Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One Craft Show, One lesson in Chinese Foot Binding

This Saturday was the Petaluma Farmer's Market Holiday Boutique. And if you think Petaluma Crafters just have chicken and eggs to offer, you're so mistaken.

It was of course, a different crowd then my usual Mafia crowd, but certainly none the less talented for it. We pulled up at 8:49 on the dot and barely got a parking space. Hermann Sons Hall is tiny but mighty in presence. This building has much character, or as one crafter said,"Everything here is real." She's right. The hard wood floors, tall arched molded ceilings. Even the lighting feels better with the windows facing east and west. I love the strange bathroom! Very clean and vintage funky. It felt like a powder room from an old Farm house.

A few of the crafters I already knew, such as the talented and spicy Charissa Drengsen. (Hi Charissa!) Charissa is the owner and designer at Curly-Cue Designs. She is one of my favorite red-heads, and she's smarter than the dickens with a wicked sense of humor to boot. When you grow up with sisters such as Charissa and I did, you learn to have a sense of humor or you will boil over waiting for your turn to use the powder room.

Charissa designs some of my favorite jewels and baubbles such as her asian and naughty girl necklaces, and vintage inspired dolls. Some come with record-bowl dresses. In fact she makes a whole lot of very inspiring crafts from cards to wrist warmers. Some of her pieces are riddled with humor others are downright beautiful and mystical. She's a crafter I always look forward to seeing and we made a pact to do chinese food soon.

And speaking of beauty and humor, another crafter I had the opportunity to meet is fellow Petaluman, Karen Baggiani. I liked Karen right away. You can sometimes tell a lot about a person through their craft. Their likes and dislikes, sense of humor or if they even have one. Sometimes artists and crafters, much like writers, express another side of themselves through their craft in ways we sometimes miss in everyday communication. Karen's aprons and oven mitts were both beautiful and fun. And Karen is beautiful and fun! Old time western pin-up gals in various poses. She also made some gorgeous African inpired pieces as well. Karen says she's really gotten out of crafting, but you'd never know it by her work. She puts a lot of pride into it.

My mother, an old ranch girl herself would have loved these ranch girl inspired kitchen duds. I was very inspired by Karen. Lately, I keep telling myself to find a new sewing project to get back into this particular craft I abondoned in my teens. Oh yes, I 'm the 4-h goldmedal winner and can sew a mean button, fix a torn seam, but I don't really sew anymore. I think Karen inspired me to do it. I hope to run into her at more faires. Her attention to detail is to be admired. She showed me a jacket she had made. Beautifully lined, and very well-made. She would have loved my Great-Grandmother KaKa. A perfectionist. A custom made jacket that has stood the test of time very well. You'd pay a lot for a jacket like this on the market - if you could find it. Clothing is disposable today. Even from some of the more expensive stores. wash it once, loose threads appear everywhere, weak seams show themselves.

My neighbor to my left was disarmingly honest and funny. I just hit it off with Shea immediately. Shea Brown is a photographer, and a marvelous one at that. Her nature prints would make the real flowers wilt with shame on how beautifully her very impressive lens has captured their short life span. Shea is from Texas, and smart and spunky. She is very happy to have landed in California, though most of her family is still in Texas. She shared with me tidbits in between our customers about her life and her craft. At one point she pulled out her camera, putting my bitty digital to shame. If she was the voyeuristic type, I think she could spy on Neptunians or Plutonians with that scope! I had instant lens envy. Shea had brought her husband's blown-glass work as well. Tod Brown is a glass blower. His work is amazing. He makes hollow glass beads that look like those old time paper weights, but with a distinct organic feel. You could swear those are really poppies or mollusk shells or quartz lining the walls of his glass beads.

Children and adults alike have long been fascinated by glass. Shea, a natural teacher, drew mesmerized adults as well as children to her like a moth to a flame. Several budding artists and glass blowers here in Petaluma, judging by her rapt audience. I was fascinated by the process of pyrex as I heard Shea explain it time and time to tiny upturned faces wanting to know more, peeringdeep into the vortex of a multi-colored glass bead. Best of all, Shea is an absolute doll. I found another new friend and look forward to seeing her as well as my other swell and crafty ladies as future shows. And Shea, my pics turned out horrible. Especially ones of the glass, so send me yours!

A couple across to my left, that I never got the chance to go over and see their work, came by and bought one of my kitschy Holiday pieces. I had put a packet of forget-me-nots along with my Lucky Kitchen and Garden Gnomes" and they bought one. They were adorable and I regret so much not going over to their booth. I hope to see them around soon.

One of my customers was Lesley, a lovely Petaluma woman who told me she has a good friend in Chicago who also goes by "Moxie." (See, Moxie is everywhere now). My adorable customer Lesley, told me about her friend who is a publicist (I hope I got that right Lesley) for many heavy-hitters out there. (I do not want to drop any names in case I'm not supposed to). Anyway, I loved this customer. She bought a package of notecards, my letterpressed flats, with the 'Moxie' name so she could send it to her friend back in Chicago who sounds like a hoot. Lesley said she wears all vintage clothes and is just gorgeous. Siggh. Some gals just have it all. Anyway, I hope she likes the cards! I know I liked Lesley, and her friend back in Chicago should know she has a thoughtful friend here in Petaluma to think of her.

Another dynamic Petaluma lady I met, who just happens to be a fellow illustrator is lovely and talented Patty of Patty Lou Designs. Patty, her handsome husband John and their adorable daughter came by and chatted. Patty gave me a few of her cards which are whimsical depictions of cows, flowers, hearts and whatever whim the muse brings her way. We illustrators work in mysterious ways! Patty's grandmother is a prolific AND profound cross stitcher and embroidery artist. Her work has a vintage 1930-40's influence. It speaks to my kitschy side.

Patty's energetic grandmother lives in Minnesota and sends Patty hefty boxes of embroidered tea towels and doilies out to California. Being a Sunday stitcher myself, I fell head over heels for her designs from vintage patterns which are retro like my own. As my company colors are orange and chocolate ( Yep, much like Hermes -) I had to purchase one of her grandmother's "Orange" tea towels. Quaint and spare but just the right amount of kitsch. Just amazing.

Guess what? Patty is a Gnome gal too! In fact her whole family is. I felt like I came across my long lost kin yesterday! Thanks Patty and John for helping to make my day. Oh! And their little daughter, loves squirrels. Yup. We definitely must be long lost relations. She kept coming by Moxieville booth with an enchanted smile and staring at my squirrel mascot that I'd just lacquered a believable chocolate brown, making everyone hungry. That one, absolutely gorgeous and going to be some kind of heartbreaker when she grows up.

So many awesome crafters and I regret I didn't go around and meet more of them. Another awesome crafter and chick I had the pleasure of meeting was Alyssa Conder who makes the cutest hair doo-dads for children you ever did see. Big flowers and diamondy things. Inspired by her own two little daughters, she gave me one and I wore it to Chopstix for dinner afterwards. Got loads of compliments. Alyssa is a character. A major character! She reminded me of a couple of people I know melded into one very unique person. Alyssa doesn't have a website or I'd point you in her direction. Look for her at local craft shows though. Like me, she has a day job, but she is just bursting at the seams with crafty creative ability.

This was my first show at home in Petaluma. I was honored to be a part of the Farmer's Market group, as I was a newbie and they all knew each other from way back. The diversity was wonderful and Erica did a good job of putting it together from the baked goodies and gingerbread scones from Heaven Scent Cafe to the live entertainment. Bruce Sexauer did a fantastic job setting tone with his band. I didn't realize it was him at Shea's table, when I made a semi-naughty joke out of one of his questions. I will forever be embarrassed about it. But Bruce seemed to get a good, pre-show laugh anyway!

After we'd packed up to head home, we headed or Chopstix. Chinese food has become my traditional after-show dinner. I had developed a major sore throat from chatting so much with customers and other vendors, that I was craving some hot sake. The couple sitting next to us just happened to have been at the craft show. Small world! As we were getting ready to leave, the owners of Chopstix came by and inquired about our dining experience. I told Linda, I loved what they had done with the space.

"OH! she exclaimed suddenly very animated, "You must come with me!!" She grabbed my arm and we left Himself at the table with a bewildered look, wondering if we were heading to some underground Opium den, or at the very least I might learn Chopstix's secret to that awesome black bean garlic sauce.

I got the grand tour of the building and an explanation of the design which her son-in-law had done. "He has another restaurant in Shang Hai." Linda explained. He is quite a designer with an eye for color, texture and space. The chinese antiques,such as the celadon urns and armoires were an excellent choice.

I loved the lights and what I thought must be stained bamboo lined walls, and told Linda so.

" I just got back from Shang Hai. The lights, just like the lights you see in the streets of Shang Hai. Very traditional." Linda said proudly.

And it was just a lovely, comfortable effect. Linda's son-in-law is a pro and knows what the heck he's doing. Perhaps he just has a very good eye, but the space is both open and intimate at the same time. Hard to pull off.

She pointed out the vintage advertising prints of pin-up Asian women of decades long ago, hawking everything from cigarettes to shoes.

"See those shoes? Just like shoes from the old days. My grandmother had shoes like that- very tiny feet." Linda pantomimed how small her grandmother's feet were. She told me about the ancient practice of Chinese foot binding.

"Terrible what they made the women do. Bind their feet so they couldn't run away!" She laughed.

"It's hell being a woman sometimes in any culture." I agreed. I'd never let anybody bind my feet. I'd read horror stories of the deformity and the terrible smells of the foot that caved in on itself like a claw, making it difficult to wash. Women couldn't run. Only teensy little steps could be taken, and it resulted from this barbaric practice of foot binding. Chinese women of yesteryear would have to take mincing steps just to get from point A to point B. Adding insult to injury, being brainwashed into thinking it made them look more delicate to take tiny steps, when in reality they were almost like concubines in their own families. China has such a deep, rich culture that has influenced so many Westerners. But aren't we lucky that particular practice never came in to vogue? Western women would not have stood for it. They would have put their foot down. Bad pun.

The hot sake was making me feel very sleepy. I had no voice left to speak. I told Linda I would be back and hopefully before the next craft show. What a day. The ancient art of American craft and ending the day with an impromptu tour of one of Petaluma's finest Chinese food restaurants, hot sake and a lesson in Chinese foot binding.

Only in Petaluma.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A most enjoyable account of the market and the various contributors.
You have a way with words and you also seem Indefatigable :)