Merry Christmas to all

I hope you all are having a lovely holiday celebration, whatever form it takes, that you have loved ones surrounding you and that 2011 is the best year ever!

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Handmade in PA (and the USA)

The Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (of which I’m a proud member!) also has a blog called Handmade in PA, which works to bring many kinds of Pennsylvania artisans and shoppers together. I encourage you to investigate both (and you don’t have to live in Pennsylvania to be a member of the guild!).

Regardless of your geographical location, we all are particularly aware of our purchasing habits at this time of year. Have you thought about making a special effort to buy handmade items rather than mass-produced things? The downturn in the economy has made us all more careful of how we spend our money, but wherever we can, I think we should support other craftsmen and artisans.

If you buy directly from an artist, you are able to make a certain personal connection with him or her. You can ask questions about it–you can find out about the processes, the materials, the inspiration for the designs. You might spend a few more dollars (or might not!), but you’ll have the satisfaction of purchasing something truly unique and helping to support your local economy as well.

Perhaps you might choose to make your gifts yourself.¬† Maybe you could knit some special Christmas stockings, create a holiday table decoration, offer several hours of home handyman efforts or be a driver for an elderly person who needs to get to medical appointments. There are many possibilities–the point is to try to make conscious, mindful choices instead of just heading out to the nearest big box store.

And enjoy the process as you go! Thinking of the various ways that you can express your love for those you care about is as much a part of the season as carols or cookies or finding the perfect wrapping paper.

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concerts over!

Hardly had gotten started learning WordPress and promptly missed a whole week! But it was for a good cause–the Christmas concerts and final¬† rehearsals for the chamber chorus I sing in, Cantus Novus, based in Bucks County, PA. They were most successful!

It was a very challenging program with a little over half of the program done a cappella and the remainder having some instrumentation. Lots of extra time required, but very satisfying. This year we also did two extra concerts, which were part of two other concert series, not just our own concerts, so that was good extra publicity and income! The group has about 35 members, open by audition, and we perform works ranging from the Renaissance to the present day.Here’s a couple of photos of one of those extra concerts.

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Craftsman? Artist? … Artist? Craftsman?

How do you see yourself? It’s a question I’ve struggled with for a long time, and I’ve heard others voice similar comments. To me, “artist” always meant someone who could draw or paint pictures that were used strictly as decoration. Everyone else was a craftsman of one sort or another and the end result of their labors, be it a basket, a dress, a glass goblet or a chair, was normally intended to have some kind of use.

This is not to say that a craftsman and his or her product is inferior in any way. All my life I’ve been vitally interested in our country’s history and in particular, the artistic processes and skills our forebears possessed. I greatly admire people like Paul Revere who did such elegant silversmithing or the Shaker basketmakers with their fine eye for balance and texture or the Pennsylvania long rifle makers who embellished the brasswork with such delicate engravings.

Shaker basketEngraving on long rifle

All of them must have taken great pride in their workmanship. Were they artists? Of course they were. But they also were craftspeople–people making something that had a specific purpose, and I doubt that most of them considered themselves to be “artists.”

In some ways this mental division costs us something, or at least I think it costs me. It makes it harder to take risks, to do something just because you WANT to or take time to explore a new concept or a new artistic venture. If we believe we are creating a product that is supposed to have a practical purpose, then it’s more likely that we’re going to be interested in selling it, right? So then we have to consider all the other ramifications of marketing.

  • Is there a market for it?
  • Does it take more time to do than we get back in price?
  • Where can we sell it?

Do you find that you are conflicted by your view of the purpose of your own work? Does selling your work validate it? Or is it validated just by the process of creation? How have you resolved it to your satisfaction?

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Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, however you chose to celebrate the day! I was with my sons and DIL and her parents. A quiet day, but we were all glad to be together. We had a bit of unexpected snow, but nothing like what has been walloping the West and Midwest.

Today I’m playing with WordPress, learning how to make changes, experimenting with a theme that is more “me.” Made a new banner in Photoshop Elements that is the right size. Uploaded more doll pictures. A lot to be learned yet!

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Computer frustrations

Spent nearly the entire day on computer “issues,” which gets old quickly. I do all the program layouts and other graphic stuff for a chamber chorus I belong to (if you’re in the Philadelphia area, take a look at!!) and had to send our Christmas program to the printer. My software simply would NOT make the .pdf file!! Same fonts I’ve used before, embedded in the same way, pictures and ads inserted in the same fashion, but simply would not go from Publisher (which, BTW, I like lot and have used for years) to pdf. Finally saved it through an outside program, saved to a flash drive and took it by hand to the printer and then had them make a proof. WAY more time than I wanted to spend!! Computers are great, except when they don’t work right!

Got a start with WordPress for my new site/blog here over the week-end at a workshop, but I know I will have lots to learn as I go along. So stay tuned–I hope to be spending more time on creative things and less time at the keyboard. LOL

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Welcome to Period Pastimes! Here you’ll find museum-quality cloth and clay dolls, Santas, fabric art stitcheries, musings on the artistic process (and blocks!), and whatever other thoughts might run by.

black portrait cloth doll

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