Monday, December 11, 2017

Studio #7 - On Main Street

After a year on Spring Mountain, I moved to town and got a job in a bookstore. I had decided to stay.

If this post were about my various homes, I could spend the next five paragraphs on the guest house: cozy, in the trees, private and charming and within walking distance from my new studio on Main Street in downtown St. Helena: now that was a shack, torn down years ago to make way for new potential, but in 1989, I rented it with glee: two rooms and a bathroom in a little converted shed at Highway 29 and Pope Street, between Tra Vigne restaurant and an architectural firm, with the Wine Train rattling by in front and acres of empty space behind.

You don’t see outside wall treatments like this any more - like someone slathered a pale green frosting of cheap stucco all over the building and then had a pack of hooligan boys throw glass and pebbles all over it, from the top of its flat roof to the bottom, nested on a sea of gravel. The walls glittered in the sun like costume jewelry.

The inside was the reverse - grey indoor/outdoor carpet, grey walls, grey curtains. I would never get away with this now, but they let me install my little wood stove. Who travels with their own wood stove? I stacked my wood, built a fire and got to work.

I produced the Cosmic Cloth series there - hand painted silk altar pieces with personalized symbols and designs, but the most relevant memory of that St. Helena studio was the line of earrings made from my collection of decorative papers. I had dies cut in triangles and circles and squares and created hundred of little paperboard shapes in black and hired a local bookbinder with the right skills to help me cover and glue all those shapes together. A rep picked them up right away and went off to the San Francisco Gift Show to display my paper earrings prominently in her booth. Nice start.

The trouble was, she got one order, for 400! All of the same danged earring! I filled the order, resentfully, and declared, “I am not a manufacturer! I am an artiste!”

I have several boxes of these earrings in my closet. What shall I do with them? I admit to a certain emotional attachment. They are each a little canvas, some hand painted abstracts, or French marbled papers, Geishas, Asian newspapers. I wouldn’t wear any of them these days, but they are tiny and unique bits of memorabilia from the ‘80s.

They still give me joy, so perhaps they won’t be thrown out today.

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