Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I Don't Sell My Art

Sometime shortly after I finished my first mosaic guitar, I was met with a familiar feeling. It's a slightly manic and charged emotion and although it feels good, it's really not.
This feeling is best described as "I could sell this and make a TON of money".

However, like most bad feelings, it's pretty detrimental.
When this feeling enters into my mind-set, my production rate sky-rockets. My quality doesn't suffer too much and my rational thinking disappears. I start to make things for some unseen audience. That effects every choice I make. Like I said, it really doesn't effect the quality too much, but it ceases to be an emotional endeavour. It also causes me to "rank" my pieces, "This one isn't good enough for selling, I should just pass it off..." bla, bla, bla.

At the very core of this is the fact that NOTHING of mine ever sells. Doesn't matter how good, original, well-crafted, high quality, beautiful, etc. my things are. The bottom line is they never sell.
The painted tennies.
The children's furniture.
The mosaics.

After 25 years of this, I can honestly say I couldn't sell a dollar for fifty cents...
I've never even aspired to that. It is like a strange, alien land that whole sales thing.

I plod along. Time heals a multitude of wounds and dulls the memories. I got really PUMPED UP after making Laura's mermaid guitar. I dove back into mosaics with a vengeance. So after a big summer of major mosaic making, I had a small show at a shop in town.
I sold a few little things, but not enough to warrant the 11 weeks of work and pounds of tile I'd bought.

And right then and there I gave it up.

I spent the following week feeling down. Unmotivated. I didn't want to start any more projects. I realized it was the feeling of failure that had dampened my drive. "Feeling" of failure. Because, when you look at it, I didn't fail. I only was unable to get a big pat on the back from a monetary source. Granted, our society is 99.9 wired into gratification and validation from financial sources, but certainly I'm better than that. Aren't I?

Mostly what I disliked and actually dreaded were the conversations about what I "should" do. There's a certain groove you "should" have to self-promote. Everyone has an opinion. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.

I know it is because we are all consumers. We all buy things therefore we all fancy ourselves a bit of an expert on what makes things sell. Despite what I know in my heart are people's good intentions, these conversations always made me feel awful. Talking about selling made me feel more of a failure as people addressed skills and strategies that I could never dream of having, and above that, skills I don't even want to have. Being good at sales is like aspiring to be a gymnast. I admire it, am in awe of it but I know there's no way on God's green earth I could ever do it. And again, I don't want to.

No one has anything bad to say about my work.
Not about the quality or creativity or color choices or anything.
What I do get are loads of comments about how expensive it is. It feels a little silly that it would just dawn on me that I couldn't make a small living selling my art...but here we are.

My mosaic shoes and skulls are small items. However, they take about 14-18 hours to complete each one. Then there's the cost of tile, grout, adhesive, etc. It adds up.
And most people would like to pay about, oh, $35 for one.
It's laughable and sad.

This is what Target/Wal Mart/Ross has done to us. Everything is disposable. Everything is replaceable and thus, NOTHING has value.

When you make something FOR someone, it is very different.
I've made a few quilts. When you are sewing that quilt for someone you know, you think about that person the entire time.
When you knit a sweater for someone, you have that person in your head every stitch.
When you are finished, your end product is elevated to a realm that is untouchable. It may not look that way to anyone else, but it will to you the creator.
There is no way to put a price on that. The validation is between you and the recipient.

Tom's guitar

Back to the failed sales at the show:
I decided shortly after that to NOT try to sell my work. I would continue to make things as I desired.
 If I found a worthy recipient, all the better.
It became just as difficult to discuss this "new" groove as the old one. People, friends, family all were stubbornly arguing against just giving the art away.
Key word in that last sentence? "just". It implies a weakness or a step down in stature.
"I'm just a stay at home mom."
"It's just an old sweater."
" It's just what we do in my house."
There's a silent apology hidden in there, but it is NOT how I feel when I just give the art away.

It is also difficult to explain that making art---and knowing full well you are NOT going to be compensated with money---is my WORK. People want to label it a hobby or tell me I'm spoiled in that I get to play around all day, but I see it very differently. It is my work and I am not ashamed by it nor do I really feel any need to defend it. I am LUCKY in that I can do my work and not have to take a salaried job. For now at least.

Without getting too weird, when I give something away, it does feel as if I've released a bird to the sky. My art is out there. It is all over the country. There's a toaster in New York. There is a guitar in Cathedral City, CA. There are yoga mat bags in Texas and mosaic shoes in Las Vegas and Indiana. This is success to me. I gave things to people who admired them. Everyone gets to be happy. I don't get off on being unselfish or gracious. What does it for me is putting something (anything) that I feel has worth into the hands of someone who values it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Halloween Treat "Bags"

For Halloween this year, I wanted to put the candy into treat bags. 
{yes, I know it is mere days before Thanksgiving as I write this, but whatev.}

However, Halloween Treat Bags were freaking expensive! It's bad enough I have to buy the CANDY...
Oh boy. I have totally become a cranky old lady.
So that's honestly the motivation for treat bags---I just want to hand out the candy and be done. No "3 for you and 5 for you". No worrying about will I have enough candy to make it through the night.
Thus the bags. But you know me---I want to spend, oh, $3 for four thousand bags...
Wasn't going to happen. But I did get this kinda cool idea:

Dixie cups! 200 for under $3!

Fill with as much candy as you like. I could fit 5. Next time I'll either get bigger cups or smaller candy. 30% of my candy was too big for the cup.

A quick, thin rim of Tacky Glue (none other)...

...set on a cupcake wrapper...

push it down to fit.

Turn upside down in a quick motion to dry.

Stack when set to dry over night.

That was it! I set out trays of these cups on the porch and checked it every so often. It was so painless! I never had to answer the door and no one seemed to abuse the "Please take one" directive.
All in all, I gave out 145 cups of candy :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stocking Sewing Marathon

I devoted the weekend to sewing stockings for Patricia's shop.
I ALMOST got everything finished, but I must admit, it may have been too much to blast through in 48 hours. I made 17 full size stockings and another 9 mini ones. I still have about 6-7 cut and ready to sew.

Friday update: I finally finished yesterday! I hope to deliver today.

Man, I tell ya---that iPhone camera sucks. Or I suck. Or both, but my old Samsung Eternity had the most KICK ASS camera on it. If you have any tips about taking better photos with the iPhone, I'm all ears.

Friday, October 11, 2013

For Jennifer: CA Style Thanksgiving

Do you know that if you're REALLY nice  you can get the guys in the meat department to SAW YOUR TURKEY IN HALF FOR YOU??
Then it can go on the BBQ! But let's back up a bit.

It was time for our 2nd annual Pre-Thanksgiving party. Last year I did the big traditional meal and it was fantastic, but I wanted to do something different this time. And it was husband's birthday, so since he is a vegetarian, I also wanted to be kind to him.

Turkey tacos it was! (husband had beans). I got the nice guy at Whole Foods to saw this bird in half. Then I added a bunch of spices to a container of yogurt that was about 3/4 full. Spices included: Chipotle powder, garlic salt, black pepper, smoked paprika.

I mixed it all up...
....poured it all over the bird(s) and let it sit for an hour at room temp.

Then they went on the BBQ over medium/low heat, inside-side down.

I cooked them, turning 2x 'till the breast was 160 degrees.

To this I added black beans, a nice green salad, salsa, guacamole, BBQ sweet potatoes (cut 'em like fries, coat in olive oil and bbq) and the topper: homemade tortillas. It all turned out fan-freekin'-tastic! Plus we're having a mini heat wave here in Northern Calif., so it was a delightful
82 degrees outside. Margaritas were had by all...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mosaic Workshop III

Do you know what? Last night (Wednesday--traditional workshop night), I had a STALKER!

One of my die-hard mosaic workshop alumni drove over thinking it was time to start Workshop III. Seeing the closed garage door---she was crushed! She went home and wailed about it on Facebook.

This my friends is an excellent endorsement! Thanks M'Kormik.


Register @ my etsy here :)

Dates/Times are Wednesdays, 7pm to 9 or 10pm (we get kinda into it and lose track of time...) from October 9th to Nov. 6th.

Fees are $75 for the studio time and there will be a supply fee ($25-80) based on what project you choose.
For now, just register with the $75 to hold your spot.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

 Here's the back of the Grateful Dead guitar I have made for my friend Tom.

In trade, I'm getting a killer catered birthday party on the 28th!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tomato Pie 
From More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Here's a great summer recipe that uses up your bumper crop of tomatoes. This is how it appears in the book, followed by my notes on what I do differently.

For the Crust:2 c all purpose flour
1 stick cold butter
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 c milk or buttermilk or a combo of the 2

Combine baking powder and flour in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives or your fingers till mixture resembles oatmeal. Add milk and mix just till it holds together, turn onto floured board and knead a few times, but don't overwork. Divide dough in half. Roll one half and line a 9" pie plate with it.

Add 2 lbs peeled fresh tomatoes (about 6 or so large tomatoes) quartered and drained in a colander for at least 30 minutes, or, a 28 oz can and a 12 oz can well drained canned tomatoes and scatter over the top:

chopped fresh basil or chives or scallions (amount to taste)
1 and 1/2 c grated cheddar cheese

Drizzle with 1/3 c mayonnaise that's been thinned with a little lemon juice

Roll out remaining dough and cover pie, seal edges and crimp, cut a few steam vents and bake at 400 for 25-35 minutes till bubbly.

Cool slightly and serve hot, warm or at room temp.

What I do differently:Add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 Tablespoons sugar to the dough.
Use basil AND scallions or oregano or whatever I have on hand. You can use dried herbs, but it is NOT the same.
Sprinkle the tomatoes, if they're fresh, with a little sugar.
Add 1/4 c finely chopped red onion.

Put a layer of cheese down on the bottom first on the dough before the tomatoes (I used brie once on the bottom and cheddar on the top and it was heavenly). Then the tomatoes, basil and remaining cheese. I've skipped the mayo and don't notice it's absence.It really is so fabulous hot out of the oven when the crust is not soggy and the cheese melted, but it's great even the next day zapped in the microwave. Store any leftovers in the 'fridge. Drain any juices in the pan before I put it away.

I would seriously recommend this author to you. Her fiction is OK, but the two collections of food essays are wonderful reading. They are Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. Check 'em out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

That's When The Magic Happens...

... is one of those dumb things I say to myself when I'm working on a mosaic. It happens when a piece of cut tile fits perfectly up against another cut piece or when I cut a tile and it just conforms to the perfect shape---usually a curve.

Think about how nice squares of tile line up when they are straight edged and on a grid. Everything is even and perfect. All the joints are the same. But grids get boring and unless you're a Tetris fan, there's not much joy in them. So you get some glass tile cutters and with crossed fingers (figuratively, not literally. Jeepers! Who could cut tile with crossed fingers...?) AHEM, you start to trim those tiny squares into new shapes.

However, they are glass! They don't flex! So cutting those squares into smaller squares, triangles or rectangles is pretty easy....but curves? More hit and miss. Mostly miss.

When all the stars line up and I wind up with a perfect curve (and it has nothing at all to do with skill in cutting and everything to do with luck) I place that curve and think "That's when the magic happens..."
And that makes me happy.

Here's an amazing example from the guitar I'm working on. Not only did the top curve fit perfectly, but the bottom curve goes in the OPPOSITE direction and it mirrors the tiles it's up against. The real craziness is that I didn't cut that blue tile to fit the space. I just cut up a pile of squares randomly and started to see if anything that was produced would work next to the black tiles which were already glued and dried.

What you're looking at is a teddy-bear face. The blue tile is the fur and the black is the nose and eye. It may look like a big gap under the blue tile, but that is a black tile as the top curve of the nose---a lovely fit.
So satisfying.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aunt Pammy's Old-Time Dildo Bags

Last Christmas, I sent some reusable fabric gift bags to a dear friend. She liked them. She liked them and used them for lots of different things. One day she confessed that these bags were the perfect place to store her dildo.

Moving right along...

Then she suggested I make some more and sell them as dildo bags or, the more classy "Adult Toy Storage".
Just trying to imagine ME (who cannot sell anything to anybody----Honestly! I couldn't sell a cigarette to Don Draper), trying to SELL something as uh, interesting, as Dildo Bags...well. It never ceases to make me snicker.

As a joke, I made up a bunch of these bags and sent them to her.
I have to admit---they look awesome!

Should I put these in my etsy shop?!I can make smaller ones for Vibrators. OMG! I could do a whole line!
Because when you need the best in dildo storage, look no further than Aunt Pammy's. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Custom Guitar for Dan

A high school classmate sent me this beautiful but non-working guitar. It was a total blast to put a mosaic on it. Such great lines!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mosaic Workshop II

The first Mosaic Workshop is winding to a close and it's time to sign up for the next one :)

Wednesday nights at 7:30 to 9 or 9:30 in my super fancy garage.

All supplies are included.

Dates are August 7, 14, 21, 28, September 4, and 11th.

 You will learn the technique and start your project on the first evening. You do not have to attend every single class. It's a workshop where you can drop in on the evenings that work for you and you will get a feel for how long it will take you to finish the project.

For Workshop II, we will be making a mosaic wine bottle(s). If you're quick, you can make two! If you're ambitious, you can do a magnum...

The cost is $95 and this includes 12 hours of studio time and all the tile, adhesive, grout, sealer and of course the bottle.
(If you choose the magnum, add $20 for the extra tile/supplies required.)

TO REGISTER: Reply to the invite on Facebook or send me an email at You will pay on the first night. I take cash, checks or even VISA.

These make AMAZING gifts. A real "Napa Valley" piece that's not touristy or cornball.

Here are some gorgeous examples I found on the 'net for inspiration:

Friday, July 19, 2013

LOVE Guitar

A new guitar hits the shop today. It's all about LOVE.

Monday, June 10, 2013

by popular demand: MOSAIC WORKSHOP!

I've been asked to run/teach a mosaic class this summer and I'm very happy to oblige!

We will meet on Wednesday evenings starting at 7:30 and going until 8:30 or 9 in my super fancy garage.
All supplies* are included.

Dates are June 26, July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31.
You don't have to attend every class. Think of it more as a workshop. You will get an idea of how long it will take to complete the project.

Fees are based on the size of the project you choose. For example, a large piece (like a table top) will take more tiles, mastic, grout and studio time thus costing more than a smaller piece (like a wine bottle).

*If you have your heart set on doing a piece I'm not offering, you are welcome to bring it yourself and we'll figure out the tile cost/studio time.

You can pay by cash, check or credit card on the first class.
Please send me an email, text or Facebook message to reserve your spot.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tiramisu-ish Cake

This year, I've been the "Birthday Baker" for the Math department at Napa High. Sounds about right.
Whenever one of the math teachers has a birthday, I get to go nuts and make something fun. I really love cakes with whipped cream, but they don't travel well. After a few hours, the cream can get limp and start to "weep"---not a good thing.

I knew I wanted to make this Tiramisu inspired cake I'd make at home a few weeks back, but I needed to lighten it up (who eats mascarpone cheese anyhow?) and get it sturdy enough to travel to school and hang out in the staff room. I also wanted to make sure the cake would cut cleanly into nice slices. My cake at home was super delicious but more a jumbled heap of stuff rather than an actual slice of cake.

I decided to substitute a pudding based filling for the cheese filling. I firmed up the pudding with a little extra cornstarch. It's not terribly pretty--the pudding got very lumpy and gummy, but it tasted fine, and once in the cake--no lumps.

I also firmed up the whipped cream with an old trick: Knox gelatin. Works like a dream. That whipped cream stays whipped for days and days.

The result? Sean said it may be the best cake he ever had! Yippee!

So first: the photos...

Make a syrup out of the sugars, espresso powder, Frangelica,  and water.

In a blender or food processor, grind chocolate chips, ginger cookies, espresso powder.

Vanilla pudding make with whole milk and 1/2 and 1/2, and with syrup and cornstarch added.

Not the prettiest as it cools off. Don't worry, no one will see or detect the lumps.

Whipped cream with the Knox gelatin.
Split both layers in half.

Ready to assemble? Each cake layer gets brushed with syrup. Except it's really hard to do that without tearing up all the crumbs and making a mess. For me, it's more of a drizzle, dab, dab, dab to get the syrup evenly on the cake.

For some reason, constantly turning my head to read the recipe is preferable to actually taking it down to read :p

After the syrup, spread a layer of whipped cream.


Sprinkle with a layer of the chocolate/cookie crumbles.

Set another cake layer on top, dab on the syrup and spread the 2/3 of the pudding on.
Sprinkle with chocolate/cookie mixture and top with another cake layer. Repeat steps with the rest of the whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate/cookie mixture. Top with last cake layer.

Last cake layer: Dab on syrup. Spread last 1/3 of pudding on top. It will be pretty gummy. Don't worry! This is really just to the last layer of chocolate/cookie mixture has something to cling to.

This layer can be nice and thick.

Chill well. I doubled the recipe since I was making such a mess. Might as well have 2 cakes for the mess of 1...

The Cake:

13 T butter, soft

1 c. sugar

1/3 c honey

2 eggs

3 yolks

1 t vanilla

1/2 c milk

2 c flour

2 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 325F. Prep two 9" baking pans with butter, flour and parchment and set aside.

In small bowl, empty one envelope of Knox unflavored gelatin and pour over 1/3 c boiling water. Stir till dissolved. Set aside.

In another bowl, whip eggs, yolks, espresso, vanilla and milk. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder with a whisk*.
( To be honest--I never do this. I just do a little flour, a little baking powder, a little flour till it gets mixed. But if you're a purist, follow the directions.)

In a mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar with the paddle attachment till light and fluffy. Add honey and beat well again. 

Taking turns, add a bit of the egg mixture and then a bit of the flour and baking soda-- beat after each addition and continue till thoroughly mixed and ribbons when you pour it. Divide equally between the two pans and bake for 35 minutes, till a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5-10 minutes before turning layers out on to a cooling rack.

1 c sugar
2T Instant espresso powder
1/2 c Frangelica (or Kahlua, or any other sweet liqueur)
1/2 c water
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook till sugar is totally dissolved. Set aside and let cool.

Pudding Filling:

Get a box of cook and serve vanilla pudding. DO NOT USE INSTANT. Make according to directions using whole milk ( or whole milk and half and half) and adding 2 t cornstarch. As soon as pudding boils, add 1/4 c of the syrup. Let cool completely. 

Whipped cream:

Whip a half pint of heavy cream with 1.5 t of sugar. When it looks gloppy, but no peaks have formed, take about 1/2 c of it and mix with the Knox gel till well incorporated. The Knox gel should be totally liquid and warm room temperature. If it's cold, it becomes JELLO and will make unattractive, gooey "bugers" in your cream.
If the gel has set up, add a little more hot water or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds.
Add the cream/ gel to the bowl and continue to whip till stiff peaks form. Chill.

Chocolate/Cookie Mix

In a blender or food processor, combine 
1/2 c chocolate chips
1c Ginger cookies (I like the Trader Joe's Cat Cookies)
1T of espresso powder
1T unsweetened cocoa powder

Blend till the chocolate chips are tiny bits. Set aside.

When everything is totally cool (cake, syrup, pudding, whipped cream), assemble the cake.
First, split the 2 layers horizontally and separate. Set aside one "bottom" half. This will be the very top layer and I use it 'cause it has a nice flat top and crisp edges.

Put first half layer of cake on your serving plate cut side up. Brush with syrup by drizzling some syrup on cake and them dabbing the brush around. Actually BRUSHING the syrup will drag up crumbs and make a mess.

Spread half of the whipped cream on the layer and then sprinkle about 1/4c of the chocolate-cookie crumbs mix on top. Put another layer of cake on top of this, cut side up.

Repeat the syrup dabbing and spread this layer with 2/3 of the pudding. It will look and feel gummy and lumpy. It matters not.
Sprinkle with  the chocolate/cookie mixture and top with another layer of cake, cut side up.

Repeat syrup dabbing and top with remaining whipped cream and sprinkle with choc-cookie mix. Top with last layer BAKED SIDE UP. Spread last 1/3 of the pudding on. It won't be very thick, and sprinkle heavily with choc-cookie mix.

Chill thoroughly, 6 hrs or over night. After about 2 hrs, you can cover it with some plastic wrap.
This cake should be good to go and cut beautifully. Keep any left-overs in the refrigerator.

Here's the original recipe if you are interested...Tiramisu Birthday Cake