Forethought

I sold my first paper cutting over 10 years ago off the sidewalk during Olde City’s First Friday.  I was a little excited to sell something, but even then I was disappointed I was haggled down from $35.  If I’m honest? Twenty dollars was generous given that I used black cardstock (acid-free or archival weren’t terms I knew then), and the frame was a $3 clearance special from Michaels.  The composition and style left a lot to be desired as well, but I think enough has been said on that…

Everybody grows, everybody progresses, and in fact, as an artist, that natural growth is all part of the process and can be part of the excitement for followers and collectors.  However, there is a delicate balance between honesty and the implication that your previous works simply weren’t as good or made from quality materials like the work you are currently producing. I can joke about the $3 special now because the “statute of limitations” for shiesty art dealings goes out the window when you don’t  sign your work, hock it on a street corner to an unknown buyer, and stop working completely for more than five years after said transaction**.  But as for work in recent history, there is something to be said for forethought.

Few artists (I would assume) have the forethought (and funds) when they are starting out to think, “I’d better do this first piece to the letter to set the bar for the future.” They just do it. I just did it.  When my mom first said to me, “You need to start framing with conservation glass,” I laughed.  The idea that I wouldn’t use the glass packaged up with the frame, but would rather spend 3 times over (or more) for glass was absurd.  But today? I’d never frame a piece without it. It’s a small price to protect your work (and avoid upsetting calls down the road).

That was then, and “this” (the last five years) is now.  When I hung my first show, a miracle in itself because I only had a handful of pieces when I accepted it, there were some glaring mistakes that I have since corrected.  Each time these differences or improvements come up, I have a moment of panic when I think, “Am I going to upset or offend an early buyer.” I am quick to remember, that while I have come a long, long way since then, I had enough forethought to honor enough elements of the process to ensure lasting work.  The pieces from my first show are lovely, and have stood the test of time.  Like a patient in a hospital gown, they may experience an occasional breeze from behind if they are not properly backed and lovingly sealed with my trademark “brown paper,”  the frames might not all pass my “litmus test” today, but they remain sturdy and adequate, and while the glass may or may not be conservation glass, the run-of-the-mill glass has done well to protect them all the same (or so those early pieces that hang in my home tell me).

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**If you did buy my artwork on a street corner all those years ago, like Travis from Clueless said, “Thank you for taking a chance on an unknown kid.” I owe you one.

Update

Here’s a tip:

Give a talk wearing a clip-on mic and you’ll feel like Tony Robbins.

The talk was fantastic.  The mic gave me power… a little too much, I might have tried my hand at a little too much comic relief. The only thing missing was me saying, “AmmIriiight?” over and over and over again.  I did mentally check myself several times to  reaffirm for myself that I was doing a Q & A on paper cutting style and technique, not welcoming my “audience” to their BRAND – NEW – LIVES! In a picture below you’ll see a shot that looks to be the moment I scolded the audience for not being their best selves. That moment never happened, that is just me over dramatically describing the painstaking process framing a delicate piece.

Here are a couple more tips: If you’re playing a slideshow of work in the background, definitely say “Yes,” when someone asks if you’ll need a projector. If you are demonstrating close work, definitely ask your tech-savy husband for help, so he can make sure the people you’re talking to can see what you are doing (that helps).

All in all, it was a great night and I cannot wait to do it again.

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The Art of (Brown) Papercutting

The last time I scheduled an “art talk,” a very integral person forgot to show up. Me.  I forgot to show up to my own talk.  Self-promotion is a rough gig for most people, and I am in the bottom of the bin when it comes down to it.  That was a new low.  However, I am ashamed to say I can go even lower. I said I’d be bringing by a bottle of wine as a “forgive me” to the person who set-up the show. Forgot.  She asked me to collect my business cards in their cool business card holder stand my husband personalized for me. Procrastinated.  When I eventually came for it, it had acquired new residents so I had to leave the stack of miscellaneous business cards that had moved in, and even though the holder was mine, I felt like the Grinch snatching the last can of Who-hash. But today is a new day.

I’m giving a talk at what has begun to feel like my home gallery space (Waverly Heights).  I made a list earlier in the week and I’m happy to say, I’m actually prepared. My stuff is loaded neatly in my messy car, and right off the bat it’s going to be an improvement because I actually remembered the talk is tonight; so I’ll be there. If I forget to go, then my problems are far worse than I ever could have imagined.

54, 55, 56…

For my third exhibition at Waverly Heights, I am proud to report that all goals have been met: Calm and timely finishing touches, 54 pieces hung (from a goal of “between 50-60”), cards and notices went out,  not a tear was shed, but most importantly, I received the compliment that makes any exhibition a success.  You might even forget how much you need to hear it until the words are spoken: “You have grown so much.”

If you hang a show and you hear those words, you don’t need to make a single sale to feel like you’ve achieved something.  I’ve been told to venture out and to experiment more with the medium, but I have been so truly happy doing what I am doing that I haven’t felt the need.  Hearing that I’m growing despite “staying put,” is just icing on the cake.

This being the season of giving, there are always a couple of pieces that come down to be gift wrapped. So, 54 became 52, and their replacements, 55 and 56.  I like to say that as soon a show goes up I’ll become “a person” again. I’ll have a drink after work, go shopping, read a book. Inevitably I keep drawing and cutting and framing.  For every hour I put into cleaning the framing studio at my parents house, I spend 4 undoing it all.

It ain’t over till it’s over, so until the show comes down in mid-January, I’ll be dropping in surprises. 57, 58, 59…

Just one pictures, the other 56 will be up shortly!

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It’s the Ten Day Countdown…

No matter how much you prepare for an upcoming show, you are inevitably working down to the wire.  I give myself kudos for actually buckling down this past year and cranking out work despite my natural impulse to postpone-hesitate-procrastinate until the tears are welling up at 3am the day of.  I actually DID the things I was supposed to do. I followed lists. I used a calendar. I ordered business cards before I had to swallow expedited shipping.  Lucky for me my husband is a volunteer firefighter or I would have made these strides while simultaneously neglecting him and #lovelylucybrown, but our overworking-teamwork worked out.

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I have roughly 10 days before my third show at Waverly Heights goes up. My goal was to have 60 pieces- the most ever for any of my shows.  I’m assuming the real count will be more like 45, so I’m going to aim for something in the middle. Maybe 52.  51. 52. I have about 20 pieces left to frame and I can’t stop drawing and cutting. It’s hard to “wrap up” when you’re in the middle of a very efficient and productive creative streak.  I’m going to be finished and ready to hang on Friday, December 9th.  You heard it here first. (Update to follow.

There will be some familiar pieces:

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But a lot, a lot, a lot of new pieces that I can’t post because someone (you know who you are) convinced me it was like yelling surprise in the car at someone before they even walk into the party house you were driving up to. So just a snippet…

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Just a tenth, that’s all you get. Hope to you see you on Sunday, December 11th!

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To Err is Inevitable

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Do you ever make mistakes?”

It is my goal and very likely the goal of 99.9% of the world’s population to answer that question with a definitive, “Nope, never.” Obviously for the former and the latter the answer is always and forever, “Yes.”

Another variation of the question is, “Do you ever make a mistake that ruins an entire piece?”

Still, “Yes,” but funny you should ask!

Last night I took a small, intricate dragonfly to my framer for finishing (by framer, I mean of course my mom, Heidi). I needed a simple, thin, black 9″x 9″ frame which she pieced together for me. The glass fit, the mat fit; everything was copacetic. We got to the usually unpleasant stage of affixing the piece to the mat. Nothing like watching spray adhesive fall from a fine mist over a piece of delicate paper you’ve been cutting for hours upon hours. Flip it over, pray you lay it correctly and don’t tear or smudge anything. Spoiler alert: Everything finished beautifully. My mom wrapped it up in a white plastic packing and I took it home.

I’m a huge fan of the movie, The Paper, starring Michael Keaton, and in it he delivers a great line in a way only he can: “Sometimes you can just smell a horrifically shitty day on it’s way.” I was moving along on time, had my hand on the door to leave, purse and piece in tow as it was a commission for someone who lives in the community where I work, except: no keys. No problem. My dad loves me and he bought me a key-finder this past Christmas. After 15 years of driving and almost never finding my keys when I need them, I had clipped the locator on my ring, and though I had told someone just this week that I never remembered to actually use it- I was going to use it. I hit the button, I waited for the chirp, and…nothing. Not a sound. Fine. I thought, “It’s chilly, my husband probably started my car for me.” Nope, 55 degrees. I laid my piece on top of my car and ran up to get my spare key (which I also had to search for, so that was fun).

Because I was going to be late, I decided to go in at 8:30 and make some breakfast. I kicked that off by turning on the wrong burner, so doubling the cook time. I ate, got in my car and drove to work. As I was turning in the driveway I realized I had left the piece at home. I turned around and I only drove about 100 feet before I made an abrupt and rough U-turn because I knew the return trip would make me late to work. So I drove into work, clocked in, and waited for my lunch break to run home.

At lunch, I drove to the apartment and very much to my surprise the piece was nowhere to be found: not in the apartment, not in the car, now my purse was at work, but I never would have put it in there because of the fragility of the glass. Which left one option.

Like so many books, coffee cups, and miscellaneous objects from my past, the dragonfly took it’s first flight on the roof of my car. It soared safely down Conshohocken State Road, around, down, and up Youngsford Road, and all the way up Waverly Road. It would have made a safe landing in the parking lot where I work except for one tragic turn. The “abrupt and rough U-turn” I made when I thought I had forgotten it. Like all the lost things… it jettisoned off the roof 100 feet from the promised land and laid in the street waiting for a swift crushing by passing cars.

Driving back to work, I saw it lying by the side of the road in it’s little white, plastic body bag. I threw the car into park, hit the hazards, and ran back for my lost companion. As I opened the plastic, glass, wood, and shredded paper tucked inside, I knew I had been a bad girl this year.

So, yes, I make mistakes that destroy an entire piece. Have, still do, will again. Lucky for me I have a glass half-full attitude when it comes to my artwork. I think that might have something to do with how much I enjoy the process and how it feels to keep pushing to grow in a medium. If disaster isn’t followed by flying expletives, it’s usually a deep breath, a moment of silence, and a slow simmer between the ears in preparation to start again.

Rest in Peace, Dragonfly. You were beautiful and complete in a way the world (and my client) will never know.
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Lucy Love

Every time I have a show I hang “Lucy Brown” (NFS) and Brian and I have to stare a giant blank space on our wall for six weeks.  She was a birthday present for him, and even though he knows I wouldn’t dare sell her, he gives me the Just-Try-It-Eyes every time someone says, “Oh! I had a little dog just like her…”.  After repeated interested and four six-week stints of blank space I decided to retire “Lucy Brown” to her permanent place on the wall- above the keys, to the left of the fireplace.  I cut a piece inspired by the same which will be for sale at my upcoming show. Brian saw it. Brian loves it. Now I have to hide it until showtime.

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Beaumont at Bryn Mawr

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The Carousel (since reframed)

 

 

 

 

 

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Poised (sold)
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Everglades (sold)
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Release
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Field Study
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The Courtship
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Glow (since reframed and sold)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Hive (sold)

 

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Flies (sold)

 

 

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Packed House (sold)
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Forum (sold)
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Spool
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Ladies of the House

Brian and I took down my show from Ludington Library on Friday, July 31, and immediately drove them over to Beaumont and hung them in their Beaumont Room.  There we met my contact and the head of the Art Committee, Jane.  She was as lovely and helpful as could be. Saturday was the official set-up day.  With the rest of the pieces in tow, my mom and I headed over to Beaumont to finishing hanging.  We were greeted by Jane and the rest of the committee.  The ladies were eager to help and very accommodating; not to mention a very fun group.  It was a long, long process, but we got it all finished.  My dad arrived to take pictures of each piece, a lifesaver for me as he has a technique to avoid the glare and get as clear a shot as will allow with the piece under glass.  I’m not always the most organized in terms of photographing before framing, so this is an essential part of the process for me.

Hearing the ladies move around the room opinionating was the perfect soundtrack for the day. There is nothing to boost your confidence and prepare you for an opening event like hearing accomplished, talented, and creative people singing your praise.  It’s so easy to criticize your own work especially when you see it every day for months.  The perspectives of others are priceless. The opening took place Sunday, August 2nd, and myself and my family thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I am very proud of this show, it is the fourth and last of the year and showcases brand new pieces that I was determined to cut.  It also has a nice sampling of pieces that have followed me throughout previous shows, and some that have been given new life.

I wouldn’t have been able to get to this point without my talented family supporting me. My husband for supplying me with my incredible desk and a workspace that takes over a large portion of our apartment. His patience while I worked long hours for weeks and months at a time. And all the little things in between: running out to pick me up a compass when I mentioned I might need one, picking up take-out when I couldn’t cook, reminding me to order blades, setting up this WordPress and making all the bits and pieces work; everything. My mom for being essential to the framing process and thinking of all the things I never think of. For introducing me to the amazing services of the Athanaeum, letting me sample the amazing stock of framing supplies at Merion Art & Repro, and probably breaking every nail closing each piece with love and care.  My dad for clearing out the studio in which he has done architectural work for almost four decades and handing it over to me and my mom for our creative ventures. For taking amazing pictures from the beginning so that I have a record of my work, without which this WordPress wouldn’t be colorful or interesting.  My brother for always being so supportive, even at a distance, and for offering words of support in the moments leading up to the hanging process which I kept in my mind the whole time.

(The above pictures are 13 of the 37 pieces in the show.)