Living out as far as we do, we don't get many knocks on the front door that we aren't already expecting. A scorching early August day. I'm still in my running clothes, still wearing the sweatband and the sweat, too. The doorbell rings. I peek through the beveled glass to see a woman in a bright blue blouse standing on the stoop. I reflexively open the door, instantly wishing I'd thought to throw a shirt over the sports bra. Oh well. Nothing she hasn't seen before, I expect. (Why don't I keep a shirt by the door? Duh!)
"Is this the art gallery?" She peered past me to the shoes in the foyer; the clutter of everyday life.
"Uhhhhm....well, my stuff is all over the walls, so I guess you could....umm, lemme get a shirt on..." My kids would have given the moment a 9.5 on the Awkward-o-Meter.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I was just at Bird Watcher's Digest's office in Marietta, and I looked up your business listing on my phone and it gave me a map to your house. I thought it must be set up as a gallery. And this is your home. I'm so sorry!! You're Julie Zickefoose, right?"
"Yes! that's me. Please come inside. Don't feel bad. Maybe I can sign your book for you."
I'd noted that she had a copy of The Bluebird Effect in her hands. I got her a glass of cold water and it wasn't long before we were laughing about the misunderstanding. I think I'd have abandoned the assumption that I'd find a retail art gallery after the first couple miles of winding country road and distinct paucity of retail businesses (Yes! We're right next to the Starbuck's and across from Curves! Or...turn right at the hayfield where the old Morgenstern place got torn down...) The whole episode was instructive. First, I hadn't realized that my business was listed online with full contact information and a Google map. I never did that! So who did?? Eeek. Ack. This Information Age, it can be scarily intrusive (says the blogger who's been telling you everything for almost seven years...)
She asked to see some limited edition prints and, being a nice person, bought a couple, as well a copy of Letters from Eden. I took her up to the tower and we stood and looked out at the hills and the gardens down below. I was glad she came, and I think she was too.
The whole thing got me thinking. My house is an art gallery, really, if you don't count the shoes in the foyer and the dishes in the sink or the usual attire of the proprietor (No stilettos or little black Chanel dresses to my name). And there are stacks of paintings that won't fit on the walls, stored neatly in two huge flat files that dominate the studio floor space. Downstairs, boxes of framed paintings. Upstairs in a storage room, carrels of paintings. What am I saving them for? I don't know. But they're not doing us any good sitting around in boxes.
I was asked to be Executrix for the estate of Louis and Lois Darling in 1991-2. Both amazing natural history artists, their house looked something like my house: paintings on every possible wall, and stacks of 'em in flat files and boxes. Lois asked me to donate the lot to the University of Minnesota's Kerlan Collection of Children's Literature, and I did. As I sorted and stacked, I shook my head at how sad it all was, that nobody got to see this incredible work but me, and here I am wrapping and boxing it up to ship off to be stored somewhere else. And with that experience behind me, I find myself wondering if all this art I've got here might be better appreciated in the homes of people who know me and like my stuff.
I've not had much experience with gallery transactions, and what I've had I didn't much like. There's something about a gallery marking things up then taking 50% of the price just for hanging it that rubs me the wrong way. Having to call to see if they've sold your paintings, finding out they sold months earlier, then having to ask for your check again and again...nuhhhhh. Even if people wanted to pay that much for bird paintings, which by all accounts they don't.
So. The tower is peeling; the boards are rotting. Windows and roof vents are leaking into my art storage room. Ack. That's not where you want leaks. We'd hoped to make some repairs on our slowly deliquescing house, had hoped to hire someone to paint it; even bought all the paint last fall. And then in January 2012 we made an album (The Rain Crows' "Looks Like Rain") and making it the absolute best it could be, we cleaned ourselves completely out and have yet to recover from that. We don't regret making the CD for a moment, but we have yet to have anything to show for it other than a few people saying, "Hey! Great stuff!" I don't kid myself that selling a few bird paintings can paint the tower for us, but it might help make the wait between book payments go a little easier, might make that next stack of bills, that next mortgage payment a little less frightening.
What I thought I'd try is posting a photo of a painting I'd like to offer, with a minimum suggested bid. Giving it a week, letting people bid on it, then closing the bidding and sending the painting off to the highest bidder. It might work. It might not.**see update, below. I guess if it doesn't work, the worst that can happen is that it's embarrassing for me. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And if you don't try something new, nothing ever changes. Make like Nike and just do it. I sound intrepid, but I'm pumping myself up because I'm tired of pondering, wondering if being my own sales rep for original art could work. I'm ready to do it.
So here's the first piece. So many people have expressed their admiration for the book's cover, and asked if I have prints of it, that I thought I'd offer an original watercolor that looks just like it. It's a study for the cover of my book, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds. 11" x 13", transparent watercolor on Winsor-Newton paper. Minimum bid: $550. Bidding closes next Sunday, September 9, 2012.
You can leave a comment with a bid in the Comments section, or if that seems too public, just email me:
julieATjuliezickefooseDOTcom. I'll let people know where the bidding's going in the comments section and here on this post, but will absolutely respect your privacy if you'd prefer to bid via email.
OK. Deep breath. Here we go!
11 AM 9/2/12: Minimum bid met.
11 AM 9/9/12: Closed.
Update 9/9/12: I found out in the meantime via a concerned reader and a wise mentor that there are all kinds of regulations in Ohio regarding auctions, involving applying for a permit, and awesome fines for trying to conduct one without sanction from the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture. Which is not exactly what I need at this point. Fines. So I was relieved that this turned out to be a direct sale instead. And am delighted to send the painting off to the first and only bidder. A win-win, to find that out, to avoid being fined for striking out in a new entrepreneurial direction; to find a home for a painting I love with a person I love, too. In the future I'll offer art for a fixed price. And probably, based on your comments, keep the pieces smaller and more affordable. Thanks for your feedback and encouragement.