Saturday, June 30, 2012

7 Things I Learned at the Fenton Street Market

On June 23rd, I debuted as a vendor at the Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring.  It was my first time at an outdoor market and I did not really know what to expect.  Here is what I learned:

1.  The tent I used was an older EZ-up.  I take issue with the EZ part.  It took four people to set that thing up.  Thanks to the ladies of Speak Vintage DC for helping a novice out!

2.  The sun moves during the day; you don't.  The total shade you start the day in could end up as partial shade.  Be prepared and bring a drape to shield the worst of it.  My neighbor Boxboy taught me that.

3.  Bring more water than you think you could possibly drink.  The organizers of the Fenton Street Market have cold water for the vendors throughout the day, but I had brought 32 oz. to start with.  It was gone before noon.  And it was only 85 degrees that day.

4.  Your vending neighbors are probably very nice people.  I actually learned this at my first venue two years ago, where the people across from me and on one side were quite generous with their hints to the first-timer.  (The woman on the other side of me at that first venue, however, sat there glaring at potential customers and complaining about making no sales.  I learned a little something from her, too.)  This time, Paul/Boxboy and Jodee of Oh, You Like That? jewelry were my delightful neighbors.

5.  Kids can be really sweet.  One little girl walked up and asked, in what seemed a somewhat petulant tone, why I had all of those dolls on my table.  When I explained that I had made them, her face changed and she said, "Wow!  That's cool!"  Another girl was so taken with one of the dolls that she reached into her pocket and offered me her quarter.  That was the sweetest thing I saw all day.  Most children asked if they could touch the dolls, or kept their hands behind their backs.  Thank you, parents!

6.  Some kids are a little harder to handle.  Other parents, you know who you are: the ones with those busy little people who want to touch everything but who have not learned the difference between touching and mauling.  I know you want to get them out of the house, and you don't want to crush their spirits, but please teach them to have some respect for the merchandise.  I can imagine the wreckage they could inflict on the vendors with more fragile items.

7.  This is about community.  Sales are nice, but this is truly about making those connections.  We artists may work alone, but who will know about your fantastic work if you don't share it?  And you never know where those relationships will take you.

Shout-outs to Megan Moriarty and Jessica Blaszczak for organizing this market and making it what it is today; a welcoming, easy  market that I am pleased to be a part of.  I'll be back there on July 14 and 21.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Borrowed Robes

Dawn, 10 x 13
copyright Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
Possibly the best office job I ever had was working as a grants analyst for the U. S. African Development Foundation. I got to travel, which was great, and my immediate supervisor was a very good boss.  There was a staff meeting in which very nice things were said about him and the work he was doing, and he protested that the speaker was dressing him in "borrowed robes."  That phrase (of Shakespearean origin) has stayed with me these last 20 years.

That is how I felt the first time someone described me as an artist.  I wanted to contradict the person and say, "Oh, no, I'm not an artist!" but that would have been silly since I was standing in front of artwork that I had made.  Did that qualify me to be an artist?  Suppose the art police found out?  I felt as though I was suddenly wearing someone else's clothes, almost like the first time my mother let me borrow one of her fancy dresses and I realized that clothing influences the way people react.

There I was, wearing the newly-bestowed artist robes.  As the evening wore on, I was asked many times, "Are you the artist?"  and was subsequently caught up in conversations about my piece.  I understood then that the only person who thought my artist robes were borrowed was me.

I own these robes now.

Whose robes are you wearing? read to be read at

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Story

My daddy, c. 1962
I forgot that it was Father's Day today.  The kids and I had picked out cards earlier in the week, but then the week happened and this morning it did not cross my mind.  I had hidden the cards so my husband wouldn't inadvertently find them (as if someone could inadvertently find anything in my studio!) and then I moved them to a safer location that it took me ten minutes to remember this afternoon.

I used to remember Father's Day, but now I don't so much, what with being out of grandfathers and fathers.  This is my fifth Father's Day since Daddy died, and I think that not bursting into tears at the sight of other people with their fathers on this day is progress.

But this post isn't about moping, because my father was a very funny and practical man who would not appreciate it.  Instead, I shall tell this story.

I got a bike for Christmas when I was six years old.  It was green and it had training wheels.  It was perfect.    All the other kids in the apartment complex had bikes and I imagined huge amounts of fun marauding through the property.

One by one, the other kids learned to ride without training wheels, but not me.  We had taken off one training wheel, but that was my limit.  Until my father decided that enough was enough and it was time to ride a two-wheeler.

He was determined.  It was summer, possibly late spring, but the weather was warm.  I remember him taking me to a park to practice and he would run with his hand on the bike for a bit and then give me a little push and then I would glide for maybe a yard or two before falling over.  I remember how the sweat rolled down his face and the towel or handkerchief he brought that was thoroughly soaked by the time we called it quits that day.

We did this many more times.  He had thought that by the end of that first day, I would be a confident rider.  And then he thought that maybe by the end of the second day, or the third.  I don't know how many days he took me out, or how many towels he sweated through, or how many times he asked himself what exactly my problem was and WHY CAN'T SHE RIDE THIS DURN BIKE?!?!

Then one day I went out with my friends and I took my bike with me.  I guess I was feeling hopeful.  I walked my bike up to the top of the hill with everyone else, climbed on, and coasted down that hill on two wheels without falling.  I was elated and my friends were impressed.  We rode around the rest of the afternoon, and I could not wait to tell my father that I could ride my bike.

I don't remember that conversation.  To hear my father tell it, his reaction was outwardly pleased, but inside he was gnashing his teeth and counting up the hours and sweaty handkerchiefs he could have saved if he had just left it up to the neighborhood kids.

He was just doing what fathers do, though, the good ones anyway.  It became one of those stories you tell at Thanksgiving and Christmas, right before The Road Trip From Hell, and right after That Time Your Brother Did That Thing at the Table That Made Everyone Laugh So Hard They Spit Out Their Food.

Thank you, Daddy.

read to be read at

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Doll, Old Uniform

My daughter is headed to middle school, where they don't wear uniforms (insert sound of mothers gnashing their teeth).  What to do with all that plaid?  This:

Rose, created June 2012
by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
The head of the Lower School is retiring, and we wanted to give her a gift.  I suggested a doll, and my daughter came up with the idea of using the uniform for the doll's clothes.  I was initially skeptical, especially about incorporating the monogram from the shirt, but I think she turned out well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"When Will They See?" -- Completed!

My piece for the Fiber Artists for Hope next exhibit is on its way to the curator.  Whew!

This exhibit, titled "American Spring: A Cause for Justice," will debut at the US Society for Education Through Art's national conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 23-26, 2012. More venues are being finalized.

Detail from When Will They See?
2012 Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
The following is from our exhibit statement:

"On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Sanford, Florida, was gunned down, presumably without provocation, by a self-appointed vigilante.  Trayvon was African American. The FBI reports that there are annually, more than 7,000 victims of hate crimes, the majority of whom are African American.   The Federal Hate Crime Act defines these as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”  These are violent acts borne of intolerance, prejudice,
ignorance and bigotry simply because of WHO the victim is.

This quilt exhibit is a call for justice and a reckoning that our imperfect union strays even farther from its ideals of 'liberty and justice for all' when we tolerate hatred based on someone’s skin color, LGBT personhood or faith.  Quilts submitted for this exhibit are required to interpret the theme of seeking justice and redress for hate crimes in America.  Rather than incite hatred for the perpetrators of hate crimes, this exhibit is designed to influence positive change in every aspect of our social systems, especially within the legislative and legal systems."

Inspired by Langston Hughes' poem, "I, Too, Sing America," my intent was to make a piece dominated by a young man's face, and to make it large enough that he could not be ignored.  I hope that, as Mr. Hughes wrote, "They will see how beautiful [he is] and be ashamed."

When Will They See?
25"w x 29"h
2012 Jacqueline Bryant Campbell

Monday, June 4, 2012

Philadelphia Doll Show

Well, that was fun!

Last weekend marked the 23rd annual show hosted by Philadelphia Doll Museum founder Barbara Whiteman. "A Treasury of Dolls," as this year's show was called, offered a wide range of dolls and doll-related merchandise.  There were antique dolls and more recent collectibles, as well as many talented artists with unique takes on black dolls.

Jacq's Girls at the Philadelphia Doll Show

I got finished setting up my table early (which never, ever, happens!) and had a chance to wander about looking at all the beautiful dolls on display.  I didn't take any pictures then, because so many people were still setting up and then at the end of the day I just didn't think about it again.  Next year...

My neighbors for the day were Jeanyne James and Pat Coleman-Cobb.  Jeanyne James is a doll-maker and quilter who also makes fabric sculptures in tribute to the Gee's Bend Quilters.  I would not have known that her sculptures were fabric if she had not told me.  I would show a picture here, but...

Pat Coleman-Cobb does tall soft-sculptured dolls and uses other media in her doll-making as well.  Her beautiful dolls can be both whimsical and soulful.  You can check out her website here.

Dana Cooper writes a blog dedicated to black doll collecting and she has two posts about the show.  Visit her here.

I don't know whether people are happy when they come to doll shows or being at the doll show makes them happy.  Either way, the good spirit in the room was palpable and I am looking forward to next year!