Summer Daze

12 07 2017

Folks, I gotta admit it; I am running on fumes, this week.  Nothing in the tank.

With that full disclosure, being totally transparent, coming forward with the evidence (which you’d deduce for yourselves anyway), I offer you a little light mid-summer Top Ten List.

Top Ten Reasons I Respect Craft Show Exhibitors (and why I don’t do craft shows!)

10.  They accept the uncertainty of income stream that being self-employed embodies.

9.    They are dedicated to following their true nature; they were born to create beauty and they do what it takes to make it happen.

8.   They are eternally optimistic, never doubting that their hard work will pay dividends – and they are willing to do the hard work.

7.  They put their souls on display in fold-up store fronts that fit into the backs of Chrysler minivans.

Carol Heisler’s “Before” photo.

6.  They answer the same dumb questions from non-buying gawkers every day of every weekend of show season and never bite anyone.

5.  They can sleep on any horizontal-ish surface available to them when traveling for shows.

4.  They can go for two days, three hours, and forty-two minutes without a bathroom break, if a show’s good.

3.  They are the “postmen” of the art world, braving wind, rain, sweltering heat, toe-numbing cold, and managing to engage people about their craft.

2.  They produce some of the most magnificent works of fine art and fine craft anyone could imagine.

1.  They are some of my very best friends.

Tomorrow, I will visit a few of my fantastic friends who’ll fill the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts  and the People’s Choice Festival  and I am sure my soul will be as full as my wallet will be empty.  I give my arty friends all a Top Ten!


One more admission – I “borrowed” these photos from these wonderful women’s Facebook pages. Hoping that forgiveness will be granted, since I did not ask their permission.

Pam Cummings Pottery See her at Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. (Note the shopper wielding the umbrella.)

Carol Heisler’s “Not your grandmother’s” Quilts will be at Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. BTW, Carol’s managing all the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen shows this year. Check for them!

Kalpana Lehman’s Fine Soaps She’ll be at People’s Choice Festival.

Art by Clare Miller She’ll be at People’s Choice Festival.



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. 

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.





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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Snarky: How to Speak Arts Festival

24 09 2014

I’ve seen this list – 10 Things Not to Say to an Artist or Crafter – being shared around Facebook by quite a few artisans and artists (although none I know would ever refer to themselves as “crafters.” – blechhhh!) It concerns me that some of us might think we are owed more courtesy than we display; so, I respectfully offer you the list, with some responses that might cross our show-addled minds and some gentler and possibly more productive replies:

 10.“I’ll just get my friend to make me one of those.”


Clearly, you are too boorish to HAVE friends, much less talented ones.


Oh, you have a friend who’s familiar with (insert your medium or technique here)? Who is he/she? I’ll bet we might know each other!

 9. “You know what you should make . . . ”


Yes, a sign that says “Don’t tell my muse what to think.”


Well, I have had great success and I get immense satisfaction out of making (insert your art/craft here), but I’m always open to an on-the-fly idea . . . you never know what might spark my muse.

 8. “Do I get a price break if I buy two?”


Did you get lost on your way to the garage sale?


My show prices are non-negotiable. I will, on occasion, offer special pricing to my collector clients, as a way of thanking them. I’d be delighted to add you to my mailing list.

 7. “I can make that myself.”


Can you make yourself pipe down?


I’d love to hear how you handled (insert media-specific issue here). It’s always so helpful to hear how others resolve problems like this.

 6. “Why does it cost so much?”


Because questions like this require that I buy ibuprofen by the case.


The raw materials in my work include (quick list of basic supplies), my education, my life-experience, my time, my inspiration, and my willingness to show a part of my soul to others, in the hopes that they find some beauty or meaning relevant to their own lives. That’s how I value my work.

5. “How do you make this?”  NOTE: I kind of like getting this question. A little bit of inside info can help someone better appreciate and understand the value of a piece.




I start with (very basic list of supplies) and an idea – something inside me that needs to be expressed.

4. “Will you donate your artwork to our event? We can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure.”


Are you nuts? I need to sell my work to pay the rent or I could die of exposure this winter!


I support selected charities with monetary donations; it is my practice not to donate my art. Best of luck to you in your fundraising efforts.

 3. “My nine-year-old makes this kind of stuff too.”


What art school is the precocious little bastard attending?


How nice that your child has recognized her calling so early; I must have been at least thirteen before I settled on making my living as an artist. 

 2. “Kids, this is what happens if you don’t go to college.”


Yep, cause if you go to college, all the creative joy will get sucked right out of you.


Matter of fact, I graduated from (insert alma mater here). My art is infused with and informed by my education.  My house is paid for and furnished with the money I earn by doing what I truly love.

1. “I can buy that at Walmart for $3.99.”


If you know Walmart’s pricing structure, you are way outside my client demographic!


Have a lovely time in the funnel cake line . . .

Oh, well, sometimes, you just can’t do any better.

I am thrilled to discuss my work with anyone who’s interested enough to spend their time with me at a show. Circumstances might require that I excuse myself, temporarily, to attend to others in my booth; but I do not take folks’ attention lightly. This is not to say that I think we artists are fair game for intentionally rude people. We should absolutely take no crap.  We just need to be sure we’re not taking the wrong attitude into a discussion.  Look for the good, ignore the unintentional slight, and direct the truly rude ones to the funnel cakes.

Please Be Patient

20 08 2014

The Oxford dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  We commonly use the word patience, when we really mean perseverance, especially in this often-used statement:

“I wish I had the patience to do that.”

Last weekend, I heard that, more than once, at a fine art and craft show. Have you, while gazing at some complex bit of beauty in a booth, overheard such a comment, had a friend say it to you, or perhaps even said it yourself?  There stands the artist, whose soul is on display as surely as his work, and, BAM! – someone has reduced his effort to just being able to “wait it out.”


I got the chance to visit a fine artist in her studio, last week, to observe her at work.  While I could learn many of the component tasks that go into creating her work, I could never – no matter how patient I might be – do what she does. This is not self-deprecation; I am merely stating a fact. The bases for this assertion are many, but let’s just go for the big obvious ones:

  1. Her muse speaks to her, alone. No one can copy another’s creative spirit. (Yes, we can copy work, but that’s not the same, and you know it!)
  2. She has devoted time and intellect to researching, experimenting, documenting, refining, and pushing the boundaries of her chosen medium.
  3. She is fearless in her work, because she completely trusts her vision of a piece and her ability to realize that vision.

Those things – creative fire and genius spark; desire, diligence, and artistic acuity; technical skill; and mad courage – are what we really see in the finished works of master artists and artisans. I think where patience enters the equation, perhaps, is when an artist merely smiles in response to, “I wish I had the patience to do that.”


Friends and Family

6 11 2013

“Does any artist ever get over the thrill of having sales?  Even those that are to wonderfully supportive family members?”

This was a question posed by a very successful fiber and mixed media artist, Karen Anne Glick  As an artist, this had been a struggle for me; the question was perfectly timed.

I just sold one of my copper enamel and mixed media works to a couple in my family and it felt strange to take money for the piece.  I tried to make a deal, tell them it could be my Christmas gift to them, but they insisted on paying for it, writing me a check, on the spot.  After they left my show booth, I began to consider how silly I was to feel strange about getting paid for the work I do, regardless of who buys it.

Just as artists are our neighbors, friends, and family members, our family and friends are consumers of fine art and craft. They buy lovely things for their homes from fine artisans. (Why) should it matter that the artist is a family member? I know the piece purchased by my relatives is PERFECT for their home.  Had the piece been made by someone they did not even know, they would have purchased it.

Oh . . .  Okay.

Friends and family might, in the nascent stages of a family member’s career, buy work to give that person a little boost; there is nothing wrong with that.  The artist should understand that their family is showing their belief in his or her talent.  It’s time to stop thinking that family members are buying out of charity, though, when the artist is widely collected by people who buy because the work speaks to them, because the artist produces desirable work, and not because they share Christmas card lists!

How would you feel, if you were working for someone else? You would certainly want your family to patronize your employer’s business. When you are exhibiting your art, you are the employer, so respect your customers and your product. If a family member or friend wants to buy your art, SELL IT TO THEM!  Do not offend your collectors, even ones you call Mom or Sis, by turning down their honest desire to buy one of your works.

Trust your work and your success and your clients. Listen to your Auntie Paula.

Stage Fright

23 10 2013

I was on live TV, today – no, not an episode of “World’s Dumbest” or “Cops!”

I had the privilege of representing my friends and fellow members of the Yellow Breeches Chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen  in a very short segment on our local ABC affiliate, Channel 27 .

I know a lot of folks might think it’d be fun to be on TV and many more who would be frozen in terror at the thought.I fall in neither camp.

I am too old to think it’d be a good idea to put my wrinkles in hi-def and wide screen. I am also too old to be afraid of much of anything. Because it was a new experience for me, though, I was curious about how I would respond to that countdown to live air-time. Well, I was so enthralled with the fine craft we’d brought to show; so proud of my friends, who imagined and created it; so thrilled to be able to share it with a wider audience; I really didn’t have a response to the cameras at all.

That’s what art can do for you.

It can take you out of your head, out of your stress, out of your own way.

That’s why art is important.

It reminds us that there is beauty to be enjoyed.

It makes us feel better about our world.

It encourages us.

I hope you are encouraged, emboldened, energized to celebrate the beautiful things that abound in our world. I hope you will seek them out and appreciate them.  I also hope you listen to your own muse – you do have one. Live your life on your own big stage. There’s no reason to be afraid.

. . . and we’re live in 3 – 2 – 1