Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cookies and Art

I grew up in a tiny town in Kansas, population 266, and went to an even tinier church which had an even tinier flow of cash into the coffers.  One weekend we had a bake sale and lined tables up in front of the church on the main street.  It was a feast of cakes, cookies and pies and the tables were womaned by eager and friendly church members.  Who stood there.  Traffic down main street was pretty much non-existent so there was no one to buy their lovingly prepared baked goods.

My friends and I had been enrolled in helping with the bake sale so we, too, stood there with nothing to do.  I'm not sure whose idea it was, but finally we got frustrated enough that each of us took as many cookies, pies, and cakes as we could carry and went walking door-to-door through the neighborhood ... and came back, time after time, empty handed.  The bake sale was a success and we had, inadvertently, learned a lesson about marketing.

Now, many years later and like many other artists, I'm trying to figure out the marketing side of art.  There seems to be a legion of us standing by our tables of lovingly baked goods on a road with too little traffic.  So the question is how to take our art to the people who would be interested in buying it.  It's not quite the same as taking cookies door-to-door but that may still be a metaphor to contemplate.

People like cookies and they know exactly which cookies they like, whether it's sugar cookies with sprinkles or chocolate-chunk-with-pecan cookies.  Most people are far less comfortable about art.  Many feel intimidated by art, unsure that what they like is "right."  They hesitate about buying art, afraid of making a bad decision, afraid of looking stupid, afraid of winding up with a black-velvet Elvis on their walls. (Personally, I loved black velvet art, but that's another story!)

And, of course, cookies are far more affordable than art.  They are small, inexpensive indulgences whereas art is often an investment, a commitment to beauty.

Perhaps last and least, cookies don't have to match the couch!  In a few minutes they're gone, leaving only a sweet memory.  We've been schooled to believe that art lasts forever, that it gets handed down to the next generation, that it has to stay on your wall even when you can't remember why you bought it ... because it's ART!

What if we thought about art in the same way we think about clothes?  Beautiful things to dress our homes, offices and studios.  Beauty that makes us feel beautiful, peaceful, enlivened, connected to the world.  And, when it stops "fitting," we pass it along to someone else and purchase the next experience of beauty.  Maybe we don't have to "collect" art; maybe it should be ok to just wear it, enjoy it, savor it and then let it go.

Food ... or should I say cookies ... for thought.


  1. Love that perspective, and food for thought. I hope people come nibble at Timberline Gallery when they travel through Oakhurst, that is where one can see Joyce's delicious works of art... Oh, forgot you can also see her photography in Morro Bay. Also check out the calendar on line and come chat with the artist when she sits the gallery.

  2. Love the analogy and story Joyce. Our walls are filled with my art. And when I paint something new, I take down something old and store it for awhile. Sometimes, someone buys a piece I created and I say goodbye, lovingly wishing it well in its new home. sometimes, I simply change the art to reflect the season, my mood, travels - anything I feel like.

    And that's the nice part about art. It isn't static. It is an ever changing vision of who we are. A reflection of our beauty shining back at us.


  3. Love this, Joyce. Wonderful metaphor as well as beautiful, literal application of the bake sale learning.

    I remember asking myself once, "How would I act differently if I tended myself as lovingly as I tend my garden?" I think there are broad applications for many lessons we learn along the road of life. Thank you for bringing this one to the fore.

  4. Thanks for the comments ... I actually wondered if anyone would object to taking the "gravity" out of art. Every once in a while I remember the Tibetan monks I watched making an intricate sand painting for two weeks and then ceremonially committing it to a local creek. While art comes from a deep well, maybe it is intended to flow instead of being frozen into a "thing."

  5. Art should have no gravity. Art has so many dimensions that the artwork itself lifts up the spirit. Some of my special artworks I admire have whimsy in them--like A.A. Milne's Sneezles and Wheezles Poem [http://allpoetry.com/poem/8518987-Sneezles-by-A.A._Milne]

    Stopped in at your etsy shop--loved the 'Glowing Eucalyptus Sprouts.' The color contrast is just stunning--creating a sense of many different movements --like it is alive.

    Best to you.