Open Studios and such
Last weekend we had this amazing open studios here in DownHo – my purposely non-hip name for Lower Holyoke. I used to call it LoHo to differentiate it from HiHo because Holyoke runs downhill from the big houses on Rt 5 where the mill owners lived (BIG houses) through the suburbs (Big, and then medium houses), and down hill all the way till you can’t get much lower (80 fathoms below sea level, I tell you) to where the studio buildings are. But LoHo sounded hip and I am not hip so it did not feel like a good match. I then switched it to DownHo and UpHo so as to be clear that I am not assigning to myself, or assuming that I have, any hipness.
Anyway, three buildings were open and showed Fine Art, (no retail thingies for shoppers here); mine (as if I own it) and the two across the canal – Paper City Studios and The Parsons Project. Paper City Studios had sculpture and installation (where I showed my Greenscreen Beamscope [named for the Beamscope screen I used in it] Floravision TV) and a very intense and impressive performance piece called, You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive by Seth Tobokman, Eric Blitz and Steve Wishnia. I have a 30s video of this I will insert here later…
…and The Parsons Project had a really great array of video pieces and painting AND… Saturday night a sculptor friend of The Parsons Project came from the Catskills area with a pickup truck loaded with bricks. He spent all day Saturday, with the help of friends, building a brick oven in the alley between the two buildings and then spent the evening making pizza and giving it away. He makes his own yeast and this batch was made from the mother yeast that he first made 4 years ago. He, Michael O’Malley, used his own tomatoes and basil and such. It was amazing – the real deal.
Rambling VanDog did a fabulous job of taking pictures and writing about Open Studios so here is that link. And then he posted about Day Two and here is that link. I borrowed one pic from RVD because mine are bad, and because I am in it.
I was able to be helpful during pizza times when Michael ran out of basil and I ran across the canal to pick some of mine. So the last batch had very local, fresh-picked basil and that seemed logically appropriate. I like to be helpful. Not a hero, but helpful.
This experience was a far cry from the last time I participated in Open Studios in my old space at The Arts & Industry Building in Florence…
AN ITALIC-LADEN TALE OF GLASS STUDIO WOE
It was like 3 years ago. It was the annual Open Studios and pre-holiday sale. I had a 1300 sq ft studio on the fourth floor. My friend Amy showed in one of the rooms in my studio. After this we both vowed to never do Open Studios again.
I never saw open studios as a place to make money because I don’t make little affordable things. As a matter of fact, as I told an interviewer for an upcoming book the other day, I make art to show. I never saw it as a possible means of income. I see my web work as that – my living – which supports my work. I have been lucky enough to sell work here and there for a tidy sum, or not. But that’s not this story.
It was Saturday afternoon and there were maybe 7 or 8 people in my studio including Amy and I. There was a couple with a small boy – maybe 4 or 5 – and the woman was talking to me. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the boy run about and a few times I said, “excuse me…” and would walk over to the boy and sweetly say, “it’s ok to look but please don’t touch, ok? This stuff has sharp edges and is very breakable. But I am glad you like it and I am glad you came by.” and the woman would then tell the man to watch the kid so she could talk to me. I asked her about 5 times to please make sure he neither cut himself or broke anything and apologized for asking this but said this work is breakable and he is making me nervous.
She was most interested in telling me about an old radio she had and asking question so it became clear that she wasn’t offering this old radio to me, as people often do, but rather that she wanted to do my tempered glass thing to it. I became restless and shifted back and forth on my feet (on the concrete floors I had been standing on all day) and tried to squirm out of the conversation because I was not really wanting to spend an hour giving verbal instructions on how to do what I spent years developing.
Suddenly there was a hug BANG! I looked over and the boy had knocked over one of the diner stools which I have maybe 400 hours into at the least, over an 8 month period, and I saw it on the floor and froze. The whole room went silent and everyone was looking at me. The only sound was the cd playing bossa nova music which seemed all wrong. Everyone was looking at me to see how I would react. I wanted to cry. I wanted a valium. I wanted this to not have happened. I had tried to avoid this. I was shocked.
I ran over, after I unfroze, and picked it up and what do you know (I already knew this) smashed glass will actually smash more. It had a little broken area. The woman asked if I could fix it and I laughed. But not in a ha ha way, in a morbid, stunned way. I was completely stunned. Then it got worse; the man said “let’s go, it’s time to go. We need to leave NOW.” Nice, pal – break and run.
The woman said wait, I want to try to make this right. So she said “Can it be fixed?” No, I explained. I cannot dig out the broken part from the stool. It is glued on with a restoration-grade adhesive that has a tensile strength of 7200 PSI. It would take power equipment and I’d have to drill out that whole side and then try to redo it and match all the stained grout. It is truly impossible. She never offered me a dime, or the radio, for that matter. I think she didn’t so much want to make it right as much as she wanted me to cheerfully absolve her.
The list price for the set (it only works as a set) was $4500 which would be a more than fair price for the zillion hours of gluing and grouting and then sanding the glass with diamond pads and a wetsander beginning with a 50 grit and slowly, on all the curved surfaces, holding a 13 pound wet sander and wearing hefty bags and waders out on the loading dock for a whole week, going over every curve as I held the pieces with my thighs while fighting the power of the sander. Those 13 pounds feel like 500 when the 50 grit pads are fighting the glass. I mean, I sanded glass down to a polish. I will never do that again. That’s probably why I am now in a permanent back brace.
Anyway – the woman then took her son to me by the hand and made him apologize. It was horrible and everyone was still staring. The cd had run its course and the room was not completely silent, all eyes still on this awkward situation. The kid was in shock. He was on the verge of tears. He was like 5 years old for heaven’s sake. And he clearly had no idea what was actually happening here. So he apologized and it wasn’t good enough for his mother so she made him apologize again. I said that’s fine. I really need to go. And I ran down the hall and hid in the Ladies’ Room and silently stared at the graffiti for a long while.I could not even cry – I was beyond that.
but what I wanted to say was “it is not his fault. It is your fault. I asked you 5 times to please watch him. Your husband, who wants to maturely flee this situation, promised you 5 times that he was watching him. He didn’t. You are the adults. This is a child. How dare you blame him. He is not the adult here. You should be the ones apologizing. How dare you put a child on the spot like that to cover for your own omission of responsibility.”
But I was too stunned to think. Hindsight. Imagine using an impressionable child to cover for your own lack of responsibility.
After that we put up a sign that said NO CHILDREN, UNLESS ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT AND WATCHED AT ALL TIMES, DUE TO AN EARLIER AND PAINFULLY EXPENSIVE ACCIDENT. THIS IS A GLASS STUDIO. THANKS.
And people with kids got mad and left. One woman said, “How dare you tell me my child is not welcome. We can go anywhere in this building that we want.” And I said, This is a glass studio. I only want children to be watched. She said How dare you, and left. That’s just fine.
And actually, I love other people’s kids. But I’d not let my dog run loose in a person’s glass studio.