BNM 2016

"Desire hath no rest, is infinite in itself, endless, and as one calls it, a perpetual rack, or horse-mill." --St. Augustine

Buy-Nothing Month is a tradition going back now five years, but not observed* consistently. I was inspired to start in 2012, continued in 2013 and quietly abandoned it for no particular reason in 14/15. This year I'm picking it up again and starting with a meditation on what this "holiday" means to me.

To recap, BNM is an arbitrary period of time--traditionally February--when I don't spend anything on myself beyond our regular bills and basic survival (e.g. groceries OK, restaurants no way). The truth is, since Jenna handles our budget and does shopping for the family, there's no reason outside of an emergency that I have to touch any money all month. Because I secretly feel like I could be a monk, this is one of a few ways I practice a small part of their lifestyle for a short while. And you know what? It feels great.

When I give up acquiring stuff as a possibility, the result is deeper contentment with my life. A surprisingly large amount of mental space is freed to concentrate on other thoughts instead of planning my next purchase. I appreciate what I have. Turns out, it's not the physical act of not-buying that produces these results, as much as breaking the hedonic treadmill that drives most of our lives (related to the Buddhist concept of viparinama-dukkha: the anxiety of holding onto desirable things and frustration of not getting what you want).

In the past when I felt compelled to blog frequently I amused myself by posting drawings of stuff I wanted to buy. That practice turned out to be counter-productive so I quit. This year instead I am supplanting the buying habit with meditation practice. Not very exciting to write about, but of course, that's because calm is the entire point. Peace out everyone.

*I originally wrote "celebrated" there, which is by no means incorrect w/r/t the deeper joy that I often sense during this season, although not quite right to express the tone of my daily life as experienced in the thick of it.

2015 end-of-year post

The annual post is a tradition, so here I am again to reflect on the year that is ending, as a personal exercise more than anything else.

In hindsight 2015 feels primarily like a year of stability for me and my family. We lost a beloved pet (whose time had come), but not any human family members. I'm still working at the same job where I started in 2014. We took over a craft fair in summer, but that was organic growth and not a disruptive shift. I hunted down and consumed mushrooms like usual. We continued work on our house that has been on the to-do list since we moved in five years ago. I ate all the food.

I wrote about my one big change of producing inventory and tabling as an artist at my craft fairs, although even that activity seemed inevitable and a long time coming. Compared with last year there were no big surprises and no unwelcome changes. There were also no grand adventures or incredible discoveries... just life, well-lived. And that's OK. The older I get, the more I appreciate this kind of peaceful co-existence and natural personal development.

Hopefully it's been a good year for you too. Love always and peace,

Andy

2015 Minneapolis Craft'za

Well, half the year is gone, and we hosted the 4th annual Craft'za last weekend. Here is a very blurry photo of my booth to show how it changed since the spring. I wanted to build a fancy custom display but this pegboard was super-effective!

I had a lot more inventory than I did at Craftstravaganza and the table felt really full this time. I sold a good number of hoops and even my most expensive framed piece. Also did some great trades with my fellow artists, my favorite thing to do.

So it turns out this is the year I finally hang my shingle as a legit craft artist. Lots of interest and great conversation at the event, and people asking where they can buy online... which should be possible soon since I'm setting up a Storenvy shop!

Craftstravaganza #10

Hard to believe, but this May was our 10th annual St. Paul Craftstravaganza. We built it, we grew it, and we kept it going for a whole decade. One thing I had never done--until now!--was have my own booth as an artist.

This year I decided to take the plunge and go all-in with a separate table, selling as my hand-stitchery brand Angleworm Embroidery. It's all the work I've been sharing on Instagram since last December. I sold some hoops, traded a few with other artists, and had a lot of admirers. In particular my Zork piece (which I thought was a somewhat obscure reference) got a huge positive reaction.

It was fun to be an artist and stand behind the table as an exhibitor. But I also had to run the show and that meant I couldn't hang around in one place all day. I'd like to try another event where I can just participate as an artist. Overall the event was great and it inspired me to continue embroidering. One nice thing about running craft fairs is that there's always another one coming up in just a few months!

Morel Hunting Crib Sheet

Start looking for morels the first week that temperatures stay above 50 degrees overnight, usually early to mid-May. The morel season in Minnesota only lasts for about two weeks, so don't sleep! Other signs that it's time for a hike:
  • Lilacs blooming 
  • Dandelions begin to go to seed 
  • Oak leaves the size of a squirrel's ear 
Early spring, search on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas. As the season progresses, go deeper into the woods and explore north-facing slopes. You want to find well-drained, sandy soils and dead or dying trees (ideally with bark sloughing off the trunk). Look for these landmarks to identify potential hunting grounds:
  • Dry creek bottoms 
  • Old apple orchards 
  • Ash, aspen, elm & oak trees 
But is it really a morel? Morels are always hollow. "If it's not hollow do not swallow." Morels' heads are always attached to the side. "Head attached, down the hatch!" Oh, and remember you always gotta cook 'em first... a friend's dad just got sick from eating raw morels. Happy hunting!

Resources:

Lola Memorial

Lola was a good dog. She was our first baby and tolerated our human children with infinite patience. We had many good years together but it was her time to snuffle off this mortal coil on April 1, 2015. Goodnight sweet pup, we miss you.

Jenna says:
After a rough start to life, Lola came to us around age 4. We had 10 wonderful years with her, and we are so glad that our girls were able to spend their early years with such an amazing pet. It will surely take us all some time to adjust to our new normal without her around. Thank you Lola, for being such a sweet, patient & loving dog!

Pins & Needles

I started doing embroidery in a serious way this winter when I cross-stitched a bunch of Christmas gifts (and one fancy deer). That was so fun that I kept on going and stitching things for myself, just for fun. Then soon I had a pile of finished pieces sitting in a drawer.

And so this is all leading up to the announcement that I'm going to try--for the first time in ten years of Craftstravaganza history--to staff my own booth and make a go of selling like a real artist. I've sold stuff at our shows before, sporadically, but always as a small part of Jenna's Scuttlebug booth. And there was the time I had a half table for one day at SpringCon. But this will be separate, with unique new branding, all my own art. I'm excited... and I have a lot of work to do!

I'm hoping some people will buy my stuff, that's one thing. But also this will be a test to see if I've learned anything about being a good exhibitor in the decade I've spent as an event manager. Come see if I succeed, or crash & burn, on Saturday May 9.