Wednesday 30 March 2011

Dilemma: I hate stuff, but I make stuff

I need to find a new place to live, and I am dithering as I always do about the when, where and how to accomplish this. I have a dog, which complicates matters intensely. Despite it being illegal to prohibit pets in this province, if not the country, it is almost impossible to find rental accommodation allowing a dog, and we both need ground floor access due to disability.

I have accumulated a sickening amount of crap since I returned from Italy in 1998, and I've found that in order to maintain even a semblance of order a junk room is essential. But in the end it means I'm paying double or triple in rent to store boxes of stuff that I never use, look at or read, stuff too good or cost me too much to throw out, give away or try to sell for a penny on the dollar at a lawn sale to become someone else's problem. But, ashes to ashes -- 90% of my stuff came from those same lawn sales, thrift stores and friends' cast-offs, and back it's all gonna go.

A few moves ago I counted 78 boxes of books alone. I'm one person: I moved here with a mountain of garbage bags stuffed with mostly unwearable fat, skinny and interim, winter, summer and interim, office, dress and hangout clothes, towels and bedding; bins of computer paraphernalia and art stuff (piles of framed drawings and empty frames, boxes of sketchbooks, portfolios containing drawings of all sizes, boxes and bins of drawing materials, paints, brushes, inks and tools); grocery bags containing freezer, fridge and cupboard contents. Then there are the various lamps, tables and chairs, the bed, couch, shelving... I'm only ONE person! Although I have to say, most of the furniture does fold or come apart for easier moving: my computer station consists of two doors 30x78 and 16x78 on glass block risers, set on two two-drawer filing cabinets, cables neatly fished through the door knob holes in the back. These came from the local Habitat for Humanity store, which, if we really must accumulate stuff, is a great place in which to find amazing and useful things for super-cheap, but a place I now force myself to drive on by, hands firmly on the wheel, finger well away from the turn indicator -- or even better, go nowhere near at all.

Some people are right brained or left brained. My heart still rules my head, where inner minimalist jostles for space with inner packrat. Right ventricle, left ventricle: my heart ebbs and flows, beats and soars with paper love, the smell, the texture, but I've come to love my dog and the thunder of silence and emptiness even more. I remember a handmade paper store in Paris in the Marais near the Seine in 1990, where I bought nothing, too intimidated to venture a few words in my execrable French. I have boxes of Italian rag paper sketchbooks sitting unused in the back room, and folders of pristine bristol finish rag printmaking paper. Always I am on the hunt for the perfect pencil.

My whole life I could not bring myself to throw out paper. Remember the '90s 5-Minute Manager, with its mantra of handle paper once? Now there was an epiphany. For almost 20 years I have been able to throw away the ripped envelopes and extra pages accompanying utility bills and bank statements, while reusing return envelopes. I was given a shredder for Christmas a few years ago which I used enthusiastically for several years. It's been sitting covered in dust for the three years I've lived here because I have a fireplace in which I burn all that paper now. Envision an ever-growing heap of paper and cracker box-filled garbage bags in the corner of the living room starting in May and running through to October. Yep. Fire starter. Not hoarding! Honest!

Parallelling, preceding and/or necessitating my present, if only mental, and future minimalist lifestyle comes a minimalist earning capacity. My ancient Blazer is on its last legs... wheels. With the jewellery-making (more mountains of stuff) comes the need to drive to markets and venues a considerable distance from where I currently live, which also means I'm away from this blasted computer and any work still trickling over the virtual transom. With the advent of portable high speed Internet connection, my problem may have been solved and I recently learned Paypal can be utilised via cell phones, so I may not require a POP/Interac machine.

This past week, I encountered the 100 Thing Challenge, The Moneyless Man, Twelve x Twelve, and others. My percolating 30 or 40 year dream, fueled by the books of Least Heat Moon, John Steinbeck, et al., has been to drive around North America. Not an original idea at all. I've taken the train across Canada several times, driven through BC and the Yukon umpteen times, I noodled around the US by bus back in the '70s when I was 20 and incredibly naive, in my late 30s and 40s I travelled across Europe and lived and worked, albeit illegally, in Italy for three years. Never should have left Italy, but that's another story. Now that that the freight train of old(er) age has barrelled into the station, and waaaaay far too early, it's get-off-the-pot time.

In the interest of less stuff and the obligatory even higher postage, Judy, my best pal in Vancouver of over 30 years, and I allow ourselves only gifts that fit into an envelope. My birthday gift this year was a newspaper clipping -- does this prove my friend truly knows me well or not? Paper, check; subject matter, double-check -- about Rae Crothers, self-confessed hoarder, who downsized and now lives in and works from an RV... somewhere. All I can say is wow. I've been watching videos on YouTube for a  month now on the ins and outs of RV living, who's doing it and where, and I'm hooked.

It's all coming together. Yesterday, I filled half a garbage bag with dead clothes, found the remaining pages of my tax papers buried in the back room, and started pricing the jewellery pictured in the last post.

Monday 28 March 2011


New jewellery pieces to get a final polishing, labelling and packaging before they go into the
Brantford Arts Block gallery shop.
 Do I like beads because stones are beautiful in and of themselves and I'm fascinated by the colours, the science, history and cultural aspects, or because I like to make jewellery? I favour blue beads. Way back when I first starting buying turquoise, I found a website where the jewellery-maker uses/sells only blue beads. What a neat concept I thought, and it really focused me in my own direction. I have to find that site again.

As far as making jewellery, well... that's a hard one. In my whole life I've rarely bought jewellery let alone worn what I've bought, partially because it gets in my way and partially because I rarely see something I like that I can also afford: Champagne tastes on a beer budget, c'est moi. I've talked to several people in the past year or two who simply collect jewellery. One guy told me he had a wall in his house that was covered in jewellery he had collected on his travels. He took me on a journey around the world up his arm: "I bought that bracelet in a market in Morocco, bought that in England, bought that in India..."

What constantly amazes me is how each person who wears jewellery completely transforms its appearance to the point I pretty much don't recognise my own jewellery once someone else is wearing it. It truly is wearable sculpture, and that in the end is how I approach making jewellery. It's my goal that my work will be that compelling an object of desire for someone that it's not merely thought of as something to be bought and worn to match an outfit for a season and discarded, but something that will be kept and worn for life around which to acquire and shed the garments.

I'm slowly building my own collection of blue beads. Amazing the range and variety of blues there are out there, opaque, translucent, rough, smooth, high polish, matte -- and I mean naturally blue, not dyed or enhanced in some way. Of course, various other colours are needed in order to make the blue even more blue (same for any colour), but I've noticed I need more of those stones than blue ones. Funny how that works: great for all the bead merchants out there. Is this a conspiracy?

It's also weird how I've never able to draw or paint in colour, but through contemplating the way the colours and textures go together or not, I'm gaining insight into how I might move on to painting in colour. The art schools teach you to lay out an entire palette of colours in advance. I was always puzzled by this insistence, because how could I -- and why would I -- do that when I didn't know what colours I would need, let alone what I was going to paint? In my logic, it was quite simply backwards.

But when I see I need a particular colour or size, then comes the long and often frustrating search for that one perfect, necessary and complementary shape and colour, always getting side-tracked at this point because I'm roaming outside of my normal buying paths where I end up acquiring all kinds of must-have things I never knew existed, let alone had any intention of buying... and I've probably still not found that elusive perfect bead. Yep, it's definitely a conspiracy and, yep, that was probably not a sentence.

Although I have to say, now that I'm a little more experienced, having been making jewellery for only three years, I actually walked out of a big big show a couple of weeks ago with $60 in my pocket. Not that I saw nothing more I wanted or needed, just that it had become an all-or-nothing situation. I saw a lust-worthy string of lumpy, nuggety silver spacers for $120 wholesale, I saw a stunning string of turquoise for -- $100? Or was it $200? I can't remember now -- retail. At that point it didn't even matter. I couldn't afford it. Yet.

The Brantford Arts Block

One of the venues that carries my jewellery is the Brantford Arts Block in the heart of downtown -- where else? -- Brantford, Ontario. The BAB is an active, stimulating and fun place to peruse, listen, think, study, watch, think some more... yes, shop too! -- and most of all participate for all ages and all backgrounds.

I mentioned my drawing/painting background. I'm a figurative artist. I was blown away by the current show on at the BAB which I saw on Saturday. Check out the raw and harrowing paintings by R. Gary Miller, in his show Mush Hole Remembered, up until April 9, 2011. Words fail.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Testing this new format

It's 8:56 on Sunday 27 March. The other entries I've made have no date or time stamps, like they're supposed to. Sheesh.

This is Max, the Johnny Depp of Dogdom. Border Collie/Bouvier cross. All the girl dogs are in love with him and all the boy dogs hate his guts.
He'll be 13 at the end of June.

I just spent 13 straight hours on this computer, updating blogs, websites, etc. I'm whupped. Off to read my book. I'm currently ploughing through all the books I can find by Andrew Vachss.

Well, that's it. I'm outta here. Hope tomorrow spring finally shows up.

Check out Magpie Gemstones

This is what I've been working on lately, trying to break up -- gasp! -- half a century's ingrained, matchy-matchy draftsmanlike precision and loosen up a little.

Stylised silver-plated pewter raven skull choker

Carved bone and pewter skull chokers with copper washer spacers

Silver-plated pewter raven skull

Silver-plated pewter raven skull earrings; copper skull earrings with copper washer dangles

Along with all the "normal" stuff of superb quality, Szarka manages to find the weirdest things. The raven skulls, bone carvings and copper washers are all from Magpie. Advice? If you like what you see, don't hesitate to order. Fast. Oh, and do yourself an even bigger favour and buy double or triple what you think you'll need because you may never see it again. Lesson learned the hard way. I reeeeeally want more of those bright and pretty washers. They are the handiest things ever! Lots of good information on Magpie Gemstones' website, tutorials, videos... I have to say it's become my virtual home away from home these days, great for poking around and learning nifty skills. Thanks, Szarka!

uh, oh...... several years have gone by

I can't believe that almost two years has gone by since I started this blog. I had resolved to post something new every day. But I didn't. I'm a procrastinator par excellence. The good news is, in the meantime the economy finally hit bottom but, if impulse jewellery buys are any indication, things seem to be turning around. And this awful, awful winter is finally drawing to a close. I'm well into the third year selling jewellery every Saturday at the Woodstock Farmer's Market. My jewellery can be found in two retail stores, Rekindled in Woodstock and Studio Works, Paris, Ontario, as well as the Brantford Arts Block gallery shop. Two new bead stores are carrying my silver leaves and flowers, Crafter's Cupboard, Guelph, which has just had their grand opening, and The Bead Boutique, Kitchener, which will be opening in April. I don't normally do craft shows, but I have been invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Spinners & Weavers Guild Open House in Woodstock, Ontario, on May 14th. This year they are including different crafts, including jewellery and pottery. Apologies as to the appearance of this page. As usual, I have zero understanding how the blogpost format works. Designers: pay attention. The original Pagemaker was the greatest layout program ever invented. Twenty-five years later, I have zero control over line spacing, and I found out the hard way that cutting and pasting text DOES NOT WORK. Moving pictures around and adding captions? Text wrapping? Oh, please. We shall see how it looks when I post it.