The Finger- Anniversary Post

   October 19, 2013. David had recently completed a corporate commission in the Cummins Station building in Nashville. To get a jump on our big show in Dallas in April, he'd decided to spend a beautiful fall day making boxes. As he went to set up his tablesaw outside, I had this little nagging voice in the back of my head. Sometimes when you have anxiety issues, you ignore that little voice as just more worry.  Plus, he was pretty determined to get this done so I didn't think anymore about it.

   Late that afternoon, I was lying on the couch reading when the back door opened and he said, "Baby, we need to go to the hospital" but in this very calm voice. I thought we needed to VISIT someone in the hospital so I said, "Why?" And he said, "I messed up". He had a flannel shirt wrapped around his hand and I had no idea how bad it was. 

   We told our kids and jumped in the van. The city about 30 miles away has a much better hospital so I headed there going as fast as I comfortably could. When we got to the ER, I told David to sit down but he wanted to stand. The triage nurse unwrapped his hand and then suddenly, he knew he needed to sit. It was bad. He had run his right middle finger into the blade. They got us back pretty quickly and got him on morphine. I tried to get a picture of it before the doctor walked in and wasn't able to. I still regret that :) 

    The doctor on call said he would need surgery so they got him in pretty quick. They weren't sure what they would find or how extensive it would be. They were able to do the surgery without putting him all the way under, which he wasn't thrilled about. I spent the time making calls and texting, updating our kids and talking to his boss.

   It turned out he had shaved off part of the bone. The surgeon put pins in and sewed everything up the best he could. It looked gruesome and he wasn't sure if the bone would knit back together or not. It was the beginning of a long involved process. 

   We left the hospital about 10pm, after getting there around 4:30pm. David hadn't eaten and had been given large amounts of morphine. We drove around trying to find a pharmacy that was open all night. We finally went to Walgreens, where we found lots of other people who all seemed to have stories about chain saws, tablesaws and other horrible injuries.  There was also some puking in a Kroger parking lot. We still laugh about that part. He says he "threw up like a sorority girl".

    About a week later, David tried to go back to work. He worked construction and thought he could do as much as possible and just baby that hand. After one day, he came home and we knew that he just needed to focus on getting better. He had weekly doctor appointments and it was a slow process. The question was if the bone would actually fuse together and the finger could be spared, or if it would end in amputation. There was bandaging and cleaning and waiting. We were very thankful for that corporate commission because we lived off that for a few months.  

    The doctor started talking about a bone fusion surgery, using cadaver bone. Then he switched to using live bone from David's hip. Then he said it would possibly heal fine on its own. In the end, we decided to give it some time. Three years later, it's a little crooked and super sensitive. The first knuckle bone is completely fused and the finger will never be the same. He had physical therapy at one point and luckily, it's on his non-dominant hand (or as he says, his "dumb" hand). It was a scary and stressful time. But it's now a dramatic story with some really gross photos. Of course there was a head to commemorate the occasion.

 

 

    Thanks for reading- 

 ~~Elisabeth 

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Exciting News

  This coming weekend, October 15th and 16th, we will be in Bell Buckle, TN ("Close to home, but a world away") for the 40th annual Webb School Art and Craft Festival. Here is the description from the Chamber of Commerce:

"40th Annual Webb School Art and Craft Festival

Where: Historic Bell Buckle, Tennessee
When: Saturday, October 15, 2016 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday, October 16, 2016 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Who: Sponsored by the Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce and The Webb School

Tucked away among the rolling hills of Tennessee lies the historic town of Bell Buckle. The quaint little town celebrates the third weekend in October every year with an event as colorful as the autumn leaves. Eager shoppers bursting with excitement come to explore and find the one of kind items only this premier show offers. The 40th year of this perennial fall favorite will be held the weekend of October 15th and 16th showcasing an array of new and returning artists sure to please and impress."

   We are so excited to be part of this event for the very first time. We've never been there, but it sounds like a fascinating little place. By little, I mean a population of 500 or so. But from what I've read, the town basically BECOMES the festival. And there's food galore and over 500 booths! It sounds like the most charming little town but it has a world-renowned preparatory academy (Webb School). If you're anywhere near Middle Tennessee, please come find us. I'll try to post an update once we know our map location. 

   Also, I apologize for not posting about tools and techniques. My blog app is not loading photos properly and it's very frustrating. So bear with me while I work out some blogging kinks.  

   Other updates- to anyone who has read past blog posts...our dog is better :)  We're gearing up for a big festival in Nashville in November (Crafty Bastards) and hopefully a Christmas sale in Louisville in December. So it's busy around here.  

   We hope to see some of you soon at a show and as always, thanks for reading and for supporting art! 

~~Elisabeth

Friday Night F.A.Q.

   There are some questions that get asked a lot at festivals and I'm going to answer a few tonight.

1) How long do they take to make? 

David's answer is generally "Anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on how obsessed I get".  

Each brick was made individually and this was definitely at least a few days

Each brick was made individually and this was definitely at least a few days

2) How many have you made?

"Over 4,000. I've been doing it for about 12 years now and no two are alike".

3) I bet you have weird dreams.

"I don't remember my dreams usually. I only sleep about 4 hours a night".

This has been true the whole time we've been married. It's not unusual for David to get up at 4am and start sculpting. And drinking large amounts of coffee.

4) Where does your inspiration come from?

"Bad sci-fi and comic books"

5) To me- I bet he's weird to live with.

Actually, despite the art and the intimidating appearance, David is one of the most down-to-earth people I know. He saves turtles, watches chick flicks with me, cooks and does housework. He's good with kids and helps everyone he can. So, weird maybe. But only in a good way :)

6) Can you make me a _______? 

More than likely, he can. If you can describe it or it exists, he can usually make you a version of it. 

7) Do you do gallery shows?

David has had quite a few gallery shows. Not so much since we really started doing festivals. But he has been part of many group shows and we are always kind of on the lookout for more gallery opportunities.

That's it for tonight. Next post, I'd like to get into a detailed description of tools and techniques.

Thanks for reading!

~~Elisabeth 

Storytime- The Best and the Worst

   Another story with no pictures, mostly to protect identities. We've done many festivals over the last 10 years and most of them have been great. Each one has unique characteristics that make it stand out. For example, Huffines was a festival north of Dallas and it took place in a shady park with a path through it. There were hay bales set up everywhere and we arrived at dawn to make our way through this beautiful magical setting. Hermitage Fest in Tennessee has a fantastic artist lounge and they provide lunch. Again, a beautiful park-like setting. These are the pleasant memories I hold on to :) But sometimes....there is a show.... a show that will forever have a place in the dark recesses of memory....

   I won't say where this took place except to tell you, we were FAR from home. Like 15 hours away. We traveled that far because many people told us it would be a good show for us. A "great fit" and we would "sell out!" Where should I begin. 

   It was HOT. And the booths were set up back to back and side by side so there was little to no air flow. The festival was on a main road in a major urban area and also happened to be on the strip with all the clubs and bars. So not only was there a constant stench of urine, but the bartenders came out regularly to dump the leftover beer ONTO THE SIDE OF THE STREET. So yeah. Bad smells.  

     This festival also had no amenities for artists, as in no bathrooms to use, nowhere to step into to cool off. Not even really an office if you had a complaint or a need of some kind. So....port a potties all weekend with no way to wash your hands. Did I mention the heat??? So David got hot at one point and almost passed out due to lack of a breeze and no escape. He ended up having to step into a bar and order something just to be able to sit and cool off. 

    So we're dirty, hot, exhausted, nauseous from the smells and there's no way to make it better. Might be worth it if the sales supported this kind of weekend. But no...we BARELY broke even.  It was truly the festival from HELL. I was walking around looking at work and mentioned to someone that we were also there selling. They asked where we were from and when I told them, they said, "Wow...You're far from home" and in that moment it hit me. WE WERE SO FAR FROM HOME FOR THIS TERRIBLE FESTIVAL. I think that show was kind of a turning point that made us realize that traveling that far isn't necessary and that we have other options. Other people do really well at this show and I'm glad for them. But I personally will never go back there. If David decides to try it again, I'll probably have him drop me off at a spa on his way out of town :) 

    Thanks for reading- 

~~Elisabeth  

I want to add- on the way back from Huffines, our son got the stomach flu. So we spent the whole drive with him puking into a bag while I tried to write a college paper on Teddy Roosevelt using books that were published in the early 1900's. We've had some trying times. 

You Might Know These Guys

   As much as people love buying artwork that came only from an artist's brain, lots of people also enjoy buying a head of that one favorite singer, actor or character. Here's a selection of the Twentyheads versions of some favorites-

 

Johnny

Johnny

Freddy

Freddy

Lemmy

Lemmy

Joker

Joker

Bowie

Bowie

Jason

Jason

Michael Myers

Michael Myers

Pennywise 

Pennywise 

Leatherface 

Leatherface 

Prince

Prince

As always, thanks for reading!

~~Elisabeth  

Blog News and an Upcoming Event

   I've decided that for the next little while, I will be posting on Mondays and Fridays. I know it's Wednesday and here I am! But...I want to focus on getting the mailchimp newsletter and email subscription figured out and I only have so much time each week, unfortunately.

   Here is the next place we will be (other than David speaking at a middle school tomorrow, which is too awesome for words. Can you imagine this kind of artist being the guest artist at your school???)  

 

This is the description-

2016 Monsters & Merriment Halloween And Horror Art Show

Saturday, September 17th- 10am to 10pm at Fontanel Nashville.


MONSTERS & MERRIMENT SAYS:
 
Join us for a fun autumn day at Fontanel, filled with all things Halloween and Horror! Showcasing amazing hand-made art from local artists, including a very special private vintage Halloween collection on display. That's not all - there will be movies, live storytellers, music, Tarot card readings, world-class food and wines to satisfy every connoisseur! Cool prizes and giveaways too. As Halloween fast approaches, begin getting into the spirit and gathering what you need for a spooked out holiday season... Start your Christmas shopping for all your Halloween and Horror fans! Come out and show your support to your favorite local artists. Tell your friends and family - boys and ghouls, everyone is invited! A portion of the proceeds will be donated to animal charities & rescues (artist's perogative)
FREE ADMISSION!!!
 

 Even though I'm a huge scaredy cat and am TERRIFIED of scarecrows (and I'm sure somehow, scarecrows will be involved) I'm super excited that we get to be at this! If you're in the area, please stop by and say hi. There's a long list of artists and really cool events scheduled. Check them out on Facebook or Event Brite or any of the other places it shows up because I'm seeing A LOT of mentions out there!
 
The Fontanel description from Facebook: 
 

The Mansion at Fontanel is a 33,000 square foot log cabin and former home of Country Music legend and Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell is open for daily tours. This is the only “home of the star” tour in Nashville that you can actually go inside! The Mansion boasts over 20 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 5 fireplaces, 2 kitchens, an indoor pool and even an indoor shooting range.

Sounds like a fun day and evening and we hope to see some of you there. 

Thanks for reading- 

~~Elisabeth

 

 

Sacrifices of a Trypophobic Wife

   There's something about me that can sometimes be very helpful to David. I have trypophobia, which is defined as an "intense, irrational fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps". If you're curious about having it or not, there are online tests you can put yourself through. This test made me literally physically ill. So.....below is a collection of heads that have made me very uncomfortable. On many occasion, David will bring a head to me and if I recoil in horror, he walks away satisfied. If I say, "Oh, he's cute", he'll say, "Off to do more work". He calls me his "Gross-O-Meter". Of course, this is all in fun and although it does make me feel slightly nauseous, it's a sacrifice I'm happy to make :) Enjoy.

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I don't know if those disturb anyone else or not. At one point, we had one head that I felt like giving away just so I wouldn't see it any more :) But, even when they're creepy, they're still (usually) pretty cute.

Thanks for reading-- 

~~ Elisabeth

I'll be back Monday with a post from the road- headed to Louisville for the Flea Off this weekend! 

The Gallery Show with Circus Peanuts

   At some point, probably David's senior year, it was decided that he would have a student show in the gallery on campus. He started planning his display and refreshments. I seem to remember him thinking not many people would show up. He had this wacky idea to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and circus peanuts. He worked for hours, hanging a fishing line grid from the ceiling so the heads were hanging free. This was before the boxes and the collage. The room was a maze of hanging faces, some with bug parts in them and those were the "creepy" ones. 

    Opening night will forever be one of my favorite memories. This was before Dallas. It truly was the FIRST time these had been seen. I sat at the back of the gallery, across from the entrance so I could see people's faces. They literally lit up when they walked in. I was the proudest in that moment that I had ever been.  

     At that time, the heads were sold with the idea that they could hang from your rear view from fishing line. Lots of them sold that week. It was fun to go in and see the sign up sheet where people committed to buying (there were a few bidding wars). My dad had come to visit from Tennessee and he got to see the show too. It was exciting for all of us to walk in there throughout the week and see people enjoying themselves. And it was a nice little chunk of money, but more than that it was the first step on a path. We're much farther down the path now. But it all started in a cozy house in a lovely little town.  

    Our time there ended after a December 2004 graduation and a Spring 2005 move back to TN. The move involved a vehicle break down, an 18 hour day of sitting in a repair shop with 3 cats (our dog died right before this move) and cramming 4 of us in a UHaul made for 3 passengers while towing our car on a trailer. We sold our house the day before to a man who bought it for his college student son. His last words to us were, "I'm sorry my son will probably destroy your house". So yeah. There have been some bumps along the way and looking back makes me feel tired. But we both feel that we wouldn't be where we are now if we hadn't taken this road. 

Thanks for reading-- 

Elisabeth  

The end of a long difficult journey- graduating Magna Cum Laude

The end of a long difficult journey- graduating Magna Cum Laude

Please stop by next week as I actually discuss ARTWORK and break down a piece into parts and the process for that specific piece.

Storytime: College, Animation and the First Polymer Man- Part 3

   We settled in to our new home and town. We found the library (very important when you have small kids and you're homeschooling). It was in the basement of their "city hall". Four years later, when we said goodbye to the librarians who had become friends, they reminded us of our first meeting and how much we had missed back home. Make friends with librarians!    

   That first summer was hot, much like our summers in Tennessee. We swam in the lakes (town lake and Lake Erie) and at the swimming pool.  We went to the "beach" and marveled at how a lake can have waves. We drove to Canada to visit a friend and everything was new and exciting. And then...September 11, 2001. Family started calling because they saw on the news that a plane crashed in PA. It was about an hour from us, but like everyone else probably felt- it was all so close. 

    In September, we started looking forward to Fall. October 5th, it started snowing and eventually stopped....in April. In Tennessee, snow means a day (or a week!) off. Up there, especially with lake effect snow, snow means nothing. We didn't see the road for 6 months and life just went on. There was one really dramatic day where it was 70 degrees at 2pm and by 4pm, there was a blizzard and even college classes were cancelled. I went to pick David up and found him walking home, in ankle deep snow, carrying all his books and art supplies.  

     Life was hard for those 4 years. We loved the town and the people. But David was working 3 days a week for 12 hours a day, and going to school 3 days a week. Some of those school days were 9am to 9pm. We had Sundays together and that was it. It's all a blur now, but during this time came the first polymer man. He was a figure for stop motion animation class and he was built on a wire armature. He also wore a tutu and we watched him become an animated movie for school assignments. We all got attached to that little guy and when the day came for him to be disassembled...We all grieved :)

    At some point, David was playing around with the clay and suddenly, before us was a clown head. And then another head emerged. Huh. They were so cool. Seemed like he was onto something and REALLY enjoyed making them. They seemed like they were evolving. The path was shifting and soon, the turning point would come and we didn't even know it. 

Next up- The heads make their public debut. 

Thanks for reading-

~~Elisabeth

Storytime--College, Animation and the First Polymer Man- Part 1

  This is a story with no pictures, mainly because it was so long ago. If you choose to not read, that's fine too.

    Back in 2000, we had a 6 year old and a 3 year old and were living in an apartment. We had big dreams, but they were somewhat vague and involved art and traveling. At one point, in an effort to gain focus and stop distracting ourselves, we gave up TV. These were the quiet days before cell phones so we had time in our heads to ponder. It became clear that what we really needed to do was pursue the original dream we had- art school. An animation program, to be specific.

    So...being the research-oriented person I am, I started looking up animation programs. Yes, we had Internet (and indoor plumbing!) I gather and condense information as a way of life so I basically had this list of schools. One of them had won the Chuck Jones Award for Excellence (or something similar) and seemed good. State school so tuition was decent. Great program. Good size with smaller classes. But...it was 600 miles away in Pennsylvania.     

   David was really excited by that one so we sent away for info and mentioned it to a few people. The first response we got was, "You're kidding! I know someone who lives there. And she's an artist!" Someone that lives in a town of 7000 people 600 miles away. Seemed like a sign.  

    We got the info and made the decision to move there. It was crazy, but it was right. David applied, got accepted and we started telling people. Then we started the moving process.

    We made contact with the artist we were introduced to (she and her husband said we could stay with them for the weekend) and my dad rented us a van for the drive up. We went up in April, knowing we were moving there but knowing nothing about what THERE even was. Looking back...yes, it was crazy. But it was adventure!

Next up- Part 2- The Trip

     

Process- Boxes

   When David was still working a full-time job AND getting ready for festivals, there always came a time we called "Box Time". This was a dreaded time of year about a month before our biggest festival. There would be paper EVERYWHERE. Not to mention rubber bands, Mod Podge and often, a very tired artist who would sometimes lie on the kitchen counter out of exhaustion and frustration. Box time has gotten more streamlined, but the basic process remains the same. It starts with this:

 

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Actually, it starts before this with collecting the wood (some is from barns, some from flooring jobs he did, some is given to him). Then the day or more spent outside with a table saw, a planer, a sander...this is my least favorite part ever since The Table Saw Incident that resulted in a trip to the ER, emergency surgery, weeks of recovery and a near loss of a finger. Yes, there are photos, but I won't subject you to that. I think they're on the Twentyheads Instagram so....

    Anyway, the wood is cut and sanded and glued together, held with rubber bands until they look like the last photo. 

 

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Images come from old magazines, like National Geographic or any other magazine that is image heavy. Or maybe comic books from McKay, or from friends or just from the comic book store. Some are from old library books. Our library has a huge book sale twice a year and David comes home with boxes. 

 

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Images are chosen and trimmed. We've set up a new work space recently so this part is all contained. It used to be done in the living room and let me just say....paper. Lots of paper. Everywhere. 

 

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The paper is loosely laid in the boxes in batches. Most things are done for the boxes in batches for efficiency, unless there is a specific image needed for a certain box, like for a commission, etc. Then the gluing process starts. This is actually the only part of the process I have ever helped with, other than back in the beginning when the boxes were painted. There is thought and creativity given to every step of the pieces, which is truly incredible to a non-artist type like myself. But I can glue, so I have done that a few times.

 

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So, there are boxes full of boxes. Waiting for their assigned heads and titles. That's a whole other long post. We aren't quite there yet in the process. We have a festival coming up (Hello, Tomato Fest!) so when the boxing up begins, I'll make a post showing the final step.

Thanks for reading~~

Elisabeth

Process: Clay

The first question David is asked at festivals is usually, "What are they made of?" The basic answer is "Polymer clay and found objects". Here's the detailed answer.

 

Freshly restocked Sculpey 

Freshly restocked Sculpey 

Polymer clay. It's a soft colorful clay that you bake at a low temp in your oven. After baking, the clay is basically a hard plastic-like substance. All the color you see in the heads is just the clay, not paint (many people find this very surprising). This clay comes in the most gorgeous colors and it's obvious that a fresh reload on clay is a very inspirational event. This restock happens probably twice a year and is a fun day for the craft store cashiers :) We once stopped on the way home from a festival in Dallas and went into a Michael's to stock up. Fyi, you can find polymer clay at any craft store or even at Walmart. If you let your kids play with it (or you play with it) just have baby wipes nearby for cleanup. Kids love it, it's fun and they can be really creative with it!

  If you've looked at David's website, Facebook or Instagram very much, you've probably noticed there's more going on than clay. The found object part can be anything from a watch part to a dog tooth (more on that in another post),  jewelry, discarded wire...anything that is "found" is potentially part of a head. 

 

Small sampling of found objects

Small sampling of found objects

There is an amazing process that takes place that deserves its own post. All these materials come together to create what you see. Each head is anywhere from 3 hours to a few days, including the time for the box (again, that's another post). Now that David is working full-time at home, this is generally what his work space looks like:

 

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Coming next- The time we call "Box Time"

Thanks for reading~~

Elisabeth

Dallas-The Beginning

Photo Credit- I got this from Google Images years ago.

Photo Credit- I got this from Google Images years ago.

In 2008, we finally decided to take a leap and do a festival. My brother and his family live in Arlington, TX and they said they thought the Deep Ellum Arts Festival would be worth trying. So we juried, got in and in April, we loaded up our minivan (including stuff strapped to the luggage rack!) and made the 12 hour drive to Dallas. Our kids were 10 and 13 and we were paying for braces and life and homeschooling so sinking $1500+ (travel, loss of work, kennel, etc) into a 3 day art festival felt...terrifying.

Early days of the booth

Early days of the booth

We really didn't know what we were doing. Our booth was cobbled together. We forgot things and had to drive in a new huge city to find a hardware store for supplies. It was very stressful, but our kids were seeing a new place and we got to visit with family. And we just hoped that we would make back our investment.

 

 

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The show started on Friday evening. The kids and I alternated between walking the festival, eating festival food, going into shops and we even braved driving to some shopping areas (I was terrified, but determined!) We also had our first experience with the dogs of festivals- one of our favorite parts.

Wilbur. His butt looked like cinnamon rolls :)

Wilbur. His butt looked like cinnamon rolls :)

People came in and looked, carrying their beers. Someone bought a $30 head. Yes, those used to exist. At the end of the evening, we had made $39. Needless to say, we were scared and a bit discouraged. If you're an artist or you are close to one, you know about the times of self-doubt that can happen. I think most (if not all) artists have those times of wondering if their work is relevant, especially if you're trying to make your living from your art work. It's compounded when there's been a financial investment and you're also raising a family. David had been dealing with some of that before we went to Dallas and I really felt that this trip would be a turning point for good or bad.

Comic relief for this serious part of the post

Comic relief for this serious part of the post

I will forever remember the next day as THE BEGINNING. People came in and...it was amazing. The booth was PACKED. And it stayed packed. People were smiling, laughing, buying. It isn't just about making money, although that was important. There's this thing that happens that I love to witness. People see David's work and their faces change. I see them light up. There were older women laughing and pointing pieces out to each other. Young men and women in groups, couples, teens, families. No certain age range, no specific demographic. And they bought and laughed and brought their friends back to look. 

    We made our expenses. But we also developed such a love for Dallas. For the trip, the place and most of all, for the people. We've made friends there. David remembers people, their families, their names and the heads they bought. We have artist friends, people we trade with, people we look forward to seeing every year. He has a following there and the people are kind and gracious and encouraging. We've gone back every single year since then. Our kids are now 18 and 22 and they don't travel with us much anymore. Life is different and we know we won't always be driving to Dallas. But Deep Ellum Arts Festival will forever be where our festival life began. Thank you, Dallas♡ 

 

Thanks for reading~~

Elisabeth