Unlike a painter, each of the pieces in our booth takes at least a month to create and will take years to sell out. So many times at a show Steve and I will look at the booth of a fellow artist as he/she sells a large painting that we know may have taken as little as a week to create and wonder if we should rethink the medium of printmaking. One unlikely benefit for us however is that we spend a lot of time with our work. They take on a special connection as we spend every week explaining their meaning each week on the road. Many of the pieces come from photographs that we take during our travels or they could come from a composite of images that Steve has collected over time. However, every once in awhile there are certain pictures that have a special meaning to us. They come from a place of deeper meaning and they reflect a part of our lives that is marked in time. Recently we sold out of a such a piece of special significance and it seemed like a good time to share the life cycle of one of these pieces so I give you: The Life of "The Cherry Thief".
Anyone who has ever had to move during a traumatic time in their lives can attest there are always sights and sounds that connect us to those times. It can be the music that we listened to, the food we had to eat, the sight of the buildings around us. No matter how old we get we can still close our eyes and see, hear, or smell the very thing that reminds us of that time. Leaving the desert Southwest and moving to Seattle was probably one of those times for our children.
In 1997, I was promoted and transferred in my job to Seattle from a small independent office in Flagstaff, AZ. My children had been living on 3 acres in the mountains with farm animals, a massive garden, and wide open skies. They were 9 and 11. For the first year we had rented a house in the middle of the suburbs of Seattle, surrounded by lots of houses. The first month it poured rain every day. There were lots of other kids around but they were still in school and so in the beginning our children were anything but happy. There was one glimmer of hope. The house had a tiny yard with fruit trees! My son was fascinated. Are there going to really be cherries in our backyard? Oh yes, we assured him, give it time but there would be cherries. It became his mission to watch the trees. Everyday the same question, the same response. As the cherries ripened his excitement grew. The other trees showed the promise of fruit but the cherries... Well, you all can guess the outcome of the story as the pesky crows had also been watching the trees as well and the day the cherries were ready, Nic woke up to see the cherries all gone.
"The Cherry Thief "was created to memorialize the moment and made it's debut later that year. At the time Steve only did a few shows in the summer locally so he only sold a few pieces in the beginning. This piece turned out to be significant because it also was the first bird piece and began a series of successful wildlife pieces to come. Over the years as more wildlife work came along "The Cherry Thief" always stayed popular. It seemed to spark a feeling in people about a similar experience they might have had with crows. Ironically in recent years we began to see images of crows with cherries in various art forms at the many shows we do. We have even had people ask us if all the artists are doing the same thing for a reason.
We get asked a lot about how long it takes for a piece to sell out and it really varies. These days we make very small editions and so it will not take as long as it did with "The Cherry Thief" where we made 40. This piece sold slowly but steadily until this past year and then it went a little crazy. We were asked last year to be included in an exhibition at the Portland International Airport on Printmaking. "The Cherry Thief" was there and we got calls constantly about it, selling quite a few of them. Like a lot of our pieces, there are times they just take off and everyone wants them. For that we are grateful.
So it is ironic that a few weeks ago we closed the chapter on "The Cherry Thief". We still have one framed one and my heart says we should keep it. We left Seattle to move back to Arizona this year and closed that chapter too. Maybe we should sent the artwork to Nic. Then he will always remember the day the crow stole his cherries.
Bonnie Harmston works side by side with her husband Steve and travels the art show circuit with him.