Archives for posts with tag: Sausalito Art Festival

When I started my art career twenty years ago, gourds were my choice of medium.  I took a class in Santa Monica from a woman who created gourd art on the side, when she wasn’t working as a prop artist in Hollywood.  I came away from that one day class filled with such an intense passion for gourd art that I decided, right then and there, that I wanted to become the best gourd artist on the planet.  I had no idea how I was going to get there, I just knew that for once in my life, this drive I have to be the best at something might actually have a shot at coming true.  I encountered plenty of obstacles along the way of course, not the least of which was my own naiveté about art.  I had no idea how to get into galleries, how to do an art show, how to even find out to apply for an art show.  I was blissfully unaware of the politics of art, declaring to my boyfriend at the time that I loved art BECAUSE it was so “non political”.

Through a series of events that lead me from a holiday art show in a friend’s garage to my first real art show at the Pasadena Civic Center, I tackled art with the passion of  a religious convert.  I followed up on every art show lead I could find, challenged gallery owners who deemed gourd art a “craft”, and went after the goal of becoming the number one gourd artist in the country as if my life depended on it.  Robert Rivera, who I credit with singlehandedly opening the door to gourds as an art form, was my guidepost for what to do and how to go about achieving it.  Everyone who told me that gourds would never be taken seriously as an art form along the way, unwittingly added fuel to the fire of my unwavering determination, until the day I sold my first piece of gourd art for $20,000.

I still remember standing in line at the bank with the check clutched in my hands so tightly that if an earthquake had hit about then, I would have been found in the rubble, still holding onto it, and probably wouldn’t have let go to grab onto a rescuer.  When I stepped up to the counter to cash it, I had to fight from bursting into tears, and the sense of relief and accomplishment as I walked away from the teller window was overwhelming.  I couldn’t WAIT to tell all those naysayers that they were wrong about gourds as an art form.

I gave up gourd art a few years ago to tackle a new medium and a new way of expressing my artistic talents.  I wanted to create art that wasn’t something you left at home.  I reasoned that since people don’t buy jewelry, or a new outfit, or even a set of golf clubs just to leave them at home, why should art be something that gets left behind every time you leave the house?

Since I consider wood burning my true forte, I settled on wood handbags as the new direction my career would take.  By combining wood burning,  hand painting, and an attention to detail with respect to the linings, the hardware and the fixtures, I could create functional art that would make the women who owned them, stand out in a crowd.  My success at selling these new handbags was instantaneous; I got into every show I applied for, and even some I thought I would never be able to exhibit at, like the Smithsonian Craft Show and the Sausalito Art Festival.

But then the economy tanked and the prevailing wisdom among handbag buyers and art show producers was that my work was too “niche”, that women, especially wealthy women, would always buy expensive handbags, but they wanted them to be handbags other women would recognize as expensive.  And presumably, exclusive.  I still can’t quite get over standing in front of a panel of judges at my audition for Project Accessory and being told that my one of a kind, handmade, exclusive and very expensive handbags were NOT on the same level as a Birkin Bag, which is also one of a kind, handmade, exclusive and very expensive, but that hardly stopped me from continuing to believe that one day, my bags will be as sought after as those bags are.

A few weeks ago, Pam Eggemeyer, who owns Spirits in the Wind Gallery in Golden, Colorado,  challenged me to create  a handbag based on the design legacy of Yves Saint Laurent, after the Denver Art Museum decided to mount a 40 year retrospective of his work.  I began researching his design ethic and settled on an idea I felt I could really make my own. The handbag itself was easy, but since I ordinarily line each handbag with a matching fabric, I decided I had to pull a rabbit out of a hat to make sure this new bag was a show stopper. I found a way to print original designs on fabric, and had a yard of fabric made from the images on the handbag to line it with.  It has a matching clutch and a matching handmade storage bag, along with a  handbeaded  handle.

I am far from where I want to be with this new venture thanks to preconceived notions about wood handbags, but I know myself well enough to know that telling me it can’t be done is a surefire way to make sure I accomplish my objectives.

Just got back from the Sausalito Art Festival last night.  After 96 hours in a van loaded to the rafters (do vans even HAVE rafters?) two weeks, and 5575 miles later, there is SO much wonderful stuff to report.  I have been trying to get into the Sausalito Art Festival since I first became an artist, and I can honestly say that the hype was everything I had hoped it might be.  The staff at the festival makes everything so effortless; the tents were set up for us, electricity was provided, volunteers were on hand to ferry your equipment to your booth.  We were given food coupons for all three days of the festival, so no one had to stand in long lines waiting to order $8.00 hamburgers, or $4.00 cups of ice cream.  Breakfast AND lunch were provided, and the opening night festivities were perfection…an open bar, sushi, dim sum and antipasto, followed by dinner and dancing in the main tent.  There were two bands who played on opening night, and enough food for an army, plus I actually sold on opening night,  unheard of at events like this.

The weather was unbelievable; it was between 79 and 84 degrees, and the location was sublime…right on the bay where hundreds of houseboats and sailboats were either docked or moored.  The Bangles, The Fixx, Jefferson Starship and Dave Mason all played at the main tent, and local bands played on a smaller, more intimate stage, not 100 feet from my booth.  I was busy all weekend long and made a number of sales on Saturday and Sunday.  Monday was quieter, until a woman showed up asking me to call a collector who bought five handbags on Saturday. My initial response was one of dread; usually when that happens, something is broken, chipped, doesn’t match the couch, the husband didn’t like it, the handle broke,  or there is some other problem.  I was absolutely delighted beyond belief to find out that this collector wanted to buy even more bags, and I can’t wait to find out what new bags I get to make for her!

As if that wasn’t enough, I got a call on the way home from a handbag rep who wants to promote my line in Florida,  and THEN I got an email from a gallery owner in Florida who also wants to purchase some bags for a gallery in Naples.  I got an idea for a new line of handbags based on vintage travel trailers, and when I got home, my house sitter asked if I wanted some slightly damaged luggage stickers that her grandmother, who helped found Swiss Air, collected from the 1930’s to use on bags,
and when I saw what she had to offer, I flipped.

I can hardly wait to get back into the studio.  It feels really good to know that I not only had a good show and an excellent time in San Francisco, but that I am more convinced than ever that I am onto something really huge…

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!