Saturday, February 24, 2007

The music of knitting!

No picture today because my battery ran out, but I have to tell you about the music of knitting. Officially referred to as Orchestral Apparatus for Knitting - Laure Drogoul organized a group of 6 knitters, each using a different type of needles - big wood ones, thin metal, thick metal, thick and thin plastic, etc..... with each needle set attached to some sort of electronic pick-up. The sounds of each needle set clicking, rubbing, even the sound of the yarn sliding on the needle..... all fed into a sound system, and heard over a speaker system! Very cool..... not exactly musical, but interesting. Some of the knitters seemed experienced, and had a good rhythm, while others were beginners, kind of working at each stitch. Some were clearly just trying to knit, while others seemed to figure out that they had some control over the sound coming from the nearby speakers! It is so much fun to have your perceptions changed. I remember the clicking of the neighbor lady's knitting when I was a kid. I'm sure she never thought of working with the sounds of the process. I certainly know I concentrated only on trying to wrap the yarn right as she showed me how! Today I learned that she and I created some music!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Newspaper review of the art show we curated

Just a quick note today with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle review of the art show we curated.

The link to their web page is gone now (mid May), so here is a copy of David Raymond's review in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Black artists connected through the ages
The importance of art is passed along through 'Generations'

David Raymond

(February 19, 2007) — Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.

"Generations," the current exhibition at 1570 Gallery at Valley Manor, began with curator Jean Pope Boyle's desire to have a Black History Month exhibit, and her invitation to popular local artists Cheryl and Don Olney to serve as guest curators. The former social worker (Cheryl) and toy maker (Don) turned full-time artists had never curated an exhibit before, but they were willing to try.

All they needed was a theme — and they needed it fast, since the exhibit was due to open in a month. But they found it, inspired by a recent commission to design and create a wooden Sankofa. The West African symbol's name means "return and get it," or as Cheryl Olney interprets it, "the process of learning from the past as we build the future." This gave them the idea of generations of artists, sometimes literally related to each other, building upon one another's work.

Cheryl, "who knows everyone in town," according to Don, immediately started asking friends and professional acquaintances for work. With the quantity and the quality of the responses, the show quickly "developed its own energy," as Cheryl puts it.

That simple idea turned out to be remarkably rich. The art that arrived at 1570 Gallery truly spanned the generations, from acrylic paintings by 11-year-old Kimicah Roberson, to photographs by junior high school students, to work by professional artists of long standing. All currently live in Rochester, and most are Rochester born and educated as well.
The moment you enter the gallery, your eye is immediately drawn to the Olneys' Generations, a vibrantly painted wood piece showing several generations of African-American women in red, green and purple outfits against a glowing blue background.

The exhibit is rich in inviting, exuberant pieces like the Olneys', including the quilted piece Exotic Perennial, by former Garth Fagan dancer Frances Hare, which also hangs near the entrance to the gallery. This rare bloom is resplendent in gold, orange and brown, and its tendrils reach right out to the viewer.

These fanciful pieces are countered by striking, somber images like Eddie Davis III's two Clown Paintings — done entirely and unexpectedly in black, white and gray — and complex, thoughtful work like Shawn Dunwoody's collage Brown is the Magic Number. Full of references to recent African-American history and to education, Dunwoody's piece carries the "Generations" theme in a nutshell: If you want to move ahead, know what came before you.

While many of the pieces in "Generations" delineate contemporary African-American life, others seem to reach back through the centuries. Faruk Kaiyum's delicate silver and white-gold jewelry would befit a princess, and Calvin Hubbard's clay stoneware pieces recall ancient pottery. At first sight, Hubbard's Mother and Turtle seems to refer to some sort of folklore or creation myth, but Hubbard says his inspiration was his mother, who "proceeded slowly, but always went forth in spite of all obstacles." The piece is a tribute to persistence.

House Maid, by MCC professor emeritus Betty Hopkins, gives a black interpretation to Vermeer's iconic European painting of a servant pouring water from a pitcher. Hopkins' daughter, Leda Hopkins-Mack, is represented in the show by her two hand-woven fabrics, Red Delight and Purple Mist. And Hopkins' professional colleague, MCC faculty member Athesia Benjamin, contributes several untitled oils, the most striking of which is a large, imposing portrait of an older black couple.

José Flores' simple but haunting Darfur, an oil pastel of an African woman in native dress with a sad expression, is the last image you see in "Generations," and it stays with you, saying as much about the costs of war and racial conflict as a more obviously political image.

A highlight of "Generations" is a group of seven black-and-white photographs by students from Studio 789, the Wilson Foundation Academy Photo Club. The subjects range from Janet Jackson, to a baby in a bath, to a powerful study of a group of locks from chains formerly worn by slaves. Rodney Allen Young contributes a group of vivid color photos of Senegalese and Ghanaian natives.

"Generations" unites several generations of black artists, but since many of them graduated from, are enrolled in or have taught in Rochester schools, it also highlights the artistic creativity flourishing there. "We were thrilled not only to encourage the young people," says Boyle, "but also to combat all the negative things we hear about the Rochester City Schools."

David Raymond is a freelance writer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Today is Tuesday so this must be Baltimore?

Here is a view of the booth in Philadelphia that we tore down yesterday! Picture courtesy of Walter Johnson. Walter and Christine are wonderful friends who always come and help us tear down after shows in Philly. Yesterday a record 54 minutes! 7 minutes ahead of a previous record when our son Casey, and wife Deanna, and a couple of their friends helped!

Today we were in Baltimore - had a good day with three new gallery customers, and several nice orders! The Sankofa piece - see above picture - lower middle, and January 26th entry below, is selling well. It is always so great when a new item sells well. People seem to really appreciate the piece itself, as well as the message behind it!

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I meant to show more of the process of space conversion that happens as a craft show is set-up, but I forgot to take an earlier picture of the crate with all the walls stacked on top, neatly shrink wrapped, and sitting next to the little 10x10 foot square of carpet we ordered for our booth. About a week ago, that crate was in our studio, neatly packed, and ready for folks we don't know, and probably never will, to load it on a truck and take it to Baltimore for us. Quite an amazing process if you stop and think about it. I walked in today, and there it was, looking exactly like it looked last week in Rochester, NY ( just a couple of extra labels added) and now sitting in a big hall in Baltimore, MD, right next to "our" space! Usually we drive our big van to shows with all the walls, product, etc, but this time we have two shows almost simultaneously, with only one van, so we shipped to this one..... a lot less work!

Here is the view from the front of our space. Lots and lots of unconverted space.... vans being unloaded... electric cords laid out ready to power lights, etc. Last week, maybe there was a car show here, next week maybe a boat show. Week after next maybe a foot of dirt will be right there with flowers growing out of it for the flower show? About 30 years ago, I attended a Dave Brubeck concert here ---- I think the stage was right behind where that white van sits now.

Just empty space that several hundred of us will mark out with walls, curtains, sheets of cardboard, to seperate our 10x10 foot space from the next 10x10 foot space. And it will really be our space. Most of us will be very friendly, like the US and Canada, even helping each other out with heavy walls, or sharing our food from the deli. There will be some border disputes however. Somebody may decide that the space behind their curtain is the perfect place to store those extra boxes, but the space behind the curtain is my space, and like the US and Mexico, I will try to send their stuff back. The most common problem is folks pushing those ugly orange extension cords under the curtain into the next booth so they won't clash with the beautiful glass vases! (somebody needs to invent attractive extension cords) I like our hard walls - folks can't slide that big vase to the back of the table, creating a big bulge on my side of the curtain! On the other hand, when we like our neighbors, which is 99.9% of the time, we can't just slide the curtain aside and say Hi!

Below is our space, as I marked it out today, and put up our stuff! That big crate is inside the grey display on the left. I learned long ago that it can take hours for the show folks to return the empties at the end of the show! I don't know who will be next to us on the right - still empty space when I left tonight, or the space behind. To the left is a big aisle that will carry the crowds our way. In front, between us and the aisle is nothing --- just a line in the carpet, but folks will generally stay outside the booth, thinking that they need some sort of passport to cross the line. I remember the "line" my brother and I drew down the middle of our room. "MOM! He's looking at my side!" We want them to look, and we'd love for them to come in, but most won't, even if we specifically invite them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Snow Hat

Snow seems to have temporarily stopped, but a couple of days ago I had a full inch of snow on my hat brim after about an hour of shoveling! That daffodil in the pic below is under about a 5 foot bank of snow right now.

I'm off to Baltimore for a wholesale and a retail show with our work - Louise's Daughter

Three days of wholesale only to sell to the galleries around the country that carry our work, and then three days of retail - open to the public if you are in the Baltimore area next weekend .... the 23rd to the 25th at the Convention Center. Cheryl is now at a wholesale show in Philadelphia, and I'll go pick her up on Monday after I set up in Baltimore. I'm going to try to keep this writing and pic thing from the road, so stay tuned for some pics of very nice work, and hopefully some good stories.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hydroponic food!

I mentioned earlier that Dad and I both like to grow things, and to notice nature in the back yard! This is more like nature in the house, and another way to get some spring thoughts going. We got Dad this hydroponic garden for Christmas, and within 3 weeks he and Mom were enjoying spring lettuce in January! Not enough to skip any trips to the grocery store, but a lot of fun, and great tasting!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Let's remember Spring!

Winter seemed to take a long time coming this year --- it was still quite warm in late January, and that didn't feel quite right. But the snow did come, and we've had real winter since. This picture was taken last spring, and somewhere down under that pile of snow along side the sidewalk, a bunch of bulbs lie in wait! The above scene will be repeated..... this spring, and for many springs to come! And we hope to keep making art for a lot of those springs!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Bottle Tree

Bottle trees are an old southern tradition. Slaves, it is said, would put bottles in trees in the hope that evil spirits would go into the bottles and be trapped. Cheryl and I like to think if it more as a bit of color that attracts positive energy. Our bottle tree utilizes the ends of some branches that were trimmed off our lilac bush when it threatened to fall over from growing so much on one side! The bottles sort of disappear in the spring and summer as purple and green take over, but in winter, especially with a cap of snow, they make us, and we hope our neighbors, smile and think positive thoughts!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

At home with spirals

We love to get pictures from our customers showing our work in their home. This lovely view of three of our large wall spirals is from a home on Sanibel Island! An added bonus is one of our dancers off to the right : - )

Sunday, February 04, 2007

High Steppers

Here is an early view of some new figures in the works. Based on some figures created from working with Art Start type pieces, these 6 new figures (yes I know there are only two shown) are a bit more abstract than our current line-up. The common theme in all 6 is the big shoes. There should be two guys, two gals, and a couple of kids. The ones shown are a couple of the computer drawings that are an early step in the process of creating our work. They will look a lot better when they are made out of wood instead of pixels, and are painted with Cheryl's magic touch instead of with computer fills!
The kids will be about 9 inches tall, and the adults will be availaibe in our usual sizes of about 15" tall and about 29" tall.
Look for them at the upcoming wholesale and retail shows - 7 shows in about 8 weeks. We take off in about 10 days or so to hit Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia again, and Saint Paul --- I think in that order???