I barely broke even at this year's first pop-up hahaha! However, there was something else more important that happened. You see, in my many years here on this earth that's currently struggling to regain and reclaim its old magics, I've come to realise that the things that happen that we pay attention to are not always the main things. Sometimes we are actually distracted, looking not exactly at the wrong things but the less important things. It's like when we have just one expectation from one thing, or when we believe or assume that events will or should only turn out a certain way to be considered a good thing.
We make plans, of course. Everyday is a balancing act between order and chaos, within our own lives and in relation to the spaces we live in. But plans go awry, often through circumstances beyond our control.
On the first day of the pop-up, everything was slow. There weren't much people. I sold a few small things. But my mom gave me money for dinner as an extra birthday treat. If not for that I would have gone without a meal and just waited to get home to eat. If not for that I would not have discovered how very delicious the meals are in this nice Korean restaurant across the street. Service was excellent and for a few minutes while waiting for my take-out order I got to rest in a quiet place out of the relative heat of the outdoor market. The food was simple -- I only ordered gimbap (which came with four side dishes) -- but flavourful and generous. That meal sustained me through the rest of the evening and uplifted my mood. Last year I would have panicked already at selling so little. I'm still behind on rent and a couple of monthly bills. But it felt like a waste to worry after such a heart-full meal.
The second day, which was yesterday, the road traffic was horrible. We inched our way along. We had planned as the previous day to set up early so we could get a nice spot. But the travel time took more than an hour, and it was less than half an hour to opening when we arrived. Fortunately we still got a good spot.
While caught in the middle of standstill traffic, I could have worried about losing a good spot, or gotten annoyed at the wasted time of preparing and leaving home early. I would have done that last year, especially knowing that there are often buyers who browse and shop even before the market officially opened. I had sold a painting that way once, having gained a head-start by being set-up and ready an hour before opening. But instead I turned up the volume on my Spotify and settled in for a light nap, daydreams weaving in and out of the music, trying out various permutations of possibilities -- of being invited to go to Japan with all expenses paid, of being sponsored by an anonymous art patron who would turn out to be a real blue-heart princeling, of being commissioned to make art for a music video or a book cover or an album cover, of being offered a day job sideline that is actually more related to my creative path and thus bring me closer and into the kind of social circles that would eventually pave the way into Japan... yes, we keep coming back to Japan. I want to go back to studying Nihongo.
The second day of the pop-up had more visitors but sales remained slow. But a lot of people took a card, and a lot lingered. I would have been disheartened halfway through the evening. Instead I wasn't. I could have started complaining internally and blaming the traffic and thinking it was a string of bad luck.
But instead I went around the market and connected with fellow artists especially those I've already met in other markets, and those I've met through Instagram. As the event drew to a close, there was this surprising exchange of gifts! Artists exchanging art, encouraging each other, happy for each other's journeys, and looking forward to meeting again. I didn't really have money to spare but I bought stickers that would be perfect for my journal and which I felt were seeds in disguise.
An artist (and her mother who is also an artist) whom I had met more than a year ago and who has become a very dear friend dropped by for my birthday with a gift, and there was a bit of catching up that passed the time with much heartwarming joy. There was a seed of a possibility that sprung up in the conversation, but it needs to ripen and we will wait. Things take time. And the time does not matter if it is meant, because it will happen eventually, and in the best and only way it will. Serendipities, synchronicities. Things that fall into place have been falling for a long time, seeking their destinations. The right place at the right time can only be found and navigated towards by a heart that is true and one that clings to hope.
Because of the previous night's satisfying meal, I decided to indulge in another meal from the same restaurant. This time I had the tteokbokki meal. Consistent excellent service and delicious food. Check them out here.
Despite coming up short on the financial rewards, the evening ended on a high note. With warm goodbyes that promised meeting again, with gratitude for the art foundation who made the event possible (Thank you BGC Art Mart!), with hope that next time it will be better. I'll show up again in March -- because in a dream from three to four years ago, I was told that I should keep showing up. The message came from a person, an artist, whom I have admired and have deep affection for. In the dream he said, "If you keep showing up, I will grow to love you."
So, I'll see you in March, maybe? I'll be on the lookout, as I've always been, for the signs and the clues. I know that the face you used in the dream is a mask. I know now that most things of the heart are not literal, but a language of symbols and myths and music and colours and poetry.
I have a lot of Stories to tell.
But right now I am about to begin my third and last pop-up for the year, and right after that I have to do one last dayjob hurrah for the year so --
I will be able to start telling the Stories just before Christmas. Possibly on the very eve of it.
Clues? You want a preview? Well, let's see.
I made this new signage for my pop-up shop which captures a direction that my art is exploring (and that opens up a whole new acre of Garden that tangles up with the Wildforest).
Two recent pieces echo this.
And which actually grew from having to make a lot of bookmarks that carry the seeds of this storytelling. And which was also further impressed by the serendipitous finding of a secondhand copy of Frida Kahlo's biography (from the first pop-up) and watching (and being enchanted by the scenes of) Coco (an unexpected occasion as I was trying to puzzle through an unexpected thing from the second pop-up). (Yes, the pop-ups turned out to be extremely eventful.)
So here I am on the third pop-up. So much changed. If I time-travelled to the point of Before which was Before The First Pop-Up I would not even be able to begin to imagine the breadth and depth of all these Possibilities now at hand. I will tell that Story soon, on how I crossed the borders of Before & After.
Here's another preview.
I started a series of paintings. The first one is titled Lovestruck. It is another exploration of another path in the Garden, and I feel that this path will meet with the other, and the Wildforest will feel the rumble of deeper magic awakening.
I've also written a whole chapbook-worthy set of poems, closely related to the Lovestruck series. The only thing I can say about this is this: the seeds for these poems were only possible because I said Yes to one thing that led to another and another and another.
It's a bit of a mess really. A beautiful terrible mess.
Alright. I have to go for now.
Let me close this post with a quote.
The other day I found out that my garden home has sprouted moth wings, and that it has raven's feet.
Which was a timely evolution because The Impossible Garden & the Wildforest now uproot themselves to claim territory.
Next weekend, far into the northern part of the metrocity, the Garden will display its blooms. For the first time (not counting last year's very small stint where we got dismissed as merely playing at arting and crafting), I will be taking the heart-fire with me to be seen. Not just a sampling, not just a suggestion. I'm going for unapologetic declaration of existence.
For details on this event please visit the event page.
I'll be selling, yes. But I have to set my sights beyond the financial rewards (though direly needed) and make the most of the intangible chances to plant the wildforest wherever possible.
The past week has been a whirlwind of planning and preparations. This week is all-out chaos.
The pressure is multiplied by my sending in an application for another event at the end of the month. I was thinking, make the most of the investments by doing more than one show.
The divine and the devil are in the details.
This particular path in my journey has cornered me into making all the small decisions that need making that I have been putting off for one reason or another including "surely that's not going to make much of a difference today" and "I want to do something more dramatic".
Yet the lesson is that the dramatic is reached through the build-up of seemingly small, weak, inconsequential, insignificant steps. Then you realise that the steps may be small but also strong, consequential, and significant.
I was also holding back at first on the "investments". But if I hold back just because of fears of not having enough munny means I'm thinking, even believing, that the munny would be wasted and would not bring back anything of any value. It also means I am restraining the full blooming of the Garden. It means I will not be as true as I claim I want to be.
This whole process took days, weeks. The epiphanies were not fireworks but solitary fireflies on a dark night that I just happen to look out the window, easily missed if I was not paying attention.
Every day there were decisions and choices. Every day there were doubts. Every day I saw on social media how everyone else was simply doing the safe and straight and secure thing and my thoughts would turn to how I cannot even be certain of meeting next month's rent. I would start imagining going back to employed work and the cycle of my body getting physically sick begins at the mere suggestion.
Then I will flail around in that dark abyss of eternal doubt and fear until my hands find my heart and grasp the tender branches growing there and I begin to smell the scent of flowers and I realise that in the abyss I am held by the roots of the forest. And all I had to do was breathe deeply and stop struggling and let the trees bring me back.
In tiny ways invisible to the eye. In ways that offer no excuses to be forgiven. In ways that only appear as weakness or laziness or simple utter failure.
But then I started to paint. Waded through the growing pile of to-dos and silenced all the task alarms and painted. Not about what I think will sell, or what I think will be popular. Not about the little compromises and tweaks, the softening of edges and taming of wildnesses. Instead I let my hand paint strange petals and leaves and other oddities that an impossible flower may choose to have. Beneath the ink and paint the seeds of words fluttered tapping codes into the back of my mind. Doorways and keys and unfinished locks. Windows and cracks on the wall. Glimpses, glances, accidental touches. In the blink of an eye I could step across an ocean and press a hand over an unsuspecting heart.
The breaking stopped.
October feels stretched out and long this year. Does it mean then that the veil is thinner, being all pulled at the edges and shivering with tension like a held breath before the confession of a long secret desire?
I try to slip a limb into the mad rush towards the too-loud, too-bright, too-manic excitement of Yuletide and I wince.
Yesterday right in the middle of being sane and productive and reasonable I felt something shut off inside me and I had to take myself to bed.
I used to be able to glimpse the shimmer of doorways even though I never could get close enough to get in. I was always just ten thousand lifetimes short of being invited.
Now my eyes are only seeing the flowers but not the heart from which they grew their hungry thirsty roots.
But I have become so good at thinning myself into invisibility that no one notices even when I try to be seen. I've always found safety in my shell but lately I find that too much safety can also hurt.
There is a person across the ocean trampling through my wildforest and does not see me even while his hand presses upon the ancient tree that carries a vein of my spirit pulsing upon his palm. He flits and fleets through the paths, making play of slipping in and out of his world and mine. He never realises that he steps into another Place, only that something changes inside him, an unexplained question shaped into a wordless longing.
The Stories are ripe and heavy on the branches, skins starting to burst and wanting to fall to the soft waiting earth blanketed with leaves as bright as fireworks.
A pumpkin waits and wishes to become a magic carriage instead of a jack-o-lantern.
My Etsy shop is fully updated now. With 49 items and new listings coming up every week for the next few weeks. It's been dormant for many months, because I had to do dayjob work and because I could never be sure how to go about selling my work, or what it is I'm selling. And I realise I am not just selling but that I am also telling a story, and every artwork is a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter. A poem is possibly a whole short story in itself. And every bit ties together into the Impossible Garden and the Wildforest.
The poems have returned. And have come back changed in many ways and still changing. I can feel them shift even as I pen the words onto paper. They have made friends with the paintings and both are often whispering to each other now, throwing my sly side glances. At night they run around my bed, urging the shadows of the trees on the walls to stop playing pretend and become themselves. They wait for me to fall asleep so they can slip into my dreams, sometimes coaxing the night mares to allow a gallop over the ocean.
The 100-day project has slept for a month and woke up reformed into the 100-painting project. It is allowed. Because I choose the weight of making good pieces over the count of a contest with time. Here is the 54th piece, with its own poem.
Wild spring tree wove a wind,
It is almost a given now. That a painting will have a poem. That a poem will have a painting. That maybe both can be in a single tangible piece, all tangled up like lovers.
I wait for my sketchbook from the Brooklyn Library to arrive. It is going to be a love letter.
I have been postponing my Artist Date for months for various reasons: time, money, location, energy, theme. Most of the time it's money, because there's nowhere safe and nice enough to go to within the city that is free. I will always have to have some coffee money, at least for a large cup or a cup and a snack so I can justify hanging out for at least three hours. While at the cafe I would write, or draw, or paint, or just ponder on Things. Usually that is when fresh ideas drop by, when thought trails open up previously thorny and tangled paths. Possibilities lose their disguises, and what-if questions become bold enough to take on words.
Yesterday I had planned an Artist Date that was supposed to happen after lunch with my sister. But something went awry when I made the mistake of taking on an unscheduled client call that took longer than promised, and so I ended up being very late on the lunch date and everything else took on a rather tainted note --- the traffic was horrible, it was the one day that my sister could not extend her lunch hour, I forgot to bring an umbrella and the sky was greying, I had to get off the cab a block away and walk to the cafe because the traffic was so bad. I felt rushed and stressed and flustered. I did not get to enjoy a full introduction and conversation with the lovely Korean lady who owned the cafe. After the hurried late lunch I walked my sister back to her office then went to another cafe for a couple of hours of Artist Dating. I managed to regain some level of calm and I was able to write but the bad start was a stain. The subject of the client call was also hanging over my head, an ominous cloud of a possible dayjob project. I should be grateful with relief because it means a possible paycheck. But I could only feel the usual psychosomatic effects : a hint of nausea, a layer of feverish chills, an unexplainable fit of coughing, an upset suddenly acidic stomach. I cut the Artist Date short half an hour earlier than planned and went home -- and found out all the roads within the area had been closed for an earthquake drill, and I had to walk a couple of blocks to meet up with the car service that took me home.
So today I thought I'll try it again. But I woke up really late as I had a bout of insomnia last night. Then I got caught up with my sister's needing some advice on a situation and my brain had to do full-mode processing even before I was able to go downstairs for a cup of coffee. I ended up going from bed to lunch and was meaning to have coffee after but I felt wearied all over and off-sync and before I knew it I was deeply asleep.
I woke up at half past three in the afternoon. I made myself take a bath and dress up and prepare to step out or I know I'll regret it. I went to the mall (an upscale one to avoid the majority of the payday crowds). I bought three large-ish canvases for projects I plan to start this weekend. Then I went to replenish skin care supplies --- which earned me a ticket entry to a raffle for a trip to Korea (the shop is Korean). Winners will be announced in October. My passport is expired but now I am motivated to renew it (it's a bit of a hassle to do and there are fees so I've been putting it off -- also I don't really have the funds to be going anywhere anytime soon. But now, who knows?)
As if on cue, outside the skin care shop I heard the live music of a Korean saxophone quartet and had the good fortune to watch and listen to a free concert. I didn't get to take a photo or video as I was more focused on enjoying the moment. But I looked them up and here they are:
The music and the live-ness of the performance swept away all that was tired, sad, hopeless, jaded in my spirit. Of course the fact that it was a Korean group was a significant variable. I stood among the audience, my heavy pile of large canvases balanced against my leg, and let myself be more than where I was, loving the artistry of it all. I reached out soul-threads to weave patterns with the music, making contact with those four distant human beings from a distant dream country in the only way I can.
On the other side of the mall I went to have coffee and I was greeted by a multitude of red lanterns, this time providing a setting for a group playing traditional Japanese instruments, two of which I think are shamisen. Yet another of my dream countries, and with music again as a message of sorts. I sat on the outer edge of the cafe so I could still hear the strains of the music, and my heart was further gladdened.
For my dear patrons who sent me coffees via Ko-fi.com, thank you so much -- here I actually got a coffee! And I haven't done so for quite a long time. Drained the cup to the last sip.
It has been a while since I have gone out without much internal alarm and anxiety. Today I went out with a good semblance of peace and somehow a strange sense of relief coming from something I have not yet put a finger to. In any case, being outside of my cramped tiny studio allowed me to expand my senses and my thoughts. It helped that I had a bit of money to spare, that I could buy the canvases, that I could afford to buy myself a coffee and a sandwich. I felt yesterday went awry so I would go out again today and receive the gifts of the ticket and the shamisen and the quartet. If everything had gone perfectly yesterday I would not have gone out today at all.
And now it is half past ten, but since I've slept a lot during the day I think I'll get started on one of the large canvases, a 24" x 24". I already have a title for it, and it's a piece meant as a tribute of sorts to an old self -- the mad brave leaper who should have been born farther up in the northeast.
I end this post with The Arrival of The Queen of Sheba.
I am in an awkward phase of becoming and creating at the same time. There was a trail that was a rabbit hole and I am not Alice but the Queen of Hearts yet I am the one running late for tea and the cards refuse to say my fortune.
There was a trail that was made of bread crumbs and I followed the crows who gobbled them up instead, who led me to a house made of stitched-up noodles and inside was an empty begging bowl. I took the bowl.
There was a trail that led to an ocean at the end of a lane. And the ocean flowed into the country that grew boys out of flowers. But my feet are fins and my voice not worth a trade, so I watch from a distance while I drowned in my own despair.
A person is a country. Though not even its owner has fully mapped itself out. Many shadowed forests and too deep seas remain off limits. Boundaries are oftentimes arbitrary depending on a thousand variables like the weather, for instance, or whether the angle of sun rendered a face too beautiful for mere words.
How does one fall in love with a person? How does one seduce a country of multitude moods and tempers and wants? How does one break through the borders of a heart without a declaration of war?
How come it feels like I am the one that has been occupied? When did that cavalry of wooden winged horses come?
I've got stories in my head, swirling in storm clouds or burning like a thousand suns. I never really thought about getting them out, putting them down on paper. But after satiating myself on a lot of young adult fantasy series I began to feel the hankering for similar stories but with more adult characters. I found a few good ones but I want more. Also, I am hoping for even more adult characters, not just fresh-faced nearly perfect specimens of twenty-somethings. I want a bit of wear and tear but not yet on the downhill path. I want once-again-upon-a-times, second chances, and late bloomers. Think Sarah Addison Allen crossed with Tad Williams/Neil Gaiman with a dash of Nick Bantock/ Barbara Hodgson. So yes, romance with lots of magic accompanied by visual art and illustration. Starring characters in their mid-thirties or even older, but still having adventures and epiphanies and life shifts and changes of heart. I want older characters who get a chance to save the world, preferably without dying, and having a better-late-than-never happily ever after.
Basically I want a book that speaks smack into my life right now. If any one of you can suggest a title based on the description above that will be great I will definitely check it out.
In the meantime I read somewhere that you should write the book that you want to read.
So in 2012, I joined NaNoWriMo and succeeded in writing a horrendously rough draft of a book called The Thirteenth. It is in editing limbo right now. It was a story with dragons and elemental magic and, of course, a romance that I never really figured out how to end.
In 2013, I participated but did not make the cut, running short of about ten words and then the time was up. The book was called The Other Place and I have been at it, off and on, waiting for something. It felt somewhat thin and one-sided and there were things I wanted to put in but could not find the plot space to do so.
In 2014, I thought about participating again but the story idea I had was way too raw to be ready for even the roughest of drafts. I decided to skip it.
In 2015, the story idea from the previous year has ripened, and revealed itself to be the something missing from the 2013 story.
So I signed up to write this year, next month. And as a boost and cheer I made a book cover for it although the title is still not final. I like how the words look though. What do you think?