Wednesday, September 27, 2006

TACA Fall Craft Fair at Centennial Park

I have to preface this post with context:

One of my freelance jobs lately has me culling information from various press releases to fit the most pertinent info for readers into a set amount of pages. I hand this in to the editor and he makes sure it all works and they print it in their magazine. This has been VERY educational to me.

Writing press releases -- effective press releases -- is an art.

We all know BAD press releases/info when we read them. They just make no sense. They take too long to get to the point. The worst of them never really tell you what they're selling!

This is something all aspiring authors (non fiction or fiction) and all working artists really need to keep in mind when they send press releases out. Does it tell me exactly and all about what you're selling? (I don't have time to call you to clarify this murky copy!!)

When I bump into a well written press release or am given great marketing material -- oh my goodness! It's like a gem found in the sand. It's a lovely thing to see and read and I appreciate their work all the more.
All this then, to preface the most excellent postcard I got from TACA last week. The Tennessee Association of Craft Artists is holding their Fall Craft Fair this weekend at Centennial Park.

On the back of the postcard they listed the Top 13 Reasons to Attend the TACA Fall Craft Fair, and I HAD to share them with you here!

Top 13 Reasons to Attend the TACA Fall Craft Fair

13. Polish off your holiday list 86 days early.
12. Free Admission=Cheap Date.
11. It’s the only event in Nashville where cowboy hats are optional.
10. Unhook your kid from his/her Gameboy, X-Box, and I-Pod with “TACA Kids Unplugged”.
9. Crafts are chick magnets.
8. Find out if a lip wrap is: a) a cosmetic procedure, b) a boxing injury, c) a glass technique, or d) illegal in Alabama.
7. Real men dig craft demos.
6. Shop til you drop! (We’ll have paramedics on-site)
5. Where else can you see someone throwing mud without wrestling?
4. Add sgraffito, cloisonné, and murrini to your vocabulary.
3. Our director’s name is Craig Nutt.
2. He can tell his sgraffito from his burrito. (But he doesn’t know his warp from his weft).
1. Because sometimes chicken comes on a stick.

LOL. I enjoyed this list a lot.

Beautiful crafts, and a sense of humor, too! What's not to like? Go enjoy the park and meet these talented craftsmen and craftswomen and support local artists!

The fair starts on Friday at 10 am, and runs til 6pm. Saturday it runs from 10am to 6pm and Sunday it runs from 10am to 5pm. Centennial Park is sandwiched in Midtown, within West End and Charlotte and 25 - 28th Avenues.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The 45 Degree Angle (Back Onto a Straight Line)

Life is so interesting. Sometimes ya just gotta figure out a plan, try it on for size, then adjust accordingly.

I'd started out the summer with plans of formalizing and developing a graphic design studio. Let's call it The Summer Formula. I had big plans for it, too. I figured I could do that sort of thing and support making webcomics that way. Eventually I could earn enough to print them. (Told ya. I was thinking big.)

Or at least that WAS the plan until the computer equipment rebelled. Seriously. Once that happens that pretty much trashes any graphic design plans, since a GD studio hinges on your equipment.

So I couldn't get my CD burner to work. My printer started to freak out when I wanted to print in color(!). The browsers were spazzing. I couldn't even blog while I figured all this out (there's about a two week break in these Blog archives between the end of August/early September.) And it wasn't a virus causing this; we checked many, many times. Systems were clean.

But it probably is partially my own fault; I've asked God to be REALLY obvious with me about my artwork. My birthday was coming up and that always makes me reflect on what I've done/where I'm going. And I've worn many (weird) hats over the years as I've tried things on for size to figure out what was mine to do: Painter, Stage Manager, Opera Singer, Production Manager, Web Comic Artist. Sometimes you can be a Jack of All Trades & Master At None.

OR sometimes you can be smart, fit a little of everything in, manage your time well and have a really fun life.

What has happened this summer instead -- VERY long story short -- is the webcomics have temporarily stopped while I start on a new comic strip that Chris is writing for us. (YAY!) I hope to start posting that by the end of October. I will give you a sneak peek here first.

The graphic design studio has instead become more of a book-art and painting art studio, so it's much less production work, and much more art work.

The biggest surprise was I have unexpectedly started oil painting again ... so I'm calling this whole summer the 45 degree angle on the path (which led me back to a straight line).

The funny part is painting was really peripheral in the Summer Formula. It was so at the bottom of the To Do list, I had even given a painter friend my paint and easel several years ago to encourage her to paint.

But painting was the crazy key -- work with me here -- see, cause when I bought new tubes of oils (for my birthday!) and picked up the palette knife and paint brush and started painting -- (oh my goodness, and now I have at least 5 laid out!) later that week the computer equipment all started to work again. (Don't laugh -- it's true!)

I finally figured out the conflict in the extensions for the CD burner. The printer finally stopped choking YESTERDAY and will now print again as long as I resize color files to print them out small (okay, but I admit I really DO have to replace this thing. LOL) And I figured out I had a program conflict that was spazzing out my RAM.

Really, what I discovered was that I had to re-adjust my focus. Re-prioritize my To-Do list. Embrace this thing that I actually love, and move it further up the To-do list. Most of all I had to stop putzing around with production already. Production should serve the work I do, not be a substitute for creating art.

What a subtle refocus.

This journey is so interesting sometimes ...

pictured above: "Amor Captivo (Captive Love)" at Cornerstone Credit Union in Hillsboro Village, September 29 through November.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Her Eyes Were So ... Blue

Back in the '70s we used to call the Homeless "bums".

That was because the homeless were really just old men, typically over 50, and typically constantly drunk. Staggering about, slurring their words even in the daytime. In desperate need of a bath and shave. They would try to bum change off passersby, usually for more drink. Occasionally one would become "a neighborhood regular" and we'd give them a sandwich or some food.

Somehow someone (who?) figured out that the mentally ill were having their civil rights infringed upon by keeping them hospitalized. And somehow taking care of them with the tax dollars generated by the rest of us was being unjust (never was quite sure to whom.) Our local Psychiatric Ward had to let them out -- and they had a whole building full of them.

The bums were soon joined by those who were formally hospitalized. These being mentally ill people, they didn't know how to take care of themselves. Keeping a job and paying rent and all that burdensome crap was just beyond them. Suddenly there was a flood of people living on the street. All kinds of people -- calling home these weird little cardboard shacks or park benches with old blankets draped around them.

So sometime in the '80s the bums became "The Homeless" ... a strange subset of people who never looked you in the eye, who held their "Help me" signs way out before them as they shook empty coffee cups and asked for change. People who "wanted money for food" but who would then get very angry when you bought them a meal. It was just weird.

I was in High School when I walked along St. Mark's Place in Manhattan, and saw for the first time a Punk Rocker kid, not much older than me, bumming for change. I was ... well, shocked.

It got to a point where you seriously couldn't walk along certain streets without being asked for money by someone every few feet. Creepy.

So I've read there was a sizeable homeless population in Nashville. Seen a lot mostly down by Plaza Art Materials, since the Nashville Rescue Mission is down there. But hadn't seen any just really walking about in Midtown except for once or twice from a distance.

This one walked right up to me -- like they do in New York if you let them. Usually you try not to let them. (Unless you're planning to give them change or food.)

I was carrying a heavy portfolio full of artwork over to an appointment and had stopped to fix my grip. She asked me for change but I was distracted and brushed her off.

See in New York you learn to say "no" to the street beggars cause some of them are just opportunists. You also learn fast to never to show bums where you take your money out of. When I said no she walked away but stopped and told me she liked my cap. I told her my friend gave it to me. I straightened up and looked at her and said thanks, and I realized how tiny she was.

She was tiny and sunburned and thin -- little kid thin. She was probably in her late 40s, the sun was making her delicate skin wrinkled sooner than necessary. I looked at her and we smiled awkwardly. We were under shaded trees, but her eyes were so bright. We waved and walked away.

I remembered I had a little change in an outside pocket so I took it and ran over to her, and said 'hey, here's a little bit. Remember to use it for food.' And she thanked me and smiled.

Her face was full of light even under those shaded trees. Her eyes were so very blue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

FD/FC: Squat By Taylor Field

I apologize for not posting the first chapter preview of Squat by Taylor Field back on September 1. Here it is.

I must confess I'm behind on my big ol' book-reading stack, so I didn't get to read Squat -- but I will mention I'm a "fan" of his -- if you can really call it that.

I have Mr. Field's two previous non-fiction books: Mercy Streets and a A Church Called Grafitti, and I just love them. To me these books are like having a little piece of home with me.

Mr. Field is a Pastor of the East Seventh Street Baptist Church located in Manhattan's East Village. The two non-fiction books are collections of stories of his arrival in NYC back in the late 80s, and the homeless, drug addicts and lower-income people that make up the congregation and the neighborhood.

His love for the people that surround him is touching, and his observations on their lives and on NYC itself, all familiar to me. How Big City Livin' with its extreme poverty and extreme richness all affects him -- a midwestern boy sent to serve -- is moving.

Proceeds from all the books, including Squat which is his first novel, all go to the Graffiti Mission Ministry connected with the East Seventh Street Baptist Church.


CHAPTER 1

CALMLY, THE GIRL on the sofa reached out and pulled up a flap of skin on the little boy’s thin arm. It could have been a gesture of affection. But then she pinched the skin and twisted it. Hard.

“Ouch!” He whipped his pencil in front of her face once, like a club, and then cracked it on her forehead. He pulled the pencil back, ready to strike her again, crouching against the back of the couch like a cornered weasel.

The little girl wrinkled up her round freckled face but did not cry out. She looked toward her mom, who was talking to the receptionist. The boy’s mom, seated across the room, didn’t look up. She continued to look through the pages of her magazine, snapping each page like a whip.

“You could have put my eye out!” the freckled girl hissed.

The boy rubbed the two blue marks on his arm. He looked her steadily in the eyes and growled.

His mom called him over. “Come sit by me, honey, and stop making so much noise.” She patted his hair down in the back and smiled at him. She wore lots of eyeliner and widened her eyes to make even sitting in a waiting room seem like an adventure. “You’re such a big man, now,” she had said this morning as she combed his hair and helped him put on his best shirt. She was humming “Getting to Know You” even though her voice quivered just a little. She had put a lot of extra perfume and sprays on this morning. She smelled like the women’s aisle in a drugstore.

Once the little girl’s mom finished with the receptionist and returned to the sofa, the little girl started crying with one soft, unending whine.

The boy rolled his eyes and looked for a book to bury his head in.

“What’s wrong, honey?” the mom asked as she swept her little girl up.

“That boy hit me.”

A stuffy silence reigned in the waiting room except for the sound of the bubbles in the aquarium above the magazine table. The girl’s mother glared at the boy and then at his mother. The boy picked up a children’s book with some torn pages and began studying it seriously. His mom hadn’t been listening to the girl. She was still snapping through the magazine’s pages.

Finally, she threw it down with disgust and looked at her watch again. “I’m going outside to smoke a cigarette, honey,” she said, oblivious to the stares of the mother and daughter across the room. She stood up, adjusted her dress with an efficient tug, and stepped outside the office. They gaped at her departure with their mouths open, like two goldfish.

The aquarium continued to gurgle. In the following silence, the little boy became dramatically interested in the book in front of him. It had been pawed over by a lot of children waiting in this doctor’s office, and the first few pages had been torn out. The pages that remained had rounded corners and smudges along the edges. The little boy squinted his eyes in exaggerated concentration. He preferred the smudged pictures to the astonished fish eyes of the adult across the room.

He studied a picture of a man who wore a robe down to his ankles. He had a beard and a sad look in his eyes. In front of him was a young man with no beard, lying on a stone with his hands tied. The man with a beard had a knife in his hand and had his hand raised high up as if he were going to stab the boy. Out of a cloud an angel was reaching out to grab the hand of the man. The angel hadn’t touched the man yet, but his hand was getting close. The man didn’t yet know that the angel was there.

The boy forgot about the girl and her mother. The color of the man’s robe was so deep and blue. The angel’s wings were more gold than his mother’s best bracelet. The boy on the stone had a robe that was silvery-white like clouds. The sun in the background was redder than any sun he had ever seen. It was as red as a hot dog. The little boy felt he was swimming in this world of rich colors and robes, a sleepy world tempered by the sound of the bubbles in the doctor’s aquarium. The boy put his finger above the picture book, to the right of the book, and then to the left of the book. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three,” he whispered to himself, touching each of the three points three times.

His mom opened the door and came back in. The summer heat from outside reached in to bathe him in warmth. She shut the door with exasperation. She sat down beside him, reeking of cigarette smoke and hair spray. She adjusted his collar and gave him a nervous smile. “You’re such a big man now,” she said and patted his hair again.

The boy pointed to the man in the robe in the picture. “Mom, is that boy that man’s son?”

“I don’t know, honey.” She picked up the same magazine again and started ripping through it at lightning speed.

“What’s he doing with the knife, Mom?”

His mom gave a half smile and looked at the picture absentmindedly. “He’s protecting his boy from someone who might hurt him. Stay still, honey. Why is the doctor making us wait so long? If he doesn’t see us by twelve, we’ll have to leave. He ought to pay us for making us wait.”

The boy studied the picture again.

“That’s Abraham, stupid,” the little girl stage-whispered from across the room.

The boy looked at her and scowled. “Yeah, like you know.”

She stuck her tongue out at him and turned it upside down.

His mom backhanded a few more pages, put the magazine down, and looked him in the eyes. She beamed. “Honey, I have a surprise for you. I’ve been waiting to tell you, and I’ve been looking for the right moment. I guess no moment is really the right moment. At 12:15 today we are going to see Sammy again. He’s come back. He’ll be waiting for us at our place. Isn’t that exciting? Everything will be different. You’ll be nice to him, won’t you? Honey, don’t bite your thumbs, you’ll make them bleed again.”

The boy wouldn’t look at his mom. He stared down at the picture of the man with the knife. Then he looked up at the clock above the receptionist. The little hand was close to the twelve and the big hand was on the eight. He turned the page of the book and another page was torn out. The next page after the torn one had a picture of a man sleeping with his head on a rock. He didn’t have a beard and he looked scared. His robe was a dull gray and looked dirty, but in the background, angels were coming up and down out of the sky on a shimmering stairway.

“I want to camp out on my own like this guy does, away from everybody, away from the house,” he told his mom.

“That’s sweet, honey,” she said as she finished the magazine again and looked at her watch.

The little boy’s lips moved as he carefully scrutinized the words beneath the picture of the man camping out. His eyes got wider. He traced a word with his finger. He almost forgot where he was. “I want to be like this guy,” he whispered.

A man in a suit breezed in and talked to the receptionist. Immediately his mom sat up straighter. The man finished with the receptionist and turned around and looked for a seat. His mom widened her eyes and smiled at the man. He smiled back.

The next page of the book was also torn out. On the following page was the best picture of all. A youth was wearing a beautiful robe with many different stripes of colors. He seemed so happy and looked as though nothing bad would ever happen to him. A man with a white beard was smiling next to him in the picture. The boy stared at the colors in the book for a long time. If he focused his eyes beyond the page, the colors blurred together like rainbow ice cream. Somehow looking at it kept his stomach from hurting so badly.

“Mom, I want a coat like this one.”

His mom looked at the picture for a moment. Her tone sounded much more patient with him now that the new man was in the waiting room. “Everybody wants a coat like that, honey. You’ll get yours one day.”

The little girl stretched her freckled face up as high as she could so she could see the picture. “That’s Joseph, you toad,” she said hoarsely from across the room. “Don’t you ever go to church?”

Her mother pulled her back close to her lap and said, “Hush.”

The boy looked at the clock. The big hand was on the nine. “Mom, let’s just stay here. It’s nice and cool and our air conditioner doesn’t work at home. I like looking at the books here. I like the fish. Let’s just stay here and not go back home. It’s too hot there.”

His mom looked at her watch again. “Why are your hands so clammy, sweetie? You’re making the book wet. What’s wrong with you? Stop biting your thumb or you’ll make it bleed right before we see the doctor. Do you want to get me into even more trouble?” She smiled at the man as she got up and walked past him to the receptionist. “Could you tell me how much longer it will be until we can see the doctor? I have another urgent appointment.” She conferred with the receptionist for a few minutes in hushed tones.

The boy found an envelope in the back of the book with all the colorful pictures. It had bright green writing on it and a red border. The envelope said you could send off for more books with other stories. The boy looked up at the little girl across the room. She was yanking on her mother’s sleeve and whispering something in her ear. She was probably talking about the boy’s mom. While making sure the girl was still looking at her own mom, he carefully folded the envelope once and put it in his jean pocket.

The girl was staring insolently at him again. He wanted to do something to the book. He wanted to add a character to protect the boy from the father with the knife. He reached in his other pocket and pulled out half a red crayon. He wanted to draw a picture in the book. He wanted to put someone in there to help that angel keep that boy from getting cut, but he knew that the girl on the opposite couch would never let him get away with drawing in the book. He pulled out his stack of baseball cards as she continued to stare. He carried only Yankees. He pulled his prize Reggie Jackson card from the stack and began to place it in the book but decided against it. He pulled out a relief pitcher, Dick Tidrow. He would be a good enough guard to help the angel. Then he put the card carefully in the page where the sad man was dressed in the long robe and holding the knife. He made sure that the edge of the card was exactly parallel to the edge of the book. He knew the girl was watching him. He closed the book very slowly and with great respect. Very quietly, with just one finger, he touched three sides of the book again, three times. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three,” he said under his breath. He put the book down gently on the table and then put both hands on his stomach and doubled over until his head touched his knees. A groan came out of him before he knew it.

The little girl sneered at him, “You’re nuts!” Her mom held her closer and made a shushing sound.

The boy looked at the clock again as his mom plopped down on the sofa with a snort. The big hand was already past the eleven. “Mom, let’s stay here. We’ve already waited a long time. Let’s stay.”

“Straighten up, sweetie. Why are you bent over? Everything is going to be fine. Soon we will see Sammy and everything will be different. It won’t be like last time. You’ll see. Everything will be fine.” She looked at her watch again then got up to talk to the receptionist. She seemed to be talking faster and faster. Finally she marched back to her son and said firmly, “We’re going now. We’ll have to come back another day. Let’s go, honey. Straighten up and stop frowning.”

She grabbed his hand, but he grabbed the arm of the sofa with his other hand. The arm of the sofa had padding on the top, but a metal support on the side. It was just right for grabbing. She pulled and his knuckles whitened. “Come on, sweetie, don’t be silly.” She smiled at the man and the other mother. She was petite and could not get her son to loosen his grip. He was small for an eleven-year-old, but his grasp was almost as strong as his mother’s. She reached to loosen his grip with her hand, but he simply grabbed the arm of the sofa with his other hand.

She smiled sweetly to the man and said, “Would you mind helping me, please?”

He hesitated, got up awkwardly, and began to loosen the grip of the other hand. The aquarium began to rumble like a volcano, and both the receptionist and the other mother stood up. The boy was stretched out like a cartoon as the mother pulled and the man pried his fingers from the sofa. In the middle of the hubbub, the little girl came up to hold his torso, as if to protect him from falling. Where her mother couldn’t see, she grabbed the sensitive skin next to his ribs and pulled and twisted at the same time as hard as she could.

In the tussle, the book with the men in robes fell to the floor and the little girl slipped on it. The baseball card slid underneath the sofa. The receptionist picked up the phone to call someone. The other mother grabbed for her daughter. The little boy squealed a high squeal; he was a desperate guinea pig grabbed by many hands.

Finally, the man got both hands loose, and his mom dragged him by the torso and opened the door. He clutched at the frame of the door but couldn’t hold on. By that time, some people in white coats came out with the receptionist and shouted as his mom dragged him out to the steaming parking lot. His mother roared back at them with a curse. He cried and whimpered for help as he got one last glimpse of the girl looking out at him from the waiting room window. She stood with her hands on her hips and her tongue sticking out.

Until he ran away from home, a number of years later, the little boy never went back to a doctor.

***

Please Note:
All author proceeds from Squat will go to Graffiti Community Ministries, Inc., a service arm of the East Seventh Street Baptist Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Field preaches.