Saturday, November 30, 2013

If We Ain't Ready By Now, Its Too Late To Create For The Holidays!

"Presents Under The Christmas Tree"
For years now, the day after Thanksgiving is decorating day at my house. It was more elaborate and took more time but for one day, with everyone working, the house was transformed into a Christmas fairyland. The kids were small, but excitement was in the air. Once those stockings were hung they knew Santa WAS coming! True incentive.

As the kids got older and our teenage son hid the Christmas music he said he hated before his year abroad in Italy, the decorating became a little less intense. Fewer things were brought out and decorating both Grandma's tree and our house got to be a bit much.

This year my son was here to help us (no Christmas music) and I realized that it really was going to be Christmas. It was not even four weeks away, it was barely 25 days!

The projects that littered my workspace, yes they ARE Christmas themed, would make no sense to sell right now. They would barely be seen before Christmas and who would care after for months?

I will continue to work on them through and after Christmas because, even though I am indoors, its pretty hard to get enthused in sunny Southern California when the sun is out, the days are in the 80's and Christmas seems far away. In fact, if I were smart I would be concentrating on Easter having already done (I didn't do any) Valentine's Day crafts. With the past few weeks being taken up with doctor's visits, my rhythm got off and that might continue for weeks yet to come.

Like a good retailer, you have to plan well in advance for the "season." If one is to use a store like Etsy, that would be a cycle of four months or 8 months if you are trying to snag those early shoppers. The same goes for Valentines day, at least four months in advance...meaning its completed and ready to put in your store to be sold four months before Feb. 14th. Talk about the witch chasing Santa, so is Cupid!

Then comes Easter, then not much until the 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and finally Christmas again. However, that should not rule out birthdays, anniversaries, graduation gifts, wedding gifts, house warming gifts, even newborns if you are a knitter, seamstress or crochet. Its all in the planning and being able to put those future dates in your mind is to be prepared1 If you haven't, you might want to write those dates in your calendar and set targets that you want to be done so you can post and hopefully sell items before those holidays. It's all in the planning!

Visit for a broad selection of unique, hand crafted items you will not find anywhere else. Christmas is coming!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

What If No One Came To Stores On Black Friday?

Just by asking this question I run the risk of causing the collapse of the Western World. What? No one went shopping on Black Friday or even Blacker Thursday? You mean that families would actually have to sit and talk to each other...all day? Just like we did 20 years ago when Thanksgiving and the holidays to follow were sacred? Profits are so marginally thin, they would have us believe, that if the holidays don't produce sales, companies go belly up. They managed to thrive back in the 50's with about twice as many retailers and NO Black Fridays or Thursdays. In fact, there was no Black Friday either. People shopped whenever they wanted before Christmas. To tell the truth, in my 68 years a whole bunch of companies have gone belly up, companies I knew and some I loved. In todays world though, they just weren't profitable or nimble enough and were 1. swallowed up by someone more technically savvy but to my mind less quality driven, or 2. tried to pay decent wages but couldn't keep their costs down and profits up.

Does that mean the CEO's of outrageously large companies would have to forgo even more outrageous salaries that are made off the backs of their incredibly poor employees? You have to wonder when a company like McDonalds with billions in profits shows their workers how to get food stamps and Wal-mart asks their employees, poorly paid worldwide, to chip in and bring food for those employees paid even less? There is something definitely wrong.

Scott Adams neatly summed it up the other day when the "pointy haired boss" decides that because the holidays are so busy they will celebrate Christmas at a more convenient time. I think that very issue is addressed in the Bible and the Koran, and the results were not pretty.

Americans are obsessed with the deal. Cruising by Best Buy the other day I was shocked to see tents lined up outside the store. My son mentioned some have been there a few days. Then, the dude that was #1 in line even had his photo in the paper. He wanted a bigger TV. Guess he never heard of Amazon or that fact he could have ordered the same thing online, gotten the same or better price and picked it up at his leisure. Is his life so meaningless it is more exciting sitting around in a folding chair and sleeping in a tent on the sidewalk (don't give me this c#@p about loving the great outdoors) is preferable to being with family or friends? Really?

If there is any change that has made maybe the most impression in my lifetime is that of the role of selling. Stadiums were named for cities or great coaches. Now, they are named for the biggest bidder who is a company. Buses used to have small adds up near the ceiling. Now they literally cover the bus. When you're driving they are too close to see from the side though I do manage to see the names of sleazy looking lawyers that grace the backs of most of them when I'm trapped behind. They are effective. Should I ever see that name in the yellow pages, I will remember NOT to call him. TV news is sprinkled with ads, even the weather is brought to you by or has their logo somewhere on the screen. No selling opportunity is lost no matter where you go, what you see or what you hear. Don't you wonder? Don't people ever get tired of it? I certainly do.

Saturday is "small business" day. That is the day those small retailers (and I might add those of us online in places like Etsy) hope you cause a minor feeding frenzy with them. Personally, for most of the nation this is a pretty cold time of year. Why not keep the robe and slippers on, have a cup of brew and a bagel nearby and let your fingers, literally, do the walking all over that keyboard? Check out the unique, one of a kind shops, the ones who actually sell the original not one of a million knock-offs or were designed, as everything in life is, and replicated to the nth degree.

So I ask, what if they gave a Black Friday Sale and no one came? It would be nice to remember what we have to give thanks for and what the holiday season is about. Despite what those hordes of shoppers are showing us, its not about getting the best deal. They had all year long to get that.

Visit KrugsStudio for one of a kind, original, unique hand crafted items. They make wonderful gifts for all your friends and loved ones.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Car Mad In Los Angeles - What The LA Auto Show Missed

Everyone in the world knows that the citizens of LA are in love with their cars. In fact they killed probably one of the finest transit systems in the world, the Red Cars, because they loved their cars so much! Its not hard to figure out why. Where else can you go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon?  Or freeze in the mountains and bake in the desert all in the same day? It was if the cowboy spirit remained alive and well. If you have driven on the LA freeways, especially at rush hour, you will know exactly what I mean.

As much as we love our cars, we are always looking for one better. The area where I live is filled with increasingly exotic cars. While there are many Toyota models, there are even more Mercedes and Audi's. The houses may be modest but the cars are not.

Seeing the Teslas, Mercedes, Audi's, BMW's and even the occasional Ferrari and Lamborghini on the streets of the San Gabriel Valley, it was with a great deal of surprise the LA Car Show was even worse than last year. In fact, it has steadily gotten worse. I am trying to sort and archive my photos from years past and having just looked at photos I took of the 2006 LA Car Show, it shows a remarkable deterioration of  participants. 90% of the exotics were gone, there was no Tesla S like last year to drool over. In fact, it filled just two halls.

There were so few concept cars, I think you could count them on one hand, at a stretch two. Its as if everyone decided to go home and this was what was left of the party. Signage was terrible. Just getting in was a nightmare, food prices were ridiculous and definitely not what the government guidelines say constitutes a healthy meal. But if you are looking at fast cars, you will probably meet your maker before that heart attack anyway.

Car makers have realized that its the guys that love cars so have always used sexy models in too small of dresses, spiky high heels and purring voices to pitch their metal. However, I choked this year when one of these lovelies called herself a specialist. A specialist of what? I'm betting I knew more about the car she was selling and I don't read about them as much as I did 20 years ago.

What is sad though is that the car makers have missed an opportunity to show their public what is available. Its as if you now have to go to the Cerritos Auto Mall and visit one by one the 30 or so dealerships (more than were at that car show) and endure 30 or more pitches from salesmen along the way. They missed, through their own design, a real opportunity to put their best foot forward, show an adoring car crowd what's up their sleeves and at the same time sell us on their cars.

I noticed that they didn't dare show the posters, like last year, of the glorious car shows of the past. If you were to rank this one, I could give it a 1 out of 100. I got to see the new Chevy Impala and L7 Corvette, check out those vastly improved Korean cars and wonder about in what dimension many of the Japanese models could be considered attractive. The Italiams may lead the way, along with the Germans, in car design but you would never know it.

I noticed that the majority of the salesmen there were using iPads and could get pricing and such at the swipe of a finger. However, looking at the image of a car on a screen will never, EVER replace the real thing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"About Time," A Movie Of Second Chances

"About Time," the conversation
This past weekend we decided to see a movie.  We had seen the trailers for "About Time" and since it had the director and some of the stars of my favorite film, "Love Actually" I was ready to give it a go even if the plot seemed, well, silly.  Traveling back in time? Really?

It appeared the men in our hero's family had the ability to go back in time for do overs. It led to some funny situations as well as a few sobering ones. I left the film feeling uplifted but I just wasn't sure why.  Near the end when he visits his father for the last time the father tells several more secrets one being he should relive each day over again. Why? On the second time around you can adjust for the mistakes you made on the first pass. Our hero Tim learned a lot faster than Bill Murray did in "Groundhog Day." In fact so much he gave up reliving each day.

What was the father's advice? The importance of living each day as if it were your last. While he could go back in time, he couldn't defeat death.

The other thing I realized is that creative people are also given second chances, only I don't think many of us ever see it that way. Every author can rewrite a terrible passage or chapter or even a book. The first draft might be dreadful but in its rewrite you have the opportunity to get it right. I remembered my ill fated persimmon painting.  The first version got steadily worse until I gave up, threw it away and started over. While I expanded many hours on the first version the second one, started from scratch, took barely two hours to finish.  It was literally as if the first experience taught me everything I needed to know about that subject and when doing it again all the mistakes were overcome. If you are an artist of any sort (and yes, many say that just the fact of living is an art), you know exactly what I mean.

Life is a balancing art. People need to understand that everything they do in one way or another has a ripple effect similar to casting a stone in a still pond. As the ripple expands more and more of the pond, of our lives, are touched by the ripple. While we can redo our craft we don't have the luxury of redoing our lives.

Please visit Christmas is coming and I offer a wide variety of gifts at a wide variety of prices.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Finding Your Artistic Voice

One of the most interesting things of all great artists is to see how they evolve. Picasso had formal training but "drifted" towards a more surreal, abstract style that by the end of his career would never have been predicted at the start. If you've seen the movie "Pollack" you see the same, I guess you'd call it, maturing. However, by the end you have to wonder if the return to drunkenness was because he felt that he was at the end of his artistic prowess. He couldn't find a new artistic voice. He had nothing more to say. Some have said the same of Van Gogh. I feel that one's growth as an artist is the ability to change, to mature constantly striving for a clearer inner vision. Monet comes to mind.

I'm reading Scott Adams of "Dilbert" fame who says he believes there is a difference between a goal and a system. A goal is some target you try to reach and you may but also with greater frequency may not reach it. That leads to confusion and you become depressed thinking yourself a failure. A system is where you do something in a systemic way regardless and that in the doing it on a systemic basis reach what some would consider many goals. He mentions Ernest Hemingway's writing secret. Each and every day, the very first thing he did was write 500 words. Everything stopped until that was done. Once done he could, and did, drink the day away. However, he could write those books because he had a system. I've heard other authors says something similar.

"White Fence" at an early stage.
While I don't have a goal, I don't have a system either. It is something I need to do. Each and every day, for a few hours, maybe even just an hour, I need to paint...a canvas, birdhouse, tray, anything because each and every time I will become a little bit better at my craft. Already, after several years, I am amazed by how far I've come, especially in my painting. I do know that Adams makes sense. I need to find my own voice, not the one I think others want but the one I want. The one that is me and mine.

A case in point is "White Fence" that I started yesterday. I have tried now for 5 or 6 years to "loosen" my style. Why? I don't know. However, what I paint, while relatively loose close up often becomes very realistic even a few feet away. This was a scene I saw in a garden that I took a photo of after studying it quite carefully. I loved the play of colors around the central white fence.

"White Fence" at a middle stage
I used a black green to cover the entire canvas. White pencil marked where the fence would go in what was in many ways a very formal layout. However, the way the plants and flowers were arranged in front of and behind the fence was anything but formal. Three tones of green were haphazardly put on the canvas giving the intimation of leaves. Then several pinks and a rusty pink serve as a backdrop for the much brighter flowers in front. Browns were added for the foreground dirt and then I began to put in the flowers behind the fence. When thats done, then the flowers in front will be added.

Using simple small dabs of paint I attempted to recreate the flowers but randomly. I wanted this to be looser, informal and colorful. The exuberance of the flowers demanded this. But as I applied the paint that gave depth to the painting I was surprised that I could finally achieve something that I had long wanted. Its not finished yet and while I love the balance and color now, there is still room for error, of doing too much and ruining what is a lovely small garden piece.

So, I am attempting to find my voice. I'm finding that it is much harder than I thought. I find, however, that in my case my mind takes control of my hands and does things I am not expecting. I urge everyone in whatever artistic endeavor to search for and find their voice. As Malcolm Gladwell says, anyone can master anything if they put 10,000 hours into it. Well, at 68 I don't know if I have 10,000 hours left in me but I am willing to give it a try.

Thank you for reading. Please visit my store at Christmas is coming and I have a wide variety of crafts and paintings in a variety of price points!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When "C" Doesn't Stand For Color, It Stands For Cancer

I have always wondered how I would react to the "C" word. Those of you with or have survived cancer know exactly what I mean. I have lost many friends and family to cancer. We tend to remember those we've lost more than survivors though to be fair, I know few survivors.

Several weeks before my 68th birthday, I went to a urologist because my PSA had climbed a bit over 4.0, the trigger point for further examination. My GP that morning and the urologist that afternoon were not alarmed but since I was there he said "let's take a look." Or rather he poked around a little with my prostrate.

I felt him stiffen and after an intake breath say, "I feel a lump." I was speechless. He added, "You should get a second opinion."  Leaning against the exam table, my pants gathered around my ankles, and slick with lube, I couldn't move. He then said there was another urologist in the office. Would it be ok to have him check me again? Sure. Why not. I was already prepped and ready to go. 

He came in, introduced himself and latex gloved checked me again.  He said he felt a lump too.

I was told I needed a biopsy to check the type and see if it was cancer. A referral was written and I left. Driving home I called my GP and she was as surprised as me. There was no evidence of it 9 months before. Then I cried the rest of the way home. 

The biopsy was a bit over a week later. Because of clotting problems, I have to be carefully monitored. The day and time came but it went smoothly. No bleeding thanks to blood that always wants to clot. The tech noted that I was "an efficient clotter." The results were 10 days away but on my birthday a week later I found out the results through another doctor appointment. It showed three of six samples were positive. Meeting with the urologist a few days later he told me I was a stage T2b meaning the cancer was on one side of the prostrate and had a Gleason score of 8. Gleason scores measure the degree of cancer aggressiveness. Mine was aggressive. It was this, not my blood that made my doctors say radiation. 

For a month now I have been in a fog.  In quiet moments, even busy ones, I will think, it's there. In me.  It's growing and all I can do is wait. For referrals, test results, doctor appointments. Then comes the final decision of action. Ultimately it's my decision. Am I ready? I can't help but think of that country music song where the singer croons, "We all want to go to heaven...only just not right now."

No final decision has been made but conferring today with my hematologist, whom I respect for carefully monitoring my blood condition and has helped save my life, also recommended radiation. Because I feel the urgency to do something, and am so frustrated by the slow pace of events, he agreed, after conferring with the radiation oncologist, to start the hormone treatment. It will shrink the prostrate and cancer requiring a smaller target and less damage during radiation.

Another adventure begins. Now to triumph yet again. As many before have learned, it is not an easy journey. I've been on similar journeys before with two pulmonary embolisms and did triumph. I have my art, love of books and photography, family and friends. That will hopefully be my refuge during the bad times in the days ahead. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Paint What You See Around You

In the course of our day, many of us travel around quite a bit, maybe more than we realize. We have pretty much been trained to paint lovely scenes. Yet, it was the Impressionists who stopped the pretense of idyllic scenes from Biblical or Mythological history and instead started painting what they saw around them every day. You might drop the kids off at school, drive to work, grocery shop, go to the pharmacy to get your meds or a trip to the mall to get those long needed clothes. Every one of those places, believe it or not could be a visual painting opportunity. I urge you to take a moment and actually look.

Now I'm not advocating you dragging your paints and easel to set up at the mall, but most of us these days have a smart phone and surprisingly many take darn fine photos. Really! In fact, I use my iPhone for most of my Etsy store photos. For some reason it doesn't seem to mind my usual black backdrop that drives my DSLR nuts. See an interesting scene. Snap a photo for later.

An artist I follow, Raymond Logan, has taken the simplest, almost silliest things we have and made them something you want to look at because they bring back so many memories and his style is so arresting. He has painted a series of old Kodak cameras, radios, Japanese toy robots from the 50's and so much more. He has a style that is instantly recognizable but has transformed the ordinary into extraordinary. I have one of an old Kodak camera, red of all things, probably from the 50's that I placed in a frequently traveled hallway. Besides adding color it brings back memories of my grandmother and her "Kodak!"
"San Marcos Brewery" by Alan Krug

I started migrating to craft beers about 10 years ago. I would imagine it was my first Samuel Adams that made me realize that there was something better than Millers Hi-Life, Coors or Bud. There was a richer, deeper flavor in plain old beer that made it less plain. Another friend introduced me to Chimay from Belgium but when another friend introduced me to IPA's, he hit the spot. I love a good rich, deeply flavored IPA's. Brews from Avery, AleSmith, Great Divide and Dogfish Head get my taste buds spinning.

Believe it or not, Southern California has many craft breweries with more coming on line all the time. Even the small, mostly industrial town next door is home to a craft brewery started by two guys from Cal Tech of all things.

My painting "San Marcos Brewery" is from one of 58 craft breweries in San Diego County alone. The building is striking in its homage to Spanish Territorial styling and the way the sun hit the stucco, wood, brick and glass made me want to paint it! Like many of the wineries in the area around Temecula, CA, also in San Diego County, as brewers get more successful, they want to create an image of what they make! Wineries and breweries become destinations to savor and enjoy.

This is an all acrylic painting. Only 9" x 12" yet I managed to get many details in it. The rough hewn wood is a counterpoint to the rough stucco and an elaborate sign with old fashioned lettering on a field of green leaves. I went back and forth between the sun and shade finally using a grey wash for the shaded areas leaving the sunny areas blinding in their whiteness.

I urge you to look around and "see." Even a place that is commercial has exciting possibilities if handled with the right hands! I mean, who would think to paint a pub, well, unless it was some quaint old place in England, Ireland or Germany?

Please visit my store, to see this painting and many other things I have created. I am adding several new paintings and birdhouses so there is always something for everyone. Hand created items make wonderful gifts for the holidays. No one else will ever have an identical item!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gallery SoHo In Pomona, CA

This is my gallery...well, not exactly as shown here, nor my "own" gallery, but this is the gallery I am now showing in. I was amazed that when finding this photo how colorful the walls were. I was wondering last night why the walls were a butter yellow. Of course I wondered that because my crafts literally blended into the walls! However, I think there is an easy remedy to that, I will drape the clear glass that is on two old fashioned heating radiators with a white drop cloth. That should make the colorful items I create pop out more.

I wanted to visit the gallery Saturday night as it was during the monthly Art Walk and I wanted to see and answer any questions that visitors might have. I was surprised at how much the gallery had changed since last Sunday when I set up my space. I was obviously not the only late one! There were new, at least to me, beautiful arts and crafts throughout the room. The monthly contest was the same but it seemed that just about everything else had changed.

There were wonderful items, things that I would buy if only were weren't trying to get rid of all the clutter we have accumulated over the years!

The bigger surprise was the number of people who found the gallery. While signed on the sidewalk, you have to walk into this old multi-story building, then find the rather small doorway that leads downstairs. Gallery SoHo shares the basement with Gallery 57. Very different types of art that compliment each other quite well. People must be used to this venue or hopefully, they are hungry for art.

People do come and that is gratifying. After looking at and talking to fellow artists my wife and I went upstairs and walked around the plaza. The biggest change was how many of the galleries were gone. When a friend managed the same gallery a few years ago, the streets were lined with galleries and everyone was usually packed. The only thing packed last night was the crowd waiting to get into the "Zoe" concert at the old theatre on the corner. THAT had people lined up around the block.

Its a sad time when the arts disappear. And they HAVE disappeared everywhere. Small galleries, the arts in schools as the requirements in schools have no time for such things. Yes, there is a budget crunch but yes, a society dies when its vision is lost. There are many who think that is happening right now. When we look back, witness the rise and interest in antiques and "vintage" items many of us grew up with in the 20th century that are now collectibles (oh if my Mom had only kept my toys and comic books), we are not looking toward the future. Yes we have technology that is always trying to invent the next best thing. However, they are selling us something to use, they are not giving us a vision of beauty or discourse or questioning our goals and aims. I love my iPhone but its just a tool.

Technology can be a wonderful resource but it is not a Mozart, or Hemingway, or Monet who looked at the world differently and crafted beautiful things for us to treasure hundreds of years later. I can enjoy a painting for the mastery or what it says to me. Monet's waterlilies take you out of this world into a world of beauty unlike we may ever see. I can listen to a Mozart symphony and love the flow of music. Reading Hemingway I can picture images in my mind of the words he crafted. Sorry iPhone, all you say to me is that you are a tool, a means to an end but NOT the end itself.

When you read the frenzy around the discovery of 1500 lost works of 20th Century art, as wonderful as it is, it is still the past. Where do we have such frenzy on the present or even the future? We have become introspective and as a society, I feel, lost our way. However, as long as we have artists who share their own vision, like those in Gallery SoHo, there is hope for the future.

If you live in Southern California, the Gallery SoHo is on 300-A Thomas Street, Pomona, CA. Gallery hours are Thursday - Sundays from 11-4. The Art Walk is the second Saturday of the month from 6 - 9 p.m. As they say, COME ON DOWN!

Please visit The Holidays are coming and I have many wonderful, original and creative gifts in a variety of price points. Thank you for reading.

Friday, November 8, 2013

If Dad Could See Me Now! Norelco, A Shaver That Is Well Designed

One of the things I harp on, complain about, is the design, or lack thereof,  of the things we use everyday. Life is stressful and complicated enough without having to deal with poorly designed products. I don't think I need to list the more explosive issues of dysfunction we have encountered lately.

I mentioned that my Dad took me to art classes when I was in grade school. One of the reasons he took me was because he was the manager of the Shick Electric Shaver Shop in downtown Portland, OR. The shop was opened 5 1/2 days a week. Saturdays from 9 to 1. Those of us who are baby boomers and older will remember them. Their biggest competitor was Remington Electric Shavers, Norelco and a few more I don't remember. Even after the classes were over, I would go with him some Saturdays to clean the place out and decorate the windows. He was a pig in the office, but a real neatnik in his shop! I know, I cleaned that too.
Cleaning My Norelco Shaver

Though Dad had an assistant, there were times when I was recruited to help clean shavers if they got behind. It wasn't a task I thought much of. I mean, who wants to clean some guys whiskers out of a  shaver? Why didn't he just do it?

A year ago, when I finally decided to shave my beard off after about 20 years, a friend gave me an electric shaver. Because I was on blood thinners for life, the doctors said either keep the beard or use an electric razor. So here was a gift and I gave it a try. I was amazed at how closely it shaved and with not a nick anywhere. Even with the beard I still had to shave my neck and bleeding was a always a problem.

Ironically, when it started to shave poorly I just figured the blades were dull and I replaced then with a spare set I was given. Looking more closely at them, I noticed they were clogged with hair. Maybe they were still good. It turns out they were.

For a non-technical person you have to give the folks at Norelco / Phillips a lot of credit for shaver design. I had it apart in no time, got the gunk out of the blades by soaking them in alcohol and with a stiff brush had it clean of whiskers and back together in no time. If only more things in life were that simple.

There seems to be a trend again to make things more complicated. And I mean EVERYTHING. Remember when Facebook was so simple to use? You just about need to be an IT person, if your older anyway, to navigate it. Apple has made their operating systems more and more complicated. I face new issues each and every day now. We don't even need to discuss Microsoft. They were never simple. Complexity was king. Tried to program your coffee maker? Remember the VCR? Even cars today are subject to driver angst. I watched the driver of a brand new Mercedes stall her car and frantically call on the phone trying to figure out what to do. My side street was completely blocked for about 5 minutes.

I think its time again for designers all of stripes to look more closely at their products. If they don't someone else will. Remember Kodak. They didn't want to develop the CCD chip they invented for cameras because it would hurt their film sales. Their are kids and young adults who have no idea of what film is. You mean the SD card? Making the complex simple will win, hopefully, every time!

Visit for unique and one of a kind gifts and fine art!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Letting Imagination Run Wild

You never know when you will be inspired. You will see something, think of something related to something you saw or heard or maybe just a random thought will pop into your mind. I am guilty of all three scenarios. Most artists are.

Our Danish friends know that I am fascinated with Norwegian Rosemaling. They tried as best they could to find places for me to see examples of it. It turned out that we saw more in just the places we visited. Its not in fashion anymore (just like Pennsylvania Dutch is out of favor at the moment) but I noticed people seemed proud to display the pieces that they had. Instead we saw examples at The Stave Church, The Mundal Hotel, even a variety of museums that were not featuring it but it was just there.

There is a kind of protocol that was developed and then followed strictly in villages around Trondheim back in the 1750's. Each village created its own style that was religiously followed. However, from the books I have found and read, you pretty much have free rein on what you design. So, I guess you could call what I do Krugmaling though I have yet to develop a stylistic protocol. I'm having too much fun experimenting.

My newest birdhouse, the BLUE WINDMILL BIRDHOUSE,  is definitely a case in point. Many of the designs use either an "S" or "C" curve and many times together. Flowers and seed pods, just designs worked into filigree branches adorn each item. In fact, they are often very intricate.

I decided to play with the "S" curve but didn't want it too busy. Since the birdhouse had a silver tin roof I decided to use silver for the windmill blades and the base. That left the rich blue column free to create what I wanted. Since those ancient Norwegians were not afraid of color, neither was I. The red "S" was used on each side then yellow and white complimented that. No creation would be right without leaves so a darker and lighter green was added as contract to both the reds and blues.

This is a distinctive piece that is however, not too fussy or busy but rather a wonderful, colorful accent piece that would fit in a variety of home decor elements. Just remember no one said it had to be plain or unimaginative, items such as this invite you to stretch your imagination.

In case you are wondering, I picked this birdhouse up at Michaels and the paints are all DecoArt. For outdoor use, I always seal everything with Varathane. It gives it protection from the elements for a year or two but always will need new costs from time to time.

Thank you for reading. Please stop by to see all the items I have crafted!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Samsung: Designing For Failure

I stopped buying Samsung products a few years ago. I had several of their products that when needing repairs was told by the technician quoting on the repair that my problem was a known issue. It was finally the laser printer, barely a year old, that even after being repaired wouldn't work. That was the last time I bought their products.

In 2010 our side by side Maytag refrigerator started making strange sounds and the morning I came downstairs and found a puddle on the kitchen floor that led back to the culprit, was the day my wife went looking for a new refrigerator. Refrigerators are not what they used to be. I will always remember the little GE my aunt and uncle had in Seattle. You know the one with the little cube of a freezer. That poor thing ran for years, decades in fact. When asked why he didn't replace it my uncle would say, why? It still works! We will never see those days again.

Samsung Condenser Unit
Samsung Fan Unit

Today, my three year old $1800 Samsung refrigerator with "french doors" and a bottom freezer had it's control unit replaced. Good thing too. It was getting as warm inside as out. When the Geek Squad tech lady pulled it out, she said it was good thing because, as you can see, the entire fan was frozen. The refrigerator part was not working in any way. However, before she could install the new unit she had to literally use a form of hair dryer to melt all the ice that had formed around the condenser. What a mess. Foam insulation, water, ice all inside and outside a three year old refrigerator that had done nothing in all its life but sit in the same spot in the kitchen. Her warning to me was in the future I really DO recommend the extended contract on any of these appliances. These machines, actually computers in a variety of guises, don't hold up anymore. You think?

It all boils down to how these things are designed. Its as simple as that. Someone or someones designed these things and then they were manufactured. I don't know if a prototype is made and tested but I would have to say, based on my experience, no. Hey, maybe they can be sold on Etsy or CraftStar now! Isn't that their new criteria? You can design something but anyone can make it and you sell it?

Considering the history of companies like Samsung who have flagrantly copied just about everything they make, poached on patents and then counter sue to hide that fact, it would appear their "designs" are merely copies and not very good ones at that. Kinda like AT&T that says they cover 97% of the United States with their cell service. They may, but NOT very well. They consistently rank the worst of all cell carriers.

Why do we reward such mediocre products or services? Because cell phones have a bigger screen, one you can barely hold the phone in your hand, it will not fit in a pocket and has the battery life of a gnat. Or the TV screen that in three years develops blue lines on one side. The list can do on and on. How about the refrigerator that freezes up because the design of its controls guarantee it will!

As I have said so often here, we can never get away from design and after walking around the ruins of ancient Rome or Greece or Egypt never have. Once man made the decision to group together, it was quickly discovered that they had to organize how they lived. People designed protocols and later laws to live by. Cities and everything that was used in them was designed. Someone had to design the streets, carts, buildings that were used and that we might see even today.

Today, it is hard to decide what is good and what is not. We look at the ratings online, or trust Consumer Reports though every product they rated highest my experience was the opposite and I stopped following them. There is Amazon or CNET and many many others. All I can council is that you do the best due diligence you can. If you, like me get a shoddy product rather than just shrugging it off, complain. I have read that for every complaint there are 10 to 20 that were not filed. We should ask for and expect excellence. Reward those that give it and stop buying from those that don't.

For unique and personal gifts and crafts please visit me at

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My First Gallery Showing!

Alan Krug of KrugsStudio in SoHo Gallery
Finally, I put some paintings and crafts in a gallery! The SoHo Gallery that's run by the Pomona Valley Artists Association in old town Pomona, CA. It's in the basement but during the Saturday Night Art Walks it gets quite a crowd.

I know. The irony is I had been here several times in years past because an artist who is also a family friend managed this same gallery. Back then I never dreamed I would be showing anything, ever.

Taking this step has been a long time coming. As I wrote earlier, what one loves, art in my case, and what one does, paint on a variety of surfaces, doesn't qualify you for much of anything. There's a long step from painting to qualifying to show.

The PVAA called last Thursday and said I had been accepted to show. I would be foolish not to have been both pleased and excited. I was!

Then comes the hard part. What to show? I had 10 paintings to choose from but after putting one after another up I realized that what I started with and the final paintings were very different. What is the right balance? How many and how to arrange them in the space provided ? How many times did I climb that ladder? About a two hour nap when I got home.

Oddly, picking and displaying my craft painting was an easier choice. I had a collection of CRAZY QUILT items, and also a collection of Christmas items (hey, Christmas is less than two months away) that had to fit on a too small top. Yet somehow it works.

Its a taste of what I create. I'm hoping this exposure, as limited as it might be, is also an opening. To see in person what I create is all I ask. There are plenty of opportunities. A boutique, competitions, art walks and gallery hours - all opportunities to expose the art of member artists.

If you are ever in Pomona, the gallery is located at 300 3rd St., in the basement. It's open from 11-4 Thursdays through Sundays, 11-9 the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. If you're ever in the area come visit!

I'll keep my Etsy store. Please visit me at

Friday, November 1, 2013

CraftStar: Some Crafters Are More Equal Than Others

On the 29th of October I wrote a blog about the changes CEO Chad Dickerson was making to Etsy. I had read and detailed this transformation as told to WIRED here on my blog in October of 2012. It seems that they were right. I put links to my blog on all my Etsy Groups, Tweeted and such, but all I got was one comment. As I detailed this week, in one day so many Etsians fled to Zibbet their server crashed.

There are other "craft" oriented sites out there, however, Etsy is the best known and biggest. I have tried ArtFire with no luck, set up an eBay store for a friend who sold nothing. Truth be told, Etsy has been the only place I have sold anything online. That's why it breaks my heart that anyone, and I MEAN anyone can now sell there. How can a creator and craftsman compete with minions in China or Viet Nam who can make millions of what it took hours and sometimes days to create for a fraction of the cost? Simply, you can't.

Time flies but I believe last year I was approached by a new Internet site, CraftStar. In theory they were like Etsy but what I saw was well, let's get generous and say homier. It wasn't as polished and then it took forever to go live...kinda like Obamacare. March stretched into April, then May and June. I don't recall exactly when they went online but by then I didn't care anymore. I do check it from time to time and oddly never see much in the categories I would sell in. Is that good or bad? I do, however, get the newsletters. When I read the latest last night, I saw "red." Here it is:

As you will read in my letter to her that follows, I don't know about you but I don't have 1,000 of all my things laying around to sell let alone can afford a 50% hit. If this isn't a blatant mimic of Etsy who  now lets all sellers sell if the store owner can prove they "designed" the item, what is? As I asked, and I ask you, WHAT item for sale doesn't have at least someone who did the original design? Here is my reply:
Here is her reply:

Of course I knew this would be her reply. From the Radio / TV Producer world, think Jerry Springer, Ellen, etc., all she could see when NBC came calling was $$$$$$$$$! To hell with the crafters. Now, if she really WAS supportive of the crafter community why didn't she appeal to 50 or even 100 crafters that might have 10 or 20 items they would sell for the recognition. She is willing to sacrifice us all for ONE crafter? I don't know about you but I find this less than supportive. If anything its exploitive. Knowing full well there isn't a crafter on her site that could meet this criteria (well not that would meet what I thought were her guidelines), she knew full well what she was doing. In retrospect, she may have driven a few more to Zibbet because she has exposed to the world exactly where she wants her bread buttered. And honey, its not with crafters.

I urge you to visit my store ... You just might find some unique, hand painted item that would be the perfect accessory in your home or a wonderful, unique gift for friends and family. Trust me, there are not 1,000 of ANYTHING laying around.