I was thinking about things I have accomplished this year. The list feels short, but there were some good milestones.
The biggest ones had to do with getting better at selling my work. I was accepted into an art show and sale for the Trustees of Reservations, met a gallery owner I need to communicate with, and participated in two craft fairs just before Christmas. I executed commissioned work (portraits of two Chickens for Bob), and talked with another person about the possiblity of commissioning a piece.
Artistically speaking, I had a gloriously fevered month working with my feelings about and reactions to the El Anatsui exhibit that I visited and revisited. I had a different but equally glorious month working on various chickens, feeling out the ways I could depict feathers and mass on a surface. I got a chance to actually make the first few of a series I have been thinking about for ages – the pond pictures across the seasons of a year.
For stuff that I didn't do so well: I missed a couple opportunities to sell myself and my work, and I think I should work harder on that next year. I need to get better at finding venues, organizing myself, and telling a story about myself and my work. Mounting and framing work needs more refinement. While I did well enough producing work steadily, I could use more time in the studio. I also did better with this blog, talking to you all more regularly than in some previous years, but that still leaves room for improvement!
If I were to grade myself, it would be as follows:
artistic endeavors: A+
taking advantage of sales opportunities: B+
steady presence in studio: B+
ongoing education: A
Year overall: A-
Aerin is working away on college essays (working well to deadline, as we say in this family) all of which are due before midnight December 31st. She started writing about the hole in the ceiling of the kitchen, and the more we talked about it, the more I realized it was a connection between the important parts of my life, as well as a kind of magic portal in hers.
This hole is there by design, not accident. It is meant to let heat rise into the second floor, from an era when there were no radiators there. It has provided the children years of pleasurable gravity testing, dropping things on my head, or onto the floor to be retrieved and dropped again. (The pompoms were substantially less painful than the rain of legos.) It allowed me to talk to Alice, when she inhabited that room, and I was required in the kitchen to produce food.
But now it connects my art space with my cooking space. I can put something in the oven and retreat upstairs sure in the knowledge that the smells coming through the hole will warn me when it is done. I can eavesdrop on people in the kitchen, which I tend not to do except to listen for tone of voice. People there can ask questions of me while I work on my art, and I can answer them without leaving a particularly finicky bit of stitching.
The hole in the ceiling connects the two most important parts of the house where I work; the kitchen, where I work for the health and amusement of the family, and my studio, where I work for my pleasure and sanity.
While I know, intellectually, that the earth spins on its axis daily, and rolls around the sun on an annual basis, it feels as though the sun swings, back and forth across the equator, forming seasons. There is the elegant knowledge of the tilt of the earth's axis, demonstrated over and over on the equinoxes and solstices at the Sunwheel in Amherst, and there is my own certain caveman knowledge that we need to light candles to make the sun return. It is a curious, binocular vision through which it view the world.
In a valiant effort to come to grips with this, I've written dozens of attempts at poetry. But they all come down to this:
hover, and swing
hover, and swing
the sun swings again across the equator to
hover, breathless in the heat of summer
we wait to exhale and then
we are tumbling down, across the shortening days
swinging across the equator again
to hover, cold and shivering in the dark
we band together, candles lit, singing
to call again to spring
the lengthening days, the brightening sun
the fast swing across the equinox and then we come again
Aerin tells me this is a peculiarly adult way to see it. She can remember when seasons lasted so long it wasn't really possible to remember when it had been different. And then they started to speed up. But this is how it feels to me.
Happy MidWinter Hover of the Sun, and may the returning of the light bring all possible joy to you.
My friend Sarah Buttenweiser has the best ideas. This time her idea was a craft fair in her living room. Which, I might add, is a really lovely space, along with the dining room and the kitchen and the sunroom off it and the study at the end of the hall. The whole space was wall to wall creative people with amazingly beautiful things, and really charming people coming to look at those things.
I was sharing the front room with Crispina ffrench and Caitlin Bosco, both working with recycled clothing in really different ways. Caitlin makes skirts from t-shirts that I yearned after (and I never wear skirts!) they were so humorous and so chic. Crispina makes astonishing sweaters out of other sweaters, as well as other things out of sweaters like, say, baby blankets. The description does not do the end result justice – these are works of art. Warm, soft works of art. I have a sweater of hers now, and she has one of my chickens – we are deligthed with ourselves.
My new sweater is made of pieces of other cashmere sweaters: there is a center panel, and side panels, and a soft, mushroom brown hood, and two colors of sleeve. I'll try to get a reasonable picture of it soon. I love it. Alice loves it too: when I got home she hugged me and then started rubbing her face over me like a cat, humming about softness.
What do you do if a friend says "I really love your chicken ornaments" and you haven't made any? If you are me, which I am, I spend a week thinking about chicken ornaments and trying a fistful of different ideas and finally settling on something I like a lot and whanging out a batch of them in one day. Actually it is only one less than I meant, because one of the yellow background chickens escaped and is feral in the work room. I looked under everything I could move under my sewing table, and she was not where I could find her.
This isn't saying much because I lost my pins this morning and had to call Cathy at the library to ask where they might have been put back to because she was using them Sunday night making creatures from the Burgess Shale (scroll down for a look at some of the best creatures including wiwaxia, opabinia [with five eyes!!] and anomalocaris). So my ability to find things may be impaired at the moment. But I found the pins, and I'm sure I shall find the chicken sometime too.
Well I did kind of drop off the map! I am simultaneously recuperating from the last Craft Fair, prepping for another Craft Fair (in a friend's living room, which seems like a brilliant idea!) and getting a horse organized to go live at a different barn. Which involves a lot of blanket trying-on.
There was a giant (GIANT!!) pile of blankets in the closet in the garage, and I was looking through it for a couple things for Kaboose, until I realized that I couldn't go by size on the blanket I'd have to try them all on. So I put her in a stall, and dragged all the blankets out, and started putting them on and taking them off, just like being in a dressing room with a large toddler. She had the same look too: mildly interested in the cookies I was bribing her with, but really yearning to be free.
The trying on results looked like a toddler too – some things barely made it over her rump, but the vast majority were from a Very Large Horse and they hung over her tail and well down her legs in amusing ways. We found most of what we'll need, and we can borrow the last thing as necessary. Which, along with leaving all the rest of the blankets inventoried, folded and stacked neatly, makes me feel very virtuous.
I am working on a handful of chicken ornaments for the Sunday craft fair ina living room. Pictures of those when they are photographable.
I returned safely from Ipswich lighter by all the chicken cards, some landscape and horse cards, and one original chicken (the big Black Jersey Giant hen, I think she was my favorite, so I am delighted someone else liked her as much).
I have been invited to a friend's house for another, very local, craft fair in her living room. I am looking forward to that a lot – local friends, lovely people, all kinds of good things. I have to get more chickens printed, stat!
I can show you nothing but things in boxes: cards, chicken originals, some random other pieces that will travel easily, some other random small stiched things, and one Christmas Tree. All I need is a partridge and/or a pear tree.
If you are in Ipswich, stop by the museum and say hi –