Category Archives: Rambling Thoughts

The rambling thoughts of Rena Hopkins

Lost knowledge, collotypes, and Grandma Tootsie’s cinnamon rolls

A blog about losing knowledge. I wrote this post years ago for my old blogspot account and, ironically enough, almost lost it when I transferred to the new format. I found an archived copy of it, and thought I’d share it with my new readers. The topic still intrigues me, and the article reminds me that I ought to try and catch up with John. I hope he’s still working in the same medium he was back when I wrote this article.

There used to be people who could tell what sort of trees were overhead by the sound the wind made as it blew through their leaves. There are very few of these people, if any, remaining in the world today and most of us will never realize that such knowledge ever existed.


On February 5, 2010 the last speaker of the Bo language, a woman named Boa Sr, died. Although her language had been extensively studied, it will never again be truly understood with all its nuance and subtle beauty. Boa Sr was the last keeper of this knowledge. She was a bridge between the past and the present and her death seals us permanently into a new era. There is no going back. Only forward.

The loss of knowledge is constant, slow and steady. Think of your grandmother’s sewing machine, covered in dust, its manual long lost. She did not need the instructions, you never needed to learn and now that she has gone the machine will sit idly until someday NO-ONE will know how to use it.

My Great-Grandmother used to make cinnamon rolls from a recipe she held in her head. It was her grandmother’s recipe. She never taught any of the children how to make them, never wrote down the recipe and now it is lost forever. I know it stared with a “a small handful of flour and enough butter to make it moist”. We will never get to cinnamon rolls from there.

I will never make these.  Nor will you.

This process goes faster and faster as technology progresses. How long until no-one remembers how to program punch cards? or program games for the Atari?

Today I met someone who knows how to print Collotype. Real collotype, with gelatin and a host of toxic, photosensitive chemicals. The process was replaced in commercial printing with the advent of offset lithography and has become almost completely obsolete in the digital era. Young artists do not need to master such a complicated, time consuming and hazardous technique to get the results they want. Even Wikipedia’s page on the collotype is woefully vague. This knowledge is fading. John is one of the last keepers of this gateway into our past, and he is not an old man.  He is a man with strong roots into our own past, into the how of things.  A true printmaker.  A dying breed.

After some searching I found a shop in Florence, Italy that still prints fine art editions in with traditional Collotype technique.  Alinari Printworks is one of the last gateways into this dying art form.  This is a commercial printhouse, specializing in museum reproductions.  They do not seem to be creating NEW pieces in the medium. The medium has stagnated.  The end is nigh.  But, boy are the prints beautiful!  No digital print has yet come close to achieving the glorious color and lush surface of a collotype.


How to Woo an Artist- Some Hints for Art Fair Coordinators

This is the season in which we artists plan out our show season for the upcoming year.  Some of us display at strictly wholesale shows or fine art galleries but the vast majority of working artists participate in one or more Art Fairs throughout the year.  Choosing which shows to apply to can be daunting.

Each show has a jury fee that is non-refundable AND a booth fee (if you are accepted).  If an artist intends to fill their entire season with shows on every weekend they will need to pay jury fees to multiple shows scheduled for each weekend, just to be sure that they have enough acceptance letters to to fill their season.   Even the best artists get rejection letters but we all learn, over time, how to maximize our season while minimizing the financial impact of all those jury fees.

I’ve heard from varied sources that applications to the Grand Old Art Fairs is down.  The recession took a hard bite out the working artists, and not all of us survived..

So let’s say you’re planning one of these big art fairs.  And you want me to apply to YOUR fair.  Heck, you want as many artists as possible to apply, so that you can carefully select a mix of the very best art and craft for your audience.  How do you entice us to throw our hats into the ring?  What do you offer that will make me want to shell out my hard earned artist dollars just for the chance at landing a spot in your show?

Make it Easy

Artist’s don’t have a lot of free time for paperwork.  We’re busy making stuff.  If your admission requirements include a lot of stuff that nobody else asks for, I probably won’t bother.

  • Use the same size photos as everyone else-  Etsy requires 1000 pixel square images.  Most artists have an Etsy account and a hard drive full of gorgeous product pics formatted to this size.  You’ll get much nicer photos if you let us choose the best out of the ones we already have instead of making us take brand new ones just for your show.
  • Don’t ask for hard copies, slides, or a CD.  or a paper application for that matter.  Do you REALLY want to swim in a sea of paper submissions?
  • Please don’t make me wade through a third party online application service.  Please.  Those things are evil.  Just make a list of requirements and let us e-mail the packet directly to you.

Make it inexpensive

Artists are broke.  We’re artists.  We work hard making the things we love, but if we were big-time, highly successful, gallery represented artists with licensing deals at Barney’s we wouldn’t be working the Art Fair circuit.

  • More than $25 for an entry is painful.  $25 is painful, but we’ll deal.
  • Consider a flat rate or discount rate for artists working in more than one media.  As a mixed media artist making both decorative and functional items I can be charged as much as $100 just to apply to a show.  OUCH!
  • Consider jurying the artist, not the media.  MOST working artists and crafters now have diversified their products to include more than one type of item.   Painters also sell note cards and magnets with their photographs.  Sculptors make brooches and pendants.  Mixed media artists make EVERYTHING.
  • Consider working with local hotels to offer discount rates to traveling artists.  Or meal specials at local restaurants.  Or free parking at the venue.  Those little things add up, and we DO take them into consideration when deciding whether a show will be worthwhile.
  • Let us apply online.  The cost of printing, postage and mailing supplies adds up fast.

Keep it Fair

Carol has been displaying her blown glass vases at your fair for 20 years.  You know you’re going to accept her again, and you know that you’ll not be taking any other blown glass artists because she has artistic tenure.  So why are you accepting jury fees from up and coming blown glass artists?  Artists gossip.  We share our experiences with the applications and admissions process.  So play fair.

  • If the odds of being accepted into a given category are especially slim, tell us in advance.  Then its on us to decide whether to blow money on a jury fee that most likely won’t net a sales opportunity.
  • Have an outside judge.  This is why there is a jury fee.  We are happy to compete on a level playing field, but if you are judging this yourself there is undoubtedly going to be bias towards artists you know.

Bribe Me

I mean it.  Offer me a tent.  Bring me food (I love food).  Have a dinner party (did I mention I love food?)

Artist amenities are very very important.  If I can only afford to apply to one show in a given time frame and one has free load-in assistance, a pre-standing tent, and a breakfast buffet I know which one I’m applying to.

  • Feed us.  Snacks are AMAZING.  A hungry artist is a cranky artist.  Some peanuts and a bottled water will win you my love many times over.
  • Free coffee.  Put it in your ad materials.  It doesn’t even have to be GOOD coffee.  Just give us coffee.  Lots of artists are night people.  Most art fairs have early morning load in.  Its sounds a lot nicer if there will be coffee.
  • Load-in Assistance.  Can’t offer drive up load in?  Then at least offer to help us carry stuff.
  • Awards.  Everybody loves to win a prize.  Hand out ribbons and a couple of waived jury fees.  It won’t hurt you much and it makes us feel special.

It’s not hard to win over the artists.  Just take a little time to see things from our perspective.  And give us snacks.

HELLO, East Lansing!

Mid Michigan, I have heard your pleas. “Where can I get awesome Divine Iguana stuff in my area?” you cried. And now there is an answer..

Thank you, Mackerel Sky, for bringing the Divine Iguana into your loving embrace. Or at least into your gallery.
We’ll take things slow :)

Mackerel Sky gallery in East Lansing
Stop in to Mackerel Sky in East Lansing.
Tell Lisa that The Divine Iguana summoned you.

In all seriousness, I’m tickled pink to have Divine Iguana boxed cards and jewelry available here. Mackerel Sky is a beautiful gallery and shop, and Divine Iguana is the least of their artists. It’s all in the company you keep, my friends, and this is great company to be in!

Oh yeah…and they have our ever popular dictionary buttons!

Dictionary Buttons by Divine Iguana
Yes, they are as cool as they look.

These little guys are HOT, East Lansing. Get them while you can!

Collecting Inspiration

I just bought myself some inspiration in the form of a small stash of watch repair supply manuals. Check out one of the gorgeous full-color exploded views below. Perhaps later, if I’m feeling generous, I may post some of the hand-drawn black and white illustrations, too.

Horologists supply
My “new” vintage watch parts catalog

With coffee all things are possible…

Late Nights and Early Mornings

While preparing to move all my supplies into the new studio I discovered that I had been hiding the vastness of my bead and bauble stash from myself.  I discovered great troves of delights tucked away into boxes and small plastic bags, some carefully labeled but far more simply stashed without ceremony.  I don’t remember acquiring all this stuff, but if I saw it at an estate sale tomorrow, I would buy it all over again!

Now that I’m (sort of) settled in, I’m reveling in all this small shiny glory, making lots and lots of one of a kind pieces when I should be working on Holiday wholesale inventory and  illustration work.  I’m months behind on production anyhow, so what’s a few more days of blissful free-form creation before I knuckle down into the pre-holiday grind?   I can do it all, right?  I just need more coffee.