Almost the entire past week was spent relentlessly setting up things for the Penland class, a massive undertaking with a tight deadline, but as of today I believe I am there, though I will spend parts of February doing other prep like making new samples and revising handouts. Today the regular mail brought, alas, notification of an earlier proposal: “…your work made it to the final round, however…” So, more refining and defining. I’m determined to make that project a reality somewhere, sometime. But the mail also brought a folded up-newspaper copy of a very nice article about my old dear friend Mary who lives near Penland. I did a search and found it online, here.
It’s lovely to see her have this recognition; the town is chock full of her work, and she loves what she does, has a true passion for it. It was never quite that way for me, partially because the paint was horrible to use compared to the malleable flow of the oils, alkyds and acrylics I used in my artwork then (not to mention that painting the sides of giant corrugated semi trucks or on brick walls while standing on 30 foot ladders was physically grueling). But Mary’s company made it all worth it. Getting familiar with the sign enamels and Japan colors also led to a concurrent freelance business of my own, restoring carousel animals and antique penny arcade machines with historically correct mediums and techniques. Working this way also made it possible for me to support myself in a fluid manner; it was during our time as partners that I began to block out six-week periods devoted solely to my own work, so that when I began having formal residencies, the pattern was familiar and I was able to be fully productive immediately. And, no matter how much I did or didn’t care for what we did, there was always a certain extremely satisfactory solidity in making a living with skilled hands, something exceptional that is poorly understood and as a result often fiercely denigrated in the self-rarified worlds I later occupied.
The article made me nostalgic, and even more happy that I’ll see Mary in person again soon. There are no friendships quite like the ones that have endured over time. We have thousands of shared stories; we didn’t just work together. So I know the errors in the article: my current job and her dear late Ed’s surname are among them, but the funniest omission is one of those shared stories: yes, we spelled the name wrong on that first truck… because the client had spelled his own name wrong on the job order!
I’ll bet she talks me into doing another landscape in sign enamel while I’m visiting. That’s fine with me, because we’ll create even more shared stories while we’re working, as we have always done.