Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The feminine side

I was exhibiting at the Kitsap Arts & Crafts Festival in Port Gamble last year. I love this show and have been involved since I moved to Washington (it was the first show I did, even before I opened the gallery).
I had many pieces, but as usual, the drilled beach glass and stones got the most attention.

I explained to folks how I drilled the glass and stones and I even have the drill corers I use for sale at the show. Nothing unusual about that, someone always asks about the bits I use, so I found from experience it is better to be prepared. Here's the unusual part...at least 10 people were astonished that I would spill my "secrets" of how I make my pieces. They were even more shocked that I would sell the hard found tools of my trade (trust me, I tried every masonry, jewelry and lapidary bit out there until I found these corers). One woman nearly fell over when I gave her my business card with my email and cell phone number and told her to call if she ran into any problems drilling her pieces.

Now, I admit, this is not the first time this has happened. I do many shows and have sold many bits over the years, and I do the same thing every time...I tell people exactly how I drill the pieces, what my set up is, my tools, how fast to run the drill-I even printed up instructions to had out. Then I hand them a card with my contact information so that they can call if they get stuck.

Apparently, people find this highly unusual. I can see their point...

In business we are taught to be competitive, we need to beat our competition. In the current marketplace the business owner or CEO's goal is to sell better, faster, cheaper, & more than the other guy and hopefully, drive him out of the marketplace. It's dog eat dog, and when one dog tries to undercut the other, the attacked fights back with a better deal or a special coupon or anything to get the customer to buy from them and not the other guy. Adversarial? Absobloodylutely! How can any business expect to create loyalty when they are constantly attacking? Or cutting prices to beat the other store? Or thinking up new and more underhanded ways to bring customers to their store and prevent them from shopping at another? Not to be too sexist, but this is a very male way of doing business.

And I really don't mean to be sexist. This competitive model has worked for many years, and competition can be good. Competition drives us to excel in various ways; it makes us reach and strive in ways that can be unusual for us which can lead to new ways of thinking. However, this reaching & striving can turn dirty and fast. When "winning" is the only goal, the fight turns and things can get nasty. So what is the other option? If winning isn't the goal, then what is?

Well, I think the other goal is winning through cooperation. What if everyone wins? No losers, just everyone reaching and learning and helping each other along instead of leapfrogging off another. This is the more feminine model. Women are taught to stand together; to share burdens, group tasks and share responsibility for projects. Ever tried to cook a holiday dinner for 12? Very difficult unless, you dole out tasks to others; and disastrous if you try to make it the best holiday dinner ever...way better than Grandma's, all alone. Grandma never worked alone, why do you think you can best her working solo? And what would that kind of victory mean? Would it engender you to the family? Your victory would be nothing, just "your victory". In any other context, it is still a solo victory, you besting others and nothing else.

So...I view my success as an artist differently. I learned my craft from other folks who were willing to share their successes and failures and trials with others because they thought what they did was worth passing on. Keeping their "secrets" would not make their work any more precious because no one would know the kind of effort & skill involved in their process. For anyone to really appreciate artwork, a little about the technique used to create the piece has to shine through. So I thank all those who came before me, those who tried & failed and learned and passed on what they knew so that we could appreciate what came before us, enjoy the process of "making a living" and swell with pride as they share what they have learned with others. After all, how "accomplished" would I be if no one thought they could learn anything from me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Passing of a Legend

Most people will think that title refers to Tim Russert, and while I am saddened by the loss of a fairly levelheaded political moderator (there seem to be so few) I am actually more deeply saddened by the loss of Russert's opposite, George Carlin. I grew up spouting Carlinese at my catechism teachers (and getting in wicked trouble for it) and pushing the boundaries of the "7 words" as well as adding to the list whenever possible. Carlin was able to make the mundane magical and had an insight into the political, social & religious woes that he spun into fabulous tales that made us laugh til we cried and then cry again when we explored his deeper meanings. Following is a letter written by Carlin shortly after his wife's death- "A Message by George Carlin: The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete... Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." George Carlin He will truly be missed for his humor & wisdom and his ability to treat both with equal absurdity.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What's New?!

New is a relative term for these beads, most of which are over 300 years old. These are African Trade Beads. Most were made in Venice & Czechoslovakia and traded around the world for goods and services beginning around the 16th century. Often these beads are called "slave" beads because they were often traded for slaves in the Western countries of Africa. However, beads were used as currency to buy furs, gold and supplies in the Americas and Europe as well. Occasionally trade beads can be found outside Africa, but most of the beads now on the market are coming back across the Atlantic from Africa where they were passed down as dowries and adorned brides as a sign of wealth.

We have just received an amazing selection of trade beads from our friend Musa. Stop in soon for the best selection.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Return of Victory Gardens

my niece and nephew picking wild strawberries at my brother's "farm" in Maine
Do you remember the early 80's? I do...vividly. Not everything, mind, I just remember the tension meter in our house rising every day at dinner time. No, my Mom was a great cook, my Dad was not a chauvinistic ogre about who eats first; it was the nightly news. Now, to give you some back story-when I was growing up, our family ate dinner together. No excuses, together, no TV, milk to drink, no homework at the table, no hats, napkins in lap, no food fights (well, not often) and the family had dinner together and talked. There may have been a board game or a hand of cards afterwards as well. Cliche, but there it is. But somewhere in the late seventies/early eighties, things changed. I was young, around ten when I started to notice my parents hushed voices and general uneasiness. And suddenly, it was no longer the 8th deadly sin to watch TV during dinner. But it was the nightly news, ONLY the news (my brother tried to trick my parents one night by saying the news wasn't on, but the Monkey's were, so maybe we could watch that instead-so young and foolish). Now I didn't know what a Cold War was (maybe a really organized snowball fight? we did live in Maine after all). Star Wars was a movie that I couldn't watch without hiding and sneaking a quick glimpse through the buttonhole of my Levi's jean jacket. But my parents were scared. I realize this now, back then I thought they just figured we were old enough and the talking about our day over dinner wasn't that exciting for them. But, no...they were really scared. It didn't help that my uncle kept showing up (no literally showing up, he hitchhiked around a lot) and bashing Reagan, spreading solidarity and going on about some guy named Nixon. I remember Samantha Smith, I remember Oliver North and the Iran-Contra scandal. And I know what my parents we feeling because I think a lot of us are there now. It's the feeling that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and we cannot think of how to get off the ride. But it is more than that...the world may be spiralling out of control, and we may think we know what got us to this point. But the real fly in the ointment is that is everyone just took a quick breather and stopped, I mean really just stopped to look at where we are and how we got there, we could take the small steps necessary to make it better. Real people, not politicians, not policy makers or lobbyists or rich folks or celebrities or any of that "I'm powerful, so I'm obviously an expert" nonsense. So, to get to the theme of today's post and the small step I have been thinking about as I take my quick, reality breathers is, a victory garden. High gas prices are driving food prices higher, and that creates shortages and farmers' realize they can get more money selling their soy & corn to make biodiesel and not food and it just keeps spiralling, so my little piece of sanity is to start a victory garden. Will this stop world hunger, no. Will it magically make gas prices plummet, no. Will it ease the burden on one person and allow that person to spread their message of sanity & breathing & "hey the exit for this hand basket ride is over here", absolutely!
The seeds are sown, the potential is there, under the surface, we just need to keep breathing and believe.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Green Gardens on my mind

Inspiration. We all need it, and sometimes we cannot find it. But when we do find it, inspiration can lead to marvelous things.
Lately, I have been working on my garden. Yes, I own a business. Yes, I should be focused on business things, bit I have been leaving early (er) and coming in late (again, er) to play in the garden. Now before you get any grand ideas (see photo of Lingering Garden), I have a garden the size of a postage stamp ( one of those big, oversize ones) and more of a chartreuse thumb. However, after doing some work on the outside of my house last year, I found I had a horseshoe shaped patio and the perfect beginnings of a small L-shaped garden.
So this year has been spent building walls (luckily, I had a lot of practice at my brother's house when his sewer pipe collapsed last year and we had to tear down & then rebuild his front yard and garden), ammending soil and adding plants. Those are the real, live, green things with pretty flowers & heady smells. I promise pictures will follow, but for now my inspiration has lead me to planning a Plant Swap & Sale here at the shop.
Join us Saturday, June 28th from 10am-6pm for fun, flowers & food. We'll have lots of starts, veggies, and other blooming goodies to trade & sell. Have seeds, bring 'em. We'll meet in the back garden and have a planting party! If you have any questions, just contact the shop, 360.405.4341.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday Hump Day

Yup, another Wednesday. A local radio station back in Maine (where I grew up) always called it Hump Day, and I always thought they were being a bit naughty until someone filled me in about it being the middle of the week hump that we needed to get over to start the slide toward the weekend. Huh, guess you can tell where my mind was (actually it was my brother who gave the erroneous info). But it is indeed another hump day and I am finding this particular Wednesday to be quite an uphill slog. You see, I've been working on our website. Yes, fun & games for some, but a bit like a trip to the dentist for me. I just haven't mastered this whole html thing. Here's the problem...when I was in high school computers were just beginning to be used by average folks (and actually, it wasn't average folks because even the little computer we got from TIME cost a bundle and all it did was run baseball). We didn't have computer classes per se, we had glorified typing. Yes, we "wrote programs" but they consisted of pick a number between 1 and 10. RUN. Exciting, I know. Mostly what we did was turn up the sound on our monitors and annoy the teacher with the metallic hum (sorta like teasing the substitute, but I was in high school after all). When I got to college computers were starting to be standard, but again all you got was word processing and Tetris. But I do remember the "internet". Now in those days the internet was a dark screen with writing on, BUT, writing from someone on Spain! My friend Ruey & I would stay up late and practice our Spanish with guys from Spain or Guatemala. The internet was cool, but no interactive websites with real time video feeds and dancing babies. So, I missed the learning curve. By the time I was a year out of school, the internet had exploded and I knew nothing about how it worked, or how to use it, or how the relate at all. Sure I could make a mean spreadsheet and graph (remember cricket?!) but I was lost with all this html language. I took spanish in college to be worldly and able to relate to the growing global-ness of the planet, no one said I needed to learn hypertext markup language. So that's my dilemma. Soon I will have the new site up complete with online e-commerce and all that jazz, but I need a few more days of hair pulling and cussing...I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Artwalk this Friday!

Things are happening too quickly for me, and I don't think I can blame it on jet lag anymore (it's been three weeks since we got back from China, and I think this excuse is wearing a bit thin).
Just to be obnoxious, here is another photo of China to delight!
This is a view across the street from the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, also known as the Bird's Nest. This whole complex is called the Minority Village and has representative structures from the 40 plus minorities that make up China's population. We were not able to explore the Olympic area (it is still very much under construction) but we did drive by the Bird's Nest and Ice Cube. The whole city of Beijing ( and indeed the whole country) is really excited about the upcoming games, there are countdown clocks in the major parks & squares and statues of Olympic events on the street medians. The only "bad press" we saw while we were in Beijing were protests in Tianamen Square the day the torch was lit in Athens. We stayed far away (we were traveling by invitation of the Chinese government, and it would be bad form to get arrested during our sponsored visit). I am very excited for the Olympics this year (honestly, I am every year) just because I will be able to relate to the area so much. We'll see how it all plays out.
The real reason for this post is to let everyone know I will be at the Downtown Branch of the Bremerton Library for this Friday's Artwalk. We'll be demo-ing basic metalsmithing techniques and showcasing some new "retro" jewelry & accessories (Beth has been busy in the studio!).
Join us Friday between 4 and 8pm. For more information, just contact me, or follow the library link.http://www.krl.org/index.php/KRL-Branches/Downtown-Bremerton.html
Thanks, see you Friday!

Friday, April 18, 2008

back from China & still jetlagged (or maybe just really behind)

Yes, I'm back from China and I won't lie, it was wonderful!!!
This shot is from Tiger Hill and the famous leaning pagoda. Though I've never been to the leaning tower of Piza, I think this would probably give Piza a run for its money. The gardens surrounding the tower are beautiful.
Spring was definitely the time to go to China, everything was blooming and fresh, and remarkably, my allergies were not too bad. I was amazed at how clean everything was (I had heard horror stories) and how well used the public gardens and temples and "touristy sites" were frequented by the chinese folks. Open spaces were full of people practicing Tai-Chi or dancing, and others were gathered in groups playing cards or mah jong, or just enjoying the day by singing, reading or playing with the kids.
I really enjoyed the trip, and Pixie has finally forgiven me for leaving her (again) and not letting her stay in doggie jail in Purdy this time (they were full). More pics of China and the goodies we brought home soon!