I spent a lot of time thinking up names for our business blog. In the end I settled on A Paradox: Art-Life-Business. Perhaps poorly stated, it was meant to show that for an artist, there really is no separation of our art making, our personal life and the inevitable struggle to make a living from our art, so we can keep making more art. It’s difficult to be creative when you’re bogged down in worries. This past week is a perfect example of how wrapped up our personal lives are with our business.
Wednesday morning we left home for Reston, VA to participate in the Northern Virginia Art Fair, one of the A-list shows in America. We’ve been juried into it a number of times, most recently the past two years. Sales are usually solid at this high quality show, and last year was very good. Just after passing Louisville, Kentucky our van broke down. As we approached a weigh station (we have a box van to transport our sculpture and therefore are regulated by the federal department of transportation) we suspected trouble—at first it was only a slight noise coming from under the hood. Robin parked, went inside and the officer gave him a printout of local tow truck operators, and he recommended the nearest one. It was a quick diagnosis, the vacuum pump seized up, shredding the serpentine belt, causing the loss of our power brakes and power steering. The driver recommended two shops in the area that could possibly work on it right away. One declined but the other said they could get to it the following morning. After a night in a hotel, the van wasn’t ready to go until 2PM on Thursday. Had we not run into trouble, we would be nearly finished setting up our booth at the show. What to do?
Had it been a dozen or so years earlier, we would have driven on east to arrive by 1 AM, get a few short hours of sleep, be on the street by 6 AM setting up in a rush before the show opened at 10 AM. But we’ve learned that we don’t have that kind of stamina anymore. Heck, anymore we can’t even entertain or go out two nights in a row! I know I wouldn’t have had the energy or presence of mind to smile at potential buyers and carry on a sensible discussion about our work. That’s difficult enough for me under the best of circumstances. Having grown up nearly always alone, my verbal communication skills are extremely poor.
So we made the decision to cancel our participation in the show. We sacrificed our $750 corner booth fee. The Hyatt at the show charged us for the first night ($120) as their policy is a three-day cancellation period before this show. The tow was $228 and the repair bill was $891. Losing potential for sales, is a real hardship. The only good that came of it is that we got home to spend a few more days with our beloved Bull Mastiff, Harley. Read about that gut-wrencher on my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com
Books are the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, the teller of stories, the keeper of secrets, and ultimately the record of our history. These sculptural icons are our interpretation of this important cultural symbol.
Our little copper books are fun to make and delightful to many patrons. Each book is a 12″square of wood, clad with copper and then hand-hammered or embossed with texture. On each we make little books with copper pages that are bound together with silver wire and have a colorful backing. The pages are hammered on the edges and then usually embossed with an elusive script to add mystery. In the case of our newest ones, the pages are embossed with readable messages. The first new set is a Cosmos Series and shown here is the first.Other little books that go with this one say Moon, Star, Sun, Venus, Comets.
Robin and I are continuing our progression of the bentwoods, only now the surfaces are partially or completely clad with copper. The contrast of the metal surface with the painted crackled wood surface is very pleasing. This set also includes stainless steel chain, enamel on copper and hammered brass square rods with chemical patina
Many years ago, I began making bentwood frames for sculpture. The process involves making a framework over which a specialty laminated wood can be bent over the frame, clamped together and left overnight for the glue to cure. Shown here are a couple of the bentwood sculptures I did in the past.
More recently we’ve made some bentwood sculptures like these:
The Other Side
After a 6 year hiatus, Robin will be showing his incredible patinated metal art next year! We’ve been collaborating since 2012, a decision that was made after breaking my elbow, having shoulder surgery, a torn bicep tendon and 2 dislocated fingers. I couldn’t help Robin hang his work at the shows, because at that time, all of his work was very heavy, being made from a heavy gauge copper or brass with bronze angle framework on the back. During the past 6 years he’s learned more skills and come up with ideas for making his work much lighter weight. Some of the metal will be clad onto bentwood frames to give added dimension and all will feature his extraordinary patina work that is very painterly in approach and feel. I’m so excited for him. During the eight years he showed his work he did it all—got into the nations’ top shows, sold well and won many prestigious awards, including Best of Metal at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.
I will be taking a much-needed retreat from the art shows. I’m getting burnt out from the relentless pushing of a theme for the past 25 years. Not many people outside the profession understand the hoops an artist must jump through just to get into the shows. The part that is holding me back just now is that it can be a whole year or more from the time you finish a piece, photograph it, apply to shows with 5 or 6 other pieces that all visually make sense together and then actually do the show. This makes it very difficult to explore different avenues, as the work you have in your booth must be like the images you juried in with.
I’ve got a persistent urge to work in clay, probably stemming from my pre-school years spent making mud pies! Several years ago I did a series of clay torsos which was a very emotional response to my family situation. Having moved on past that, the clay work I’ve done the past couple of years making flowers for our wooden boats, isn’t enough for me. So while Robin shows his metalwork next year, I’ll be on a self-proclaimed sabbatical, exploring new themes. I will accept commission work during this time, for anyone that wants a boat or Jewelry for the Wall sculpture.
With the sad news of the flooding in Houston, I’m reminded of the wonderful Texas patrons we have. Though we’ve never done a show in Houston, we’ve done several shows in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area several times with my work, Robin’s and our collaborative work. Some of my most loyal patrons are from Austin, Richardson and the Fort Worth area.
Just this spring at the Northern VA Fine Art Festival in Reston, a couple walked into our booth and with a surprised look on their faces, inquired if we’d done the Fort Worth Art Fair 15 years ago. They recognized my surfaces, and coincidentally we have now returned to the boat shape, something we worked on many years ago. They told us how much they’ve enjoyed the sculpture they purchased then and informed us of their “canoes” voyage from Texas to St. Louis, Mo and then on to Reston, VA.
This is the sculpture they purchased in Texas, and much to our joy, they purchased a little gondola with calla lilies and a copper base on that spring day this year in Reston.