Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ever been called a Hard Head or a Chip off the Old Block?

"Moonlight Magic" 14x11 acrylic on canvas. (remember the weird undercoating? See what I wiped out?)
As unflattering as those terms are, being called a block head or worse simply indicates that you’re stubborn, unbending, and immovable; something an entrepreneur should never be. If you can’t negotiate, if you’re unwilling to give the customer the benefit of the doubt, your sales are likely to plummet.
Give and take is what it’s all about and sometimes you learn the hard way. A few weeks ago I failed to consider the dimensions of an object and focused only on weight. The omission cost me over half of my profits. It was my mistake. I owned it. The customer’s cost was the same regardless.
By failing to do a “test run” before setting price, I was the one who got shortchanged. UPS suggested I call the customer and see if they would meet me half way. To me that sounded dishonest and weak. It was like changing the price of a bargain in midstream. So I kept my word and my customer was satisfied.
If that decision means he will be a repeat customer, then I’ll be happy. If that means he will refer my shop to someone else, then I’ll have two happy customers. That’s the name of the game. Chalk it up to the cost of advertising, part of the learning curve in business or stupidity. The outcome is the same.
Sometimes people complain even when you bend over backwards to please them. Their bark is often worse than their bite. If you make them feel they are getting a good deal, their bluster may turn into satisfaction. Rub people “against the grain” and you’re likely to lose a loyal buyer.
Wood is not only utilitarian, it is rich and beautiful. Circular grain may tell us how long a tree has lived and what it has weathered. Identifying the differences in the bark can help us determine what kind of tree we’re dealing with.
"Window on Pine Island" 16x20 oil on canvas

Even though wood wears away in time, it stays the same even when it becomes thin and overused. I’d take a wooden bowl and cutting board any day over a plastic or fabricated one. I’d rather scrub them after use with antimicrobial soap than trade them in on new models. I treasure the dark sheen that comes from use and the way wood absorbs oil and water like a living breathing thing.
My youngest son made me a small piggy cutting board when he took shop in high school. I have used it for over 25 years. One day after listening to those hyper-germaphobics, I placed it in my dishwasher, without the heat, to sanitize it. When I opened the washer, the pig had split along every grain line. The heat of the water had weakened the wood and simply dried out its life. I miss that pig!
I still have a wooden bowl made of myrtle wood that came from Seattle, Washington. It was given to me by my first husband. Today we use it to serve hot popcorn. The oil in the corn keeps it dark and lovely. I will never (are you listening?) never put it in my dishwasher.

This woodcarving of a little girl came from an antique store in Ellicott, Maryland. I love that place! My daughter lived nearby and I was visiting her that summer. The wooden figure drew my heart, all the more for its primitiveness. I suspect a beginning carver crafted this piece for the very first time.
The carved inscription says ©Somerville. I did some research and traced it to Somerville, MA; there seems to be a lot of woodcarving action going on up there. I suspect one of the many students that come and go carved this at some time and the sculpture ended up in Ellicott, Maryland.

If you haven’t tried painting wood grain, give it a try. Watch it come alive under your brush. Its exquisite sheen and grain are unique to each piece, so you don’t need to worry about mistakes. 

Even wood piling on the seashore or faded wood fences may turn an ordinary scene into a masterpiece.

(SOLD) Prints available at