Friday, July 16, 2021

Flood Warnings, Anyone? The Art Fair Edition

...And so, the Ann Arbor Art Fair weather curse holds true, though it feels especially damning this time around: foreboding forecast for the shortened three-day timespan, though we all lucked out yesterday -- the threat of rain held off, and I personally wandered wayyy past my limit in order to get a complete overview of the whole thing. Even with the good-but-clown-feetish-sneakers, my feet swelled, pooooor little me. The fair had some marked changes, of course. No avenues of fair food, no violin monster spotted; no Ignatius Hats with people swirling around the booth, laughing at themselves in the crazier designs, but secretly hoping they look cool; no potters' guild or yourist clay sections; no Nick Wroblewski, and South University offerings look much diminished (though to be fair, still more vendors than most art fairs have in total)... On the flipside, splendid watercolorist Katie Musolff returned to the Original area, and Karin Coron returned to grace us with her intense oil & oil pastel landscapes (booth NU807), and Connie Verrusio, the maker of one of my all-time-favorite pairs of earrings (repurposed produce scales).
I cleared off my day yesterday and today to wander the fair, with our spitfire happily deposited in preschool; and here we are today, with solid rain since 3 AM (intermittent torrents). So far there's no pocket of time with less than 80% chance of precipitation, which is damn brutal for all the artists, having paid quite a lot to be here, not to mention travelling for hundreds of miles, all the schlepping, and STILL having to be present in one's tent, without enough people coming through, trying to talk the body away from resenting wet feet, and the mind from anticipating a financial mess of a show or a tent collapse. Oi. I have artists whose work I'd love to revisit, and was counting on doing that today, with myself selling at a local ArtHouse Pop-Up tomorrow & Saturday (913 Gott St, Ann Arbor, ahem!). Maybe at some point a lighter rain, perhaps a drizzle, and I could briefly wander in galoshes? Here's hoping everyone ventures out on Saturday, with the better forecast.
*Just a few snippets*
Yesterday, it was refreshing to see the fashion illustration of Anita Rundles over on North U (booth WA817). She's based in Brooklyn and has done some work for Netflix. I love the interplay of precise, fine lines with freer splashes of color -- good energy. It also reminded me of the cache of old design illustration my Mom kept from her art school days. She passed away in March of this year; it was a comforting to look through Rundle's originals, thinking of how Mom would have had definite reactions (both praise and criticism). For her part, Rundles fretted over the weather curse that everyone else had mentioned; if you are in the area, go visit her booth and help make her first show worthwhile. And ask her why she didn't bring the great Solange illutstration wih the gold earrings (on her Instagram), though I'd assume it's sold.
Master glassblower William Ortman has been at it for 16 years. Astoundingly intricate without being fussy. Large cut away vases.
Kipley A. Meyer wasn't dying for a photo op (sandwich held behind his back; reticence), but he obliged me. He asked me if I did yoga or meditation, and explained that his pieces speak to going beyond the chatter of the monkey mind (see "Enter Within," on the left). When he gestured to the piece on the right, "Return" (or "Return to"), he ran his hand back and forth along the circular paths and said, "Return to the breath..." and it fit perfectly. For some reason, I also found the repetition of the pounded, rusty nails quite satisfying.
Allllll the way at the other end on Main Street, I almost zipped past Scotty Jones' booth before registering it. But once you see his sharp, and distinctively styled bags, you don't forget them. I became a fan at the Gutman Gallery shop, but when I saw his Urthy brand there, I didn't realize HOW much he puts into them: his fabrics, with few exceptions, are 50s upholstery textiles; the retro graphics are all his OWN screenprints; and he's just now branching out to using his own fabric designs (he highly recommends Spoonflower's quality). But I assume you have a team of people sewing your designs? "OHHHHHHHHHHHH no! NOPE, it's all ME" he laughed and asked whether I had been to the fair merchandise booth yet. Jones sparkled: "I did the merch designs this year! They just brought them to me" Wishing much success to Jones!
Almost time for Terry Gross, and still it rains. "Drizzle stopping in 50 minutes" -- but the following hour block shows more thunderstorms. Artist friends I feel for you. And hope people come out in full force tomorrow.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Just You and Me and These Four Walls

Quarantine has spawned -- for the luckiest of us -- aggravation, restlessness, a circumstantial slow-down; a paring down of life, new appreciation for: birds, or breadmaking, and the technological wonders of video connections, even as we tire of Zoom . And health, most definitely, health. And all of us are creative, whether we grant ourselves this characterization. Artists, of course, when they are not shutting down, are creating, reacting to the new realities. In this very moment, my almost 6 year old daughter is upstairs, singing about the meanness of her mother*, and using a little egg shaker to fancy it up. Rick seems to be on a looping conference call in the study (the closed door of which is no match for the strength of his voice). As of last night, my creativity has extended to baking a batch of olive oil brownies with sea salt (I love you, New York Times cooking newsletter). Last week, we were all in Pennsylvania, with my family, visiting my mother in the hospital. My heart is still there. In January, though, I had a brief burst of creativity, relating to a few couple selfies Rick took of us, when our quarantine hair was particularly dramatic. We are in the bathroom, natch, and not yet having given oureslves desparation haircuts, we look almost mythic (Rick), and unhinged/birdlike (myself). While I was able to draw something vaguely reminisicent of his visage (realism is not my forte**), each attempt at my likeness seemed worse than the last. I eventually started erasing a hole in the paper, before I optimistically taped another blank on top, with the not-me looming over his shoulder. No dice. Increasingly addled. In a fit of pique I decided that if it was going to work out that poorly, I should just opt for an animal instead. If you've seen me recently, you're like,"Oh right, BIRD," but that was short lived, because I wanted something with a cuddly aspect.
Top choice: slow loris. That sent me down a rabbit hole, because I hadn't even realized they're the ONLY VENOMOUS MAMMALS on earth, their venom is FLESH-ROTTING and dispensed from glands at their elbows; to tickle them is torture; and venal criminals have been smuggled internationally in their underwear*** But these fun tidbits didn't really add depth or accuracy to my would-be couple portrait. Plus, with their saucer-eyes,they do look a little more batsh*t, than I'm comfortabke assigning to myself, so. Next up: lemurs. I've always been fond of lemurs. Native to Madagascar! Somewhat crazy-looking, but they have those wonderful flouffy tails to counterbalance their weight when they spring off on various aboreal journeys. Also, since this print emotionally documents my time in quarantine, I feel like it nicely captures an air of stir-crazyness (see also lemurs attack BBC reporter), among other things. So there you have it, back story to a cell phone selfie, transformed into a multi-block linocut.
These are available for sale on my etsy shop, like so. I'll be adding more color variations soon. As always, if you don't see something you want, just ask. Stay safe and sane, out there, Dear Readers! *Who ended a self-markering episode, and confiscated her school ipad, when the young-in threatened to throw it. ** Hahaha, shut it. *** No, obviously the criminals'. Loris don't wear no underwear.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Brief Respite from 2020// See Also: the Most Important Day of the Year

Dear Stephen,

I just wandered into a new gallery downtown, and thought of you. A couple hours ago, Pennsylvania was called for Biden and he was declared President-Elect. I'm probably the 20th person to pass the news on to you, we know you'd share the joy and relief. It's sunny and in the 70's, this November day; and almost impossible to stay home. Cars roll past with people honking horns, hollering, banging pots, one blaring an older "F*ck Trump" rap, which draws a laugh from inside the otherwise quiet gallery space. 

Not everyone looks happy, though it's harder to tell with masks. People are exhausted; but today, also elated, after days (/months) of dread. It's the first time it feels right to niff around, looking at pretty things. Gutman Gallery opened in February, closed during Shelter-in-Place; and has recently re-opened.

It feels good to be back in the old high-ceilinged  Gallery Project space. I remember sound installations in the basement and in the darkened backroom, years ago, back before motherhood, when I had ridiculous (read: underappreciated) amounts of free time.

Now we are greeted with paintings on raw edged wooden slabs,  jewelry hanging against rough wood; spare, high tables with ornate, mechanical looking legs that hint at robotic functions. Colorful pottery and sharp bags pairing retro-perky 50s male and female characters with splashes of vintage fabrics. 

Their holiday market, featuring 50+ artists, starts today; Friday nights will feature artists demos and private shopping may be scheduled for small and cautious friend pods. It feels simultaneously normal and audacious to be in such a place.


Urthy Fiber Arts by Scotty Jones

Kris Cravens Pottery

detailed chameleon, unironically in black & white

With 68 million+ citizens voting for Trump after four years of his moral bankruptcy, I know we have so much to do in this country; but today, let's settle for happiness, for lightness of heart. Stephen, I feel how I expect Maira Kalman feels during her New York City walks, teasing out the day's surprises, whether they be discarded chairs, or acceptable cafeteria pies. I think of paintings from her beautiful book paying tribute to Obama's inauguration and democracy's promise. I feel it now, the renewed hope, which I haven't felt in so long. And with it, ephemeral delight bursts to the surface, much hardier -- and more crucial -- than we usually give it credit for being.

From And the Pursuit of Happiness 


Saturday, October 17, 2020

And the Bride Dazzled in a Bead-Encrusted Vera Wang Bodice*...

Today I picked up my wedding gown. I had banished it from my weekly to-dos for several months, after having planned/postponed/re-planned/indefinitely postponed the wedding itself. But why default to a pity-me narrative? I admire the zoomable weddings, smaller-but-joyful -- "Love can't wait!"-- but it appears our love can wait. Or the ritual surrounding it, in any case. There is much to be thankful for. As a couple we have managed to grow together, not apart, during the pandemic. Some of our family have contracted Covid, but so far have not succumbed to it. We adopted house-hunting as a restless Sunday-driving pastime in the Spring and stumbled onto a wonderful new home. 

Of course, buying the new meant selling the old. And selling the old meant drastically clearing out. I spent weeks pouring over 16 years of accumulated possessions in the basement of the old house. It was exhausting and I grew to hate it. Musty old lives. Mysterious and banal, how so many treasures are eventually transmuted into trash. I felt compelled to look through old journals. Decades old. Just learning-to-be-an-adult old. Most entries ranged from predictably boring or self-indulgent, to mortifying. But I also found myself stirred up. Awakened, or made richer? It didn't strike me as mere nostalgia. I don't think I have forgotten who I am. But perhaps I forgot certain layers of myself, as they lost relevance to my life; and the degree to which I felt "stirred up," reflected how present those layers are, even if mostly dormant? The earlier me was more driven, more convinced of its own importance, or at least the importance of its viewpoint. The earlier me strode quickly, for hours; loved the sound of her stacked heels clacking against the sidewalk; always double-checked her bag for pen and notebook. She doubted life could be expansive or bountiful, but was ever on the lookout for hopeful signs. By dipping into the journals, it was as if I turned a corner and was almost knocked over by her, caught up as she was, in her own confused rush to be christened by experience and to live quietly, contemplatively. I assumed she was laughable; but came away feeling more fond of her. I imagine her gut reaction to be "How the hell did you get HERE?" And by here she'd mean this sidewalk, here, this balance of restlessness and contentment; here, this meandering prose which began with a wedding gown. 

So, back to the gown. It's still gorgeous and impossible to put on without help. Once the glitchy zipper has been persuaded to work, it's so close and so armored, it could stand independently. It calls to mind one of my favorite picture books, wherein a snazzy suit overshadows the personality of its new wearer, Fenwick, and subsequently goes to the office without him. I don't feel dwarfed as such -- though I can't imagine I'll ever wear more yards of satin, much less a bustle! again -- but if ever a garment of mine were prime for bewitching, this would be it. Say yes to the dress -- but keep an eye on it. This experience jars with the earlier visits; today we follow the directional arrows taped to the carpet, past ghostly bagged dresses on either side, back to a jerry-rigged dressing room. I step onto the dais and the seamstress flouffs the gown out around me, assuring me that bustles are utterly simple to manage. "And when's the new date!" she prompts. Ahhh well, it will be wonderful whenever you have it. If you can believe it, there's one other woman from your wedding time who has yet to pick up her dress! My reflection shows smiling eyes below my quarantine hair, which ranges from Pebbles Flintstone to Jim Ignatowski. In this space, my Biden/Harris mask suffers from a distinct lack of beading. The seamstress tells me to look this way, and that way. I don't know what to do with my hands. I clasp them formally/demurely/awkwardly, she snaps a few photos, and declares it done.

After, I stop off at my nearest favorite bookshop to dispel the anticlimactic feeling. Customers aren't allowed to go inside now, but the owner brings book suggestions to me so I can choose on a bench outside, and how can one be upset with that? I bring the gown to the new home in the front guest room closet, where it shares space with canisters of wrapping paper.  I still like the idea of shortening it to cocktail length, to wear for anniversaries, though that prospect conveniently ignores how bodies change as we age. But earlier me could never have envisioned this dress, this house, my partner or daughter; this current life. So maybe this dress will, itself, step out to trip the light fantastic, some night after it grows cold, and then warm once again; and maybe future me will dress up in it many years from now, take my husband's arm in mine, and we will dance, looking similar, and so very different, than we do today. In the meantime, our 5 1/2 y.o. flower girl has outgrown two flower girl dresses and has soured on the whole business, after learning she may not perform Hamilton songs at pivotal moments in the would-be ceremony.

*Atop Plaid Pajama Pants and Raccoon Slippers, Not Pictured

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Now with 70% More Masks~~

Well it's kind of nuts to look at my last post. Fascinators! Hah! Wedding planning, haha! Oh yes, we contacted vendors, we tasted all the THINGS and, then things started getting iffy, and we said, well, hmm maybe we'll hold off on booking a honeymoon flight, which shifted to, hmm maybe we have to postpone the wedding until August, and we managed to secure some of our same vendors before most of them shut down and then the hotel shuttered itself and possibly we'll get married next Spring or Summer?

And meanwhile my hometown became the Covid-19 epicenter of Pennsylvania, as initial positives popped up in Michigan, and the viral waves crashed upon all of our shores, regardless of coast or interior. How many millions are unemployed now? How much has the death toll ticked upward? Most of us hunkered down in the mandated "shelter in place," while millions of essential workers are still out there. We all worry, we function, or adopt the outward semblance of functioning. We snap at each other, and cry jaggedly, suddenly, before stuffing a chocolate cookie in our gobs; we yoga and deep breathe, and make brittle jokes about drinking earlier; sometimes we're compassionate, grateful, and giving - or else we fold in on ourselves like collapsing tents. We pick up the ukulele, or double up on knitting, or feel compelled to rearrange all the living room furniture. We peer at pebbles, lint, anything around our feet, anything to avoid gazing upward, lest there be an insurmountable wall. What the Hell will this become?

Back at the pebble level, I'm making masks for family/hospital workers/etc. I'm onto my second pattern, having run out of elastic and iron-on interfacing from the first version. I have broken two needles, but otherwise am making some progress. Feels a little foolish, but it's better than nothing. The current pattern is cleaning me out of bias tape, so I may hop onto a third variation. Outside, a fluffy snow is sticking to bushes and trees. The birds, so newly riotous, have quieted.

The five year old is in a snit in the living room, after I vetoed her ridiculous video choice on the ipad and she tried to smack me. In the first stage of her snit, she stomped back and forth to her room, slamming her door with each trip; and either built or destroyed something mysterious inside. Now she is luxuriating in sadness, with an mournful, meandering tune. Happily, the knowledge that she would currently reject any approach from me frees me up. With no preschool for the foreseeable future, I take whatever moments I can get. In this case, I'm still co-opted, as the woeful song lyrics are pretty entertaining:

(sung breathily, with many pauses. dripping with self-pity)

"Nothing is...
fuuuuun with my Mom and Dad
I feel unloved like a girl dying in a blizzard
a room that's broken
I feel like a doctor's kit
without really the tools
I feel like a stick without a flower
I feel like...(grasping) a clay pot that won't (grasping. *SIGHHHHHH*) that won't stand UP
I feel like a lego without a tower
a button without a hollllllllllllle"

She trudges past in her Frozen 2 nightgown, head down.
Me: "Those were some pretty good sad lyrics~"
Daughter (sharply): "DON'T even TALK about it" {Door slam}.

So, we're holding steady over here.  Hope you're well, Dear Reader. Stay safe, spread sanity.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Fascinators Are Rarely the Answer

Mid-February and sleep continues to be brutal, off-and-on. The back-and-forth of it reflects the irritating classic model of shuffling progress, so. It's been long enough that as much as it *sucks*, life just has to go on and I'm mostly managing to take care of business. I delivered new cards a few weeks ago and a couple random animal characters popped into my head this afternoon (sparks for new designs). I'm a bit more irritable than I would like, as evidenced by a recent conversation with my almost- five year old:

"Mom." She has just emerged from her kiddie gymnastics class.


"I have noticed that you are very crabby in the mornings, but you get weller later on."

I am in a period of intense love for her these days, and that one got me. More on the side of goodness-she's-observant! vs. internal guilt tripping. I couldn't disagree. I haven't been a monster, but I have snapped a handful of times. I apologized and said I would keep working on it. She nodded and asked after snacks, which is usually the top topic of conversation.

on more whimsical side
As I emerged from the sleep craziness, Rick & dove into wedding planning. We have managed to avoid this for quite some time (see also: 5 y.o.), but we fell for a hotel in Buffalo last summer, and after the Winter holidays, both of us were suddenly struck with OMG IT'S COMING UP WE NEED TO NAIL THIS STUFF DOWN NOW/YESTERDAY.  My parents & sister live a few states away, so they can't be super involved with the planning, but my Mom and sister skyped with me about headdress/tiaras/whathaveyou and that was simultaneously serious and fun. I was mystified how to handle this piece of it, as I feel most designs are made with long flowing locks in mind, and I am happiest with super short hair.

things briefly took a crafty turn
Gratifying to see my Mom, who can be waffly about most things in daily life, has not lost her strong opinions around fashion and style. Fortunately, they were aligned in their opinions, so the feedback honed my decisions. They categorically shut me down about a few things I felt were splendid, which paradoxically made me trust the process.
getting sucked into a fascinator at Peacock Room

"We *like* this headband," my sister began, "it's really pretty, we just feel like it competes with the dr~~"

"THIS! does not work! With THAT!" Mom broke in loudly. "NOOOOO."

There's still a surprising amount which has NOT been nailed as of this writing, but tastings have been set up, a visit is around the corner, and somehow it will all come together... I feel the freedom to be excited about it, and also to breathe again.


I returned to one of my favorite yoga classes this morning. I gazed through the glass door and saw a stage in the teacher's spot. Fabric covered, a buddha or two, unlit candles, etc. A coffee mug. Was some kind of retreat happening?

I paused while signing my name at the counter: "Oh is something different happening?"

"Some people are better with change than others," the business owner replied, none-too-helpfully.

I went in and took my normal habit (creature of habit, change-resistant) and murmured the same question to my row mate. "Ohh, there's a flyer out there, I didn't read it." I relayed the interaction I had just had and she snorted. Our instructor walked in, laid her mat out just in front of the huge stage. She had us begin to stretch and noted, "I'm NOT sitting on that. I prefer to be on the ground." Gratifying, all of us stunted, stuck-to-sameness. And what's really so wrong about clinging to a few basic, seemingly solid things, when we all know that even the most basic building blocks -- like sleep -- can be significantly, unceremoniously altered and color all our days?  

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Upside: No Need for Operation of Heavy Machinery, or Solving Calculus Problems

Next Card Linocut Design
Well Hello, 2020. You don't look so good to me, though aside from the larger scope of tremendous issues in our country, and devastating continental wildfires, I blame this outlook on a severe lack of sleep. For over a month now, 6 out of 7 sleep nights involve me suddenly waking up between 2:30-4, and then remaining awake until 5:30/6/or when the little one "wakes" us up around 7.

Usually if I have one night of poor sleep (read: 6 hours or less), my stomach hurts, my head hurts, and I'm a bit cantankerous; and really just try to get through the following day, chalk it up as a loss. But jeezus, all of these days can't be losses. This time period involved travel to Colorado for a fairytale wedding, family holidays in Pennsylvania, and canceled yoga, work outs, and the daily lessening of expectation. Is this my new reality? The insomnia is different than it had been -- it's not a matter of mind racing and worry. It's just a laying there, alert, without the wish to be so. All say that aging screws up your sleep. Before 50, though? I can't see dealing with this for another 30-40 years. I have cut down caffeine, alcohol; become more stringent about screen time before bedtime. Last night for variety I rose to putter: dishes, vinegar steam, WTF podcast with Brad Pitt & Leonardo Dicaprio. And THEN went back to bed for more quality sleeplessness. A half hour's reprieve -- ending with a very talkative alarm. The front half of my head is a mass of dull pain; I think of a rock ledge, on the verge of sliding off.  I'm beyond frustrated.

People try to help. My Mom, who doesn't track most conversations at this point (in equal parts due to partial deafness and being 91) says: "YOU HAVE SOMETHING PSYCHOLOGICAL WHICH YOU HAVEN'T DEALT WITH." And I get that position, except there's no ruminating, and the only developing anxiety that this is the new normal, which is horrible to contemplate. I get that this is small potatoes in the scheme of things, but on a daily functioning level, this is so difficult.

A couple more avenues I can explore and the other hold-out hope is the knowledge that over and over and over again,  one's body does strange things, which appear mysteriously, and then disappear in the same manner. SUDDEN PAIN UNDERNEATH THE SHOULDER BLADE, AFFECTING ALL MOVEMENT! Persistent, solid pain, affecting 85% of movement. One day, two days, three days, four. Fifth? All hunky dory, what problem, there's no problem! It feels too wishful, to hope it'll pan out like so. But any hope is good hope, right? Life is pretty darn good otherwise. Good and loving and aggravating and absurd.