Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Artifying of Life

I found this article about the role of art in human existence quite compelling:

The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start
(The New York Times, Nov. 27, 2007)

I particularly liked this passage:
Art, she and others have proposed, did not arise to spotlight the few, but rather to summon the many to come join the parade — a proposal not surprisingly shared by our hora teacher, Steven Brown of Simon Fraser University. Through singing, dancing, painting, telling fables of neurotic mobsters who visit psychiatrists, and otherwise engaging in what Ms. Dissanayake calls “artifying,” people can be quickly and ebulliently drawn together, and even strangers persuaded to treat one another as kin. Through the harmonic magic of art, the relative weakness of the individual can be traded up for the strength of the hive, cohered into a social unit ready to take on the world.
I think it's particularly intriguing that Ellen Dissanayake, an "independent scholar" and the main subject of the article, does not have a doctorate (as the author points out), but has written books that are "considered classics among Darwinian theorists and art historians alike." I know nothing more about Ms. Dissanayake than what I read in this article, but to bring together such diverse groups of people and achieve recognition without those three little letters after one's name is an accomplishment that sets an admirable example and gives me hope.

If you'd like to read the article, hurry, because The New York Times archives them quickly.

Via Arts & Letters Daily, which I like so much, I made it my home page. It makes me feel so intellectual...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to take a shortcut

If you'd like to look at a whole selection of Etsy sellers at once, you can see a sampling of the wares for sale by a number of sellers in different categories here:

It's a gallery of Etsy minis like this one of my own shop:

and I've submitted my shop for inclusion in the Art & Illustrations category.

It's a terrific way to see a wide variety of available items at a glance. Just click on a photograph to be taken to the page for that item, or click on the shopowner's name in blue beneath the items. Many thanks to the people who are volunteering their time and effort to maintain the site.

And don't forget that you can see more shop directories and read reviews of shops by customers at, including a review of my own shop, the Interimaginational Institute for Fantastical Exploration & Cartography.

And, before I launch into the 10,001 reasons you ought to buy handmade items this year, I'll give you my favorite: because handmade is as unique as it gets.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Curious What the Fuss is About?

I talk a lot about Etsy on this site, but still I'm not sure that very many people know much about it, so here's two nutshells' worth (first someone else's nutshell, then my own nutshell).

Essentially, it's an online marketplace on which anyone can open shop as long as they are selling in one of three categories: handmade items (i.e. art, jewelry, pottery, furniture), vintage (over 20 years old), or supplies (beads, paper, yarn, etc.). The great focus is on handmade items, and you can find anything from a firepit for your backyard to a purse made from a hardcover Nancy Drew book to an original painting on gallery-wrapped canvas.

It is not an auction site; the prices are set by the seller. Just like Ebay, however, Etsy itself doesn't handle the actual payment, so once a sale is "completed" on Etsy, the buyer still must proceed with a payment method. Sellers offer a number of methods of payments, from PayPal to check to bank transfer (in Europe); most prefer PayPal (which has come a long way in recent years - you don't even need a PayPal account to use PayPal to pay with a credit card and the seller still won't have your credit card details).

There are some drawbacks: the search function is less than perfect, but still functional (the main catch being that if you wish to exclude things from your search, you must use the word "NOT" in front of a word, instead of a minus sign as you would on the Internet). And the features are not necessarily intuitive. Many have odd names and so you must explore them to figure out what they are (like Time Machine 2, which shows what has just been listed, and I think is the BEST way to get an overview of what's selling on Etsy, and Treasury, which is a great way to be introduced to new sellers and have someone else do the searching for the really cool items you might not find just browsing). If you're looking for something specific, the category list is probably the most basic way to find things.

Prices vary widely, so you can find something for any budget. And the quality of items for sale varies widely, too, sometimes even within one person's shop. But I think most people would be impressed at the way the average quality skews heavily in the direction of excellent, unbelievable, even awe-inspiring.

In short, Etsy is a fantastic place to do your holiday shopping. And although all prices are in U.S. dollars, it's not limited to U.S. residents; there are both buyers and sellers from all over the world. One of them might be your neighbor. And, with limitations, most people will ship all over the world too (the limitations mostly concern things like soap or perfume that might be prohibited in customs regulations).

If you're still wondering why you'd want to buy handmade, I'll answer that in an upcoming post. In the meantime, just go check Etsy out.

I See a Blue Star!

I just snagged my first Etsy treasury as curator! I am so proud.

When you find yourself featured in an Etsy treasury, you'll see a gold star next to the name of the treasury (always a thrill). When you're an alternate in a treasury (so that if an item is sold, one of yours might take its place), you see a silver star (still a thrill). And now I can tell you, from first-hand experience, that as curator, you see a blue star.

All very exciting.

My treasury is called "Widdershins" and features the art of the members of Fantasy Artists of Etsy (FAE). Please take a look; it's one of the rare times you don't have to go clockwise or backwards to get to fairy land. All you have to do is click: Widdershins.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Send out joy, and it comes back

The first rewarding thing about being an artist is making things that make me happy. It is a wonderful feeling to see something - a kingdom, an ocean, a sea monster, a ship - come to life at my fingertips, saturated in color, or antiqued just so, and that's what keeps me going back to the drawing table.

But the second rewarding thing about being an artist is making things that make other people happy, and that's what keeps me putting my paintings out there for everyone else to see. I know it sounds cheesy, but I like to think I'm making the world a little bit more joyful, one painted map at a time.

So each time someone tells me, directly or indirectly, how much they like my paintings, it makes my day. It's that joy, coming back. This weekend, I was honored to learn that one of my customers submitted a lovely review of my shop and of the artwork she purchased to You can read the review here: Etsy Shop Review of the Interimaginational Institute.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I have had some kind of blogophobia lately. I have all these great post ideas in my head, which I compose eloquently and profoundly in my head at the gym, or in the car, or in line at 5 a.m. on Black Friday*, but have no time to sit and write them out while also shooting, editing and uploading photographs to perfectly illustrate my words.


But since it was Thanksgiving here yesterday, I just wanted to make sure that you all know just how grateful I am to have you, my blog readers and friends, in my life. You are all over the world and yet all somehow manage to stop by my studio for a chat, a hello, a laugh on a pretty regular basis, as if we were all just around the corner from each other. I am so glad to know you, whether or not I've ever met you in person. Thank you for being there.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*For those not here in the U.S., Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the start of the Christmas shopping season, on which retailers offer crazy sales designed to bring the masses into their stores with their hard-earned cash. These sales usually involve such deep discounts that people have been known to camp out overnight to be first in line in the morning. Other people, not that much less insane, have been known to wake up at 4 a.m. just because a particular computer might have been knocked down $300, thus bringing untold gigabytes of speed and memory into the realm of possibility (for another member of the family). Those other people, or that other person, rather, after two hours in line, then had the good sanity to tuck said computer, self, and freshly purchased Starbucks into the car and hightail it home, safely avoiding the legendary automobile accidents that give the day its nickname and luckily avoiding the state troopers out preventing those same accidents by issuing speeding tickets.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday News Bulletin

Only a few days until the Handmade Parade this Saturday in Norfolk -- I am so excited and, simultaneously terrified that I've forgotten to do something really important. I'll probably have dreams the night before like the ones I used to have before a big exam in college. You know, the ones where you oversleep and show up two days late, or show up empty-handed, or worst of all, show up naked. But I actually think it's going to be great fun, and I am looking forward both to peddling my wares again and to meeting other local artists and crafters.

If you are anywhere nearby - oh, say within a thousand miles or so - please do stop by and do a little shopping.* It isn't too soon to stock up on all your birthday gifts for next year, and it definitely isn't too soon to do a little holiday shopping. And what better gifts to give than handcrafted ones made with care and skill by people you can meet in person? I'm coming to believe that, along with turning off lightbulbs not in use, buying handmade might be one of the best things you can do to change the world.

In Etsy news, I have mentioned that I am proud to be a member of the Fantasy Artists of Etsy, and now I'm delighted to announce that my profile has been posted on the group's blog. You can check it out here, and learn some of the reasons I do what I do.

I'm also pleased to announce that I have created a portfolio at Trunkt, the Buyer's Guide to Independent Art and Design, a showcase of artists, artisans and fine crafters. My profile is here: It is a true honor to be accepted into Trunkt, because I have yet to see something on the site that isn't well-crafted and lovely.

* For your shopping convenience, I am now set up to to accept credit cards!

Balancing on Top of the World


Our weekend trip to western Virginia was lovely. We thought we would stay around Charlottesville for the night, but ended up driving through Lynchburg, which seemed strangely and eerily deserted until we reached the shopping malls outside of town, and then on to Roanoke, which was also strange in its own way. It's a cool little Eastern city, with the feel of a section plucked out of New York or Philadelphia, with clusters of of independent stores and restaurants. But since the streetlights didn't go on until about two hours after full darkness, even though the streets weren't exactly deserted, it felt surreal and other-worldly. When they did go on, the city became quite charming.


The next day we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway, the southern equivalent of Skyline Drive. It was a beautiful, foliage-filled drive, albeit a bit chilly and cloudy, and breathtaking in more than one way.


It truly is a ridge, far above the land, with non-guardrailed twists and turns 1800 feet above the valleys on either side. Breathtaking, indeed. Poor Al had to try to ignore my sharp gasps and my clutching whatever was close at hand every time we came to a turn. I'm sure there was plenty of room, but I make a much better driver than passenger.

The clouds, and a haze over the valleys, not to mention the photographer's ineptitude with her new camera, did not let the glorious, frootloopish colors show themselves off in their full glory. But never fear, I had my turn-everything-into-a-Maxfield-Parrish-scene sunglasses on. Let me demonstrate.

Without sunglasses:


With sunglasses:


We did leave the parkway for a little, descending into the valley below to see if we could find the Natural Bridge, which we somehow missed, but we found something else instead. Al suddenly said, "Was that Stonehenge up there on the hill?"

Foamhenge (BlueRidge087)

Foamhenge (BlueRidge091)

No, not Stonehenge. Foamhenge.

Foamhenge (BlueRidge103)

Foamhenge (BlueRidge100)

Foamhenge (BlueRidge097)

For the last stretch of our parkway drive, the sun came out for good, allowing for some nice rambles on short trails, and some cheerfully brighter photographs. A fantastic weekend getaway.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Victoria, darling

I am sorting through photos of the Blue Ridge Parkway to share, but I couldn't WAIT to let you know that Victoria magazine is available for subscription, and it seems the first issue may have already gone out (I hope I'm not to late for that one). It looks delicious. I am so, so delighted.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Spring into Fall

Outside our living room

It may be a pity, but I don't look out the side window of our living room often. I open the drapes every day, but I usually am actually looking at the drapes, since they have an unfortunate tendency to come crashing down on my head, followed by the curtain rod, which may be a cheap Ikea curtain rod, but hurts no less when it comes into my skull at three times the speed of sound. You can see why proper vigilance is necessary when opening the drapes.

So I was not a little surprised, and very excited, when, yesterday, overcome by the glory of the beautiful, wonderful, lusciously warm, one-last-summer-fling weather, I flung all the windows open and realized that one of our ubiquitous overgrown bushes on the side of our house was quietly celebrating in its own way.

I haven't left the house yet today, but I am under the impression from those stern weathercasters that it is much, much colder, and I certainly haven't seen the sun, even though my studio is in the sunniest corner of the house. And I'm not terribly sad about that, because summer has been a houseguest much longer than usual. But I'm glad I actually stopped for a moment yesterday and really appreciated the niceness of it all.

This weekend, Al and I are thinking of taking a jaunt into the Shenandoah Valley in the hopes of seeing some fall foliage and to welcome Fall, who has been running a little late and a little disheveled and a little scatter-brained, and just because of that, is a kindred spirit of mine.

Shenandoah 4 Winding Road

Shenandoah 3 Tree

Shenandoah 2

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the first full day of my first road trip, and these photographs are from that first day. I took the photos from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, a place I just happened to spot on the map and decided to drive through on a whim, instead of covering the same distance on the Interstate. Shenandoah is such a charming word, isn't it?

As always, these photographs can't even begin to do it justice. I can't remember what I did last week, but I can remember the other people I saw on that road; the things I didn't take photographs of, but should have; the exact feeling of awe that overcame me when I realized how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place. It was stunning. Glorious. Magnificent.

I hope your day is just as magnificent today.

Happy Fall, Happy Day of the Dead, Happy All Soul's Day, Happy November.

The Perfect Souvenir

Who could imagine going on a trip to new and exciting (or even old and familiar) lands without bringing back a little memento or two, for yourself or for the people who kept the home fires burning?

Now you can even bring back souvenirs from your journeys into story and fable. Introducing my new line of magnets from imaginary places:

Treasure Map Circles Magnet Set

Happiness and Zest Magnet Sets

Fairy Tale Kingdom Magnet Set

Monster & Island Magnet (in use)

Lands of Happiness Magnet Set

Magnet Collection

The images are fragments from reproductions of my original watercolors. They are decoupaged onto wood, in most cases hand-painted or hand-stained (but some are left natural), and a strong round magnet is attached to the back. Some will be available in sets while others will stand alone, and there will be a variety of sizes and prices.

I will be reserving most of them to take with me to the Handmade Parade on November 10, but a selected few are already available in the shop. Please take a look!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Washoe & Me

I promise this isn't going to become a photo-free, eulogy only blog, but I just wanted to give a shout out (this generation's moment of silence) to Washoe, the sign-languaging chimpanzee.

You know, when you're growing up, and you think that everything around you is yours? It's your street, your city, your supermarket, your university (because you walked across it every day in high school to catch the bus, even if you never once attended a class there, and ended up leaving the state to go to a completely different university).

Well, I never met Washoe the chimpanzee, but Reno, where I grew up, is in Washoe County, Nevada, and when I first learned about Washoe the chimpanzee in elementary school, even though by that time she hadn't lived in Reno in a long, long time, I sure thought she was mine. I have always felt a connection to her just because, well, we both had a connection to the word Washoe and I liked chimpanzees. Flimsy reasons for an emotional bond, perhaps, but I thought she was really cool. So I just wanted to wave good-bye.