Sunday, January 29, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

I confess it--I have always been a political junkie. Even as a child, I was interested in politicians and their campaigns. When I was seven, I became a Democrat. It happened like this: My grandmother--Bam Bam--was a local chairperson for Wendell Willkie during the 1940 campaign (remember, Willkie ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt; you don't remember? I do...sigh). It was Halloween, and I was parading around the playground at Whittier School in Berkeley, dressed in a charming black cat costume complete with long tail. I was carrying a small jack o'lantern, balancing it on my head between my black kitty ears, and pinned to my suit was a huge Willie campaign button. One of my schoolmates took umbrage to my politics, and grabbed my pumpkin and smashed it to bits. That's when I became a Democrat.

1940 Campaign Button
Not that I blamed Willkie--he was a nice enough man, and a good candidate, if a bit too liberal for the GOP establishment--he would probably have made a decent President. But Roosevelt was re-elected to an unprecedented third term, with 85% of the electoral votes, and Willkie served as a sort of unofficial ambassador to the world. He tried again in 1944, but the Republican establishment rejected him as their candidate; he died in 1944 of a heart attack.

I guess I wasn't that loyal a Democrat, because when I was thirteen I entered a contest sponsored by a children's magazine on "why X (your choice) would make a good President. I wrote a short essay on the sterling qualities of Harold Stassen. I found this in Wikipedia:  "Harold Stassen is perhaps the most famous and distinguished perennial presidential candidate in U.S. history, along with Ralph Nader. A one-time Governor of Minnesota and former President of the University of Pennsylvania, he ran for the Republican nomination for President twelve times between 1944 and 2000. While Stassen was considered a serious candidate in 1944, 1948 and 1952, his persistent attempts were increasingly met with derision and then amusement as the decades progressed. He also ran in 10 other races for lower offices." I must have been eavesdropping on adult conversations, reading about him in Life Magazine or The Saturday Evening Post, something like that, because I cannot imagine that I formed any opinion about Mr. Stassen out of thin air. Maybe it was because he was serving in the Navy, like my father.Anyhow, I entered this contest and promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when an envelope showed up in the mailbox addressed to me and containing a $5 Postal Savings Stamp and the information that I had won the contest. To this day I have no idea what I said about Mr. Stassen, but it must have been persuasive.

Harold Stassen ca. 1948

Not that influential, though, because Mr. Stassen lost the Republican nomination to Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 and several times thereafter.

The next time I got seriously interested in the Presidential campaign was when Truman ran in 1948. I admired Mr. Truman a lot, and was rooting for him all the way. He was running against the aforementioned Thomas E. Dewey, and was supposed to lose handily. Election night, I was stationed at the radio in my bedroom at Aunt Quail's house, listening to the returns. Upstairs, Bam Bam and Aunt Nina (who lived next door) were playing Canasta. It was my job to race up the stairs and holler "Bam Bam" (Truman ahead) or "Aunt Nina" (Dewey ahead) according to the results.

I actually met Mr Dewey, when I was in college in New York. I was surprised to find him short and with shifty eyes. At that time, Mr. Dewey had more official protection than the President of the United States. He needed it because he had been a feisty and effective District Attorney in New York City, and many criminals were Out to Get Him. At the time I met him, he was Governor of New York State. And I attributed those shifty eyes to the fact that he needed to be watchful at all times, to avoid being gotten by all those who were Out to Get Him.

When I was 18, I went to a Young Democrats conference. There I met such fascinating folks as Warren G. Magnusson, Senator from Washington, and Hubert H. Humphrey, Senator from Minnesota. Humphrey was the keynote speaker, and you could have heard a pin drop the entire time he was speaking--over an hour. This to a hall full of teenagers. Afterwards, I bet him a nickel he would be President someday. Unfortunately, I had to pay up, which I did, when one of his aides (a fellow I was in college with years before) came to the UW on a visit and I gave him the task of conveying the nickel..

I was Editor of my college newspaper when Eisenhower ran against Stevenson. I was for Stevenson, of course, and tried to promote him as much as possible--though I had to balance the political material equally for both parties. My grandfather--Susan's husband--summed up his opinion of the two candidates thusly, though he never said how he voted: "I worry that Stevenson will take too much time deliberating over decisions...on the other hand, I served under Eisenhower."

When I finally became old enough to vote (you had to be 21 back then), it was my pleasure to vote for John F. Kennedy. I though he was really brave when he took the blame for the Bay of Pigs, and I watched him on the black and white TV as her demanded the Russians keep their missiles out of Cuba. It was indeed a Black Day when he was shot.

I admired Lyndon Johnson's domestic policies, and rejoiced when the Civil Rights legislation passed into law, but I did not care for the Viet Nam War and its unsavory consequences. What is it about politicians that they think Unnecessary War is a Good Thing? 

I was in graduate school most of the time Nixon was President, and actually missed Watergate altogether, being busy with books and classes and papers to write and all. I did catch up eventually. I did pay attention to the resignation of Spiro Agnew and the appointment of Gerald Ford, but only marginally. I was in Greece when Nixon resigned, and got up at two in the morning to hear him do it.

I was in Cambridge, England, in 1976. I voted for Jimmy Carter by absentee ballot. My Washington Voter's Pamphlet that accompanied the ballot was the most interesting I had even seen. The Owl Party, started for fun by Red Kelley, a local jazz musician, had filed a candidate for many state offices. This was a tongue-in-cheek party, conceived with great humor and insight by a bunch of madcap folks who made what might have been a ho-hum election quite amusing. The Land Commissioner, for instance, promised "to fearlessly commission the land;" and vowed to make the Japanese take a bottle of Noweco Wine (justly condemned by ell who tasted it) with every log they bought from the state. For Secretary of State, a lady named Fast Lucy Griswold  had filed with the claim that she was the only candidate for Secretary who actually knew how to take shorthand. Needless to say, our British friends who would go on to elect Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister, were slightly taken aback and even dumbfounded to find the Voter's Pamphlet we shared with them was actually an Official Document. Here is a link to an article about the Owl Party:

I won't say anything about the Reagan Years, lest I need more protection than Dewey. Bush 41 was less bad than I feared, Willie Horton and the Politics of Destruction notwithstanding.The Clinton years were kind of fascinating, in their way--what with the Scandal and the Impeachment, and The Contract on America and was a good lesson in Civics, after all--and a good lesson in why we need to teach Civics in our schools.

And I try, as much as possible, to forget that we had a 43rd President. the 41st was more than enough of that family for me. The damage 43 did will not be amended soon, more's the pity.

I was thrilled when Obama became President, because I hoped (in vain, as it turned out) that racism was finally going away in America. When anyone wondered how I could vote for a black man, I would tell them I was voting for the white half. Or the Irish candidate--where did that apostrophe go? It has been rather frustrating watching him trying to govern when the opposition will hardly acknowledge his existence, let alone his authority. One hopes that the upcoming election will change all that--in his favor, I hasten to add. He has done a good job against incredible odds, getting little credit for his accomplishments..

This political year I have been amused and horrified at the politics going on. Actually it isn't very funny when one party has candidates that range from super-conservative ex-senator to disgraced former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to Vulture Capitalist businessman, and ex-Pizza businessman and mid-west congresswoman selling books. Not to mention an 11th-century Libertarian. And the other party is busy shooting itself in the foot, as far as I can tell, being just as vocal in their disparaging of their current Presidential office holder as their opponents are. We do live in interesting times.

Until Next time--Nan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Is What I Strive For

My friend Ami is super organized. She lives in a two-bedroom condo, and has turned the smaller bedroom and closet into her studio. I am constantly amazed by her ability to absorb new supplies and class materials (she takes a lot of online classes, and keeps notebooks for each one).

This Is Ami

For my contribution to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's blog ( ) during Organization Week, and my own blog here, I emphasized the concept of "Like with Like." Ami organizes her stash this way, too. But she is much better at Putting Things Back than I am. Her studio is not very big, but it has a nice picture window and a good-sized closet. She keeps her work space under the window; it rests on top of a wood cabinet (obviously hand-made) that her husband got in a sale of unwanted items at work. It had a couple of drawers missing, but Ami's son Matt is a cabinet-maker, and could whip up drawers to fill the gaps; Ami decided to use the space to hold some of her binders instead. She has a big board to work on, propped up to make it high enough, and this holds the stuff she uses most and whatever project she is currently working on. Next to that, she has a flat file bought at a garage sale years ago that holds lots of different supplies.

Ami's Cabinet and Flat File
On the opposite side of the room are book shelves, where Ami keeps her collection of binders, CDs, and boxes to hold papers, stencils, and other things.

Binders Holding Class Materials and Other Notes

Small Things Kept in Specialty Boxes on Bookcase

Project Boxes Hold Supplies
The closet wall has a row of Iris Carts that hold everything from rubber stamps to stamp pads to brads, and on top of these are more binders for acrylic stamps.

Ami's Iris Cart Wall

Acrylic Stamps in Binders and Ribbon Storage on Left

Notice how everything is carefully labeled. Sometimes the labels fall off or come loose, though. Ami says she doesn't worry about that, at she can always stick them back, and if they were more permanent, they would be difficult to change.

Rubber Stamps in the Iris Cart, Like Images Together
Small Things in Containers in Iris Cart Drawers. Everything is Visible.

In the closet are more Iris Carts, a big wooden cupboard with shelves, and lots of hanging storage for papers and fabrics. Magazines line the closet shelf.

Iris Carts in the Closet Hold Paints and Bottled Supplies
Hanging Pockets of Goodies in Back of Closet
Magazines on the Closet Shelf

In the Big Cupboard in the Closet

On the closet door and the back of the door to the room Ami has hanging vinyl pockets that hold decorative scissors, tape, brayers, and other odd-shaped supplies.

Decorative Scissors Hang on Closet Door

Oddly Shaped Stuff and Tape on Studio Door

Of course, none of this would work if Ami were not scrupulous about returning things to their proper place when she has finished using them She knows exactly where everything is, all the time, and if she forgets, she can always read the label.

The fourth wall holds Ami's computer and computer-related tools like her printer. She does a lot of digital art and attends many online classes and webinars, and so this area is where she spends a lot of time.

But back to the window wall, with that wonderful cabinet. Here are some shots of the cabinet's contents:

Little Things in Recycled Mustard Containers From Take-Out

Cabinet with Distress Ink Drawer Open

Inside the Paint Drawer
And a look inside the flat file shows again how organized Ami is!

Pens, Sumi-e and Japanese Paints in Flat File Drawers

Did I mention that Ami's wooden cabinet is a treasure? I am thinking how cool it would be to build one for myself one day. How hard could it be? If only I had a place to put it!

Thank you so much, Ami, for letting me share your wonderfully organized space with others through my blog, and for taking pictures of the cabinet for me. I am so looking forward to all the super art you will be making there!

Nan and Ami

Until Next time, Nan

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Organization Are Us--in Theory, Anyhow

First off, I have to confess that I am (constantly) in the process of sorting and revising and planning my art-making spaces, so what I say now may be different a year, or even a week, from now. Art Requires Inventory, and I have a lot of inventory to deal with. Those who have seen it know that my inventory is pretty extensive. That's because I do Too Many Things, and need Too Much Stuff. So everyone was astounded that I would agree to do a guest blog post for Julie Fei-Fan Balzer at on Organization. Well, maybe not astonished so much as hysterical with laughter. Trust me, I do know how to organize. Really I do. But knowing how and acting consistently on that knowledge are two different things.

Because I teach, I have lots of duplicate supplies, and I try to keep the stuff I use for sharing in class in a different place than the stuff I use every day. So I am going to concentrate here on my Grand Plan to work with the things I want to use every day, more or less.

Like with Like is the organizing principle (the corollary is: Put It Back). I determine what goes into each category by choosing the most useful (to me) characteristic. For instance, I could put all my pens under the rubric “PENS,” but I have all kinds of pens, and if I put them all together I would be rooting though a mountain to find the one I want. So I have a drawer for alcohol-based pens like Sharpies and Bic and Tūl (but not Copic—they are a class unto themselves). I have another drawer for drawing pens, like Pigma Micron and Faber-Castell and Copic technical pens. I have a drawer for gel pens, and I put my Spica pens in with them as I would use them for the same purpose. I keep my professional pens and Pilot parallel pens in a plasticshoebox, and my Tria and Prismacolor markers in a divided plastic storage box, sorted by color range.Labeling storage places is essential. Otherwise, how would you know where to Put It Back?

The Marker and Calligraphy Pen Drawer

Labeled Drawers for Pens, Pencils and More

The Alcohol Pens Drawer 

My Professional Pens are Kept in a Shoebox. Note Sustaining Beverage at Right.

Letraset Tria Markers and Prismacolor Markers in Divided Box

I have special cases for my Ranger Adirondack Paint Daubers, a plastic box for my Ranger Crackle Paint, a plastic tackle box for my Distress Ink Pads, a wooden box for my Adirondack Color Wash and another for Ranger Distress Daubers. I keep a couple of Perfect Pearl misters in the color wash box (spray with spray), some small containers of  Glossy Accents and Claudine Helmuth’s Matte Medium, and a couple of empty spray bottles. And things have to be very portable, because I take them with me to ArtWorks in Edmonds, Washington, where I teach and there is an open studio most Fridays. My acrylic paints are presently all over the place, at home and at ArtWorks, so that part of the Grand Plan is still in flux. Right now, most of them are in clear plastic containers in the garage, from where I can load them easily into the car for travel. Or bring them in to work at home. A plastic storage box holds my stick pastels and oil crayons, and another my Martha Stewart Craft Paints. The above supplies I keep handy, along with my Art Journals, because I use them all the time.

Adirondack Colorwash Box With Extras

The Distress Stain Box With Gesso and Gel and Extras

Distress Inks and Re-Inkers in Plastic Tool Box

Paper is always a problem. I make books, so I need lots of different kinds of paper, in lots of sizes. Also, I collect Japanese washi, and I have many, many pieces of that, from parent sheets to scraps. I keep my collection of quarter sheets of washi in a large portfolio, and scraps in a small photo album. Parent sheets and half sheets are grouped on skirt hangers, the plastic kind with two clips, and hang over a door. The washi I use are separate from the ones that go into the collection—or, I will cut a quarter sheet off and put it in the portfolio, and use the rest.

Gift Wrap and Parent Sheets on Hangers

Washi on Hangers

Close-up of Washi on Hangers

I have a real problem with irregular sizes of paper, like long strips for accordions and tabloid size cardstock and book paper. So far I haven’t found a convenient and easily accessible way to deal with those. I just sort of lay them gently on top of whatever paper stack seems handy to hold them.

Long Sheets Lying on a Box in the Paper Room

There is a whole room of racks that hold 8-1/2 x 11 paper, ream upon ream in the basement. My husband made the racks from pegboard and dowels, and they sort of manage to do the job of holding boxes of paper. I try to keep each kind of paper labeled. So “Like with Like” doesn’t always work, what with cardstock and text weight and glossy and different colors. So I make sure the labels are visible.

Partial reams in Literature Sorter

Home Made Racks with Reams and Boxes of Letter-Size Paper
Letter Size Paper in Plastic Bins Recycled from Kinko's (Alas! They Don't Stack)

For most people, I suggest the skirt hanger method for parent sheets, keeping the different kinds, like lotka and kozo and printmaking and decorative on separate hangers. Smaller pieces can be organized by type, and further by color range within the type. Open file boxes with hanging files and file jackets for each color type might work, if you have the space. I have a couple stuck under tables in my workspace, but because I don’t see them, I rarely think of them. And 4x6 or 5x7 photo albums are good for the tinier pieces too wonderful to throw away. For reams and partial reams, a literature sorter will do the trick for most people.

Rubber stamps, both wood mounted and unmounted, are right now kept in cardboard boxes, sorted by manufacturer (mostly—there are several boxes menacingly labeled “To Sort.”).  Acrylic stamps are in binders and boxes. I try to keep those according to type: alphabet, design element, holiday, etc. I keep some, like my Tim Holtz stamps and my Character Construction stamps in their own category, and with Tim, I have subsets for holidays and ATC-sized images.

Home Made Binders with Tim Holtz Stamps

Inside Home Made Binder

Inside Detail of Binder

So in planning, take stock of what you have, put and keep things that have a similar use together. When I started out to get things under control, I wrote out a Master Plan: I made a list of categories and then listed what I would keep in each category, and then decided where each category would go. It wasn’t engraved in stone, and I do keep revising it, but at least it gave me a good place to begin.

I could go on and on—but I won’t. I will say that putting Like with Like won’t work for very long if you don’t Put it Back. That’s my biggest downfall—I gather things into a bag to do a particular project  at ArtWorks, for instance, and when I bring the bag home I just set it down and procrastinate putting things back. Don’t follow that example, please—it means you can’t find something when you want to use it. And being able to use it is the whole idea!

Next time I will share with you my friend Ami's studio; what she can crowd into a small condo bedroom with closet is mind-boggling! She is the model I strive to emulate. I just wish I were better at striving!