There’s a vegetarian and vegan restaurant in our part of town called Proper Eats. It has a small grocery selling bulk grains and spices, produce and natural foods. When I walk past the open door it smells like my home town did when I was growing up: yeast bread, tempeh, soy sauce and sugar. We don’t eat there all that often, but they have great nachos and tempeh reubens. The business is roughly the same age as my oldest kid and I’ve watched them grow up in parallel.
Like a lot of cafes around town, Proper Eats lets a rotating cast of local artists show work on the dining room walls. Last fall I emailed the owner and asked if I could show my work and he said yes, but it was probably four or five months ago. I had a burst of activity putting what I hoped were improved edges on my work (I had noticed that people whose work is up and looking professional have finished edges on things). My sister told me to use washi tape. I did that, and I also used some gold metal pigment she gave me fifteen years ago, that has been floating around with me ever since. Then my work in progress sat on the porch for several months, as I am wont to do.
A week or so ago, I realized that February was upon me and February was when I was putting up work. So I went through and took an inventory, finished one series I had been working on, using triangles of plywood cut for one of my spouse’s projects years ago, plus recycled curtains. And I put together three pieces using a remarkable and horrible book called “A Short History of Woman” that I found at the good will of bins. The vintage, dried out paper works really well with gluey gunk. Then I had to put on price tags.
I’ve put price tags on before, when I put up the stuff in art show at my kids school, but I’m highly unscientific about it, which is okay, because I haven’t sold a piece yet. If I sell some, I’ll put more thought into the economics. There’s a lot of interesting writing and discussion about the value assigned to creative work and the sustainability of creative work, but at this point anyway, my collages are a form of self expression that I can’t yet associate, even at a conceptual level, with meaningful revenue. But I’ll ask for and take the price I put on each piece.
Then I had to hang the stuff up in the gallery, which required wire. I showed up with all the bits and pieces and put them on a table in the dining room. One of the guys working there said it reminded him of a woman that used to have a Church of Elvis down off of Burnside. “It was the same kind of stuff, you know, kitschy.” A legitimate description of my work, even if his and my understanding of the term may not be the same. The owner came buy and looked at it and said. “It’s very…collagey…”
I scrambled around on the ladder for a while. Dropped at least one of my pieces and broke it, worried about the pieces pulling off the wall hurting someone, then bought a piece of vegan lavender lemon cheesecake, and sat and recovered. It was really good. Expensive, but not much different than a dessert at most restaurants around town. I came back with my youngest, after dinner, to finish putting tags and such on everything. She was very excited, “We made those! And it’s hanging on the walls!” I kind of feel that way myself.