Category: artist cooperatives

a month

13411862_10208363446235263_2117676587360267764_oIt has been a just over four weeks since everything changed.

Honestly the transformation started nearly eighteen months ago, sped up considerably this time last year, but the past four weeks have accelerated the process to the speed of light.

As i write, i have a job, one that requires 40 hours a week and will pay me regularly, and for that i am on my knees with gratitude. The stress of trying to make it solely through art, alone, with my health suffering for so long, was intolerable. i was breaking down.  It made my art – especially my writing – suffer.

For most of this job search, i was afraid on so many different levels.  i am an artist, an acquired taste, a round ball of strange.  To find a place that can tolerate all that – and the terrible staggering awkwardness that my body often adopts instead of graceful movement – is fantastic.

But this is a blog about the business of art.  And, thankfully, that business continues.  In one month, i have written (and typed in) a notebook full of poetry, done more drawings that i can remember, finished writing a novel, and begun working on a short story that amuses me more than i can express.  i have never written from the POV of a planet before.

Today, as i gallery sit in Southwest Harbor, i feel more centered in my calling than i have since Darwin the dog died.  Going into my studio has been hard, and something for which i have had very little time.  13483087_10208363947087784_3077929633202552197_oAs soon as i could throw again after surgery, my kiln died, so the pottery side of everything has been stalled rather horribly.  i await a paycheck or art sales to get new elements and relays, and then, i will be back up and running after this year and a half long stream of catastrophe.

i imagine i will release a deep sigh as that first kiln begins to click and heat up.  This will be the physical proof of my breaking out of this confining suffering and into a new, (glorious!) stage of life.

Indeed, it gets even better: sometime in early August, i will be teaming up with another artist and potter. He is phenomenally gifted and i am truly honored he wants to work with me. This is an endless source of personal delight, but will alter the flow of my life (and creativity) again.  This change could not be more welcome; it will be wonderful to have the studio being used more frequently. i cannot wait to see what art pours out of its doors.

Honestly, i have begun to realize that this recent journey through the darkness has given me wonderful gifts.  Somewhere underneath all the poetry and daydreams, there lies a core of tempered steel.  It can flex and move without breaking. As long as i remember that this resilience resides inside my core, especially during moments of overwhelm and despair, i think i will be able to survive.13490800_10208368963573193_3510292570587586590_o

Also, i needed to prove to myself, and maybe to the source from which my art flows, that i can actually do the hard work of life.  i have been scared and anxious for so long – to have fate force me up into a standing position, to demand such sacrifice from me, was deeply uncomfortable. Yet, i am standing.  i am slowly, haltingly, moving forward as an artist and as a woman.

Running this business for so long, alone, had left my confidence gutted.  i did not have all the skills that i needed to be successful.  This is not a whine, this is simple truth. i have grown too tired of self-recrimination to give myself a hard time over this anymore.  We all have our abilities, our talents, and i cannot keep hating the fact that there are aspects to running a business – especially finances and marketing – to which i am not equal.

Also, perhaps, i have grown a bit wiser – not many people can survive flawlessly alone.  Why would i think that i am any different?  The condition of lonely solitude had gone on for so long, i forgot that i could reach out and ask for help.  Now, i know i can.  There will be hands to catch me.

So, today, i am simply grateful. i had a wonderful dog, i have had all these years where i was married to making art.  My body is tired but functioning; my mind, likewise.  And here i am, once more, handing poetry and art to you in my open hands.

 

 

Things must change

I am writing this during my last day sitting in an artisans’ cooperative this year; Christmas Eve, 2015.

This marks an end of an era for me. A huge amount of the galleries in which i began this year are either moving, closing (or already closed) and a few others have had sales bad enough i have to make disappointing decisions. Most of my plans for the next twelve months remain purely in the realm of the  hypothetical. What i know i will do is make pen and inks, finish at least one novel, write as many poems as i can coax through me.  Soon, i will have another surgery, and afterward i have to dedicate myself to healing and transcending whatever comes.

Never before has it been so glaringly obvious and desperate: i have to reconceive how i move through my days, even as i acknowledge that my heart beats out art as much as blood. The question remains how to do this.  How do i walk that fine line between financial need and spiritual/sanity needs? As i wrote in a poem posted fairly recently, and the haiku below that i put on twitter, art is a fickle mistress.

Art is a lover
who keeps me chained up tightly
and would let me starve.

Starving is not a viable option for an irrepressible sensualist like myself. Giving up on art, which so many have told me is the most sensible option, also seems to be impossible. Yet, i fight against incredible anxiety and fears. As much art as i create, as much as i deepen my abilities in different mediums, i have been hoxed by this relentless worry. This cannot continue. One or the other has to surrender itself – either i continue making art and become relatively fearless in its dissemination, or i surrender to my fears and live a life painfully diminished.  i do not think i could survive the latter.

So, i have to find a way. There is no other option, really, this long succession of freelance and piecemeal jobs can be the stop gap, the way to keep going, until i find a way to make art consistently pay for bread and butter.  But i must keep my focus on that far off mountain top, where the work that gives me the deepest bliss and aligns my energy with the world so well actually maintains me.

One of the miracles in my life is that this past year has brought a slew of people who believe in me enough to help me get through some terribly difficult times. When i thought i might never throw again, my friends listened to my grief; they celebrated with me when i got back to the wheel.  Gifts of food, money, time, compassion and kindness kept me afloat. As i wrote earlier, this was the year of friendship. Perhaps that is how i can find my courage – to remember that there are people who don’t just want me to succeed but see it as something that will happen, with enough patience, stubbornness and resilience.

So, this blog is a bit of a shout out to the universe at large, steeped with both prayer and intent: help me change things. Help me find a way to make this work with the blessings and limitations i have. i cannot change the basic DNA of my being, so i have to find a path that lets me keep making art AND eat.

Things will change.

Things must change.

i am apparently too stubborn to surrender, so i must find a way to be courageous and maybe even a bit wise.

The whole engine of my heart and imagination manifests this transformation.

i wish you all the best for your coming year – may all people find greater peace, kindness and love in our worlds.

stains on my shirt

Usually i take great pains to dress as professionally as i am able during my shifts at these cooperative galleries.  Whether i like it or not, art is a business and i am selling a product.  That i make the work with my blood and sweat makes no difference.  However, today, i am dressed for the sunburn on my back, acquired during last Sunday’s Bucksport Art Festival.  youngmeAs it heals, it has begun to burn and itch, and the softest of shirts was required.  Sadly, as i ate my lunch, i spilled soup on myself so now we have a shirt chosen for comfort with stains down the front.  Of course, i dropped my extra clothes in a puddle coming in, so here i sit, as i am.

Oddly, i feel more at home in this get-up, stains and all, than i did yesterday in the more formal (and still very soft) dress.  Something in me appreciates the rumpled and worn. i have always been comfortable with imperfection, my art celebrates it. My uniform for writing, making pottery and painting, clay stained yoga pants and an old, super-soft t-shirt, feels the most natural to me.

i can remember how hard my mother worked to make me girlish – the lace pantyhose, the frilly polyester dresses, the patent leather shoes, the ongoing war over my hair. (How i hated those damned bangs!) Yet, i could never bend to her will; my natural inclination toward comfort and functionality won. Given my druthers, i would have run around in jeans and t-shirts with my hair in utter disarray in every picture.

Not much has changed since then.  Still, i am at home in what is comfortable, what lets me have freedom movement to work, clothes which demand no other thought.

So, to my customers today, i am pleased to meet you.  Let me talk to you about the art i make and the art of my amazing fellow cooperatives.  i recommend the clam chowder next door, too.

customer service

IMG_1439Yesterday, working in Art Space Gallery, i had a conversation with a customer that was worth its weight in gold.  Indeed, over the course of my fourth nearly sleepless night in a row, and through the drive back to ArtSpace this morning, her words kept coursing through my mind.

It had started out like nearly every other encounter in these walls:

As soon as they cross the threshold, i wait two heart beats before i smile as brightly as i can and speak with as much enthusiasm as possible without sounding weird.  “Hello!  Welcome to Art Space!”

“Hi.”  She started to look at the art.

“How are you doing on this fine day?”

“Good.”  She continues to look at the art, but she is not unfriendly by any measure.

“i don’t know if you realize this, but you have entered an artist coop – if you have any questions about any of the artists and their work, i can help.”

“Thanks.  Just looking.”  She did smile though, which is always encouraging.  However, unless people ask questions or seem open to conversation, i tend to let people look for a bit without bothering them further.  Once she reached the back room, i greeted her again – too many people miss that Lara Max has these amazing bells or that Roger Barry’s boxes have fabulous locks built into them.  Then we started talking about Lori Davis’ photography.  i told her i was in awe of the patience that it takes to be a wildlife photographer.  You have to set up before dawn, hope the sun, the clouds, the wind driven waves, the birds and the animals all do what you want or create marvelous surprises.  Then, after hours of waiting, you have to have the reflexes and the skill at composition to get the shot.

loridavis_06042015_012“This is not something that would come easily to me.”  i laughed, “This is why i am in awe.  i have a different kind of patience: i can write a book, i can spend weeks on a sculpture, i can work on a painting for two years.  However, by the time twenty minutes would have passed with me waiting for something marvelous to photograph, or for the light to get just right, or to figure out how to frame the moose, my mind would wander, my hands would fidget and i wouldn’t be able to react.  i have traded days of my life for her work, and time is the most precious thing i have, because i am in awe of her skill, her composition and her patience.  Without the patience, the other two wouldn’t have a chance to shine.”

The customer looked at me with wide eyes, nodding her head.  In a quiet voice she responded, “Thank you.”  Her hand went to her heart, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that right now.  That feels like something divine just happened.  I feel like the message that I have to have patience is flooding over me, but you made me see it a little differently.”

A half an hour later, once she had gone through the whole gallery – and we talked about my sculpture and much of the fabulous art here by this amazing group of people – she stood in the front room as i took my seat again.  She smiled at me and said, “I don’t know why I feel the need to say this, but you know, sometimes at your darkest moments, when everything seems hopelessly lost and you have no idea what to do or where to go, that is exactly when you find your way – or get what you need.”

Instantly, tears welled up in my eyes.  “You just returned the favor.”  I put my hands out to her, hoping she could see the gratitude they were holding.  “You have no idea how much i needed to hear that.”

A few moments later, we lost something else – my surprise at finding out we had lived in the same state knocked wiser things out of the conversation – but I have been splendidly grateful for her reassurance.  She pulled me out of my fear and into a space of possibility – a great gift, particularly during this spat of insomnia and pain and stress.

cooperative season

We have entered the busiest season of the year – and yet one that is in many ways the most fun.  June, July, August & September pass by while i am traveling across the state doing gallery days at various artist cooperatives (and here.)

looktolight_11x14i love these places, in part because i adore working with other artists. In the normal world, saying that i’m an artist can lead to raised eyebrows and slowly shaking heads. People question my priorities; they regard my insanity with compassion. However, within these cooperatives i am surrounded by people who also pursue their art with dogged determination.  i am in the company of people who are making their choices based on bliss and joy as much as necessity and propriety.

Mostly, though, i adore this time to meet people.  i watch how they react to my art and those of my fellow cooperatives. i get to talk to people who are on trips, who live locally, who have been drug in by their spouse or parents. While i am here, i make art – my art box and pen and ink paper travel well. Last year, while at Boothbay Harbor, i had a semi-circle of preteens surrounding me, absolutely enraptured by the dragon i was inking. i am certain that the book/office supply/art store down the street made some sales immediately after.

However, this also means that my studio isn’t open 7 days a week – indeed, this year, i will be reliably open only Saturday and Sunday. Every other day of the week will be by chance or appointment. And, even Saturdays and Sundays will have their problems! For instance, next Saturday (the 20th) i will be back in Boothbay Harbor, with my pen and inks. Regular hours for my gallery and studio (11 am to 6 pm) will resume the next day.

Often i think that being a sole proprietor of a small business, not to mention being an artist on its own, requires my primary skill to be managing chaos.

By Maine Hands: Fabulous Fridays!

IMG_5846We open tomorrow!  (OH MY GOODNESS!)

Yesterday, we made tremendous progress and I am hoping today to finish the miracle.  However, we also made some decisions yesterday that made me smile.

Each Friday, from 5 to 7, we will offer light refreshments (tea, cheese, crackers, cookies, maybe wine if we feel like going crazy.)

This coming Friday is our Open House.  The next, IMG_5841December 12th is Meet the Artist – we are hoping as many of our artists will be here as possible.  On the 19th we will be having a holiday party!  Please come and enjoy the art, get a chance to meet the artists, really see how marvelous an impact you can have when you buy small, handmade, and local all at the same time!

See you tomorrow!  I will be there at 11 am with bells on!

 

hyperactivity

buymeIf I were more able bodied today, I would be closing the gallery here in Southwest Harbor for five minutes to give myself a chance to race around the store, letting the suppressed AAAAAAAHHHHH’s and WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE’s escape from my lips.  As it is, I have not been walking well for the past few days, so racing off the extra energy vibrating within me is totally out of the question.

My focus and my hands have made me abandon my attempts at drawing after two good works (here’s one and now the other.)  So I sit here, burbling, trying to wrestle my mind down so it can produce some words, hoping that like a teapot I will burble forth with excited babblings.  I am certainly on the verge of spontaneous whistling eruption.onsale

Without the distraction of art,  a huge wave of hyperactive chaos crashed over me.  Part of the problem has been a wonderful blessing: both here and at Belfast’s Harbor Artisans yesterday, I have been so busy with customers that I can barely think.  As social as I am – which is to say very – I also need an inordinate amount of time to be quiet and still.  Two days of constant human interaction makes the lonely solitary in me overwhelmed.  Still, SALES!  YAY, SALES! I get such a kick out of selling other artist’s work. This morning, I went giddy with delight selling an amazing photograph of a harbor seal by the incomparable Lori Davis.

That said, moments when I am stuck like this – like joy and anxiety are soda being shaken up inside the bottle of my skin, ready to bust forth at the slightest suggestion of release – bring an uncomfortable intensity.  I am most certainly and vividly alive right now, burning like a small sun.  If I were home, I would retreat to my meditation spot and let myself drift away from the extra energy and into quiet stillness.  If that failed, I would throw this out in the form of serving dishes and vases.  If this were twenty four years ago when I was in college, I would start walking and not stop until my legs turned into goo. readyforsale

Alas, none of those options are viable.  I am in public, manning the store.  I cannot retreat into motion nor stillness.  Granted, now that the sun has come out I am less likely to have scores of customers demanding my attention, but I still need to be paying attention.

So here I am: hyperactive and bored.  I keep fondling the stack of pen and ink drawings to my left.  These represent about a week’s worth of work – thirteen sit beside me, denied space on the shelves and wall.  But two of my all time favorites – the woman dancing with the sun and moon and the sun resting with the Spirit asleep on her shoulder (both above) – are ready and waiting for their new homes.  At some point, I will be putting these online – $45 for one, $85 for two (including shipping.)  Hopefully I can get that done over the next three days while I am recuperating from these two wild and intense days.  That is the downside about this level of hyperactivity, by the way, is unless I can harness it directly into art, or purge it with some vigorous physical activity, it takes its time expending itself and leaves me absolutely exhausted.

I should sleep well tonight!

 

Four days in cooperatives

divineconversationWritten late Friday, 29 June 2014

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Wednesday, Thursday, today (and tomorrow) I have been working in cooperatives: Belfast, Southwest Harbor, and two days here in Boothbay Harbor.  Wednesday and Thursday next week, I will be in Belfast Harbor Artisans again.

It makes for quiet blogging days – since internet access is not always accessible.

Let me say, I actually enjoy this work quiet a lot.  Selling art – even here in Boothbay, where there is not one speck of my own art to be seen – gives me a great thrill.  tree_loversThere is something wonderfully special about selling work you know was made with an artist’s two hands.  I can tell them about the woman who made that fabulous photograph, or the one that hammered out that wonderful metal bell, or the maker of that sea-glass cup, or the sculptor of polymer clay fish, or the creators of this vast array of sparkling jewelry.  When I make a good amount of sales, it makes me giddy.  I know that I am helping other people who are walking down the same difficult road that chose me.

That said, as I close in on day four of cooperative sitting, with two more ahead of me next week, I am aching to make art.  Granted, I have had my pen and inks with me, and I can always find something on which to scratch out a poem or two, so I have managed to make some decent pieces.  However, there is nothing quite like being elbow deep in clay while you throw something huge and impressive on the wheel, or having a sculpture build itself through your hands, or getting lost in front of a virginal, unblemished canvas while you load up your paintbrush… I am filled with longing just imagining it…

How many people can wind up looking like a complete mud-covered wreck at the end of the day and know it means they have been productive?  I am blessed!

Soon.  Soon.  I will be back to the messier arts soon.

 

Another gallery day

I constantly marvel at these days working at our artist cooperatives.  Today I am in Southwest Harbor, and it is very quiet.  Well, actually, quiet is a bit of a misleading word – they are doing road construction outside and the noise from that can be prodigious.  However, inside the gallery, all is still.  If it were not for the Lark Ascending playing on my iPod, this would be an island of silence in the midst of the cacophony of construction.

For days, I had planned to work on my novel, following Einar, Abby, Zaba, Zavier and the rest of the characters as they move further on their journey.  However, as I drove here in the grey morning, a short story leapt into my mind, seizing it mercilessly.  Several months ago, I left a questing knight defeated in the woods, lost, alone, and giving himself over to fever.  The last bits of his armor had finally crumbled away, taking his hope with it.  For some reason, he grabbed my imagination by the shoulders as I wound through Ellsworth and Trenton – and like a stroke of lightening, I discovered who he sees when the fever abates and he opens his eyes.  Oddly, I have not actually written much – just jotted down ideas – while the scenes keep dancing around inside my imagination, testing out different possibilities.

While part of my brain sat in the forest, watching the action, listening to Emer snark at him for being lost, forgetful and woefully self pitying, I got prints ready for sale and checked out the two people brave enough to enter the store.  I have pulled out the last few poems from this year that I have not typed in. For now they just sit beside me, ready distractions if I need them. Then, much too late, I ate breakfast – which should really be called lunch at that point.

These gallery days, even the quiet ones, are filled with surprises.  Last week I talked for a long time with another lapsed historian (what feels like a lifetime ago, when I had another name, I studied at Georgetown).  This week, I got to witness the removal of a good ten inches of road in one pass by a truck. In the absence of customers, I photographed the other artists’ stock, I straightened up (although the artist yesterday did a thorough job of that).  Now, I have the time to let myself float away into the river of creating, wherever its current might take me.

Southwest Harbor Artisans
Southwest Harbor Artisans… you can see my computer to the left…