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

     

Using Dead Things

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Yes, they're real squirrel paws. Most people are fascinated by the pieces with animal parts. A few are grossed out, but you'd be surprised by how many people know someone else who collects animal bones. David gets many questions about this part. Every once in a while, the question is, "Why?". 

   In his words, he is taking something that has been discarded, by people or by nature, and giving it a new life. It is forever commemorated in art. The whole process is done in the most respectful way and no animal has ever been harmed or killed for his art. Each animal is picked up as roadkill or given to him by someone who picked it up. They have to "look like they just fell asleep".  

    Some wonder about the legality. We live in Tennessee and our roadkill laws would even allow us to eat what we pick up (this does not happen, I promise you). Birds are protected federally and are never used.  

    

 

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We live on an acre of land backed up to a river and the land is overgrown behind our house. So there's a perfect place for decomposition to take place. Down in the woods, there are some wire frames that keep other predators away. Anthills are often used to speed up the process. I play no role in this process, but I find it fascinating and appreciate the respect that David shows for all creatures, living and dead. We live in a house of rescue animals so there's plenty of respect around here :)

   Lots of times, the bones are gifts or trades. Just recently, a friend showed up at a festival with some goodies.  I want to repeat again- animals are never killed for these pieces. David would never encourage anyone to kill anything, even an insect, just for bones or parts. We were once on a Cub Scout trip and one of the boys said, "Mr. Pound- I killed this bug for you!" David quickly made it clear that that is not how we treat living things. 

   Once you get past the squeamish factor and know that this is something that has died and is returning to nature, it can truly be fascinating and a tribute to nature. 

 

These creatures will live on forever in a brand new form.

These creatures will live on forever in a brand new form.

Thanks for reading!

 ~~Elisabeth

Tomato Art Fest- Nashville

Someone actually paints this (or chalks this, I guess?) right down in the hub of activity where the roads meet up. Five Points. It's huge and fantastic and so fun.

Someone actually paints this (or chalks this, I guess?) right down in the hub of activity where the roads meet up. Five Points. It's huge and fantastic and so fun.

   This weekend, we were at the Tomato Art Fest. People who live in Nashville, specifically East Nashville, know all about this fantastic festival. But here is a little background, copied from tomatoartfest.com:

"Tomato Art Fest was founded by Meg and Bret MacFadyen, owners of East Nashville’s Art and Invention Gallery. In 2004, the gallery hosted an art show celebrating the tomato in late summer, and planned a few neighborhood events to promote the show. The Fest proved so popular that it immediately turned into an annual, signature event for the growing, hip, urban neighborhood of East Nashville. ".

  We've done this festival for...7 years...we *think*. Pretty sure it's been 7 years, and we LOVE it. It's one of the most FUN festivals we do. 

 

 

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   East Nashville is a great place, with a real sense of community and pride. It's been growing and improving and is described as "historic, eclectic and hip" and "one of the most desired areas" by visitmusiccity.com. We certainly have a lot of fun any time we visit. But, we were there first to work. We live an hour and a half away and set up was at 6 am for us. So we were up at 3:30am and on the road by 4am. We arrived a bit early and discovered most people had set up the day before so unloading was pretty quick and easy.

 

Things were a blur...haha...unloading. 

Things were a blur...haha...unloading. 

We recently redesigned the booth and these curtains were a new bit of color. They are a pale green and with the sunlight in the booth, they add the perfect touch.

We recently redesigned the booth and these curtains were a new bit of color. They are a pale green and with the sunlight in the booth, they add the perfect touch.

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    With 25+ festivals behind us, we have set up down to a mostly silent tag-team process. With this new set up, it took just under 2 hours.

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  Once we set up, we usually take a walk to check out the rest of the festival and say hi to our neighbors. Festival artists are a community. We help each other out, watch the booth if someone needs to go get food or to the restroom, compare travel stories and mishaps and generally just get to know each other. 

I love the early mornings of set up. It's usually quiet and often chilly. This time, it was 77 degrees, but still.

I love the early mornings of set up. It's usually quiet and often chilly. This time, it was 77 degrees, but still.

  When our kids went with us, I spent large parts of the day off with them, enjoying the festival activities. Tomato Art Fest has a really great kids' area and one year, our daughter won the contest where you dress up a tomato as a character. She got a HUGE prize basket! Here's a partial list of activities, and this doesn't even include just seeing art, eating really good food and watching people:

*Tomato King and Queen

*Parade

*East Nashville Tomato 5k

 *Giant Ice Cream Sundae Extravaganza

 *Tomato Haiku Contest

 *Tomato Fairy/Elf Contest

*Faux Paw Fashion Competition (yes, a pet fashion show!)

  There is SO much to do, see, eat and drink. Everyone is there just for fun and to socialize, which is even more important right now. It's a really laid-back environment with cool music. People that live in the area have friends and family out on their porch. There are people dressed as tomatoes and in other crazy costumes. Highly recommend! 

    Anyway, these days I spend my time in the booth, talking to people and just watching. Honestly, to the people that come into our booth- YOU are our very favorite part of doing this. We love meeting you! We love your stories and your questions. I love seeing people discover David's work, or come back to buy a piece year after year. You are all so friendly and interesting. I truly don't ever remember a rude customer. Thank you, thank you for coming out to show your support to artists. You'll never know how much it means. It isn't about sales (those are great too, trust me!) It's about building relationships. David said, "I don't consider them customers, I consider them friends". He remembers you, from one year to the next. Some of you are hardcore collectors and come back to add to your collection, no matter how long it takes you to find us. (If you're planning to come see us at a festival, let us know ahead of time because we can usually give you our booth number and most festivals have a map of vendors).

   I do take breaks to get us food or just to explore. As the artist, David stays in the booth almost the entire time. But I get to see awesome stuff: 

 

 

Food trucks- one of the best things ever invented

Food trucks- one of the best things ever invented

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If this is your house, I wasn't creeping. I just love your windows!

If this is your house, I wasn't creeping. I just love your windows!

Same to you, whoever lIves here :)

Same to you, whoever lIves here :)

It's such a beautiful area, with a great mix of residential, retail and restaurant spaces.

It's such a beautiful area, with a great mix of residential, retail and restaurant spaces.

I always see these in Texas, but have never seen them in Tennessee. Does anyone know what they're called?

I always see these in Texas, but have never seen them in Tennessee. Does anyone know what they're called?

There was one thing I saw that filled me with happiness and nostalgia:

 

The best grilled cheese ever

The best grilled cheese ever

I was gluten-free for a few years and this food truck SAVED me at a few different festivals. They have gluten-free bread. Find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They have 2 (or more?) trucks, so more than likely, you'll be able to get to some unbelievable grilled cheese in no time. Thank you, Grilled Cheeserie, for making my life easier and cheesier.

   Of course, what would a festival be without dogs:

 

This beautiful boy came in with his people and his dog friend, laid down with his head up under our curtains and waited. Then David got our dog water cup for him. We try to have water available when it's this hot.

This beautiful boy came in with his people and his dog friend, laid down with his head up under our curtains and waited. Then David got our dog water cup for him. We try to have water available when it's this hot.

Dog friends that know how to share

Dog friends that know how to share

 Tomato Art Fest, East Nashville and everyone who came out-- THANK YOU for a wonderful day! We always have a great time. And to anyone who hasn't gone, check it out next year. It's always around the second weekend in August and I promise you, you won't be disappointed. You'll see the sweetest babies, happiest families, friendliest artists and best dogs around. I guarantee you will find something there that you love.

I leave you all with a humorous moment. Our friend and fellow artist, Elliot (ewadeart- look him up on Instagram and Etsy) brought David some bones. He's also the first person to say he reads these so "Hi, Elliot!!" :) Then, this happened:

 

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Tomato Art Fest. Five Points in East Nashville. We hope to be back next year and to see you all there. Come say hi- I promise you won't be bored.

Thanks for reading and for supporting art. 

~~Elisabeth  

Process- Boxed and Named

   If you read the last 2 posts, then you've followed the process from a block of clay through the boxes being made and lined. So then we end up with this:

Each one seems to be waiting for a friend

Each one seems to be waiting for a friend

Doesn't Nixon just grab your eye? (Bottom row, second from right, for you youngsters)

Doesn't Nixon just grab your eye? (Bottom row, second from right, for you youngsters)

Sad little guys, especially the one looking at the camera

Sad little guys, especially the one looking at the camera

Each head is matched up individually to a box. According to David, "Sometimes it's because of color contrast. Or contrast with the background subject matter. Sometimes it's an inside joke. It's a variety of reasons". 

 

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   Then there's drilling and hot glue and a big pile of polymer dust. And finally, each piece has a home. They're titled on the back and if they're going to a festival, added to a price list. 

 

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 Each festival is months of preparation. We have one in Nashville this coming weekend and there will be about 100 new pieces going on the shelves. (Stop by if you're in the area-Tomato Art Fest in East Nashville. Saturday, 9-6, booth 427)

    I'll be blogging all about the festival for the first time ever. Check back next week! 

~~Thanks for reading, 

Elisabeth

 

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

Words From the Wife

We've had high hopes for this blog for a very long time and it's finally happening. Our plan now is that I, as the side kick and "business" side of Twentyheads, will be doing the blogging. I'm generally the trip navigator, coffee-fetcher, tent assistant and companion when we do festivals so I have a pretty unique viewpoint on all the Witchdoctor behind-the-scenes. At festivals, I field a lot of questions/comments, including "Wow, what drugs is he on?" and "I bet he's fun to live with!" I plan to share my perspective through stories from the road, in-depth posts on individual pieces, "interviews" with David and funny stories. Yes, David is fun to live with- at least as fun as his work. So, hopefully I can translate parts of our life and his process into entertaining and informative blog content.

Thanks for checking out our blog!

Hiking at Rock Island State Park

Hiking at Rock Island State Park

Almost to the finish line

The 4 a.m. Price list trim

The 4 a.m. Price list trim

Sleep is overrated. Still putting the finishing touches on 100 new works for my next gig.  This will be my 9th year traveling from Tennessee to Dallas for the Deep Ellum Arts Festival and it's a show that's hard to beat.  

It always feels like a homecoming and it's great seeing old friends and making new ones. See you this weekend friends!