Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do you ever wonder if you made a difference???

Do you ever wonder if you made a difference???

Interesting, I am playing on the computer and found this nice little tale and the discovered it was so very easy to post here!  It is a nice thought and makes me wonder, did I?  Did I ever make a difference?

Ladies' Club?

I have been told that this blogging world is a ladies' club, that we are interested in "niceties" and tea, luncheons and grandchildren.  I don't believe it is that limited, a place where the women talk in the kitchen and men are drinking their brandy by the fire, talking "serious stuff", concerns of the day, political things and "men talk."
   I don't belong to any "political blogs", only this one and I follow my followers and occasionally reach out and drag another into this discussion.  I don't think of women as the kitchen staff, unread, without an opinion,
and tied to the stove, only allowed to talk of cooking, sewing and children.
   We all enter a conversation from some vantage point.  We can read the very same book but we never leave our experience.  Our point of view filters what we see and this is what makes life interesting.  If we all got the same thing from the same experience, well then life would be pretty dull.  The best conversations are not with people who agree with every thought we have.  Sometimes, in disagreement, we can even discover that our experience was limiting, somehow blocking what everyone else could see clearly!  The idea behind a discussion is to allow another your experience because in this life you only have time to digest your own.
   I choose this blog to express my views because mostly I am an artist and it is this artist's view that I bring to the table.  If we ever me an extraterrestrial, who would you want to represent us? A math genius or scientist?  A politician? Maybe a poet?  How about a mother?  Well, that's my point exactly.  Women have a unique view into this history of mankind and it is not limited to sewing!  In fact, sewing has been a terrific inspiration!  Do you realize that it was women with their sewing, working with cloth, designs on pottery and their own spiritual quest that created Abstract Art?  Yes, it is true.
    I enter the conversation as an artist and a cook.  I think some of the best art in the world is meant to be eaten.  Surrounded by good smells and designs on the pottery.  There is a conversation here that has been largely ignored, given over to the men by the fireplace having their drinks.
    Sometimes conversations become political and it is safer to make bread, wear a burka, remain without an opinion, change the subject, be fearful of the secret police, worry about what people may think, leave that to the husband, or think we are powerless.  Or, even worse, think that is has nothing to do with us!
    I have a point of view.  I am reasonably well read and I am a welder.  I am fairly conservative, really I am!
Except for three years as a school teacher I have been self-employed all my life.  I am a businessman.  Most of my life I have had employees, as many as fifteen people working for me.  Over the years I have been to every single one of their homes, seen their children grow, eaten their food, seen them cry, helped them find laughter, encouraged them in their journeys.  The better they became, the better we worked as a team.
    I have a point of view.  I have two daughters.  In some ways the world is better for them and in some ways it is worse.  They are independent young women and I am so very proud of them.  They are "out of the kitchen", not barefoot and pregnant; they can vote, are free to express their opinion.  Both are world travellers, educated way beyond me and even have "good jobs".  They can have conversations in any room in the house.
    Yes, I could go to a political forum and probably argue my little heart out but that is not really who I am.
I am an artist, a welder, a gardener (Spring is coming and I will be talking about my garden soon!), a businessman, husband, father, friend, and I am comfortable in the kitchen and, on occasion, like to drag you into the fireplace room!
My Other Blog is HERE.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Distribution of Wealth

     is really what government is all about.  The roads that are built, the bridges constructed are all about
economy and delivery of products and services.  Schools and education have replaced apprenticeship programs and are necessary for industry and modern technology.  Our military protects our wealth, our beliefs.  The local police protect our homes.  10,000 years ago, maybe if you wanted something, if you were big enough, you could just take it.  Someone discovered that six little guys had the power of one big guy and governments were formed.  You could no longer take what you wanted, there were laws and rules and regulations to acquisition of property.
    Nothing has ever been equal for everyone all the time.  There have always been poor people and the very rich.  These two extremes to our political system have always been with us and are probably not a bad thing
because they come with benefits.  The "right to be poor" is inextricably tied to the "right to be left alone" and individual rights, even the right to fail. On the other end of this spectrum, the wealthy, is our right to succeed and reap the rewards of working hard.  It offers us a goal and opportunity, something to "work hard for".
   This system of economics, our capitalist system has worked well for most people, most of the time.  It has always been open to improvement and there have been ways to alter it with the times.  For instance, we have abandoned slavery, we developed child labor laws and equal rights between the sexes.  More improvements can be made and we have a political system that slowly and steadily allow for these changes.
    But something has happened.  In the last twenty-five years something has happened that has horribly altered the math to our economic system and it is not working like it used to work.  Very simply put, if you reduced us to a village of only 100 people, it used to be like this:  there would be one person in this village who, for whatever reason just couldn't make it.  This person needed our assistance, maybe help with housing or food or unemployment or medical help. 80 people in this village had jobs and worked hard, paid taxes, bought cars and were at various points along this economic scale and they knew that working hard and carefully spending their money would offer them an even better future. Nine people worked for the government, doing what government people do, working to continue this system. and maybe ten people were "wealthy". Not wealthy beyond our dreams, in fact maybe our dreams could take us there.  We could work harder, save more, spend wisely, do what they did.  This was the "American Dream" and we were the only country in the world where this could really happen.  It still does, we are not entirely broken, but this might be only availabe to one in this village of a hundred.  About the same math as becoming a rock star.
   What it used to be, it seems, is there was a million dollars in this village.  The one poor person received
almost nothing.  The eighty people in the middle earned various proportions of $800,000 divided based on production and working hard, their educational and skill abilities. The people "at the top" split the remaining $200,000 and did whatever they did with it, invested it and loaned it out to create more!
    The math and distribution of money is all different now.  The "one" village poor guy has been joined by 20 others and for whatever reason just can't make it without a lot of help.  In fact, the help has been extended to the next 20 people and we now have in our little village of 100 forty people who are receiving help. Help with food, medicine, houseing, education, utilities, transportation, unemployment or something. There is no longer enough work in our village. What used to be a group of 80 people all working hard to sustain this system has dwindled to 60 and is getting smaller every day.  In 1965 General Motors was America's largest employer with an average wage of $25 per hour. Today it is Walmart with an average wage of just over nine dollars.
   The "top 10%" are still with us and always will be no matter the system.  The difference is now, instead of controlling that $200,000 in our mythical budget of a million, they control $400,000.  There is only the million to be had, you can't really just print more money.  So the very wealthy have acquired this by subtraction. It is all math in the end.  If someone gets more there will be someone who gets less.
    This might all be okay if these were even dreamable numbers, but they aren't.  We are talking riches here beyond our ability to count.  Five Billion Dollar Bonuses!!!! and almost none of it is returned to the village.
It is in off shore bank accounts. It is invested, not in our factories, nothing to support our village. It is out-sourced, sent to another villaged, not even in this country.  While we work hard and pay our 35% in taxes, these multi-billion dollar bonuses are taxed at 15%.  No transportation tax, nothing for our roads or bridges or to help our village in any way.  NO Social Security Tax, Nothing to help or offer assistance to our growing bottom, now 20%.
     The problem with this math, and math it is, is that it is getting worse.  We now have to offer incentives and bribery to keep the money here, to build our village instead of theirs.  Now the bottom is so much bigger and becoming larger every day.  The lowest Forty percent have nothing!!! and the top 10% control over 40% of the wealth.
    No, I am not a communist, I am not even a Socialist.  I live in this village.
This is what I do.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Good Gate...

     is inviting and offers security.  It is a point on a horizon, a statement on the road and says, "yes, you have found me."  It is welcoming and foreboding, enter or not.  It should not be a continuation of a fence line, but a single entity, a point of arrival.
    There is no mystery about building a good gate and no matter the design, it always begins with the gate posts.  These are the stanchions, the boundaries of the gate, not the end of the fence line.  They will be holding a lot of weight and need to be bigger, stronger and well placed in concrete.  I normally use 6" x 6"
steel posts and rent a boring machine to dig a 30" diameter hole about three and a half feet deep.  This will hold about one cubic yard of concrete and offers total stability for the gate post.
   A good gate is not a framed fence panel.  One test of a good gate is to stand on it on the side opposite the hinge, at the end of the gate.  A 200 pound man should not be able to lower the gate in this fashion.  It is the strength in design that prevents this.  The decorative elements in a gate are carefully placed there with purpose.  They are not the whim of an artist, they have a function.  They triangulate the gate frame itself, creating a truss within the gate to add strength and stability.  Some modern gates eliminate this artistic strength and replace their function by simply adding cross bars, crossing the gate with an "X" in steel.  I admit this works but it is always disappointing.
 A country gate with truss system along the top arch
and across the bottom, on 6" x 6" steel posts.
 Sweet Cheeks Winery Entry Gate with gusset added to the hinge side and a top trussed arch fortified with a vine motif. The copper panels offer a touch of drama and color.
     The Romans invented the arch and it is well used in a gate, offering greater strength and, if carefully manipulated, a truss system along the top.
     Operating systems for gates have become sophisticated and complex and are a trade within itself. There are dozens of different manufacturers and abilities to these.  And, a lot of price variation!  My experience, like everything, you get what you pay for!  A really good hassle-free system can cost over $5,000.  It is a different trade entirely and I don't do these (but I know those who do!).
    The gates I make do not come from a catalogue but are thought out and artistically designed with the customer and the site in mind.  Each gate is one of a kind.  I have never built the same one twice.
There are more photos of my work HERE.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Watz up?

Changes are upon us and I don't know what is happening!  The only reality is that we have been lied to and there is probably not much truth to anything now.  The United States has a history of supporting dictators, really evil people who torture before breakfast, either as a twisted defense against "communism" or in order to secure our insatiable need for oil and wealth.  We attempt an image of defending the underdog, being "for the people" and at the same time have supported dictators that would make Hitler look like a boy scout.
We have never gone to any kind of negotiating table without an agenda, without instructions to secure oil and power.  Never have we attempted to do "the right thing."  There is no honesty in discussion.
     The same thing is happening locally, in our National Congress and in each State's government.  Every issue is an attempt to grab power and every issue is clouded with lies.  There is more money available now than there has ever been in the history of the world!  Our government is collecting the least amount in relation to the Gross National Product than it ever has!!!  Average people work for a living. Average businesses work for a living.  We pay a lot of taxes.  Income taxes, Social Security Taxes, Local Taxes,
Transportation Taxes and dozens of other taxes.  It seems unbelievable that the government is collecting less
now than ever before compared to the GNP!  Clearly, someone is not paying their share.
     As we look around, hunting for these cheats, it is easy to focus on the obvious, what we may see in our everyday lives.  We resent those on welfare, on any kind of National Assistance, on food stamps or unemployment or assistance in rent or utilities, medical care, nutritional supplements, housing, education and other programs attempting to offer help to those in need.  These are all the programs that are being cut by the Republican House of Representatives.  It is on the pretext of "balancing the National Budget."  ALL this money represents LESS than 5 cents on the dollar of our National Budget but we see waste in these programs in our daily lives.  We don't know what to do.
     I was interested in the issues in Wisconsin about the school teachers.  Because of our collapsing economy their PERS program, their retirement funds are no longer self-supporting and are subsidized by taxpayers.
Certainly I cannot afford that.  I don't even have a retirement program and am not sure why I should pay into someone else's?  I don't know what is fair and reasonable.  Maybe their retirement money was invested and they lost like so many of us?  What I don't like about this "discussion" is that it has become an opportunity to grab for power.  Then the lies come!  This has become an opportunity to destroy collective bargaining. This might sound good until you think about it.  Collective bargaining is insuring your rights because everyone has these rights.  Maybe, if you took away the teacher's right to collective bargain, then Unions will lose this power?  How about Veteran's rights?  Want to lose those also?  and lots, lots more that we have worked hundreds of years to get.
     Someone is not paying taxes and that is a fact.  There is more money now than ever before in the history of civilization.  It is just being distributed differently.  25 years ago the largest employer in the United States was General Motors with an average wage of $25 per hour.  Today it is Walmart with an average wage of just over nine dollars!  Twenty-five years ago the average Chief Executive Officer received six times the earning of his average employee in compensation.  Today that figure is hundreds of times! and in some cases, thousands of times!  One Wall Street Executive received a FIVE BILLION DOLLAR BONUS last year!!!  The same guy got four Billion the year before!!!  He paid NO Social Security tax on this money and in fact his total tax liability was 15% while most Americans pay 35%.  In the hayday of America's Greatness we had a graduated income tax.  The more you made the more you paid.  Now it is less.  The more you make the least you pay!
     If we were serious about the National Debt we would raise taxes.  Just THREE PERCENT on money OVER $200,000 would do it.  OR, don't raise taxes at all.  Just make them equal.  We all pay the same rate on every dollar earned.  Then we would have a huge surplus!!!!
     The issues being debated are not about reducing the National Debt.  They are about power.
     The issues in Egypt and the Middle East are not about Democracy.  They are about power.
You want to know the Truth?  Follow the money.
My Other Blog is Here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"Your comment will be posted after approval"...Why are we that insecure?  Your comments might not be allowed in the first place and, after careful consideration, there is always "the delete" button.  With the "click of the mouse" you can disappear!
     Blogs are difficult sites to spam;  the "hot Russian babes". the friendly Viagra salesman, and oh so caring
insurance agencies have not quite discovered how to get into these sites, although some bloggers are considerate enough to include advertisements along side their blogs!
    What is behind this censorship of comments?  I don't do it, say what you will.  I like a good fight, a heated discussion, a difference of opinion!  Comments always say more about the commentator than the original poster.  We should all know that.  If we all just want the world to be "nice", we should get out of the art business.  Good art will offend someone, someplace, somehow!  As artists, do we really give a crap about what someone else thinks anyway?  Would you rather have  one paragraph praising your art or a six page article detailing how indescribably horrible your work was?
    I am curious what gets deleted or fails approval.  Maybe personal jabs or just a criticism of color?  For me, I like all comments.  Blogging is not like a dinner conversation where I may see you grimace, wince at something I said and I am given the opportunity to change my tone, ramp my enthusiasm up a notch or tone it down, politely changing the conversation to the weather.  It is just me and this keyboard with no interaction at all.  I relie on your comments to give me direction, to discover an audience.  I am not after approval.  I don't necessarily want agreement.  That would be a dull party too. I am only after discussion and the opportunity to broaden both of our horizons.
My Other Blog is Here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Democracy is not public opinion...

   I will believe the demonstrators in Egypt are after Democracy when they scream to open the libraries.
Democracies are hard fought for and hard won and and come down to really one issue:  what is the best way to govern a people?  We have had Kings and Dictators and Tyrants all with their secret police and palace guards to defend their rule.  Egypt is attempting to rebuild their government and it will be quite a challenge.
It is an opportunity to steal the best from governments around the world and nothing is better than "the rule of law".  This rule of law is what protects us from public opinion, protects us from ourselves, and defends the
minorities, the weak, the unrepresented, the individual.  At its best it is a slow process and designed to be that way.  I don't believe one can have a democracy without studying the likes of John Stewart Mill, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, other classical theorists and even Machiavelli.  When people want the libraries open I will know they are serious.
   What they are after is "a piece of the pie" and I don't blame them.  They want jobs and flat screen television sets and there is a huge problem with this.  Hitler offered the Autobahns and a better economy.
The road to wealth is more often paved with fascism, dictatorial powers and its own police state.  If most people are well paid it becomes easy to leave those struggling behind..
     There are, maybe, a lot of ways to a good economy and certainly Hitler found one.  If you weren't a Jew, or old, or infirm, or a Gypsy, or homosexual, or of a different political persuasion, well then, you did pretty well in Nazi Germany.  Hitler was voted into power. That is a potential problem to "power to the people".
A lot of bad guys get voted into power.
     In the best of governments there are "checks and balances", a Congress, a Senate, a House, a Supreme Court, and a Veto Power, and the "fifth government" body, the power of the press and free speech.  The best governments are governed by the consent of the people. AND, even if, maybe especially if, I disagree with you!  There needs to be inalienable rights.  For everyone.  Even if we dislike them.  If there are exceptions to this rule eventually they will come for us and we too will lose.
     Democracy is a slow process and we didn't learn this very fast and still every day we have to relearn it again.  At first only land owners could vote, then people who were educated, then, well much later, we included black people and only after a great deal of time had past, women! And we changed it again! If you were old enough to go fight and die for your country, then maybe you should be able to vote also!  Only 100
years ago children were tied to the machines where they had to work!  Changes are slow.
    I wish all Egyptians had flat screen televisions and good jobs but I also wish they read books and wanted to open their libraries.   Actually, I wish we would open our libraries or at least frequent them.  We are doomed to repeat history if we don't learn from it.
     I have set a goal for myself to read at least one classical book a month.  Maybe "classical" is the wrong word.  I don't want to say intellectual book because I would be laughed right out of here, but some kind of
meaningful book, to discover why we got to where we are and the perils fought and I hope, the damsils saved!  I am hunting for good books.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

License to Create


 This little wing completes the upstairs balcony railing.

 Installed this lower section yesterday.  It has some glass
pieces and two solid brass bars, classical and modern.
 It is not often that any artist is "given license",
liberty to do what they want.  I had to comply with safety codes, the maximum gap being 4" so a child's head can't go through this railing, other than that it was "do whatever you like, Jerry".  This is so flattering and only comes with a huge amount of trust.
     I learned long ago that some elements just plain clash. I love contrast and even particular pieces that scream for attention but you have to be careful that they are not in battle with each other.
    This lower section, the first of the four sections, I did last because it is the most important piece to the total sculpture.  It is the first piece seen as you walk in the front door and I wanted it to be able to stand alone but also to force the eye up in curiosity, like,
"wow, what does the rest of this look like?"
   It is not always easy putting modern elements together with classical elements.  The histories do not mix well.  This piece contains the same circles as the other pieces but two are filled with glass.  It has the same two vertical bars but these in the lower section are solid brass.
     This railing sculpture will be hand lacquered and most will have a rust petina except for some highlighted elements which will be polished before the finish to highlight them.
   When the house is finished, the railings lacquered and the construction debris removed I will go back there and get the finished photos for you.  It should be pretty nice.
MORE of my work is HERE.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There Are Only Artists

There is no art, only artists and we change with the times.  I don't think it is the burning desire within us to create that causes "great art", we play to an audience, do what is expected of us, create within a framework of what is allowed.  We are, after all, "for hire".
     It is generally accepted that the first art was the cave man's drawings, maybe a deer on the dirt wall etched with charcoal and its purpose is thought to be magic.  It is possible that these were the missives of an irresponsible teenager, but more likely put there by a powerful medicine man, conjuring up the spirits to create a great hunt.  An offering of sorts, maybe a prayer.
   It is even more likely that this was all story telling before words were invented, an image of a great hunt captured on the cave wall.  Cave man graffiti.  In the deepest regions of the Egyptian tombs, in obscure places away from site of the Pharaoh, you can find, carved in stone to last an eternity, the names of those who carried the stone.
     I think artists have an idea of mortality and a desire to leave something behind.  "Kilroy was here!" This is why we carve our initials in apple trees, save our drawings, put notes in bottles.  We want someone to know that we have been here.
     One theory of the cave man's drawings is that this wasn't the creation of those who inhabited the caves but the work of itinerant, wandering, skilled craftsmen who may have offered an embellishment in return for a meal.  At any rate, at some point the artist discovered that he could get paid for his skills, paid for his desire to be larger than life.  So before art was even established it was manipulated, defined and controlled.
     Can you even imagine the Sistine Chapel done in abstract?  For centuries to create art was to copy.
Because that is what you got paid for.  That was what being an apprentice was all about, learning to paint just like the master.
     So, what causes change?  Sometimes it is a very slow process.  We can go lifetimes and see not much difference.  I think there are three elements to change in art.
     The most powerful element to art is who is buying it, power to the consumer!  For centuries this would be the Church, the only element in society which could afford it.  This dictated art to the spiritual realm with stories from the Bible, the nature of man and his quest for redemption.
    As cities were created and governments established they became buyers of art too.  Statues of Caesar were bought and paid for!  Art is still story telling of the wealthy and powerful, those who could afford it.
Art is found in Churches, government buildings and homes of the wealthy.  They had an idea of what they wanted and patronized artists who would deliver it for them.
    The other thing that has had a tremendous influence on art is the ever changing development of materials that the artist has at his disposal.  For the longest time paints were made of tempura, your breakfast eggs
mixed with plants and minerals to achieve color.  This is a fast drying process that didn't allow for much mixing and shading or allowing much depth to a painting.  Oil paints had a huge influence in how a painting was created and allowing for more brilliant and mixed colors.  Later acrylics were invented, making painting easier, cleaner and less expensive.  Lots of changes between then and the computer age and now we can create "works of art" from the comfort of our desk and get copies with a click of the mouse.
    This all leads to the cheapening of art and allows more people to be able to buy it.  Art is no longer limited to the will of the Church nor the demands of the Government and not the dwellings of the rich.   Art is for "T"
shirts and posters and the faucets of your kitchen sink!  The power has shifted and we have it.
    In a way this is the dumbing down of art.  The standards have changed but the essential power over the artist remains the same:  who is paying for it?
    The third element to this altering of art over the centuries is the artist himself.  This is probably the least powerful of these three elements:  consumer of art, the materials availble and the artist himself.  Remember that most artists achieve their fame after they die!  Artists do make changes, alter their style and make discoveries "that sell".  This is probably more prevelant today than ever before because art has become instantaneous, quickly created, quickly popular and just as quickly forgotten.  We are waiting for the next best thing!
     Corporate Art has replaced Religious Art and Government Art.  But nothing has really changed; the artist produces what he is paid for.
The Art I am Paid to Produce is Here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Installed Arbor

 Roof Against the Sky
I finished the arbor installation and it is ready for an accompanying plant.  Maybe a climbing rose?
 Arbor as an Entry to a special garden
My arbors are always on "L" shaped sidewalls with their feet buried on concrete. They are incredibly strong and will outlast me by generations.   I still have one railing to complete and then I will get back to the new reality of our economy:  I will be hunting for work!
My Work can be seen HERE

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Center Section

 Installed and ready for lacquer
Now the middle section is completed and intalled. I get this rusted effect by wiping down the steel with muriatic acid.
The home owner will apply two or three coats of  "phylon",
 odd bits of this and that from around my shop
a lacquer based coating originally developed for masonry but works well with metal.  The final product will have the look of leather.

I can now work on the lowest section!  It will have the same elements as the upper two sections but I will add some brass for flash.  Eventually, I will get photos of the completed job, all lacquered and ready for company.
More of my Work can be found HERE

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

There are other ways to sell...

 a variety of tables that I made.
Home Shows are not the only way to sell. There are many others. I
sold my pieces in three different shops in my town and created a different style for each shop. One might get my arbors, another would have furniture and the third, "little art" and gallery pieces.
Each shop felt special and catered to. Retail shops and galleries have their own space restrictions and when I could I would develop items for sale which could be used to display other's artwork. I decorated these shops and they loved it.
    If I were a "real painter" I would have my work all over town! It is easier to do than you might think. Just ask!  There is blank wall space everywhere and I would make everywhere my gallery. I think my dentist and doctor and the little cafe I go to would all like art for their walls, especially if I offered to change it out every two or three months. People like changes, the unusual, to feel special. Everything in the business of selling is not about selling. Some is about name recognition and acceptance.  People think "if it's good enough for my doctor, then it will look good in my home".
 One of "My Ladies"

I once loaned one of the "Ladies" that I make to a local restaurant to display their own business cards on.  My cards were not there at all, no mention of my name.  But people ask. I made sure every waitress knew who made her and they would send me business and I would leave a big tip.
     If you have a fear of making something and not getting paid this will probably stop you and that is too bad. Fear will stop you every time.

My Other Blog is HERE.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tis the Season...

...for Home and Garden Shows! and I consider myself an expert.  I did these shows for 26 years, twice a year in my town and on a few occasions out of town shows too.  They are exhausting, like theater, like being "on stage" for hours at a time.  I do sell what I call my "little art", objects that you can pick up and feel and purchase on impulse, something you can do to support an artist.  Mostly, however, my art is huge, takes a truck to move it and sometimes two men a week to install it.  For those who could afford it I made my art "necessary": secure fencing and gates, security grids for your windows, railings for fancy staircases. And then all the accompanying features, garden art to match, benches, tables, other designs to go with the new entry.
Before I began this venture all that was available in my town (about 250,000 people if you include the surrounding area) were security features, gates and fencing with bars every four inches.  "Prison" iron and "car lot" fencing.  I brought "Ornamental Iron", art in steel to this community and I did it in a big way.
     Home Shows are busy places.  Ours would attract 50,000 people over the four days and evenings of the show.  Most will walk right by your booth and not give it a glance.  It is like fishing in a way.  You know they are out there but they are not biting!  If they stop and you can begin a conversation, you have fifteen seconds in which to interest them. For me I didn't have to make a sale on the spot.  I am selling services even more than a product.  I don't have a catalogue, fencing number A-14 out of a book or Entry Gates to choose from one through four.  Everything is "one of a kind" specifically built to be comfortable where it will end up. Not only will my customer like it but it will look like it has been there forever. It will be home. I have fifteen seconds to get this point across.  My goal for these Home Shows is for the client to call me and set up an appointment.  I know from experience if I can get there and have more than the 15 seconds allotted that I can make the sale.  I am selling art and I am selling me.
     The shows were always very successful for me and for a couple two or three weeks after every show I was always very busy bidding jobs, often getting $50,000 work from a single show.  Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly how much work you will get from one show.  People save your cards and they remember and might call you back months or even years latter.  Advertising of any kind is building a reputation and creating an image.  "Branding".  Like the golden arch for McDonald's.
     There were other metal workers there.  I didn't have an exclusive. They had standard fencing with four inch spacing, gates that were unimaginative, arbors that wouldn't support themselves and "garden fairies".
Common stuff you see all the time.  I needed a trick piece in my booth.  I needed something magic. I needed a show stopper. Naked dancing girls!  Something unusual, not seen before.  I needed art.
     I have done well over 50 Home Shows and never ever have I brought the same thing back.  Every time was brand new.  I would start thinking about these shows months before they were to begin.  It became an obsession.  How can I out do the one before?  I remember the first Home Show with steel when I introduced an arbor for about $550.  This in a town when the local garden shops couldn't sell the $200 dollar imports!  People thought I was crazy!  I sold it twelve times on the opening night!  I learned that there was a hunger for something well made and strong and beautiful and unusual.  A hunger for something unseen and not thought of.  Every year I would make an arbor bigger and better than the one before and this would be my entry to my booth.  The last one I made was really crazy and really big and really expensive.  $3,500 and I sold it TWICE!
     Booths should be inviting, ideally with an entrance and an exit.  People don't want to feel trapped in your space and without a polite way to leave many will not enter at all.  I usually had an arbor or arch as an entrance but something demanding a closer look within the booth, something curious.  I would never put my best feature where in a quick glance you thought you had seen it all.  I always had something in my space that was tall.  I had the notion that I was renting cubic space.  I never sat down during the show.  If you look bored people will not share this boredom with you.
    The last six Home Shows I was in before I retired from them were the best.  I got someone else to pay for my booth.  I local recycling company wanted to know my secrets (the ones I am giving you free). How come people line up at my booth and walk right past theirs?  They offered too much to read.  Too many brochures,
too many wordy posters, too much empty space, nothing unusual to see.  And the worst thing possible: two big guys sitting at a table and mostly talking to themselves at that!  I offered to incorporate their space with mine.  We were not competitors at all, in fact I got a lot of my materials from them.  I offered to emphasize their business over mine, their sign bigger, but I got to design the space and what went in it.  I even guaranteed them that I would put them in the news!  But I needed a LOT more space.
     I was used to a 10' x 10' space for the Fall show and a 10' x 20' space for the Spring show. The Spring Show was the best but the booth cost me about $1,000.  I wanted 20' x 20' and they offered me 20' x 30'!
That is huge and cost thousands of dollars!  Being "on the news" was the easiest part of the whole thing. I created something never before seen and gave it away!  There are a lot of garden benches available for less than $200, the kind that are pretty standard every where.  I made a "really nice one", worth every penny of a thousand bucks and gave it away!  The radio talked about it and it was in the newspapers.  The show was a hit and I did these with the recycling company for the next three years!

You can see my Art HERE:

Friday, February 4, 2011

No Fear!

 These are 5' tall, made in my backyard studio
and weigh about 150 pounds.
 Once you start playing with metal you soon realize that there
are no limits, no restrictions on what can be done.
     I think that is the trick to great art, new styles to copy and artists to remember. I developed an interest in welding out of necessity.  About 15 years ago I invented "stoneposts", my company name and the slate covered, concrete interrior light posts that are now found in five Western States and all over my town.  My customers were wanting ornamental iron work attached to these posts, gates and fencing and vines. The metal workers in my town worked on cars and trailers and could only produce a fence panel with vertical bars 4 inches apart. My posts need something more than that, more of something and I didn't even know what!
     I bought a lot of books.  Not "how to books," I could figure that out myself. Just design books showing what has been done throughout the centuries, all over the world.  I learned that design and art in steel was an essential element in the strength of the piece.  Beautiful strength and I was left with wondering why are we making "car lot fencing" when something great is available?
     Once you figure out the how to of welding it is addictive and probably not unlike any other art form.
 One piece of red!
And, like any other art form, the first step is you have to really want to do it.  It is like a fire under the skin.

Have no fear.  Yes, you can do anything with steel
but so many people are afraid to do anything different!  That is the downside of our "standardized" civilization.  We want what the neighbor's have and are reluctant to try something different.

You can see more of my work HERE.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When I Paint

 I paint on my welding table! Acrylics mostly and about 15
colors and very cheap paint brushes. They don't have to
be good, the only requirement is that I enjoy the process.
 Here I am playing. Some might call it developing
"technique" but I am really just having fun. Often
I will paint over my paintings several times, keep
doing it until I like the results. Here I am discovering
what a simple paint roller will do.  I often create a back-
ground first and then add a focal point.
 Paintings do not have to be "real", do not have to copy life or
do what a camera will do.  They can be fun, representative and playful.

Painting is therapy also and another way to express yourself.  It is a way to pass time and have something to show for it, something you did that day.

There is a little art in everything I do and you can see more of what I do here

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Democracy in America

          Democracy is a slow process.  It is a balancing act.  In our country it is not majority rule and that is a good thing.  Our Constitution is purposely set up to prevent huge swings in popular opinion to rule the country.  At our core belief is our Bill of Rights and maybe our strongest right is the right to be left alone.
We didn't get to where we are very fast.  Less than one hundred years ago we had child labor and children as young as eight years old were tied to machine, chained to their task.  Only fifty years ago Black Americans had to sit at the back of the bus!  Women couldn't vote until 1917 and equal pay for equal work is still an issue and not even thought of until the 1960's.  There were no environmental laws and our rivers became our sewer systems, the air we breathe our smokestacks.  It wasn't until after World War II that we developed a public education system that went through High School and the GI Bill encouraging College and a University Education for more people.
      We vote for these things and with each improvement we give a little more.  Our taxes, our contribution to make our society a little better.  This brings me to My Question of the Day!
      What is the role of Public Education?  Teachers set goals for every day, goals for the week.  At the end of the year they want the students to have learned something!  What should it be?  Educational goals change on a whim, are often locally determined and dependent upon public persuasion. 
     Personally I do not think we should teach for a job.  I think that is the role of Community Colleges and Industry.  Let them train their own.  What is bothering me today is we do not know what is going on in the world.  It is appalling to me that the protests in Egypt were not anticipated.  Don't our Diplomats ever have coffee with "regular people"?  Americans don't know what is going on because we are not taught anything anymore.  There is a big drive now to teach more science and math for industry and that "competitive edge"
and we no longer teach World History or Geography.  Most Americans couldn't find Egypt on the map!
We no longer teach the why of Democracy.  Most Americans have never read the words of Jefferson or Adams or earlier precursors to our Democratic Beliefs.  Sarah Palin could not name ONE Chief Justice of the Supreme Court!!!
     We don't teach Music or Art or Theater or Debate.  Even Physical Education is being dropped from the curriculum and we are getting fat, lazy and bored.  Shakespeare is no longer read and almost all literature.
It has become acceptable to base our opinions on emotion.  When we no longer read the newspaper I guess this is the logical conclusion.  When we teach for Industry, our Diplomats don't have time for coffee with regular people.  They are hunting for oil.

This is What I do.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We'll Talk Art Today!

 In the "old days" this would all be done on a forge out of solid
iron and weigh maybe 1,000 pounds.  Today it is hollow tube and wire-welded
and weighs less than 100 pounds.
 Walking up the stairs this is what you see!
 On my welding table
Iworked with wood for over 25 years before I ever saw a stick of metal.  I have done a lot with wood, from   building houses and apartments, to building furniture and chess tables. I came upon metal by accident about 15 years ago and "fell in love for the very first time."  You can do anything in metal, any shape, any length, whatever you can imagine.  It can be rough and heavy or smooth, like silk to the touch.

 Like Ocean Waves or maybe a river complete with bubbles!
I just finished this job, a little railing on top of a knee wall over-looking a stairwell.

There is another section to this that will be at the winery but they are not quite ready for me. When I install that one I'll post a photo of it.

You can see more of my work HERE!