Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Joyous Holiday Season to All!

Well here we are, a few days until Christmas and about ten to the New Year. At Monkitree we have recently marked our seventh month in business. We have come a long way in seven months and have big plans for the coming year- great shows, new products, an updated website. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of our growth- the artists and craftspeople who allow us to represent them, our neighboring businesses, our families who have supported us in countless ways, and of course our customers. It has been a great year but like many of you, I am hoping 2011 brings with it a new confidence and prosperity.

For those of you with shopping still left to do, Monkitree will be open 10am-6pm through Christmas Eve. We have great jewelry, pottery, cutting boards, textiles and fine art in every price range. Hope to see you before Christmas but if not Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Let's make it a good one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who is Ready for Christmas?

Monkitree is well stocked with all sorts of fun gift items and great art. I love this time of year. There are the confident gift givers who know exactly what each person on their list will want. But there are also those who aren't confident in their gift giving and know they will need help. Some people are reluctant to ask for help, as if not knowing what their new daughter in-law would like is somehow a failing. I like helping these people. I start with simple questions like, "What color is her hair?" They know the answer to that one and they feel good! Then I start with options, "Would you describe her as contemporary or more traditional?" This is also good. Black and white. They can pick one. Again they feel good. And at the same time I am getting valuable information and am eliminating whole categories. Then we can get into suggesting items. Any hesitation and I move on, the key is finding a great gift not settling on something they are unsure about. Once we have found a great gift, we can move onto the co-worker or great-aunt or a more significant gift because once a reluctant shopper finds someone they can work with why go anywhere else?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Your Christmas Gift to Your Community

I found out today that Sportman's Bows, Arrows, Rods and Reels is closing. For months they have had a sign out front asking people to support local business. They didn't get the support they needed. These are difficult times for everyone. People are spending less. The costs of food and fuel are rising. People are feeling the strain. But there is something you can do to support your community- support your local independant stores. If you want to get a cup of coffee stop in to Sweet Love or A1 To Go instead of Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. If you want to eat out go to the
A1 Diner or the Mad Dog instead of the Olive Garden. If you need a gift come into Monkitree instead of Target of Pier 1. When you support your local businesses you support your community. Your money stays in your community.

When someone buys something from me the money I make goes right back to the community. I will hire McFarland Electric and Ladd Plumbing to work on our building. I will buy from Harvey's Hardware for the projects I can complete myself. I will buy products for the store from local businesses who in turn put their money back into the community. It is important that we understand that the choices we make have a huge impact on our neighbors and our communities. I think it is important that we stop driving all over chasing the bargain and think about what we have in our own communities.

I fear for what is still to come in this terrible economy if we don't take it upon ourselves to support our local businesses. Let's make this Holiday Season a joyous one for our communities and our neighbors by supporting the businesses in our hometowns.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it features some of my least favorite foods. I could live without turkey and pie for that matter. I am usually entertained by the need to make several versions of cranberry sauce and the appearance of creamed onions (they only come out once a year). I like Thanksgiving as a holiday because it is a day to hang out with family and friends.

For the last 18 years of my life, Thanksgiving is a day of rest before the busy retail season. This year is the first Christmas season with my own store/gallery. I'm not quite sure what to expect but I have stocked up on great finds. Gorgeous bags, toasty hats and scarves, a range of jewelry, pottery, cutting boards, ornaments, and of course fine art. I hope that people know or will discover that unique gifts, made by hand are the best kind of gifts to give and receive.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will be rested and ready to help you on Friday and throughout the Holiday season Tuesday-Friday 10-6 and Saturday 12-6. I will likely begin staying open late on Thursdays and certainly if you are unable to get in by 6pm due to your work schedule let me know and I will gladly make arrangements for you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Local Artist Show

For the past week artists have been dropping off their pieces for the upcoming show- Creative Maine- The Works of Local Artists. I have met many of the artists before (about half live in the Gardiner area) but there are also quite a few that I had been corresponding with through email. So the drop off was sometimes my first in person meeting with the artist. I had many reasons for doing a local artist show and one reason of course, is it is an opportunity to develop a relationship with the art community. The show features 30 artists from Gardiner and around the state. As pieces are arriving, I am getting more and more excited about the range of work from small photographs to large paintings. There is really something for everyone in this show.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Never Fails

I almost always have my boxer, Bo, in the store with me. He is a well behaved dog, especially for a 2 1/2 year old. But some days he demands attention by "talking" to me. This can be quite annoying when I'm trying to get some work done...or have a customer I am talking to. If no one is in the store when he is in a mood, I will take him for a little stroll outside. I try to keep an eye on my door so I can see if anyone walks in while we are outside. Sometimes I miss seeing someone walk in the door and for some reason it is usually Mary Kay Spencer, a potter whose work I carry. This happened just yesterday. I don't know why this seems to always happen with Mary Kay. Yesterday I walked in one direction and even peeked in the window walking past in the other direction in case I had missed someone walking in. I didn't see anyone in there so I stopped and talked to a neighbor on the street. I was standing in front of the building when she walked out the door. Sorry Mary Kay. And if anyone walks in to an empty store just know I have likely run Bo outside for a minute and will be right back!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Too Early For Christmas

I have spent most of my adult life involved in retail. I am quite used to beginning to work on the Holiday Season in August but I was still surprised to receive the boxed Christmas cards today. Of course I ordered them and therefore should have expected them. It was still a bit of a shocker. A friend told me today there is a radio station in Indiana already doing 24 hour Christmas music. Christmas music before Halloween is just wrong.

Receiving those cards reminds me of all that needs to be done over the next few weeks to be prepared for the customers I expect (hope) will come. I have ordered bags and boxes and yes I was getting away with not having any boxes up to this point...it has only been 6 months. Still working on adding more merchandise. I'm sure I will get it all together and have a fabulous season...now back to work!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Weekend Away

Tomorrow morning we are leaving town to go to my 25th high school reunion in Rumson, NJ. I have little reason to get back to my hometown. No one in my immediate family lives there but I am excited to get back and see friends I rarely see. I am imagining I will have many people asking me what I have been up. So I have been reflecting on the past 6 months to a year quite a bit. Monkitree has now been open for six months...which is a bit hard to believe. It seems like yesterday. Am I where I want to be after six months...no. Am I where I expected to be after six months...yes.

Starting a business is a process and we are building as we go. Right now I am in the midst of selecting works for a "Local Artist Show" to open November 19th. It is amazing to me the amount of talent here in Maine. I am excited to offer people the opportunity to show their work and grateful that the artists want to show in my gallery. This show is a unique opportunity for me to meet the many talented artists living nearby and for me to share their work during the busy Holiday Season.

I have no doubt people will be asking about my life this weekend. Am I rich? No. Am I successful? I'm still working on it. Am I happy? Absolutely. Peter and I made a great decision taking this journey together.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy American Craft Week!

I am sitting here in Monkitree surrounded by beautiful art, turned wood and assorted craft. Most of it made right here in Maine by what seems to be an endless supply of talented artists and craftspeople. Please remember to support your local artist, craftspeople and you local retailers and galleries this coming holiday season. Keep your money in your community, your state and your country. We have talented people here making gorgeous things.

Today I am pretty excited about Gardiner, Maine. It is a rainy day and hardly anyone is coming through the doors but I am still thrilled by Swine and Stein this past weekend. Many people came through the doors that hadn't yet been in and plenty of people returned to visit and make purchases. I had women trying on jewelry and pointing out to their husbands all the things they would be happy to receive as gifts. I had one young woman who currently lives in Portland but grew up here tell me that she was happy that something like Monkitree could exist in Gardiner. Peter tells me he took pictures of the gallery full of people. I must say it felt good to have a full space.

There were a couple of inquiries about buildings available for sale downtown and it is sounding like there just may be some new businesses coming to downtown Gardiner. It makes me happy when people see the potential and want to be a part of making the downtown a vibrant and active downtown.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Super Excited

This is a big weekend coming up in Gardiner, Maine. I am having my second opening reception in as many weeks and Gardiner Main Street is putting on Swine and Stein Octoberfest. The opening is on Friday evening for a Maine Woodturning Show to celebrate American Craft Week. I am getting very excited about this show which will offer a huge range of turned wood from five turners- Dennis Curtis, Kim Dailey, Michael Kagan, Lou Landry, and Al Mather. Lou dropped off his pieces today and they are gorgeous...of course I have been saying that everyday someone drops off work. I love turned wood whether it is a natural organic shape or a dyed blue segmented piece. I admire the skill and the artistic vision that brings them to form.

Saturday we will be open for Swine and Stein. The music will be in the park across the street, which at the very least, means people will come inside to use their cell phones (since they won't be able to hear outside). I found this to be true for the Hogs, Pies and Fireworks event....people came in so they could hear their phones and once inside they saw what we are doing here. I am hoping people will take the opportunity to wander town a bit (downtown is only two blocks long) and see what Gardiner has to offer. And more specifically what Monkitree has to offer- where else in town can you buy a beer ring and a handcrafted beer mug with the Swine and Stein logo? You guessed it. Just Monkitree!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I do hereby proclaim...

Art and craft have been a huge part of my life for the last 18 years so when the Craft Retailers and Artists for Tomorrow and Craft in America organized a national American Craft Week I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I wrote a proclamation request asking Governor Baldacci to proclaim October 1-10 American Craft Week in Maine. I was not the only one- Sadie from the Center for Maine Craft had also written one. We were able to combine the language into one stellar proclamation.

To celebrate, Monkitree will have a show of works by Maine Woodturners. So with artwork on the walls depicting trees, Monkitree will have bowls, platters, candleholders created from trees. Maine artists share their vision producing amazing work and craft retailers actively promote and sell their work, contributing to not only our economy but enhancing and enriching our lives.

So here it is...my first proclamation-

Whereas, the State of Maine believes in the enduring value of
handmade crafts and celebrates the artists and craftspeople who create
them; and

Whereas, the original inhabitants and the settlers who came to Maine,
handed down their skills in craft. The State and People of Maine have a
centuries-old tradition of these crafts- furniture making, pottery,
weaving, metalsmithing, and glassblowing; and

Whereas, these crafts help to build the economic base of our State and
still contribute to its reputation and success; and

Whereas, the State of Maine acknowledges its appreciation to all the
craftspeople who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the
rich culture of our State; and our citizens.

This year's American Craft Week celebration, to be held October 1-10,
will bring together individuals, small businesses and organizations from
all fifty states in recognition of the countless ways handmade objects
enrich our daily lives and contribute to our national aesthetic and

American Craft Week is an opportunity to celebrate the wonders of
American craft. Every day thousands of American artists share their
vision and talent by producing amazing hand-made decorative and
functional objects. And every day thousands of craft retailers share
their love of these items by displaying, promoting and selling them.

Now, therefore, I, John E. Baldacci, Governor of the State of Maine, do
hereby proclaim October 1-10, 2010 as:


throughout the State of Maine, and urge all citizens to recognize our
traditional and contemporary craft artists, galleries, exhibitions,
museums, retailers and events.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Shop Local?

The economic benefits of supporting your local businesses is undeniable. For every $100 spent in a local business $45 remains in the community, whereas for every $100 spent at a big national retailer only $14 stays in the community. Your local businesses advertise locally, use local repair people, bank locally, buy from local manufacturers/craftspeople/artists, support local charities, etc... These numbers while they vary a bit by region have been supported all over the country including a Midcoast Maine Study that also discovered that by supporting locally owned businesses rather than big box stores it would be the equivalent of adding 500 jobs to the community.

So here comes the plug...support Monkitree (especially this Christmas season). If you do, you are not only supporting a single local business... Monkitree represents artist/craftspeople from Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittson, Litchfield, Augusta, Monmouth, and more. So what are you likely to find here? A range of products to be sure- jewelry, pottery, hand-carved wooden spoons,turned wood bowls, woven scarves and placemats, rolling pins, magnets, cards and fine art.

The next show is going to be a fun one. So come out to the Opening Reception and see all that Monkitree has to offer. Oh and if you are following my blog from elsewhere, I am happy to ship to you :)

Additional reading material on supporting local business from Time,Businessweek and the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Good Days

So what makes a day good? It was miserably hot here in Gardiner, Maine yesterday. All of my friends in the DC area won't believe me but it was much like DC weather complete with air quality warnings. There were virtually no customers and in fact the only people who stopped into the shop my dog Bo managed to scare away. But for me it was an exciting day. First I had Dennis Curtis stop by with his turned bowls and bottle stoppers and I was able to pick out nine beautiful turned bowls. Next Mary Kay Spencer stopped by with more pottery and she was able to enjoy the air conditioning for a while and we had a nice chat.

But in the background while all this was going on was a looming deadline. Were we going to make it? In addition to having the gallery I am President of Gardiner Main Street. We had an event idea and Kara Wilbur, the owner of Sweet Love and Secretary of Gardiner Main Street had done all the leg work but we needed to raise $7,000 to feel comfortable going before city council and asking for the event approval. That is a lot of money to raise in a recession and we didn't have much time to do it. I admit I had my doubts. Kara was running around all afternoon right up to the council meeting and managed to raise $6,550. Enough for us to feel comfortable that we could cover the upfront costs of the event. So we went into council and it was unanimously approved! The Mayor went to far as to say that Gardiner Main Street was managing to raise the bar at every turn. So save the date people- October 2nd Gardiner, Maine is going to be the place to be for the first annual Swine and Stein Octoberfest! Maine beers, Maine pork from Maine restaurants and producers, and live music. Beer, pork and music. Now that will be a good day!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Writing While Angry

It is probably not a good idea for me to read the comments section on newspaper articles. I find the comment sections are frequented by people who abhor change and enjoy maligning every idea presented. Yesterday there were two articles in the Kennebec Journal about the town of Gardiner- one about the possibility of turning Water Street into a two-way street and the other about contaminated soil found while redeveloping the waterfront park. Neither of these seem like emotionally charged issues to me.

The two-way street article was about including the idea in the city plan so it can be researched, discussed and appropriate public process can take place. There was one comment in particular that caught my attention because it seemed to be about me since I am the only person not from Maine who has opened a business downtown... unless they are lumping in anyone not from Gardiner. It reads-

"The truth is that the central Maine market is just limited. A lot of these people who move here don't seem to understand this...there's just not a lot of money in the area to spend on frills. Gardiner may develop over the years. But some of these people who move to Maine with their little artsy vision of what they'd like it to be need to shut up, listen and learn."

What should I learn from? The other commenter who said that Gardiner is a relic of the past? Or the ones who refuse to walk a block? I prefer to do some research and listen to people who have. I listen to the people who have talked to the Department of Transportation to see if it is feasible (and by the way it is). Of course that doesn't mean it will happen...just that it is something we can talk about like grown adults. As for my artsy vision, I am selling (and yes I did say selling) the work of people from Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston, Litchfield and many other towns in Maine. And I will bring to Gardiner art and craft that has never been sold locally. And ultimately I will offer the works online to a much larger market (since my business plan has already taken into account the "central Maine market").

Just yesterday a couple came in because they had heard what I was doing here. They found Gardiner to be charming. They loved the buildings and wanted to talk about my experiences moving here and buying a building. I told them what I truly believe- that Gardiner is a great town, an undiscovered gem that will become so much more than it is. That my friends is what will help Gardiner...people who see potential.

Support Gardiner Businesses-
Corniche, Sweet Love and Baxter Tea Co., A1 Diner, A1 To Go, Moda Bella, Raggamuffins, Blue Sky Bakery, The Mad Dog, Bagel Mainea, Reny's, The Girltrend Shop, The Depot, Mike's Water Street Grille, Gerard's Pizza, Dennis' Pizza, Johnson Hall, and more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Slow Change

While we have a vision for what we are hoping to accomplish with our gallery/shop and building, we will be making slow and deliberate changes. I gave myself a deadline of this Friday evenings Artwalk to accomplish two things- a card rack and a display table. Sounds easy enough... if what we were doing was buying a card rack and a display table but instead we are building/creating them. We want to create a unique experience for people when they come into Monkitree- a mix of modern and traditional. Unique objects in a unique space. We painted a panel bright green and attached Lucite shelves to display cards. For the table we are using an antique bed frames that came from a hotel in Rumson, NJ where I grew up.

We are also bringing in new merchandise slowly but surely. The art work changes every two months but new craft, cards and jewelry will be added gradually as money and display space permits. There is sure to be something new and interesting to discover every time someone visit Monkitree.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shop Monkitree Online

The plan for opening our gallery/shop in Gardiner, Maine has always had a web-based sales component. Without the funds to do exactly what I want which is having the website and my point of sale system linked, I am doing what I can. At this point it means designing my website and adding paypal buttons for each item. I spent the past two days loading images and adding buttons for 13 photographs by Dave Engledow. Sounds easy enough...except for each image there are two sizes and three different options (print only, matted print, or framed and matted). Phew! Am I glad that is done. Now I can get on to simple items that have one button associated with them. Jewelry and pottery will go quickly...as soon as I take pictures of them all. Back to work!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Discover Gardiner, Maine

When I have appointments here with artists about showing their work in Monkitree, they often make comments about how they had no idea we had such a cute downtown. People come by our downtown all the time but miss it by turning on Bridge Street or Maine Avenue. But right here in downtown Gardiner we have all sorts of treasures- Moda Bella (a high end dress shop), Sweet Love/Baxter Tea Co (cupcakes, tea and consignment wedding dresses), The Art Dogs/Circle in the Square Fine Art Press, The Mad Dog Pub, A1 Diner, The Depot, Mystic Maine Quilts and of course Reny's. We also have beautiful historic buildings and an amazing waterfront that is undergoing a renovation.

We also have great events throughout the year. The next one is Go Go Gardiner Car Show and Sock Hop the evening of August 7th. Water Street will be lined with antique cars, the dancers from R&B Dance studio will perform and there will be a DJ playing classic music. Next up is the Artwalk on August 13th- local artist will have their work in empty spaces and shop storefronts. So the next time you are in the vicinity of Gardiner, take the time to walk up and down Water Street...and don't forget to stop in and say hi!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Join Us!

Every couple of months we will be holding an opening reception for a new show. Tomorrow July 23rd will be the opening for Plastic Fantastic: The Art of the Toy Camera. I am as excited about this show as I was about our grand opening show with Michael Sprouse. I hope I am this excited about every show (to tell you the truth I get excited when any package shows up containing jewelry, cards, etc. so I don't expect that to change). Carol Dronsfield and I had a nice visit when she came to drop off her photographs. We talked about all sorts of things in our brief visit- cost of living, freelance work, making big changes. Right now I am waiting on Kevin Brusie to drop off his work. Sounds like he needs to get on his way to Bangor but it looks like he will be able to attend the opening reception which is awesome. Then this afternoon, Dave Engledow will arrive with his work. At that point I need to work on labels, printed materials and eventually hanging the show. I am expecting a couple of fun and full days.

In the spirit of the show I purchased a single use red flash Lomolitos to take pictures with during the reception. I am also going to be giving away a Diana camera to one of our customers. It is the type of camera Dave Engledow used for all of his photographs for this show. There are a few people who stop in regularly to say how much they want to win the camera. I guess the camera give away is doing its job in building excitement for this show. I hope you all can join us or at least come by while the show is hanging.
Ok...so back to work!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back to Reality

Before Peter and I opened Monkitree, we planned a family vacation. We rented a house in Cape May, NJ with my mother, brother, three sisters, all of the kids and most of the spouses. My sister found a house that would fit all 17 of us just two blocks from the beach. I was able to find someone to cover the shop, Peter picked up his kids and we were off! The house was perfect- a big porch for afternoon and evening cocktails, an outdoor shower to wash off the sand from a day at the beach, a grill, 5 bathrooms...I mean really, what more could you ask for?

We even had a birthday party. One of my nieces has a birthday two days after mine so we had a joint birthday party. Jenny picked the theme- Luau. She dressed for the party in a hula skirt. We played pin the tail on the donkey which is much harder than I remember. Jenny picked out a pinata shaped like a hula girl (she named her Mia and it was a bit odd hitting a girl shaped pinata...especially one with a name). Of course we had cake...ice cream cake, my favorite!

We went to the arcade a few times. I stuck with skeeball and pinball. The last night we took pictures of the kids on the lifeguard stand,went to cash in their arcade tickets, then got one last ice cream. I could have spent another week at the beach with my family...but I'm back to work preparing for our next opening Friday, July 23rd. I'm looking forward to the opening. It is easy to come back from a vacation when you have work you look forward to.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Anywhere, USA?

What are the chances of moving from a big city directly to a small community that feels like home? I'm guessing pretty slim. We picked the right place for sure. The businesses in downtown Gardiner support each other. We recommend each others shops to our customers. We keep an eye out for each other. Today I had several people come in who had been told to come by Monkitree (in one case specific things to look at). Lisa at Sweet Love/Baxter Tea Co. heard a customer in her shop talking about the years she lived in D.C. and directed her to me knowing I had lived in D.C. Not only did she come in but she became a customer and a consignor. Not bad for word on the street. (I now have some really cute cards with stitched and felt designs, by the way).

And it isn't just the businesses that support each other. Sweet Love has started an Open Mic night which I just love (although I haven't sung... yet). The evenings are easy going, respectful and most of all great fun. It is attracting a wide range of talent and is frequented by many high school students. Sweet Love/ Baxter Tea's decision to host and Open Mic Night has really created a wonderful thing here in Downtown Gardiner. A creative evening event for people of all ages to gather and enjoy an evening of music, laughter and encouragement. I brought some relatives last night, including my oldest sister. At one point she said to me, "Do most of these people work right here on Water Street?" I replied, "Why do you ask?" and she explained that since I knew so many of them that she assumed they were all people who worked or lived on Water Street, like I do. I'm happy that they weren't all Water Street workers or residents but a nice cross section of Gardiner and the surrounding communities...and I am happy I know all of them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

One of my favorite things about working with art and artists is helping these objects find good homes. Does that sounds corny? It probably does. I can't help it. I love when I can connect the right object with the right person...whether it is a painting, a bowl or a piece of jewelry. Take the mustache ring, for example. I knew when I saw it that I had to get Jessica in here to see it. Sure enough one went home with her... only after she said to me, "I put mustaches out there to the universe and now they come to me." Of course mustaches aren't every ones design element of choice. You may even be thinking that surely Jessica is the only one who will buy a mustache ring but in fact, I just got a message on Facebook today from my sister saying she has a friend who jokes about getting a mustache tattooed on her finger so she can hold her finger up and make believe she has a mustache. This may be the perfect gift for her friend!

I particularly enjoy the moment the decision is made. For some the decision is quick for others it takes time and is quite deliberate. But when the decision is made there is always a smile...and sometimes an big exhale because they no longer have to worry about the piece they love going to someone else's home. I just spoke with someone yesterday who can't wait for Michael's show to close so she can take her pieces home and find just the right spot for them. They will have a good home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Did I Say Failures?

I did say I would on occasion talk about failures. Now I don't think this actually qualifies as a failure...more of a disappointment. I had been here last year for the Greater Gardiner River Festival and it had been a cloudy day with some rain. So when the weather forecast called for sun on Saturday I thought we would have tons of people passing through our doors. I pressed Peter into action in the morning making signs to announce our Trunk Show with JudyB Designs. I got to the florist and purchased some balloons to hang with the sign and attach to our doors. The craft tents and food vendors were in place. Music began at the park across the street. Judy arrived and we set up her tables with jewelry. Then I put on some of Judy's jewelry and we went looking for the people. Where was everybody? Sure there were some people wandering around but not the numbers there were last year. Apparently there can be too much sun. By Washington, DC standards it was a pleasant June day- 87 degrees and humid. Well in Maine that is just plain oppressive. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say they were on the water boating or swimming.

It was nice talking with all the people who did wander in to Monkitree. We were able to explain what we are doing and tell them about the upcoming shows. It was also a great opportunity to spend time with Judy. I was able to pick out more of her jewelry for the shop. And it was incredibly sweet of her to thank me for the opportunity even though it was a less than stellar day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Greater Gardiner River Festival

Saturday, June 16th will be a busy day in Gardiner, Maine. There are events all day long and into the night- pancake breakfasts, yard sales, a craft fair, talent show and fireworks. Monkitree will host our first Trunk Show- Jeweler Judy Babin from JudyB Designs will be joining us from 2-4pm with as much jewelry as her little hands can make between now and Saturday. I am tempted by many of her pieces myself and can't wait to see what she brings along.

The day is certainly an opportunity to introduce Monkitree to many who have not yet walked through our doors. I hope they will venture in and discover our fine art, pottery, jewelry, textiles, cards and more. Of course, it being a Gardiner Festival, I would expect that many of the Edwin Arlington Robinson posters will find a home.
Hope to see you all on Saturday!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Busy Planning

It has been a while since I have written. I have been busy getting the next few shows scheduled out and artists lined up. I am very excited about it. I was telling an artist who stopped in yesterday about my plans and she said, "You sound like you are having fun." And boy am I! I have three photographers lined up for a Holga/Diana camera images show (still need to come up with a clever name for that one). Kevin Brusie from Portland, Maine, Carol Dronsfield from NY,NY, and Dave Engledow from Washington, DC will all be exhibiting their photography here beginning July 23rd. Next up TREES! It is only fitting with a name like Monkitree that we do a tree themed show. In October while the tree paintings, drawings and photography are still hanging I am planning a woodturning show to take place during American Craft Week. I have had a great conversation with Andy Hoyt the current President of the Maine Woodturners Association and I'm confident that will come together nicely. Next up- I need to start planning a local artist show for November/December and an emerging artist show for January and February. There is so much to do but I must say I am truly enjoying myself!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

what's next?

One thing that excites me about a gallery is the constant change. I am sitting here enjoying Michael Sprouse's beautiful work and planning the next show. While Michael's is a solo show the next will feature three photographers all using Holga or Diana cameras. These cameras are known for their unusual light leaks, vignetting, and distortions. Photographers have been drawn to what are ultimately "toy cameras" because one never knows exactly what will be captured. Like a potter pulling a raku vase from the flame, the photographers can appreciate the surprise that current technology has all but eliminated.

And as I plan the new show I am already beginning to think about which of Michael's pieces I am going to miss when they are no longer here. Right now I can think of four of them including the one right across from my desk (the one that is pictured). It is called Principle Front and I get lost in it. I suppose instead of missing what isn't yet gone I can look forward to what will be hanging before me in a couple of months.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quiet Time

Yesterday was super quiet and quite frankly I was bored. I started trying on the jewelry. Then I started taking pictures of myself and posting them on the Monkitree Facebook page. To my surprise, people were paying attention! They started commenting on the jewelry they liked. It kept me entertained. It also reminded me of the value of social media. On a day where I only had a couple of customers come into the store (did I mention it was in the 90's), I had conversations with many through Facebook.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bo, The Most Popular Dog in Town

I was a little worried about Bo and his ability to be a shop dog. He is famous in downtown Gardiner. Bo enjoys going from shop to shop getting attention (and sometimes treats). He loves people...perhaps a bit too much. I imagined this would be a long process of trial and error. I thought I'd have to leave him upstairs for part of the day and slowly introduce him to the role of shop dog. Well, he is a trooper. On the very first day I left the front door wide open to see what would happen...ready to grab him or at the very least call him back to me (like that ever works). He will walk up to the threshold but not over it. His favorite spot is a shady spot on the back deck. Whenever someone comes in I say, "This is Bo. He is a shop dog in training." I figure there response will tell me whether they like dogs or not plus, if they know he is new to the shop dog gig they may forgive whatever he may do. So far he has been perfect!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

OK Crowds...I'm ready for you!

Well maybe not an actual crowd but I could be ready for a steady flow. Computer system with credit cards processing- check. Three sizes of bags for jewelry, cards and larger items- check. Ok, I'm lacking in the boxing department but I could package for people to get things home safely, so I'll call that a - check. I've got a storefont full of gorgeous art, jewelry, pottery, textiles and cards. Now I need to figure out how to get people to walk through the door. It is awfully quiet today. I'm sure the beautiful weather has people out boating, gardening, etc. In fact as soon as I can I am going to grab a beer and head for the back deck. In the mean time, I'll take this opportunity to work on my internet marketing. I am now listed on Yelp and Google (and could use some reviews...good ones of course!). Now to find more...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today is the Day

After the hoopla of the Artwalk and Gallery Opening, today is the day I get to slow down and tie up loose ends (and begin training Bo to be a shop dog). It is a bit slow here on Water Street today but I have had a few people in. And in between their visits I am updating insurance policies, following up with artists and trying to figure out how to get people to spend time in Downtown Gardiner. I am constantly amazed by people who say they have never been downtown. A woman stopped in this morning who just discovered it. She was pleased to find out that she could do her banking and shop at Reny's here. Hopefully she will share her discovery with a few people.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The next time you see a new post...

the gallery will be open. We open on Friday for the Artwalk then have our Opening Reception on Saturday evening. Michael arrived today and we have loaded the artwork into the space. We will start hanging the show tomorrow (after the electrician comes). As luck would have it, the special Gardiner supplement to the Kennebec Journal came out today and we were all over it. I was on the cover walking Bo down the street (it is hard to get a picture of the street without me and Bo). I was in an article entitled "City Abuzz with Activity" and another entitled "The arts are alive in Gardiner" where they talked about the gallery and the opening show. They used a photo of the poster Michael created of Edwin Arlington Robinson. I am expecting a great turnout for the opening. Now back to work.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Realizing a Dream

I spoke with my friend Val the other day. Val and I went to high school together in NJ. Now she is in Nashville and I'm here in Maine so we catch up by phone. I was updating her on the progress and the upcoming opening. She said, "You are realizing your dream. We started talking about this...what, three years ago?" That is an amazing thing. Three years ago I was in Washington, D.C. with Peter, dreaming about a new life. We found Gardiner, Maine while searching for commercial buildings and now it is our home and after two years of living here we are starting our business. I'm excited to share what we have accomplished with friends, neighbors and family at the opening on the 15th. I'm glad so many people who have helped us get this far will be able to attend. I have had a number of people reach out to me since learning of our new venture and I am certain I'm about to meet many new friends.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You Are Invited!

Well, it must be happening because I have invited people to come. I still have plenty to do but I'm confident that it will all happen. The touch screen is in the mail, the lights are working. In the morning we are bringing the metal desk to an auto painting shop to have it painted with metal flake car paint. I am so excited about that. I will have the coolest desk in town. I have no chair but I guess I'll get around to that...after I finish painting, hang the gallery track and finish the floors. Yikes! What am I doing sitting here? Time to get back to work.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Creating Opportunity

I am enjoying talking with artists and craftspeople, especially those who haven't shown their work in stores or galleries. Yesterday, my sister Kate put me in touch with a woman who makes jewelry. She has been selling her jewelry through house parties. Monkitree will be her one and only retail location. Often new craftspeople will need more guidance than a larger retailer has time for. No catalog, no price sheet? Well a large retailer can't take that on. Having worked for a craft retailer with five stores, I know that no matter how talented someone is there just isn't time to help someone along. Fortunately for me, I have the time. I can work with talented people new to retail and I can't wait to introduce them to my customers!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Countdown Timer, Bad Idea!

I put a countdown timer on my computer a while back...back when it seemed like I had loads of time to get everything done. Now I look at it and the timer is at 19 days, which makes me round down to two weeks for some reason. Of course, 14 and 19 are very different from each other. I just need to take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves and power through what remains to be done.

Today besides painting (which I seem to do every day), I met with a woman who lives here in Gardiner and makes great cards. I loved every card. The colors are beautiful. I love that I can carry the work of people right here in town. I'm also starting to get really excited to introduce everyone to Michael Sprouse, the artist whose work will be the first show. He has sent me some pictures of his newest pieces and I can't wait to see them in person.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time Speeds Up

It seems, as we get closer to our opening day, that days are way too short. We will get everything done (at least all the essentials) but the days are going to fly by. Soon everything we do will start to make the space look more like a gallery. The pendant lights make a big impact. Oddly enough, I was looking at the website of a photographer, Carol Dronsfield, and among her photos was one of a space with painted tin ceiling and drop pendants much like the ones we just installed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Not The Coffee, It's The Cup!

I have always been drawn to handmade pottery- the way it feels in your hand, the mark of the makers hands in the design. Today I met a local potter who I had only talked to on the phone. We ran into each other at a store here on Water Street. This being small town Maine, I concluded this must be the person I had talked to on the phone upon hearing a first name and the word pottery. I was right, fortunately. I told her how much I love handmade pottery and mentioned the many mugs I have and she replied, "It's not the coffee, it's the cup." I couldn't agree more. She invited me out to her studio to look at work for Monkitree. I can't wait!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Progress Seems Slow

When you work on something everyday it is hard to see the dramatic change you are hoping for. It has been a process of stripping away....walls, carpet, light fixtures, blue paint. We just had a working weekend with help from my mom, my sister and her husband and my niece. We got rid of the blue trim that was so distracting that it was hard to even imagine other colors. Now that we have eliminated what we don't want, we will begin to put it back together.
I am encouraged when someone who hasn't been in the space for a while walks in and comments on the progress. It reminds me to think about where we started and how with slow progress we have been chipping away at our list of tasks. Sure the list left to do is long but we have 33 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes left to do it in.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chickens and Jazz

When I walk into someones home, I like to take a good look around and see what people have chosen to keep around them. A few years ago Peter and I were invited to a party in Virginia. We walked into the living room and it was a "chicken room." There were chickens everywhere- lamps, art, knickknacks. I thought to myself, "This person really likes her chickens!" But then we walked into the family room and it was the jazz room- tables made from instruments, jazz knickknacks. Could it be that this person really liked chickens and jazz? When I looked up there was a painting that I recognized. It was obviously the work of Mark Cottman whose work often includes jazz greats. This one was Dizzy Gillespie. Thinking I found a conversation starter I said, "You have a Mark Cottman." Blank stare. Now I point to the painting saying, "Mark Cottman." Another blank stare. "Your painting is by the artist Mark Cottman. I recognized his work." The response, "Oh we got it at a design center." Then it dawned on me. She had no connection to any of the objects in her home- chickens or jazz.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Too Much To Do

The sheer volume of tasks to complete is staggering. One of the largest tasks to complete is painting the space- ceiling, walls, floor, trim. Every inch of the space needs to be painted. Of course first there needs to be cleaning, taping and tarping. I know I should just leap up and begin but instead I am drinking a cup of coffee with my dog sleeping with his head on my lap. I am thinking about painting and that is a start. Today we will do the shopping- ladder, tape, paint, etc... Then I will put on loud music and get to it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Commercial Real Estate

We had an Open House yesterday in Gardiner to showcase the commercial real estate available. There are a few treasures and some big commitments of time and money. It was interesting to bring together the State Fire Marshal, Maine Historic Preservation, Realtors and business owners. I came away much more knowledgeable about what it will take to get some of these spaces utilized.

One of the buildings that would be among the larger challenges is also an amazing space- tin celings, wainscoting, and a grand staircase. Oddly the upper floors have not been touched since the 1950's. In fact there were newspapers up there dating from 1953. While it is selling for $160,000 for 4350 sf, it would take at least $100,000 just to bring electrical and plumbing up to date (not to mention putting in a sprinkler system). All of that work would qualify for historic preservation tax credits but it still means having the money to put in up front. It will require a buyer with vision. I imagine it becoming a boutique hotel. Anyone out there with a vision...and deep pockets?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Here we go!

I'm super excited about opening my business. I started the day having coffee with Mark McKelvey. Mark lost his furniture business in an arson fire. He has created an organization to promote the quality craftsmanship in Maine and Maine's woodworking history. We are working together to create show in August. I have big plans and can't wait to get started and help his organization. Next on my agenda was Skyping with artist Michael Sprouse. It is sounding like Monkitree will open with the full range of what Michael has to offer (and while he is in Maine for the opening he can research his Maine roots). Then it was off to see baby goats! Man, are baby goats cute. I got to hold a week old goat and Bo got to run around with two other Boxers (and chase some chickens). And to top off this excellent day, I got my EIN number so I am official.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Will Gardiner Become

My vision of Gardiner becoming a destination for arts and culture isn't just a pipe dream. Sitting right in the middle of our downtown is Johnson Hall, an Italianate brick structure built in 1864. In its heyday it held 1200 people for dances and entertainment of all sorts. It was converted to a theatre when the talkies came along in 1929. It fell into disrepair in the 1950's and in 1987 is was purchased by a group looking to restore it.

Johnson Hall has been working to design the restoration that will turn Johnson Hall back into a hall that would house a 400 seats performance space and business and community meeting space. I have toured the space several times and when it is renovated the space will be incredible. With a 400 seat auditorium, Gardiner will be able to attract a wide variety of music, theatre and film. Of course they still need to raise a great deal of money to be able to move forward. They will qualify for tax credits for historic renovation and that will help. I am hoping it will only be a couple of years before construction begins.

I am imagining a very lively downtown with thriving businesses (including my own). We need more people with vision to invest in the downtown. There are great historic buildings available. Sure they need some work but the prices are reasonable ... compared to what they will be when we are drawing 400 people to town for performances!

Gardiner Main Street has organized a Commercial Real Estate Open House for this Saturday 11-3 to show off the great properties we have here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snail Mail

I received a note and an article cut out of the New York Times from my mom today. Her note was short, "Just another article I thought you might like to read!" She was right, I did like it. It was about a "Bloggy Boot Camp" for female bloggers. Huh? This is new to me so I find it fascinating that everyone out there seems to be blogging about something. Many of the woman at the boot camp were "mommy bloggers" and some where making their living blogging.

I'm interested in building a brand. I want people to see my logo and have an idea of what that might mean. I am beginning to build relationships with people whether in person, through blogging or on Facebook. But it will be the art and merchandise I offer and the service I provide that will create the connection with the brand. Blogging for me is a tool to keep people updated on progress and eventually let people know about art openings and new products...but I may drop a note in mail as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Spring!

It is a beautiful first day of Spring. I was able to spend most of the day outside. I was working on sanding and waxing the metal beds we are turning into display units. Bo helped (he didn't actually help...he tried to lick the wax off the metal). We had a visit from neighbors with their dachshund on their way to grab coffee. I snapped a picture during one of the rare moments when Bo wasn't terrorizing her.

I have hopes of turning Bo into a shop dog. I don't know how successful I will be. It was encouraging that he was able to hang out on the deck while I was working. Maybe that will be his spot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inside Out and Backwards

I have been so focused on the space that I haven't put much time into what will actually be in my gallery once it opens. I have put much thought into it but thinking doesn't result in objects in my space. I was encouraged yesterday when I went to a meeting for the Gardiner Farmers' Market. They were reviewing new vendor applications and the new vendors were there to explain what they will bring to the market. Well, several were brand new farms just getting started...some living in yurts and they will be bringing their vegetables to market. They have no product to show for their work yet...but they will and it will be wonderful.

I'm sure evertything will come together in the end. I am making contacts within the arts community in Maine. I went to the Center for Maine Craft yesterday and this morning I met with Artery: Visual Arts Along the Kennebec. I haven't begun lining up artists or buying any merchandise. I have no product to show for my work yet...but I will and it will be wonderful!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Visiting My Display Case

I stopped into Corniche today and was introduced to artist Robert Saunders. Mary had a book of art that included a portrait of Robert. He explained that while he lived in Washington, D.C. he posed for portraits. What a coincidence! We talked about what part of the city we lived in. Mary asked me if I missed D.C. I don't really. I miss people. But D.C. is still there and I can visit whenever I want.

So while at Corniche I took the opportunity to visit the antique display case that I put a deposit on. It is gorgeous. Mary finds wonderful things and she will try to find just what you are looking for which is an amazing service she provides. I have already started to think of unusual things that might be useful as display cases...but for now the 9ft long antique display case will do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Doing What Makes You Happy

Art has such an important role in "place." When we first started looking for a building it was an important consideration...were there art galleries, performing art venues, etc... I'm not sure everyone thinks about this when they are moving but I certainly did. For me being surrounded by beautiful things is important. As I sit writing this I can see a piece of art created for me by my dear friend Michael Sprouse. It is a portrait of my great grandfather. This piece brings me joy. I also have mugs that bring me joy. I know who made them, if not personally then by name. I feel a greater connection to these objects because someone made them.

For 15 years, I worked for Appalachian Spring, one of the top retailers of American Craft in the country. In fact, we were placed into a hall of fame, otherwise we may have kept on winning. There were some key elements that make the company successful- they selected great quality, they were committed to providing excellent customer service and they paid people on time. David and Polly Brooks are wonderful people and were very careful to cultivate relationships in every direction- with artists, with customers, with service providers, and with employees. I am very lucky to have learned from them. Over 15 years I have had a variety of roles within the company but I always loved working in the stores and helping people find the objects that made them happy or would make someone they love happy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Space Is Clear

Today was garbage day. Not just any garbage day...the day we cleared the 1st floor space in preparation for putting in flooring. When we bought the building the first floor was a maze of office spaces. Just having it clear is exciting. It is far easier to imagine what the space will become without piles of old carpet laying around. It is now hard to imagine that both of the images are the same space.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Small Town Living

When I first moved here I thought I'd take it slow. Get to know people gradually. Take my time figuring out the lay of the land, who was who...movers and shakers and trouble makers. Did I mention it is a small town? Well I didn't exactly take it slow. I ran for city council and lost but almost immediately began my stint as the President of the Board of Gardiner Main Street, an organization working toward the revitalization and preservation of the historic downtown.

In D.C. if you were having trouble getting a heavy desk down a flight of stairs, no one would stop to help. Here they do...and lend tool, teapots, and air purifiers. We support each others businesses. We check in to see how things are going. We chat about American Idol, our dogs, the fishing, music theory, goats, and moustaches. We get involved. Jump in when we have something to offer. On Monday morning I'm taking the new City Manager on a tour of downtown...our downtown...our home. I'm ready to get things started here. My business included!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Renovation Sponsored by...

While part of our dream was to have Peter working less and enjoying life more, there is no denying that without his job we would never have been able to make this move. So while I'm ripping things apart and sometimes putting them back together, Peter is sitting at his desk putting in far too many hours. Lately he has been joining me and Bo on our morning walk. It has been a strange winter with little snow and the morning walks are a great start to the day. Then for Peter it is back to his desk and the daily grind that manages to flow right into a nightly grind as well.