Thursday, March 24, 2011

Balancing acts

Barred Rock and two Rhode Island Red chicks
Spring is coming SO slowly this year!  Every couple of weeks, we get a nice, sunny day and we all rejoice.  I spend those days outside taking care of farm chores, even if I have a mosaic on the table that I'm aching to keep working on.  But those days are followed by many, many days of rain and clouds, so we've gotten a lot of work done indoors.  I haven't been able to stay focused on my series - I want to play and experiment. 

On weekends, Mike has been working hard to redo our upstairs bathroom, which has a clawfoot tub and old style sink and plumbing.  We collected the tub and sink years before the house was built, and kept them stored in our garage.  When it was installed, we invested in the expensive matching plumbing and lights from Restoration Hardware.  But, that's about all we could manage, so we lived with an old sewing table and a cobbler's bench to hold our soap, shampoo and towels.  We still don't even have a place for Mike to shave.  A couple of weeks ago, Mike hung wainscoting wallpaper along the bottom section of the walls, trimmed out with a chair rail.  He built a big shelving unit to hold our stuff so we could remove the nasty old tables.  Together, we hung textured wallpaper on the ceiling, painted it copper, and put in crown molding.  We are still touching up paint, whenever we can get to it, so for weeks now, the bathroom has been full of tools, a ladder, dropcloths, etc.  But it looks much more like the old-fashioned bathroom we originally envisioned, for very little money.
I just turned the soil in one of the vegetable beds yesterday and planted rows of greens.  In the fall, I put a lot of manure from the chickens and rabbit on the beds, and when I dug in the dirt yesterday, I was thrilled to see that it is rich and dark, with worms everywhere.  I brought home two more chicks and four ducklings and got them set up in their little houses in the barn with heat lamps.  (I had sworn I wouldn't get ducks again because they are always massacred by raccoons, but I love ducks, and they really help with slug control.  So we will keep them in the chicken enclosure most of the time and build them some lodging.)

My art business is just not generating enough money to call it a job right now.  I'm getting very anxious.  We are not able to get by on Mike's teacher income, so we rely on my art sales to top us off and pay for anything fun.  Mike's mom has been fighting cancer in California, so we have some extra travel expenses these days, Mike had a minor surgery last month and we have a copay, and we had to borrow money to do some repairs to our 1983 Toyota Corolla that we still owe on.  I'm applying for every opportunity I think I qualify for, but each one takes months to jury and confirm, so I still don't know if I have art shows or commissions for this summer.  I just keep plugging away at my series, making small pieces in between that I can display at Matter! Gallery in Olympia or show at Olympia's Spring ArtsWalk next month.

So, I've begun to brainstorm ways to earn income from the farm.  I'm thinking of trying to grow all kinds of beans, with the possibility of selling them.  I could can them so that they could sell year round, and have dried beans as well.  Beans are such a great food.  Mike and Anouk made soap last weekend, which got me thinking about developing lotions, salves, and soaps using our honey and beeswax to sell locally or online.  I spend so much time working in our gardens, and we have such an abundance of beneficial herbs and veggies, it seems a waste of my efforts not to find a way to turn that into a business.

Still, I'm sure there will be income-earning events over the summer, and a commission just might land in my lap, and every time I've been about to give up, something has always come through in the past.  I will be featured in a local magazine this summer, which is going to be the best advertising I've ever had.  Last year, I had applied for many exhibits thinking each was a fat chance, and I ended up juggling 5 different shows at the end of summer.  So, I'll give it more time, and when Anouk is old enough to be home alone for a while, or we meet a neighbor she can go to until I get home, AND if I'm still not making any money to speak of as an artist, I'll get a real job.  And I'll go back to being a hobby artist.


  1. I know something will come through for you, J. Your work is stunning, and I feel a big breakthrough is within reach. Hang in there!

    I worked in the garden yesterday, too. It is so theraputic! Once I get down to business in the dirt, it never feels like a chore.
    Sending you love!

  2. Thanks Colleen, but if it doesn't happen, it might be a relief to shift back into doing art more for fun than for income generating. But, I haven't given up yet!