A Sign Of Times – Oksana Prokopenko

31 03 2009


St Francis         At a recent art show, what was most on view was not art but human anxiety over the current economic situation.  Sales were slim to none. Mood was grim and all talk had to do with bank bail outs. Not your usual happy go lucky opening night.

        It was only natural for  artists showing to get uneasy, if not downright scared.  Those of us with day jobs quietly promised to do a better job so as to keep it safe.  Those of us without- afterall, we make art! at least that’s how the reasoning went for years- well, we entered into a heated discussion of why exactly do we do what we do.  Questions like these seem to generate a lot more fire (and not just smoke) when economy slows, slumping art sales.  So why do we?

        This is where one could potentially write a multi point list of all the various personal, spiritual, societal, cultural, etc  etc etc reasons for making art.  And they were listed, vocally so, then and there at the art show (and elaborated further during the days after). 

        Watching and listening to all this was a much older lady,  a great fan of the gallery, and a supporter of the arts-

-an emotional/psychological supporter which, even these days I would argue, is at least equally as important as all other support. Though the  lack of the latter, in particular financial, support caused the discussion in the first place. 

 She touched my shoulder gently and, addressing all of us, said with deep gentleness in her voice: “Seeing all of your, young people, work – it makes me so happy, thank you!” 

       There was a palpable shift in the mood.  Question answered.

She then leaned into me, and whispered: “ Good choice with St Francis. Good for the times!”  Now, I was happy too. 


Recharging: Breaking The Cycle

8 11 2008

I’ve been having a hard time focusing on work and it’s been hard for me to meet commitments.  I’ve canceled two fairs in the last two months. I kind of expected I’d be a whirlwind this fall to prepare for a busy holiday season, but that didn’t/hasn’t happened. I haven’t really kicked into gear.

When I did the last big fair of the summer, I promised myself I’d never get into “crunch-time mode” again.  I’m sure you know what I mean, anyone who works for themselves does. The calculations of time per item and how if you just devote “x” amount of time, you could easily turn out “x” number of items and of how stocking for a show could be totally doable assuming you spend every single minute of every day working at the same pace for a week!

I’ve done it.

I’ve vowed never to do it again.

I’ve done it again.


I was in the midst of gearing up for one of my crunch-time weeks and realized I’d promised to deliver a batch of wallets and a display to a new shop, the gift shop of the Paper Discovery Center & Museum in Appleton.  I was honored when I received an email asking if I’d stock the shop with wallets and had looked forward to dropping them off, but because I was in crunch-time mode, I was feeling too busy to keep my appointment (Isn’t this nuts? Talk about an inner saboteur!).

Anyway, I debated rescheduling and then the better part of me kicked into gear, so I packed up the car and headed to Appleton. I’ll save most of the specifics for a post on my own blog, but I want to share one of the most important parts of the visit.

I walked in, met the wonderful staff, was shown where my wallets would be displayed and was treated like an absolute queen. I was given a tour of the museum and got to see everything from models of pulp barrels, printing presses, paper made from carrots, photos of people in the Paper Hall of Fame and everything paper you can imagine. I was totally enchanted as I saw the paper making process from start to finish and I was acutely aware that I had needed the visit.

We went downstairs and I was shown the library (not yet open to the public) and found myself in front of a shelf full of pop-up books. Some of them were vintage and some were new, but all were spectacular.

I almost started to cry because I realized that somehow in one year I’d gone from opening an Etsy shop to standing in a private section of an 1878 building and was considered to be a paper artist by the people at the museum! That I’d done a lot of work over the past year and even though I’ve been feeling like a slacker who has to resort to crunch-time weeks that actually, I’ve worked pretty hard and my problem has not been that I’m a slacker, but more that even with being particular about what assignments I take on, I’ve still over committed myself.  And that while it might be professionally embarrassing, I needed some time to regroup.  I realized I wasn’t willing to spend a week or two in crunch-time mode and I needed to back out of some commitments.

I felt teary because I realized after looking at the magical pop-up books for just a few moments that my heart was aching for the fun part of it again, the time spent last year when I felt overjoyed by each wallet I made and delighted by some new size or fold I was working with as opposed to just churning out pieces.

My tour ended and before I left I told Valerie (the director) that the visit had meant more to me than she could ever know and that I wanted to return to make some paper (anyone can make paper there as part of the admission fee).  It was then that Valerie reached into her desk and pulled out several pink handmade paper  hearts and put them in a hot pink envelope as a little gift for me. I hadn’t even shared with her that I had just realized how my heart had been aching for my work to be fun again!

I left the museum and vowed to stop my cycle of:

  • Calling myself a slacker for not churning work out fast enough.


  • Scheduling hell weeks to make up for it.

This weekend I had a fair scheduled and am also scheduled to leave on Monday for Chicago because my grandmother is having surgery. I lost time due to lots of volunteering during the election and realized that I either had to cancel the fair or go into double crunch-time crazy mode.  I chose to cancel the fair and while I can’t say that I’m proud of myself for this, I recognize that I did make a good choice and will take extra care in my scheduling and my promises made in the future.  I’ll get better at the artist’s life versus the business life and am learning as I go.  Those pink paper hearts serve as a reminder that I’m coming along.


Little Orange Kitchen Studio