One hundred years ago (or so it seems), I, with a brand new printing press, resuscitated a theme I’d been working on many years earlier, while a graduate student at Michigan State University. I took common materials – in this case, scraps of paper, tea leaves, a coffee filter – and, with color and placement, elevated them above their simple origins.
I made a dozen collagraphs from the plate, each one unique in color choices and mood. I titled the work “Patter Song,” referring to the playful riff involved in their creation. I matted them, framed them, and sent them out into the world. Last week, one of them came back to me.
I was watering the plants on the side of the hardware store when a friend stopped by. “One of your pieces of art is at the Re-Sale Shop,” she told me. My heart sank. What a disappointment!
The Island Treasures Re-Sale Shop, run by volunteers from our Fire Department Auxiliary, is the place to drop off gently used items that no longer fit on your body or in your life. Profits benefit our fire department. On this island where getting rid of things can be every bit as costly and difficult as acquiring them, it is a wonderful service. I drop off clothing and housewares that are no longer useful to me; I find bargains and treasures to bring home. It’s a lovely little business, and part of the fabric of Beaver Island.
Still, it is not the place I want to find my own work! I was even offended – several years ago – to find one of the many warm but funky crocheted hats I’d made and sold at a little gallery here, donated and up for sale at the Re-Sale Shop. Now, a framed piece of art. Ugh!
On my lunch break, I went to investigate. My friend, Marge, explained that a house had been vacated – due to the owner’s death or move to assisted living – and was being cleared out. I was buoyed to see that a couple nice, framed batiks were sharing space with my piece, in the back of the store, not yet up for sale. They weren’t sure what to do with it, whether it was proper to try to sell it, and how to price it. They had already consulted with a gallery owner (who carries my work) about its value.
I was uncomfortable on several levels. One, though the colors are friendly and the design is one I’m comfortable with, this is not my best work. At the time that I made this piece, I was still learning the ins and outs of the hand-coloring process, and the quirks of my new press. If I’d made it today, it would have been on the reject pile. Two, it would seem bad business to have work by the same artist featured at a fine island gallery in company with other artists…and two blocks away at the Re-Sale Shop in company with used appliances and hand-me-downs. No offense, but.
So, I decided to take the piece home with me. I wrote the check for one hundred and fifty dollars, which is – I think – the same amount or maybe just a little more than I sold it for twenty years ago. They would have let it go for much less…but their thoughtful kindness warmed my heart, and the money goes to a good cause. And why, after all, devalue my own work? Especially because, in their research, the piece had been given a label. Personally, I think it adds to it!