A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Twenty One Bags

My mother is 96 and her memory is failing, but like most people in this condition she has crystal clear memories of incidents in her youth.  Although you expect it, it is still always surprising.  Most curious to me (and I ponder this often) is exactly what made a particular story stay in her mind – or all they all still there, just not accessible.  This year at Thanksgiving as we sat around the table drinking our coffee and digesting, apropos of nothing, she began a story.  What struck me about this story, although it certainly stands alone as interesting, was how clearly she told the details, without pause or uncertainty.  There was no doubt as to the truth of the story, she is no longer capable of exaggerating without tell-tale hesitation or eye-shifts.

When she was growing up in Montana, there was a man with a very large ranch between her father’s and Great Falls.  He had a son who was learning disabled but still largely functional.  The only problem was that he would wander off into the countryside and it took much time and many people to find him.  So they decided to move him into Great Falls.  They found him a rooming house right downtown next to the Paris Department Store where everything was convenient for him and he seemed to be doing very well.  Every morning he would go into the hole-in-the-wall cafe next door and have them fill his thermos with coffee.  Then he would return there for his afternoon meal.  He followed this routine without fail.  One day his family came to visit him and they stopped at the  cafĂ© first.  They were told he was doing well, had been in for his morning coffee, but strangely, had not come for his lunch.  When they went to his room they found him on his bed (Mom hastened to assure us he was fully dressed!) but he had passed away.  In the corner of his room they found 21 bags from The Paris.  Each bag contained a pair of pants and a belt.  They all still had their tags and the sales slips. This was a comfort to Mom as she was confident they had been able to return them and get their money back.

It is such an inconsequential story, sad and amusing at the same time.  Obviously it had made a large impression on Mom when it happened and I can envision her family sitting around the table discussing it…just like my family did. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big Oops!

I started this blog with a quote from Samuel Beckett, “No problem. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”  Turned out to be somewhat prescient.    In my ‘Snail Mail’ blog entry of 11/17  I mentioned a bit of guerrilla mail I had been indulging in by sending postcards  of floral clocks anonymously (that’s what guerrilla mail is) to a workmate of my daughter’s.

I had visions of her pleasant trips to the mailbox in anticipation of another installment of “Floral Clocks Around the World”.  And the denouement with the last one pointing to the blog entry was looked forward to with great anticipation by both my daughter and myself.

My guerrilla mail was a bitter failure.  The recipient was not amused, to say the least.  To that I say, “No problem. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”   Next time we will be very careful in our choice of recipient.

It appears an apology is in order, and if so I certainly do apologize.  But it is a shame it was such a lovely idea gone awry.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Few More Envelopes

As much fun as it is sending my colorful envelopes to other people, the most fun is sending them to myself.  Whenever I have a really good match between an envelope and a stamp, I send it to myself.  I have quite a nice collection now and I thought I would share just a few more.

My favorite is one I made by scanning a photo of my daughter and two of her childhood friends taken at Volunteer Park in Seattle.  This is sort of cheating, since I made the 'paper' used for the envelope, but I couldn't resist this one.

And here are a few more of my best matches...

These were made from magazine pages, old calendars, gift wrap and book illustrations - don't worry, no usable books were harmed in this exercise.  The downside of all this is that I can hardly bear to part with a magazine until I have pulled out the good pages.  I have about three feet of single magazine and calendar pages sitting under the table in my studio just waiting for the perfect stamp issue.  Oh yeah, and I have a whole bin of made up envelopes waiting also.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Love the USPS

I practice snail mail.  In fact, I have practiced it so much I have gotten quite good at it.  After years of being neglectful, my addresses and birthdates are in order and I send birthday and anniversary cards, even to people who live just down the street.  I have never understood why people who will spend $4.50 for a birthday card are too frugal to spend 44 cents for a stamp.  Buy a cheaper card and mail it to me. Give me the pleasure of sorting through my bills and catalogues and finding something that was sent to ME – me with a face.

For years I made envelopes out of calendar and magazine pages – glorious, colorful and often amusing envelopes.  They were filled with  cartoons, recipes and news clippings that I thought would be of interest and mailed to friends and family.  For the most part they were gratefully appreciated, although I know of two people who tossed them without opening because they just assumed anything that colorful and cheery must be an advertisement. 

I've sent the best matches of envelopes and stamps to myself
I collect antique postcards and I send antique postcards.  Art and sentiments which are a 100 years old are no less worthy today.  Recently, I anonymously sent about 20 postcards (from 30 to 80 years of age) showing floral clocks to a workmate of my daughters.  She has been receiving them at the rate of about 4-5 a month.  Although I don’t really know this woman, my daughter thought she would appreciate both the postcards and the guerrilla mail.  I sent the last one this week, and she should be reading this blog this week, as far as I know she has no idea where they are coming from.

The last of the floral clocks

All this to prove my credentials, leads to the point eventually…

In the course of sorting through an embarrassingly large accumulation of greeting cards it became clear to me that the greeting card people no longer produce for people who actually use our postal system. 

It may just be that I find them especially attractive, but a surprisingly large group of my cards are square.  This means the post office will charge me an extra 20 cents.  Quite a few cards were actually over the 1 oz limit – heavy paper, multi pages, add-ons – therefore requiring another 17 cents.  I had a few that were both square and overweight: 81 cents 

All of the above are acceptable to me because I truly believe the US Post Office is one of the most valuable things I get with my tax dollar.  Where else in the world can you get safe, dependable delivery six days a week for a matter of pennies?  If I mail today in Seattle, my 44 cents will deliver in 2 days in New York (in most cases).  I think that’s a heck of a deal, but a lot of people do not agree with me.  I actually had a friend that drove to my house to deliver a card to save the cost of a stamp – think about it.

What really proves my point is the paper being used for envelopes.  I found dark green and dark blue envelopes – I happen to have white gel pens, but how many normal people do?  And quite a few were made from a metallic or pearlized paper that does not accept most pens – alright, I happen to have fine point Sharpies also, but how many normal people do?  Aside from establishing that I am not normal, I think I have made my case. 

The greeting card industry may have given up on snail mail, but I haven’t.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Studio

Now that we have established that one needn't be an 'artist' to have a 'studio', I thought perhaps you would like to see a little more of my studio.  It has taken me nearly two years, but most of this small space is neatly organized.  I am proud to say I can find almost anything I need at any given moment.  There has even been time to arrange some of my stuff in a visually pleasing manner.

In fact, I think you could say that neat organization is, in itself, visually pleasing - if not actually inspirational.

Honesty (and I have promised myself to be honest on this blog) forces me to also share some of the wild corners.

Give me another year, let me finish a few projects, and I may even get the corners loooking beautiful.

Friday, November 12, 2010

When is it a studio? When are you an artist?

I’ve dabbled in the Arts since I was in Junior High, pretty much all the arts.  Writing this blog could be considered “dabbling in the Arts”, and I am not without some musical talent.  But I want to talk about drawing, painting, graphic arts, collage, bookmaking….and I also want to talk about cardmaking, scrapbooking, beading, and all the fabric arts.

There is a room in my house that is filled with things that I have saved, rescued, and purchased.  Indulge me while I give you a partial (just the tip of the iceberg) list:
          Fat Quarters (fabric)
          Pressed leaves and Flowers
          Cell phone parts
          Paper of all sizes and content and color
          Paint chips
          The complete DMC Embroidery Floss line
          Colored Pencils
          Rubber Stamps
          Watercolors, Acrylics, Inks
          Broken Jewelry Bits
          Beads – LOTS of beads
          Silk Ribbon
          Paper Ephemera of all kinds
          Three cameras
          Postage stamps (all ages, all countries)
          Reference magazines and books

When I start a new project, I rarely have to leave the room for anything but food and drink.

I create in this room.  I sew, paint, collage, stamp, bead and play in this room.  Finally, after several years, I call this my studio.  For some reason it is easy to call it ‘a studio’, but hard to call it ‘my studio’.  Nor can I call myself an artist.  I have sold my work (and I am more inclined to call it stuff rather than work), won minor awards, and received much appreciation from friends and strangers – but that doesn’t make me an artist.  While acknowledging my talent for color and design, I know that I am not even close to being at the level of the people who fill the walls of galleries and the art fair tents.  I also know that a lot of women who do call themselves artists are simply modestly talented women with husbands who are happy to support and indulge them.

Alas, without the pure talent or the husband, I am doomed never to be ‘an artist’.  But at least I know I sometimes do create real art and at least I have a studio.

The fact that no one understands you doesn’t make you an artist.  -Unknown

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Ugly American

I confess, it was I.

It was November 5th in Old Hastings on the South coast and this was the trip where I was only a few months short of a knee replacement so we were using handicapped parking everywhere.  That included our stop at a lovely pub in Old Hastings for our evening meal and a couple of ciders.  The streets in Old Hastings are narrow but we parked on the double yellow, hung the handicapped tag and walked away.  There were some temporary ‘no parking’ signs but it was already after 6:pm and we figured the workers had just forgotten to pick them up.

Typical Old Hastings street.  Postcard dated 1927 but it has hardly changed at all.

We knew it was Guy Fawkes Day, but frankly we expected perhaps to see a bonfire somewhere up on a distant hill at best.  Just as we were thinking of leaving, there was a great racket outside and everybody ran out to the street - as did we.  It was a parade of sorts - men and women in costumes, pushing burning barrels down the narrow street.   The crowd was illuminated in the spooky way only flames can do and everyone was laughing, singing and shouting.

As we were congratulating ourselves for stumbling upon this fun event, the parade slowed and came to a halt.  We couldn’t see what the problem was, but pretty soon they slowly began to move again, very slowly.  You can only watch so many men slowly pushing burning barrels before you are ready to head home to your comfortable B&B so we walked towards our car.

And there it was, the bottleneck.  We looked at each other, pondered stepping out into the street and into the car, and thought better of it.  We felt bad, but not suicidal.  When the parade finally worked past the car and around the corner, the street was suddenly dark and quiet as the roar worked its way down to the beach.  We sauntered casually across the street, looked around, then jumped into the car and left as fast as we could.

I’m still embarrassed, but I feel better now that I have confessed.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
barrels of powder below.
Poor old
to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Parking Rant

You can say what you will about senior citizens who drive with their turn signals on, or about ‘Godknowswhat’ ethnic group who shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel, or about women drivers in general.  I want to talk about parkers…people who are done driving for a bit. 

Why are so many people unable to park straight and between the white lines?  And why are so many of them driving pick-ups, LARGE SUV’s, or late model luxury cars?  Wait a minute, I get it.  They are not unable, they are unwilling or unaware.  I don’t know which is worse.