I received a Jerry’s Artarama catalog in the mail the other day, not the little flyer ones but the real deal, the 3/4 inch thick one, the one that has every art supply product known to man and woman, and then some. You may have heard me say that Sophie and I have been making clothes with the idea of opening a small Etsy shop. Well, as I spent several hours turning the pages of Jerry’s catalog, oogling the endless arrays of paints, screenprinting supplies, fancy papers, brushes—GAH it was total art supply porn and I had to regularly wipe the pages down to clean off my drool—I realized there is some old visual-artist part of me that I thought I had long ago buried or lost, but there she is, stirring in her sleep. Sophie’s little Etsy shop plan has, apparently, disturbed the slumber of said buried artist person.
Did I mention that I was a studio art major my first time around in college? It was about a million years ago. I was doing studio art because I was looking for something on the short list of ‘majors’ (as if life, or even professional life, could be summed up by that absurd list), looking for something I liked enough to spend several years studying in college (because everyone went to college), but something that wasn’t writing. Because writing was impractical and therefore I had given up on it as a path for me.
So I chose studio art because that, obviously, is so much more feasible a career choice. [face/palm]
I dropped out of that round of college when I realized how absurd this replacement-strategy was. But never-the-less, I loved my art classes, drawing, painting, design…
The most frustratingly painful thing about art school, however, was the incredibly expensive art supplies. There may have been some hypothetical shoplifting, just to get the raw basics to attend class. Hypothetically. Hey, I was living on about $500 a month back then. Paint was impossibly alluring and impossibly PRICEY. I was desperate. All the cool kids were doing it. I didn’t inhale.
Anyway, there’s about a quarter-inch worth of Jerry’s catalog devoted to various brands of paints, acrylics, oils, pigment powders, sticks, mediums, oh my god. My old addiction to office supplies, I now comprehend, was really a sublimated desire for art supplies, demoted to a more practical, less expensive incarnation of itself. Ball points instead of hand-rolled pastels. Printer paper instead of sumi-e. Post-its instead of pallet knives.
I’ve always bought the kids good quality art supplies—not that crap they pass off to kids under such brands as Roseart or Crayola. Crayola does a decent crayon, but that’s it, the rest of it is shite. If you ask me. Sophie and Luc have stacks of very nice colored pencils, papers, pastels, paints, scissors, supplies, whatever. I replace as piles get low and they know not the pain of running out. I do this in part for my own inner kid—I used to hoard my supplies, never using them because they were so rare. I felt unable to produce something fine enough to warrant their actual use, so they stayed pristine, like a shrine to possibility. It’s too sad! So I buy Sophie and Luc supplies by the box load, which they use freely, and it makes me happy.
But never for myself, I realize, turning the pages of Jerry’s catalog.
The reason I received the catalog is because we’ve been buying stamping supplies. I’ve made lino prints before, but the stuff they have now for carving stamps is just lovely, super soft rubbery blocks that don’t crumble, and the inks for fabric are endless! Sophie and I have been carving away, designing little images and carving them up, learning as we go, making pages of prints of each, fine-tuning. It’s so fun to enter her mind because she has none of my hang-ups about Art. She just wants to make stuff and she dives in. And I’ve got a slightly bigger art supply budget then I did when I was nineteen and in college, so we get to indulge a bit. We’ve tried a couple types of carving blocks, gotten a brayer and two sets of carving tools, fabric paints in several colors. Some gel retarder. (Why do I feel so guilty?)
I know, I know, I’m coat-tailing on Sophie’s art. It’s not for me, it’s for her.
Okay, it’s for us.
If you find me naked, rolling around on catalog pages all torn free and scattered about the yurt, you’ll know I’ve gone over the deep end.