Sunday, December 20, 2015

Whew. Last show of the year

The new coffeehouse/art space is hosting this short and sweet show today. I'm stocking
the Cincinnati neighborhood bumper stickers, letterpress gift tags, greeting cards big and small (including some new ones). See you later. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's a date: 2016 calendars

Here's a look at details of the images inside the 2016 calendars, all reproductions of my collages. Most of the pieces were created in 2015, and many of them have not been seen before by the public since they were made for a special project or just for the calendar ...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Card tricks

I field questions almost daily about my greeting cards, most of which re-use antique and vintage images. It's fun to talk about where material is found (flea markets, book sales, auctions, etc.), the process of scanning and manipulation, which can be extensive.

Images from my archive are the only ones used. This way, I know exactly where they came from (which is explained on the back of each card) and there's no worry about permissions, etc. Respecting copyright is a concern of mine, so copyright-free images are all I use. (Copyright is complicated; find out more at the U.S. copyright office web site.)

Some images are works-in-progress; tweaked before their next printing (oh, the printing? done by me). Complicated, antique engravings are the most difficult to reproduce clearly, and often require a pixel-by-pixel facelift. But the best way to explain the process may be via the evolution of a recent card …

The girl illustrating a story in the Dec. 1873 issue
of  St. Nicholas magazine catches my eye.
She seems perfect for a book plate
So, the image is scanned, duplicated,
then, the copy* is cropped
and lightened. *I always leave the
original image intact in case I need
to go back to it later,

She is removed from the background,
and cleaned up a bit by erasing lines,
which will make a crisper image.
Then, she is flipped to face right
(because at this point, I decide to
make her into a card and want her
to face the side that opens).

Next, she and the books are colorized
using Photoshop, and more books are
added to the bottom right since she
is looking in that direction.
The card looks a little bare, so a gradient
background is added, and a thin border.
The background color is altered during
printing to add more variety.

She is put into a card template I developed, then the information
is added to the back of the card, and she's ready for printing! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Making ends meet

On the hunt again. This time, for endpapers. You know, the papers pasted into the front and back of books. Specifically, antique endpapers. With any kind of pattern from marbled to narrative to floral. The worse shape they're in, the better, since they're being cut up for a big new collage project: a Victorian crazy quilt made entirely of paper.

The hope is that that in the end, it will look similar to the quilt above, a fabric family heirloom belonging to my friend Mary Heider. Since Victorian women used the overlooked scraps from other sewing projects as their material (waste not, want not), it seemed that endpapers would be appropriate. Some look like fabric. Some look quite luxurious. Others are drab. Of course, they also are papers with a past, another reason to use them.

The point is to mix them up willy nilly (not as easy as it seems for an artist used to putting things in order) on the quilt. Then, to embellish and embroider it to the nth degree.

It started with this block of pieces glued onto book cloth. Book cloth was picked, because I knew it would adhere to paper well, would be easy to sew through, and I wanted some kind of fabric in the piece. But the backing has since been switched to rice paper, in keeping with the all paper theme. Different glues are being used depending on the endpaper: PVA, gel medium, even some double backed tape.  

Here are close ups of two more squares … on the top one, you can see what I mean about papers that look like fabric. On the bottom one, an antique embroidery pattern from Peterson's magazines is inserted. At the bottom are more antique embroidery patterns that will be used in place of traditional embroidered ones. I searched my archive specifically for patterns printed with faux stitching.    

Once the individual blocks are finished, there will be 12 or 20, then the crazy embroidery begins. For it, I'm using vintage embroidery thread that belonged to my late mother. It will be my winter project. Then, the decision comes whether to join the blocks together to make one "quilt" or to hang them separately (but very close to one another) on cradled wood panels.

The exhibition this is being made for is a solo exhibit of my work titled "Remnants" that opens mid-June at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, CO.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The images above? Designs for 15 new seed packets in the Hudson Valley Seed Library's annual Art Pack Program for which it commissions artists country wide to create package covers. I'm one of the artists, chosen from a field of 400 or so, to design one of the 2016 Art Packs.

Mine is No. 14, and tells the story of how archeologists discovered that snow peas were planted in prehistoric times. The variety: Giant Swiss Snow Peas.

For the collage, I used an antique map of Switzerland to create the mountains, layered vintage wrapping papers with cut-out snowflakes for the sky, dug up an antique engraving of an archeological expedition for the bottom, as well as snow pea "fossils" created from antique engravings, and - finally - vintage images for the vivid flowers of the pea vine, and I ended up designing the peas using a vintage illustration as my inspiration (yes, I try to use original paper only in my work, but had to improvise
for this because I could not find enough snow peas in different sizes to use).

It's exciting to be selected, because years ago I wrote about the program on the old blog. Love the idea of the company continuing the tradition of great seed catalog/packet art that thrived in the Victorian/Edwardian eras, the heyday of chromolithographed catalogs now coveted by collectors.

The packets and catalog will be available Nov. 1, 2015. There's a vote on through Friday Oct. 9 to pick one of the designs for the 2016 catalog cover. Just sayin.'

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Same place, but new studio

So, the last post reported that I was back in the studio after a five-month absence while undergoing chemo. Six weeks later and I'm in a new studio, but still at Cincinnati's Brazee Street Studios.

It's a much larger space in what's nicknamed the "Brazee Barn," a pole barn behind the main building that was converted into a space for four studios. It's a light-filled studio with five windows (including a trio that open), super-high ceilings, and enough room to work on some of the larger pieces I have in mind for "Remnants," my solo show next summer at Colorado's Loveland Museum.

Here's a glimpse of the big move …
Piling up boxes in anticipation, along with a moving dolly
lent by my studio neighbor, mosaic artist Joyce Kaufman.
The dolly proved indispensable for moving furniture. 
Chaos after the work tables were moved.

Work table top ready to be moved,
along with everything around it,
so that the huge flat file could be tackled.

The start of rolling up all the maps, prints, etc.
from the flat file, which took 2.5 hours to empty.

Two views of the new studio with just the work tables,
and smaller shelves. They were moved first, so we could
pile stuff on them as the move progressed.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ah, back in the studio, finally

The studio's been a mess, with all manner of goodies piling up as I've recovered from the final round of heavy-metal chemo. Now, I'm back to the regular, not-so-toxic infusions (though with an additional drug whose side effects are still manifesting themselves). No matter. I spent last week in the studio working on collages for the Carnegie's 2015 Community Supported Art project, and have been on a tear. But before getting to all the cutting, tearing, and pasting, there was stuff to sort, and put away, including …

an assortment of odd/cool chemistry lab beakers and test tubes (a donation to Brazee from a high school teacher) that will be used as part of the "Miracles" series, when I return to it …

… a selection of museum-quality frames (thanks to my friend Nick Paddock) that also are earmarked for the "Miracles" series …

… engravings, and more engravings that had to be scanned before being used, and which are destined for the Carnegie collages … you can see the start of one of the collages above, and a closer view of it below ...

I'll be posting plenty more images since there will be, gulp, 50 collages in the series!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day back when it was Decoration Day

Postmarked May 28, 1913.
At 31, future president James Garfield
became a brigadier general in the
Union Army, then, a major general
of volunteers at age 33.
I thought I had posted Memorial Day postcards from the archive in the past. And had planned to link to them, but a search through the blog did not turn up a single one. Odd.

So, I scanned in a batch. As the headline notes, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a public tribute to those who had fought in America's Civil War. My holiday postcard collection contains images from before 1919, so it reflects this initial celebration, which later morphed into a day to acknowledge all those who fought in our country's wars.

I'd like to think that I do not believe in war. I've marched against war on many occasions, and been arrested during a few of them. But even I know that there are times when war has been necessary, and that whether I back a war or not, I do respect those who have served … including two of my brothers, my father, quite a few of my uncles, and others in the past.

Postmarked Wooster, OH, May 29, 1909. Publisher unknown.


Two postcards by artist Ellen Clapsaddle (above) that were published by the International Art Publishing Co. of New York and Berlin. Both were printed in Germany. The one on the left was never mailed; the one on the right is postmarked Cleveland, May 27, 1912.

Published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, Decoration Day series No. 107. 
Published by Cincinnati's Gibson Art Co.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Open studio! Friday May 8

I'm flying high!
So, I reached the end of the heavy-metal round of chemo, and am celebrating by throwing open the doors to the studio for the second Open Studios of the year at Brazee Street Studios.

Yes, I may be a bit wobbly, and more than a bit bald, and bruised. BUT the weather is fabulous, there are some new greeting cards in the studio, plus copies of "Harper Ever After", the Charley and Edie Harper book I penned the essay for, for sale ($5 off the list price), and the studio is freshly painted, and cleaned (thanks to the loving Mr. P and  The Kid).

On top of all that, a cool exhibit is opening in the C-Link Gallery, and there will be lots more happening throughout the Brazee campus from glass blowing demos to ballroom dancing (not kidding).

Look for me on the first floor, right across from the gallery!

Note: image above is from a recent find: Vol. 3 of the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana or Universal Dictionary of Knowledge, London, 1845.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How can this be? Light where dark was expected

This is the moment in chemo that I call the dark night of the soul. When the steroids that have been propping me up in the days immediately following treatment, stop working, and the chemicals take a nasty turn.

But, something surprising has happened, instead of curling up into and a ball, and retreating into myself (in short: throwing an internal pity party with me as the solo guest), I'm filled with light, and joy.

It is not an epiphany. At least I don't think so. No. It's the accumulated impact of hundreds of small, but genuinely heartfelt, things during the past four months.

It is Joe and Pat Moellers dropping off a ginormous vase of daffodils from their garden yesterday afternoon ... the shasta daisies from Pat Frey still abloom on the dining room table, along with the vivid yellow tulips from Mr. P that smell like honey … and the vivid bouquet of mixed flowers atop the mantle from Carol and Jon Falk ...

It is the snail mail cards and notes, many handmade, others bought because they were handmade, that arrive almost daily ... the card signed by the staff of the Friends of the Library shop (where my greeting cards are a teensy part of their business), the graceful card and "courage" bookmark made by calligrapher Maryanne Burke …

It is the bag of inspirational books that Peg Rhein dropped off, along with a few additions to the collage stash … the goofy care packages from Betsa Marsh of snarky books whose pages hide "Downtown Abbey" quotes, funny news clips, and Monopoly money (the latter is a whole other post) … the "mix-Nano" from Michael Roberts that drowns out the worst moments …

It is kielbasa from Buffalo via John Byczkowski, who holds out the hope that I will be able to taste it sooner or later … the warm pot of chicken chili that Julie Engebrecht dropped off that came complete with an array of garnishes (fresh cilantro, corn chips, grated cheese) and dessert from the Bonbonerie … the lunches at Jo-Beth's cafe on two of my "good days" with Carol Kerr, and Betsa Marsh ...

It is the tiny crystal angels sent by my baby sister, Helen, and the socks to wear to chemo that say "fuck this shit" … the cards sent by my sister-in-law Ann Caswell in my older brother Rick's stead (he's recovering from his own health problems) … the surprise call from my baby brother, Matthew …

It is the e-mails from my Aunt Marlene and my friend Shirley Tenhover when they have not received an update in a while … the news about what's happening in everyone else's life that helps me stay in touch, and to think beyond myself … the offers of rides, the visits in the chemo suite by Leslie Daly and Kathy Holwadel, the brief "art field trips" with painter Lisa Molyneux ...

Yeah, this is starting to sound schmaltzy, like "a few of my favorite things." Yet there is one more thing to mention …

One of the many deer images I'm collecting.
From Animate Creation: Vol. 2 (1885).

It is the healing image of a deer grazing among white aspens, surrounded by the herd; an image given to me months ago by Mary Hargrove and her spirit guides.

Those who know me well, know that I'm not exactly a "healing image" kind of person. I went along with it during the first round of chemo/radiation in 2009/10 as a favor to my friend Betsa. "Can't hurt," I told myself after much cajoling to pick an image.

Back then, I settled on the moon. During the darkest times, I imagined walking along a beach under a moonlit sky, waves gently lapping my bare feet, a slight chill in the air. It was soothing, yet something was missing …

I was alone.

Not that everyone wasn't supporting me in the way they are now; they were, maybe even more so, because the Stage 4 diagnosis was so sudden, and alarming. No, it was me. I was determined not to be defined by cancer, not to be needy, not to be hurting, not to be afraid ... in short, not to appear weak.

Part of that lingers, but it has been surpassed by the knowledge that the more you give, that the more you open up, the more you get. So, my thoughts have turned to the good things in life, and that's where they will stay, as I graze among the aspens in the clear light of a spring afternoon … surrounded by my herd.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I will be closed for tonight's Open Studios at Brazee
but please pop by to see the other studios

I try not to miss a single Open Studios event at Brazee Street Studios
especially not the opening one of the season, but must pass this time.
 There will be lots happening tonight, so please drop in to see
 the other artists' studios; live glass blowing demos;
 "WORD IMAGE OBJECT," the new exhibit in the gallery
 by Miami University Department of Art students.

See you in May! Come chemo or high water ...   

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Right thing, wrong time? Maybe, maybe not ...

Sometimes, the right thing happens at the wrong time.

Last summer, I received an e-mail from Brett Harper, the son of the late Edie and Charley Harper, asking me if I would be interested in writing the main essay for a book about his parents' early work as artists.

Flattering? You bet. Was I interested? No.

A few days before the message hit my in box, I'd decided it was time to stop up writing about other people's art, and to focus on my own art. I'd already quit writing for an online arts zine, and for a local monthly.

But, hmmm, a book? It would be a one-shot deal. It would pay the studio rent for a nice chunk of time, freeing me up to work on collage series I kept putting off. And it would be about artists whose work I enjoy.

So, I said yes. The publisher, Pomegranate Press, was fantastic to work with. I had complete access to the Harper archives, including the letters that Charley wrote to Edie during World War II, which Harper archivist Chip Doyle had finished scanning just before my deadline. There were plenty of surprises along the way, and although I don't find writing to be easy I love the research and ended up having - dare I say it? - fun!

Topping off this dream job: the editing process was painless; a few questions and tweaks, and that was it.

Fast forward to now, the week of Harper Ever After's official release. A huge feature about the book appears on the cover of the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer's A&E section. Books start landing in stores. PR begins. Where am I? Here's where we come to the second part of "right thing, wrong time."

I am lying in bed for days on end. My stomach is churning. My fingers and toes are numb. My nose won't stop bleeding, and my eyes are so watery there are times that reading is impossible. I can't taste much of anything, but eat because I know I have to. My hair is gone. My bones ache. Waves of nausea run over me. Cold sores blanket the inside of my mouth.

In short: chemo. My Stage Four breast cancer, which my incredible oncologist has kept at bay for a little more than five years, is active again. We discover this by accident. Complaints about pain in my right hip, which I am convinced is not from cancer, lead to a PET scan.

I was right; no cancer in my right hip (it's later diagnosed as bursitis). It's in my left hip, left femur, left ribs, and spine.

Well, damn. Cody (that would be Dr. Robert Cody) swings into action. My regular maintenance chemo, which is really more "bio" than "chemo," gets ramped up with two more drugs. One is Taxotere, a drug that whomped my butt during my first high-level chemo adventure in 2009.

Ugh. Do NOT want it. What was it I said, maybe yelled, after the initial chemo was ending? Oh, yeah, "I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER do this again."

But the past four years have been so incredible ... the start of a new career, and business; The Kid's graduation from college (which I was certain I would not live to see), then, her Master's Degree; Mr. P's continuing love, humor, and pending retirement; amazing times with friends and family.

I bite the bullet.

Three months have passed. There are two more treatments to go. It takes longer to bounce back each time, and I start withdrawing from the world and into myself.  Then, I pull myself back out again. Not by myself but with plenty of help from family and friends. True friends come through at times like this, ignoring my inclination to hide.

In early May scans will determine whether this has worked (fingers crossed). Those will be followed by a quick operation in June (a problem caused by the chemo).

By July, I'll be raring to go. Actually, I'm raring to go now, and do have windows of feeling relatively okay. Usually a few days before the next treatment. But even then, it's been impossible to work on collages. So, I've focused on the greeting cards.

As for my 15 minutes of fame, via Edie and Charley? Even if I'm not gadding about shooting selfies of me with book displays, fielding interview questions, or massaging a sore wrist from book signings, I've come to realize that maybe this isn't such a wrong time. Opening the front door the other day, and seeing the box of books on my front porch was the perfect pick me up. I still can't stop smiling.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Porkopolis St. Pat's

Cincinnati picked up the nickname "Porkopolis" back in the 19th century when this river city was a center of the pork packing industry. The name stuck, even long after the last pig ran through our streets. Pigs also have been a long-time symbol of abundance and prosperity. So, after spotting this trio of delightful St. Patrick's Day postcards in the archive (the physical archive, not the electronic one), I just had to share them; all were published by London's Raphael Tuck and Sons in its St. Patrick's Day Post Cards series No. 106.
The writing's on the front of the postcard,
because it was published
when addresses only were allowed
on the back, a convention
that was about to change.
It's postmarked March 17, 1907
from Philadelphia, PA, and was sent
to Mrs. E. Lapp, Wyoming, DE. 

Postmarked March 16, 1908, but
the city name has faded. It was sent to
Mr. Edward Bruner, Holton, IN.

Postmarked Cincinnati, March 17, 1909,
 and sent to Miss Georgie Martin,
3308 Gilbert Ave., City.