It happens at every show without fail - people stand off to the side, eyeing my banner, trying to sound out the name of my studio practice with great difficulty. The Dinghy-est Girl? The Dingiest Girl? No, I am not the smallest-boat-girl, nor do I resemble an old pair of once-white socks. Perhaps a well-placed hyphen would have helped clear some things up, but oh well.
Aside from wanting to know how to pronounce it, lots of folks are curious about the meaning behind it.
The meaning of the name of my studio practice is multi-fold. My favorite book when I was seven was called “The Digging-est Dog” by Al Perkins. It’s the story of a dog, Duke, who yearns for love and acceptance and is rejected by his peers because he doesn’t know how to dig. When he finally learns, through the coaching of his owner, Duke becomes overzealous and digs up the town, effectively destroying it. His “friends” try to murder him by drowning Duke in a well (Yikes! Why did I like this?) and his master threatens to take him back to the pet store. Duke escapes and fixes the town, and spends the rest of his days happily plowing fields. The most amazing part of the story, in retrospect, is the fact that he stays friends with the dogs that tried to kill him. Dark stuff, indeed. But we can all relate to Duke in that at our core, we want love and acceptance. And for me, I just want to do one thing really well and use it to positively impact people’s lives, like Duke learned to do.
I also see the act of digging as a spiritual and intellectual metaphor. I love digging into a good book and losing myself in the story. I see digging as an archeologist might, to uncover truths, something yet unknown, revealing truths about our past that inform and influence the present. There is much potential in the ground beneath our feet - we grow from it and return to it - what could we find if we only dig deep enough?
With my pen as my spade and my brush as my shovel, and I’ll keep digging ‘til my hands are calloused and arthritic, ‘til all the stories have been told.
(So I guess that means forever)
The first few shows of the season have been rough to say the least. Before you read on, please know that I don’t intend this story to be a list of complaints, or that I feel poorly toward the town where these events transpired. I merely want to remember what happened on my venture to a far-out-of-town show totally alone for the first time.
The cheapest hotel in town sat on a quiet downtown street, just a few blocks from my show venue. When I arrived at the door, a smoking man quickly put out his cigarette, held the door open for me and followed me inside. The air had that old familiar smell of decades-old smoke that had inserted itself into the very molecules of the building itself. Behind the front desk was a huge wooden grid of cubbyholes held the keys for the rooms (real keys! not cards!) and to the right was a shaky elevator that was most likely operated by a troll working a pulley in the basement. $75 for two nights! “For how many adults?” the receptionist asked. I could see the smoking man lingering in my periphery, leaning on the desk. “Just me,” I answered uneasily. The receptionist slid the key to my room across the desk. “419?! That’s right next door to me!” said the smoking man. Ew.
I shut and locked the door behind me. The room was unwelcoming with bare white walls and a comforter on the bed that was perforated with a million little burn holes. I checked for bedbugs and found that the holes in the sheets had been hand-mended, which comforted me for some reason. A big boxy TV sat at the foot of the bed, and boasted 2 channels. The sink, tub and toilet were rusted and covered in lime residue. Is this starting to sound like a yelp review yet?
There was a knock on the door. No peephole so I hollered out, YES? It was my neighbor. “You need to get a parking pass for your car!” Turns out I didn’t need one, so it seems that he was just trying to lure me out of my room. The smoking man appeared at the desk again and revealed that he lived at the hotel and was the chef at a nearby pasta place and he invited me to stop by. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was super nice but NOPE. Leave me alone, please. I don’t know you.
I didn’t sleep well. The walls were paper thin and I was worried about the smoking man on the other side of the wall. People were microwaving ramen noodles ALL NIGHT LONG. In the morning I took all of my belongings with me because it didn’t feel safe.
Lesson 1: Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel safe, then it probably isn’t safe.
Lesson 2: You get what you pay for.
I set up at the show. The space was SO COOL. The craftspeople around me were SO COOL. We shared stories, snacks and beer. We gave each other bathroom breaks. We traded art. Sales were slow but I was hopeful. There was a Neo Nazi rally a few blocks away that day, so helicopters were hovering about, police were out in force and it got a lot of press - perhaps that was the reason for the spotty attendance? Why are Nazis even a thing still, really? The customers who did come were so nice and interesting. I carved a new block. By the day’s end, I had new friends and I was ready for the Crafterparty. I went to deposit my cooler and snacks in my car, which was parked in a nearby lot.
I experienced a little bit of genuine disbelief at this point. My driver’s side window was smashed and glass littered the ground and the seat. My door handle had also been smashed in. I peered inside and my backpack was gone. My clothes (favorite dress, favorite sweatshirt borrowed from my big bro), makeup, glasses and hotel key were gone with it. Also my embarrassing collection of CDs from high school & college. The saddest part of this was that one of the CDs was a short collection of original songs recorded by a boy who (may have) loved me once. I loved those songs.
Lesson 3: Don’t leave even the appearance of valuables in your car. Even though there was nothing of any real monetary value in there, the bag itself was apparently tempting enough. I didn’t trust the hotel to keep it safe, but I shouldn’t have trusted that lot either.
Lesson 4: Calling mom always helps. Just knowing that she is in the world makes everything survivable.
Lesson 5: Cops can be handsome and helpful. He suffered my tears (I couldn’t help it), filed my report and found a safe hotel for me to go to. When I told him where I was staying, he grimaced and said, “You shouldn’t go back there. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the guy who stole your bag was waiting there for you.” Eek.
I climbed into my car through the window and drove to the burbs to buy a few essentials, eat, and sleep in peace.
Day two of the show. I only told a few folks about the incident, but I Instagrammed about it. What came was an outpouring of support, and customers offered to open their homes to give me a safe place to stay. Nearby crafters gave me beer, empathetic smiles, words of kindness and good company throughout the day. Sales were pretty terrible, but somehow that didn’t bother me as much.
Lesson 6: Some people are asshats who take shit that doesn’t belong to them, but more people are really wonderful, loving, and kind human beings.
It straight-up monsooned on the hours-long drive home, I mean, really scary shit. I stopped at a Steak N Shake to dry off and warm up. The waitress gave me free fries because she saw me crawling out of my window before I came in. I arrived home soaked, cold, and tired, down to the bones. I missed Game of Thrones, but Mom had done my laundry for me and had a big bowl of chili waiting. I had to wake up to go to work in a matter of hours, but was so glad to be home.
In the morning, dressed and ready to go, I untaped my window while in the driver’s seat. Cold rainwater cascaded into my lap, completely soaking my crotch. I crawled back out of my car to dry off my pants. When I came back to my car to go to work, I glanced at the grass and LITERALLY FOUND FIVE DOLLARS.
Lesson 7: The universe is always at work, pushing and pulling in a perfect balancing act.
I couldn’t believe my luck :)
I recently completed a self-imposed 30-day sketchbook spread challenge that really pushed me creatively over the course of a month (you can check out the fruits of my labors here). I gained a little bit of insight along the way, and drew from my experience as a sketchbook-keeper for well over a decade. Here are some of my thoughts on keeping a sketchbook, whether you are an artist or a human being in general:
Additionally, there are some great resources online to help you get started on your sketch-journey.
I stumbled upon this quote from Linda Hogan's "Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World." Lately, I've been letting my mind go to dark places and reading this sort of shattered all that sadness for a time. Some good perspective, knowing I was born of love and meant to share it, if nothing else.