a steady series of smaller sales. Some artists did better, some did worse – I could have been the artist who didn’t sell anything at all. I made the best of it, by making friends with other artists, discussing potential collaborations with a wood turner, and filling my sketch book. I mentally re-designed my booth (again!) and networked with other artists about other shows. And I did make it home tonight – so I can unpack the car, get back into the studio and get ready to do it all again.
Pyramid Group Hotels
Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Pyramid Group as they hosted a client appreciation reception at the Hotel Duval. If you haven't been there, the 8th floor of the hotel offers views over the city - and it is beautiful at night. I was joined by 3 other wonderful women artists - Lucrezia Bieler, who does glorious cut paper with scissors barely visible to the naked eye; Cindy Sbrissa, whose mosaic adorns my garden; and Perdida Ross, who created a chalk drawing over the course of the evening. Attendees were given my glass as a gift (woo hoo!) and two lucky attendees each received the work that Lucrezia and Perdida completed at the event. Attendees also were able to make tiny mosaics with Cindy's help. Even the guys got involved!!
I also can't speak highly enough of John Gandy, whose design firm created the chic, glamorous, but also very comfortable space. It was a creative idea that, I'm sure, represents the way that the Pyramid Group approaches their work. There's an art to a good meeting...indeed!
Today my husband and I drove 3 hours across the Panhandle to a gallery that now carries my work. Art Praha is a wonderful collection of international art - I'm thrilled to be in their space. Check them out if you can - right in the heart of historic downtown Pensacola. (But, unlike us, try to avoid driving back in the pouring rain!!)
Another Year, Pilchuk
Well, UPS did me wrong. They broke my piece en route to Seattle. I have to say, it was packed within an inch of its life - in Bulleye boxes, no less! Somehow, all that foam and packing gets sheets of glass from Oregon to Florida...you'd think it could get one little vessel to Seattle. Thankfully, the folks at my local hardware store, Bell & Bates, who do my shipping, reminded me to insure it!
Pilchuk Auction, here I come (hopefully)
Pilchuk...the holy grail of glass school experiences...off near Seattle, Washington, founded by 3 glass pioneers (including Dale Chihuly)...Every year, Pilchuk has a fund-raising auction. Glassies all over the place (planet, for all I know) send in work that must be juried into the auction. You got it, you have to be juried in to essentially give away your work. But it's for Pilchuk, so everyone wants to do it. Last time, about 5 (?) years ago, I sent in a wall piece. Apparently, wall pieces are not the thing for the auction, so they sent it back. (And it went to a lovely Baltimore home!) So I'm trying again, with a vessel this time. It's a pain, shipping glass. Double-boxes, foam, anything you can think of to convince the UPS guy not to use it for his or her own private World Cup. Good luck, package. Good luck, Pilchuk.
Summer = time to pay glass karma dues
Working with glass is hot. Florida is hot. Working with glass in Florida is...hotter still. It's a good thing I mastered sweating early on. Growing up in Florida (barefoot in the grass, sandspurs and all) I sweated while other girls glowed, shimmered, perspired. Not me! I don't do anything halfway. So yes, glass is wonderful and beautiful and glamorous and...sweaty. Come on, summer rains. Cool me off!
So when IS the Gadsden Show?
Can't believe I forgot this part. The Gadsden Show, Transparent Spectrum, opens June 11 and runs through August 14. Here's the blurb: Don Taylor and Cheryl Sattler are artists whose work features light and movement in two very different mediums. Don Taylor’s work most often represents local Florida scenes as well as his travels throughout the world. Taylor combines realism and impressionism in his watercolor paintings and “attempts to apply the illusion of detail in many works so that viewers can use their imagination to complete the image”. Cheryl Sattler has been working with glass since 1999, and her work has two distinct themes: freedom and family ties, and the tension between these two ideas.
See more at www.gadsdenarts.org
Preparing for the Gadsden Show
Nothing comes out of the kiln perfect. Nothing. The vessels I am getting ready for my show - a two-person show with a watercolor guy from Panama City - are needle-sharp when I take them out of the molds. They are scabby and rough, and need a diamond polish. (They always said diamonds are a girl's best friend...!) When I hold them, I often forget my gloves and end up with little cuts all over my hands. I'm always bleeding in the studio. It's a good thing blood burns off in the kiln! Now, if I could only get Band-Aid or Polysporin to sponsor me! Actually, I have a whole list: IKEA, since half my studio came from there; and Home Depot, since I get a ton of tools from there. That's just a start. I wonder how you go about getting a company to sponsor you as an artist, anyway. Where's my fairy godmother when I need her?
I'll be ready for the show, but just barely, as always. What the heck. What else have I got to do for fun?