Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Spot of Bother, followed by "River Journal" wonderfulness (a little Art Fair)

Word problem: An unnerving gnawing sound (scratching? no, gnawing) seems to be emanating from the front of your living room. You peek through the front door in the hopes that maybe the next door cat, who often guards your front step from harm, has adopted a new habit of scratching the door. The step is unguarded. You cross to the bay window, and in doing so, discover that the sound is coming through the electrical socket. Double take: the electrical socket.  A.) After a shining a flashlight into it (fruitless), what's the best course of action?
Bonus Question B) How long until the raccoon-of-diminutive-size/mouse/rat/wood-loving/electrical loving insects assume possession of the house? Please calculate in hours.

Check your accuracy! Solution (B) to be found at end of post. Upside down text used to prevent cheating. We advise against inverting your monitor.

Answer A.) Retiring to the study,* which feels especially nice, what with my sudden compulsion to move heavy furniture this weekend. I am now typing at the (too shallow, but quaint) antique vanity table, with my computer table behind me, holding a slew of sketches I did not wish to subject to basement dampness. And it's true, in this room, I no longer hear any gnawing.

*which also has electrical sockets, to be fair.

But before I continue to the intended topic at hand (yay! 55th annual Ann Arbor Art Fair started today, yay!!!) I can't help but wonder whether ditching the parrot a couple months ago was a mistake.
He was a last minute purchase on the way back from the Dominican Republic. Tourist trap gift? Yes, and I could see that. But STILL. He had wonderful tail feathers, just enough detail. He sat happily on a little perch in his own little hoop! Self-contained, but swingy! But more than that, you know what he had?
Character. Chutzpah. *I* am the parrot of the living room!
AND then one day, I noticed some mail underneath the parrot had little granular bits spread across the surface. A dusting, almost a film, of very, very fine white dust. The first day, I didn't make the connection. But after I had cleared it away not once, but twice, I looked up. And then I got on a stool and looked closer. And this is what I saw:
Lots and lots of little holes, pocking the surface of the parrot's perch. 
It was at that point, the parrot was sacrificed to trash collection and the (airport of) Dominican Republic was casually blamed. But what if that's not where it came from? What if it came from INSIDE THE HOUSE? Well. And no use, losing one's head, nothing useful to be done just now. Perhaps I could kneel by the socket and ask. But I fear a gnawing response: We are LEGION.

To wit: my study sure is nice!

And really, aside from the gnawing, quite a nice day! A visiting coworker treated my office to delectables from the Pastry Peddler -- I had no idea they were so good! aside from the expected flakiness, the chocolate croissant has a wonderful almond flavor to it. The chocolate itself is velvety smooth. Local folk, get thee to the Peddler!

Main attraction, however was Art Fair wandering during lunch. Last year I came close to burning out, but I have been wandering for 20 years or so, so it seemed strange not to nose around for new artists/vendors. Within the first part of lunch, I was shocked to find a new favorite!

Right over in the original section, by Rackham, Booth #A110
is Katie Musolff, from Stoddard, WI:
Her watercolors have a wonderful delicacy to them, without being precious. Her ongoing series is called River Journal (*I think), reflecting the natural world just beyond the windows of her and her partner's home. My favorites focus in on the painted object or series of similar objects (a beetle, a fiddlehead fern, a baby turtle, dead sparrow), with the rest of the paper left blank (but for maybe a penciled-in explanation).

I like so many of them individually, but their proximity to neighboring paintings only adds to their appeal. Would love many of them! The jonquils remind me of home, my parents always had a nice patch of them, and I looked forward to them every Spring. But then, the pleasing balance of the two stalks of purple flowers (called "Twins"), also so lovely. And the baby turtles! found in the garden when they dug up their new potatoes! There's a lot to love, here, of the quiet, true kind of art your eyes would be pleased by for years.

Musolff said she has supported herself as a full time painter for roughly a decade. She paints every day. Her father, a middle school teacher, showed her how to use pastels and watercolor when she was little -- and her father's father was also a self-taught artist. As a 6 year old, her parents set up a little space for her to work in and brought home "how to draw a cat! How to draw horses!" books...a nice beginning, no? See more work here.

Andy Fletcher, Musolff's husband and fellow painter, has fine landscapes in the booth right next to hers. When I asked him for a business card, he handed me one of the Original Art Fair postcards (Nick Wroblewski designed the poster this year!) with a handwritten note scrawled on the back:
Soooo, true, all his info, conveniently on the back, but no accompanying image to treasure in the coming year. The first one he removed from his pocket he hesitated over, glancing at me -- and then handed me this one. When I asked about this, he said, "more snarky, less snarky." I present as: less snarky.

"Oh," said Stephen*,"He did that last year, too." Which lessened the funny, certainly.

*If you know some aspect of the Ann Arbor artist community, you'll also probably know Stephen. Retired high school art teacher, multi-faceted artist, grand connector of people, art lover of Chris Roberts-Antieau. It is only fitting that I overhear his distinctive voice within 20 minutes of being at the huge fair.

I am enthusing about Musolff's work, and he will go look definitely, but first he wants to know,"Have you seen Ed Brownley? (sp?) He has cereal bowls with serial killers on them. Go see Ed Brownley. Everyone's at the Ignatius booth.* Go see Jenny Pope."

I have yet to see Brownley, but am a little wary of the incorporation of serial killers for a humorous purpose. Appearances aside, I do like snarky, I do like dark, but that just possibly goes beyond. And would that really make raisin bran happier in the groggy morning? Hmmm.

*This goes without saying. Everyone's ALWAYS at the Ignatius booth, their hats are frickin' awesome, ranging from silly to elegant. 

Jenny Pope (booth A260), however, is -- and has been -- right up my alley: her reduction prints are boldly colored, many layered, cartoony and strong. Have liked her work for years. The Allover woodcut that I especially lust after almost feels like photoshop in its rich layering (which may come off as a slight, but is not not not) -- it is repurposed elements from another larger print around the partition corner; this fact I also love. I love doing the woodblock mashups! Pope is somewhat serious to talk to (maybe just wary, it is possible I can sometime come off as overly fanboy), with energetically curly red hair, wearing a sleeping baby in a sling.** She frames her most favorite monoprints and work, as many artists do. Pop psych question: another reason her prices are hard to find? Subconscious reluctance to part with them? Anyway, I second Stephen: go see Pope's booth. Check out "Pinetree Invasion," with its aggressive looking kiwi birds.

**On the outsider happy-making scale, practicing artist with young baby is up there with partner artists who either create their work together*** OR exhibit their work in neighboring booths. Happiness points for both.

*** see also: Butterfield Pottery's booth: Davin does the pottery and creates the glazes, Susan does the painting. The photos don't quite convey the rich, rich almost purpley blue.

That's about it, as I had brief time yesterday.

Also also:  If you have kids, you should check out the activity tent near the Belltower. It was rousing! Kids using rolling pins with 3d designs affixed to them to roll out patterned slabs of clay, beaming boys marching away with mysterious painted gold objects, industrious kids hunched over the Museum of Natural History table, creating their own little sculpy long-extinct whatzit skeletons. Seriously: there's a lot going on under that tent. 

Yay, requisite chalk art.
Lion emerging, artist on break.

Recycled glass art sculpture of Ruben Fasani booth A243, all the way from Buenos Aires
Arrrrrrggh! Arrgh!! I have as much gumption as the parrot! No bugs.
Surprise delight, on Liberty, almost to Main! Pleasing tiles from Lisa Muller. It's her first time at the fair, though she has been doing this for "oh, sooooo long, can you believe you can go to school for this? People let you go to school, so you can study this." I was in a rush on my way home -- but stopped. And bought. Pick up a wee sumpin sumpin.

All for now, time to shower and start the day beyond the house~~

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You Are Cordially Invited

Good morning, Dear Reader, and Happy Wednesday!

I feel remiss. You have me over for dinner all the time, have no problem dropping me off at the mechanic's and lend me your ear/shoulder to cry on. What have I done for you lately? My boorish behavior is obvious. Therefore, on the occasion of this almost mid-Summer, please allow me to extend you the following:

I confess, I have been receiving this invitation for some time now, and have grown rather blase about it. The key thing to remember is this: while all offers are extended in their potential, only ONE can be the most likely at any give time. 

And while there may not be oversized glittery snowflakes wafting about, the over-functioning central air will force you to don cardigans and scarves in Summertime. Bring your reading glasses.

Have a blast! And You're welcome! Any stories/juicy gossip from your travels are welcome.

Monday, July 7, 2014


When the landscaper repeatedly throws in phrases like, "It's only money," during the initial estimate, it is worrisome. Upon your meeting, he tells you that you have *such a cute* phone voice. Luckily this doesn't cost anything, because otherwise, it's rather down hill from there.

It's a small yard. A wee yard. A barely need a mower! yard. It's an originally deceptive yard*, conjuring visions of a small but verdant vegetable patch, with neither so much space as to overwhelm, nor so little as to rob one of self-satisfied deck dining or coffee sipping. But gradually, while the ferns never take, the first optimistic Fall's plantings of tulip and daffodil bulbs are savaged by squirrels and gnawing scrabblers, and the ventured vegetable garden stays a wan, homely plot**, your initial yardwork go-getem slumps off somewhere and the much more dominant inside crafty kitchen person is astoundingly good at pretending the yard does not actually exist.

{*to the unobservant, or easily fooled}
** baffled visitor: "You seem to have a ... fork patch. What's with all the plastic utensils?" Thank you, person. It was one of a million good online ideas. Easily mark your rows of beans and lettuce!...Unless things grow sparingly at best, and then it just looks silly.
With respect to larger yard projects or routine care, you are apparently immune to periodic self-shaming (your yard vs. other yards), motivation helpfully illustrated by Hyperbole and a Half. To wit: the grass has mange, nothing you would like to grow does so; though trash trees skyrocket, ivy slithers up walls, a vine pursues its master plan of toppling the birch tree; and moles and wombats inhabit the undergrowth. What can you do? Short of doing it?
"toll service" bill from Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company
Call someone, naturally. Plus, you can then also feel pleased for having called someone, as if it were the task itself. Ahem: I have almost made it so!

And that would be that, if your wallet was robust and also begging to be weeded. Perhaps pruned for its own good -- it may look sparse initially, but the money it will grow back, and much, much better than before. Now this, he does not promise. The landscaper pushes for what I'd "like to spend," which I try to push back on, but then opt for the lowest rung in his tiered budget ladder. He energetically gestures to what will be done in the front yard, and the story sounds great but already seems like a lot; I urge him to check out the back yard. And ohhhh, there's so much he'd like to do! And it would be cool, definitely. But the de-jungling: it's a lot of work. Which I get, and do not do, and have not done.

I shut down the initial estimate, which is three times higher than my rung. who said I would climb up there?  At this point, he observes, "You know, the home equity loans, those are really good, and you can just fold it into your mortgage payments." He nods to himself, "Yeah, I think that's a good way to go." He continues that the woman down the street was quite good at getting a fine rate, I could consult with her about it...I reiterate money, he returns to the prospect of a loan;  the manner with which he broaches it, returns to it, it's as if indebtedness is a soothing and welcome prospect for his clients. It's kind of fascinating, this estimate, because I actually think it's equal parts landscaper wanting to get past the initial grunt-work in order to create a harmonious space/reflect a vision AND concerted up-selling, at the most cynical end, merely herding me as sheeple to a nicely tunneled path to a much larger chunk of change. Hmmm. In any case, not spending that much money, no sirree.

And so, there was a second more palatable estimate from another source. And it is true that less was promised and the end result will be less dreamy, but hopefully the pruning will be liveable on all levels... Yard rescuers scheduled for tomorrow, barring a repeat of the afternoon monsoon today. Possible yard recovery, possible backyard swamp.