Friday, June 19, 2009

This is Your Cat on Drugs

Like most things of this nature, it was easy to just skim over the little, tell-tale signs of trouble before the fur hit the fan.
Such as...watching my two youngest fur babies, Kip and Whiskers, chasing madly through the house, up stairs and down, without pause (but with much paws) and without regard for Whis' game back leg. No big deal, cats do this, right? Sure.
Then came their strange fascination with television. Animal Planet shows? O.K., I'm cool with that. But when they started watching the headline feed at the bottom of the all-news channel, AND trying to catch it, AND bristling every time Dick Cheney showed up on screen, well, that got a little weird (albeit, understandable). The oddest part was seeing the two of them, with rapt attention, watching the World Poker Tour, then leaving the room, coming back to see them hurriedly closing the laptop. Later I found emails from Club WPT addressed to "PokerBratCats"--and a debit from our bank account for $19.95 a month. (That's my story and I'm sticking with it...).
It was while grocery shopping on a busy Friday that I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Kip and Whis surreptitiously (well, as surreptitiously as two cats can) pushing a heaping cart load of potato chips and Oreos toward the checkout. I tried following them, but they disappeared, I think behind a stack of 20lb bags of bird seed.
Obviously, something illicit and bizarre was going on. But it wasn't until I awoke to a mess of epic proportions that I realized what it was and how I had unwittingly been an enabler.
I had purchased a container of dried catnip for two reasons: 1) to encourage my fur kids to use their scratching posts and not the furniture and 2) for their personal enjoyment, because I love them (awwwww!). Little did I know how a simple act of love and generosity could turn my precious little angels into little furry drug addicts.
Imagine waking up to find dried catnap strewn haphazardly everywhere--carpets, furniture, stairs, countertops. Yes, the plastic container that held the enticing little green flakes--that snapped so tightly shut I had trouble opening it with fully opposable thumbs--had been first bitten into (they hadn't tried to hide the teeth marks), then pried open. Even more alarming was that the container had been sitting at the back of the counter top, behind boxes of crackers, a bottle of wine and a bread maker.
It was horrible! Once my husband and I had gathered up as much of the dried drug as we could, and swept and vacuumed up the rest (and placed the container on a top cupboard shelf where, hopefully, it is safe...), we knew it was time for drastic action.
With the catnip safely stored away (hopefully), we turned our attention to a kitty intervention...with cat treats.
A moderately good plan except, now, Kipper is totally addicted to cat treats and, if left unguarded or not hidden, in an unopened guessed it. Torn bags and treats all over the place. But at least the local 'catnip dealers' have stopped hanging around both our front and back porches, the cats stay pretty quiet and don't race through the house tripping us up, and the container has stayed safely out of reach (fingers crossed).
Club WPT still debits our bank account. But, um, let's not talk about that, shall we ;)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's in a Name...Artwise

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names." -- Chinese proverb

At base, it many seem like a simple thing. That is, giving an object a name. We do it all the time for our pets, our children, sometimes our cars and, well, sometimes for certain body parts. Sometimes we do this without much thought. For example, pets' names like 'Fluffy' or 'Fido' or 'Polly' (for parrots, obviously). Children (usually) get more thought put into their names or, sometimes, too much thought. For instance, Moxie Crimefighter Gillette, daughter of Penn Gillette and wife. Was it too much or not enough thought in that instance? You decide...

I've always been fascinated by names, probably because I've always been fascinated with words and how they work, sound and blend together to create something beautiful, something ugly or something magical. As a writer, I've often come up with the title first, and everything else falls into place. Sometimes, however, a written piece culminates in a stressful quest for 'just the right name/title'. Have I always been successful? That's anybody's guess and part of the subjectivity inherent in art.

It's no different for works of art in all media, at least IMHO. I have it on good authority that da Vinci's original name for the Mona Lisa was "Peevish Babe in Black". Hmmm, not a name that would've gone down in history, conjuring up romance and mystery--and probably upsetting his benefactors, the Giaconda family. Or, at the very least, would've given poor Nat King Cole and miss rather than a hit song.

No matter what I create, I often try to give a piece an appropriate name. Sometimes for aesthetic reasons, sometimes for marketing reasons, but always for the right least, to me. When I painted the above portrait of the Fab Four I did it at a very confusing time. One month after Lennon's assassination and two months after I married my adorable husband, Mark. On one hand, the painting was cathartic. On another, it was a celebration of life and creativity and how creativity can be a healer of wounds. After much deliberation, I decided on, simply, "January 1981".

Designing jewelry, from the standpoint of naming an object, hasn't been any less challenging, most of the time. The daisy bracelet in 'coffee' -type shades (also pictured above, as I can't get the photos to show up where I want them in the layout!) was relatively easy and the name I chose certainly was an improvement on "Dried Flowers in a Puddle" or "Rhapsody in Browns". But, who knows, maybe you think differently? That's another beautify of creativity and the joy of individual thought.

So, help me here. I want to give the pink bracelet a name because of its support of the fight against breast cancer. Everything I've thought of to date has been, well, too obvious, too twee, or just to0 'cutesy' for a work that's already a bit over the top in a Seinfeld-esque 'Schmoopy' sort of way. Right now, it's nameless. I'm still hoping to reach the 'Aha!' moment before it (hopefully) sells to a happy customer.
At the same time, someone clue this late baby boomer in as to how to get photos to publish where I want them, rather than always at the top of the blog. Much appreciated!
Right now I live with four cats: Stella (named after my grandmother...long story), Henry (after England's Henry II), Kip (after Tom Hank's character in the 80's sitcom 'Bosom Buddies') and Whiskers (more typical than usual, but named by my two youngest grand kids, making it good enough for me). Yes, names are important to me. And I think they are important to more artists/crafters who 'name' their work. So, appreciate the effort put into that activity.
After all, it ain't always easy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Talents I Wish I Had

Today I found a lovely bowl in an Artfire artisan's studio. It's a lathe-turned Russian Olive Burl bowl that's just gorgeous. Woodworkers and woodturners have always fascinated me. It always looked, to me, as if it would be a very difficult art/craft to engage, and worthy only of those who have the true talent for it.

The gallery I once worked for frequently sold wood turned items, and sculptures made with wood, all of which were finely crafted and beautifully made. You could tell that each artist created these pieces because they were 'moved' creatively to do so.

You can't say that about manufactured wood products, really, can you?
I'm equally impressed by those who can work with metal--from simple wire wrapping to metal stamping and metal sculpture. I've read up on it, and it takes a great deal of work, and time, and dedication to complete even the smallest project. True enough, there are occasionally classes offered in my area in this discipline (not so woodcrafting), but leave it to niggling fear and self-doubt to stop me from taking them. For now.
One skill I have tried, and still find amazing, is lampworking and stained glass. A few months ago I took a beginner's lampworking class at Delphi artists studio in Lansing, MI. It was an all day class and I took it with my sister-in-law who is a gifted artist in just about anything, but is especially good working with glass. She'd concentrated mostly on stained glass so some of this was new to her. I managed to make two glass swizzle sticks and several (obviously) beginning pendants. But the process was fascinating and the day went by too quickly. Taking up this craft seriously would require quite an outlay of seed money for supplies (torches, kiln, tools, glass), so I'd have to think seriously about it before pursuing it further. That--and I'd certainly take more classes!
Never mind that during the class I dropped an hot glob of glass, burning the inside of my thigh and melting the cover of the stool on which I was sitting. Whoops. My bad...:)
Fair enough--few people can be whiz-kids in everything they try (and bully for those who can!). That leaves most of us to sit back and appreciate others for what they can do, as well as appreciate the work of those who love the same media you and I do. I think the goal is to foster a encouraging, productive and supportive world of artisans.