Friday, December 31, 2010

the promised land

Ah December 31. The end of 2010. How quickly that year went by.  Lots of good things happened last year. Some not so good also. I would rate it an "OK" year. Now tomorrow will be 2011. Facebook and Twitter are buzzing as everyone makes New Year's Resolutions. Writing down their goals for the next year. Serious resolutions and plans. Some more humorous. What will the New Year bring? Is this turning over a new leaf.

Now those who have been following my blog know that I am not a big fan of lists or goals. I think they initially start off great but then they get in your way. Sure some can be good. I will exercise daily in 2011. I will only have dessert on the week-ends. Do I want to organize my e-mail better? Keep the house cleaner? The studio?  Sure--but will I? Probably not. Such lists and organization just makes me nervous. Sorry.

I was listening to the radio--a great show I had not heard before called The Promised Land. Interesting conversation with Winona LaDuke, a member of the White Earth Reservation in Upper Minnesota. While her name may be familiar as the Vice Presidential Candidate for Ralph Nader during "that" presidential election--and no, we won't go there--she is now trying to bring wind and solar energy to the Indian Reservation where she lives. The interviewer asks her to close her eyes and describe what she sees as her Promised Land. I like that question.  Winona said she was almost living in her promised land. Isn't that wonderful? Would that be my answer?

I read on Facebook a post by Val Nelson--a wonderful local business coach. She seems so positive and kind.  Let me just quote her words--she says it much better than Iwould:

I say don't bother with new year's resolutions. It has that "have-to" energy and rarely lasts past Jan.15th. (Besides, there is nothing to fix about you!) Instead of resolutions, I like to dream big. Visualize the mountaintop and let it draw you forward. 

Isn't that wonderful? There are so many dreams, so many quilts I want to make. New variations on blue hills. Another variation on rainbows of summer. Getting a selection of new work ready for the Baltimore Craft Show. Pushing my work to new heights. Those for me are the mountaintop. I have been debating whether to apply for a certain craft show. I would get in and do OK if I was there--but does it lead me to the mountaintop? That I am not sure about. Maybe I should do something else?

And you--have you tried dreaming of the mountaintop? What would be your promised land?


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

taking stock

A couple days ago listening to the radio in the studio, the end of the year, time to take stock. Of course I thought, isn't that what everyone is doing this time of year? Taking stock. I had also been thinking of making stock with the wonderful ham I cooked for the holidays. Oh that was good--the first time I ever cooked a ham that tasted great--so easy. I just baked it uncovered until the outside was browned and bubbly, the meat fork tender. Then I cut off the fat. Sometimes simple is best--but I diverge.

Back to the word stock--interesting word. Sixty some definitions in my Random House dictionary.  Have you ever thought about it? Stocks and bonds, livestock, stock on hand.  One of those words we use all the time without even thinking about it. But where did it come from? What did it originally mean?

Stockades. Rolling stock. Laughing stock. Christmas stockings. The list rolls on. I do a bit of internet research. Stock can mean a tree, a dunce. You can get put in the stocks. I find a great article on the origins of the word stockings--stock for sock goes way back. Means be still. Being in one place. That makes sense. A tree stands still--is there in its own being. Check it out.

But isn't taking stock the perfect thing to do at the solstice--when time stands still. I read that the solstice is when folks would assess their livestock before the winter. How much food did they have? Which ones should try to survive? This was when they got fresh meat before the cold stress of winter really set in.

And now it is time for me to take stock. So much I have done last year. I redid my website--by myself. Learned Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Started writing my blog. I had a two person show at the Bluestone Gallery in PA. A one person show at the Landmark Campus in Tarrytown, NY.  Quilts selected for shows at the National Quilt Museum and the New England Quilt Museum.  Enough orders to last through Baltimore. New designs. Started work on pillows again. Whew!!! What a pace. I am exhausted.

I hate to think of plans for 2011. So much depends on fate--it is out of my control.  How many large quilts will I sell? What shows will I get into?  How much can I push my blog? I want to redesign my website. IWeb was fine for a while--but Apple does not seem to be supporting it. Do I learn Wordpress? Rapidweaver? Drupal? Joomla? Do I list on Etsy? Sell off my website? So many choices. As a small business woman I must be nimble--take advantage of the breaks.

I don't like lists or goals. Feel that I don't need to hold myself accountable--my checkbook does a pretty good job of telling me if I am successful. And I don't like to focus on what I have NOT accomplished--I want to think positive.  I do have a few plans--ideas of things I want to do. Know quilts I want to make for the Baltimore Craft Show. Know that I will take advantage of that show to make more opportunities for myself. I need a new business card. There are a few shows I know I want to apply for. I need to do more contact with my customers--more mailings. I have already committed to participating in  A River of Stones --a blog a day in January. It sounds fabulous.

And you what are your goals? What did you accomplish this year? Do you write down a list of projects for next year? Do you make New Year's resolutions?

Monday, December 27, 2010

saved by a cloud--I hope

I wake up early one morning a few days ago. Outside there was a wonderful long cloud stretching across the sky. The underside was glowing yellow and orange going up to rose then grey. How perfect. I try to take a picture--no luck. Instead I gaze as the sun rises and remember the hues.

This is just what I need. I have an order to make a custom quilt for a private home. What a lovely space it is. A large window letting in light. Other art and wonderful furniture around the sitting area. All carefully chosen. The piece de resistance is a glass bowl by my friend Ed Branson in wonderful shades of ivory and plum. Hints of peach. So many colors as the sun hits and reflects on it.

I bring several pieces to the home. We hang them up.  The quilt must look just right not only from a distance but also up close. It will be at eye level behind the sofa. No, too green. Too bright. Oh this one is just right. Captures the wood in the furniture. Of course it needs a bit more plum. A little lighter in colors. More luminescent. An echo of the dreamy colors of the glass.

I both fear and look forward to making this quilt. Custom orders can be such a challenge. Will the customer understand that echoing the colors of the glass poses a problem--glass is created by multiple levels of colors that interact and radiate off each other--or at least that is my understanding. The colors of my quilts are formed by the resonance between the different fabrics I combine in the quilt. Though the tan and browns look great in the room, the couple would prefer that I not use much of them.

It is their anniversary gift to each other--I want to get it just right and so I think. And think. Now I must start. I want to deliver it on time and can't let my fear take over.  As always I make what I know. The wonderful soft yellow-gold light. But then? I try a few blocks. Too light even for this room.

 But what comes next? I try one block--then another. I think of the cloud. Maybe that is what I need. Not the grey but that wonderful combination of colors. Yes, that could be it. The golds and rusts, the pinks and plums. Will they combine to glow?

Yes, this is getting closer. Maybe that will work. I make a row. Step back and look. It's getting there.
Keep going. The colors getting a bit darker as I move up the quilt. This could be interesting. Maybe I should make a larger quilt with these colors. This could be interesting. Why don't they make just the fabrics I want?

Oh it takes forever. Each block needs to be carefully planned. Not too tan. Not too grey. What do I think of that splash of white--it is actually a flower on a wonderful richly colored fabric. I will have to keep an eye on it.

And the bottom--not sure of that yet. First though two more rows of the top of the quilt. Will it work? Is this what the couple wants? I must work slowly and carefully. Should I go hunt for more plum colored fabric?  I am learning so much about these colors. I love it when the quilt takes over. What do you think? How glad I am I saw that cloud. Does that ever happen to you? Do you ever find the answers just by looking?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the turning of the seasons

It's that time of year again--the turning of the seasons. All my craft shows for the year are done. I spent last week making potholders --I had sold out of them. Amazing the different meanings of the words "sold out"--is it a betrayal of oneself or a turning over of stock? Hmm. Something to ponder on a different day. Now I just have to make enough that there is a selection.  I designed new pillows--I do like the colors--still think there is a possibility here. I worked but  didn't push myself last week. It was my time of rest and recuperation. The pause in my schedule.

Yesterday was the winter solstice--time seems to stand still until the days will slowly lengthen into the warmth of summer.  A great article in the New York Times--the change in length of days so minimal at first that there was no way the precise date could be ascertained. The article details numerous customs, the traditions of the solstice. Sacrificing animals, strange costumes, bonfires. Especially the celebration of life. I love how essential this tradition is. Do read it here.

To celebrate I hike to the top of Helicopter Hill before sunrise.  The woods are quiet, wisps of snow lie in the dead leaves. The ground is almost frozen--it crackles a bit under foot as I pick my way through the branches fallen in the summer, the brambles that have grown in the path. From the top of the hill I can see one distant light--is it a farm? The hill is a desolate place this time of year--empty bluebird houses. The wind comes from the north promising cold. The colors are grey and grey with just a hint of pink in the sky. Dusty tan on the ground. Too many clouds for the sun to peak through. I wait until my legs ache with the cold. Then I leave. It was still wondrous up there.

I think of the new year. So many orders in January. Then the Baltimore Show in February. So much to do. This is the way it is supposed to be. Tomorrow I will start the first order. A wall hanging to match a lush glass vase. I have visited the home--seen exactly where it will go. So much responsibility getting the colors just right. Capturing the essence of the glass bowl made by my neighbor Ed Branson. This quilt in soft plums and rust. The colors lush and soft. I will need to absorb the essence of this soft light into my thoughts of this quilt.

I will approach the quilt with the respect and reverence of the season but also knowing that it will anchor me during this time of celebration. Make my time in the studio productive as I balance studio time with time for loved ones. Getting this quilt done will inspire me to make new work for the year. It is how I will take the energy of the season and use it to push myself forward.

And you--do you feel the energy of the solstice? Does it push you forward? Or is this your time for standing still?

Monday, December 20, 2010

take down--load out-- and cream puffs

Take down. Load out. Anxiety rises. Tensions mount as the end approaches. Are there be-backs in the aisles? The instructions have been passed out. Pack first then get a pass to get your car. Discreetly  folding and packing begins.  Clear out the trash. Put on work clothes. What can I put away? Do I really need all these potholders out? When do I get my boxes?  Have you heard the weather forecast?

We all know the horror stories. The show where security locks the hall down for hours. The load out where you have to park two city blocks from your car. The dolly that breaks. The impending blizzard. The one where my van needed a jump start to get out of the parking lot. I left my box of lights on the show floor. One artist kindly packed them in her van, drove them to Ohio then drove them back to Boston where neighbors who were doing the show picked them up and drove them back to me. Aren't crafts people wonderful?

This is not some TV show--the tale of some hit squad. This is the end of the craft show. So different the anxiety from set-up. There it is spread out. Arrive at your set-time. Load in. Park the vehicle and then begin figuring out how to best display your work in the space provided. Then the anxiety is whether the work will sell. What will your neighbors be like? Set up can be spread out over hours--even days. Slowly carefully putting up your display.  Your own little world. How does it look from a distance? A methodical process followed by time hopefully selling your work. Oh that seems like such a long time ago.

Take down is different. Everyone is doing it at the same time. We are all tired. All eager to be home. But first, the work must be protected. The quilts folded, rolled, wrapped. The forecast calls for horizontal rain. Wind. Gusts up to 40 or is it 50. A nor'easter. What fun. Lights removed carefully so they are ready for the next show. Yes, I remember them.  The display taken apart. The sections put in logical, manageable bags, boxes, bundles.  I do have a system. In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court--the time for "all deliberate speed." (Yes, I really am an attorney--inactive status.)

As my neighbor Laura Baring-Gould--oh I do love her work--said, "You can plan and think ahead but then something will come up and this is where you have to use your knowledge and skill to deal with it. Roll with the punches."

There is scant parking. One elevator. The rain has started. But the staff is pleasant--gives you cream puffs--literally and figuratively. Sometimes it is the little things that matter. This can get done. Just keep moving.

And this I believe is the lesson of take down. A lesson for life. Recently I did a series of
blog post exchanges with Lisa Call on getting things done. Do you make lists or have a schedule?  What is your process? But sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. Move with all deliberate speed and hope for the cream puffs.  At least that's my theory. Whether it is family coming for the holidays, the cord on the snow blower that snaps as my DH tries to test it or just finding time to create art. There is a way to get things done. Deal with it. One step at a time. And hope for the cream puffs.

And you how do you deal with this harried time of the holidays? The challenges of the season and getting work done in the studio. And the cream puffs?

Friday, December 17, 2010

questions, questions, questions and pillows

OK--I bet you are wondering--how can pillows actually be a question? After all they are just pillows.  Soft splashes of color--a decorative finish to the room. I wake up at five in them morning and envision a new design for a pillow--lots of small strips of color so that the whole becomes a color field.  Almost woven in effect. Using the commercial cottons that I love but with pieces so tiny the fabrics almost disappear into the whole.

Now I used to make pillows years ago--silk and wool pillows that were a changing color field. They were great pillows, plumb and friendly,  and I still have customers coming back years later asking for more. But I got bored--after all I am a quilt maker and not a pillow maker. And the silk would easily disintegrate in bright sunlight. Not a good marketing plan.

I need new pillows for my studio--the display spaces are there and they make the showroom more inviting. It would be nice to have another item for customers when I do a craft show. I have a friend who could sit at her booth for days just to sell a few large quilts. Endlessly opening and displaying the quilts, listening to the dreams of her customers while waiting. What patience. What confidence in her work. How exhausting!

Oh that is not me. I like my instant gratification. I want to have sales--people in my booth buying.  That's why I make potholders and placemats. Table runners. I have been playing in my mind with the concept of really tiny strips to create complex color fields. There is so much I could do with it. Simple statements in fabric. I can see them if I can make them. However, I don't want to spend time making pillows when I could be creating quilts. I feel that I am closer than ever to having my quilts taken more seriously. I almost blush to recall being told that my quilts are indeed art by a critic I respect. Will pillows cause me to divert my attention or are they the next step forward?

But I am getting ahead of myself. First I have to try to make the pillows--see if they work. See if I want to make them.  I cut many strips of thin fabric. The color palette.

Sew them onto the back with a layer of cotton batting. There are oh so many seams--it takes forever. Can I speed this up?

Square it off, add a zipper and finish the pillow. I wish it was as simple as it sounds. I remember how many steps there are to making pillows.  Show it to a friend of mine--she is polite. Nice she says, good color field. Maybe I need more. I think of other colors. I do like it better with a binding that accents the colors.

Hmm. Need to work on the piecing. It tends to go askew. What will it look like when I add more colors? Is that the key? Will that be the "fun" part of making them?  Can I make them at a price I can sell them?  Should I have the binding of a consistent color on color print? Would that tie the series together?  I think of other designs in this series--is that what I should do? Oh so many questions. And I don't even know if I want to make these yet.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine years ago. David Bacharach--a wonderful metal worker. He said that if you start selling a new product as a mature artist you have to have confidence in it. Great point. I'll have to think about it. Luckily I can make some for the studio and just stop there if I want. They do look great against the wall hangings.

So what do you think? Do you like the pillows? Am I wasting my time?  Will having more colors make it look like a more complete idea? Should I work on other ideas for the pillows? And you--how do you create new designs?

Monday, December 13, 2010

if you are in a rut...

Maybe it is because I live in New England and it could snow any day now, or too many grey rainy days. Maybe it was being at the last craft show for the year. CraftBoston Show--an absolutely wonderful show that I was honored to be a part of. Around me work was flying out of booths. Lots of customers trying on imaginative wraps, lusting after bronzed pears that exuded that certain feeling of mystery. I had customers--lots of lookers, potholders were leaving my booth at a steady pace but $12 potholders don't add up very quickly.

Now I know my work sells. I have been getting lots of orders on the internet. I didn't actually need more business but I sure do hate to sit at a craft fair trying to pretend I am having a great show--it gets to be old rather soon. What could I do differently?

I confess I have been wondering for a while if my quilt rainbows of summer is too strong for my display. When I show it, I have noticed that of course everyone loves it--it is a wonderful piece. Even up for a Niche Award.  But it is such a strong piece it needs a very special home--not every place can take those blues and magentas, the golds and greens. Do customers focus on that quilt and fail to look at the other wall hangings? Just a theory but I want to know the answer.

To try it out--I first hung my display with six square quilts--all the same size. I loved the simplicity of it but I wasn't getting the "Oh wows" that I always expect. Same rut. Tires still spinning.

Plan B-- maybe my theory is wrong. I go in early the next day and hang rainbows of summer. Lots of "Oh wows" but still no interest in the smaller pieces. I give it a day and a half--do I replace rainbows of summer with hills and shadows?

It will take a while during the show. My feet are tired. My mind is tired. I just want to sit in my chair and smile. I tell myself I don't need more orders.  But then I realize that I won't know if my theory is right unless I try it. I am convinced that I won't sell if rainbows of summer is up there. It is a truism that  I can only sell if I think I can sell. So UGH--out comes the ladder. The box with the quilt. I won't look at the customers in my neighbors booths. I can do this--quickly, efficiently. See what happens.

Done--put the ladder away. Put the box away. And look at the result. I had forgotten how much I love this piece. Such great movement and sparkle. I had blogged about this quilt back when I made it--thought I was crazy to even start it--the blog posts start here and continue for several weeks.  These colors are wonderful.

I get an e-mail from a dear friend of mine. A wonderful caring person and a talented artist but she is having trouble making her work. I am honored that she has read the blog exchange between Lisa Call and myself on lists and strategies for getting work done searching for answers--but still needs just that push to get going.  I think about the questions she asks--good thoughtful questions. She writes of all the methods she has already tried to get unstuck--do I have any other thoughts?

I think about it--yes, there may be a couple little things that could work.  New approaches to some of the questions she raises. Just that slightly different way of looking at things--the rocking the car to get it unstuck. Of course this is a conversation not an e-mail--any suggestions I would make are slight. A different angle on the question. Isn't this what friends are for--that little push to help get unstuck? She certainly has heard me out when I needed it.

As for the craft show, I don't know if it was because I changed the quilts, or my attitude, or the crowd changed but suddenly the show picked up--quilts sold, contact information exchanged.  This was the way it was supposed to be. I am always amazed how sometimes it is just that one little thing.

And you--do you ever get stuck? How do you get out of a rut? What little changes work for you?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

landscapes, limens and mauve

It is definitely that time of year. The leaves are gone from the trees. Wisps of snow linger in the air.  Last night the wind was bringing in with great determination that cold cold air that turns the ground and the ponds hard and icy. Looking across to Massamont the woods are grey with just a touch of warm. A complex color that changes with the light.

I finish the wall hanging in grey. I am fascinated by the colors in this piece. Such a simple movement and design.  Does it hang vertically--like a tree?

Or is it a landscape? With bits of light in it. Stark but warm. Lots of hints of color.

 So many possibilities. What about using the color mauve? Pronounced to rhyme with stove.  Did you know that mauve was the first "invented" color? An 18 year old chemist in 1856 was trying to create artificial quinine. First it was called mauveine. Do check it out on Wikipedia.

I love the subtleties. How warm the bits of dusty red are. The complexities of the greys and blues. Such an interesting combination.

I love the subtleties of landscapes. Anne Truitt speaks of them as the line between the conscious and the unconscious--the limen of the world. Great word--limen.  I had to look it up myself. It comes from the Latin meaning threshold and is pronounced LY-men. From Wordsmith I find this great quote:

"Such to the dead might appear the world of living -- charged with information, with meaning, yet somehow always just, terribly, beyond that fateful limen where any lamp of comprehension might beam forth."
Thomas Pynchon; Against the Day; Penguin Press; 2006.

Pretty haunting isn't it? Perfect for this time of the year.

John O'Donohue--the Irish poet--spoke of landscapes as showing us the line between the inner and the outer world. A horizon that you are called to. Hmm. Check it out at the NPR show On Being. This is the time of that ambiguity when the inner and outer world are intertwined.

I love the thought of mauve. So many different mauves. A color that we can all recognize but also a created, invented color of the Industrial Age. Such a great contradiction. I want to make this quilt in all the different mauves--in dusty greens, slate blues, taupes--to capture all the moods of the horizon--what will I learn from this?  The thresholds--the ambiguities--the entrances. I see so many possibilities haunting me and want to go deeper. 

What do you think? Do you use the color mauve?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

black and white and grey--or is it gray

I don't know if it is the weather or the stark contrast between light and dark these days. Maybe it is the fact that with no leaves on the trees. Or maybe it is the fact that my DH and I have been bringing in some 16 inch firewood for our new little wood stove, but right now I just want to work in black and white with lots of greys thrown in.

A couple of weeks ago I made this quilt--reflections on the night to celebrate the change in seasons. Dramatic. I loved working in those colors.

But still I wanted more.  When I go to the fabric store--whether it is The Textile Company or
A Notion to Quilt, all I look at is the greys. The mauves, the taupes, the blue-greys, grey greens. I want them all. Dark and light grey--I buy at this time of year. I don't know why.

I start a new quilt. Not sure what I am going to do. There are a couple of projects that I have in mind. I need to make a table runner. So I make a few test pieces and glance at one of my books of old Amish quilts. Now I do love the traditional Amish quilts--the repetition of the patterns so bold in the plain colors. The intensity of the work and the humanness of the result. I think of the rail fence pattern. Try it with my pieces.

Ugh!!!  It just doesn't translate.  Time to try again. Sometimes it is important to play--to stretch oneself.

Interesting. A possibility. A landscape that needs something more.  The colors are compelling me though to keep trying.

Why? I do a bit of research. What is grey? Or is it gray? Supposedly the combination of black and white.  Why is it that my black and white tuxedo cat is black and white and not grey--even where she has just the tiniest bit of black or white. I get a bit deeper into color theory. Is black a color? Is white? It all depends on how you are seeing color. My head swims. I check the web site and learn that GrAy is how it is spelled in America and GrEy is how it is spelled in England--get it? But that many people also  believe that grey is a silver grey and gray is all colors in between. Interesting.

I check on Wikipedia and learn that we can see the tiniest changes in the color. That is why there all those wonderful shades of grey. I also learn that artists sometimes use grey as strictly the combination of black and white while gray may be all the other colors. Interesting.

And what mood does grey convey--is it the calm and mystery of mist? A grey day? A grey mood? Grey matter. Grey suits. The power of an Ansel Adams photograph or an old black and white Hitchcock movie. What is it?

I don't know. I just keep sewing--right now not even knowing for sure where it will end up. This is the first of the grey trees. Maybe I'll make another one for CraftBoston this coming week-end. Do you ever feel the need to work in a particular color? Can you figure out why?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

the quilts of Ann Brauer--December news

I can't believe it is December already. How quickly I can follow the shadow of the sun as it moves up Massamont. When I get home, the coals need to be raked, the woodstoves  filled. I do love the crackle of the fire as it hums along, that wonderful red orange yellow color that promises warmth. The sunrise and sunset--I get to see both these days. Again red and orange against the sky.

I am busy preparing for the CraftBoston Holiday Show December 10-12. While I have not done this show before, I have only heard great things about it. Lots of wonderful gorgeous work--perfect for those gifts lists (or yourself). I will have lots of potholders, placemats and runners as well as some new quilts.  I am in Booth 703D--a little room off the main hall--but the show is small enough I am sure you will find me. Check it out--there are some amazing artists here:

Meanwhile I just shipped my quilt--rivers for the show Enchanted Rivers at The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. The show opens on December 9 and runs to March, 2011. It should be a wonderful show and I do feel so honored to be included. A bit closer to home, the exhibit SewNew: Contemporary Art Quilts at the OSilas Gallery of Concordia College in Bronxville, NY continues until December 12. I have heard this is an absolutely lovely show--worth making the trip to see it. My quilt summer sky is included.

If I am not at shows, I will be at the studio in Shelburne Falls  most days filling holiday orders and beginning to create new work for January. There are so many quilts I want to make for the Baltimore Show in February.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Fish, fish, get your fresh fish. I swear everyone in western Massachusetts knows the lilting sounds of Bud Foster advertising his fresh fish. How he rolls and twirls the words for Foster's Supermarket. This store is such a delight. Big enough to have everything you could possibly want, small enough that much of the produce is local. I anticipate every visit as an adventure.

Do I want five pounds of organic local carrots--on special for $2.79? What about a basket of over-ripe bananas--only $.99? There is a manager's special of fresh haddock--trucks drive into the fish market in Boston two or three times a week getting the best fish available. Very tempting.  Hmm. I need apple cider, mushrooms. Yukon gold potatoes on special. Those leeks look great. My DH is longing for a roast chicken. Not the best right now but that pork roast--can't beat the price. Sure looks great too--very fresh. I'll get some port wine. Raisins. Make some applesauce. I'll freeze the day old hamburger and use it later in the week.

Don't need milk.  A couple of cartons of juice. Yoghurt from SideHill Farms--I drive by their cows grazing in the meadow on my way home. Absolutely delicious--tastes like yoghurt should. Some bread for sandwiches.

There is strategy as I walk the aisles every Tuesday. See what's on sale, pick up the essentials. Always a can of coffee. Replace the can of coconut milk I used for Thanksgiving. I don't even stop at the cookie aisle. Not what I buy. Strategy but no lists. I don't know what I'll cook until I finish shopping. Foster's is like that--at least for me. This is almost fun, an adventure, not a chore.

I put the food away, make lunch--oh that grilled cheese was good. Check my e-mail. Coincidentally, I get a response to my blogpost that lists can be hazardous to your art from Lisa Call when I return. Lists, lists, lists.  She writes about lists for grocery shopping:

Yes – getting things done is what gets things done. But spending our energy trying to remember what needs to get done isn’t productive use of our brain. Writing things down reduces the energy required to remember that list and frees us up to think about other things.

She writes that I have not explained how making lists is dangerous to your art.

I will first use the example of grocery shopping at Foster's. Now occasionally if I am making something special I may jot down a few items. Chocolate and cream for Christmas dessert. Basil and walnuts to make pesto for my step children. But normally I don't. I know what is in the refrigerator. I know what we need--fruit, veggies, main courses. I just don't know what will look best at Foster's. Do I want to pass up the pork roast or the carrots. Nope. I will cook with these. If I had a list, I might not have even seen the pork roast and it sure was good last night.

In my last blogpost I wrote about my friend Mary. Now Mary left a successful job to become an artist. Mary goes up to her studio to work, begins tackling her todo list and by the time Mary must leave the studio she has done some items on her todo list but not made art. She is frustrated and feels like a failure. Now Lisa says the problem is that  Mary was using the WRONG lists. OK--let's blame Mary even more for failing to become the artist she dreams of. Those lists are indeed being dangerous to Mary's art IMHO.

Lisa has referred me to the blog post of ZenHabits. Kill your todo list they advocate.

I’m here to suggest: kill your to-do list.
It sucks up your time, and drains your motivation. Those who have to-do lists usually manage them constantly, or if they don’t they fall into disuse and get dusty and become worthless, while the person who’s fallen behind in maintaining the list feels constantly guilty. For those who keep up with the lists, they spend a lot of time on the lists they could be spending … doing something important.

But Lisa says in an interchange with me, Zen Habits is a successful blog and I should take everything they say with a grain of salt. Probably. There are times when one needs plans, strategies and focus. Her implication is that they use lists to get things done. Maybe, maybe not. Lists may not be the only way.

Switch it around. If lists are frustrating you, try having a strategy instead. Know yourself. Maybe for you spending the first hour of your studio time making art gives you that feeling of accomplishment. Maybe you have too many UFO's around your studio--too many choices, too much feeling of incompletion (is that a word?).  Do you have too much finished work in your studio--maybe you need to find a home for it? Circumvent yourself. There is no right answer and no wrong answer.

I don't have the answers for you. Lisa doesn't have the answers for you. Neither does ZenHabits. Learn from all of us and then find your own answers. Mary now rarely goes up to her studio because she feels so defeated. I find this painfully sad. Don't let this happen to you. After all, being an artist is hard work, and if you aren't having fun sometime during the process--if it just makes you feel badly about yourself then why are you doing it.

And yes the pork roast was delicious. Pork, garlic, onion, sweet potatoes, a few raisins and a dash of the port. Yummy. Today I may make an apple cobbler to go with it. Cream a bit of margarine with sugar, add an egg, a bit of milk, flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Pour over some sliced apples and cook til done. I don't use a recipe here either. That's me and it works for me.

So what do you think? My father was a farmer. Farmers don't make lists-at least my dad didn't---they just milk the cows, plow the field, harvest the crops? I wonder if this is why I don't use lists. Any thoughts?

Monday, November 29, 2010

warning--lists may be dangerous to your art

Let me be blunt this time. Too many todo lists may be dangerous to your art.  There--I've said it. I know that most art consultants recommend that you create these detailed lists to maximize your studio time. My quilting friend Lisa Call in one of her blogs stated that having the list allowed her the space to create art. SAQA even has a whole group devoted to setting visioning goals for an entire year. Lisa and I have been having a discussion about lists and systems on our blogs--here is one of my posts--you just need to have a system. Her blog site is

Now if it works for you--fine.  Isn't there a saying, if it works don't fix it. Pretty good advice, don't you think? And I would never say you shouldn't have goals--of course you should. To achieve them, you may need a plan of action--those steps you need to take to get from one place to the other. Think of the plan as a recipe--to cook the delicious Moroccan squash and chick pea stew I made for Thanksgiving, I had to write down the ingredients and figure out the important steps in the recipe. Without the curry powder, the recipe would just not have worked. But there is also room for improvisation--I forgot to get the spinach, I added frozen peas. Still tasted great.

No, the problem I have with lists is they can be overwhelming and distract you from the quilts that you want to make--the art you want to produce. Let me explain.

Take my friend--I'll call her Mary. Now Mary quit her successful job so she could fulfill her lifelong dream to become an "artist." More power to her I say. She does have talent at design.  She has a studio, a considerate husband. And a lot of lists. She goes up to the studio and starts to tackle her lists--clean studio, done. Do bookkeeping, done. Take out stitches on quilt 23, done. Soon she has spent her time in the studio. She rewrites her todo list--notes all the things she has yet to finish and feels discouraged. Though she has made the space for her art, she has not made her art and her list is just as long if not longer.

I read an article on becoming your own personal coach. Great advice. Chris Brogan says we all have our own inner critic that tells us everything we do wrong, every failure. Just count the times during the day when you criticize yourself--he got up to 37 times a day.  However, there is a solution-- we can train ourselves to have our inner coach. We need to visualize this coach and keep telling ourselves that we are doing things right. Great point. Isn't the list becoming part of the inner discouragement--can one ever get to the end of a todo list.

Lisa sends me a link to her blog post discussing a Zen approach to making art. Forget those lists
Zen Habits advocates. Just do something, make something, surprise yourself. Yes, Lisa is right, I like parts of this post. Why get bogged down with too many lists? After all, if I don't create the art that I want to make, why do I even worry about getting things done to allow me time to create art.

Now I will be the first to admit that I can't just follow this Zen approach. I am also in business. I need to get work shipped off to shows. I need to finish orders, buy fabric, send postcards. Check the colors of placemats. So many little things I need to organize.

Right now I am in one of those between seasons--in between shows, waiting for the Connecticut couple to purchase placemats. Wondering if I will get the order that I promised before Christmas--I will give the customer one more day and then move on--she knows that time is of the essence.

These are the between times--in March it is called mud season around here--winter has ended but spring has not yet come. There is the waiting. Bed and breakfasts have specials just for mud season. Same thing for the week or so after Thanksgiving--not quite time for most holiday parties, too soon for winter sports, but not much work in the garden left. For me, the times when I can do the little endless things that will give me the space to work.

I also have these down times throughout the day--when I am puzzled about a quilt, when I am tired of sewing, when I am waiting for a customer. That is when I prepare the postcards for mailing, do the bookwork, pay the bills, check out the applications. Why spend good creative time scratching things off an endless to do list? This is the filler time.

And the Moroccan squash recipe--it came from Cook's Illustrated and is very simple.

1. Saute 2 diced onions with 1 TBSP curry powder and 2 tsps cumin in oil until onions are soft.
2. Add 6-8 minced cloves of garlic. Stir quickly. Add a diced jalepeno pepper--or other hot spice.
3. Add 3 cups roughly diced yellow squash or sweet potatoes. Cook for a few minutes. I also diced a bell pepper. Mushrooms or white potatoes could also be added.
4. Stir in one large can tomatoes--could be diced or use whole tomatoes and cut them up a bit. Cook until the squash is soft. (It takes a while--at this point there may be a bit of harshness from the curry powder--don't panic--I did.) Drain one or two cans chick peas and add to the stew.
5. Open a can of coconut milk and reduce it by half--it does sweeten the flavor. Interesting.
6. I added about a cup of frozen peas, Cook's suggested some spinach. I also added the coconut milk and the flavors came together.
7. I used some of the leftovers with chicken over rice--also delish!!!

What do you think? Should you kill that todo list?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

art and the audience

This morning as I am getting psyched for work after too much "Moonlight Madness" the night before-- (No,  No it is not what it sounds like--it's just a marketing event in Shelburne Falls)--anyhow I saw an article on Twitter--marketing research and the artist. Of course I had to read it--after all I really do not enjoy being open late even if I don't stay until the bitter end so if I could sell more...

Alas the main point of the article is that artists need to learn what "the public" wants to know about the art. Now I am sure that there are lots of artists who would benefit by getting the opinion of "the public"--learning the language and questions of "the public." Indeed I know some whose work is just not selling--hmm, not my place to offer suggestions.  But I have just sat through Moonlight Madness for the umpteenth time--my studio is open to "the public".  How many craft shows have I done? I know more or less what "the public" thinks about my work. Even though that also changes. 

And the methodology of the article seemed awfully complex to me--holding a party... I am not sure that I even agree that artists have different opinions than non-artists. Am I missing something there. But I do think the basic premise is more interesting than the article. Let me explain.

I will be the very first to admit that I find it important to ascertain that I am communicating with my work. I remember the first time I showed up at a major craft show--all the other artists advised me that this would be a graduate level course in art appreciation if I could just listen to potential audience. After being told far too often that their seams were straighter than mine, I decided I would not rely on straight seams. How to hang the work? How to care for it? I learn the questions I want to answer--the discussions that take them away from the work.

Where does the quilt work in their house? What colors do customers want to live with? I remember that I can always make a new piece for the studio but they are going to be living with it for years. It is a humbling thought.

How do I remain true to what I want to make while also selling the work so that I can make more?
What is the role of the artist in the world we live in. Anne Truitt speaks of when art coincides with contemporary artistic concerns so there is a historical cogency--a relevance of the personal struggles of the artist with current trends. She speaks of the need to be true and sensitive to oneself rather than succumbing to the will of the public. What a balancing act.

Listening to Khrista Tippets On Being radio show I hear John O'Donohue--an Irish poet--discuss art and beauty. I learn that the word  beauty has the same Greek root as the word calling.  Did you know that? Beauty can be the calling forth of the universal--get it?  Joining the visible and the invisible worlds. The landscape of the inner world. Recalling you to the rhythm of the universe. A discussion using large broad words but creating a feeling for what art and beauty is.

I remember years ago when I took lots of poetry workshops. The leader of the group--a very kind and wise woman--would gently tell me when the poems were "too personal." What I felt so intensely and what I explained so that I clearly understoodt was a puzzle to my intended readers. 

At the shows I see lots of work that is--shall I say "trendy".  Lots of work that fits whatever is hot in the market. Sometimes  during quiet times at the studio I try to make work like this--solid colors, simple designs. There is a look that is hot but it is not me. I miss the commercial prints--the act of taking ordinary fabrics and creating wonderful surprising colors. I love that jumble and intensity of the fabrics and know that it is what I must do.  My seemingly simple but also complex landscapes inviting the viewer into my world.

So I seek other ways of listening to my audience. Can I explain it better? Perhaps another color? Another size? Am I hunting for the wrong audience? I keep asking these questions. A juggling act between what the audience wants and what I want to make. And how do you answer these questions? What is the roll of the public and the contemporary art scene? How do you balance it?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks to All

What a wonderful day so far. Cloudy. That hint of winter storm in the air. My DH and I finish splitting the wood for the year. An old old maple tree down by a vernal pond. Definitely it led an interesting life. Must have seen the cows come and go when this was pasture. Then forest again after the Civil War. Another attempt at pasture--that didn't last long either. The tree itself was just enough out of the way--just twisted enough--that it remained undisturbed for years. Instead it grew burls on top of burls. Beside it a younger red maple sprouted some hundred years ago.

When I knew the old maple, the inside was hollow--a family of porcupines considered it their winter home. They would chatter at us when we went ice skating. Little heads peaking out of one of the holes in the tree. In the summer just a few branches that still had leaves. How hard it tried to keep going.

Never would we have taken it down. We loved the porcupines with their crazy trails in the snow too much. Certainly we did not need the wood. But this summer, a gust of wind hit the younger red maple--knocked its top off and on the way down felled the old tree right into the pond. Now if the maple had fallen in the woods we would have just left it to rot--but it was just enough in the way that it needed to be moved. Being good Yankees of course we cut it up. What a pain it was to split. The wood already starting to rot. Twisted and turned. It split into strange chunks of wood. Not easy to stack but so dry we could burn it right away. Every Sunday we would spend an hour or two working on this wood--a really big pile. Finally today we finished. The last rounds just as ornery as the first ones.

The perfect thing to do on Thanksgiving morning. We have enough wood that inside the fire is roaring. I have an apple pie in the oven--just made some cranberry sauce with pears and apples. Then for Thanksgiving dinner I will make squash and chick peas--Moroccan style--with tomatoes and coconut milk to take over to our friends. It sure sounds good.

And I think of all I have to be thankful for--my DH, my step-children. Family and friends. Three cats sleeping by the fire. I read a blog post by skinny artist and realize that I am indeed thankful that I can actually support myself making quilts. I never dreamed that would have been possible when I was growing up. Pretty amazing the world we live in.

I think of the old maple tree now gathered for a final celebration in the fire. Isn't this what November is--Thanksgiving--gathering up all the life of the year with it gnarly burls, the hollow insides, the adventures and splitting and stacking them to use for warmth during the cold dark months. The celebration of life.

Emily Dickinson compared the month of November to Norway.  I have never been to Norway but I like November--the subtle colors, the anticipation of snow and long cold nights by the fire. Time with family and friends. The contrast between light and dark. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday-- wonderful foods and pure enjoyment of being. And I do have lots to be Thankful for.

And you--what do you have to give thanks for? What are your thoughts of November?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

on alligators, art quilts and great adventures

My friends--the ones who are spending the winter working in the Everglades--write of driving, driving south shedding jackets, flannel shirts, heavy blue jeans as they approach their destination. The endless sawgrass of the Everglades. For them, this is a long dreamed of this. They have prepared for it for years. Now they are almost there. Will they have alligator on the grill for Thanksgiving? I wouldn't put it past them.

She takes pictures. He sends long thoughtful group e-mails:

          I know my destination.  Physically speaking, anyway.  The crazy of the trip has a tendency to     bloom in mysterious ways, no matter how much you try to think and anticipate.  We're here.  Not too far away, anyway. 

For them this is their great adventure.

I read about it in the morning just before I get in my van. I too am driving, driving. Though I am heading north. The trees shed their leaves. A cold front is racing in. I add a coat, long sleeves. I too have a destination. I have just finished doing the Washington Craft Show. My mind is full of ideas for new quilts that I want to make. I have had one of those wonderful conversations--a conversation I could only have dreamed of with a sophisticated craftswoman. What is art? What does it mean to be an artist? When can one call oneself an artist? Questions I have been rolling around in my mind. Posting about in my blog.

One reader has responded to my blog  post on putting the fine back in fine craft:

Here's my take on the whole issue. It goes along with the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality. Excellence is not as important as it once was. To be called an "artist" used to mean that you had a base level or ability and/or talent. No more. Everyone's an artist now. 

Yes, I think there is something there. I turn--again to Anne Truitt's Daybook: The Journal of An Artist. How I love this book, the honesty and intensity of her questioning. The depth of her perception. She writes that even to state she is an artist makes her feel uneasy--is she good enough or is this just her reaction to the over-inflated public definition of what is an artist. (Page 44). Is she limiting herself by not accepting this definition, she questions. Should she just be true to herself?    

She writes in looking at the work of another she seeks "the spontaneous rise of my whole being." "It is ultimately character that underwrites art." "Purity of aspiration seems virtually prerequisite to genuine inspiration." (Pages 67-68) I savor passages in this book as I mull conversations at the craft show.

Acceptance that my quilt rainbows of summer is art--fine craft that transcends craft. The finish work I put into it is important but not key to the piece. The quilt is strong--reads as a whole that you can grasp in a couple of seconds and then spend time absorbing the details. This is not what I think but what I was told. I must confess it made the whole show worth it for me.

 She wasn't sure that the smaller wall hangings make the leap. Are they just sketches? Or were they overpowered by the presence of  rainbows of summer. Others said the same thing too. Colors of autumn. Moonrise. I must listen to what is being said--not to be governed by it but to hear it as a voice, a direction. Should I take myself more seriously?

As I drive back I wonder what I should do next. I think of the conversations--the possibilities that the show offered me. I mull it over in my mind. If I make it, will "they" come? Do I trust in myself? And I realize as I drive north through Connecticut listening for some reason I don't know to a Seattle radio station reporting a blizzard on the west coast, that for me this is part of my great adventure. I will have turkey for Thanksgiving and then make the quilts that I dream of. 

And you, what is your definition of the great adventure in your life? How do you decide to fulfill your dreams?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

color at the craft show

The Washington Craft Show is one of those shows where I get inspired. There is so much wonderful work around me that in my "spare" time I find that I am constantly making sketches of new work--quilts that I hope to make. What fun to feel alive and to have new designs just pour out of me.

Part of it is the building itself. Not only does it have wonderful complex patterns but also great use of colors. On the way up the escalator  I love admiring this color field--not sure who it's is by--it is on another floor so there is not easy access to it but just look at these color progressions. Even the glimpse of it intrigues me.

My booth is next to that of Dan Mirer a talented glass blower from upstate New York. I had seen his work a couple of years ago at a show in Rochester, NY. I love his hauntingly simple use of color progressions.

 Gorgeous isn't it? I asked him how he got his colors--it is actually pretty interesting. Glassblowers buy colors from a manufacturer. He goes to and selects his color. The colors are apparently not like paints and can't be mixed. Instead to create this color progression he blows not one but two spheres and then inserts them one inside the other. Pretty amazing isn't it?  He even has to do it for this piece. Wow!!!

The final booth I stopped at is Mija Art--the quilts of Libby and Jim  out of Asheville, NC. I have known Libby forever it seems and seen her work evolve. What fun. She uses recycled clothing that she carefully selects and pieces to create these amazing color ways. Recently she has been playing with black and white color gradations--isn't that wonderful?

Just look at the detail she uses. On top of the piecing she then applies very detailed stitching often using metallic thread that swirls and curves. Here is one of my favorites with little bits of red in the fabric as well.

Pretty cool isn't it. And now I must get ready for the last day of this show. Can you see why I am inspired? What inspires you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

musings on patterns and the Washington Craft Show

As I ride the escalators--and there are several of them--up to Level D of the Convention Center to do the Washington Craft Show I am struck by the patterns around me. The building itself is a wonderful modern building of steel and stone and glass in great geometric designs and constantly shifting shadows.

Inside there are  reflections from the windows. A massive open space and some wonderful installations. But--maybe because I am a fabric person--my eye is drawn to the carpet. Check it out if you get a chance. The basic overall pattern--so simple and yet complex of the design. Note the little red blocks that pop against the soft blues.

The center area has more design--great arches matching the lines of the building. Then the  burnt orange--red guiding you to the stairs. Standing in this focal area the first time I felt the glow of the colors. Try it--subtle and magical.

Further patterns of the admissions kiosk--clearly a Sol Lewitt design. So geometric and beckoning. Playful and joyous in its celebratory colors. So much more to see outside the show but I want time to peruse the aisles while I still can.

I am delighted that my friend Liz Alpert Fay is showing. Liz is one of those multi-talented artists. In one life she was a wonderful quilt maker. Then she began making hooked rugs that kept the charm of the tradition while also having a contemporary feel. Now she has moved on to mixed media. There are some small wall hangings where she uses shapes in nature to create very unique juxtapositions of shape and form--worth studying. A sculpture made by stringing filaments of a plant similar to a thistle on fishing wire with the seeds falling to the bottom. Wonderful in its graceful and simplicity.

My favorite though is her tribute to her chickens. This is the most personal of her pieces I feel. She and her family have four chickens and she wanted to convey the inattention we currently have for where our food comes from with the beauty and the diversity that the chickens provide.

An interesting piece worth studying both for its wonderful patterns--the circles of the eggs and the hooked rugs. The thought that went into the labeling of the eggs. In the center is the first egg--as a farm girl I remember what a treat it was when finally the pullets started laying eggs--at first tiny eggs. So special and such a celebration of life.

The other eggs show the diversity of sizes and colors that eggs come in--all from her chickens. There is something very personal about this--so different from store bought eggs. The rug is one of her hooked rugs. This time she included facts about chickens that we don't often know. Again there is the wonderful humanity of the rug--round, exquisitely crafted but still made by a person. I want to spend the time to absorb the text.

However I must also spend a bit of time appreciating the charm of Carolyn  Beard Whitlow's quilts. Oh what an interesting person she seems--I didn't realize until I checked her website that she is also a Professor of English and an accomplished poet. As she said, she is improvising on the African American tradition to create poetry with her quilts using fine quality fabrics collected  from the Caribbean, Ghana and the United States she cuts them into small pieces and then pieces them into fabric collage with a sure knowledge of color and effect. What an exuberant and complex use of color.

And yet just as the viewer might get overwhelmed by the color and intensity there is the border enclosing and containing the color. Brilliant and sophisticated.

But alas the show starts and I return to my booth to see what the day may hold. Hopefully I can see more of the show tomorrow morning. See how the pattern will influence my work. And you--what patterns have you noticed recently?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

putting the "fine" back in fine craft

Today I must confess I got my dander up. Now that is truly a wonderful opening sentence which I never thought I could use in my blog. I don't even know what dander is--can it go up?--maybe like the hair on my cat's tail. Do I get my dander up or does my dander just go up? You tell me.

Anyhow, my latest issue of American Craft Magazine came. Now I don't know about you, but I associate American Craft Magazine with work that is so finely made that it seems impossible that a person could actually do it. As was noted in this issue about Paul Stankard--known for his intricate recreations of botanical scenes in paperweights--he truly "minds the details." I think of the brilliant ceramics of Cliff Lee--he can spend years perfecting the right ancient Chinese glaze--and then render perfect dragons arching around vases with necks so fine and thin it doesn't seem humanely possible. As is explained on his home page, he is taking time honored techniques and making them his--saying something new with them.

I think of my friend Kari Lonning with her exquisitely made baskets of dyed reed--hairy baskets, double walled baskets. They tell stories of distant landscapes, different events all clearly identifiable as made by Kari. The amazing wrapped and woven glass sculptures of Jeanne Heifetz--not a single hole in the piece. Gorgeous dreamy work that again you can't believe a person actually made. You get the idea.

So when I turned to the article about the quilt maker Malka Dubrowsky in the magazine I was more than a bit taken aback. The picture of her with a quilt draped over her shoulders outside. The many designs she created of hand dyed fabric--perhaps a little too reminiscent at first glance of the quilts of Gee's Bend not only in their designs but also in their lack of sewing technique--and don't get me wrong, I love those quilts--great article about how they used fractals as a design element in the SDA Journal--but some of them are sure not square. Big hand quilting stitches-(as you may remember my grandmother took out stitches that were too big.) Machine quilting that displayed its own problems. Here is my blog post about my grandmother's oak leaf quilt.

Now I must admit that in looking at Malka's work a second time, I did find intrigue in some of her designs. Her colors were nice and bright. Clearly from the home page of her web site she is going for a "down home" quilts on the front porch look. Check it out at Her blog had some interesting points as she discusses a bit her thought process but... And I will be the first to admit that I liked how "hand-made" her work looks. Very cozy. To some extent similar to the concept that I am trying to achieve in my work. I also have the feeling that she is a great businesswoman and I do always admire that.

But unlike the work of a Cliff Lee or Kari Lonning  I really don't think she is taking a technique and by her attention to detail and skill making it her own. I don't even really think that is her purpose in making the quilts. There has been an interesting discussion both on the Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA) forum and in the Surface Design Association magazine about the problems that quilts have getting recognized as "art." Maybe I am wrong--maybe quilts should just be quilts--fun and funky and functional.  But I think they can and should be more. Whether the quilt is meant to be functional or a wall hanging, I think it can also convey that additional artistic something that takes us beyond the realm of cozy and functional to that place of "take your breath away."

And I guess I felt a bit betrayed by American Craft Magazine--aren't they supposed to be promoting the best in American Craft--not just something that they consider to be fresh? Shouldn't they and by implication we be pushing the limits of what we can say with quilts just a bit more? Shouldn't we be trying to respect the craft in fine craft? Or am I wrong--is that so yesterday? What do you think?   Where do you see the place of fine in fine craft?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

getting ready for a craft show--a time for lists

Recently, as those who follow my blog know, I have been dialoguing with Lisa Call and others on strategies for getting work done. Interesting discussion--I love the comments on my blog post about systems and strategies.

Now normally I don't like to make todo lists--I know what needs to be done and I attack it from various angles until it gets done. But I am leaving for the Washington Craft Show tomorrow morning and I have to get packed. This is a wonderful craft show--truly some of the very best most serious fine craft artists in the country--I am honored to be included here. Of course it is also a very expensive show to do. I do want to make money at it.

It is also a show I have not done for a number of years and never in this venue. There are systems here I do not know. How to get my work from my van to my booth? Where to park my van while I set up my booth? Hey, I don't even know where I can get a cup of coffee at the show.

I have a love-hate relationship with shows as it is. I love the deadlines of working toward a show. I love seeing the work come together as a unit and getting the feedback from the customers. I love the possibilities. But I always feel that I have to stop working just when I am really getting going on a theme and I know my thought process will be different when I return.

I try to make it as easy for myself as possible. I pay all my bills. I make an appointment to get snow tires put on my car. For good luck, I make a donation to the Western Massachusetts Food Bank--yes, I am a bit superstitious--if I do good for others, maybe whatever that bigger force is will think of me kindly. I ship out orders. The blue hills quilt is now headed to its new owners. I hope they like it.

 I sketch out my display parts--though I have set up this display hundreds of times, right now the pieces are in different boxes. The craft show I had done just before I switched vehicles had involved a bigger booth and more parts. I must be more organized this time. I want to check my lights--some of the fixtures got pulled apart at the last show--no need to fight it during set-up. As I work, I make a list of things to remember--I contact the Post Office, put the mail on hold, change the message on my answering machine. Pull out things I must not forget. Leave post it notes for things I need to do when I return.

As the studio gets emptier and emptier. I want to clean it. I take a walk across the Bridge of Flowers--yes, it is still open this year. So neat--most of the annuals carefully removed, the leaves on the iris trimmed.  I see the little orange flags--post it notes for the spring.

I walk slowly admiring the remaining flowers--this may well be my last walk across it for the season. How beautiful the kale is in its white and purple feathery splendor. I enjoy the fact that it is still there but also  know that once I am on my way down to Washington, I will look forward to the excitement of the show.

The couple who were supposed to come and buy placemats postpone their visit. I will try to finish the new grey quilt--then organize my studio for packing. And you--how do you prepare for a show? Am I the only one who wants to clean before leaving?