Monday, October 29, 2007


Today, we celebrate:

(The Red Sox sweep the World Series by beating the Colorado Rockies in four games--pictured are David "Big Papi" Ortiz and Julio Lugo in the 2nd game.)


(Today, the NY City Council officially - and finally - votes to make Sunnyside Gardens a landmarked Historic District.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

So not a Virgo

One reason I wrote about figuring out what one's work is worth is because I am a "featured writer" on this new artist community website, art bistro. And as such, each month I am asked to write about specific topic related to being an artist. In November, the topic is "getting what you're worth".

In a nice follow-up to the conversation I had with Shawn this summer, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Jackie Battenfield for her new book on artists and the business of art a couple of weeks ago. Jackie is the coordinator of The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Artist in the Marketplace program, a really wonderful program in which two groups of 16 artists are selected each year to attend and then are shown in a group exhibition together at the Museum. The program consists of weekly meetings and field trips where everyone does things like write and critiques each other's artist statements, talk to gallery owners and curators person-to-person about what they do and why, meet with tax consultants and draw up long-term goals. Anyway, it is a really useful program and I am happy to be an alumni of it. Jackie invited me to speak with her, I assume, because I have taken a path not often taken by artists in that I have made my work very collaborative and community-based, to use art world lingo. Our conversation made me realize that, although I have sidestepped the studio/gallery practice that is most common to artists, it doesn't mean I should be less serious about being organized or less attentive to my goals.

What is it about setting goals that makes me so uncomfortable? Superstition about jinxing things by saying them outloud? A belief that, since the future does not exist, that we should concentrate on the present moment? A fear of failure? Not wanting to be too corporate-y in my art (as if!)? Part of me thinks, for chrissakes, you're 42 and you are still working this fundamental thing out? What do you want to do? Make it a priority and it will happen! And part of me, I guess, likes the meandering flow of life, art, projects, children, art, life and thinks a sheet of paper with lists will make it less...less fun, less authentic, less...less....

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I have had the opportunity several times in recent months to talk about what one's work is worth. This summer, I had a very memorable conversation with Shawn about how to price work. She makes hooked rugs, painted wood objects and children's clothes for sale at high end craft galleries and she sells her work herself. She said a very wise thing, which I remember as being something along the lines that it is impossible to actually make what your time is worth so you price what the market will bear and if that makes you enough to live on, then that is enough because you are doing what you love. It makes so much sense to me, especially where Wee Ball Yarns are concerned. By the time I have washed the fleece, dyed it, carded it, spun it, there are so many hours involved that I would have to price a 50g skien at about $300. But since I do actually want to sell some yarn, I don't price it according to those standards. I have researched what the market is for a similar product and I priced accordingly. Maybe even a little lower in the hopes of attracting some loyal customers. But the end result is that, were I to measure my worth in an hourly wage, the result would be pitiful.

When it comes to my artwork, it is a whole other thing. I have been deeply influenced by a book called "The Gift" by Lewis Hyde. In it, he maintains that artist's talents are a gift to society and he spends a good deal of time discussing the method and results of how we attach a price to those gifts. He also talks a lot about gift economies and what exactly a gift is. This book has certainly shaped how I think about The House Museum and its role in the community. It also, increasingly, has made me less and less interesting in making money off my art. What a dangerous thing! I still apply for grants and very sincerely hope to receive them, but I have very little to sell and I am not terribly interested in selling anything. I, I love giving my work away. On principle. I love it because it completely negates all the ugly, messy stuff about making art a commodity and the business of the art world, which is a business first and foremost, like any other. And in this hyper-commodified world, I love simply not participating. When you give a gift, the value is in the eyes of the receiver. When you sell something the value is whatever is on the price tag.

When I participated in the 25th anniversary project for Art in General with my piece on Canal Street where I made (well, Patti made too) 60 granny square afghans for each street light, stop light and sign post along the street, I allowed the afghans to be taken by passers-by. Of course it was initially a difficult thing to do given the amount of work that went into them. But it was also a heady experience. But one of the crowning moments was when one of the gallery assistants told me that her boyfriend had been walking near Canal Street some time later and a possibly homeless person was selling some stuff on a blanket. Her boy friend saw one of my afghans, so he bought it. A totally new economy was created! Her boyfriend was thrilled, the homeless person made some money, and it made me very, very happy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In Which We Return From Upstate With Much Wool

How to describe an entire day spent looking at fleece, yarn, sheep, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, equipment, brooms, food? Suffice to say we had fun. Patti, who is not yet a spinner but clearly on her way, and soon, was adventurous enough to buy a drop spindle and several smaller bits of fleece. I say smaller only in relation to my own purchases. I arrived with a Mission and it was my duty to fulfill it.

Before we had even parked the car, we saw several people we know from NYC, all of whom I would gladly spend any amount of time with on any other occassion. They are wonderful, lovely people. They are interesting, fibre-loving people. But, alas, they were there to enjoy their day of wandering through the exhibits and vendor stalls (and it was a lovely day) and then camp out overnight. They did not have a Mission. I am not proud to say that, while they went to get in on the chicken pot pie line early, we took the opportunity to head off to the first barn full of wonder. We did re-connect later for a moment, but I think it was ok that we parted ways. With Patti, I could be as unihibited as I wanna be in my lust for fleece. You know, I would have had to hold back in front of the others.

Rhinebeck isn't about holding back.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sheep and Wool and Patti

One word: Rhinebeck! This year, Lucy and I will have the privilege of heading to Rhinebeck for the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival with Patti. Patti used to live within an easy, 2-minute walk from us in Woodside. We met at "playgroup" as it is called, which is a program in a local church basement where parents and care-givers can bring their small children for a couple of hours of playtime, singing, and one of the most pathetic snack times in all history (I loved playgroup, but I never want to see another pink wafer cookie in my life!). Patti was there with her daughter, Kate, who is the same age as Finnian. Someone pointed her out to me and said, "I think she knits too." Being rather shy, I just looked. The following week, Patti and Kate were there, but Patti was actually knitting! Knitting at playgroup! I don't remember exactly what was said, but a bond was formed and, since we shared other areas in common - a love of art, a deep interest in our children and how they learn, and a fondness for laughing - we have become good friends.

Patti once made 1,250 granny squares for me for an art project. If that isn't friendship, I don't know what is! She taught me to filet crochet so I could make the curtains for The House Museum, and she has answered more knitting technical questions than anyone should have to if they aren't actually on somebody's payroll.

Sadly, Patti moved away from Woodside to Rochester, NY, a year and a half ago. She took her considerable talent and knowledge and packed up and moved (along with her husband and Kate). I am still smarting about that since it leaves me with no one who lives within walking distance that I can ask if I ever need 1,250 more granny squares, for one thing. But fortunately, Patti is heading to NYC today via Amtrak (may the train gods be with us and let the train be on time), and tomorrow morning we will head up to Rhinebeck and all the sheepy, woolly wonder of a, no, THE Sheep and Wool Festival. I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


A collection of pictures and related thoughts, such as they are.

A new item posted on Wee Ball Yarns. A fair isle patterned hat using two Wee Ball colours. Look for another, differently patterned hat tomorrow. The two hats were made from a total of two, 50g sock weight merino skeins. They were a delight on the needles and are light and warm on the head. And now they are for sale.

We spent the Columbus Day (US) or Thanksgiving Day (Canada) holiday weekend up in Rhode Island, where blind devotion to the Red Sox is not only normal, but widely displayed. Including on the covers to Hoodsies. Can you get more New England-ly than that? Wicked pissa! (does anyone still talk that way? even in New England?) I once worked at a day camp in Westchester, NY, as a counselor and at the end of the day, each child was offered a little cup of vanilla and chocolate ice cream along with a little wooden spoon sealed in paper. The first day, I called out, "c'mon kids, come get your Hoodsies!" Blank looks. "Hoodsies, kids! Hoodsies! C'mon!" More blank looks. Alas, it was another world in Westchester. Different words for EVERYTHING!

Some people collect teapots, some people collect owl figurines. Me? I collect citizenships. After 2.5 years of waiting, my post-nuptial, as it is called, citizenship to Ireland arrived in the mail. I am now officially a member of the EU. Talk about wicked pissa! Can Canada be far behind?

Big Bobbins, My Gal's Got'em

Yesterday I had the chance to try out the bobbin capacity on my new spinning wheel. What? did I just write that? A new spinning wheel?? Yes, it's true. I found a used Suzie Pro at a very good price that came with 12 bobbins, a tensioned lazy kate, book and 1/2lb of fibre and I couldn't resist. The Suzie Pro is what is known as a "production wheel" in that it is meant for production spinning such as I hope to acheive for Wee Ball Yarns. Since we returned to NYC, I haven't had much time to really try her out but with the unexpected lull in our schedule enforced by Finnian's barfing on Monday, I had a chance to whip up the fibre that came with the wheel. And whip I did--this wheel is fast and smooth and low maintenance while spinning. And those bobbins! Check it out:

This 260 yards of two-plied yarn (I actually have no idea what the fibre content is, some kind of blend that includes little bits of silvery stuff). 260 yards! This is double the capacity of my Ashford Travellor, which is very exciting as one of my main frustrations with that wheel (in terms of making yarn for Wee Ball Yarns) has been the tiny amount that fits on the bobbins. But please do not mistake this frustration for anything like disenchantment with my Travellor. I love her dearly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yesterday morning, Finnian woke up and threw-up. While I was rubbing his back and warming up a cloth to wipe his face, I was also secretly cheering--we don't have to go anywhere today! So how sick is that? Your child is barfing and you are celebrating.

Fortunately, he seemed fine afterwards, or at least, he didn't throw up any more, and so we had our whole day ahead of us. Baking, spinning, mailing off packages, reading books, listening to books on tape, drawing, talking about Cuba, math as life, communism, the purpose of writing essays, baseball--it all happened yesterday and it was great. Except for the throwing up part.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Seven Years

I think it is actually quite easy to create photographs of things American that point out how creepy and fascist things have become since Bush took office seven years ago--the signs are everywhere. But here is an interesting slide show of photographs from a White House photographer that uses a bit of nuance, making it all the more powerful.

Have a look here.

I discovered this on one of my favorite blogs in which the blogger deciphers media images for their politcal subtext. I don't know of anyone else who is doing it, and it is very interesting. It is called BAGnewsnotes.

Buche de Printemps?

For almost a year, Lucy has been asking to have a Buche de Noel for her birthday cake. I confess to owning the complete set of DVDs featuring Julia Child's show "The French Chef" and we watch them regularly. Lucy loves the Buche de Noel show (and who wouldn't??) and so it was that, last Friday evening, I was rolling up a sponge cake and hoping for the best. The results were....rather small actually. Instead of mushrooms and fake snow, I used flowers to dress up our buche. Alors, c'est une buche de printemps.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Enough is Too Much

In thinking about balancing all the pieces of life, I was reminded of hearing someone, somewhere (my memory is almost gone--it is a terrible thing to lose one's mind, as Dan Quayle once said) say something along the lines of "when you think you know how much is enough, then take less".

Well my dear! This is a pretty radical thing to say in this day and age of more is more. How many times a day do I start a sentence with "I want..." or "I wish..." or even "I"?

Maybe it was a yoga class where the teacher once asked us what it felt like to reach the point where we felt we could go no further. Then go a little further - what does that feel like? Then go less than what we know we can do - what does that feel like? Which one is harder?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Balancing Act

When we arrived in NYC from Newfoundland, we had exactly one day to unpack and adjust before our schedule kicked in. In retrospect, this was not enough time. I struggle to find the right balance between activity and quiet, and it gets complicated quickly when one is homeschooling two children. Last year, I aimed for a "less is more" schedule and I found that Finn and Lucy were a bit bored. So, this year, we signed up for all sorts of great things but we are being run ragged. The problem is that everything is great--we love it all. So what to give up? It is very American of me, I suppose, I to WANT IT ALL.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Article on ArtBistro

The article on negative feedback is up! Check it out at artbistro.

And thanks so much to all the artists who contributed their stories and strategies. Hope you like the article.

My Favourite Picture of the Summer

Monday, October 01, 2007

Spin, Span, Spun

The Spin-out was great--lots of people spinning and knitting and talking and teaching. And lots of other people looking and gawking and wondering what the heck we were all doing of a Saturday in Central Park. I took some pathetic pictures (since I was so busy spinning and talking and teaching the pictures were kind of an afterthought). But you can see some great ones, including two shots that include me and Lucy at Mason Dixon Knitting. I'm glad someone was out there with a camera, esp. for the shots of the tourists and others who wandered by, looking totally amazed to see 30-40 people sitting at wheels or with spindles. I mean, like that was weird or something?