Archive for the ‘exhibits’ Category

the Visions opening…

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

The Storyteller

As you know, I was ambivalent about the opening of our new exhibit Defining Moments in San Diego at Visions Art Museum. I was torn between anticipation and dread. I was very worried that my grief over Marion’s death would lay a cloud of darkness over the entire event. I was worried I would be tongue-tied if asked to speak, and yet totally resisted planning anything to say, deciding instead to rely on spontaneity. Apparently I aced it!

I kept my focus on being in the moment throughout the entire trip, which kept worry and grief at bay. I had been to an opening at Visions last fall when my work was in a juried exhibit, so I knew the location and the wonderful staff & volunteers, so all was good there.

the outer and inner tallgirl

Hubs and I arrived at the museum at 3 pm for an appointment to talk for an audio tour of the exhibit. It will be available to museum-goers on their cellphone.

audio tour QR code

Then I walked around and took it all in, before the galleries filled with people. Then I got it! It filled me up, from my toes to my nose! What an incredible accomplishment this body of work was! How important this work is! How sad so much of our shared history is still so relevant today. How people need to see these stories in art. And what an incredible friendship and working relationship I had with Marion. I just felt immense gratitude with not a shred of ego. It was exhilarating!

Gratitude that she asked me to create this project with her. Gratitude that she taught me our stories are important, that it is the job of the elders to tell the stories. And that we are the elders now…

The Harried Years, Maternal Grandparents, Paternal Grandparents by Larson

When I first began my Tall Girl Series, which was my first body of narrative art; someone told me no one wants to see this. No one wants to see your dirty laundry she said. Well it turns out that was one person’s opinion! People do want to see this work. People do want to talk about it. People do want to ask a myriad of process questions. It is all good.

The gifts I received from attending this reception were many. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet both of Marion’s sisters who have been entrusted with her quilt legacy. They asked me to please continue the exhibitions of Defining Moments beyond Lubbock in 2020; that Marion would want these exhibitions to continue. I could not agree more and was thrilled to hear those words. Another Defining Moment!

Tall Girlfriends by Coleman. I LOVE this quilt, and the artist who made it!

 

Most of all I felt gratification that I am on the right track. When I began this gig as a professional artist 12 years ago, more than anything I wanted to be seen. I often felt unseen in my highly educated family of overachievers, and my goal through my art was to be seen by them. Now who cares?! What matters to me most now is that my work is seen!

And I don’t mean that my work hangs in a gallery or museum and people pass by without pause. I mean people stand in front of it, look through the layers, read the story, think about their own story and how they might communicate that; and feel impacted by what they have seen. That is my greatest reward. I am on the right track. And inspired, finally, to begin again…

Immense thanks to Visions Art Museum and all who make it function so well for shining a light on our Defining Moments! This exhibit is open until October 6. Go see it, if you can!

to Ireland and back…

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

through a bathroom window…

As part of my research for the Defining Moments series, I poked through my ancestry online. My DNA revealed all those Irish & Welsh ancestors added up to 67%, while the expected Russian came in at less than 25% (explain that to the 100% Russian great-grandparents!) So it seemed only fitting to make one more trek o’er the pond to see this glorious land from which they emigrated.

We booked our Ireland adventure last summer and decided on a Road Scholar program since we have had so many interesting trips with them stateside and in Canada. We booked Ireland at a Slower Pace, which several days in, became apparent was a misnomer! We walked nearly 42 miles in 14 days, in London and Ireland.

history through a window…

The timing could not have been more perfect. The spring death of my Defining Moments project partner, Marion Coleman, preceded by the 15 months battle for her life had left me exhausted, defeated, and grieving with a wounded muse. So many said to me, and I agreed, that there could not have been better timing for a change of scenery.

for that windblown look, visit Gougane Barra

the rock walls in Ireland just dazzled me…except really hard to sit on!

The trip was fantastic in every way. Great people, great hotels, fabulous food, interesting programs and texture galore. (some of which you see here). The first few days Marion stayed on my mind, but slowly I began to enjoy being in the moment. I came back physically exhausted, but rejuvenated by the change of scenery and pace; and a renewed connection to my ancestors.

i loved all the bright colored buildings!

Before I left I noted on my calendar to begin preparation of my Defining Moments quilts to ship to Visions Art Museum in San Diego for its inaugural exhibit. I did not want to attempt it until I felt my brain had arrived back in California. So yesterday I hauled all the quilts out and today began preparation, pressing, rolling, packaging, etc.

All of a sudden, I felt a HUGE rush of excitement for this upcoming show, with a big sense of accomplishment; that all my efforts these past five years are at last coming to fruition. Such joy, and then BAM, immediate sorrow.

Listening to music, tears welled up in me as my grief returned. How sad that Marion is not here to celebrate our exhibition together. I soon realized that this opening, could be for me a really sad event. My job for the coming month, to get myself to a place where I can celebrate my own sense of accomplishment as well as celebrate who she was, as she lives on through her work. She would not want it any other way.

The trip to Ireland was exactly what I needed, but also a reminder that grieving cannot be tamped down. It may be set aside temporarily, but the healthy thing is to ride it out. So my buddy, the muse and I are doing just that.

Footnote: I posted a lot of images on Instagram, rather than FB while traveling. You may see them (with permission!) here.

 

 

 

 

with gratitude…

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Tall Girlfriends, 36″ x 29″, 2017, by Marion Coleman

Yesterday my dear friend Marion Coleman died. While I have known the end was near for months, I have been unable to articulate my sorrow until now. Marion was my fourth close friend to fight and lose the vicious battle, that is cancer. The one thing I have learned, other than cancer sucks, is how important it is to gather the goodness each one brought into my life, and to cherish it. By carrying their richness, they live on, in my heart.

I met Marion in 2003 at a SAQA regional meeting. It was the first meeting for both of us, and in Sacramento which means we both had made an effort to be there. I thought to myself, who is that exquisite tall black woman?! She shared later she had spotted me that same day. I continued my observation for about a year, until I asked her to mentor me on my Tall Girl project. I knew it was going to be a difficult story to tell, and that I might need someone to prod me, and had witnessed her to be an articulate, smart, gifted, get-things-done woman!

She asked me to write a business plan to define my goals for the project. She was the calm voice of reason when I needed it; and instrumental in my finding the way through the jungle of my repressed stories. She encouraged me by saying how much my story would help others, and challenging me to always aim higher. As a result I was able to secure six venues for the exhibit, including the National Quilt Museum. We talked then about doing a collaborative project of our own. We, women of two very different worlds had a lot of similarities which needed airing and sharing. It is our job as elders to tell these stories she would say.

In 2014 we met over lunch in Berkeley to discuss the particulars of that project we had spoken of years earlier. The time was ripe to finally start. It was to be an autobiographical project examining the contrasts and parallels of our lives as two tall aging women; one African American, one Caucasian. She had grown up in the Jim Crow south and I, in her words, in an affluent white suburb of San Francisco. One would think we had nothing in common, and yet we shared an incredible number of similarities, both as kids and as adults. Meaty subject matter, this one!

We were both approaching our 7th decade, which brought its own unique set of challenges. Since she was a year older than I, we set my 70thas the deadline, which bought us another year! She chose our working title for the series, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman. She said we needed to each design a solid 25 museum-size pieces. Sure, twenty-five large pieces in three years’ time… I can do that! (what? are you nuts?!) And so, we began.

Early on, I learned that we had very individual ways of working. I, of the spreadsheet tribe, mapped out all my ideas and designed the work in chronological order. She was deadline driven, and made the work as it came to her, in between other projects, designing public art, solo exhibits, curating Neighborhoods Coming Together, and mentoring youth. Some of her work went in and out of the series, and yet it all came together in the end. Because all of her work was narrative, it fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

People kept asking me… how many has she completed? Is she going to finish? What if she doesn’t get them done? And so on. I never lost faith. I just recognized she had a different style of working than I did, and that it would all sort out, as it did.

Defining Moments 25: Homage

Our 25th piece was to be a true collaboration and we tossed out all sorts of ideas via Skype. (We both disliked the 90 minute drive in traffic which stood between us.) When it became too painful for her to work, she was unable to finish the project, let alone our grand finale, #25. I designed my own #25 Homage, in honor of her, my friend, my mentor, my project partner. She told me the piece made her cry.

In the end she had stitched thirteen pieces and we still have a robust exhibit, which makes its debut in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego for a 3-month run.  Even as she lay gravely ill, she graciously allowed me to take possession of her work so that our committed exhibits will still be seen.

catalog cover, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman

In the last month I have been designing the catalog for our exhibit. I called her frequently with questions: details that if one were dying would not seem terribly important. Yet she was always so kind and patient, even thanking me for pulling it all together for our exhibit. How does one even wrap their head around that? It is just who she was, the epitome of grace and kindness. I just feel it so important that her work continues to be shown.

Marion was the most generous-of-spirit woman, and particularly artist, I have ever met. There is so much professional jealousy in this field (although how professional is it to be jealous?)  She believed when one succeeds, we all succeed. There is enough for everyone. She always shared calls for entry for exhibits, public art, grants, internships, fellowships, etc. She taught me so much as an artist, as a woman. I will always reach higher and push through the fear because of her.

She made me laugh when talking about grants though. She would say I should apply for this grant or that grant. I HATED the idea and would say, no, if I need money I will just go to the bank (a white privilege response if there was ever one). She would say…Girl, they are just giving away money and you need to get you some! Finally, I relented and applied for a couple of grants and actually got one! Oh, happy day. They were just giving it away, just like she said!!!

Five years ago, I asked her about her end goal for her art, and she said she wished to be recognized as a NEA Heritage Fellow. Well, talk about manifestation! Last September she was recognized as a 2018 NEA Heritage Fellow, one of NINE in the entire country. Beyond this extraordinary achievement, was the timing, when she was so gravely ill. She gathered together her nearest and dearest and flew to DC, and on to NY to accept this great honor, bestowed on her. It gave me such joy for her end goal to be met, and for her to live to experience it.

I haven’t spoken much publicly of her illness these past 15 months, out of respect. It was her story to tell. But, now, be prepared for shameless self-promotion of Defining Moments and the ongoing exhibition of the exquisite artwork of my dear friend, Marion Coleman. She lives on through her art.

My deepest sympathies to her kids Mel, Lisa, Eric and Tina; to her sister Sharon for taking such extraordinary care of her these past four months. And to her two grand-girls, siblings and stepmother. And to all the people whose lives she touched. She was loved and admired by so many.  How blessed we all were to know her.

She and Nyls are together again. RIP dear one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

for my next number…

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Defining Moments catalog cover

Finally I have finished the dreaded replacement queen bed quilt and it’s off to be stitched.

So for my next creative endeavor, I am designing the catalog for Defining Moments, the joint project of Marion Coleman and I. Our first exhibit opens in July at Visions Art Museum in San Diego, so this is top of my to-do list.

I am using the same Blurb software with which I designed the Tall Girl Series book, but alas a decade has passed, software has been upgraded and I am ten years older! So far I have managed to find answers to all my questions and watched a couple You Tube videos to remind me how to do some PhotoShop tricks. All in all, it is fun but a huge time suck. Although I should take a break every hour, I am lucky if I do every 2-3 hours.

My biggest fear is if I fall too far down the left brain rabbit hole, will I find my way back to stitching, easy enough? I guess if that fear is realized I can always clean out the basement or start looking at fixtures for the bathroom remodel which is also on the list.

I don’t know what people are talking about that I should play more! Is this not play? Let’s put it this way. I am seldom bored.

Onward…

finished quilt top

finished quilt back…pesky blocks return

resetting priorities…

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

sailing out of NYC in a thunderstorm, at dusk

We recently returned from a fabulous two week vacation to New York, Montreal and points in between. It was exceptionally good timing as I had been pedal to the metal for months making art for new exhibits and causes. Before leaving I submitted entries to four fine art exhibits. The one I was most excited about was an environmental center where I had submitted new work constructed with plastic.

construction artwork, Boston

While bobbing around on the sea, I received in one day, three declines. Not one, but three, in one day! The next day the fourth delivered.

love me some reflections, Boston

Normally “rejections” do not upset me as I realize it is the price of playing the game. In other words, you cannot be rejected if you don’t enter! And because I was on vacation, and my brain on reset, I actually laughed at the irony of all the no thanks being delivered on the same day. The email from the environmental center stated that out of 100 entries, four were chosen…Vegas odds!

Ile Orleans, QC

One of the things I have learned from this gig is work that is ‘rejected’ by one panel of jurors is often selected by another. A perfect example is my work Culture of Fear which was submitted to an exhibit about gun violence. It was declined so I entered it in Visions, in San Diego and it got in! Even better.

Very seldom do I speak of the ‘no thanks’ emails. Maybe it is my years of being chosen last for the team, or because I have been on the juror end of things and know that not every piece of work is a good fit for a cohesive show. So I just don’t get wrapped around the axle about this sort of stuff. I know those who do, whining how they cannot understand why every venue does not take their work, life is not fair and so on. Whatever the reason, I just keep on moving forward.

one of many gorgeous sunsets

Meanwhile, I am readying for an express trip to San Diego this weekend for the opening of Visions: Conversations 2018.

Oh and have I mentioned my work is on the header on the social marketing?! Win, win.

Visions 2018: Connections
Visions Art Museum, San Diego, CA

 

North to Alaska and back…

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

AK mountains through clouds

Eleven days ago I flew to Anchorage, Alaska for the weekend! It really was a crazy idea but I have been known to fly over 2000 miles for a weekend before.

In fact this was my fourth such weekend trip in the past 4 years. Two were for art receptions both in OH, one to see a dying friend in ND and most recently this artist weekend in AK. What I have learned from these trips is while they are exhausting they are always so worth it. Although as soon as I got home this time, I was committed to jury a fiber exhibit, then caught a bad cold, so I am finally getting back to reality and to this post.

The reason I went to Alaska for the weekend was primarily to see Amy Meissner and her spectacular solo Inheritance Project at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

Amy Meissner at her Inheritance Project, Anchorage Museum

With a private artist’s walk & talk through the exhibit, I got to really look at the intricate details in each work, and it was fascinating! Amy’s Inheritance Project examines the “literal, physical and emotional work of women….using traditional skills and time.” She crowdsourced inherited textiles to create this profoundly moving and ongoing body of work. It was remarkable to witness how unexpected art supplies might transform grandma’s sofa arm doilies into 3-d objects suspended from the ceiling; as shown on the opening wall of her exhibit. The work dealt with formerly taboo subjects as post-partum depression, child-rearing, women’s inner battles, menopause, etc.

The War Room, detail, contains 2000 tapestry needles

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this work to me is one would never know the deeper meaning, unless one knew. I loved that. My work on similar subjects is so out there, in your face, or so I am told, whereas this work appeared to be “fun pieces with just beautiful stitching” as I overheard a museum docent say to a group she led through the space. The exhibit will be at the Anchorage Museum until late August, then travel to Juneau this winter and potentially beyond AK, in the future. I encourage all to see this stunning exhibit, given the opportunity!

detail, Breakup, Albedo Carpets by Marek Ranis, Anchorage Museum

In addition, we visited several other fantastic exhibits in the museum. I especially enjoyed carpets depicting the spring ‘breakup’ (of ice) in AK.

We indulged in incredible food, including the best king salmon I have ever eaten; met Beth Blankenship whose stitch-work I have long admired, met the fam, visited Amy’s studio and saw WIP; did some sightseeing along the exquisite Turnigan Arm region, including a potter’s studio, where I was dazzled by patterns including how he cut and stacked his wood for the kilns.

stacked wood in potter’s shed

I shared a hotel and the weekend with Judith Quinn-Garnett of Portland, who brought gifts for all, including the most fabulous Oregon-made chocolate ever! We all met at Quilt National 17 last year, where we had work on exhibit, and missed those others in our ‘quiet’ group who could not join us, in Anchorage.

Mt.Rainier, WA

When I fly, I try to reserve the window seat so I can photograph shapes, patterns, textures of the Earth below. Oftentimes, especially on an early morning flight, my seat mates are displeased at the wide open window screen. To me that is the price of admission! Although this was my third trip to AK, it was my maiden voyage flying into Anchorage.

descent into ANC, 8:30 pm

And wow, what a spectacular sight that was! From the snow-capped peaks poking through the clouds, to the snow-streaked like shibori mountainsides, to the clouds, and the midnight sun poking through, to the wetlands creating pattern on the ground, the view was absolutely stunning.

Coming home I did my usual hop the Cascades from Seattle, although I was certain, after 3 hours of sleep that Mt. Rainier was indeed Mt. St. Helens. That is until the pilot announced we were then right over Mt. St. Helens, some 20 mins after that sure sighting.

Mt. St. Helens

Blessed, I tell ya!

back at it…

Friday, March 9th, 2018

2018 has been hectic thus far… took a short trip, got bad news about a friend’s health, got the flu and battled that for two weeks, followed by nearly three weeks of digestive issues. Now hoping that I am on the mend, I am pondering my next creative steps.

I decided to do a no. 25 in the Defining Moments series and have that started on the design wall. This one will be a homage to my good friend, project partner and mentor Marion Coleman. We met 15 years ago and shortly thereafter she became my mentor on the Tall Girl Series. It is she who suggested we do the Defining Moments series and provided me with the inspiration and incentive to start. She is the most generous artist I know and meeting her was definitely a defining moment in my life.

I also have been giving a lot of thought to my next body of work, and started the research and development on that. In addition I have various forms of hand-work that beg my attention.

There is the knitting I have ripped out four times, likely as a means of seeing just how strong this yarn is or how much abuse it can really take.

There is the hand-stitching of the water in France, on which I initially used too large a needle and am also now considering changing yarn weight and color entirely. Oh there’s that masterpiece thinking again!

And there is the hemp yarn I bought on vacation to knit two things, a washcloth and a shopping bag. I knit a small cotton washcloth years ago and love it for the shower! You notice the skeins are still intact.

And then of course this fabulous Noro yarn I also bought on vacation, to create a very cool ladder scarf, which I discovered after I got home was crocheted and not knit. My hands don’t hurt enough from knitting that I am going to take up crochet?

I am not sure what all this says about me personally. The inner critic says I can’t settle down and do one thing at a time or that I am dissatisfied or bored. Hubs would say I have to multi-task and save nano-seconds!

The wise me thinks it is all good. All these things are stirring the creative juices. Plus it is not a competition as to how much I can do at once. And yes I am easily bored!

In other news I decided to make a weekend sprint to Anchorage this summer, to see my friend Amy Meissner’s Inheritance Project exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. This is big for two reasons. I have not been away solo for nearly a year & that I seldom go the 30 miles to the Bay Area to see art! Yet I have been so inspired by Amy’s extraordinary use of these vintage textiles to make art. After sharing time and space with her in OH last year, making this north to Alaska jaunt was a no-brainer. I look forward to this quick getaway and reuniting with her and some of the other Quiet Women from Quilt National 17.

70 for 70…

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

The Naked Truth, detail

After a year of musing about being almost 70, this week it actually happens!

To celebrate I’ve priced several pieces of my work for just $70 apiece for December 11, 12, 13.

Go have a gander at the 70 for 70 page on my website so and see if there is something that speaks to you. If so, shoot me an email, either through my website contact form or by private message. Tell me the title(s) you want with your name, address and phone number and I will invoice you via Paypal. If you don’t have a Paypal account tell me that as well and I will call you for your credit card info.

The small print on the sale is this:  sale applies only to the work on the 70 for 70 page. I will charge $5.95 sales tax on each piece sold, but will waive the (US) shipping . On December 14, 2017 all prices revert to their original (from $200-$2700) . All sales are final. 

I have designed well over 200 quilts since the turn of the century (I love that expression!). I have been blessed to sell a lot of work to both private patrons and corporate clients. I have given some as gifts, including baby quilts. I have donated work to charitable fundraisers.

There is little that brings me more joy than seeing my work go live with someone who absolutely loves it! That and the idea that ‘she who dies with the most quilts does not win’ are the motivation for this sale. It gives me a chance to whittle down inventory of work that I no longer show, while allowing those who love it to afford it. It is my birthday gift to you!

As far as turning 70, I feel so incredibly blessed to be doing so! You will never hear me whine about getting old, as it is a privilege not granted to all. I have felt heartache through the loss of dear friends and kin; so many who never saw 70, or even 60 for that matter. Mom died at 67, David at 56, Rose at 59, Chris at 67, with Ahlzeimer’s claiming both my dear Aunt Judy and my little ‘sis Debbie in their early 60’s. I owe it to all of these folks to live life to the fullest and appreciate each new day!

So bring it on…the best is yet to be.

my Quilt National 17 experience…

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO

I have just returned from a quick weekend trip to OH for the opening of the 20th biennial exhibit of Quilt National. My work Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO was juried into this prestigious venue, one of 85 chosen from a pool of nearly 800 entries. My brain feels a bit like that spinning ball on a slow website…processing, processing.

Of the 85 works exhibited, six were ‘quiet works’, i.e. those with a message, whether it be social justice, women rights, politics, environment or disease. That surprised me the most, that there were so few narrative works and yet I felt gratitude that my work was selected and is being seen, and honored to be there as witness. Some folks, especially in the heartland, do not want to view anything graphic  or ‘controversial’ in quilts. As example my colleague Kathy Nida had a quilt yanked from an exhibit last year because a viewer thought she saw a penis in it and complained. There was no penis. Talk about censorship!

My work addresses the insidious problem of campus rape and more specifically my own experience, 50 years ago. In my work Defining Moments 12: NO Means NO,  I wrote the story of my 1967 campus rape and screen-printed it to white cloth to represent my lost virginity. I made a bias slash into the fabric to emphasize how this act of aggression disrupted my sense of personal safety and peace of mind. Then I added hand-stitching, starting with a freeing stitch at the top and increasing its intensity as my hand traveled down the work. This is where I really tapped into my anger over the assault and the shame that I had not reported it. The overall shape of the stitching reflects on the potential for pregnancy which thankfully did not happen.

I had to give two x 2 minute artist talks about the work. Although I have done a lot of public speaking, I was a tad nervous talking about such a personal subject to strangers. The compilation of talks will appear later on a Quilt National 17 DVD and also on You Tube. I will post a link when that becomes available.

me and my work on display at Quilt National 17The second talk was for the other artists and VIPs. Although I have done a lot of public speaking, I was nervous speaking about such a personal experience. Despite all the exposure from my Tall Girl Series I felt like carved open speaking publicly about this piece. And yet many thanked me for my courage.

One of the jurors was Nancy Crow, grande dame of the art quilt world. Eighteen pieces in this exhibit were derivative of her work. They were all bright, stunning, exquisite, abstract works of art. The many hours, days, weeks and years artists spent studying with her at the Crow Barn were quite evident. They were large, hung perfectly flat, as if a sheet of paper and not draping cloth. The stitching was sheer perfection with lines no more than 1/4″ apart. The remainder of the exhibit was interesting work, some 3-D, and beautifully constructed, well conceived ‘pretty’ quilts.

My favorite piece overall was that of Sue Benner. She designed a huge work of recycled clothing cuffs. Each cuff was the requisite three layers and they were stitched together by color groupings using tear away stabilizer and thread. It was just spectacular. One could see through it and it was just wonderful.

Sue Benner, QN 17, reverse side with pole accent

Undoubtedly, the best part of the weekend was real time meeting of so many colleagues I know from social media. To re-acquaint with artists I have met through SAQA, get to know artists who traveled from far off lands like Australia, Switzerland, Israel and Canada; make new friends, the networking, sharing; and especially meeting, sharing a car, hotel room and conversation with the dynamic rising star Amy Meissner from Alaska. It was pure pleasure to meet Judith Martin whose work has absolutely enthralled me for some time. She creates huge pieces, slowly and methodically hand stitching which are absolutely stunning.

I traveled three time zones and back in four days. I plan to rest up a bit and then on to #20 and more truth telling. This narrative work is tough at times but I do like the impact it makes when it goes out into the world. My work in Quilt National will exhibit at the Dairy Barn until September 4 and then will travel for two years.

Oh the places it will go!

stop making small…

Friday, November 18th, 2016
scrap purses

scrap purses

One of the problems of being creative in a capitali$t society is people always say you could sell that. As an exhibiting member in artists’ co-ops, that has often been music to my ears as I have had an outlet for $tuff I could $ell!

It is also appealing from the sense that it is a great way to gain exposure for my large work while smaller work pays the rent. And I know they are some who mass-produce small items to make a profit in their respective galleries and good for them. But I have long struggled with the idea of making ‘stuff’ just to $ell.

For me it has always been a huge investment of my time and materials with little gratification in return. I am constantly retraining my brain so that when someone says you could sell that, I take it simply as a compliment and go no further with it. And yet I forget and once again find myself in sweatshop assembly line hell. Seemingly I needed this reminder once again.

I started sewing these small purses as a fun, quirky way to use up scraps. Each one is unique, one of a kind etc. They take on average 90 mins to construct, from scraps, purchased buttons and cord straps. Initially I sold many, which justified to me the rent I paid to show my larger work; the work that resonates in my soul; the true reason I am an artist.

Last summer I received a phone call from someone who had picked up my biz card in the gallery. She wanted to know if I would sew her a custom scrap bag in specific colors to go with (fill in the blank.) I simply said no! She seemed shocked that I would say no! Would I not be grateful that someone liked my work so much that I would welcome a custom order? What kind of ingrate am I anyway? Do I not appreciate the below minimum wage I am making for these fine bags? Sensing her palpable shock I added that I merely sew these to use up scraps from my large ‘museum quality’ work; and that making the bags was not my primary creative endeavor. She found a quick way to hang up. I felt liberated!

Then an artist acquaintance called suggesting I take my tote bags to a nearby boutique run by a friend of her sister’s neighbor’s brother-in-law, twice removed. I could sell those in this shop! I told her I wasn’t interested. I have been down that long narrow retail hallway before, selling hand-dyed, screen printed silk scarves. It is not what I want to do with my time. She was quite annoyed that I did not relish this golden retail opportunity!

I have managed to find the strength deep within to just say NO to painting shoes for sale. How many times have I heard you could sell those while wearing my painted chucks? I have painted them for friends, because I don’t mind doing that, but no way am I going to subject myself to hours of fumes for the almighty $. And besides do you have these in pink in a size 6? NO.

This said, recently I was asked to sew up a bunch more of the scrap bags for holiday sales at the gallery and elsewhere. Earlier this year I had sewn a bunch of ‘blanks’ i.e. the pieced scrap backs so essentially the work was already half done. And yet I could not pry myself away my current series to sew these little bags. Finally forcing myself to do it, the first one took me nearly 2 hours to get back into the sweatshop assembly line groove. Once I got a rhythm going it was better but I kept feeling like I did not want to be doing this.

You know how sometimes you just get a feeling about something, but you keep ignoring it? Well this time it took two artist friends, in the span of two days to tell me to stop making small stuff! Stop making stuff that other people want me to make and make stuff that I want to make! DUH.

Of course then the daughter-of-the-war-bride steps in and says, yeah, but…or as I like to abbreviate yebbit.. what am I to do with all this stuff I have made (that never sold although you could sell that?!) This is where the helpful people step in and say, you could open an Etsy shop! Yeah, that is also what I don’t want to do. I want to get out of the small stuff biz entirely. So for now I will just put it all away or I may just donate it to charity before year’s end and take a tax deduction. Yes I could do that!

Some of the small stuff I have made under the guise of you could sell that is… iPad bags & large tote bags made from early quilts, matted collages,

matted collages

matted collages

portfolio folders collaged with batik & painted papers & foreign newspapers; fabric postcards and note cards. The latter sell, some of the former has sold but there has also been a lot of could I get one in red and black? Could you make these in a smaller size? Could you make four for me to choose from?

quilted tote bags

quilted tote bags

So this latest round of spectacular scrap bags are a limited edition! I am finished thinking small (she says optimistically). I LOVE the museum quality work I am doing. I am done with small.

As a friend says…NO is a complete sentence! So I continue to learn to play attention to that inner nudge and take better care of myself. After all that is pricele$$.