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FEB
26

Artists and the Chelsea Market

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I know I mentioned in my last post about the Brooklyn Art Library that I wish I was an artist who actually had artistic ability...one who created things with her hands. I'm going to say it again, simply because the degree to which I desire this cannot be overstated: I WISH I COULD MAKE THINGS. LIKE, THINGS THAT PEOPLE WANTED TO BUY. I further wish I could then sell these things at a booth somewhere and connect people with things that make them smile. Books, God love them, just don't have that immediate effect on people.

Let's take this past Sunday morning, which I spent in delightful fashion at the Chelsea Market. Eateries aside (some of them are to die for, and I'm not just talking about the dreamy men that Dickson's Farmstand Meats hires to work their counters), the highlight for me this time was the corner flea market. People selling the jewelry they've made, handbags, shirts, magnets, paintings, photographs, and, my favorite catch of the day, the above stationery that I could not pass up. Even when I had resolutely declared I wouldn't be buying anything (I'd already bought several edible treats as well as convinced one of Dickson's counter guys to give me a free sample of the rosemary potatoes), but this is what happens to people when they come across something they could conceivably need (I write letters. I send out cards.) and happen to find it in an irresistibly adorable form. R. Nichols, the man who makes these cards, starts by cutting shapes out of colored paper and arranging them in various scenes and designs to get the prints that then get manufactured into cards. This NYC pack spoke to me for obvious reasons, so did the pack showing the head and tail of a cat peeping out of a dresser drawer. I bought those too.

I also took the business cards of two artists who I think I may buy pieces from to help decorate my new apartment (countdown to moving day is on...posts to surely follow), and all this when I had not planned on doing any such thing. But when talent meets delight, it's hard to say no. Especially when the actual designer/artist is sitting there at a booth. I'm no artist, but I know what it's like to have most people pass you by. I know what it's like when someone really connects with your work and tells you so. I know what it's like to have repeat customers. It may not happen often in my line of work, but I think it's forever endeared me to the artist at his booth.

FEB
24

Brooklyn Art Library

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To be fair, I didn't even know it existed until a friend pointed it out while we were in Brooklyn. And, further, I wouldn't even have been in Brooklyn had I not been patronizing Mast Brothers Chocolates for the second time in less than a week. The Brooklyn Art Library is literally steps away from Mast's Chocolate Brew Bar. It would have looked appealing regardless, the rows and rows of colorful and uniquely-bound sketchbooks, but looked especially appealing given Saturday afternoon's inclement weather. The brew bar had been packed to the gills with cold bodies dusting snow off of themselves while waiting in line for hot, brewed chocolate. Whereas the library was nearly empty.

When my friend mentioned the library, she explained The Sketchbook Project, which allows anyone who wishes the ability to draw/write/illustrate/create their own small sketchbook and have it housed in the library there in Brooklyn. Others are then allowed to "check out" these sketchbooks as they would regular library books. The concept struck me as empowering, almost like the booming industry of self-publishing, which allows people to get their words out there regardless of a publishing contract.

While I do believe writers are artists, I have always wished to be artistically inclined and have at times felt saddened that I am not. So it will not be me creating a sketchbook, but the good news for any out there like me is that even if you don't contribute a sketchbook, you can sign up with an account (much like you would to get a library card) and check out any sketchbook that interests you after searching through the electronic catalog that sorts them into categories a la "Heroes" and "Changing the World." The whole concept was simply delightful, and if you draw or animate or sketch on any level (or even if you don't), consider becoming a part of The Sketchbook Project. I'd sit on this red bench and check yours out any day. Especially if it's snowy outside.

 

JUN
17

If you want me, I'll be in the bar.

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It’s funny, the music we latch onto as kids. My dad was the rock & roll fan, and I came to think of any music he liked as being pretty cool. I remember Jimi Hendrix, Billy Joel, The B-52’s, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Genesis, and many more, but mostly I remember Joni Mitchell. You could say it’s because she’s a girl, and I liked the idea of a woman succeeding in that way, but it could also be because her music is just that good. It’s just so…different. From the way she tunes her guitar to the way her songs are so very *not* formulaic, she was for me an example of a person who did things her way and was incredibly successful at it.

I’m reading Sheila Weller’s biography of Joni Mitchell right now. She also weaves in the biographies of Carly Simon and Carole King (so it’s not exactly a quick read), but I’m reading it for Joni. It’s part fascinating to be hearing about the stories (and people) behind her music, part enlightening to be learning so much about the music industry in the 1960s and 1970s, but I confess it’s also part tragic. “The life of an artist,” Dad said when I recently told him that the actual circumstances of Joni’s life were bringing me down a little. Not that her life wasn’t glamorous—California, New York City, money, men, world travel—but it was also kind of heart-wrenching. The going from man to man, the insecurity, the giving up of her baby because she felt she had no other choice. It’s not at all what I pictured when listening to her music in my youth. Knowing what I know now, I think I’d have wanted a river to skate away on, too.

Not sure what my point here is, I guess I’m just grateful that my life is as uncomplicated as it is. But more than that, I’m grateful that people like Joni did what they did for the music.

(And for all the talk in Weller’s book about what are the best Joni lines ever penned, to me there is a clear winner and it is this: I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet.)

DEC
14

Art is In

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I've always wanted to be an artist. I know, I know, writers are perhaps considered a kind of artist, but that's not the same thing. I've always wished I could draw. Or that I had the ability to create something with my hands. Anything. I have so many friends and family members who sew, who draw, who have an eye for crafts and creating things that are darling and unique and that make me feel horribly untalented. To each his own, so I guess my point is that I'm grateful for people who are talented in these areas and who use those talents to brighten the lives of others.

This random art tagent is brought to you by the fact that I got the artwork back this week for my second book. Something about seeing it and getting a sense for how it will influence the overall look of the book is exciting...because this is happening. And soon. Yay for artists. In the truest sense of the word.

APR
12

On Opening Acts

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Opening acts usually annoy me. Not only are they not the person I came to see, but they significantly lengthen the overall time of a concert. You want to show up early to get a good seat (or standing place), but then you are left standing there for an hour or two while you wait for the main act.

But I've noticed my attitude toward opening acts has changed, and I blame this almost entirely on the fact that I've got a book out there. I see these largely unknown artists as doing the only thing they can, as pounding the pavement, as working day jobs to support themselves until their craft can pay the bills, as persevering despite crowds that are small, crowds that talk over them, crowds that are (ahem) only interested in the headliner. In many ways, I see them as me. Because no one really knows about me. Or my book. I fight for every sale, do signings that don't always draw a crowd (or anyone), and continue writing even though hardly anyone is listening.

Yes, I have a new respect for opening acts, and the one I saw last weekend particularly struck me. The headliner was Tristan Prettyman, herself refreshingly non-mainstream, and as I've mentioned in previous posts (Lessons from Tristan Prettyman), I see Tristan every chance I get and feel fortunate that she's come to Cleveland three times in less than a year. Tristan was fabulous as usual, and I loved her opening act. A band called Satellite, I'd never heard of them. But there they were, the lead singer pouring so much of himself into each song that you would have thought he was playing in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden. Instead of a 100-person crowd on a small stage in the ghetto of Cleveland. But isn't that what makes a great artist? It certainly demands respect, and, if the quality of the product is good too, my thought is that it also deserves a sale. So I'll be buying an album this weekend. I'd buy Cedar + Gold too, but my oh my, I already have it.

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