Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Wedding Gift

OK, I’m going to bear a little shame publicly today. My best friend of over 20 years, Joolie, got married this year in March. I could not decide what to get her or what to make her. So I waited until my brain gave me an answer to take care of this. But it never did and months have passed. But do not worry for our friendship. We’re the types who get around to sending Christmas gifts in May with no hard feelings. It’s becoming comical at this point.

So I finally figured out what to send when I saw Patricia Hecker’s TattooDreams shop on Etsy. Her work fits my friends’ artistic aesthetics very well. The boxes seem so personal and yet so “made for anyone” at the same time. They talk to you and allow you to have your own dialogue with them. Plus Patricia’s eye for composition and layout is impeccable. I’ll let her pictures speak for themselves.

(images © Patricia Hecker)

More about Patricia: “I've made art since I was a child. I know I was born to be one! Making art has provided me with a career for the last 21 years, but it's more than that. It's what makes me complete. I travel the country with my husband of 23 years selling my work at juried fine art shows.

I've been selling on Etsy less than a year and am beginning to see repeat collectors buying my work. I find this exciting as the holidays approach. I've met wonderful people here on Etsy and really love having this marketplace to sell my TattooDreams body of work. The work I show here on Etsy is not what has funded my life, but a separate body of work that lets me play and explore. Both necessary ingredients to any artist.

I believe the imagery I use in my Tattoo Dream work to be translations from our dream state. The lasting visuals and fragments of thoughts and images are facets of our everyday life. These resonate into what we dream and they frolic in our subconscious. They are then born into the sharp contrast of black on wood.

To surround oneself with objects that are handmade is to surround oneself with the energy of the artist who made them.”

She also has a fine art line of work that she has done for the last 24 years, which can be found on her website: You should also check out her blog.

Here is the card I made for Joolie and Eric.

(image and design © In My Head Studios)

If you are interested in a card, I can customize it with any color to match the wedding colors of your bride and groom! They’re just $5.00 plus shipping.

So since my gift was about six months late it also served as a six-month anniversary gift, too! Double bonus!

Thank you to Paticia Hecker for allowing me to reproduce her copyrighted material and to promote her shop.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Loosen Up, Lady

Having all this time off from work is a gift, I have come to realize. I can work on my craft and art. I can hone skills. I can find myself. I’ve felt lost for some time as far as my art goes. My work is done in so many different media that I’m constantly switching between them all and never really perfecting any one. And I am asking myself, “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” I don’t know, but I have this need to find out. Could I really be excelling at something I do only a little bit of the time?

To help me with this journey, I bought a recycled-paper-filled blank spiral bound journal. I’m making a visual art journal in it. Art just for me. Art for art’s sake. As an artist I get so hung up on the final product that I have forgotten to enjoy the process. I am giving myself permission to make bad art! Not everything has to be the freaking Mona Lisa! (Oh, that makes me a little dizzy. Where was I? Who are you?)

Yesterday was spent thinking a lot about what I want to get out of this experiment. I’ve been so focused on trying to make this business work that I forgot how to play with my art. My focus has been “make, make, make, promote, make”. That’s getting old. I don’t want to burn out. So play has officially been added to my TO DO list! Yay! Forget housework! Well, maybe a little.

If the pages are not too personal I will share them with you. Shoot, I might even challenge myself to share something too personal just to see how that feels! My plan is to complete a page a week at least to begin with. That may not sound like much, but for me it may be a challenge as I have a lot of unblocking to do.

Traveling with me on my journey is a new book called True Vision: Authentic Art Journaling by L. K. Ludwig (© 2008 by Quarry Books). The pictures in this book are full of color and delicious. Sprinkled throughout it are journaling prompts, inspirational quotes, and writings from art journal artists. I could spend all day between its pages. I have to remind myself to put this book down and work!

Speaking of work, my art table is calling. Happy Art-ing!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ceramic City

I have been doing some research about the piece of artwork my mother bought at the auction at Midtown Plaza. A ceramic artist made it at the School for American Craftsmen (SAC). The artist is Hobart Cowles (1923-1980). He was a professor at SAC when it was in downtown Rochester and at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

I came across the email address for his widow, Barbara Cowles, during my online research. I sent her a note about the piece and asked her if she knew anything about it. Barbara got back to me the same day.

She thinks the piece was made for a contest Midtown Plaza held for new artwork for the opening of the mall in 1962. The artwork has an address on the back, and she says that was their home address until November 1962. That means the piece was made before that date. She does not remember the piece itself because she says “Hobie” did his work at the studio, and she did not get to see much of his work. She thinks the title may be “Monroe County”, but asked me not to hold her to that statement.

It is possible that some of his students may have helped with the piece. I’m in the process of trying to track down any student who may remember it. We are also in the process of finding an art appraiser to tell us how much it is worth. I’m not sure if my mother plans to sell it at this point. Gauging a value may be difficult since it has no initial sale value as it was made for a contest.

I have probably spent about 3 hours just looking at it and studying its shapes and texture. There’s so much to look at. The artwork measures 31” x 49 ¼”. The tallest building is about 2 ½” tall. The whole thing with the wood base is about 4” thick. It weighs 70 pounds.

I like how he made cut outs for some of the buildings instead of building them up. The whole design is very well balanced. The water has crushed glass beneath the clear glazing so it sparkles in the light. The surface is divided up along what could be roads in the area. It had to be fired in smaller pieces. The smaller pieces are set in concrete. The way it is both accurate and representational is amazing to me. I find the two hard to mix in my own work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Just Got Dark In Here

Our roof needs to be replaced. The crew is here doing it right now. They have covered about half of the outside of my house with a blue tarp. Now it’s really dark inside and everything has a blue cast to it. They tell me this should take a few days. Ugh.

It sounds like we are under siege. Maybe I am going to my mom's house for the afternoon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Midtown, Where Nothing is Waiting for You

(Click on the slideshow for a bigger version!)

The excursion to Midtown Plaza on Friday was a fantastic experience. I appreciated the chance to say goodbye to a Rochester landmark. Plus it was darn fun rooting around in the stores and buildings for things I wanted to keep. I came home with a carload of neat odds and ends.

Only people who had bought something at the auction on Thursday were allowed in. I was there to help my mom and her boyfriend, Dave, clear out the items they had won bids on. Dave bought the contents of two stores. One was a Hallmark store. You would not believe what people leave behind when they close down businesses. I scored about 300 envelopes I plan to sell on eBay or Etsy. The owners left nice desks, chairs, shelving, boxes, greeting cards, cabinets, display stands, and coffee pots behind. We loaded up as much as we could fit on rolling carts and filled up Mom’s van. Then Dave got his roll-off flatbed truck for the rest.

The other shop Dave bought out was an upscale shoe store. It was full of acrylic display stands that I know will sell well on eBay and Etsy. We took out a lot of shoe stretchers and fitters, toe and heel pads, light fixtures, sign stands, and those slanted stools that are used when a salesman actually helps you put on shoes you are trying on. (Do you remember those days?) A safe big enough for me to get in comfortably was in the back room. I really wanted just the door to hang in my living room, but it was too much trouble to get off.

Dave also purchased the contents of a few maintenance rooms in the basement. There were several cases of Xerox promotional mugs, fancy magnifying glasses, little office supply kits, office chairs, more desks, a garbage can full of coiled cords that he can sell as scrap, and a few of the regionally “famous” horse strollers that parents could rent to take their kids around in the shopping plaza. Lots of nostalgia value there. One of those sold for $150 at the auction. Dave has three of them now. The auctioneers didn’t know they were down there so Dave got a great deal again. All of the things in the basement were covered in what appeared to be 20 years worth of dust.

He took about 100 fluorescent light bulbs that he plans to sell at flea markets for $1.00 each. He has an eye for this kind of thing. I never would have thought to pick up those items for resale.

We only had from 9 am until 2 pm to get all this stuff out. We left a lot of great stuff behind because we ran out of time. The back of the shoe store was filled with gorgeous wood shelving that I would have loved to put in my basement. I really wanted a big old metal and wood desk for Mr. M’s office. They were too heavy to move.

Exploring the building was so interesting. We could go almost anywhere… basements, loading bays, the backs of the banks, stores, utility rooms, layaway cages, and freight elevators. I find abandoned buildings fascinating. I like to see how they degrade over a period of time when no one is there. I had been to Midtown Plaza to shop many times, but it looked so foreign when empty. A building in this state oddly looks like it has a lot of potential to be great, and it once was. I would love to see it remodeled into an urban community setting. New loft apartments are going up in the neighborhood and those people are going to need shopping close by. Now there is none with the plaza closing down. It seems like such a waste to me.

More about Midtown and our lucky finds this week. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Toodeloo, Midtown Plaza

Midtown Plaza, a Rochester, New York landmark closed this year. It was the first indoor shopping mall in America. It opened in 1962 and reigned supreme among shopping centers here for decades. Large department stores such as Sibley’s and McCurdy’s were located there. My grandparents and parents shopped there. I went to see Santa there as a child and shopped at the Wegmans grocery store and other shops there as an adult. But as malls do in urban areas, it began to die out as crime rose in the city. The building is slated for demolition to make way for a corporate headquarter.

Today they held an auction at Midtown Plaza to clear out all the leftover things, some of them treasured pieces of Rochester history. I really wanted to go nose around but had an appointment that cut my day in half. My mother and her boyfriend did attend.

My mother’s boyfriend, Dave, is into all kinds of things. He buys and sells stuff for a living. When I say “stuff” I mean cars, scrap metal, the entire contents of houses for estate sales, cabinets, and the list goes on. You name it, he has sold one. He loves going to auctions. He makes a decent living doing this, too!

He got some great deals today. He bought the entire contents of a Hallmark store for $20.00. Not much merchandise was included, but he got all the displays, shelves, counter tops, desks, some office supplies, and their notable Hallmark purple aprons, one of which still had a name tag pinned to it. He also purchased the contents of a back room of a shoe store, a big neon sign, a Christmas tree and wreath, and some other odds and ends.

My mother came home with a really cool piece of art. She bought a ceramic relief sculpture of the topography and buildings of the Rochester region including the Genesee River, Lake Ontario, and the Erie Canal. Most of the well known downtown buildings are there. It’s beautiful. Mom remembers it being on display on a big table and under a glass cover. I know she’s going to find the right art collector and make some money off her find. It weighs a ton though.

I am going tomorrow to help them clear out their auction purchases. Don’t ask me where Dave is going to store the contents of two stores. I’m really looking forward to photographing the building as it makes its way to oblivion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


My best friend Joolie always leaves me notes all over my house when she comes to visit. I mean everywhere. Inside books, behind pictures, in my knitting bag… sometimes I don’t find them for years. It makes my day to find one, too, as it reminds me of why I love her so much.

I was never able to get her back because I was never alone at her house when I visit her. But I had the chance in March when she got married. I innocently begged out on a trip to the local bar. I brought my own Post-It note pad too. And I went to town on her new house. She is still finding notes!

My sister recently asked us to baby-sit so they could go see “Batman: The Dark Knight”. My hunny and I took the opportunity to leave her notes all over. We left them in food boxes, under things, in bowls, on stamps, in books, in nooks, and in boxes they won’t open until Christmas. My favorite was the note in a plastic baggie we hid halfway down the big oatmeal container. She makes oatmeal for her kids everyday. We had to dump out half the oatmeal to do it, and we spilled it all over her floor. We had to do a bit of cleaning to hide the evidence. I also put one right out in the open that read, “I wonder how long it will take you to find this.” It didn’t take her long. Now she calls me when she finds more notes. And we both laugh! So much fun over a few Post-It notes!

My sister and her family are currently away camping and I once again have full run of her house as I am checking her mail for her. I’m desperate for another prank, but cannot think of a good one. Do you have one?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

And We’re Off!

This is an old photo of my twin sister and me in our playroom taken when we lived in Plano, Texas. She is the one with the adorable smile in front. I have the goofy face in back. We spent countless hours making things and playing school or office in there. Our mom always made sure we had enough paper, markers, glue, pencils, and projects to work on. She is awesome that way. She still buys me art supplies! And my sister and I still do craft projects together some 30 odd years layer.

She tells me she still has the black tape dispenser in her house. And the Smurf on the top shelf holding a cake. She also has the shelf but it is painted red now. I have not found anything in the picture that I still have except for the giraffe note holder my grandfather made.

I’m also not sure when this picture was taken. It’s sometime between 1982 and maybe 1986. I’m not good at telling how old I am in old pictures. It’s sometimes miraculous if anyone in my family can even figure out which twin is which in most baby photos! Some we will never know who is who. I often wonder if maybe we got switched at some point and I am really named “Valerie”.