‘Do you speak English?’: PMA Craft Show recap

Now that everyone has overdosed on Thanksgiving leftovers and participated in the contact sport better known as Christmas shopping in the U.S.[I for one haven’t started…I did all my shopping in a 3 hour window of time two days beforehand last year.  I’m efficient.  This year I’m a little less confident.  In fact I haven’t the slightest clue of what to get my family members.  Things were so much easier when we were younger and we all lived under the same roof.  I could eavesdrop on conversations and make mental notes year-round for superb gifts for people.  Ugh, now I have to use my imagination?!] I have a moment to sit down and regale you with the events that transpired at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.


I should have known better than to decide two days before I leave to re-jig the entire display for my wearable pieces[a.k.a. super-sweet necklaces that make a great Christmas gift for that special lady in your life *winkwink*].  I made a trip to Lowe’s and picked up a generous piece of MDF-backed marker board.  Of course I wasn’t content with the white color it came in so I also picked up a can of black hammer-finish spray paint.  I did the responsible thing and decided to put the first coat of spray paint on that afternoon.  Except I failed to check the weather report.  No one told me we were scheduled to receive category 10 gale-force winds all day.  That made things REAL interesting.  Pretty sure more paint ended up on the grass than the actual board.


After letting it dry overnight, I actually took the time to put together a make-shift spray booth out of cardboard to get a more even second coat.  Then came the fun part: gluing down the frames.  What.  A.  Nightmare.  Well let me first tell you that I used Gorilla Glue.  I was not keen on using a lesser-strength glue at the risk of these frames not adhering and falling off during the show.  Based on it’s name I thought it was a brilliant plan.  Does anyone read the fine print on bottles?  I do.  Most of the time.  I might have been rushing a little since it was about 8pm until the second coat of spray paint was dry.  Did you know that Gorilla Glue expands 30-40x beyond the size it is when you squeeze it out of the bottle?  Huh, that’s interesting, well now you do and so do I.  Okay so it’s more like 3-4x, but still…I had to learn it the hard way.


After I carefully laid out the formation for the frames, I put what I thought was a very small bead-line of glue along the frame backs and put weights on top and left it to dry.  Cut-to 3 hours later and me swearing up a storm when I discovered that the glue, which dries white, had seeped out around the edges of all the frames on the board.  Yes, now that you mention it, I did want to spend 4 hours trying to scrape the dried glue off of my display with a box-cutter and x-acto knife.  All the while, simultaneously, trying not to rip the MDF into shreds and then trying to mask it further with more spray paint.  Good times.  Although the final product didn’t look too terrible:


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I was supposed to leave at 7am the next morning to drive to Philadelphia to set-up.  My body had a wholeeeeee other plan in mind.  I had the great misfortune of picking up a stomach virus from my sweet, sweet nugget of a nephew.  And at the risk of over-sharing, I will say that my first whiff of eggs and bacon set off uncontrollable vomiting.  And I was not able to pull myself together enough to make the 2 hour drive until much later in the afternoon.  My diet the rest of the week was really savory and exotic when I could tolerate it: white rice, saltines, bananas, and watered down Gatorade.  My energy and enthusiasm took a real hit as well, but as the old saying goes: “fake it, ’til ya make it!”  No one has the luxury of sending someone in his/her place, we each have to be at the show to represent our own artwork.  I did my best to keep myself distracted by making beads when I wasn’t talking to people attending the show.


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And bonus, my Alma Mater was one of the art schools to have a booth set-up with current student work.  So I got to see a few of my professors and even meet the University Provost.  Ya know, no pressure or anything.


The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show is unique in the way that they invite a small group of craft artists to exhibit from a different country every year.  This year’s chosen group of talented artists hailed from Lithuania.  It just so happened that my booth was on the aisle bordering the block of booths where all the visiting artists were set up.  Naturally, I wasn’t expecting someone to come up to me and ask: “Do you speak English?” since all of the Lithuanian artists had giant turquoise colored banners hanging in their respective booths with the words “LITHUANIAN ARTIST” in boldface type along with their first and last names.  Or the time that I was asked a general question about my work and I immediately responded in fluid sentences and the inquisitor’s face glazed over with shock and amazement:


“Wow!  Your English is FANTASTIC!”


me[speaking at a drastically slower-than-normal pace]: “Uhhh, thanks?  I should hope so.  I’m from Pennsylvaniaaaaaa.  Also known as the state in which we are presently located.




I am still not entirely sure what about my physical appearance screams I am of Eastern European descent!  It wasn’t until the third or fourth version of this line of questioning that it registered with me that people just assumed I was one of the visiting artists due to my proximity to their booths.  At least I got some laughs out of the situation.


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All-in-all I’m just happy I managed to survive the week–there were several other incidents that shall remain untold.  And I’m already only 3 short days away from my first venture to the Hynes Convention Center for the CraftBoston HOLIDAY show!  Hopefully it will be less eventful than the spring show.  Just maybe a little colder.  You can find me at booth 223!  If you are coming to the show in Boston you can print out the coupon below to receive $3.00 off of admission.



I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it

Happy Halloween to me indeed!  Yesterday I got notification that my work will be published in a book in 2014!  Weeeeeeeeeee!  Goal set.  Goal met.  1000 beads by Lark Books.  It will hit shelves in April 2014.


Next up: getting a piece including in the permanent collection of a museum.  That might take a little more time, but I’m comin’ for ya world!


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Craft Show BINGO!

Woah, it is a sad reality that I haven’t posted anything on here since June.  I don’t have a particularly good reason either…whoopsie?


I did however spend almost a full week between then and now cleaning/purging my studio space and just reorganizing everything.  I am probably slightly more anal about organization/cleanliness than the average individual for reasons unbeknownst to me.  I assume it’s something I picked up from my Mom over the years as she seems to be wired the same way.  There are, however, times when things start to careen towards an increasing state of disarray.  Like right now for instance.  I can’t say I’m surprised as this is generally the way it goes the week leading up to a show.  My mental state before a show also accurately mirrors the physical state of my environment.  You think I would learn, but nahhhh…ain’t happening.


In any case while I was participating in this semi-annual cleaning marathon, I became increasingly aware of my tendency to hold onto things that couldn’t possibly serve me any benefit in the future.  And I am talking about some extremely random stuff here and not art supplies, which are of course all vital.  One article of paper in particular I am a little bit glad I held onto because I got a solid 5 minutes of laughter out of reading it again.


I find this to be extremely amusing as will other exhibiting artists or assistants who have attended a craft show.  I’m not sure the general public will find it nearly as funny, but I’m going to share it anyway.  After doing my first few shows it became clear to me that despite the number of diverse individuals you encounter the vast majority of their questions/comments tend to fall somewhere within the 25 squares of this craft show BINGO! card[click the image to open a larger version for easier reading]:



 I couldn’t even tell you which show I was at when we played this, but it was hilarious fun!  One morning prior to the show opening, another artist on the same aisle went around handing these game boards out to the other artists nearby.  Every time someone mentioned one of the phrases on the board you crossed it off.  Simple enough.  And if you got five in a row you had to shout out ‘BINGO!’ on the spot and the rest of the aisle of artists were to erupt in applause and cheering[flash mob style].  I’m not afraid to say that I got really into it.  My pulse quickened as I was about to cross off the last box in a row when I heard someone else exclaim ‘BINGO!’ and all in an instant my dreams died.  A bit dramatic you say?  Dude, did I forget to mention the artist leading this game was giving a prize to the winner?!  You know you would be equally as excited.  It’s undeniable.  Mainly because artists give the best prizes/presents…it’s always something handmade.  So the lesson to be learned here is go befriend an artist if you want to receive super cool gifts in the future.


Alright back to work…after all the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show is going to be here before I know it…next week!  I will be in booth #315 this year!

Evolution of ‘Shapeshifter’

I originally started this piece back[and two others] in March and documented the process on Instagram[man, I love that app].  Not much explanation is needed here just follow the photos and captions beneath each image to the finished product:



‘It may not looks like much, but this is how I lay out the armature for a new vessel.  It’s gonna be a beast.’



‘Some beads already strung.  Down to business.’



‘The all too real tangled mess that inevitably occurs at the beginning of each new vessel.  Total nightmare.  So this looks finished right?’



‘4 hours and 2 solo dance parties into the weaving process.’



‘Inside the belly of the beast.’



‘How far 1/2 a kilo of see beads will get you.  And the Blue Lace Agate stones that will be added to the piece soon.’



‘Finally nearing completion on this particular piece.’



Finished!  Ta-dah!


The piece measures 15″ x 10.5″ x 9″ and I completed it to submit it to a contemporary basketry show in Tennessee at the Arrowmont School of Craft.  The jury has not assembled yet to determine which pieces to accept so I do not know yet whether it will be accepted in the group show, but I hope that it will!

Before I die I want to…

This Memorial Day is a time for reflection and I have always thought that this project was an interesting one[though I have never had the opportunity to see one of the boards in person] so I thought I would share it.  As another person who struggles to maintain perspective and balance in life I have thought long and hard about what I would write to complete the sentence: ‘Before I die I want to…’  And I would have a difficult time limiting myself to filling out only one line because I have many lofty ideas floating around in my head with things I would like to accomplish/do in my life.  Be it career related goals, sappy emotionally driven wishes, travel aspirations, or something off of my mile long bucket list.


The artist responsible for the project is Candy Chang and she has embarked on many other interactive projects.  I also got a kick out of the career path project that was done in Turku, Finland in 2011.  The installation had boxes in multiple languages that read: ‘When I was little I wanted to be _____. Today I want to be _____.’  I can actually say with confidence that my response would be the same for both blank spaces…an artist!  :)


I am a big fan of TEDtalks and Candy did a short one in July of last year so take 6 minutes or so and find out more about how the ‘Before I die I want to…’ project came to fruition:


Cue the sound of a million hearts breaking…

Everyone’s favorite piece is SOLD!  I posted one shot of this piece back in March on my Facebook page and it went VIRAL.  It was shared 98x, received 64 likes, and was viewed by nearly 13,000 people.  Those are numbers I can’t even wrap my head around.  And I have a big head.  No, seriously.  That whole one-size-fits-all business?  Not happening.  I blame my giant brain that happens to be overflowing with a wealth of information[sometimes useless i.e. song lyrics because I listen to so much music while I work] and ideas.  Anywhoooo…two weeks ago a wonderful couple bought this beauty from me in Princeton, NJ at the Morven in May show.  Here are the rest of the shots of the piece from every angle imaginable.
















On to the next one!

The show must go on!: Craft Boston 2013

Monday, April 15th: Per my usual I was working on some things last minute to prepare for Craft Boston when I got a phone call:


‘Have you seen the news?’


‘No, why?’


‘Someone set off two bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon.’


‘What?!  You have GOT to be KIDDING me…good gravy that gives me such a warm and fuzzy feeling seeing as I am supposed to be driving up there at 7am in two days time.’


ALRIGHT EVERYONE!  There is no need to panic!  The show must go on!  So I left Pennsylvania briiiight and early Wednesday morning and arrived in Boston around 2pm.  I was promptly greeted by three helicopters hovering overhead in the financial district, where the trade center also happens to be located, and police officers on every block.  Take away: don’t mess with the people of Boston.






Setup went smoothly and when I made it back to my car I plugged the address of my gracious host into my GPS.


A word on my generation:  We are all so spoiled by technology these days.  Does anyone even use a road atlas anymore?  I genuinely believe I would be screwed if I were forced to try to even read directions from MapQuest whilst driving.  I have a hard enough time following what the little British lady is shouting at me from that contraption attached to my windshield when I’m in the middle of an all impressive rap solo[Call it car karaoke.  It’s why I drive alone.].  If I have to hear her say “recalculating” one more effin’ time I swear to God I will chuck that thing out the window.  Then I’ll really be screwed.  And can we all take a minute to just address the lack of an “Avoid Ghetto” option on those devices.  I mean…you know you’d use it.  Don’t lie.


According to my scheduled ETA it should only take me 20 minutes to get to her house in Brookline.  One hour later…I arrived.  In my opinion Boston streets need to be labeled better/more consistently.  And the British lady inside the GPS needs to get her stuff together and realize which street I am actually on instead of the highway that happened to be running parallel to me and stop leading me directly into traffic for people headed to the Bruins game.  Come on woman!




Later in the evening I found out that the other artist staying with our amazing host, Ellen, also got lost for two hours driving to the house.  So I wasn’t alone in that department.  I generally try to stay with people when I go to shows to save money on expenses when I can.  Some shows even offer to set you up with people who help organize the show or are friends of the organization.  Right away I knew that this was going to be the best host experience I have ever had.  Ellen was funny and easy-going and was just all-around amazing and accommodating to me and Sandy during our stay.  Sandy is a fantastic ceramic artist[she ended up winning the Artist’s Choice award at the show!  Peer recognition–yeah!!] and in no short supply of funny anecdotes, some of which you can read on her blog.


Thursday:  Ahhhhh free time!  Donning the most colorful coat known to mankind and a new necklace design I went for a jaunt around downtown Boston.




I went to the nearest “T” stop and when the next train arrived I tried paying for my ticket with cash.  Too bad the machine was broken and not accepting bills.  I was the ONLY person who didn’t have a Charlie Card or long term pass and I didn’t know what to do.  The conductor just smiled and said: ‘don’t worry about it honey–you’re good.’  Say whattttt?!  Free ride on the “T”?  That is what I am talking about!  It just goes to show how it pays to be nice to people.












I could not have asked for better weather to walk around the city and act like a tourist.  One thing I did not count on was the number of times cops would stop and ask me if I was with the press. All because I was toting around my beastly camera and they wanted to know if I had any photos of Obama, who also happened to be in the city that morning.  Much to their disappointment I saw no sign of the POTUS or his giant motorcade, but there was definitely no shortage of pride and strength on display throughout the city.
















Eventually I made my way back to the show for the gala preview party that evening.  Sandy and I joined forces at the end of the night to carpool back to Ellen’s and miraculously we made it back without getting lost!  And I was more than happy to take my hair out of the braids I was sporting for 15 hours.



Friday:  7am.  Ellen informs us that there may not be a show.  Turns out that law enforcement had been on a manhunt for the two brothers responsible for the bombing since midnight.  Allllllrighty then.  The show is delayed to open at 2pm.  The show director calls and informs Ellen that she had woken up to S.W.A.T. teams on her lawn in Watertown where the second bomber was suspected to be lying low.  City of Brookline calls with an automated message informing us that we’re on lockdown along with the rest of the city.  There is discussion of cooking up a smoked pheasant for dinner that Ellen just happened to have in her freezer.  Read books.  Check e-mail.  Call family members and assure them we’re not in any kind of danger.  Swap stories.  Eat lunch.  Informed the show is canceled for the entire day.  Intermittently watch/listen for updates on the news like a train wreck you can’t quite turn away from.  Eat dinner.  News of another shootout and the second bomber is found.  Yay!  Back to normal.


Saturday and Sunday:  There may have been a small twinge of worry about how the events of the week would affect the show, but it opened as originally scheduled and people came out in droves.  The aisles were full all day.  The lockdown the previous day may have worked in our favor because people wanted to get out and go do things.  The tireless promoting that the Society of Arts and Crafts did to get people to come to the show also played a large part.  A special thanks to everyone there for their utmost professionalism the entire weekend and keeping all of us, the artists, informed of the changing status of the show on Friday.


Monday:  Another early morning drive back to Pennsylvania with a detour through Kutztown: home to rolling hills, farms, many covered bridges, and my alma mater.




My top notch welcome committee at home:




The End…until Craft Boston Holiday.  Maybe I’ll be back in December. ;)

Gather round! It’s story time!

About a month ago I did a Skype interview with Amber Kane of Fabricatedends as a part of her artist interview series.  What was probably supposed to last about 30 minutes turned into 2.5 hours of discussion.  And only 2 hours and 20 minutes of that time was me pontificating awkwardly.  I probably should have warned her beforehand that I have a tendency to speak in rambling parentheticals and often never make it back to answering the original question.  My lack of ability to summarize anything certainly was not helping.  Although I think that attribute makes me a really great story-teller.  Giving a lot of sensory driven details to make you feel like you were right there with me when it happened.  Like the time my car was stolen less than a week after my parents agreed to let me keep it on campus at college.  We are in the middle of farm country.  What’s the worst that could happen?  The perspiration gathered on my neck as I rounded the corner and really picked up speed on the final stretch of my sprint towards the freshman parking lot.  My friends trailing behind me at a more casual pace.  I passed under the last streetlamp and darted across the road, through the entrance.  And I stood, legs trembling like jello, sucking wind looking straight into the first row of cars at an empty space that my car once occupied.  My fear was confirmed and some choice profanities came spewing out of my mouth like a battle cry.  I know what you were thinking: ‘Whoa.  For a minute there I forgot I was just sitting here on this nice, comfy chair surfing the internet.  I cannot believe that your dormitory neighbor stole your car.’  Yes, that actually happened.  It is no reflection of my school though because she was a straight-up kleptomaniac who needed to feel that rush of adrenaline or possibly support a drug habit and use my car as her getaway vehicle.  Some lessons to be learned from this experience:  1)Do not leave your purse and car keys unattended when a sketchy dorm neighbor is mere feet away.  Even if friends are present.  Thieves do not care about witnesses and they are ballsy.  2)Public safety on campus will not take you seriously when you approach them to report that your car has been stolen.  I guess something about my demeanor gave them the impression that I am flighty and prone to “misplacing” my car or “forgetting” where I parked.  I assure you I am none of those things and I was pretty pissed at the implication.  And 3)Pay one of your friends to fill out the incident report with the local police.  Because there is nothing quite like the muscle cramping in your hand caused by writing a 5 page description[front and back] of the events leading up to and including the actual theft.  I have to practice a healthy amount of restraint whilst writing these blog posts to stay on topic and be a little less verbose.  Using pretty pictures really helps.  You’re welcome.


Wait, what was I writing about again?  Oh yeah, interview videos.


Maybe somewhat against my better judgement I am now sharing these videos with you, manly voice[Am I the only one really weirded out by hearing myself speak on a recording of any kind?  Holy crap!  Is that what I sound like to everyone else?!] and all, so you can hear a little about my education, process, and how I got my start with craft shows.  They are neatly divided up into three videos in case you don’t have a 40 minute stretch of free time to watch all at once.  Considering the amount of footage she was working with I’m pretty amazed she was able to keep it to just 40 minutes.: