Friday, October 17, 2008

More Baubles

"I'm getting worried."

"Why. What's up?"

"I need more baubles"

"More? We've been collecting stuff non-stop for nearly 4 years. The shelves in the basement are stuffed with found objects. You've probably used about 2% of what we've collected."

"I need different stuff"

"You. "

"I need plastic and non-rusty stuff."

As much as my brain is throwing a fit in an attempt to be with this, I know she's right. She's been using less and less rusty metal.

I need a few moments to let the short films playing in my head simmer down. The hundreds of hours of finding, carefully cleaning and storing over a thousand pieces of scrap metal. Some part of me knew that most of it wouldn't get worked into art. Paula usually has no idea how she'll use a piece of scrap until she's in process and the proper context shows up.

"I get. I get it. You're right. Let's go to the junkyard next week and stock up on some non-rusty stuff."

"Really? OK, how about Tuesday?"

". . . . sure. "

I've learned by watching Paula's creative process that an artist must find ways to let go of safe sensibilities in order to keep developing. Investing so much time, effort, money or other resources into a particular direction can create a lot of resistance to changing course. I think this keeps many artists from developing a unique voice. Paula has the ability to abandon a project that isn't working after months of time investment. She'll keep tweaking a piece or even completely take it apart to rebuild it a different way regardless of how much time or money has been sunk into it. It's still an emotional struggle, but she doesn't get stuck. I've learned from this greatly. Creative inspiration, like fire, needs space to get ripping.

I've found that the biggest breakthrough in my writing has been to let go and delete as many extraneous words as possible. Sometimes that leads to completely trashing a story and starting fresh by picking through the bones. The sooner you can recognize that something is no longer relevant to your work and move on, the better. To look at a studio full of supplies and make that call is a decision that I admire.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holey Holey Pajama Bottoms

"You're fabricating steel in pajama bottoms. Aren't you worried about getting hurt?"


"You can't make industrial art in pajama bottoms. It's just wrong."

"They're great. I feel free and happy in them."


Maybe I need pajama bottoms.

I hated pajamas when I was a kid. They felt embarrassing to me. A 12-year old just wants to be taken seriously. Who would take you seriously when you're dressed in a pajama suit? The top just kills it for me. Even Mr. Hefner looks like a mental patient to me in full pajamas.

After honestly exploring my feelings I have to admit I do like the bottoms. I also love that they're referred to as bottoms instead of pants. Willy Wonka probably wears pajama bottoms in his laboratory when he's inventing stuff. I'm wearing a pair right now. In fact I've been writing in them all day. I can now see that magical things happen in pajama bottoms. My new theory is that they inspire creativity. This must be Pnut's secret advantage. It's so obvious, I don't understand how I could have missed it. Pajama bottoms are like wizard's robes.

Paula loves her pajamas so much that she wore her favorite pair until they nearly disintegrated. Her bottoms look like a heard of wild forest moths consumed them at some kind of horrifying pajama banquette. What may be even more disturbing is that I requested that I inherit them to be used in some kind of future art piece. So I am now in possession of one freshly laundered pair of holey, holey pajama bottoms. For now, they are being stored next to a pair of boots that I've had for nearly 20 years that are in the same condition. Am I nuts? Other people covet worn jeans and cowboy boots. There is something magnetically attractive to me about an object that has been used to within an inch of it's existence. At some point everything becomes so disorganized that it loses it's original form. I like seeing the transition.

Besides these pajama bottoms are powerful. I just can't bear to see all of that creative mojo taken out of circulation for good. I'm really hoping I can somehow extract some of Paula's powers from them. I'd like to wring just a small fraction of Paula's art juju from the remaining collection of plaid swatches to use for my own little projects. Shhh, here she comes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Does This Look Straight To You?

"I drilled a hole wrong again."


"I'm such a fuck-up. I drilled the hole in the wrong place. I measured it twice. Does this look straight to you?"


"It's not straight is it? I know it's not straight."

These are exchanges I have with Paula about once a month.

"No Honeybuns, fucked up is good, remember? We've been having this same conversation for 3 years now. Your aesthetic is raw. Rustic. Sometimes Modern-Rustic. Right? Not knowing how to use tools properly helps your aesthetic. We've talked about this. "

"But shouldn't I be able to cut something straight? I don't think I'll ever get it. I don't understand fractions. How can I measure something if I don't know how fractions work? I just count the little lines that come after the number. I'm such an idiot. I have no idea what I'm doing . . . I just guess. Measuring never works."

"You have a good eye Honeybuns."

"How can I ever be a real artist if I don't know how to cut stuff right?"

"You can get people for that."

"How am I going to afford to do that?! And who would want to work with me?"

"You're a great designer, it's ok that you don't know how to fabricate everything."

"I hate myself. It's all so pointless. Who's going to buy this stuff?"


"Uggh, how many clocks can you own before you just get sick of it . . ."

This is the point at which my blood begins to froth. It used to scare me. After a week or two of not making art I would be terrified that she'd given up. Now I know better. I get angry. Good, defend-your-mate, angry.

"Look, somewhere in your frustrated, morbid little head there is the knowledge that you're a talented artist. You've found your artistic voice and your main bodies of work are mature. You've developed your unique artistic mojo by working until your fingers bleed for the last 4 years. You're innate design sensibility is staggering to me. The only reason you go insane, hating yourself is because you haven't had enough exposure."

"You're the only one buying my work, so what?"

"You've sold work in every show you've ever done a including a Vermont high school hockey arena, a retail clothing shop, and a 5-foot hallway in the back office of a light fixture company!"

"I didn't sell anything at the last Art Hop."

"It didn't help that you literally ripped your pieces off of the wall halfway through the show."

"They weren't safe there. The puzzle sculpture fell off the wall and no one picked it up. And it was a public space."

"Ok, I'll give you that. It was a bad scene and it was good that you took your work back early. Hey, you even sold The Birch Geisha at that horrible NYC show. The damn thing was 12 feet off the ground above an entire wall of two other artists' pieces."

"I've hardly sold any work this year."

"You haven't shown as much as last year."

The colicky exchange ends. Tomorrow or the next day I'll wake up to the sound of electronica and typing. I'll shuffle into the bathroom and turn my head to the left to see the studio door open, fluorescent lights blazing. I'll shuffle into the kitchen for a glass of water to the sound of scrap metal being laid out on the cement floor. The demons have vanished, looking for easier prey.

If you're lucky, someday you'll own a piece of art that is completely fucked up. Riddled with experimentation. . . frustration. . . creative angst. Rough edges, uneven paint. An extra drill hole with nothing in it. Bent. I love bent. You'll know that the piece has been suffered over rather than cranked out by a meticulous craftsperson. The world is drowning in a swamp of pretty and perfect soulessness. What I hunger for is battered wisdom. The honest beauty of survival. Something that has been left out to sea to be pummeled by decades of ravaging storms. Something that has been tested, broken and reborn. Paula has been out there. Now she's fighting her way to a different shore. She's shown me uncanny things. She'll tell you it just happens. No great meaning. No carefully planned process. "I have no idea what I'm doing," she says. "I don't understand anything." Study Buddhism and you'll find that The Buddha says the same thing minus the self-hatred. We all have our quirks. I just wait for the latest storm to blow over and another unexpected flash of design brilliance to tear through the scrap heap.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stupid Anger

Fuck, I'm dying a stupid death. Stupid, stupid. Please life, let me at least make it off the toilet before I completely stroke out. The electrical tingling feeling inside my skull continues to build. Any second now the pressure from all of the blood pouring into my brain cavity is going to start hurting. If I stand up I'll pass out for sure and finish myself off with another blow to the head. Ok, I've managed to pull my pants up. Now I can save face with the first responders. If I could just get off of the toilet onto the couch I could die with complete dignity.

Pnut comes home. I'm on the couch. Alive. Clothed.

"Hey Daddy"


"What's wrong?"

"The mirror by the toilet fell on my head."

"The . . what? How did that happen?

"I slammed the bathroom door while I was sitting on the toilet."

"Why did you do that?"


"Unbelievable . . . Are you sure you're OK?"

"Not really."

Pnut continues to walk around the apartment doing stuff. We're both anti-hospital and mostly anti-coddling. It's agreed that the hospital is good for obvious broken stuff, but anything that can't been seen is off limits. Strokes, cancer, blood diseases, funny feelings - your on your own. Considering my non-slurring speech and undisturbed vision, I know I'm not getting a ride to the hospital. What still bothered me was the brutality of the event. The 1/4" thick mirror was affixed to a 3/4" piece of particle board that covered access to a crawl space. The thing weighed a minimum of 25 lbs. Luckily I was still partially leaned over from slamming the door when the board (with the mirror affixed) dislodged, fell on the back of my head, then shattered on the tile floor. It sounded like someone had slammed a solid door on my skull. Trauma. The worst part of it was that lately I have been freaked out by my left inner ear canal occasionally falling asleep after laying in bed on that side. Seconds after the mirror finished bludgeoning me, I felt the hot, horrible electrical tingling in that very area. This triggered the resigned feeling of certainty that I was only moments from losing consciousness.

The inner ear hemorrhage feeling is mostly gone now. Still angry though. An agitated life review bubbles through the surface of my thoughts. I'm stuck. I know I'm stuck. I need to be making more progress in my art life. Everyday I obsessively think about this. I live my life intuitively for the most part. When I don't make an effort to listen or act on what comes wafting my way bad things start happening. At first stuff stops working out. Something doesn't function properly. Somebody doesn't show up. Then stuff starts breaking. The next step is me being very grumpy . . . angry at little things, like this fucking piece of paper that won't fit in the envelope. I folded you correctly, now fit! Why won't you fit! GHAAAAAAAAAA!!! RRRRRRRRR!!! FIT!

I immediately decide that I must take a week off from work before I end up dead. Incredibly I am able to get seven days off starting next week, "if that's not too soon of course" No, no, not too soon. That works great.

The very day preceding the start of my vacation, life starts reaching for the big stick again. I make a mistake at work. I show up at a customer's house, back up to the garage, pop the trunk and get out to ring the doorbell. I am met by a stunned looking caretaker.

"Is there luggage ready I can start loading?"

"Luggage? Luggage?!"

"Uh, am I here on the wrong day? Are they not hea. . . did I read the schedule wrong?"


"I read the schedule wrong. They're not at the airport are they? They're at the airport. Ok, they're at the airport aren't they? Ok, alright, I'll fix this."

"You better do something!"

Numbness. I feel numb as I'm scrolling down the screen on my smart phone. Yep, they're at the airport. The private airport. This couple happen to be internationally known, full-time philanthropists complete with British accents. It is now exactly 3:58 and I have no doubt that they are standing on the tarmac while the ground crew unloads their luggage, wondering where their car is. The company I work for has been providing these people with transportation for decades. To my knowledge no one has ever left them stranded at the airport. The only other driver closer to the airport is currently with another passenger in the wrong type of vehicle (a van without a step which would require him to physically insert the unhappy couple into it.) They ended up getting a cab from Burlington. The next day I delivered an apology card and a pint of cherry tomatoes from my garden to their office. That was the first day of my vacation. Six days later I made my inaugural post on this blog. Life has stopped trying to humiliate and kill me and I carry on with my purpose like a good little mammal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Number 58

I'm soaking wet and my hand can't find the soap. My little green tea lemongrass soap remnant has gone AWOL on me. The water continues to pour onto my soapless body. Uhhhhhhghh . . . out of the shower to grab my hand soap from the sink. The worst has happened. Like fingernails on a chalkboard . . . big footstep-puddles strewn across the floor. I close my eyes and desperately will myself back into a hot shower reverie. A quick dry off and out to work.

After work and dinner. Interneting.

Pnut - "Wooooooo! Wooooooo! I finished another clock. Come take a look."

Me - "Wow . . . it's really. . . nice. . . My soap! That's my soap!"

"Yeah, isn't it perfect?

I can't get past it. I just want my little soap back. I loved that little soap.

"Cool. It's cool. I like it. Crazy idea. Good stuff."

To make matters worse my Mom fell under the spell of number 58. Soon after discovering the origin of the 'fat green washer' ("It looks like a stone. What is that?) she bought it. She bought my little soap. Now I have to put up with seeing my little soap imprisoned whenever I visit my Mom.

It's hard not to get involved in art when your toiletries become incorporated into works.

The sick thing is that I know someday I'll get it back. I know it's wrong, but that's what I think about.

Hang on little soap. . . i'm still here. Don't dry out on me. I'll come back for you.