Archive for March, 2013

And yes, it is high praise indeed when I come right out and recommend a company. Too many small companies are just subsidiaries of large corporations, and I’m not a big fan of large corporations.  In fact, this situation can get downright depressing at times.

But I am not here to bury small business. I am here, just as I said, to praise it!

Lucky and astute is the person who already patronizes American Science & Surplus, either through the company’s mail order catalogue or at one of its retail locations (in Chicago & Milwaukee). These fortunate customers have access to so many interesting and useful things, things you just don’t see anywhere else (well not at these prices, anyway).

AS&S (I vow that I am not in any way associated with this fine company except as a thrilled customer) is pretty much what it sounds like — surplus items, many of a scientific nature. But such surplus! You should check out their website (where you can also order a catalogue) and see for yourself how varied and rich and CHEAP is their selection, how clever is their commentary, how lovingly they put the whole thing together.

This is the only catalogue I read cover to cover. Yes, even the science section because EVERY section in this catalogue is likely to have something of use to me as an artist, and to open up my imagination in a way that those cookie-cutter magazines and their associated ads mentioned in my previous post can never ever do.

What have I received and put to use from AS&S? Hemostats! Silver paper! Wooden objects such as unpainted dice & round wheely type things! Doll heads! Doll legs! Twine! Cord! Ribbon! Fabric! Tweezers! Scissors! Wire! Chinese Rifflers! Rubber mats for cutting on! Lots of things to cut WITH! Paints! Beautiful glass bottles and jars to store paint and other things in! Cheap brushes for when I don’t need the fancy kind! And, really, so much more!

Let me just say that with AS&S, the possibilities really are endless. It’s icing on the cake that they’re so nice, and friendly, and funny.

I’m always telling people to patronize independent businesses, and AS&S has been chugging along like the Little Engine That Could since 1937 or thereabouts. They are unique and wonderful and you should be inspired by them and their offerings — so inspired you might order something today!

Okay, that’s enough exclamation marks for one post. (And one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to swear off exclamation marks … ah, well, so it goes …)

Anyway, here’s their website – have fun – (I personally have my eye on 2 pantographs for $4.95, you can’t beat that) – http://www.sciplus.com/s/c_2

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Fellow Starvelings,

You’ve seen them. I know you have. They’re usually in strip malls or retail complexes or even in the somewhat grander vertical malls, the ones with escalators and food courts where you can order Pad Thai. I’m talking about arts & crafts chain stores. They all have the same inventory in the same sections so if you’re in a far-away city you’ll still know just where to go for those Very Special non-toxic archival quality sparkly pens, or whatnot.

It should be obvious that I’m not talking here about independent artist supply stores, where the staff  knows something about making art, and tries to provide the highest quality merchandise to their patrons. Yes, these independents can sometimes be over our normal budgets, but sometimes the prices aren’t so  much more than the chains. Not to mention the fact that once in a while one really does need to splurge. (We starving artists especially deserve an occasional splurge, since we’re so tight-fisted otherwise & save our pennies for such eventualities.)

The chain stores are expensive, too, and I’m not just talking price. They sell gimcracky & faddish stuff, meant to fall apart. They sell KITS for heaven’s sake. All well and good for the youngsters, but don’t kid yourself that a finished kit in any way represents an artistic endeavor. They sell a lot of junk, and no  matter what junk is priced at it remains junk and is therefore expensive, wasteful, and time consuming. For the sake of honesty I should add that they do stock some respectable brands as well, often priced about the same as what you’d expect at the independent store (see above); so go for the independent in these cases.  I have nothing against handicraft, by the way, and am fully aware that it takes a lot of time and talent to produce some of the wonderful pieces I see at artisan exhibitions. One of a kind pieces, and again, NOT  made from kits. So this is not about art vs craft. It’s about the declaration that somehow by merely following directions and making something that looks “just like the picture” in the magazine one is making ART.

Personally, I blame the rise of these look-alike chain stores on the concurrent rise of glossy a&c magazines, expensive magazines with delusions of glory. You probably know the ones I mean. They’re big & colorful & full of ads for the very same merchandise to be found in the Big Boxes. It all begins to make sense, doesn’t it? And these very popular magazines are full of what they call “art” — which all looks alike. Boys and girls with angel wings. Ghastly mermaids. “Glamorous” tributes to such artistic cities as Paris and Florence, etc. etc. The magazine will feature articles (in actuality sets of instructions) which, according to them, will inspire the artist to new heights of imagination and skill as long, of course, as the artist uses the list of brand name products (coincidentally their ads appear in the magazine for ease of  acquisition)!

Your imagination will soar! The possibilities are endless! scream these magazines. Well, no. Copying someone else’s design does not require imagination, and the possibilities seem to end with the final bit of instruction.

Honorable craftspeople doing their own thing should be horrified at what these magazines (and shops) are doing to the concept of craft as well.  ART is the goal, even though what is being promoted isn’t ART at all. Craft, on the other hand, is relegated to the children’s department. When I think of the brilliant, original pieces of handicraft that I’ve seen at artisan exhibitions, the dismissal of craft in favor of GARBAGE AKA ART in these magazines makes me weep.

This is so messed up and turned upside down that I’m almost driven to despair. I’m beginning to see “art” pulled straight from the pages of these horrible magazines now hanging in galleries.

Perhaps I’ll be less grumpy next week. After all, the exhibition is going well and I sold one of my favorite pieces today! (or maybe that’s helping to make me grouchy — I’m losing one of my favorite pieces — bye, bye!) Hope to be writing about more unusual sources for materials that really *can* send your imagination into overdrive next week. In the meantime, Find time for art this week!

Greetings, Fellow Starvelings —

Well, I got ‘er done. That is, with the help of my cheerfully competent husband and my fellow exhibitors my first show is hung and will be appearing at the Hosmer Gallery at the Forbes Library in that artsy town of Northampton, MA, for the rest of March. You’re all welcome to come!

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And  now you know why I’ve been absent from this blog for the past few Sundays or so.

Having gone to quite a few small gallery s hows in my day, it occurs to me that much of the expense for the artist is putting a classy looking frame on the art. I’ve never seen the need for frames myself, but a lot of galleries insist on them. Sure, they make the presentation more “professional” for what that’s worth. They also make the piece look more expensive, more worthy of the money being asked for it. Or am I starting to sound a tad cynical?

Anyway, I’m very happy that the Hosmer seemed to understand that my stuff was never intended to be framed and they did  NOT insist. Partly because most of my stuff is obviously 3D (lots of layers to be seen from various angles).  Also, I often have pieces extending past the edge of the wooden board I use as platform.  The pictures look as though they’re uncontainable, and that’s part of the point.

Anyway, here’s a practical, easy, and cheap way to get your unframed pictures ready to hang. Get some wood “furring strips” at your local hardware store or lumberyard. Different sizes are available; get what will go horizontally across the back of your picture with a few inches to spare on each side. You’ll need two per picture (across the top & across the bottom). Pick up some screw eye hangers & wood glue while you’re at it.

Follow directions on wood glue, using clamps to hold the strips to the wood back, then allow 24 hours to dry completely. Wood glue gives a very strong hold when used wood-to-wood. Now screw in the hangers, one at each end of the top strip (I put mine right into the side, but you can also try an approach from above). You can use your fingers but after yesterday I recommend you get a forceps or something similar to reach in and do the twisting for you.

Now all you need is some strong fishline and you’re all set. You can buy fishline in massive spools and have a life-long supply for $40 – $45  or so. Or  you can get just what you need for a specific project. I was first-time lucky, because Hosmer gave us both fishline and hanging brackets.

What is the strip across the bottom good for? you may ask. Well, it  makes the picture hang straighter, eliminating much of the inward lean that so many pictures (framed or not) have without it, and which can make folks seasick just trying to meet a picture head-on.

Okay, now I’m left with the absolute and total disaster area that my living room has now become. Wasn’t I talking about organization just a few weeks ago? Ha ha!  I’ll tell you right now that no matter how organized you might normally be, the last few weeks before a deadline can wreak brand new havoc. At least I know what to do with the stuff I’ve been throwing around once I find it. There’s a place for everything. Of course, I also have to find the places under all this  junk.

See you all next week!