Archives for posts with tag: Art

bigI didn’t start life as a Gourd Goddess.   To be honest, I didn’t even start life as Denise Meyers.  I was born Denise Condit, a fact I did not discover until I was 39 years old, and which is another story entirely. The point is,  I have been reaching for the stars since I could remember, always dreaming of a life much bigger than the one I grew up with, always wanting to stuff  everything I possibly could into a day, always keenly aware that I would not live forever, and if I didn’t grab every opportunity that came my way – even ones I had to invent myself – I might never get the chance to do it again.

When I was fifteen, our psychology class in high school was reading ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST,  which was being filmed, at the time, at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem where I lived.  I called the production office one day and asked if anyone from the production would speak to our class. Joel Douglas, the production manager (and Michael Douglas’ younger brother), agreed, and showed up two days later to discuss the film at length.  When he left that day, he invited me to come to the set anytime I wanted.  I went as often as my mother would allow, and was there the day they filmed Will Sampson pulling the sink out of the floor and tossing it through the window just before he escapes from the hospital. Icuckoosnest photographed the basketball scene through the fence one afternoon, ate lunch in the commissary in the general vicinity of Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas, had Scatman Crothers ask me if I smoked and if I did, could I light his cigarette for him, and was the reason Joel Douglas remembered to order sea sickness pills for the cast when they headed to Newport for the fishing sequence.  I got my first kiss in that insane asylum as well when Joel Douglas pounced on me in the production office one afternoon, something I did not expect, but which makes for a great story.  My first kiss was in an insane asylum on the set of an Oscar winning movie!

Years later, when I was in college and decided I wanted to work in the film business as a career, I wrote a letter to Michael Douglas, asking for a job.  His business manager wrote back, largely because Mt Saint Helens had just erupted, and stories of the ash covering the Pacific Northwest were all over the news, so I sent her a jar of that ash and a friendship was born.  She agreed to get me work if I moved to Los Angeles, and a few weeks later, with my Volkswagon bug packed to the gills, I headed south by myself for a job at the Willliam Morris Agency.   One day while I was waiting to use a pay phone at the gas station across the street from Warner Brothers Studios, I struck up a conversation with a man from Oregon who not only had just moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of a career in film, turns out he was from Salem, was a popular disc jockey at a radio station where I had interviewed – with him – for a job.  We became roommates a few weeks later,  are still great friends to this day.

meandrayTaking no for an answer has never been my strong suit.  I wanted to live at the beach, and found an apartment right on the water in Malibu that was part of a small complex owned by a bachelor who had more money than he knew what to do with.  We paid $850 a month for four years, and hung out with people like Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), Sherilyn Wolter (Celia Quartermaine, on General Hospital), David Simkins (who wrote Adventures in Babysitting) and Ray Abruzzo, who would later go on to star as Little Carmine in The Sopranos.  I wanted to write screenplays, so I did, and after awhile, I wanted to get as far away from the film business as I could, because quite frankly,  as much as I love movies, I didn’t love writing, or the process of pouring my heart and soul into something that I found so intensely frustrating, and so incredibly unrewarding. Besides, everyone in Los Angeles is a screenwriter and I wasn’t good enough, at the time, to make much of an impact.

I went to work at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore for some perspective, and that’s where I saw gourd art for the first time.  When the woman who was making, and selling them, offered a class one fall, I asked my boyfriend at the time to sign me up as my birthday present.  I fell in love with gourds that weekend,  back when no one knew what a gourd was.  I had no idea Robert Rivera even existed at the time, and which I still think has benefited me greatly in terms of developing my own artistic style, because I had to teach myself everything I know now about gourds.  I had to learn to work with a surface that was curved in two directions, had to learn about tools and equipment, about photography, about applying to art shows, and then art galleries, how to write a contract, and what to say in a cover letter to a magazine editor.

oldgourdI was so naive about the art world that it never occurred to me there were rules, so I barged in where other artists “feared to tread”.  I saw a news brief in the back of Art of the West Magazine about an art show in wine country that featured some of the top Western and wildlife artists I’d been reading about, and so I decided to apply.  The gallery owner called me back and said she didn’t accept gourds because “they are a craft”, so I shot back that she obviously hadn’t seen mine, and I would appreciate it if she would at least take a look at my work before passing judgement.  I got into the show, and into the gallery and did extremely well at both.  I had my first, and only, sell out, a year later, at the San Dimas Art Festival, which is a funny story in itself, because after challenging anyone and everyone who said gourds weren’t a legitimate art form, I started getting into some of the best art shows in the country.  The day I delivered my work to the San Dimas art committee, I spent the entire rest of the day crying, I felt so out of my league.  The artists in the show were famous, at least among the Western art crowd, and I was embarrassed to have my pieces shown alongside theirs.  And by the end of the show, the only thing I had left to take home was a nice, big, fat check, and a tremendous amount of respect from my fellow artists.

piggycanvas1aA few years ago, I decided to test myself artistically to see what I was capable of.  I could design, woodburn, carve and paint a gourd with my eyes tied behind my back, but I felt horribly uncomfortable around canvas.  I liked the “cheat” of woodburning, and how fast acrylics dry, I was used to the curved surfaces of a gourd, and how to make allowances for imperfections in the gourds.  Painting on a flat surface felt foreign to me, but I wanted to see if I could paint things other than cougars and coyotes.  I am embarrassed to say that the first few weeks of this new experiment were horrible.  I hated oils, and canvas, and not working on something I could rest in my lap.  I missed my woodburning tool, and my Dremel, and thought most of what I was working on was dreadful.  I decided to take gourds in all different shapes, cut them into pieces, and reassemble them into works that were five and six feet tall, with contemporary themes.  I covered some with hundreds of flat backed beads, and painted others with copper and brass from powdered metals I found online.  I painted nursery rhymes, and Japanese geisha’s, and even found some bare wood frames that would allow me to expand the artwork beyond the edge of the canvas onto the frame itself.  I bought a hollow core door and woodburned a tiger on it that is two thirds the size of an actual tiger.  I was commissioned to create a piece for the executive producer of The Lord of the Rings with Frodo, Sam, and Golum, and painted a leopard in oil, on a three foot by five foot canvas, and just for the fun of it, reproduced an Ed Hardy painting from a Sailor Jerry’s campaign just to see if I could.

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And when I could see that the economy was turning on its ear, I decided to create “functional” artwork, that would allow a collector to justify the purchase, because the art had more than one function.  I turned to handbags like my life depended on it, then decorative boxes, then functional boxes,  day of the dead coffin boxes, boxes designed to look like vintage ads, or wine boxes with pin up girls on them, and recently began working my way back to gourd art again.  I am currently in the process of designing the largest and most elaborate gourd I have ever attempted, with every sort of creature I can think of to put on it, from hummingbirds to blue whales.  I expect this new piece to take at least four months to create, and when I am finished with it, I expect to sell it for more money than I have ever sold a single piece of artwork for, which is a pretty high bar considering that I’ve sold work for $22,500 in the past….

But that’s okay.

Because taking no for an answer just isn’t part of my internal make-up.  I may not have been born a Gourd Goddess.   But I will never stop reaching for the stars…..

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wolf handbagI’ve made no secret of the fact that the last few years have been pretty rough.  I’ve had my ups and downs just like anyone else, but I’ve discovered they were minor setbacks at best compared to some of the challenges I’ve faced since 2009.  As a result,  I’ve learned how much more resilient I am than would have ever imagined.  I am braver, wiser, and more resourceful than I thought possible,  and after putting aside my art career to focus on saving my house and protecting my health, I’ve emerged from the past few years with an inspired and reinvigorated approach to art and writing that has resulted in a return to the gourd art I am best known for, a renewed passion for handbags and decorative box design, and the unwavering belief that my best years are ahead of me.

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I have four back to back art shows starting at the end of September and continuing through the end of October, a feat I have never attempted before.  I was accepted into the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, New York (September 28 and 29) which I have been applying to for years without avail, plus I will also be exhibiting at An Occasion for the Arts in Williamsburg, Virginia (October 5 and 6), and the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina (October 17, 18, 19 and 20).  I was told that several artists have applied to the Lake Eden Arts Festival since its inception and have never been accepted, while I got in on  my first try, which I have to admit, feels really nice.

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I was also invited to exhibit at the Smithsonian Craft2Wear Show in Washington, DC (October 25, 26 and 27), and was asked to bring my new wine boxes since the Gallo wine family will be in attendance, plus I am hard at work creating a line of decorative boxes and one of a kind humidors for men that will debut at this event as well.

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Five years ago, I was the top selling gourd artist in the country, with the sales of several $10,000 and $15,000 gourds to my credit. I am still  the only gourd artist to sell a single piece of gourd art for $22,500, but I gave up gourd art entirely the past few years when I went from my best year ever to my worst year ever, between 2008 and 2009.  I honestly thought that gourd art was over for me, since I had a basement full of gourds no one wanted, but not long ago I picked up a gourd and decided to start experimenting again, and the reaction to my first new piece in years was overwhelming,  11,000 people saw the dragonfly gourd I posted on facebook, and I sold that new piece, along with another, significantly more expensive work, at the Tryon Arts Center as part of their outstanding 2013 sculpture exhibit within just a few weeks of one another.  I am working on several new pieces for the Williamsburg show and hope to start getting into galleries and larger art shows with them again as well.

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Just a few days ago, I received my copy of the Page a Day Handbag calendar for 2014.  The publisher contacted me via email last summer and asked me to send photos of recent work, four of which made it into the calendar.  In fact, my handbags are the only ones in the entire calendar on a color background, and I am one of three handbag designers with more than one image on exhibit.  Most of the bags are from private collections and museums, and a large majority are vintage.  I was asked to submit photos for the 2015 calendar as well.

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My screenplay, LUCKY 13, about the Women’s Air Service Pilots,  was turned down by all five screenplay competitions I entered, however. the best of those competitions, the Nicholls Fellowship (offered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), did say the script was among the top twenty percent of the over 7300 screenplay submissions they received.  So I did something that is generally frowned on in Hollywood; I sent copies of the script to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and included one of my best gourds in the submission to Steven Spielberg, who I understand is quite a fan of gourd art and artists.  It may never go anywhere, but you never know unless you try.

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Finally, I got tickets to The Daily Show in September, and am currently waiting for my confirmation to be a balloon handler again at this years Macy’s Parade.  I missed last years parade because of my broken ankle, but I promised my sponsor that if he could get me in again, I would come to the parade, even if I was on a stretcher!  And last, but by no means least, the 1969 Dodge Travco I have been working on for over 18 months is finally done and is currently on the auction block.  I taught myself about upholstery, laying carpet, and refinishing woodwork among a great many other things.  Check out the link on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJNvYfHnBmU&feature=youtu.be/

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I am back from the Natureworks Show in Tulsa and before I go any further I just have to say this.  I wish every art show on the planet was like Natureworks.  This event was started over thirty years ago by Bill Cox and Ken Greenwood in an effort to provide artists with  an exclusive outlet for their work (and a MUCH appreciated respect for the incredible diversity of sheer talent on BOTH sides of the “artistic fence”), and the citizens of Tulsa with a host of arts programs and public art works, paid for with the proceeds of the sale.   High school art students compete for and receive generous college scholarships, the riverwalk near Oral Roberts University features dozens of wildlife sculptures from some of the most talented wildlife artists on the planet displayed in a beautiful park setting, the Federal Duck Stamp Program and the National Elk Refuge all receive support and donations from the organization.

The show is run by volunteers from all walks of life; there is a retired general, a bank manager, a mortgage broker, an ex-sheriff…you name it.  Every year they put up the booths and most of the lights, help unload and unpack, host an artists dinner, feed us lunch, host an opening night event that brings in hundreds if not thousands of prospective buyers.  There is a hospitality suite, an artists breakfast, and every year, a gift of some kind to say thank you to the artists for participating in the show.  A few years ago, it was a directors chair with our names on them.  This year it was a cooler.  Sometimes its a handmade pencil box, or a thermos.  The point is, the people who run the show treat us like they think we are worth something, and while that may sound like a no brainer on one hand, you’d be surprised by the number of art shows and promoters who feel artists are a dime a dozen.  I’ve been kicked out of shows for something as simple as telling one show promoter that I didn’t want to be across from a particularly disruptive artist because his constant, unpredictable and explosive outbursts were unprofessional and severely impacting my sales (and, consequently their percentage of my sales) and he got invited back the next year while I didn’t.  So being at a show where the promoters treat you well is truly an added benefit.

I didn’t make a tremendous number of sales at this years event, but I came away from the show with some fantastic trades, some wonderful memories, and the feeling that I am loved and appreciated by people I truly admire and trust. So thank you Ray and Linda Goldsmith, Lon and Bonnie Canada, Tiny and Barbara Thompson, Doug Collins, Steve and Mary Ann Iverson, Treak Trasker, Sue Gideon, Chelley Wallack, Glenn and Judy Wright and Jon and Leigh  Reaves, among DOZENS of others.  You guys are the absolute BEST!

I am back in the studio again and working on all kinds of ideas for upcoming events.  I have started doing decorative boxes and hope to branch out into wine boxes, jewelry boxes and trinket boxes, plus I also started doing gourds and paintings again, so I am also going to be updating my website to reflect the new works I am adding to my product line.  I am not sure where all of this will lead, but I am finally at the point in my life where I truly believe that every day is the best day of my life because its the only day I have.  And I intend to make the most of each one.

 

 

A few weeks ago when I was in the studio finishing work on the big cats handbag, I was listening to part two of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” to help pass the time.  When I heard Oprah say that she is a huge Scrabble fan, I looked up with great interest, since Scrabble handbags are not only fun for me to make, they are also one of my most popular accessories.

By the following afternoon, I had a custom made  Scrabble handbag and a handmade clutch ready to go in the mail along with one of my new 2011 calendars, a brochure, biography and letter of introduction.  I decided to send the bag to “O Magazine” because I have seen video of the piles upon countless piles of mail she gets at Harpo Studios in Chicago every week.  And, anyway, I’d sent a pair of gourd masks to one of her producers about ten years ago and never heard anything back.

 

Last April when I found out that Sascha Obama had decided to make saving the tigers a priority in her young life, AND that the Obamas were set to visit the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, and I dropped everything I was doing to create a leopard evening bag for Michelle, a tiger tote for Sacha, and a cheetah tote for Malia.  After packaging the bags in boxes lined with matching prints, I drove up to the The Grove Park Inn to deliver them, but alas, they wouldn’t let me leave the gifts, so I mailed them off to the White House that same day.

 

My  point is this.  I have never been one to let an opportunity pass to promote myself or my work, because I have to believe that somewhere along the line something amazing will happen, that the right person will come along to propel my career into the stratosphere, that whoever I have been waiting on, or whatever I have dreamed will unfold, whatever chance encounter, or opportunity I once acted on that “never went anywhere” (at least not in my time frame) is all part of a larger plan that I have no control over, but which I chose to continue to believe will happen, even when it seems as though I have run up against a brick wall.

I believe in serendipity and in the idea that even though I might be ready for the next phase of my career, the people and events that will carry me to the next level, might not be in place yet.  I haven’t heard back from either Oprah Winfrey OR Michelle Obama, but you never know when the phone might ring, or who might be reading this blog and think, I can do something to help this along.

I know Malcolm Gladwell thinks that there is no such thing as luck, that people only get to where they want to be based on where they were born and what family they were born into, but I believe that while family dynamics play a role in how we start life, the choices we make about what to do with the talents we’ve been given as we grow up, can take us where we want to be, even if the journey takes longer than we would like.  Or to be more accurate, where I would like because, as I have said before, I was ready to “be somebody” when I was twenty.  Thirty years later, I am STILL ready to be the next Prada, or Gucci, or Balenciaga.  And while I don’t have the money or the prestige, I have the drive, the goal, and the desire coupled with the steadfast belief that I didn’t get the talent I have by accident…there has to be a reason why things haven’t happened the way I have wanted…..

 

The handbag business is continuing to make minor strides in the marketplace with several new developments.  An online interview I gave last April to a handbag design website was posted this morning, and even though the questions I was asked to respond to were left out of the article (making for some pretty choppy transitions) I am pleased that it was finally published!

Handbag Designer 101 Interview

Secondly, my work is being debuted at the Trendz Accessories show in West Palm Beach, Florida and is being handled by a handbag rep who services Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, so hopefully by this time next week I will be up to my eyebrows in orders.

Thirdly, I managed to get portfolios to three top boutiques in Wilmington, Baltimore, and New York City where I hope to establish accounts before Christmas.  The boutique in Maryland is calling with an order, which is good, because I really need to have my Christmas accounts in a row and filled at least two weeks before Christmas.  And I have an idea for a handbag that will have all seven on the big cats on it for one very lucky lady to open on Christmas morning!

I also had a previous client contact me with a spectacular insight into what she thinks makes the bags so fabulous. She said women spend a lot of money on shoes so people can look….at their feet?  She thinks women should invest in a beautiful handbag, because a unique handbag can help you make a statement about who you are and what you are about better than just about anything else you can think of.  And of course, she’s right!!!!

So if anyone wants to get on board the Christmas Express to make a statement about who you are and what YOU are about, now would be a good time to do it!!   I am offering 20% off any handbag, evening bag or tote on the site, along with free shipping.

Happy Holidays!!!

www.denisemeyers.com

I am conflicted. Christmas decorations are already up at most businesses in town and it isn’t even Halloween yet….

But I have a feeling that if I don’t start reminding people now that Christmas is almost upon us, they will wait until the last minute to place their orders……

That would be a real shame…..

Because these handbags don’t make themselves you know….

Although, it would be nice if they did….

So here’s to Christmas….

May it be ever so bright…….

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There is a cycle to my work that I  have experienced since the day I first decided to become an artist.  The idea phase is probably the one I embrace the most, because I allow ideas to float in and out of my head until I find one I can develop and grow.  On occasion, I  have been lucky enough to see the finished product in full, before I even start, but that is rare.  I dreamt about a finished work once, even though I hadn’t even started on the piece, and within weeks, it was not only completed, it looked exactly the way I had seen it in my dream. A few years later, when I saw it displayed in the collectors home who eventually bought it, it took my breath away. I had worked on it with such intensity, and sold it so quickly, that I barely remembered creating it.  As I stood before it, I thought, “Oh my God, what a beautiful….wait a minute….I did that!”

For the past six weeks, I have been hard at work creating pieces for a collector in California, finishing a commission, and completing a trade I made with a very talented photographer many years ago.  In the middle of all of this, I had a garage sale, I put a bunch of stuff on ebay, bought a Flip camcorder for a YouTube project I am working on to promote the handbags, figured out how to use iMovie to create our submission for the Amazing Race 18 (provided there is one, of course) have been putting the finishing touches on several evening bags and totes that will go in the mail tomorrow to my first ever handbag rep for a trade show in Florida.

Its been fun, and exhausting, but the process of watching this business begin to develop, to see the reaction to the work, and to be approached by boutiques and galleries interested in promoting the bags, tells me I am on the right road.  I can’t wait to see where it goes….

Come join me at the Sausalito Art Festival at Marinship Park in Sausalito, California on September 4, 5 and 6.  I will be in booth 317, on the grass,near the tennis courts.  I will also have a piece on display at the Western Design Conference at the Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, September 10, 11, 12. Hope to see you there!

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This will come as a shocker, but I don’t know everything.

I do know what I don’t know though, and what I’ve been told is that I don’t know how hard it has been to read my blog posts because of the white on black typeface.  So, Sharon and David, let me know what you think….. So far, I like it.  But I liked the other one too, so what do I know?

I also know that its time to announce that it looks like one of the orders I took at the Accessories Show is going to come through and its a doozy!  I met a pair of very stylish young sisters from Dubai who own a boutique called Fleurt, at the Mercato Mall, and from what I’ve read about their shop, I am excited and honored that they have chosen to give the handbags a try.

I am also hard at work on putting the finishing touches on new pieces for the Sausalito Art Festival over Labor Day weekend, and I am about to finish up a bag for the Western Design Conference at the Pavillions at Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole that I kind of hope doesn’t sell because I LOVE it!  Its no secret that anyone who knows me knows I love old Westerns and this new bag, which borrows liberally from an old Hopalong Cassidy radio I have coveted for a long time, is GORGEOUS.  It has taken FOREVER to paint, but I never claimed to be the fastest painter in the world.   I am pleased with the results AND the vintage radio dials I found on ebay to help complete the look.   Watch this space for pictures because I can assure you I will post photos of it when its done…

I also want to honor another request with this post. I have been asked many times to include pictures of what the “rest” of a finished bag looks like, so I posted those pictures at the top of the blog so you can see what a completed bag looks like, inside and out. After mentioning a hundred times about how that box of fabric I opened two years ago gave me a ten million dollar idea, I finally realized it would be nice to show how the fabric finishes the look.

As a reminder, the fifty percent off sale on any canvas tote on our website is good until Friday.  Send me an email with your phone number and  I will give you a call to arrange payment, since we don’t have a shopping cart. Shipping is not included in this offer, but over the next few months, we will have other sales that will!

Here’s the  thing….I come by my stubborn streak honestly, but I DO eventually listen to your suggestions.  Because I know what I don’t know.  And I know enough to admit that I don’t know everything!

When I was twenty, I knew exactly what I wanted out of life.  I wanted to “be somebody”, but I didn’t grow up in a home where ambition was encouraged. My parents were hardworking people; my father was a mechanic and my mother stayed at home until my sister was in her early teens.    I don’t think they intentionally dissuaded my passions, they just didn’t see the world the way that I did. Frankly, there is no reason they should have.  Everyone has a different path in  life, and I wanted mine to be an uphill climb, straight to the top.  But as I sit here today, thirty years later trying to say precisely what is on my mind, I am forced to realize that the path I chose was more like a rollercoaster ride than anything else, and it was all my doing.

I have avoided testing myself for thirty years because I have been afraid that if I took a chance on myself, and I failed, I wouldn’t survive.  It seems absurd to be saying this when so much in the world has gone haywire (I am reminded of the line in Casablanca “the problems of  (one)  little (person) don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”, which is true, by the way), but as I began to wrap up preparations for the Accessories Show at the Javitz Center in New York this weekend, a strange thought occurred to me.

I have been preparing for this moment all my life.

If it works, it works and if it doesn’t, then I will at least know I did something so far out of my comfort zone that it took three decades to work up the courage to do.  That may sound silly, but the fact is, I have worked myself like a show pony most of my life trying to skirt around this kind of  investment.  The small voice inside me that doubted my decisions, my “position in life”, my choices, setbacks, challenges,  lessons, and even triumphs, were all because I told myself, I don’t know how to do this. I’m not even sure that I should.

Then,  something interesting happened last week. I invited the Guinness beer heiress, Daphne Guinness to become a “friend” on facebook.  And when she accepted, I not only felt “validated” as a designer, I started to think about how different her life is from mine.  How I have always given “people like that” credit for getting where they want to be because “they” have the resources and the upbringing to know how to go about it.  But what occurred to me, more than anything, is that Daphne Guinness, whether she knows it or not, has been an inspiration to me, simply because of the fact that she has no “fear of fashion”.   And it isn’t because she is widely considered to be one of the best dressed women in the planet (although she is).  My new collection may not be the most original line in the world, but its an amazing line, and I know it.  I don’t need to be afraid to take it to the market, even in this kind of economy, even though the bags are expensive and are designed to be that way.  Because I have been working toward this moment my whole life.

Its time to find out if this is truly the path I am meant to be on or not.

By the way, I did something else this week I thought I would never do. I succeeded in revising my website, myself.  Have a look.  I think you will like what you see…

www.denisemeyers.com