Our Road Trip to Nowhere

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

Roses Adrift on the Sea

Trying out titles for one of the two new boats we will show at the Ann Arbor Original Art Fair in less than two weeks.  I’ve had to put aside my clay Earth Goddess work for a while–since it is not a collaborative piece we can’t show it in the shows we’ve juried into this year.  A previous blog tells more about her and she is half painted and waiting.  In the meantime I’ve been making clay roses to be placed in a long, sleek boat.  Here are some drying before firing.IMG_1606

After making 30-some roses, they must be left to dry for a considerable time–I error on the side of caution and left mine for about 3 weeks.

Loaded into the kiln along with some calla lilies and ready for firing at cone 05 (approx. 1885 degrees)IMG_1989[1]

It’s a 48 hour wait for the firing and complete cool down.  Opening the kiln before it is cooled completely can cause thermal shock, cracking and spoiling the sculpture.  In the meantime, I’ve crackled the boat that Robin carved into which I will arrange these roses after they’re painted.  Here’s the boat before I began painting it.

IMG_1991And, now that the roses and boat are painted, the double pedestal made and everything assembled, the finished sculpture is spectacular!

Roses Adrift on the Seae

Some Things Are Just Meant To Be

When it comes to making art, not all pieces are equal.  No matter how long you’ve been creating, the process is never the same, the results are not predictable.  Copying something is one thing, creating something new is entirely different.  So Robin and I have been working on a series of sculptures around the theme of books.  Books and art are full of meaning and it seems natural to us to combine the two to play off of each other.  Back in June I made a backplate  in a crackled finish  that I painted to resemble a gaseous star galaxy, not unexpected from me since much of my work the past  15 years or so has been inspired at least partially by our place in the cosmos.  Resting on it I placed three “tablets” with copper books on them.  As soon as Robin saw the finished piece he immediately said, “Oh, it’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!”  I loved it and thus it was signed an named so.

We took it to Ann Arbor and it was well received, but it didn’t find a home.  However, on Labor Day weekend in Chicago a lady asked permission to take a photo to show her husband.  She later called and asked us to bring it by.  The house was full of people celebrating a birthday.  There were oohs and ahs over the piece,  not only because it is beautiful, but the home it found was perfect in every way.  The lines, the colors and the materials meshed with and complimented those in the beautiful room it now resides in.  We couldn’t be happier with the results.  But people make a story and this couple is very special.  He is in hospice, and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is his metaphorical roadmap.

  Hitch 1Hitch 2

The Story Behind “The Crow’s Nest”

I’ve a penchant for symboliCrow's Nest e-mailsm and “The Crow’s Nest” is full of it.  Aside from the boat being a symbol of the journey of the soul and the nest symbolizing the home and security, this sculpture has a more personal story.  Robin is fond of telling the story of how I proposed to him on our first date when I found out he had a 17′ Old Town canoe.  We’re also very aware of the significance in the adage “don’t miss the boat”.  This sculpture is a marriage of our lives.  The shape of this boat is entirely Robin’s design and I love the sleek lines.  He carved it and gave it to me to texture and paint.  Together we designed the pedestal upon which the boat rests.  It’s structure is a pleasing arc but massive enough to create a stable foundation.  On the boat rests a copper crow’s nest–a metaphor for not only a sailing ship’s lookout, but the home for Robin’s old crow, namely me.  And when the nest came to rest there, is when the boat became a vessel.

Studio Progress

If you’ve followed our pursuits in the past year,  you know about the fast transition we made to the making of boats and books this year.  We have a working process of experimenting with materials and techniques on our art for the wall, and then these new ideas are incorporated into the boats.  With Robin  taking time once again to experiment on hammering, embossing and patina work lately, I can see already such grand statement pieces utilizing the approach in this new 12″ square.  These are hot!

Embossed & hammered copper w/chemical patina

Embossed & hammered copper w/chemical patina

Embossing2

Embossed and hammered copper w/chemical patina

Different Bodies of Work

Most visual artists work in series, that is producing a number of pieces done in the same medium with a common theme. It’s a logical way to explore and experiment within certain parameters.  Robin and I don’t like being confined  so we’ve explored a lot of mediums and materials.  Each has its own characteristics and associated methods, but we like to mix it up.  I get bored easily and consequently am often working on multiple series, each in a different medium, during the same time period.  It may have to do with attention deficit disorder, but it also has to do with the fact that I express different ideas in different mediums.  It also has to do with the fact that I have to pay the bills as well as grow my potential.  It amounts to a balancing act.  Different series for different markets is the same as an artist “getting a day job”, only better, much better for a variety of reasons.

Jewelry For the Wall is a collection that I’ve produced continuously over the past 14 years.  All of the pieces are basically paint on wood, with the addition of a few other materials used for surface ornamentation and texture.  The common threads are the materials, with a dependence on color, texture and geometric shapes, punctuated with rhythms and flowing line.  They serve as meditative icons as much as ornamentation. These images are where I bring together my scientific and spiritual interest in the cosmos and our place in it.  Our place in the cosmos is married to our approach to the environment.  We are more than a species living on the Earth and dominating it.  We are part of the whole living entity known as Earth.  An example of one from this series shown below is “Lunar Dance”.

My clay sculpture and most of my drawing over the years is about my immediate experience in life.  They are definitely a projection of my personal state of mind at the time.  Shown here is “Cavewoman” from my body vessels series.

Robin favors “working with God” as he describes how the magic of patina on metal is achieved.  His patina work has the impact of a Rothko, the mood of an Inness.  He creates actual paintings without any paint or dyes.  His work is extraordinary and unique.  Shown here is “Remember Me”

Robin and I collaborate on another body of work made primarily from enamel on copper, patina on metals and paint on wood.  Unlike that of earlier periods, much of modern architecture is experienced as a series of planes with varying color and texture and that is what inspires Twitch!.  They are compartmentalized as is architecture and they are also objects of beauty, made to enhance  the living and working space created by the patron.  Twitch! is our day-job.  We are proud of the work and know it is a good value for the patron, but if economics weren’t ruling our existence right now, we’d be spending that time on our other work.  Shown below a Twitch! piece titled Frank’s Right (not a mis-spell but a play on words)

We are now collaborating on new work that is a natural outgrowth from these other series to create new pieces using more elegant materials and innovative surfaces, and exploring free-standing sculpture as well.   We will be showing this work for the first time at the American Craft Council retail show in Baltimore in February, followed we hope by the Palm Beach Fine Craft show.  Images will be available before the end of the year.

Lunar Dance

“Lunar Dance”

 

Cavewoman

Cavewoman

Franks Right

“Frank’s Right”

Remember Me

“Remember Me”

Our Paradise

When we bought our 20 acres of woodlands it was bare of man-made features.  Robin and I cut down what trees were necessary to make room for the building of our home, studios, storage building and eventually barn.  Other than making art, our real passion has been the landscaping of the site.  Though we had professional help in the building of two ponds, the rest of the labor has been largely our own. We’ve made use of most of the existing native hardwood trees (oaks, maples, hickory, walnut, ash, tulip poplar, ironwood, hackberry, cherry, sycamore, black locust, sweet gum) while  encouraging along native volunteers also such as the dogwoods, redbuds, 2 varieties of sumac, creeping charley, trumpet vine, violets, woodland and prairie wildflowers, honeysuckle, red cedars, witch hazel, sassafras, etc.  In addition we’ve added white pines, chocolate mimosa, hemlock, golden raintree, Japanese maple.  We’ve created many different themed gardens.  Each is a unique creation using the varying elevations of the land, additions of stone, sculpture, shrubs and flowers to provide the space with its own privacy and feel.

We always have several projects on-going, some of which take years to complete.  It’s just amazing to watch it grown and evolve.  And some of it is not what we hoped for, nor expected, but you learn to accept it and move on, preferably finding an unseen benefit in the making.  Like when an ice storm took out our most prized dogwood.  We mourned the loss and then moved on to a chocolate mimosa for the same site—a delightful choice for its color, exotic nature and dappled shade in the heat of the summer.  Though it’s not a particularly long-lived choice we enjoy the drama of it.  We’re in the market currently for an old brass bed, preferably with the steel springs for one of the gardens.  We are particularly captivated with the use of sculpture in the garden that allows the plantings to become part of the story as seen here with Sharon’s clay sculpture, “The Old Dancer”,The Old Dancer 3 that stays out year around, allowing the Cardinal vine to grow up around and actually through her open vessel.

The Old Dancer 4

Loss of Sculpture

Well, I’ve never had a sculpture collapse and I’ve never had one blow up in the kiln, even way back in the 80’s when I was hand-building.  So I guess it was my turn.  Since my last post about her, I had built onto the pregnant goddess up through the belly.  This morning I went into work on her and undraped the top and began working and was finishing up her belly and swayed pregnant back when she started falling.  I grabbed her and held her against me but the movement had already cracked her right weight-bearing foot.  The problem was not in the building, but that a major support strap had come untied.  Don’t know how that happened, especially since I tie them in double knots.  I called Robin to help me try to save her, but we determined that it was best to just let her go.  After sobbing for a while I guess I’ll just have to start over and decide that this time she’ll be better anyway.  It’s still depressing though.  I spent over a month on her and she was looking really good.  I can only imagine showing a new version of her someday and having somebody ask me “How long did it take you to make that?”

The Life

It’s easy to get caught up in writing about art making, the process, the inspiration or even the trials of marketing.  But we titled this blog Art Life Business: A Paradox so that means our private as well as public life.  You may be familiar with my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com  in which case you are aware of my telegraphing the family secrets and not only that, but also verbally bashing my “sister”.  Many I’m sure have wondered why I haven’t just walked away from it all by now.  In truth I was devastated by the family crisis and subsequent betrayal.   She crossed a moral line that I can not ignore so in order to  hold her accountable  it is necessary to tell the story.  I bring it up in this venue to talk of how it has effected our art making and the business of marketing our art.

My family went into crisis in the fall of 2000, so this has been a 14 year nightmare for me and subsequently for Robin because ultimately one’s spouse always gets dragged into your drama one way or another.  Robin and I are very close and we’re both rather reclusive.  We feel loved, appreciated, respected, happy, understood and safe with each other.  The outer world intrudes from time to time to test that haven and nevermore than with the rupture and death of my family.  It drew me away from my center, preoccupied my physical and intellectual health and distorted reality to the extent that it ultimately had an extreme impact on my creativity and production of work.  That said, look to what I’ve said about my sculpture “Lady Liberty” (the Expressions interview on WSIL-TV) to understand the battle I’ve fought and how I’ve kept getting back up after each blow.  I’m ready to walk away from it all but for now I have to share my story.