Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teeny Weenies

When I was a child- back when the arrival of the Sunday edition of the Youngstown Vindicator was a big deal- the first part of that thick bundle (you can tell how long ago that was- newspapers were thick bundles) that I went to was the funny pages. The first part of the funny pages I went to was the "Teeny-Weenies." I have written about them before but to recap- the TW's were a race of minuscule people who lived in our world but in the corners and hidden beneath violet leaves. Each week was the story of some TW travail or holiday depicted in a single, large, beautifully-drawn panel. One week the TW's may be doing battle with towering rats who threatened their grain stores, another week it would be a TW outing on boats made from milkweed husks. The TWs were from all races and cultures.
Also each week there would be a single TW that I could cut out of the paper, paste onto a piece of shirt cardboard and trim. The art came with the flanges that could be bent back so the figure could stand on its own. I had a collection of them that I could use to enact my own TW scenarios.

That collection was long ago discarded but I have been drawing again on that inspiration for a series of small pieces. I have conflated them with my "heart-box" motif and my love of the natural world. I use the same basic template, which is a constraint that I enjoy working within.
Where they greatly differ, however, is in their basic demeanor. The original Teeny-Weenies were, as appropriate to the times, sort of can-do, go-getting, optimistic types- no obstacle could stand in their way for long, soon to be overcome with the united efforts of the population. My Teeny-Weenies, are more reserved and cautious, often looking askance at the viewer, sometimes not engaging the viewer at all. Whether they reflect the times or just my own reserve is something to ponder.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Not Yet

Sorry, I'm not nesting yet. I am in the midst of preparing for an open studio so that also means cleaning the parts of my apartment that cannot be blocked off from view. I look around in dismay at the pretty much total lack of nesting even after 2 years of living here.
I moved from a place that I had invested much time and energy into making a nest for myself- colorful, quirky, cozy and warm. Okay- and stuffed to the rafters with charming stuff. But I was not able to financially sustain it, I lost the house, the garden, the studio and about 95% of my belongings. So, now I am in an apartment in an urban setting with a few shabby rooms and a workroom and a bunch of boxes of books still packed- no bookshelves; a few boxes of decorative items that I managed to bring with me- still packed; and a few sticks of furniture. I did a bit of painting when I first moved in and tried to set it up in a comfortable manner but then I ran out of steam. I have been puzzled by my lack of desire to fix the place up.
I was speaking with a wonderful and insightful friend last evening and she said something that illuminated my anhedonia for me. I had mentioned that I had done almost nothing to improve the apartment since I moved in and she had last seen it. She said she wasn't surprised. Well, I was surprised by her response. She explained that she had two other friends who had also lost everything in the past few years- through house fires- and neither of them showed any desire to nest again either.
My desire to acquire anything beyond necessities for the apartment is low to non-existent, my desire to even browse is low. I used to be an agreeable browser- I could browse flea-markets or shops with no impulse or compulsion to buy, just filling my eyes with visual candy was enough, thank you. I used to love to read shelter magazines- especially UK Country Living. Not now. I picked up a copy recently to see if that would spark something- decorating porn to revive a dormant home-libido. Nah, nada, zip, zero, zilch.
Now I recognize that my thought process is: why buy things or invest in a place that may be gone in the wink of an eye? Why potentially put myself through all that again? I have moved on but only enough to get just out of sight of the past. I have stopped and am stuck around the corner from the disaster, unable though to keep walking forward. But my life is not all stagnation and resignation. I have moved forward in other, less material aspects of my life- and for that I am very grateful.
So, perhaps there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon; perhaps that will be enough to get me to move my feet a few inches away from this stuck corner; perhaps I will start to dream again- perhaps of a garden, perhaps of a kitchen...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Day in the Big City

I treated myself to a short day in NYC today. I used to think a long day would be fulfilling but usually ended up feeling crabby, tired and utterly forlorn at around 3pm; so today I got in a little after noon and just caught the 4:30 bus home. I was not too tired, my feet didn't hurt and I wasn't feeling marooned so it was either comfier shoes- a possibility- or a shorter stay- or perhaps both. But I digress...
My first stop was Mood Fabrics. Those of you who are Project Runway junkies like me will recognize the name. And let's face it, who can resist that combination of whinging narcissism, enough al-anonic behavior to single-handedly fill a meeting, and amazing technical ability? But I digress...
I was treated to a lovely selection of buttons- not as quirky, as wonderful, as inexpensive nor as bounteous as the long-lamented and greatly missed K Trimmings- but I digress... Got a handful of charming buttons but my camera's battery is out so I cannot show you- ah well.
My next stop was to be Purl Soho but I had neglected to write down the address before I left home so I wandered around Soho for a while and, unable to find their new digs, gave up and moved on.
It was just as well that I had not stopped at Purl as I needed that money for my next objective- Podunk.
Podunk? Isn't that where I come from- a small inconsequential town in the North East? No, actually Podunk is the name of the most charming, idiosyncratic tearoom in the East Village. Two years or so ago I had clipped a short but glowing review of the place from the NYTimes and kept it on my refrigerator. I would read it and say to myself, "someday I will go there."
Well, today I finally went. It is on 5th street to the west of 2nd Avenue, a hole-in-the-wall sort of place, modest in the extreme in its signage and decor. But the aroma when I walked in from the blustery, cold sidewalk--- the warm embrace of savoury baking: butter, wheat & rosemary. They could charge just for the delight of wrapping oneself in that aroma.
Mindful of the "No Sniveling" sign above the counter, I ordered an "Old Friends" tea for one. (Perhaps they should call it "Absent Friends" when it is a single order. But I digress...) The tray came with a nice pot of Earl Grey tea, cucumber sandwiches, scones with unsweetened whipped cream & blackberry jam, several assorted cookies, a small slice of vanilla sponge cake, a small slice of a lemon pound cake and some luscious fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. (Fortunately, the owner did not count my request of "no strawberries, please" as sniveling.) The sweet things were garnished with mint; the savoury, with a sprig of majoram.
The next time you are in NYC, stop in to Podunk and treat yourself to a most civilized and delicious repast.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Hysterical Society

I reminisced recently about a group my parents were part of when they were young and how it enabled them to buy good art. I was asked to pass it along via this blog so here it is. Back in the 50's when my parents were a young couple living in a village outside of Youngstown, Ohio, they formed a group with other young couples in the area. They called it the Hysterical Society. They were all interested in art, books, current events, good cooking and martinis. There were, if I remember correctly, 12 couples in the group. They met monthly at one couple's home- that couple cooked the dinner, other members of the group contributed dishes- another couple was responsible for the evening's entertainment. There were many delightful evenings at our house that I got to catch glimpses of from the stairs- and yummy leftovers the next day. All well and good.
But the thing that caught the fancy of the people I was telling this to was the unique and wonderful system they worked out to purchase art.
Each year, all the couples would contribute a set sum of money into a common fund. That year one couple would pick out a piece of work at the annual Mid-Year Show at the Butler Institute of American Art and purchase it with that pooled money. The work of art would then be hung for a month in each of the homes of all the other members of the group. At the end of the rotation, the work would be the property of the couple that picked it out. The next year, all the members of the group would again contribute to the fund and the next couple on the list would choose a work and it would rotate through the other households and so on.
This was a great way to build a community, buy art and support artists. The works people chose may not have been my parents' taste in art- the art they chose may not have been another couples' cup of tea either; there were undoubtedly works that did not hang in the place of honor during the month. The great thing was that the work did not have to appeal to everyone. It also enabled young families to purchase art that they otherwise may not have been able to afford. Because of this plan, I was privileged to grow up in a home with good books on the shelves, good original art on the walls, and music- and my family was not wealthy by any means.
I offer this idea to anyone who wants to employ it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I've Gotta Blow This Popsicle Stand

I am so excited about a workshop I am going to take with Christie Scheele this coming Wednesday. She is a very successful artist and mentors other artists in improving their careers. I felt a little sheepish about signing up for such a workshop, but I have to admit that my career is stalled. I am not living up to my abilities and talents. I need to show my work outside of this area and most of my fumbling efforts to date have not been successful.

So, I am allowing myself to feel some hope that she will be able to find a key that has eluded me so far. I'll let you know how it went.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Thrill is Gone...

This evening I wandered into the local chain fabric store after having made some photocopies at the chain office-supply store next door. As usual I headed to the button racks, hoping to find a few interesting examples of the koumpounologist's arcane art. I was a bit taken aback to find that the button rack was full of interesting buttons- and a bit disturbed.
You would think I would be thrilled. But I could only shake my head in rueful disillusion. Card after card of buttons designed to entice me- but that was the problem. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. A large part of the thrill was- and remains- the hunt. Searching through bins of old, dusty cards from the 60's or earlier. Pawing through the contents of button jars purchased at yard sales or flea markets for the few gems. Sorting the contents of almost opaque old plastic bags full of odd buttons. Opening a rusty, battered mint tin from someone's grandmother that had been placed in my hands by a generous friend. The squeak of an ancient display rack in a small five & dime in a small town on a blue highway...
None of that here- the charm of buttons has been co-opted by the chain store.
Did I buy some? Of course I did. I did not, however, choose the obviously cute buttons- too slick, too calculated. I need to endow them with charm through the process of making my art with them- not slap on some ready-made charm. It all reminds me of what happened when the market was flooded with those ghastly teapots that were consciously-designed to look like a sewing table or a tea table. I love real, authentic teapots- they are marvels of useful design. And I love real buttons. Can inner authenticity be achieved through outward means- no, but I can applaud these little bits of authenticity in an increasingly unauthentic world.

My name is Polly and I am a koumpounomaniac.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back in the Studio, Part II

In my last post I showed a piece, part of a proposed diptych for a show with the theme of Pairings. I finished the second part of the pair today- and just in time- today was also the deadline... but I made it. Now I wait to see if the work got into the exhibit.
The prior piece was of my first-cousin-once-removed Jean Amy; this one is of my other Jean: Miss Jean Webb, my great aunt.

PS My piece for the Ulster Corps charity auction didn't sell despite what I heard were some very kind and supportive remarks from the auctioneer. Well, hopefully, sometime in the future someone will smack their forehead and say, "damn! I wish I had bought that piece! What a missed opportunity!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back Into the Studio

I actually got to spend a day in my workspace over the weekend. Saturday not only brought some desperately needed rain to the area, it gave me a day off from my job at the nursery. I have a number of pieces on my desk- some of them only the barest sketches but the deadlines are looming. Here is the first to be completed:

It is part of a pair of works- its partner is nearing completion- for a show at the WAAM entitled "Pairings." When I saw the requirements I immediately thought of the 2 Jeans who inspired me in my life ( and whom I never fully appreciated until it was too late; to my great regret): Jean Amy (first-cousin-once-removed) (pictured above) and Jean Webb (great-aunt.) It seemed particularly apt if you just say their shared name- Jeans/genes. True I am not biologically descended from either of them but I am their æsthetic inheritor.
I was working on the assumption that they were both due today but found last night, much to my relief, that they are due this coming Monday. But that doesn't mean I can rest, I have to finish Great-Aunt Jean's portrait as well as the 2 other pieces I have promised. I will post them as they are finished. In the meantime, I commune with my jeans/genes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

For a Good Cause

Today I am taking in a new piece for a special show/charity auction. I was honored to be asked to participate- 50 artists/50 good causes. The event has been organized by WAAM in conjunction with UlsterCorps- a very worthy umbrella organization for good-works in the county. I was asked to do a piece to benefit CASA, a group that works with abused children and also seeks to prevent abuse before it happens. This dovetailed with my own works on this theme, a series: "A Child's Garden of Entropy."

I had had in mind to do a piece with several of my iconic images from the series- the porcelain doll and the birds (scarlet tanager, indigo bunting and goldfinch,) and entropic metaphors in their various aspects, this event gave me the impetus to do the work. ("Entropic metaphors" gee, I sound like a 'real" artist!) Many people think all I do is witty, fluffy pieces so they don't know what to do with these darker works. Some people think they are supposed to be funny so they make laughing comments about them to me, some get where I'm going- or more accurately, where I've been- and are a bit puzzled by the contrast between the 2 sides of my work. I don't explain beyond that fact that no one's life is 1-dimensional, all light or all dark. Both, for better or worse, are part of me.

"A Child's Garden of Entropy: The Footnotes" 26.75"x9.75" Bricolage

I am hoping that after this week I will be able to spend a bit more time in my workroom making art. I am acclimated to working outside at the nursery the 4 days I am there- I no longer collapse when I get home in the evening. And the book files are 98% done so I hope to get it to the printer this week. I still have some graphics obligations to fulfill but getting the book off my desk will be a big relief. I miss working/playing with my materials and if I am to be an artist, I need to actually produce- you know, art.

Friday, March 26, 2010


It seems like it has been weeks since my kickstarter.com project reached the end of its funding period even though it has, in fact been less than a week. The end of the project came at 6:09 pm EDT on Sunday. How did I celebrate this milestone? I was working away in my studio. I had gotten an email on Friday(?) asking if I wanted to have a show opening the end of the month and going through most of April? Of course, my answer was yes and then reality set in.
Egad, I had to get busy and pull the show together. It is a show of the original art from the Word Project- yes, the same art that will be published soon in my kickstarter-funded book. For the past 2 years the art has been sitting in a little storage closet in my apartment gathering dust. But I had 8 pieces that needed to be framed, paperwork, lists, labels, etcetc that needed to be updated- all the many tasks that need doing collateral to a gallery show. Plus I have, thank heavens, some graphics assignments on my desk.
Yesterday, I loaded up my elderly Saab with 7 bins (94 individual, framed pieces) of art and drove down to Hudson Beach Glass in Beacon, NY (about 40 miles south;) and hung the show. My good friend Laurel Smith (sister of one of the partners in HBG) stopped by and we had a nice lunch at Homespun Foods. I went back and continued hanging art. I ran out of steam at about 4 and called it a day. Came home and collapsed. Managed to stay up late enough to watch the designers on Project Runway try to design fabrics- (note to PR designers: don't give up your day jobs.)
Framed one last piece- my motto for this project seems like it should have been: measure 4 times, cut twice... Drove back down to Beacon and finished hanging the show. The rest of it is out of my hands and opens tomorrow. The reception is not until April 10th so I am going back to working on production for the book, the assignments on my desk, oh and I have to frame another piece for a show submission on Monday.
I am very grateful for all this but I am also learning some lessons about taking care of myself. I'm no spring chicken anymore, lugging those bins full of art down the stairs was a 3 ibuprofen job. Anyway, here is panoramic montage of the show: (yes, I meant to jam the frames together like that, I like it and I'm sticking with it.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Countdown Begins

The countdown on my kickstarter.com project "Publish 'The Word Project' " has shifted from days to hours to go- 55 as of this writing. It is both exciting and terrifying to see this. Exciting because it means the book will finally be published- terrifying for exactly the same reasons. I am having to confront my fears of failure and success in the same package.
Failure- what if my backers don't like the finished product? What if the book doesn't live up to its promise, what if I don't live up to my promise? Success- what if this really takes off and my life changes in good yet unforeseen ways? How long before I fall on my face? Fear, fear, fear...what a soul-killer.
Its not like I have not already rather spectacularly failed in public in my life. Almost 2 years ago I lost almost every thing in my life yet with the support and boundless kindness of friends, and taking some steps, I made it through. I have a roof over my head and work and much (platonic only, alas) love. And I am 55 hours away from realizing a long-held vision. There will be much hard work between the end of the funding period and sending the book to the printer in 3 or so weeks- not only the work of writing and assembling, preparing the images (and, of course, I now have a gallery show to mount and a desk full of graphics assignments); but also admitting my powerlessness over my fear, turning it over and keeping my focus on the next right step.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Posters For Haiti

I am participating in a project to support Doctors Without Borders' efforts in Haiti. The project is called "Posters for Haiti." Artists and designers create posters around the theme and then signed reproductions of the works are available for sale on the site. 100% of the proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders- a worthy cause and an excellent model.

(Rant about typical charity art auctions deleted...)

I finished the art and the design today and hope to be able to get the posters printed tomorrow and shipped out mid-week.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ole Green Eyes Strikes Again

Every once in a while my cardinal sin of envy rears up and smites me, and smites me hard. It happened a few days ago when I read about a project on kickstarter.com that has made over 400% of its goal. Normally my eyes are a squidgy grey but they quickly turned blazing emerald when I read that. I spent the next hour or so wallowing in my envy, marinating in it- not a pretty sight. It was a truly unlovely thing.
My own kickstarter project has made its goal but has stalled at just under 120% of its goal with 19 days to go. Am I content with that? Noooo... I want 400% too! Inside, I was stamping my foot, holding my breath and throwing a right royal tantrum.
But now I am over it for the most part and have been racking my brains trying to figure out how to shake that pledge tree in the remaining days. I do have to mention that the project in question was all about sex and my project, while it depicts a fair number of naughty bits is just that- a bit naughty, mostly punnish, and clever.
Do I begrudge them their 400%? No, I congratulate them on their achievement. I have to believe that there is enough for us all or I will just set myself back to where I was 2 years ago- a (non)spiritual place I hope to never revisit.
But, man oh man, 400%....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Scrooge Mc Duck & Me

Among the iconic images I have carried with me since childhood- along with Eyvind Earle's stunning graphic backgrounds for Disney's Sleeping Beauty, N.C.Wyeth's work, Leo & Diane Dillon's work for the Time-Life science series- is that of Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool of golden coins in an animated cartoon. Not quite as noble nor as artistically profound as the others but it has stuck with me nevertheless.
I was reminded of that image last evening when I dumped the contents of an old plastic bag out onto my worktable. A friend had told me her husband would be bringing them for me to a meeting so it was not a total surprise. That said, I had no idea of the extraordinary glee I would feel when I saw them spilled out in such profusion and scale. All of the buttons are quite large- after all, buttons as a rule tend to be small and the ones I most often use on my art are no more than 1/2- 3/8" wide. These beauties are measured in inches not fractions of inches. And they're mine- all mine I tell you, mine!!!!! (but I get ahead of myself...)
I poured over them, sorted them, let them run through my fingers into a pile, held them up and in the case of the one that looks like it was made out of braided twizzlers, was tempted to lick them. Even now, as they rest in their bowl, I look at them and cannot believe my luck. I have no idea how they will be used- but I suspect most of them will remain in their bowl for a while to be admired.
I will never have a swimming pool full of money- I will never even have a swimming pool full of buttons to backstroke in like Mr. McDuck. But today I have a bowl full of gorgeous big buttons, given to me by a thoughtful friend, to run my fingers through- I am rich beyond belief.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

EggHead (part 2)

A while ago, I posted about a piece I had begun but was unsure where to take it. I finished it today in preparation of submitting it for a show of artists' sketches, source books etcetc. I don't know- a bit cute, but I like it overall, rather cheerful for someone whose figures never have smiles on their faces (as someone pointed out to me.) Ambivalence rules... I have until the 2nd Monday of February to either commit or take another shot.

I am usually not this waffly about my work but I must admit the theme for this show threw me. My sketches are very rudimentary, just skimpy little pencil outlines. I have an idea, either rough or quite finished, in my head of how I want it to end up. Color sketch? Don't hold your breath. Working myself into artistic corners and then trying like hell to get out of them is typical.

Ah well. As my Great Aunt (and mentor although she didn't know it) Jean Webb used to say: "You can either talk or do."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More...

Okay, I have been sitting on my laurels for a week since my Kickstarter project made its goal, but those laurels are starting to smell a bit funky. So its time to get back to working the social web. I can continue to raise pledges until my deadline of March 21st. I turn to Robin Sloan, who raised an astounding 400% of his goal, as an inspiration. I would be thrilled to raise enough to print some extra books and do some traveling on behalf of the book and some other projects.
So, its back to the facebook, linkedin, and twitter trenches. Racking my pea-brain for ideas... but as problems go, this is such a luxury, and I am grateful.

(Lucubrate: (v) to work by lamplight... from The Word Project: Odd & Obscure Words- Illustrated.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Blessed Step Backwards

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced today that they had moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock back by one minute. The Clock now reads 23:54. Six minutes to Doomsday, but still a step in the right direction. Would that someday we will hear the announcement that the Clock reads12:01.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Gratitude: (n)

The state of being grateful; thankfulness. Synonyms: appreciation, gratefulness, thankfulness, thanks

[Middle English, from Old French, probably from Late Latin grātitūdō, from Latin grātus, pleasing.]

(Strepitant: (adj) boisterous, loud, exhuberant; from "The Word Project: Odd & Obscure Words- Illustrated")

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Publish 'The Word Project'" in the Kickstarter Spotlight!

I check the kickstarter site every once in a while to see what's in the 'spotlight' and also on the 'recommended' page. I have backed projects myself and am always interested in what's happening there. I was thrilled when I saw a while ago that my project had been recommended by the staff- bless 'em. Even more of a thrill to see today that "Publish 'The Word Project' " has been featured on the spotlight (front) page!

Thank you!

(Frumentarious: (adj) relating to corn, from "The Word Project: Odd & Obscure Words- Illustrated)

Friday, January 8, 2010


While I am recuperating from my cold, tending to my kickstarter project, (sorry, I just had to add that, it's become a compulsion) and after my daily job-search, I am working on pieces for upcoming shows and, well, I just need to keep making things. Here is a piece I am working on for a show at the WAAM entitled "Sketches" showing working process. It is currently simmering on the back burner of my brain- I haven't quite figured out where to take it yet- or where it wants to take me. Either way is fine with me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


We are at 75% and counting! Thanks to everyone who has pledged so far! Big virtual kisses to you all- which is a good thing as I have a bad cold and am scaring the bejeezus out of the cat with my explosive sneezing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Word Project has an Uber-Backer!

(Hystercine: (adj) resembling or referring to a hedgehog) This was me last evening- but happy.

Last evening I heard the little "bip" that signals email come in. I checked it- aha! another kickstarter pledge! yippee! Then I opened the email and saw that someone had pledged at the highest level. I was stunned and then I burst into tears. When I was setting up the project I had stopped the incentives at the $600 level (poster, signed book and a piece of existing WP art.) Even then I felt I was overreaching. (But I was proved wrong here, too. Bless you CA.) A wonderful friend, Mark Monlux, was the one who suggested setting an uber-backer level (poster, signed book and a custom word/doll using a word of the backer's choice.) My first thought was- "oh yeah, like that'll happen." But I put it in anyway quite sure no one would spring for it. I am happily proved wrong. Thank you, Mark, I wouldn't have dared to dream that large on my own behalf.
The project is now 68% funded and has 76 days to go. I am so very grateful to everyone who has pledged at every level.