Testing, Testing

19 04 2017

This week, as part of my duties as vice president of standards for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, I chaired a Master Artisan jury session – a formidable event for jurors and candidates alike. (For details on this, visit https://www.pacrafts.org/our-guild/master-status)  It brought back memories of my experience on the applicant side of the equation.

How long had it been since I looked at the work that earned me Master status? How would those pieces look to me now, after all those years? I’ll admit, I was a little more than nervous, but I hung the works together and stepped back.

Damn. While they are not representative of my current work, they are part of me. They still speak to that place I was when I created them.

I am humbled and honored to chair this year’s Master Artisan jury sessions.  Remembering what it feels like to take the test helps make better teachers. I will not forget.

A Month of Thanks – Chapter Two

9 11 2016

Today, I – along with a little over half the voters in the USA – am feeling a little bit gobsmacked.   The fog in my brain when I woke up with this morning would have eaten me alive, had there not been a commitment on my calendar that demanded my attention, so today:

I am thankful to have been accepted as an exhibitor at this weekend’s Artisan Fair. http://artisanfair.org/index.html 

Let’s just get this right out in the open;  I do not enjoy doing art shows.

Packing the work,


Foam and tubs and fragile works.

 loading the van,


Walls and lights in; art goes in last.

setting up the booth,


Test layout (before every show) takes an afternoon in the garage.


Looking pretty good – now to label and map for actual showtime.

breaking down the booth  .  .  .  and all that people-y stuff in between.

I am truly an introvert in extravert’s clothes, so this endeavor requires a whole lot of energy – energy I would otherwise be channeling into worrying about stuff I can’t change.  What a waste of blood pressure points and stomach lining.

Thank you, Artisan Fair.  By your acceptance of my application all those months ago, I am now challenged to concentrate on showing my art. I am forced to look hard at what I’ve done;  I am reminded of how happy I was to create it; and I recognize that it is good work.

I am thankful for art – the art I make, the art my friends make, the art that is yet to be imagined by artists who don’t even know they are artists. 

Thanks-worthiness will be abundant at the Artisan Fair.


Through the Grapevine. About 6″ wide x 9″ high.






23 09 2015

oxydendrum arboreum c








The change of season finds me looking hard at other changes in my life – some happening outside my control and others that I need to make happen.

Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly. – Francis Bacon

Today,  I’m thinking of what lies ahead for an organization to which I have belonged for many years. We are faced with the unsatisfactory result of failing to heed Francis Bacon’s admonition.

We have, as with many groups, accepted the flat refrain of the veteran. “We always done (fill in the blank) this way.” That has not been good for us. Now, we’re hearing the rallying cry of the rookie. “Let’s change (fill in the blank – usually with some form of the word “everything.)” That brings its own problems.

Our fathers valued change for the sake of its results; we value it in the act. – Alice Meynell

When change is necessary – as it often truly is – it must be considered and deliberate.

 Unfortunately, when we are forced to see the precariousness of our situation, we are apt to leap wildly from one idea to another; to switch strategies without weighing consequences; to adjust the sail without checking the compass.

All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.– Ellen Glasgow

When we are certain that “something’s got to be done,” sometimes the first thing to do is to STOP for a moment. Stand still long enough to understand where we are and where we want to go and to reorient ourselves with that information.

Accidents close highways. Construction forces detours. Transportation costs fluctuate. There are many factors that must be weighed to develop an alternate route to our destination. The most important of those, however, is where do we want to go?

Only when we agree on the destination, can we make meaningful and useful changes to our course. We’d better make sure, too, that when we hit that toll booth, we have the correct change.


Has the Jury Reached a Verdict?

18 02 2015

For my friends who participate in the work and full-contact sport of fine art and craft shows, this is the start of nail-biting and calendar-reconfiguring season: applications and acceptances for all the important 2015 shows are in play right now.

As hard as it is to make art, it is also hard work to get accepted to a show. The artist must complete forms, submit photos, pay application fees (most of which are non-refundable, without regard to whether or not they’re accepted into the show), and wait for the verdict, at the mercy of nameless and faceless show jurors, who may or may not have a particular bias for or against their medium or style.

The opportunity to sell work and earn income is, of course, a big part of needing to be accepted into these shows.  The need to be accepted is also tied – even though we know better – to our self-esteem. When our application is declined, our first thought is not the right one, which is, most often, that our work and the show are not a good match. We think nobody loves us. It’s a natural and irrepressible reaction to rejection. Some of us are better able to get our perspective back, but for others, especially newer artists, it can be crushing . . .

Which brings me to the inspiration for this post. This brilliant comment came from a Facebook art group participant in response to another member who was in the throes of “Why (not) me?” after receiving a rejection notice.

Just keep moving. Artistry is mastery of your medium; if they can’t handle that, then give them the best possible image of you walking away.

This advice is good for way more than craft show applications; I think it’s a pretty fine way to cope with pretty much everything.

You are the master of your life. Don’t explain yourself; just BE yourself. Folks who can’t appreciate you don’t deserve you. Really. Oh, and if you smile as you wave goodbye, it will make them crazy.


Cheshire cat grin, courtesy of my lovely niece Katy.

I certainly appreciate your acceptance of this post. Thank you.

Do You Have to be Such a Tool?

11 02 2015

Besides her art, one of the things I like best about watercolorist and teacher June Rollins ​ is her never-flagging positive and generous attitude about her art and art, in general.

In one of her recent posts –  https://junerollins.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/be-careful-when-drawing-on-watercolor-paper/ –  June opened up an interesting side discussion of camera obscura and other tools artists use to aid in their process.

The argument – carried on across a number of articles, blogs, and other threads – boils down to two factions:

1. Real Artists always free-hand draw their subjects. Anyone who uses a tool (camera obscura, overhead/opaque projector, grid – you get the gist) to help them draw is a cheater and should not dare call themselves an artist!


2. Artists have always adopted tools that make them more able to produce better (in their own eyes, for that’s all that matters) art. Get over it!

As with a lot of arty things, I formed a pretty quick opinion, but – as with some of my other hastily-formed opinions – after more thorough consideration of the big (overhead-projected-traced) picture; I’ve changed my mind. ( I love that about the older me, by the way.)

While I initially sided with the “must free-hand to be artist” argument, some brilliant counterarguments began to overtake me.  We do not doubt the physician’s commitment to his art because he chooses to use a stethoscope, instead of relying on his unaided ears.  Prima ballerinas are not less magnificent because they wear pointe shoes.  Beethoven was not diminished as a composer because he used more instruments than had been available to his predecessors.

Common sense led me to conclude that artist’s tools are no different: brushes, hammers, cameras, rulers, pigments . . . they are tools.

My now-well-considered opinion is that, to be an artist, simply have your own original thought. Once you do that, the manner in which you render that idea doesn’t really matter.

Engage brain.

Drop barriers.

Make art.


Original Sin

21 01 2015

I am an artist. I have lots of artist friends. One of the things we spend a lot of time discussing and reading about (and whining about) is originality.


Undoubtedly, this is one of the cornerstones of being an artist. Everyone knows it is essential for artists to be original. There is no argument. It is required.

It is also impossible.

Wait. What?

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Carl Sagan


We are all influenced by what’s come before; it is inescapable. Many of us will find others whose muse was sparked by a similar experience or vision or point of view – or what we ate for breakfast. That we share inspiration, medium, style, or vocabulary does not make us forgers, plagiarizers, or pretenders. To be deserving of those epithets, one must be guilty of simple and thoughtless copying; mimicry as straightforward and meaningless as the words “spoken” by a bird who is not conveying ideas, just making sounds.

Now, in the middle of my writing about originality, in just the last four days, I have read posts – from two people whose work I love – about this very subject!

Crap! It’s not ORIGINAL.

Great! It proves my point.

I will admit I had a few bad thoughts:

  1. People will think I copied.
  2. The others (might) have stolen my thunder.
  3. My post won’t be as good as theirs.

(Originality is not required to be artistic, but insecurity . . . got that in spades.)

Then I looked at who had shared the same bit of inspiration as I have and I realized that I am in really fine company. Further consideration revealed that, even though our muses attended the same dance, no toes got trampled.

One of the most enjoyable things about making art is the making itself. That someone else might serendipitously fall into a similar way of working should not bother us; even if they copy us intentionally and flagrantly, they do not stay our hand or rearrange our workspace or think our thoughts.

Now that I’ve thought my thoughts and shared them with you, I encourage you to check these two brief presentations on originality by these always-thought-provoking women: Gwenn Seemel and Marie Forleo.



Now, enjoy some apple pie, courtesy of Mom and the Universe.


Let It Go!

3 12 2014

Although I have not seen Frozen and I have (perhaps luckily) heard its big song less than a half dozen times, the refrain is playing on a loop in my brain.

After what feels like a hundred years (really been about eight), at the end of this month, I am leaving my positions on the boards of my state craft guild* and my local chapter.**  I am sure it is what I want, what I need, and what the organizations need, but I do it with mixed feelings.

Many of you, I am sure, have found yourselves in similar circumstances: you’ve dedicated a large chunk of your energy, your brains, and your passion to a cause, an event, a job and one day, you wake up and realize you have no more to give.

You’re exhausted.



You know it’s time for you to turn over the reins to someone else. You’ve done your fair share and then some . . . but you feel a little bit funny walking away, even knowing that you truly NEED to take back your self.

I’ll admit there are a few ugly reasons that keep me from simply feeling relieved at unharnessing my self-imposed yoke. First, I feel an unreasonable pang of guilt for leaving a post (feels like quitting – I hate quitting!) that I know will be better served by fresh ideas.  Perhaps, it’s more that I fear that my value as a person is diminished, now that I am not a recognized member of the varsity . . .

The worst, shamefully, is that I fear giving up control within these two organizations to which I have been so deeply devoted.  It’s a selfish and silly feeling, but, there it is. What if those who succeed me do not treat my babies with the same love and respect?  What if they decide to cut their hair, change their names, or let them speak French???

They will – because they accept the role for the same reason as I did – to serve the organizations and help them prosper – exercise the same care and invest the same thoughtfulness and assert the same passion as I did these last several years.

If familiarity does not absolutely breed contempt, it surely breeds stagnation; it is time for me to let it go . . . or in the words of another famous movie songstress, Lili Von Schtupp,  Let’s face it – I’m exhausted!


*Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen www.pacrafts.org

**Yellow Breeches Chapter www.ybcrafts.org

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