It’s all about the story.

When you are an artist and you do shows where you sell your work in person, you tell a lot of stories. I talk about the designs I make and where they come from. Sometimes, I tell stories about the reason I am a computer geek is because I wrote computer games with my dad when I was a kid. Sometimes I talk about someone’s new puppy. I even got interviewed before this show by Make It Minnesota and they posted some of my stories as an artist profile on their website. That’s part of how people relate to art and how they make a connection to it, by finding a story that resonates with them.

I did a big show this weekend and I always buy myself a small present at this particular show. I am a junkie for colorful costume jewelry, so usually it’s a bracelet or a pair of earrings. Last year I got an awesome bright green aluminum cuff and the year before it was a pair of enameled scribble earrings. Both of which I love and wear all the time. This year I had a 5 minute break to grab some hot tea and a bracelet caught my eye as I was cruising past the booth. It was my colors, the design was unusual, it had caught my eye from the aisle and the price range was just right. Perfect. I had found my treat.

Unfortunately, the story that goes along with this one doesn’t match that initial love-at-first-sight reaction. As I handed it to the artist to pay for it, we got to chatting. He said something about babysitting the booth because his mom broke herself and I chuckled at what I thought was a joke. I obviously misheard because he immediately snapped back at me and said “I don’t know why you are laughing. It isn’t funny.” Embarrassed, I commented that it was so nice of him to take over since she couldn’t be there. And the response was “Well she’s paying me, so it’s not that nice.” Given his previous reaction, I assume this isn’t a joke. He sees my nametag and asks about my art and I show him the skirt I am wearing, which is one I designed. He asks if I do menswear and I tell him that I actually do have bow ties for this show and they are getting a lot of really positive reactions. He makes a face and then says,

You should make mens swim trunks. I totally wouldn’t wear that but I could see it as mens swim trunks.

Not “Oh that’s nice.” or “That’s interesting.” (which is Minnesota code for “I think that’s whack-a-doodle but I am too polite to say so.”) But “let me tell you what you should be doing instead”.

I can’t imagine making and selling swim trunks. That’s not the kind of thing you think of as a handmade item. It’s totally a mismatch to my whole design aesthetic. They would be totally impractical. They would be expensive. This all flashed through my mind as one of the weirder things that someone has ever told me I should make and I couldn’t help it but I laughed. Before I had a chance to say anything more, he jumped in and scolded me again. “I don’t know why you are laughing. I am serious. You keep laughing at everything I say.” I felt like I couldn’t say anything without him criticizing me for it and I was really wishing he would just hurry up so I could go get my tea.

Another artist in my shared booth had a long conversation with a couple of ladies about a particular piece in her jewelry collection. The customer tried it on, asked a lot of questions and had a great conversation. She left without purchasing it, but with a big smile on her face. As she walked by me, I heard her say to her friend “Well that was just a showstopper for me. Wow. I can’t believe how cool that was.” What a different experience those visitors had.

So I look at this bracelet now and instead of my happy art show souvenir, all I can think of is the weird not-the-artist-but-her-rude-son and the conversation where he kept scolding me. I’m not sure I want to wear it now. The story matters.

 

 

One more time!

Sunday April 2 • 3-5 pm
Hennepin History Museum

I’ve got one more art making workshop in the gallery this weekend.  You can come and learn to make origami dresses in the gallery with me using fun patterned papers. It’s free with museum admission and you can see the other cool exhibits that are there as well. The show is up through the end of April, but this is my last hands-on art-making session. Hope to see you there.

More art making! This time I will be in NC!

Please join us in the Spoonflower Greenhouse for a knitting, crocheting, and sewing social with special guest, Becka Rahn, co-author of the Spoonflower Handbook!  Bring your project of choice or learn how to make your own mini origami paper dress with step-by-step instruction from Becka. You can find all of the event details and register here.

I am coming out a day early for my master class so I can spend an evening in the Greenhouse making some art. If you are in the Raleigh/Durham area, please stop by.

My love of art supplies: Fiskars Microtips

Another post about the art supplies I love and why I love them. I think I have 5 pairs of these Fiskars Microtips. They are my favorite scissors. More than my fancy Gingher sewing scissors. I have 5 pairs because eventually I do something dumb and they get a little too dull for working with fabric things and they get retired to being paper scissors and then I have to replace the fabric ones. I think there’s one pair so beat up that it has been retired to the garage.

Why do I love them? They fit my hands so that my hands aren’t getting tired when I am cutting endless little things like this.

They are sturdy and never get loose or wobbly feeling. I don’t use them for cutting out garments or pattern pieces; that’s not what they are for. Those tips are tiny. I can cut little threads and trim seam allowances or clip curves. I can cut out intricate paper shapes and not worry about the scissors mangling the curves and corners. They are sharp. And they only get too dull for fabric things because I tend to use them for everything, whether I “should” be using them or not. I think one of the things that was the most frustrating when I was teaching beginning sewing classes was scissors that belonged in the garbage. Cutting out is always the first step. And if your scissors chew up your fabric, then you can’t match it up, and then the seams don’t line up and the seam allowances are all over the place and it just spirals from there.

Good scissors are way more important than a fancy sewing machine. My friend Jane, my next door neighbor for my entire childhood and the one responsible for me knowing about cross stitch and hardanger and making button holes, gave me a pair of nice scissors as a highschool graduation present. I still have them. They are still sharp. I use them all the time. She was a smart lady.

My Love of Art Supplies: Prismacolor pencils

I decided the other day that it would be great to write a few posts about some of my favorite art supplies. No affiliate links or anything, just to talk about what I love and why I love it. These are Prismacolor pencils. My mom & dad bought me a basic set and I added to it because you always need more colors. When I was a kid there was a craft/hobby/art supply store downtown called Who’s Hobby House. (It’s still there.) I used to save up my pocket money and buy Prismacolor pencils one at a time from the big pencil display. They were $.75 a piece, I think. They were treasures. I remember discovering Ultramarine (which is an awesome color) and I had to ask my dad why one was called “non-photo blue”.

When I thought about writing this post about why I loved them, I went digging through all of the junk drawers and pencil cups in the house so I could take a photo and those three above are all I found. I know if I kept digging I would turn up more, but those three might easily be 30+ years old. Terra cotta, Burnt Umber and Hot Pink.

Why do I love them? The colors are rich and intense. The leads are soft and thick and you can get a huge range of color depth by pressing harder or softer. If I were to compare them to the colored pencil sets I use in classes that I teach: Prismacolor pencils are like the cappuccino I had in a cafe in Italy. Regular colored pencils are like the coffee in the waiting room at the place I take my car to get the oil changed. Both absolutely work but let’s just say that students (of any age) are rather hard on art supplies, so they get what’s easy to replace. These were the first “grown up” art supply I remember having where I really understood that it was the good stuff. (Kids should always have the good stuff as far as I am concerned, but that’s a post for another day.)

Today’s my birthday. And when I discovered that I could only find three of my very favorite pencils, I thought I should do something about that. My 12-year-old self is totally jumping up and down right now.

I bought the whole set. Every color they make. I was just going to get a basic set, but the sweet girl at Blick Art Supplies said “I think this big set might be on sale on our website, let me check for you” and sure enough, when she checked, it was marked at about 20% of its retail price, which made it $10 more than I was going to spend anyway. Sold. And they honored the web price in the store. (Nice work, Blick!)

Six trays, 150 colors. I know this will make some of you cringe, but I know me and I know I won’t keep them in their box in these nice little trays in color order. I am so not that person. So I am going to make a zipper bag to keep them in. And I know the perfect fabric designs to use:

These are both by my friend Kelly (weavingmajor), who I met a little bit working on the Spoonflower book. Ages ago I ordered some of the pencils design on peel-n-stick wallpaper to cover a sketchbook of mine. I can tell she loves the Prismacolors as much as I do.

Make art with me: March 2

Thursday March 2 • 6-8 pm • free admission
Hennepin History Museum

I will be in the gallery talking about my work, answering questions and teaching YOU how to make awesome origami dresses like these from the exhibition. It is really fun to do and I have printed patterned wrapping paper so that every one can be different.

I was talking to someone recently about origami as a theme in my work. I never start out saying I am going to have something that’s origami, but it always shows up. Origami is a Japanese art form of folding paper. The designs are made without cutting or tearing the paper and almost always start off as a perfect square. When I was a kid, my dad had an origami book. It has been his since *he* was a little kid; a gift from a very favorite great uncle. Uncle Lester was a magician who specialized in paper tricks. I have written about him before. We were only allowed to look at the origami book with supervision, but my dad would sit with us for hours and help us figure out animals and flowers. There is one design from the book that I have had memorized since I was a kid. I remember folding it in elementary school from pieces of lined paper; it’s an unusual one that starts with a rectangle. My original engagement ring was an origami butterfly ring. I found the book it came from and tracked down an out-of-print copy for my husband for our 20th anniversary. I think origami was one of the first art forms I really connected with and said “I love this”. (In contrast, I hate painting. I really don’t enjoy it at all. It took a long time for me to embrace that. It’s ok to be an artist and hate painting.) So I hope you can come and learn to fold something. Maybe it will click with you too.