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Rolling Like the Stones     24 May, 2011, 04:20 pm
In an earlier blog, I wrote about Woodstock and its meaning to the arts & crafts movement in 1969. I haven’t spoken about the other music festival held that fall, the notorious Altamont concert in California, well-documented in the 1970 film “Gimme Shelter.” At the beginning of the film, the camera pans to a travel trailer that houses the Rolling Stones and out pops Mick Jagger into a crowd in the parking lot. Someone promptly sucker-punches Jagger, and that act sets the dark tone of the film about violence and the end of flower children dreams.

What interests me here is the travel trailer. There they were, the Rolling Stones, housed at that moment in a recreational vehicle just like our 2004 Trail-Lite 22’ trailer, subject of an earlier blog. Our trailer (we call it Steinbeck) often seems small compared to the 54’ luxury land yachts that you see on the road today. But in 1969, it was big enough for the Rolling Stones!

I thought about the Stones when I eased Steinbeck into a parking space reserved for Artsplosure artists at Raleigh, NC on Friday evening. Within a few minutes Susan and I set up camp and were chillin’ with a craft brew, looking across the lot ...
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Calendar Makers     25 June, 2010, 04:30 pm
We just published our 2011 Literary Calligraphy calendar! Actually the pre-press work began in April, with a final publication date of June 15. This is the 12th edition that Susan and I created, although this is actually our 14th calendar. The first two were prepared for printing (and paid for) by Cedco Publishing. We learned from Cedco, especially on the crucial number of how many to print. These days we prepare the calendar totally in-house and have them printed locally to our specifications by Bison Printing of Bedford, VA.

First, Susan picks the theme of the calendar and suggests the Literary Calligraphy images for each of the 12 months. The 2011 theme is the four seasons, so that each image must fit that theme. We then discuss how large to present the image on the page, whether to have a border, and if so, the color of the border. Next we go to our respective offices and work on our tasks independently.

I produce the grid page of the calendar and keep the old files in QuarkExpress on our Macintosh computer. First, I bring up the files from the previous year to tab through and set the main dates for say, January 2011. I’ve got to be sure that the month ...
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The Great Recession     22 March, 2010, 12:15 am
A frequent question that Susan and I get asked in the booth is, “How are you doing in these economic times?” The short answer is fine, now. We have really changed our business in the past two years to stay viable. In 2008 we had six persons, full and part time, working at Literary Calligraphy. Today there are four of us.

We’re just like all of the other small U.S. businesses that you read about in the newspaper. We struggle to pay rising health care costs while we slash other business expenses. We didn’t print a color catalog last year. We skimped on road maintenance in the fall and paid for it during this winter of mud and potholes.

The key to surviving this “Great Recession” is to keep costs low and increase revenue. Three years ago we maxed out on the number of shows that Susan and I can do in a year. Now we keep the number of shows the same while seeking more profitable shows. We invested in having our jury slides manipulated by a professional. Getting in the top summer shows really can make a difference in the bottom line in December.

The internet has always been a plus for us, going back to the 1990s. We already
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Back to Pittsburgh     19 June, 2009, 09:06 am
Room 1244

Straight across Point State Park and down the Ohio River is the spectacular view from this deluxe corner room at the Pittsburgh Hilton. We have come for our 18th appearance at the Three Rivers Art Festival, the annual city-wide celebration. Lots of things have changed in the art show business since 1991, but the captivating view reminds us that we still lead a charmed life.

Susan actually booked this year’s reservation last year during renovations and got a good rate. We were pleasantly surprised with our room assignment when they gave us our room key. It turns out that our friends within the hotel, knowing that we were coming to the festival, put us in Room 1244 as a courtesy. They like having the artists around.

Unfortunately, with the economy and no artist rate deals from the hotel, less and less artists stay at the Hilton. We had some great parties in Room 1244 in the past, but this year Susan and I had to content ourselves with our traveling Bichon dogs for companionship. They are always up for a good party, even though they go to bed early.

Another heavy dose of déjà vu was delivered this year courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins ...
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It's About Money: Third Wave Artisans     13 November, 2008, 03:48 pm
The Third Wave of crafts exhibitors came in the early 1990s. Unlike First Wavers who came to arts & crafts organically and the Second Wavers who were obsessed by it, folks making up the Third Wave could just as easily have sold real estate as hand-made articles. In fact several that I have spoken to did formerly sell real estate. They came from many backgrounds but they shared a vision of arts & crafts – they were in for the lifestyle and the money.

Imagine the scene when the first of the Thirds entered the existing countercultural arts & craft tribe with their logo-embroidered golf shirts and PowerPoint sales presentations. Their shiny monster RVs dominated the parking lots, sporting Republican bumper stickers in the fiercely Blue State arts community. I watched, or mostly got out of the way of, perfectly-designed shipping containers that carted their goods noiselessly to sleek booths designed by former Macy employees.

I was initially skeptical about their products because they seemed more interested in what would sell rather than what was created to satisfy artistic impulses. In many cases they brought new products, but often the items were ...
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