It’s that time of year, kids. Craft fairs, of all kinds, going on in your community center, church, or convention center. Last weekend, I decided to jump into that world again.
I don’t know why I waited so long after moving to Germany to do something like this, except to say I was a little slow to get my bearings after moving. I knew I didn’t want to deal with the potential language barrier and legalities of doing fairs on the economy, but turns out the Air Force base community center holds craft fairs several times of year.
Once I signed up and was committed, I started to get excited…
I knew I needed to come up with some Christmas-y designs for the fair, as well as multiple price points, so I tried my hand at stamp-carving to make these little moleskine journals:
I also came up with some new Christmas cards. You can read about my process making these linocut cards in this previous post.
And here are some pics of my display:
All in all, people were friendly and generally interested in my work. I did make a few notable sales, but there were not many big spenders, nor did I expect there to be. I think that’s the only drawback to doing a dinky fair like this.
That said, I would advise any artist or crafter thinking of doing something like this, just dive in and do it! There is no sense in doing nothing while you wait to be in a better market. Even if sales are lackluster, you’ll have the experience of designing your table, organizing all of your gear and products, and, interacting with potential buyers. It is great practice for marketing your work in person and, if you’re even half as introverted as me, you probably need the practice! And, most importantly, you’ll be showing your work!!
I have one more show before Christmas (December 6-7) and I’m already signed up for the March show, so if you are in my local area, please stop by. I’d love to see you!
It has finally started to feel like late fall here in Germany. It is chilly and drizzly and the leaves have completely changed colors. So, I’m now in full “cozy” mode. I’m knitting, enjoying comfort food like stews and the like, even lighting the occasional fire in the fireplace at nights! It’s a good thing, too, because I am participating in a craft fair in less than two weeks and I wanted to make some new Christmas cards for it and, happily, the weather has helped inspire me.
My favorite Christmas images convey the tranquility and magic of a starlit Christmas Eve. You know, the kind of night that is so miraculous and exceptional that the lion lays down with lamb. The sweetness and innocence of animals says it all.
So I settled on this image for my Christmas card, available here in my Etsy shop. Check out my process in pictures:
I’m excited to unveil my latest painting, which is part of an emerging series. The theme of this series is the exploration of mental health and depression. For me, the crows represent the twin natures of depression and anxiety. Like shadows, they drop noiselessly through your periphery, heralding a shift in moods and perceptions.
But they are not only negative figures, but positive ones, too. The challenge of getting through a depressive episode or panic attack can open one up to new ways of seeing the world while breaking down the old structures and illusions. This process is also famously linked to art and creativity. If you would like to read more about my own battle with depression, click here.
This is a highly textured painting created with various sculptural and textural mediums and thick paint. There are a lot of layers of color below the pale hues that show on the surface. I also painted this one more loosely and energetically than some of my previous paintings.
You can also check out this piece in my Etsy shop.
Whew, back again from another trip, this time to England. Mike and I spent most of the time in the country, but took one day to go to London. My goal was to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, a retrospective I highly recommend.
If I had to use one word to describe Anselm Kiefer’s work, I would say “Layers.” Layers of history, meaning, symbolism, and personal reflection. Also, layers upon layers of paint, chemical processes, and all kinds of found and conjured materials and textures.
Kiefer is known for his handmade books, which appear as both a means and a subject of expression throughout his career. Many of his books are personal and more traditional – large collections of watercolors, for example. However, there is always something experimental and unconventional going on. The books in the exhibit dedicated to the female nude, for example, are painted on layers of plaster. In glass cases nearby, he has presented books composed of lead. He paints on the lead “pages” and introduces various corrosive elements to the process.
Thematic to his work is the interaction of elements and the chemical changes associated with time, decay, and weathering. At his huge, sprawling studio complex, Kiefer leaves paintings outdoors with the idea that they continue to be in progress even when he is no longer applying his hand to them. The ancient art of alchemy is a key theme throughout the show.
One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit is called Ages of the World, a site-specific installation in the ornate rotunda of the Royal Academy. The piece is composed of stacked-up painted canvases, long sunflower stalks (a recurring image for Kiefer) rocks, and other detritus. Like layers of sediment, the stack seems to be sinking and grinding down into the earth under its own weight.
However, my true favorites are the paintings. Pictures do not convey the sculptural texture of these works. Two of my favorites are Ash Flower and Osiris and Isis.
I also appreciated the work For Paul Celan: Stalks of the Night. The painting is an homage to the Jewish poet Paul Celan and it depicts a figure in the yoga posture, savasana, with a tree growing out of his torso. The figure lies under a dome representing the Celestial Firmament. As someone who has only been making art full-time for three years, I cannot imagine working on a single painting for as long as Kiefer worked on this one. He returned to it off and on for fifteen years.
The show ends with another installation of huge panels arranged in a maze-like formation. The panels are covered with huge woodcut prints representing the forest around the Rhein River. The images evoke the melancholy and forbidding landscape of Germany immediately following the war. It is almost shocking to see woodcuts not only on such a large scale, but arranged in a way that makes the viewer feel claustrophobic and disoriented.
As an artist and particularly a painter, I am inspired by Kiefer’s focus on process and materials. I am still at a stage where I’m -well, let’s face it – still afraid of my materials. I want to exert control and I feel lost when the materials overwhelm me. Kiefer shows the way when it comes to chucking any need for control and yet he manages to be in control of the process anyway. It’s the difference between being a macro- and micro-manager, I suppose.
I also love that Kiefer is concerned with so many of the themes and media I find myself drawn to these days: origins, the cosmos, nature, yoga, printmaking, bookmaking, and using found materials. Most importantly, his work has a no-nonsense sincerity you can’t find in most contemporary art. He takes on the large issues of history and myth and makes no apologies about it.
I love nautical folk art. When I was a kid, my mom would get me a doughnut at the little cafe in our grocery store. There was an old-fashioned-looking, carved panel of a whale on the wall that I remember very well. It represented everything that Ohio was not. It seemed to be from another age and another world; a world of stormy seas, sailors, and tall ships.
Linocut seems like the perfect medium to pay tribute to nautical folk traditions. It is inherently imperfect and it can have a charmingly primitive look.
This piece was easy to envision, but unfortunately a little difficult to execute. It was the first time I’ve done a reduction (more than one color) print on my little letterpress. I sized 30 pieces of paper for it, assuming I would have a lot of throwaways.
However, when I got to the last ten prints, I realized that the carved linoleum plate had slid gradually, even though I had affixed it with spray adhesive.
The only reason I can think why this happened is that there were some mineral spirits still on the surface of the printing press where I glued the plate. I readjusted it and kept going, but then it was nearly impossible to line up the images for the second color.
Out of thirty, I only ended up with nine decent prints. Oh well! That’s life, I suppose. But I am happy with the successful prints. Check them out in my Etsy shop.
I am pleased to announce that I have changed the name of my Etsy shop and blog! From now on, I’m calling my business and shop Pith and Root Studio.
I have mulled this step over for about a year. When I first opened my Etsy shop, I thought the best thing would be to use my own name, figuring that an artist’s name is their brand. That’s certainly true, but this can make your brand appear a little blah alongside cute shops with inspired, memorable names.
The other problem is that I changed my name when I got married and now everything associated with me uses my maiden name or a hybrid of my maiden and married names. For awhile, every time I opened up my shop and saw “Heather McCaw Art” it would bother me. My work exists in its own sphere and it seems awkward to tie it to something that can change with a little paperwork. I began to see a rebranding as a way to honor and breathe life into this creation of mine and allow it to stand on its own.
So I came up with Pith and Root Studio, which I think more accurately describes my creative work as it has evolved. For me, Pith and Root refers to the natural forms that have cropped up in my work recently. But it also points to the heart and the essence of things, which is what my work – and all good artwork, for that matter – aims to represent. Also, I thought “Studio” as opposed to “Art” is a more apt description for the range of items in my shop, which include paper products, prints, and, maybe in the future, other products featuring my designs.
This is a very exciting step for me as I continue to grow and mature as an artist and entrepreneur.