Newton Open Studios

This past weekend we were in Newton being part of Newton Open Studios.

This is the second year we’ve done it. Last year Arlene sold three of her prints. This time it was seven! She enjoys talking to the people who come in and explaining how she does the monotypes, and that they’re all different (as opposed to some other printmaking processes like silkscreen or etching). She had set up the living room with her prints and Charley’s photos. I was running the rubber stamp department the new room, the room that was a screened porch twenty years ago. We also had another artist selling her stuff, felted knit handbags and knit and crocheted scarves, in the dining room.

It was a miserable chilly rainy weekend. After the past two Mays, that shouldn’t be a surprise. We wondered if the weather was keeping customers away on Saturday. By midday Sunday there seemed to be plenty of people. Maybe everyone had said to themselves, “Screw it, it’s the weekend, I’m going to get out of the house even if it IS raining.”

The Newton Open Studios organization had provided (as part of a substantial fee for being part of the event) signs printed on corrugated plastic which fit on wire H-frames. The H-frames look sort of like an upper-case H, but with two crossbars. They’re made of textured wire about 1/8 inch in diameter. The tops of the upright wires fit snugly into the corrugations of the plastic, and the bottoms are easy to poke in the ground. Arlene tracked down a sign company that would sell her more H-frames, found some corrugated plastic in the markdown corner at Charrette, and made more signs. They held up perfectly in the rain. I greatly prefer them to stapling cardboard signs to telephone poles.

We had some interesting visitors. One woman bought a print. I figured the tax, $8.75, in my head, and she gave me the total before I added it on to the print price. Want to guess? She was Indian. I’m convinced that there’s a cultural respect for mathematics in India that goes back to when they invented what we call the Hindu-Arabic numeration system. She says that kids in India have to learn to do math in their heads in school, but that the skill is being lost. I still think that India is going to be the world’s number one power in fifty years and it’s going to be because they’ll be the only people left who can do math.

Another Indian woman, the first person who came to the house on Sunday, runs a store called Karma in Newton Centre. She was talking to us about how she has trouble getting people to work there because people don’t have the attitude she wants for the store, some kind of mixture of taking the store seriously but feeling that respect for the people who made the merchandise is as important as making money.

Lots of people asked how we make stamps, so I got to go over the whole process several times. Black & white artwork -> photo engraving on magnesium plate -> bakelite mold -> press semi-liquid rubber into the bakelite mold and heat (in a machine called a vulcanizer — by the way, the bakelite mold is also made in the vulcanizer) -> trim rubber, put on cushion, trim cushion, stamp image on mount with another stamp of the same design, assemble.

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