Creating Kingdoms

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Amazon.com

Al went over to his desk, took out two pencils and handed one to me. “So Prince Teodoro,” he said, with a smile as big as Saturn, “wanna fly?”

Al and Teddy by Neil Waldman

No Rest For The Creative

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When you’re a creative person, you have to create. Retirement isn’t part of that mentality. The mentality is, What is inspiring you next?

The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand by Pamela Skaist-Levy, Gela Nash-Taylor, Booth Moore

From the first chapter:

We just wanted to create something people loved and a work environment that made us happy. That’s our version of the American Dream. That’s the glitter plan.

The Myth of Overnight Success

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Wordery.com

“Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. Building a substantial body of work takes a long time—a lifetime, really—but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days.”

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Economy Demands Art

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Barnes and Noble

“We don’t need to be taught to make art, but sometimes we need permission to do so. Following instructions is overrated…Why Make Art? Because you must. The new connected economy demands it and will reward you for nothing else. Because you can. Art is what it is to be human.”

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

Art and Self Expression

Sacred Sisterhood of Wonderful Wacky Women

Sometimes I wonder why people buy one artwork over another.

Does it represent where you are in your life or where you want to be? Is it the design and the colors? Is it fashionable or trendy? Does it draw you in for reasons you can’t explain?

Every person has many reasons behind decisions as intimate as the selection of art. Yes, intimate. Think about it. Artwork is placed in prominent locations within a person’s inner sanctum. The bedroom, the living room, even the front yard are your own domain. They are both private locations and semi-public representations of who and what you are.

Placing something over the living room couch means putting it on frequent display. It is something you view, repeatedly, every day of your life, for as long as the artwork remains. That’s significant.

All human beings instinctively recognize that frequency of viewing equates importance and will respond accordingly. Those reactions may range from shock to admiration, depending upon the artwork and each individual’s own interpretation of it.

Artwork has meaning. Significant meaning that extends far beyond anything the artist attempted or intended. Which brings me back to my original question – why choose artwork A over artwork B?

I’ve posted things to the Wild Raccoon Market that inspire this line of inquisition. The very purple (and simply wonderful) Sacred Sisterhood of Wonderful Wacky Women is one such item. This is something that could either represent the wacky women in my life (past and present) or the wonderful women I wish were in my life (present and future). Hanging this image could say “this is who I am and I proudly recognize that fact.” Alternatively, it could say “this is who I wish to be, and I am working to create that reality.”

Waiting For Signs

Another image inspiring inquiry into the purchaser’s intent is the striking and almost mesmerizing Waiting for Signs. This print contains the following text:

“I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, you can start any time now, & then I asked is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there’s no laughter, I know they’re not for me.”

Since this is currently hanging over the top of my desk (waiting for it’s new home), does that mean I am recognizing that my life has begun and waiting-for-signs has ended? Or, does it stand as a reminder that action must be taken each and every day, signs not-with-standing. Is it an acknowledgement of what is, or inspiration for what should be?

I suspect most people spend very little time mulling over these sorts of questions when selecting artwork for their home or office. It’s a pity, really, because this sort of digging has a way of turning up nuggets of potential for a conversational goldmine.

In my opinion.

Take it for what you will.

Fine Art vs Folk Art

The following is an expression of my own opinions about art. It is the reason why so many of the items posted to the Wild Raccoon Market are folk art. It is not an official definition of art forms. I am not an academically trained artist or curator. I am not an expert. Take it for what you will.

Fine Art vs Folk Art

Fine art lives behind locked doors. It is protected by security guards; secured by top-of-the-line electronics; properly insured and never, ever, touched.

Folk art lives in the doors themselves. It is the welcome sign hanging off to the side; the stern metal lion doorknocker; the door handle with fancy swirly designs made shiny and flat from many years of use.

Fine art stands inside the immaculate gardens of important places. It holds the weight of definition, the scales of elegance, in appropriately frozen poses. It is in the statues so imprinted with the weight of history and quality and prestige that no one dares mention the missing hands, arms and heads. Fine art does not change. It is there, holding it’s ground, for centuries of time.

Folk art stands in the shaggy gardens of common places. It holds the responsibilities of everyday priorities. In spring it is painted onto tall, almost-straight, discarded things, carefully marking sections of newly planted corn, peas and carrots. In summer it is the festive flags fluttering in the wind and the garden gnomes dancing with the rain. In fall it is carved out of pumpkins, stuffed into a scarecrow’s clothes and sewn into homemade costumes. In winter, it is made of snow, rolled into balls and decorated with old clothes, discarded vegetables and food coloring.

Fine art is a painting with a carefully constructed metal plaque describing who, what, when and why. It is the visual representation of those things we should know and must appreciate.

Folk art is a dusty side-note displayed in a dim room off a long hallway. It stands together in a case filled with it’s sisters, brothers and cousins; all sharing a single plaque between them. It is the primitive and traditional and crafts and handiwork selected from the sea of un-importance to stand forever within the reflected light of prestige. It is a comparison, a point of not-fine deemed fine-enough to illustrate what is truly fine. It is token.

Fine art is the very expensive and oh-so-proper painting hanging in the receiving room of an everyday home. The receiving room – the one room that is only entered when important, judgmental or stiff-necked folk come to call. It is precise, proper, dust-free and cold.

Folk art is the colorful, comfortable, painting hanging over the living room couch. It is the fairy swinging from the kitchen window. It is the candy dish that has been re-glued many times over because it was made by grandma and, therefore, comes out every holiday – just like grandma used to do.

Fine art is sold at high-profile auctions by white-gloved attendants. It is purchased by straight-backed collectors in designer suits who seriously participate in the investment driven bidding war.

Folk art is sold at community fundraisers by everyday artists wearing jeans and t-shirts. It is purchased by neighbors, who make selections while munching on homemade cookies and chatting about local events.

Fine art is the tapestry hanging on a castle wall.

Folk art is the quilt covering a child’s bed.

Fine art transforms a building into a museum. It takes a historic location and places the title of ‘curated’ upon it’s now-glorified head.

Folk art enters a place, warms the colors, softens the edges, and plays in the yard. It is the tipping point, the key element transforming a house into a home.

Art, Poverty and Respect

When I was a kid, my family took one of those ‘great American vacations;’ traveling from Wisconsin to California and back again. While we were far from wealthy, I remember it as the turning point. Soon after, we went from ‘getting by’ and ‘things are tight’ to full-on-poverty.

While visiting relatives in California, my parents loaded the kids into the van and took a day-trip across the border into Mexico. Crossing the border was exciting. The desert was beautiful (even without air conditioning). Yet, what I remember most about Mexico are the tar paper shacks and the roadside stands selling folk-art.

People were living in flimsy box-frame structures covered in black tar paper. They didn’t look sturdy enough to store plastic boxes full of extraordinarily unimportant items. I can’t even imagine how horribly hot it must get inside one of those during a summer day. In the interests of full-disclosure, I must add that I never actually entered one of these shacks. My parents addressed my questions about these houses with short statements (e.g.: it’s just how people live down here) and refused additional conversation without further consideration.

Therefore, just like every other American tourist in Mexico, my family drove past the shacks and stopped at the road-side stands selling brightly painted pottery.

I clearly remember one particular pottery stand. My family wandered around, looking at the wares, side-by-side with other random tourists. I watched the people working. There were adults and teenagers carrying heavy items and looking exceptionally hot and tired, like people who were half-way through a workday at the local factory. There were also children running around, helping out here and there.

Based on the way people interacted with one another, my child-self concluded they were a family and this was their business (this was never confirmed). The pottery was the kind of stuff most people purchase during a tourist-stop in Mexico. It was very pretty and amazingly cheap.

At the time, the weariness of the workers stood side-by-side with the quality and price of the pottery. I kept thinking there was something important about all of this, but I didn’t know or understand what it was.

Recently, I stumbled across a large amount of brightly colored Mexican pottery at a second-hand store. As I went through the collection, choosing items for the Wild Raccoon Market, memories of that decades-old trip to Mexico came to mind. The hand-painted and nicely detailed images of people marching across a shot glass reminded me of those bone-weary workers making large quantities of tourist-art and selling each piece for a few dollars.

These thoughts continued as I sat in front of my computer. For my family, that cross-country trip marked a turning point. Soon after, we stumbled out of just-barely-lower-middle-class, and took a headlong spiral downward into poverty.

One of the first things true poverty will teach you is the importance of respect. It touches every aspect of your life and colors every relationship. It’s also strangely, and pointedly, lacking from the world of underpaid work. When you’ve worked your fingers to the bone (sometimes literally) only to drag your tired body home with less than half of what you need to pay rent (never mind everything else), the word respect begins to encompass a pie-in-the-sky fantasy of very simple lifestyle elements (e.g.: being able to pay rent, being treated with the basic respect due to any human being, etc.) frustratingly accessible only to those in the upper classes.

No matter where you live, working long hours to create something that is devalued because of a long list of arbitrary factors, is dehumanizing. In terms of respect deserved vs respect received, American poor and Mexican pottery producers have something in common.

I found myself staring at these lovely items and thinking about the ‘value’ attributed to them because they were (most likely) purchased for insanely low prices during a vacation in Mexico.

While this may sound a bit preachy and in-your-face (even), I challenge you to place the word respect at the forefront of your mind every time you decide to purchase art. Regardless of what you buy, where you buy it, or who you buy it from; all original, handcrafted art is the product of skilled craftsmanship. It’s not something that can be replicated because it was not created by a machine. Human hands touched, traced, formed, and changed this thing into an object of beauty. The person and the work deserve to be appreciated and respected.

Then, consider extending the same respect to the poor, working poor and workers everywhere; because the person and the work deserve to be appreciated and respected.

Just my opinion.

Take it for what it’s worth.

Art Rescue in Blue

This post will begin with a shameless plug: I’ve created an Etsy shop! Please visit the Wild Raccoon Market and consider buying something. 🙂

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

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Adora helping with the flea market booth in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

When I was a kid, my family spent large quantities of time locating sale-able items and hawking them at flea markets. It was less profitable than collecting recyclable materials (plastic, metal and glass) and selling them to recycling plants (at first) and recycling collection machines (later).

After spending many grueling, and often humiliating, childhood-hours sifting through garbage, discount bins, second-hand shops and garage sales; I entered adulthood ready to never, EVER, deal with the used-items market again. Coming from poor family, I quickly learned the new-only lifestyle is not an option available to the likes of me – no matter how hard I work, how many hours I put in or my level of education. Some of us are born into a second-hand, tossed-away world. That is reality. It does not go away. (Deal with it.)

Over the years, I learned to appreciate this aspect of my life and have come to view discarded objects as treasure troves filled with fun decor and fine art – most in need of nothing more than a careful cleaning, a new frame and (maybe) a few small repairs.

Which brings me back to the Etsy site. The reason I went with Etsy instead of eBay is because I have developed something of a talent for spotting and rescuing artwork. Some of it is truly valuable. Some of it simply appeals to me or does not belong in the garbage.

An example of rescued artwork featured in the Wild Raccoon Market is Rita Orr‘s winter trees serigraph. I found this piece in the ‘frames’ bin of a second-hand store. It was encased in (and protected by) a dreadful, heavy, scratched and chipped glass frame which was on the verge of breaking and either destroying the artwork or simply dragging the art into the local dump by virtue of association.

I really liked the painting, so I bought it with the intention of getting an icy, winter-blue, rough-wood frame and either a blue or purple mat, to go with the image. Every time I look at it, I can see the colors being drawn out by a different mat and frame.

Sadly, my finances have not allowed for the re-framing efforts. In fact, the original frame continued to deteriorate, despite it’s protected location on my wall, and had to be removed and disposed. Luckily, the artwork survived the ordeal unharmed.

Recently, I located and emailed Rita Orr, asking for confirmation – is this one of hers? She took a look at the photo I sent and replied in the affirmative. This is, indeed, one of her limited edition prints, from the 1980s. How cool is that?

I hope I can find a good home, where it will be properly respected and appreciated.

Eternal Reproduction

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Amazon.com

Nothing divine dies. All good is eternally reproductive. The beauty of nature reforms itself in the mind, and not for barren contemplation, but for new creation.

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stick Finds a Voice

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Image Source: Wordery.com

“But the poor stick had a problem – he couldn’t speak. So he couldn’t share his thoughts with any other forest creatures…who would believe a stick, anyway?”

“To his amazement, he discovered that he could draw lines to look like things.”

“He drew faster and faster. Finally he stopped. The dust cleared…and there was the most magnificent sight the forest had ever seen.”

The Clever Stick by John Lechner