Monday, April 30, 2007

The Business of Art

In my other life as a marketing and business consultant, I help my clients focus their goals into a cohesive plan of action via a business plan. There's usually some resistance to the idea because the process seems daunting, but no matter how simple or elaborate a plan, the results are always rewarding. I experienced the same daunting feelings when I put myself through the task of writing my own business plan for Calypso Art Quilts these past few weeks.

After the rush of creating all the pieces I needed for my first solo show, I switched gears and got into thinking mode. I spent hours at the computer doing research, considering all the venues through which I could sell my quilts, and with so many possibilities I could feel myself going into information overload. I exacted of myself the same questions I would ask of any business owner and finally condensed my ideas into a few basic strategies to follow.

It was a great feeling when I finally got my thoughts in order on paper. And although this is just the beginning, the jumble of ideas now have a home that I can go visit whenever I'm ready for them, rather than having them all knocking about in my brain. I've got the plan organized into main categories (inventory, website exposure, local market exposure, etc.), and now comes the job of distilling each category down to a series of to-dos for each week. These to-do's are going to be bite-size pieces, small enough steps to trick the brain from thinking that building a business from scratch has to be difficult or labor-intensive.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

So Long, Snowbirds!

When Bob and I take our early morning walk, we head down our hill, around the bend, and along the drive into Gentle Winds, a condominium development on the beach with a large population of retirees who winter in St. Croix. All "winter" long, the Gentle Winds drive is full of morning walkers, whom we greet and have come to know by name. Jim and Dick carry plastic bags and pick up trash along the way. Mal walks her beagle that sometimes runs away to chase a mongoose, while Tom walks a sweet white poodle aptly named Marshmallow. Peter from Montreal asks about life up here on the hill, and a plump lady who nods a silent greeting carries a small Ipod in hand while wearing enormous headphones.

But as April winds down, the bustling drive to Gentle Winds empties as one by one, these walkers disappear. They return to their families in Connecticut or Rhode Island or Ohio, and Bob and I are often the only walkers on that stretch. With the snowbirds the tourists go too.

High season in St. Croix runs from December to April. There are families that come here during their kid's summer vacation, but the overall numbers are not as high as in season. We, the year-round residents, get used to the extra space on the roads, at restaurants, beaches, etc., and then October rolls around, and the influx begins as seasonal workers return to their jobs to prepare for the new tourist season.

And Bob and I continue our morning walk along the drive, and one day we see Dick who offers us a hearty greeting, and another day Tom comes along with Marshmallow, and soon the drive is full of life again.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Taste of St. Croix

Tonight Crucians are in for one of the most popular events on island. Throngs gather at the Divi Carina Bay Resort to sample food and wine from 50 restaurants and wine merchants. You vote for the best food and the winning restaurant gets bragging rights and is sent to compete at a Caribbean food contest in Florida. A Taste of St. Croix is a fundraiser to benefit the St. Croix Foundation, which in turn spends the money in community initiatives. The price this year is $75 per ticket (up from $60 last year) and the event is so popular that I heard this year tickets sold out in 20 minutes.

I went last year. There were 50 tables to visit within a couple of hours. I got my first small sampling plate from the first table and my first glass of wine from the second table, and I ran out of hands. I didn't even know where to put my wine glass so that I could actually eat the food. This predicament repeated itself throughout the night, but I still managed to sample a few wines and I got to try dishes like Shrimp Tagine and Coconut-encrusted Mahi Mahi, and a heavenly chocolate mousse. I went with a group of people and found myself spending a good chunk of time just trying to keep track of my companions. When the night was over and the tables were cleared, I was astounded to discover that I was still hungry!

This year we decided to skip the whole overwhelming experience, but today we celebrated our own taste of St. Croix with a wonderful French lunch at Café Christine. Located in a lush courtyard in downtown Christiansted, this café is open only for lunch, Monday to Friday, and as far as I'm concerned it is St. Croix's best kept secret. After living here for 2 years, I only heard about it a couple of months ago, and today was my first visit there. Christine, the owner, is a chef worth her salt. She told us she gets to work at 6 a.m. to cook a new menu each day. Every dish and heavenly dessert is made fresh that day, and it shows! I had the best duck terrine I've ever tasted, and Bob had a delightful smoked salmon with lentils. Dessert was a grape tart that was creamy and fruity but not very sweet. And the prices were on average $10 per dish, amazing for such divine food. I now know where I'll be heading for lunch every chance I get.

PS: Happy birthday to my cat, Calypso, who turns 12 today!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Sorry, folks, for taking so very long to get back to my blog. My internet access was down for a while and it slowed things down quite a bit.

The Maufe opening reception was a great experience. My husband Bob and I got to the gallery half hour before the showing and were just beginning to set up the wine/snack table when the first visitor arrived. A string of people followed and for most of the night, the place was packed. Some were my dear friends; others were there as part of the Art Thursday gallery walk through Christiansted, and yet others were there exclusively because they saw an article (read it here) about me in the local paper and were very curious about my work. I loved seeing that both men and women equally enjoyed the pieces.

There wasn't enough time for me to talk to everyone, but I did connect with a few interesting people, such as a documentary filmmaker. She was the last person to come in at the end of the night, and told me she rushed over after a friend, who'd been there earlier, called her and told her she must come and see the exhibit. A couple from Maine enjoyed my lemon squares and so we got to talking about tea houses in Maine and the lack of one in St. Croix, and it made me wish I had all the time/energy/resources in the world to go to the St. George Botanical Gardens and offer to open a tea house there.

A couple of days later I happened to meet a woman who was on her way to lunch with a friend and then to see my exhibit. She called me afterwards and told me that they were at the gallery for hours studying the quilts and trying to figure out how I created the pieces.

Overall, the opening of this exhibit was a fabulous experience. Each quilt looked good in its place, and the spot lights brought out the colors in the way that I had envisioned them when I first created the pieces. My friend Adele told me later that she enjoyed simply watching the people react to the quilts, and noticed that people picked a different favorite.(see follow-up article here)

The exhibit will continue until April 28. I haven't been back to the gallery, but I'll stop in soon to see how it's been going. For now, I've been home engaged in much-needed spring cleaning and brief jaunts to the beach.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ready for Maufe

Tonight is the opening reception for my first solo exhibit at Maufe Gallery, located in downtown Christiansted. The reception is part of a monthly event called Art Thursday, where you can walk through historic downtown visiting the art galleries and meeting the artists.

The Gallery is ready. Bob and I spent Tuesday afternoon hanging 14 quilts, ranging in size from 9"X12" to 72"X62". When everything was hung, I stood back and looked at the walls full of my work, and I had two thoughts. One: it's been one busy season! Two: here it is, one dream come true. This last thought made me smile. I've been working towards this moment for a very, very long time. Not just the time it took to make the quilts, but the years it took for me to sort myself out until I could call myself an artist.

And here's how I'm spending my time between now and the reception this afternoon: I'm cooking and blogging. Today is simply the perfect day to enjoy the three things that I love best: writing, quilting and cooking. Therese, the gallery owner, is providing wine and cheese and fruit for the reception. But I always cook for my own parties, so it was unthinkable for me not to cook for my own reception. So I'm bringing the sweets: brownies, lemon squares and cranberry-pineapple squares.

The bougainvillea are in full bloom and I plan to make a little bouquet for the table. And I'm bringing the music I quilt to: The sweet saxophone of Paul Desmond, the sultry sounds of Bossa Nova and some French lounge music. And lastly, I'll bring a bottle of Champaign to toast to a dream come true.

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