Friday, December 22, 2006

Cherish the Moment

We are heading off to my parent's house for the holiday. My entire family will be there which means Mom, Dad and both my brothers with their families. It's been over a year since we have all been together and I am excited about seeing everyone. I am also bummed because I will miss the grand kids, but we will celebrate with them afterwards.

As we go into the wild blue yonder of Ohio, I hold wishes for all of us that we can Cherish the moment this holiday season. Sometimes it seems that life is spiralling out of control. The excesses sadden me and I long for simpler times which I fear will never return. I find myself getting caught up in the fray to a greater extent than I would wish. I want to step back and focus on all that is important to me, because I am blessed with abundance. My life, my husband, our family and friends and of course my art - these are the things that truly matter - riches that cannot be purchased.

There are so many moments to cherish; the touch of John's hand as we walk into Home Depot, the sound of Ian shouting our names with excitement "PapaYiaYia", the vibrations from purring cats pressed up against me, the smell of cookies baking(Grandma's recipe). I cherish these moments of the season and wish the same for all of you.

Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 18, 2006

So what is going on with my art biz you might ask? Hmmm, good question. This world of art fairs is a crazy one. You task and toil all year long, traveling around like a headless chicken, scrambling in between shows to create sufficient inventory. The pace is hectic yet exhilarating. Then poof! The shows are over.

I think a feeling of letdown is inevitable. I liken it to what an actor must certainly feel post performance. To maintain this life it must permeate your every pore. You travel to fun spots and meet your adoring public week after week. Ok, I exaggerate, but you get the drift. Then it comes to a screeching halt and poof, the season is over.

But instead of true "down time" I am now faced with the grueling decision of what shows to do next year. Many of the Spring shows are already accepting entries and lots of deadlines have passed. I made a decision to sit out the winter season for several reasons, the first and foremost being that I am tired and my creative energy is low.

So I will start up in April . I already have a few good shows lined up and I have already gotten rejections, most notably Des Moines which was one of my best shows last year. Ouch.

So that's what I am doing. Still working. Finishing up the last commissions. Mentally regrouping. And trying to find time restore myself in between. Plus the ol' Xmas situation. Other than the Gingerbread house, we have NO decorations around the house. I feel badly about that, but apparently not bad enough to actually get them out. We are traveling this year, to my parents house in Cincinnati. And maybe I'm just tired, but to decorate a house that will not host a celebration seems nuts. At least that's what I tell myself.

We got to pet a penguin at Grant's Farm! Here is a picture of Aidan, being held by his Dad. There were two little penguins visiting from SeaWorld and they were just adorable. I was so surprised they feel downy soft; I think I was expecting them to feel wet or oily as they look so slick.
And yeah, I was probably just as excited as the grand kids.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Let there be cake!

I love the show The Splendid Table. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I also subscribe to the email newsletter. I use Lynne Rossetto Kasper's recipes a lot because I know I can depend on them. This is one of my new favorites that I first made for Thanksgiving and then again today for a holiday party. I will also make it at my parents house on Christmas.

Pumpkin Upside Down Cake w/Cranberry Pecan Topping (from A Passion for Desserts, shared by The Splendid Table)
8-10- servings (I think this serves A LOT more than that!)

8 ounces (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree(be sure and buy 100% puree)
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

Toast pecans in a 300 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. Then Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper.
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour into the bottom of the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan on top of the brown sugar mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, & oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon & salt. Stir this mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Then spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.
Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together then removed the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.
Serve with whipping cream.
Ok to make a day in advance, just cover and store at room temperature.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gingerbread Fun

Sunday I went to a Gingerbread house decorating party at Heidi's.

When we first arrived, Heidi allowed each guest to select a vintage apron from her vast collection. We all got to wear one so we could keep our clothes neat. And thank goodness for that because I was a real pig with my decorating efforts, geez, they will probably be vacuuming up my mess for days to come especially since I shredded the frosted mini wheats for the roof and ugh, what a mess that was.

I had never decorated a gingerbread house before but Heidi had it all organized perfectly. She had tables set up with "work stations," each one with a fully assembled house, an idea book of suggestions, tons of candy and a squirter of icing. I am pretty sure it's not really called a squirter but I don't know what those things are called, like you would use to decorate a cake, you know?

The hardest part was simply deciding to S-T-A-R-T. I had this crazy idea I wanted to plan it out, the anal part of my brain started to kick in right away. Luckily I quashed it down and just went at it to find decorating was terrific fun! Not to mention a tad addictive, I could have kept going for hours. And how cool it is that you use ICING as the glue! Woo hoo, it was so handy to be able to lick my fingers clean. I just need to remember NOT to do that in the studio when using my gel medium.

So here is my final result. I am sure you can see those Frosted Mini Wheats on the roof. Those are beans "tiled" on the chimney and the walkway. The Juicy Fruit gum is so colorful; I haven't seen that stuff for years and it tastes just as yummy as I remember although the flavor goes away too quickly. And see that star? Well, it is a gumdrop smashed flat and then I cut it into the star shape.

Thanks so much Heidi!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The snow is getting kind of ugly, the way it does after it's been on the ground for awhile and the melting has begun. But it didn't stop the boys from having fun when they were over here.
It is delightful to see them play, the way they are so inventive with basically no materials.
Take one snowy yard. Add 2 boys. Wait to see what happens.
It is really cute and tons of fun.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

6 Things

My friend Share-air-ree, share-ee, bay-bee.......tagged me to do this 6 things deal. Supposed to be 6 weird things about myself. Eeeck!

1. I don’t like onions but I enjoy onion rings. In some perverse way, this inconsistency defines me.

2. I am superstitious and always wear my “lucky dragon” earrings the day I am setting up a show.

3. When eating waffles (a rare occurrence), I start in the middle and eat outwards. I don’t like the edges and leave them on the plate. I once did this at a business breakfast (back in my corporate life) and my boss found it hilarious, said it looked like a dog had eaten my food.

4. I hate to drive. Or better said, I hate driving in traffic; I actually enjoy open road sort of travels, especially at high speeds. But if I won the lottery (a really big lottery), I would hire a chauffeur.

5. My toes function almost like fingers in that they can easily pick things up and turn faucets on and off (if in the tub).

6. I can hang the bowl of a spoon off my nose and hold the position long enough to amuse my dinner companions.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Way Worthy!!!

I have never met Bernie Berlin in person but felt I would like her the moment I read her blog. Not only is she a terrific artist, but she also runs an animal rescue in Tennessee. And you know how I lovelovelove my animals. All animals for that matter - in many cases, I love animals more than people.

So naturally I wanted to participate in her fundraising auction, currently taking place on eBay. Here's the link to the auction. I think maybe Bernie has more art that is continually being loaded, so keep checking back and bid often. There are a couple of my small repros on there right now along with a purse from my friend Heidi and some pieces from the amazing Claudine Hellmuth . Plus interesting works from a few artists I don't know. I am in good company for sure.

Bernie even called me up the other day to thank me for my donation. We got to chat a bit and she's a doll. What a class act! I hope she makes tons of money for those critters.

Here's the website to learn more: A Place to Bark
Here's the auction: eBay Auction
I got a new camera. An early Christmas present, We aren't really doing gifts this year, but agreed we needed a new camera. Or rather I needed a new camera and talked John into it. I wanted it early so I can learn how to use it before I document the holiday.

It's a Canon Powershot SD700IS Digital Elph and it is adorable, so tiny. I wanted something small so I could carry it in my purse. I am hoping this will prompt me to take more pictures.

If only I could master all the settings, good grief it does tons of really cool stuff that I haven't quite figured out. The User Guide is written in camera speak and I need some dumbed down version or maybe somebody to show me some of the functions since I am more visual. In the meantime I am amusing myself with the Warnings:

"Memory card: dangerous if accidentally swallowed."

I wonder what happens if you swallow it on purpose.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Big storm.
Beautiful snow.
A half million people without power.

We are among the lucky ones just enjoying the view. And pretty it is.

It is darn cold though and I hope the power can be restored soon as this must be totally miserable.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Feathering my nest

It is finally starting to turn cold. Not that I object to the 70 degree weather we have been experiencing here in St. Louis; just remarkably balmy for this time of year. What a gift it has been! But I knew winter would eventually arrive. Whenever the nights grow long and there is a chill in the air, I have this overwhelming urge to work on the house, redecorate, move furniture, clean closets, and organize. I feel like I am settling in and feathering my nest.

This year my efforts have focused on our offices. Since John and I both work out of the home, office space is very important to us and to date we haven't gotten it right. Although we have been able to do our jobs, I think we both felt somewhat compromised in our set ups. I felt like I wanted to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing look, something that suited my personality. And John was making due with a crappy old desk that wasn't nearly big enough and didn't begin to meet his needs.

So, major reorganization has begun in the Shaw household. First of all, I knew for sure that I didn't really want the teak furniture anymore. Incredibly, all this furniture used to be jammed into my tiny office. It is lovely, but not my thing and thankfully John wanted it. The photo shows him hard at work at his "new" desk.
I wasn't quite sure what I wanted instead. It was one of those deals where I felt I would know it when I saw it. My ideas, as usual, were all over the board, but included - shabby chic, sort of retro, a little kitschy, but also homey. All the while maintaining a fresh and organized appearance. I wanted a place to hang out in comfort, a refuge of sorts. The kind of spot where I would walk in and sigh with comfort knowing I am home.
This blue table was the first step. I saw it and immediately knew. Of course I didn't realize it would be such a major league pain in the ass to move into the room but that's a story for another day. Geez. And the little green chest of drawers belonged to John's mom, one of her many antiquing projects. I found the star wall hanging at the same shop where I bought the table. And the "bookcase" at the side of my "desk" is actually the hutch from the crappy old desk John was previously using. That was John's idea, to sit it directly on the floor(he's so smart thinking out of the box). It works perfectly and allows me to have all the office stuff that I need (printer, scanner, working files, paper stuff) right at hand. Not shown in this picture is the rest of the desk, a large table that houses my mongo size Epson printer and my light box.

I have still not made decisions on paint. If you look closely at the picture with the star, you will see some of the contenders, all taped to the wall. John's office also needs to be painted and transformed from a child's room into a more elegant executive space. He has chosen a warmed taupe that will be lovely with his eggplant futon couch (not shown, it's where the cats and I hang to watch him work). And I still need to find the perfect cozy chair for my space plus a bookcase. But we are on our way - I will post more photos as we refine our efforts. This is just the beginning.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Zip zip hooray

I just finished reading A girl named Zippy: Growing up small in Mooreland, Indiana. Such a fun book, heartfelt yet hilarious, this memoir ranks right up there as one of the best I've read. The prose is written through the voice of Zippy, a nine year old living in small town USA. Through this witty kid's eyes we come to know her family and many of Mooreland's quirky inhabitants.

I totally related to the book and it summoned up memories of my own childhood, first living in a small town, then moving to a city suburb when I was about Zippy's age. I laughed out loud at her accident-prone behavior, her relationships with animals, her struggle to find her place. And as I laughed, I remembered my own struggles, the way I never really fit in anywhere, how I always felt the odd girl out. And how I also seemed to distinguish myself through crazy accidents.

Like the time I was jumping on the trampoline in gym class. Believe me when I say I was no athlete. I was the kid for whom that "each child shall be allowed to play 2 innings" rule was mandated. I was the kid who, during my 2 innings in right field, could somehow still manage to screw up the game. But jumping on a trampoline, well, even I could do that with some confidence and finesse. So jump I did, higher and higher, imagining this as my specialty, even mastering (well, maybe that's an exaggeration) some "moves" such as when you land in a seated position, then turn around mid-air to land facing the other way.

On the fateful day, I waited my turn with the others,. I had watched several kids before me, the cute popular ones, always endearing themselves to everyone, teachers and students alike. They had mastered this dismount technique which involved a little bounce that catapulted them right off the side of the tramp allowing them to gracefully land on the floor.

My turn finally arrived and I trembled with anticipation scrambling up on the tramp. The first jumps were timid as I found my trampoline legs, but soon enough I was jumping and jumping for all I was worth, doing the moves successfully and even trying moves I had never tried before. A sense of euphoria ruled; I was exhilarated and high on glee.

Looking back, I don't remember making an actual decision to try the showy dismount. But when my turn was over, there I was, attempting this deceivingly simply move, bouncing right into it. Except, I didn't gracefully land feet first on the floor. Somehow, my butt dragged over the edge of the tramp right in the exact place where one of the springs was attached with the hook facing up rather than hook facing down. That hook caught and tore the back of my sweatpants, exposing my new underwear with the orange goldfish and cobalt blue tulips. Momentum continued to propel me forward but the hook held strong so that I was left hanging off the edge of the trampoline, literally by the seat of my pants.

Several people, including the teacher, helped to extricate me. I was fine, not really hurt except for the bruising embarrassment. And another rule was quickly made, "no fancy dismounts from the trampoline."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Daily Om

It's a good one today, about hopes and dreams and whispers from the Universe. Check it out here. Lovely ideas for contemplation.

I always whisper to the Universe, sometimes in the most insignificant ways. For instance, all last week I was thinking about the sale and how I would be furnished with an 8 foot table and 2 panel walls. I am so used to the tent that I can basically hang a display in my sleep. But a table, hmmm, what to do with that!?!?

I pulled out my tablecloths (that being a gross exaggeration as they are really old hunks of mismatched black cloth) and naturally I didn't have one long enough to cover an 8 ft. expanse. I sure didn't want to spend a lot of money or really any money for that matter. As the week went on and I pondered this dilemma, I decided I would just wing it with my black cloth. But naturally I kept rolling it around in my head, obsessing really, about how it would be so much nicer to find a sleek tablecloth, something simple yet classy.

On Friday, that would be Friday the day before the sale, I happened to be in Walmart, a place I rarely shop. Desperation had set in as I was searching for drapery hooks and had already been to a couple stores with no success. I was right in front of a Walmart and didn't feel like driving around any more.
So I entered, with trepidation. Truth be known I am a little scared in Walmart. They just have too much merchandise piled up everywhere and the old claims adjuster in me imagines things flying off the shelves and hitting me in the head. It would be so awful to die a slow death smothered by bags of Pepperidge farm stuffing mix.
Wandering around the store in an aimless stupor, I stumbled across a pile of fabric items, some packaged, some not. Draperies, placemats, tablecloths. And that is when I found it, the perfect tablecloth. Long enough for an 8 foot table. Colors perfectly coordinated with my art. Classy and sleek like a seal; I just loved it.
And the best part; it was on clearance for $5.
I think I am going to get to work on those life dreams now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I was reviewing the airline carry-on guidelines today. I haven't flown in awhile and knew that liquids were allowed, then they were NOT allowed, then maybe they were, blahblahblah, I just knew it was confusing. Anyway, there was a blurb in today's paper that clarified the situation in time for holiday travel.

Appears that liquid or gel products can be carried onto the plane if they are in 3 ounce or smaller containers stored inside a quart size zip top bag. There are exceptions where the 3 ounce limit does not apply and I quote,
"baby formula and breast milk; prescription and over the counter medications, including KY Jelly....


I kid you not, it was listed in that exact order, ahead of liquids for medical reasons including life support. Perhaps I am unaware of some other critical usage for KY Jelly.

Friday, November 17, 2006

2nd Annual Art Market

Saturday, November 18th
10am-4pm at The Heights.
Centrally located at 8001 Dale Avenue
in Richmond Heights (314) 645-1476.

In addition to my mixed media collage paintings, I will offer a variety of small functional items such as journals and notepads, all embellished with hand-painted papers and original collage paintings. I have also made tiny reproductions of some favorite pieces from 2006 – they make perfect little stocking stuffers or gifts for you – get them before they are gone! Plus a “clearance bin” of adorable(if I do say so myself) hand crafted items that are being "retired."

If you're in the St. Louis area, hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

And the Hirsch's win

Today was my baby's birthday. I can't say how many years or he will kick my butt. Here is a picture of him cooking risotto last weekend. He is a good cook, great in fact. Not the only reason I love him, but it doesn't hurt.

We had a nice day. Celebrated in various ways, from snuggling in bed to sharing a fun lunch to dining out tonite. It was a lovely day celebrating John's birth.
And yes, the Hirsch's number of cards sent. Geez, they totally won, 4 Hirsch cards in total, exceeding even the Hoffman (my maiden name) contingent.
Happy Birthday sweetie. May you have many, many more.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Color therapy

A friend sent me this link to a very cool site. Rather than try to explain, just click on it and try for yourself. Mine was spooky accurate, saying, in part......"enough is enough - and you feel that you've had enough for a just would like to be able to shout 'stop' and experience a little peace and calm - even if it be only for a little while."

Hmmm, wish I would have thought of that.

Anyway, here's the link:


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Good Reads

During our wannabee vacation last week I finally read 2 books that I enjoyed. I say finally because I have been reading a lot of junk that hasn't been great. Stories that were contrived with shallow characters. Or books that were so cerebral I couldn't grab hold quick enough when all I wanted to do was lose myself in a book. Yes, I have been hankering for a good read. Lucky me I found 2 of them:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
This is a tale of the circus, told through the voice of a 90+ year old man, a nursing home resident, who ran away to the circus when he was in his 20's. It is set in the depression era, the time of the traveling circus train. I lost myself in this book, the descriptions of circus performers, from the midget to the fat lady to the animals, I was drawn in to the John Irving-like book. The story is happy and sadly poignant at the same time. Sure, it's a little cliched and sure the ending is over the top (maybe that's the big top) but you are so in love with the characters it doesn't matter. A very quick read.

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of self-absorbed 30 somethings. The book centers around 3 friends who attended Brown together and are now making a life in NY. They consider themselves to be culturally elite and entitled, above it all in their own minds. You perhaps know people like them. You love them, you hate them and (if you're getting older like me) you maybe even remember being a little like them at times(oh, you mean it's not all about me?). This is crisp sophisticated writing, often funny in a tongue in cheek kind of way, and always thought provoking.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Yeesh, I was running and running all day long today. One errand led to another to another and before I knew it my day was gone.

I am supposed to be making smaller inexpensive products for the holiday but I've been struck indecisive. I hate it when I do this. It's not really indecisive per se, but a case where I have so many ideas that my brain is spinning out of control thus I can't pick a direction.

Bottom line, I was lacking supplies (yes, hard to believe) so I headed to Dick Blick to pick up a couple of things. Of course that meant I would be near Whole Foods. Which meant I had to get olives....the ones stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese...the ones I buy only 4 at a time because they are a little on the pricey side...the ones they keep behind the counter. About $1.50 buys enough for 2 martinis which is a nice little treat.

On the way home I popped into the mall to shop for John's birthday next week. I can't write about what I bought because he might be reading. I did not get it at Macy's though due to an idiot salesman named Jay. Good grief that guy is overzealous; he just drove me nuts, or in this case, he drove me right out of the store.

While at the mall, I stopped in Williams Sonoma for risotto and finally broke down and bought this darling little espresso maker I have lusted after. It replaces my old broken lid model that has lasted for years. I also bought some coffee there, Illy, a brand I had never tried before, the fine ground dark roast Espresso.

I had to hurry home to brew up afternoon lattes for me and John which was so civilized I fear I may have started a new habit. They were absolutely divine if I do say so myself, rivaling those from any coffee shop. If you have never tried one of these stove top coffee makers, they are the best. In fact I own a fancy schmancy one but I honestly prefer the stove top model.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


We did something different on the last day of the show......popped the canopy off the tent! It looked really cool; I loved seeing the gorgeous trees above the tent and it allowed the sun into the booth. I think it helped sales as well since I had my best ever single day sales on Sunday. What a terrific show and an exhilarating way to end my Art Fair Year!

So, onward and upward we go. I have a couple holiday events to prepare for. And several commissions that I have collected on my journey. No vacation or play time just yet. But I remain hopeful.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Great Gulfcoast indeed

This is Pensacola beach, the view from our hotel. It is really fabulous, the sand is so white and fluffy it looks as if it has snowed. And it is a cool here, but not quite that bad and also warming up significantly today, to the upper 60's. Then into the 70's for the rest of our visit.

The second view is what I saw upon waking. Gorgeous. There is nothing so restorative as the water. This is a lovely way to end my season.

The show starts in a couple hours. If you're in the Pensacola area, come see me at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Beam me up

We are in Montgomery, AL, on our way to Pensacola. Staying in a Hampton Inn, per our usual pattern. This is an older one and, although it's been updated it's not quite as nice as some. The linens, mattress and pillow selection are still great though.

There is a smoke alarm above the bed, smack dab in the middle of the ceiling. It has a tiny green light which I am guessing is a power indicator, like it is working? Last night when the room was pitch dark, it cast a spotlight onto our bed. I kid you not. There were no performances in store though. John was pretty wiped after driving 9 hours in heavy rain. And I was wiped from telling him how to drive during 9 hours of heavy rain. I exaggerate, but I was a total wreck all day as that kind of driving scares the crap out of me.

Onward we go to Pensacola this morning where we will set up the booth.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We exercised our right to vote today. On Saturday I smacked myself in the head when I realized we were going to be out of town on election day. Of course it was too late to get a ballot sent in the mail, so we had no option but to go to the Election Board.

I didn't want to miss this particular election because there are some big issues on the ballot here in Missouri. I am kind of passionate about some of them, especially the one on Stem Cells, enough so that I have a bumper sticker on my car that says Yes on 2.

And Lordy Lordy there was a big crowd. We stood in line for probably 45 minutes which I didn't really have in my schedule since we are leaving town tomorrow and I had a long list of stuff that needed to be done. Apparently there was something on the radio or in the paper that suggested elderly folks may want to vote early at the Election Board in order to get personal instruction on the new computer voting machines.


Make that elderly folks and John and Mary Beth.

Seriously, it wasn't too bad as the line moved quickly. And frankly, I was pleased to see such a high level of interest in the election. I just hope they were all voting the right way. Or maybe that would be the left way.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Paper & Paint

Several months back I mentioned an Altered Book swap that I am doing. It's the only swap I am involved with; this group meets once a month and we exchange books. There are about 22 (?) people participating in the swap, so this has been nearly a 2 year project. Yikes, how time flies!!!

Anyway, here it is, my final spread, for Harriet's Favorite Things book.

All I did here was gesso the pages and then glue down scraps of my paste painted paper. I was pretty happy with how it turned out though and it even seems like a happy piece to me. Probably cause I was working with 2 of my favorite things.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Almost Play time

I am holed up in the studio readying myself for the next show, which also happens to be my last outdoor art fair for 2006. It is hard to stay in the moment as my mind is racing ahead to all the things I want to do once the shows are over. I am taking a long time off, months in fact, to replenish the well and explore all the ideas I have been journaling. Because I have been very focused (oh, you think I'm obsessive?) with the shows and have simply not allowed myself the luxury of dabbling in other mediums or even varying my process too much.

That is a luxury you know, all that Play. I have several friends who spend a lot of time at Play and I can't believe how envious I am. That is the kind of thing that can make me jealous(if I let it), seeing other artists with the freedom to engage in full-time Play. Because I used to do that myself before I made the decision to have a business and put myself fully "out there." This making of art for business, the business of art to earn a living, changes everything. It has to really, if you expect it to work and any reader knows I am nothing if not determined.

I remember being a wild horse, running free, stopping here and there to munch, sniff, scratch an itch. Then I was pastured, but still had quite a lot of freedom to ramble around at will. Now I would say I am harnessed. And sometimes, on those bad days when I am feeling completely overwhelmed (yeah, that happens even to Pollyanna girl) it feels like I am dragging a cart behind me.

Don't get me wrong, no complaints here, I love what I am doing and I am not just saying that because I write these words on a public blog. I reallyreallyreally love what I am doing, it is so inextricably linked to who I am I simply could. not. stop. I check myself with that silly old question: What would you do if you won the lottery? And of course I would do exactly the same thing I am doing. Possibly not as many shows because this was an extraordinary year. I was naive to enter so many shows. Then I had amazing good fortune to be accepted into so many of them. Being new at this, I didn't want to decline any opportunity. In retrospect it got a little crazy at times, that being a slight understatement which will cause my husband to snort while reading this sentence.

So here I am nearly at my season's end. A little tired. OK, make that a lot tired. But also feeling very fullfilled and certainly proud that I have accomplished what I set forth to do. I am blessed beyond belief. And this little horsey is champing on the bit to P-L-A-Y and see what comes up next.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

And another thing

Don't talk on the cell phone while you are in a public bathroom. Actually this extends to any bathroom. You would think this goes without saying; I mean get a clue people. No one wants to share your potty experience.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Potty talk

It has been awhile since I shared a pet peeve. It's one of those subjects never discussed, a dirty little secret of sorts. Yet something I notice all the time in public women's bathrooms. You ladies all know what I am talking about - women who pee on toilet seats.

I mean what's up with that?

The thing is, I'm guessing most of us can plead guilty to this at one time or another because it is drilled into all girly girls that we must not ever, under any circumstances, actually sit on a public toilet seat. Which means we have to learn to pee while squatting and that is when the potential dribble occurs. OK, I'll be the first to confess, I've done it myself. But at least I have the decency to clean up for the next person.

In fact, I believe I have refined if not perfected a Squat, Swipe and Kick/Flush technique. It goes something like this:

Perch yourself over the toilet. It really works best as a squat, like if you have ever lifted weights, a true squat with your butt stuck out in an unseemly fashion. This allows for proper balance (even in stilettos) and ensures that you are actually over the toilet bowl as opposed to the seat.


Wipe, but hold onto to the toilet paper for a second longer as you quickly peruse the seat to see if any dribbling has occurred. If so, use the paper to quickly swipe the seat clean, then drop the paper into the toilet. Turn and flush using a karate-like kick of the handle. Voila. It's quick, it's efficient and no flesh ever touches a questionable surface.

Don't even talk to me about how I handle all the Porta-Johns I encounter at these outdoor art fairs.......

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Kentuck - o - rama

Well, what a show this was. Fun. Fresh. Freezing cold, not necessarily in that order, the cold sort of lurked underneath it all.

First of all, the fun. In addition to being an art show, this is also a music festival which attracts terrific groups, mainly southern musicians. My booth was situated close enough to one stage to hear some of the music and it was neat to hear groups who were new to me. Such as The Avett Brothers (what a hoot!) and the Pine Hill Haints. The music was blues meets country meets rock with that southern influence thrown in for good measure.

Fresh refers to the artists, many who I had never met before. You see, all year long I've been part of this roving band of gypsy artists traveling from show to show, where I see largely the same people every weekend. But this was sooooo different. I met Chris Hubbard, standing next to his Heaven and Hell car, in the first photo. Click on the link to read more about Chris; a really neat guy. I would have bought some of his art if he hadn't sold nearly ALL of it by the time I met him early on Sunday morning (hence the atmospheric fog hadn't yet cleared). I don't know who owns the other car but I saw it in the parking lot every day. I can't see doing this to my beloved Saab(at least not just yet), but I enjoy seeing Art Cars.

Below is the space that was next to Chris. I didn't meet the artist, but his medium is 5 gallon plastic buckets which he melts down and fashions into his art. He is sort of a legend and was working with a gallery owner when I happened to be over there, so naturally I didn't interrupt. Clearly, he has quite a following. I believe he and Chris were both "Guest Artists" which means the festival invites them to attend, they don't actually jury in like the rest of the crowd. It seemed like most of the "known" folk artists were guests of the festival. It was fascinating to see such an amazing range of folk art, from painted rocks to found object assemblages to funky fiber, quite an assortment. I was so rocked by the show in general. I would love to do it again and hope I get in next year. Even if I don't get in, I think I would attend just because it's that cool and that fun; really something to see and experience.

The last picture shows the back hoe removing water that had accumulated after a heavy rain on Saturday night created several "lakes" throughout the park. Ugh, what a mess. Luckily, we were on high ground, so it didn't affect us, but it was horrible for some booths and the festival staff did an amazing job removing water and placing wood chips on the ground.

And freezing, well yes, it was that too. Supposed to be mid-70's all weekend, but we awoke to 38 degrees the first day with a projected high of 70. It's pretty hard to make a clothing selection that will cover such a wide temperature swing - can you say layers? And despite my 5 layers, I was still very cold for the first 3 hours of the day. That was before John located small Coleman Propane heaters (which he bought for me & 2 of my friends). I put that thing under my chair and nearly set my ass on fire. Which felt really really good.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

We are heading out today, down to Kentuck, a fantastic (at least I am hoping) show in Alabama. A friend of mine did the show last year and has talked about it at length, about how it showcases such interesting art. The show was written up in a couple big name magazines and it apparently is known for featuring folk/outsider art. I have no idea if my art will be a hit or not, I mainly hope I don't spend all my earnings buying other people's work, ha, ha.

And I am also hoping I can catch some rest in the car. After being sick for about 3 days and getting tons of sleep, I felt energetic and back to my perky self yesterday. Which means I was also back to my insomniac ways. Ugh. Nothing worked......Bedtime Beats CD, Hypnosis tape, Tylenol was horrible. John and Merlyn were both snoring of course. But the worst part was that I hadn't made up the guest bed since Rhonda was here, so I had nowhere to sleep. I was wandering around the house like Linus, dragging a blanket and a pillow, moving from futon to couch to futon to couch, hoping for a spot that would do the trick. Even the cats stopped following me after awhile.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More pics from the Opening

This first pic is Rhonda, Chris, Jennifer, and me. Rhonda is one of my best art pals who I met several years ago doing the Venus Envy event. John actually met her first while they were vacuuming a huge room together. She has become our very good friend and also my "mentor" in the Art Fair biz. She actually introduced me to Chris (he & Jennifer are the gallery owners) earlier this year. Lucky for me, Chris had seen my work and urged me to contact Jennifer (which I did) and the rest is history. Rhonda works in Clay and she had some of her vessels in the show too.

And this is me and Robin (with John looking on). Robin is another one of my good pals. She wins the award for best companion at a flea market or antique mall. She manages to find the coolest stuff and is exceedingly generous in turning things over to me for use in my work. I mean that's something special, a friend who will share good finds with you!!! She also has a wicked sense of humor and we routinely crack up during our little escapades. You can't see it in this photo but she is wearing the greatest Sailor Jerry's t-shirt. I would love to get me one of them if only they were still available.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Am I really this short?

Here we are at the gallery, me(short, even in 3 inch heels), my friend Claire (sporting her new adorable haircut) and John(his ever handsome self.

We traveled to Columbia with our teeny tiny entourage, that was Claire, Rhonda, and Robin, plus John and me. I was so happy to have my friends along. It meant a lot to me.

And the Opening was faboo. Jennifer and Chris are simply the best providing not only a stunning exhibition space, but excellent food, good wine, lots of people. It was exciting to see my art on the walls in such a setting; one of those "pinch me" moments. Also surrounded by other incredible art. The Asst. Curator of the gallery, Joel Sager, is part of this show too, with a new series of oil and tar paintings that are absolutely stunning. The kind of paintings that make me want to fall on my knees in worshipful adoration.

There are about 15 of my paintings on the walls and a group of 9-6x6's on a table. John took these photos early before the crowd arrived. Later it was pretty hard to get shots of the art because there were lots of people all around.

It seemed like my work was well received. One of the pieces actually sold during the opening and that was a thrill.

But alas, now I am sickly. My sleepless nights have apparently compromised my immune system and a sore throat and cold snuck up on me yesterday. Ugh, not really what I needed. So I am resting and taking it easy(actually I am writing a blog post, but I am going to rest shortly), trying to get better before we leave Thursday.

(And, just in case you are wondering about this psycho arrangement of photos and text, Blogger, has a true mind of it's own in this regard. It simply will not allow me to arrange photos in the way I want; it tends to put things wherever it wants.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gallery Show

I've been talking about it for months and it is finally here. My work is part of a the fall group show at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO. I made the delivery last week, drove the truck all by myself; really, I am quite capable despite my princess reputation. They hung the work on Saturday and the show actually opened on Tuesday although I haven't seen it yet. The reception is tomorrow night and I will be attending with my own teeny-tiny entourage - ie, very good friends who will give up a Saturday night to drive an hour and a half for dinner then stand at a gallery with me for 3 hours then drive an hour and a half home. My parents declined the opportunity. Thank goodness for my adopted family/friends.

I am just a wee bit excited. I will take pictures of course because I will remember my camera this time.

And, if you're anywhere near Columbia, MO, check it out. This is a wonderful classy gallery. I can't say enough about the owners Chris and Jennifer as they are delightful people.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So, life resumes

Whew, just like the title of one of my collages, I am coming up for air. Mom and Dad are gone, I have finished the laundry and the house has mainly been restored to normal (whatever that might be).

It was a good visit. Mom and I spent a lot of time in the studio and I set her up at my paste painting station. She painted a lot of papers that she will use in projects for a home show she is doing in November. I think she had fun getting messy because she usually works in her kitchen and I am guessing she holds back a little bit because of not wanting to completely trash the place.

Many funny moments over the weekend. I won't allow my Dad to smoke his obscenely stinky cigars in the house (duh). So he smokes out on our patio. He actually stands outside the door and continues to watch TV through the door. Mom said he does the same thing at home although he even pulls a chair up to the door. It is pretty hilarious and unfortunately I didn't think of getting a picture of this till it was too dark.

After my parents left, John and I celebrated our 13th anniversary yesterday. We thumbed our noses at all those naysayers who said it wouldn't last. And yes, there really were such people. It is pretty funny to think of today, but I remember actually discussing that "objection phrase" when we were working on our marriage vows. Because I knew someone would really object.

We have the last laugh though and I thank my lucky stars I ended up with this man as my partner. I could not have wished for a better friend to be at my side during life's journey. I simply cherish him.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Check it out!

Last week I made a piece for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. They have an upcoming event called eARThworks:art for an endangered planet. I challenged myself to produce something different and I really stepped out of the box. I was pretty excited about the result which can been seen here.

If you are local, you may want to get tickets for the Gala Auction on Saturday, November 18th. John and I will be there!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My mom and dad are visiting later this week. I guess for some people that would be no big deal. For me of course, it signals massive amounts of work as I turn the house upside down and attempt to complete all the "projects" I have wanted to do in the last 2 years since they visited. Ugh. Like the guest room for instance.; the closet has become a dumping ground for all sorts of things that have no home. Like clothes I intend to donate. Old framed art we are not using. Empty shoe boxes (huh? why am I saving these?). Fuschia feathered boa (don't ask).

The room is large and bright and I have this idea it should be inviting and appealing in a bed and breakfast sort of way. At this point there is a bed and 2 little wicker chests. That's it. Spare you might say? Un-decorated is the look that comes to my mind.

My mom is a craft hobbyist and just loves my studio. She is enthralled by all the books and art supplies and I could probably just leave her down there for the entire visit. In fact, she has announced that is all she really wants to do; hang in my studio so I can teach her things. Nice? Yeah, of course it's nice and I really cherish this opportunity. But the place is simply a mess from too many back to back shows. The downside of all this space is I can spread out and the mess has moved way beyond reasonable parameters.

Yesterday I tackled the studio. Worked nearly all day long to put things back in their places. John restored the art to the gallery walls. I went through a huge(and I mean H-U-G-E) pile of paper stuff that has been stacked up on a table because I was too lazy to sort through it after I got the flat files. Finally got things into nearly all the drawers and labeled them. That was pretty cool really. I had to make something last night (I could tell you but I'd have to kill you) and it was so easy to pull out the drawer of "Painted Paper Scraps" and instantly gather up some cool stuff. What a bonus!

And I even painted again into the wee hours. This habit of working late is serving me well and I am getting a lot done in the hours from 9pm to midnite or one. It's like my special time, just me and the cats because all three of them join me. Oddly, I still get up about the same time in the morning and currently don't feel I am missing the sleep. Of course I might hit the wall at any moment.

So today I tackle the guest room and then I am going to ramble around some of my favorite bargain spots to see if I can find any cheap yet charming things to put in there. Like a small chair, a side table, lamp, even a luggage rack would be good.

Tomorrow will be the dreaded dining room.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Will it play in Peoria?

I will answer this with a resounding NO! Yeesh, what is it with the shows! The Art Fair Gods giveth and the Art Fair Gods taketh away.

After such an amazingly stellar weekend at Plaza, I barely scraped together enough money to cover my expenses at Peoria. OUCH!!! It will go down in history as my worst show of all time, the weekend John and I worked our asses off in Peoria for no apparent reason. As an aside, those of you wondering why I went - this is a highly rated show that was recommended to me by other artists - very competitive to enter, etc. So that is why I was there. I won't return though; there simply was not enough interest in my work. Despite a picture of my art featured in a newspaper article (a huge image of Real Deal, what a rush it was to see); despite the fact my art was shown a a TV commercial; despite the fact 2 of my pieces were in a Gallery Preview show.

In fact, the Gallery wanted me to sign a contract and leave some art with them, an offer I would normally have jumped all over. But I declined. I mean what's the point? Honestly I have better venues. So I said no which is something new for me as I am very very bad at saying no.

The one good thing, I saw my friend Ann Cianciolo, who I haven't seen all year long. We ended up giving each other gifts. I bestowed 2 of my collages for her to add to her collection. And she is making me a ring. I already have her absolutely fabulous "leg" earrings, silver ones with 18k gold accents.

The weather was also good, the kind of perfect fall days that are so special here in the Midwest. And the Mark Twain Hotel (if you ever find yourself in Peoria) is really a lovely reasonably priced boutique hotel. Great beds, linens, bath supplies. Plus free internet.

It also helped that there were many many artists not selling, it wasn't just me. I know that is horrible to say, but misery(after all) does love company. So sad though when the majority of us don't even make our expense money. There was an incredible ceramic artist from Florida, Patricia Mullins, who makes the most gorgeous intricate high end ceramics. One patron actually said to her, "thank you so much for coming all this way to show us your work." And that is sort of what it was like, an exhibition where people didn't realize they could buy, or they didn't have the money, or who knows? I had heard perhaps Caterpillar (the main employer in town) had recently made lay-offs. And that could have been part of the reason. I'm not sure what went wrong as the promoters did a wonderful job and threw a lovely show, covering absolutely all the bases from set-up to publicity to amenities. Very nice people, it's just too bad the clientele didn't buy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I am headed to Peoria. You know the drill; if you're in the area, come see me!

It has been a wild week, exhilarating in many ways since I have my painting mojo back. Consequently I have been working literally non-stop in some insane fit of energy that I cannot even begin to explain. Can you say 16 hour days? All because I have to deliver a gallery show on 10/05 which is right around the corner. I do believe I finally have the pieces done though and I am happy with them.

But inventory for the art fairs is not good. I tried my best to make some more work this week but I was really focused on the gallery stuff. I did manage to make some 6x6's but that was about it. I desperately need to make some 12x12's. This one sold already at Plaza and I had to ship it to the new owner. I left it hanging on the wall with a sold sign which instantly puts a magic spell on any piece because the minute I mark it "sold" everyone wants to buy it. I could have sold this one probably 5 times last weekend, it was pretty funny. Like when I got engaged and guys who never knew I existed suddenly started hitting on me. As if the presence of a ring was some endorsement or validation. Same thing with the sold signs. Yeesh.

Be what you wish to seem copyright MB Shaw 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

At least I brushed my teeth

I have been working so hard and furious that I didn't even bathe today. Yeesh. I worked quite late last night and majorly screwed up a painting, one that is supposed to be in the gallery show I am due to deliver next week. That being the same show that is now two paintings short since I sold another one this past weekend. Yikes! I suddenly have so much to do.

This painting at hand, a 30x24, was supposedly finished a couple weeks ago. I say supposedly because it has continued to taunt me in that way paintings sometimes do. It would whisper everytime I walked by and I kept staring at it day after day with disappointment because in my heart I knew it wasn't really finished and it needed something, but what, I was not quite sure.

I now know it didn't need what I did to it last night. Ugh. After struggling into the wee hours, I finally gave in and gessoed over the damn thing.

Luckily I was more successful with some of my other work today, specifically a couple abstracts I am working on. Despite my late hour last night, I couldn't sleep and popped out of bed early this morning to hit the studio with a vengeance. I worked solidly all day long and even gave up my tickets to Garrison Keillor tonight! I think I put in about 15 hours today.

My hands are arthritic little claws; they are stiff and sore from painting so long. So no more typing for me. I am waiting for the Advil to kick in and I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Best Comment from the show

I was talking to a potential customer about one of my large abstracts and said, "This piece can go either vertical or horizontal and I have wired it both ways."

He didn't miss a beat, "That's not legal in the state of Missouri. "

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Whew, it's over. Long hours, but it was worth it as I logged my best show of the year.

I sold a big abstract yesterday to a super nice guy. He was from NY, visiting family in KC, when he & his wife found my painting, Silence must be heard, inspired by the Enigma song. Lots of talking back and forth, husband, wife & kids, in and out of the booth several times. They finally returned, with extended family including brothers, more kids, and their mom. The gathering filled my booth. Mom was in a wheelchair, jaunty cowboy hat hiding her bald head. Her voice was weakened and soft; her face glowed with inner beauty as she watched the scene with obvious pride while each and every person passed approval on my painting. The tenderness was palpable.

The brother was standing beside me and I naively asked, "so, are you guys having a family reunion or something?" Which was when he explained how Mom was dying of some ugly variety of incurable cancer. The family had all flown in to spend time together and were hanging out at the Plaza Art Fair for the day.

I pretty much didn't know what to say. We just stared at each other and I know my eyes did the talking as they started to fill up with tears and I struggled to hold it together. After the transaction was complete and the painting packaged, the new owner hugged me which was so unusual yet felt so right. It was a privilege to cross paths with all of them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

And Polly wants to eat it too!

I have been a busy little artist. Playing with some different techniques, using more of the heavy body acrylics along with my fluids, adding accents with pen and pencil, blending oil pastel, just having the best ol' time imaginable. And before I knew it, I had a batch of new work. Which is a good thing because we are heading off to another show tomorrow.

Kansas City here I come. My favorite city in the Midwest, not only because it's cool, but also because the city straddles 2 states and I amuse myself by saying, "we're not in Kansas anymore" every time we cross the line back into Missouri. I doubt John finds this nearly as funny as I do.

The Plaza Art Fair. I love this show. It's in such a gorgeous setting and the people are all so nice; attendees, director, staff, volunteers - all are nice, nice, nice. The show is a pleasure to do because these folks wrote the book on how to treat artists. Plus it's such an honor to be in the show, yeesh it's hard to get into this one, with something like 1500 applicants and only about 200 available spots. I am absolutely thrilled to be attending for the second year.

The piece above is one of my new ones, a 20x20 completed in the nick of time. I have tons of new works ready! So, if you're in the Kansas City area, come on out and see the show. I'll be in booth #315, just a few booths away from Starbuck's. Also across from one of the many many fountains.

(Cake, copyright Mary Beth Shaw 2006)
We have had an ongoing phone issue in our household.

You see, John works on the second floor and I work in the basement. If the phone rings, we have a system - I look at the Caller ID to see if it's for me. I then either pick up within 2 rings or let it keep ringing which signals John to pick up and take a message. Cause sometimes I simply can't talk or don't want to like if I'm in an art zone, have paint all over myself or something like that.

The problem arises after I finish a call because John can't tell when I am off the phone. His job requires him to be on the phone a lot. Which means one of us is always running up and down the steps to see if the other person is on or off the phone. I have tried to yell up from the basement but that is not terribly successful and Lord only knows I have given it a good effort but it's just too far plus my sweetie is half deaf. Only within the range of my voice of course.

We sometimes call each other in the house using our cell phones and we also briefly considered walkie talkies which seemed equally ridiculous. So we basically rationalized the purchase of new phones. The thing is we needed new ones anyway because it seems the life expectancy of a cordless phone has plummeted in recent years. Like many other products, the quality is so poor that our existing phones don't work that well and get horrible reception. Honestly, I don't know what we expected when we bought little $10 phones anyway.

John went out and bought this really slick looking phone system that we will be able to add on to with additional handsets. It has like a million Ghz whatever that is, way more than any of our other phones and is apparently smart enough to search for the best reception so you get the clearest call every time. There are cool ring tones to pick from. The phones also have a color display which is totally unnecessary (but pretty)and you can pick a "wallpaper" for your phone. I chose a beach picture. I don't know what John chose for his. The phones have all sorts of additional functionality that I doubt we will be able to operate.

But the intercom rocks. Around 5:50pm I paged John from the Studio phone up to Base (which is his phone).

"Hi," he says.

"Hey, it's me. I'm starving. You want to eat early?"

"Yeah, sure, let me finish up something and I'll meet you in the kitchen.

About 2 minutes later I saw something cute on the NBC nightly news, out-take footage of Pandas. It was so funny, these adorable Pandas wrestling with the NBC reporter and cameraman. I paged John again.

"Hi," he says.

"It's me again. You might was to go downstairs to replay the end of the nightly news, it is really cute."

"Ok," he says. "And honey.........I already know it's you. Who else would it be?"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Not that I am counting

I have been in an obsessive cleaning mode. First the studio, which I ransacked on Monday. Then Friday, when I should have been working in my clean studio, I decided to tackle the house. Now mind you, it hasn't been cleaned in awhile. Sure we pick up stuff; John runs the vacuum to get cat hair up; I make sure the kitchen is somewhat sanitized. But our bathroom, well, it seems our cleaning efforts seldom move up to the second floor.

I was talking to Karyl on the phone the other day when I admitted just how grungy our bathroom had gotten. I lamented I wasn't sure how we even came out of it clean. Then I confessed something so ignorant I can't even believe it popped out of my mouth, "I'm not going to clean it yet because my Mom & Dad are coming in October and I would just have to do it again."


So I got to work. And I diligently scrubbed and polished for over 5 hours on Friday. My efforts were not limited to the bathroom, I hit other rooms as well. But the bathroom got the special treatment which included wiping the wood blinds, each section of each blind individually, an endeavor that apparently cannot be short-cut because trust me I tried. Oh my gosh, what a task this is. I am pretty certain I have never done this before because it is a major league pain in the ass which I certainly would have remembered. Imagine about a year's worth of dust petrified by hairspray. Need I say more?

So now, post obsessive cleaning, I am obsessively trying to maintain the clean. We have always squeegeed (not a real word by the way as squeegee is apparently not a verb) the shower, but I added a wipe-down program for the counter. And I am putting things back in their places so stuff doesn't accumulate. Plus I am trying to make the bed every day.

Fifty four hours later and everything still looks good.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl

My biggest thrill lately has been downloading special ringtones to my cell phone. I must certainly be one of the last people on earth to figure this out. But, after much deliberation, the deed is done and I am delighted with my choices.

I have 2 Ditty Bops songs for my friends Rhonda & Robin - Angel with an Attitude and You're Head's Too Big. No judgment here, I just love these songs. Claire got a Dead Can Dance song since we saw that concert together. I wanted a Springsteen song for Marian but Sprint doesn't offer any which really sucks as I cannot think of other music which would define Marian as much as Bruce. I mean it has to be Bruce. I also have a couple friends left and am still thinking of what songs would best remind me of them.

And John. Well, it had to be something special. A song that defined either him or our relationship together. At first I thought of Bonnie Raitt because her song Something to Talk About is darn near autobiographical. It was "our" song back in the day; meeting John was without question the best thing to come out of my employment at Safeco Insurance. But I digress. Alas, Bonnie Raitt is also not on Sprint. So John picked his own song, Pink Floyd, Wish you were here. Most people would never guess my hubby as a Pink Floyd fan, but yes, that is his favorite group. This is the part of the song that comes up as my ringtone

How I wish, how I wish you were here.We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year

It is so perfect. As usual, he knew exactly the right choice.

So now I smile whenever the phone rings. The only problem is I like hearing the songs so much I wait too long to answer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Exchange: giving & receiving?

There should probably be some sort of a "blog rule" about writing when you are mad. And yeah, I know I should be able to self edit and prevent myself from doing this but what can I say. So, that being said, proceed reading at your own risk.

When I was a young fledgling artist out in San Francisco, I was lucky enough to share studio space in a big Sausalito warehouse shared by about 150 artists. It was a terrific building, one of those cool places that was "known" locally. The building maintained a website with information about all of us so I had an internet presence before I had my own website up. I only mention this because I am sure that is how this whole thing started.

One day back in 2000 or 2001 I got a phone call from an organization in Arkansas called Art Exchange. The caller was pretty congenial and explained that their organization markets to designers and art collectors. He wanted to place my art on their website.

I was so naive in those days, actually I still am, but I was really really naive back then. I mean I hadn't even really shown my work at that point. So I simply could not believe my "luck" that this company would want lil ol' me and my art. I listened to his pitch and discussed with my husband (who had a real job back then meaning I had more financial backing than most struggling artists) and we decided to pay the $475 (I think that was the amount?) to post images of some of my art on this website. It was a very labor intensive process with tons of paperwork where I had to pick words to describe each and every piece of my art. Abstract. Red. Earthy. Collage. Painting. Etc. Etc. Took me forever to wade through their requirements, get slides made and send the package off to Arkansas. But I did it. And several weeks later I was up and running on their site.

I did some searches using the words I had chosen and my work didn't really pop up like I had hoped. You see, it was all alphabetical and my last name begins with an "S." So anyone searching for an earthy red abstract would have to be patient enough to wade through all the earthy red abstract art by artists with last names A-R before they happened upon my piece. Honestly I kind of lost hope at that point. I called the company to discuss and the congenial guy was not nearly so congenial. I felt as though I had been "had." I was a chump.

Flash forward five years.

I have sold probably 500 pieces of original art, none through Art Exchange. I earn a living through my art. I jury into some of the best art fairs in the country; I sometimes win prizes; I am at work preparing for a gallery show later this year. Sure I face my fair share of rejection, but generally I feel pretty good about my path.

One day several months ago I got a call from Art Exchange. They wanted to "feature" me in an online show. I didn't think it sounded like a match for me and it cost too much money (like I would give them more money!?!) but it did prompt me to look at their site again. And I saw my work on there. It was old work, stuff long sold. I contacted them to see if I could trade out my images for newer work. Naturally that would cost me additional money so I asked to sever ties with their company and to be removed from the site. I sent a written request confirming my intention.

I then lost track as I have been kind of busy. Forgot to check back with them. When I finally did I saw I was still on the site. I sent another email. Nothing happened. I was still on the site. Ugh.

Early August 2006 - phone rings. It is Art Exchange. Another congenial guy which is the only reason I let him talk. He tells me about an opportunity to exhibit at a New York show, some sort of hospitality convention where Art Exchange will have a booth marketing art to hotels. They are seeking artists to provide slides that will be part of a slide show. Based on the succcess of past events, he anticipates I would make a minimum of $38,000 if I participate. Hmmm, interesting. I was polite, I listened. I actually had John listen to him too. This "once in a lifetime" opportunity normally cost $3500 but was being offered to me for $1750 (can you say red flag?). They had one last spot to fill to complete their show. We were walking out the door at the time, on our way to a show. I told him I would call him back by Monday if I wanted to do it.

John and I talked in the car. We decided there was no way, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I mean I have a gallery working with me who does not require any upfront payment. They believe in me enough to market me at their own cost, preparing and mailing postcards, sponsoring an opening, etc. It just sort of rubs me the wrong way that I would pay a company $1750 to show 6 slides of my art to a convention audience. And honestly, the idea I might make $38,000????? I would have to significantly increase my prices to make that much money off 6 pieces of art, ha! Not to mention the odds of selling all 6 of my pieces during the show. The whole thing didn't even make sense.

Needless to say, we did not call Art Exchange back.

So just a few minutes ago, this guy calls back. I tried to cut him off at the pass and say I was not interested. He persisted with some fast talk. I got angry and raised my voice. I told him I wished to sever all ties with Art Exchange. He asked why. I told him I didn't have to tell him why, I wanted out and that was it. He got kind of nasty and raised his voice. I said I was selling my art quite successfully on my own and that I had others working with me who didn't require money up front. He said he couldn't believe I was walking away from the opportunity to make $50,000. I told him I was confident of my ability. He said, "good luck with that" as he laughed. And that is when I really got angry. I said, "I WANT OFF YOUR SITE." He said, "Good, we want you off too."

I'm not sure what the moral is. Don't do business with snakes (joke)? I don't know, you can draw your own conclusions. All I know is Art Exchange didn't work for me. It probably does work for some people, who knows. It just didn't for me and I honestly feel had. I hope to heck I'm off their website very soon. Any affiliation at all just troubles me at this point.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Art Outside and I celebrate our 3rd year!

Ok, this is it! My last St. Louis outdoor art fair for 2006.

Tonite and tomorrow, be there or be square (I have always wanted to say that). Seriously, it is so much fun - great beer; terrific and affordable art from all local folk; great beer; energetic and sometimes raucous entertainment; good food & did I mention there is great beer? What more could you want?

You all know the back story, don'tcha? This is the show that put me on my path. I had made some art. We bought a tent, got the credit card machine, I made some more art. Make it and they will come, I was thinking, wonder if this works with art? And whoa boy did they ever. I was blown out of my shoes by the whole scene and instantly knew I had found my calling. Thirty shows, 7 states later, and I am still loving this gypsy life just as much as ever!!

Here are the details:

Art Outside 2006
Friday (that's today!) from 5-10pm
Saturday from 10-10
Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood (Click the link for lists of artists and entertainment)

On Sunday you can go to that other art fair, you know the one I mean. I'll be going there myself.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Truly Golden

I am in a painting frenzy. A painting, collaging, varnishing frenzy. It is ugly and the studio looks like a pig sty; I am down to perhaps an 8 inch square work space, having covered every visible surface (and there are a lot of them) with some work in progress. It is scary.

A varnishing mad woman, that's me, doing all the pieces I finished last week. And hoping to heck I can get them to dry down to travel to the show tomorrow. That's what waxed paper is for, right?

Anyway, my varnish is acting funky again. The polymer gloss varnish looks kind of chalky, definitely very matte looking, ugh, ugh, ugh, not what I wanted and not consistent with the rest of my work. It has happened before and I have been puzzled about the cause.

So I spontaneously picked up the phone yesterday and called Golden. I explained my issue and was instantly connected to a wonderful tech support guy who is my new best friend. Lucky for me, he is into over-analysis of art products (my male twin) so together we carefully discussed every single angle of my isolation coat and varnish process. I confessed that we have a water softener which was my prime suspect. In fact, I had previously switched to bottled water because I was worried about the water softener.

Here's the skinny for anyone who might be using a similar product - water based varnish that requires diluting - the water softener is a deal killer. It puts salt in the varnish and can look yucky and chalky. I've gotten mixed results though because if you pre-mix a batch and don't use it for awhile, the salt settles to the bottom and the varnish could work ok(or at least it seems like it does) if you don't stir it. If you do stir it, the salt might kick up and dull your piece. Or not. Depends on how much is in there, etc, etc, etc. Which is why I have had such inconsistent results. Which makes sense, EXCEPT I had already switched to bottled water awhile back.

Well, Golden Guy says I probably have minerals in my bottled water that are doing the same thing.

Duh. Never thought of that.

The answer: distilled water. This is not found in the drinking water section of the grocery as I just discovered. In our store, it's by the ironing stuff, by spray starch, detergent and such.

Problem solved. I mixed up a new batch and everything looks great. I am going to keep this water on hand and use it in any diluted or mixed product. For instance, when I am making paste paper and mixing up my paste.

And Golden..........well what can I say, they truly are. The attention to customer service is amazing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Stay in your skin

(copyright Mary Beth Shaw 2006)

Stay in your Skin


Acrylic, ink, collage on stretched canvas

Monday, September 04, 2006

Wake up

(copyright Mary Beth Shaw 2006)
Wake up
Acrylic, pastel, ink & collage on stretched canvas

Saturday, September 02, 2006

He's not a cat, he's a snake

I had a horrible headache that started Wed. night, lasted on and off through Thurs. and nagged its way into Friday. I went to lunch with some friends yesterday, these are my Artfest buddies, the crew that has finally cajoled me into joining them at Artfest this year. It will be my first time ever and I am so very very excited. We had lunch yesterday to compare applications and put them all together for mailing. I'll tell ya, I changed my mind so many times about the classes. My conclusion: they are all great and I am going to love whatever I end up with!

Anyway, after lunch I had a few errands. I was pretty over-stimulated by then, headache fully kicking into gear. I finished up and hurried home because I wanted to listen to the Healing Hypnosis/Meditation that is on my iPod. It felt weird to have a headache and I was bummed because I've been going to an acupuncturist and have been headache-free for several months now.

I took a couple pain pills, suited up with comfy clothes and my iPod then got into bed. Merlyn assumed a position next to me and that is when he saw the iPod wires. He thought it was a game and grabbed for them. He is fast and he is good, so naturally he had the wires in his mouth before I even knew what was happening. The earbuds popped out of my ears and he nearly had control of the iPod which you know is one of my prize possessions. I smacked him on the nose and told him "NO." He knew I meant business but of course he had to try one more time. He finally got the hint and settled down next to me.

Which is when he must have hatched his plan.

I was trying to meditate at that point, as much as I could with a 20 pound cat laying on my arm and nuzzling me. I felt him inch his way up my left side, first kneading my ribs, then my armpit, then my collarbone. Then he casually draped his big furry paw across my upper chest. And I'll be damn if he didn't grab for the iPod wire again.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I continue to be amazed by the amount of Spam that is sent to my website (what do the spammers get out of this!?!?). Good grief, as if I could ever find real mail in and amongst all the crap. What humors me is the "subject" entered by the spammers. I suppose they are trying to avoid filters but seriously, do they think an email with a subject of Better future, whip snake is going to simply sneak in and appear like normal mail!?!?!

Crazy dreams last night. In real life, I am down to the last 5 shows of the season and have been working on biz ideas, thinking about how to end the season with a bang, contemplating shows for next year, considering options for the booth. I pretty much think about it 24 hours a day because, regrettably, my mind does not rest while I am asleep. In the midst of all this, our dishwasher went out last week so I did research on options and bought a new one which was installed on Tuesday.

So on to last night's dream. The new French wall was in the booth, my work hung pretty much like I normally do. I was considering display options, possible purchase of another French wall for the back of the booth or a bigger counter/table, this all happening in my dream. And suddenly there it was........a dishwasher installed front and center in my booth, somehow embedded within a mesh wall panel.

Clearly, I need a break.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I've found my clan

We are home from the show. It was successful in a number of ways; the money was good which is always nice. But better than that, I had a wonderful time, probably the most fun I have ever had at a show. The weather even turned out ok which was pretty amazing considering it rained a ton yet somehow managed to stop during the exact hours of the show each day. That was truly miraculous.

I was next to my friend Rhonda and a booth away from my friend Marcia. Rhonda's friend Miky (who is also my new friend) was behind her. I cannot begin to convey how much fun it is to do a show when surrounded by people you like. We had an absolutely blast.

Miky is a potter extraordinaire who also goes to culinary school. She lives in Des Moines and traveled to the show with a cooler full of fabulous food she had prepared. On Saturday she had a rice cooker behind her booth! That was the day she brought us a wonderfully healthy lunch selection; sesame spinach, braised tofu, thinly sliced beef, seaweed wrappers, kimchee(did I mention she is Korean?) and rice. All artfully arranged on a plate along with a napkin and chopsticks. Oh my gosh, what a wonderful treat!!

I also had a chance to see Rick and Sally Martin again, having met them at Laumeier earlier this year. Also friends of Rhonda's, these folks know how to have a good time. Rick is just too much fun; what a total cut up he is, doing his Ricky Martin moves, cracking jokes, making up nicknames for everyone, and leaving funny gifts which is a story for another time. His wife Sally is smart and beautiful in addition to being funny. They furnished me with Margaritas each evening and Ricky hooked Rhonda and me up with personal fans clipped to our chairs (powered by a battery source he also furnished). This after he determined it was too hot on our side of the tent.

On Saturday night John and I were invited to join a group of about 20 artists for dinner at a Japanese restaurant, one of those places where you sit around a grill and a chef cooks/performs your meal in front of you. We were at 2 tables with the chefs in the center, trying their best to out-do one another. Ours set the entire grill ablaze which was pretty spectacular. Also made an onion into a flaming volcano which was very cool and it was obvious from the hooting and hollering that we are all a bunch of pyros at heart.

It was when I was sitting at that table, laughing so hard my face hurt, that I looked around at my old and new friends, my fellow gypsy artists, and it struck me. For once in my life, after years and years of not really fitting in and always feeling like the odd girl out, I was finally at home.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Can I be in 2 places at one time?

AIR Small Works Invitational
"diminutive works
with a powerful presence"
Aug 26 - Sept 16
Artist in Residence
LaGrange, GA

What a great lineup of artists the amazing Signe Grushovenko has curated. Wowza, just to be chosen as part of this group is such an honor for me. Signe saw my work on the 4 Bridges website and chose me "blind," apparently the only person in the show chosen that way. When I met her at Uptown, she seemed possibly nervous (or maybe that was me, ha, ha) since she had never viewed my originals. Thank goodness she liked my work in person. I made 2 tiny pieces especially for her show and once she saw them she wanted more (!) so I let her pick from my inventory. I just wish I could see the show and attend the opening. But alas, here is where I will be instead:

19th Annual Midwest Salute to the Arts
Longacre Park
Fairview Heights, IL
August 26, Sat 10 - 6
August 27, Sun 11 - 5

This is my second year at the show; last year I was recognized with a prize in the Mixed Media category and what a rush that was, getting a ribbon and a cash prize, woo hoo for me. This is just such a lovely show held by wonderful folks who really believe in taking care of their artists (they have selected some amazing talent too). There is also a very fun Prevue Party on Friday night; more details on the party and exhibiting artists are available on the show's website. So, if you are in the greater St. Louis area, come on out and see me!

Friday, August 18, 2006

What were they thinking?

Snakes on Planes. I can not imagine anything worse. In fact, I can't even watch the previews or read an article about this movie. The idea of snakes slithering around on a plane and dropping from the overhead bin makes my skin crawl. Literally.

A neighbor boy threw his pet snake on me when I was perhaps 12 years old. Tossed it across the yard and it landed it's snakey ass on my neck and shoulder before I flailed about and it fell to the ground. I nearly peed my pants. Needless to say, this incident pretty much terrorized me for life.

So, Snakes on Planes? I think not.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Restoring my soul

Painting painting painting.
Taking walks.
Writing in my journal.
Going to a used book sale.
Doing Yoga.
Painting painting painting.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What has life come to?

Longtime readers know of our cat woes from about a year ago. One of our animals (ok, it was probably Gilligan) was pooping in the dining room. That is when we first blocked the dining room from cat access.

For basically a year now (could that really be true?) we have been living with a child gate at one of the dining room entries and an entire door screen across the other, that being the wide entry off our foyer. During the blockade period, the dining room has somehow migrated into a staging area for my shows, with art leaning against all the walls, the table utilized as a work surface, boxes and other supplies stacked on the floor. Since we have so many shows going on (and generally only a week in between) it makes sense to store things in the dining room rather than carry everything downstairs then upstairs again between shows.

It is such a blight though, I mean total eyesore. We are like that crazy cat lady who lived down the street from me when I was growing up, the one who had newspapers stacked from floor to ceiling. Who ever imagined it would come to this? But I can't think of a better solution at least until the shows are over. And the thing is, I can block the room from my vision. I walk by day after day and don't even see the mess. It isn't within my frame of reference; I think I have simply rationalized that it just IS at least until the shows are over.

It's only when we have a visitor that I come to my senses, smack myself in the head, oh yeah, I have a bunch of crap piled up in the room previously known as our dining room. And oh yeah, we are using a screen door as a barrier. The guest is typically too polite to say anything, but you can see the wheels turning. At that point I usually make some joke about it, suggesting I took the whole "decorating with room screens" thing too literally.

Now the upside of this more cat poop, at least outside of the litter box and certainly not in the dining room. Whoever was doing the pooping (Gilligan) seems to have resumed use of the litter boxes. Thus I concluded he was better, "over" whatever had upset him, reconciled to Mom & Dad's gypsy lifestyle, hopefully contented with his catsitter Karyl.

Until Saturday that is......I was in the studio where we have an auxiliary litter box because God forbid the cats would have to walk back upstairs to go potty. Yes, they have a litter box in my studio bathroom right next to the toilet. And yes, there is simultaneous use on occasion.

So it was on Saturday afternoon when I heard a mournful cry from one of the cats; I knew instantly it was Gilligan because a good cat mom, like any mom, recognizes the cry of her young. It wasn't a whine, but a true mournful sound. I jumped up like a rocket and found Gilligan standing in the middle of the litter box. Doing nothing, just crying.

Oh my gosh. I was so sad for him because this is a sign of cat constipation. And I can so relate although that is a story for another day (or not). Anyway, I waited till he was finished doing nothing and picked him up to massage his abdomen and see if he had specific pain. He was fine with my examination. I checked Google, found some vet-sites and decided to try this petroleum remedy that we happened to have on hand, salmon flavored no less. This online vet said to give a dose 3 days in a row to get the system back to normal. I checked him again yesterday and his belly did not feel so tight as it did before although truly it is hard to tell because it's like doing an exam on a frozen turkey. But I think he may be better.

In the meantime I have asked John, master of the litter boxes, to keep an eye on the cat poop and alert me to any change. We discussed the usual quantity, size and consistency of turds at length yesterday afternoon. We (that being the "royal we") are looking for small dry turds as a sign of cat constipation. We were in John's office, me lying on the floor, John in his chair, seriously evaluating and analyzing the pooping patterns of our animals. Truly.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Our neighborhood is pretty far out from St. Louis proper. We are in the county, way out west as some say, ha! and near lots of narrow winding roads. Like the road I travel to "The Valley," a strip mall extravaganza of a shopping area that has brand spankin' new box stores, chain restaurants, an enormous movie cinema, our fave local coffee shop and a gourmet ice cream parlor. This is all about 7 minutes from my house, an area of excessive commercialism with which I am in a love/hate relationship; probably more love because it is darn handy to have it all so close to home.

The roads that lead to The Valley are fun to drive. Twisting, turning, up and down and all around. Trees overhang in many spots, there is a creek (regrettably dry since we have had little rain) which runs next to the road and a nearly one lane bridge with a hairpin turn, no issue for my little Saab, but the Hummers and other numerous SUV's take it slow and even wait their turn for a solitary pass. Plus there are clearings where I know I will always see deer and wild turkey. I love this road and hope the land is never sold for development. Driving this path once a week allows me the most brief imaginary existence away from suburbia.

There is just one house that is visible; there are others I know, but they are discreetly hidden up hills, behind trees, to the point you can't even see them in the winter. But I am talking about this old white farm house right next to the road. A farmer I am guessing as the owner sells bales of hay in the fall and sometimes has a table with vegetables for sale. The yard is strewn with decorative ornaments, whirligigs mainly, that catch your eye as you drive. And signage. Oh lordy do they have signage. These folks are baseball fans in a big way. They have perhaps 8 or more signs cheering the St. Louis Cardinals, signs which cite specific players to the team in general, "Honk if you love the Cardinals."

I can just imagine the scene. The husband and wife are lying in bed asleep. HonkHonk HonkHonk. HonkHonkHonk. Beer bottles flying out the window as unruly teens careen by the house. Husband wakes up and smiles.........."Cardinal fans......."