Friday the 13th—What’s Unlucky About Black Cats?

photo of four black cats

What's Unlucky About Black Cats?

We happen to think we’re pretty lucky! Happy Friday the 13th! We’re going back to sleep.

From the top: Mewsette, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean, Giuseppe


It’s so hot…

cat sleeping upside down

Make it stop being so hot...

A cat covered with fur just can’t get a break in this heat so he has to air himself out.

Dickie’s mom requested another photo because she misses him—I don’t have any of him just sitting and looking normal, because he doesn’t do that too often! But here’s another of his famous sleeping positions.

What I like is the little fangs. I also love the black bottoms on tabby cat paws—it looks as if they’ve stepped in black paint, and when you look at them from the top it looks as if it’s soaked up between their toes.

Dickie has about seven more weeks here, then he’s back with his mom! I’ll tell the story soon, and in the meantime I’m sure I’ll get plenty more photos of my temporary tabby cat.


Art Markets and Animal Lovers

my setup with sally

My display with an old friend.

With a display full of artwork inspired by my cats and other animals, I am sure to collect stories from people passing by. The image of my Cookie as “The Goddess” is especially inviting to people, but many things in my display will catch animal lover’s eye, from cats to dogs to wild birds to wildlife.

wool bird wristlets

Bird wristlets made from recycled wool sweaters.

And I’m not the only artist around who’s inspired by my cats and other animals! As more and more small festivals and markets have been available, we’ve been meeting up and sharing stories and ideas. In the past we’ve been most successful at events focusing on animals, but the market for products for pets and their people has grown—it’s been the one “growth market” during the recent recession—so we can now have a successful day of sales at non-animal events and general marketplaces.

chaz letzkus

Chaz Letzkus at his table.

I’ve written about my friend Chaz Letzkus and his hidden animal drawings before and I’ll be writing more about his new projects, and also about Amanda Brewer and the wonderful cat and dog collars she makes inspired by her little kitty Bijou.

Amanda Brewer

Amanda Brewer among her colorful collars.

My recent day at the Artisan Market in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (no we don’t have to strip naked, it was originally a long “strip” of wholesale warehouses) was great fun and highly successful. Generally frequented by wholesale buyers, Saturday is the big shopping day for the general public as fruit, vegetable and meat markets are open and sellers set up on the sidewalk with everything from flowers to logo toilet seats (really).

strip district pittsburgh

The view outside the nearest door.

This particular Saturday was hot, but the sidewalks were crowded with rivers of people all on the lookout for a bargain or an unusual item. The building that houses the Artisan Market is basically just a big warehouse, and the receiving bays on street level aren’t used anymore. That’s where we are, in a big old garage! They simply open the big bay doors and we set up on concrete floors with open beams strung with trouble lights and Christmas lights. But on a hot day that thick layer of concrete kept the heat out, and the bay doors allowed a breeze to move through making for a comfortable day of setting up at 7:30 and tearing down at 4:00 and and arranging and rearranging and greeting customers and visitors during all the hours in between.

artisan market

Artisan Market at 20th and Penn.

The only risk of setting up with animal artwork at a general-interest event is that your market is limited, and when you’ve paid to display items you’ve made by hand or created from your work like my note cards and prints, you think twice about the expense and time when a fraction of the people passing your display will be interested.

my setup in the strip

Cookie is featured prominently.

But I think more pet owners have taken a greater interest in gift items for their pets, themselves and other pet owners. I also think that part of that interest has grown from being able to meet the artist who has designed and made these things, hearing about their inspirations to create from their own pets and then sharing their stories. It creates a bond between the maker and the consumer that is deeply personal.

And because my merchandise is largely created with images of the cats I’ve loved through the years, and with the artwork I’ve spent most of my adult life creating, I love meeting the person who wants to own it, who shares their story with me, and who takes a part of me with them.

So, on to the next events! If you’re in Pittsburgh, stop by and say hello, and if not I’ll be sure to share my animal stories.

August 14 Mt. Washington Art Market
August 21 Artisan Market in the Strip District
August 28 Street Fair in the Strip with the Animal Rescue League
September 4 Mt. Washington Art Market
September 9-10-11 Carnegie Arts & Heritage Festival
September 18 Artisan Market in the Strip District
September 25 (afternoon) Applejamm at Beechwood Farms/Audubon Society
September 25 (evening) Best Friends’ Ball with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society

BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL, BUY HANDMADE!


The Goddess Truly Inspires

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

I looked at Cookie on the kitchen floor, on her back with her toes curled, a defiant look on her face, and it happened—that moment of visualization. I could see a linoleum block print in black ink on white rice paper, hand-tinted with oranges and yellows for the patches in Cookie’s tortoiseshell fur and green for her eyes and pink for her nose. I would call the print “The Goddess” for the many women depicted with generous figures in sculpture and painting through the millennia.

From the time I first described it to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner (scroll to the bottom to read more about creating the print and also “The Roundest Eyes”). And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie! I’ve decided I finally have a place to share those stories, here in this blog post. I’m starting with a few from the Artisan Market, and I’ll just keep adding to the top after this; not all are tortie cats, but all are beloved kitties. If you have a story, add it to the comments!

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BETHANY

On Friday at Carnegie Arts & Heritage, a friend stopped by who I’d worked with at an art store years before and then who turned up at the framer I worked with for years and framed several of my largest paintings, and who also happened to be a cat person, along with her husband and mother. Somewhat into our chitchat her mother nodded at the t-shirt bearing Cookie’s image and said, “Doesn’t that look like Bethany?”

It turns out Bethany also has a half and half face, is a little plump and lies on her back all the time! She was found as a kitten by her other daughter in an alley behind a bar in Bethany, WV where her daughter attended Bethany College. The woman had lost her 21-year-old cat and determined not to get another “at her age”. “Mom, I know you don’t want another cat, but I found this kitten and I can’t keep her and I can’t just let her go, let me bring her home and see what you think,” she said.

Despite a kitten who nips at fingers and ankles in the middle of play, Bethany quickly won over her new human’s heart and is two years into her new position of becoming her human’s next long-lived kitty.

BERRY

Thursday night at Carnegie Arts & Heritage a young man hurrying through the artist’s tent stopped and looked open-mouthed, pointing at the print of Cookie, quickly whipped out his cell phone, tap, tap, tap, held it up to show me a photo of his tortie cat, then ran on to whatever he’d been doing in the first place.

KISSA

A mother and her three daughters headed straight for the print of The Goddess at my booth, laughing and pointing at the kitty who looks just like their Kissa—who lies on the floor “just like that!” Kissa was one of two stray kittens, the other a tabby, rescued in their neighborhood by a neighbor; this family adopted Kissa from them. She is playful but can be unpredictable, though not enough to scare off three little girls! “Kissa” is “cat” in Finnish.

Any tortie living and playing with three little girls is one special tortie!

BABY

It must be a habit of tortie cats to lie on their backs! Baby was another stray kitten (I see another trend there, too) who now rules the house and lies on her back just like Cookie. “She’s a real queen!” said her owner.

Queen, Goddess, they really carry through!

PRINCESS

Princess is a tortie who was rescued during the Rodney King riots in LA at about age 11. She’d been living in a closet of an apartment with a paraplegic drug dealer and a few itinerant roommates, but the building was in danger so everyone was moved out, but no one could take the cat who was taken in by her current owner. She is now 22, “pees wherever she wants to”, and is still the grande dame of the household.

Real tortitude to get through all that!

TABBY and CHARLIE

Tabby was one of two kitten stowaways found in her owner’s vehicle during a hurricane in Florida. There had been a stray mother cat around with kittens and they tried to find her before they evacuated, no luck. When they arrived at their destination they unpacked the kittens and could only guess that the mother cat stowed them in the vehicle to save their lives, then ran to hide. They never saw her again, and found another home for the other kitten.

These same people took in Charlie–or rather when their son stepped out the door one afternoon to talk on his cell phone, Charlie walked in as if he already lived there, right past the 150-lb. Rottweiler. They decided that kind of cojones deserved a home, so they kept him.

TURKEY HOWARD

(They came for a closer look at The Goddess, then saw the tote bag with Mr. Sunshine in the sink.) Turkey Howard has spent most of his life in the sink, and he still enjoys it at age 13 but needs a lift from a human!

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With an inspiration that strong, I probably would have done it anyway, but I had other reasons as well. In the late 1990s having my sketches and paintings reproduced was still expensive and not always successful and I wanted artwork that I could reproduce easily and inexpensively myself so that I could have something more affordable than original artwork to sell in my displays.

I’d worked with small linoleum block prints for years and always enjoyed the medium, but this time I decided I wanted something larger and I might actually create a series—which led to “The Roundest Eyes” depicting my other tortie, Kelly, a few months later. Between the two, Cookie gets more notice and stories, but Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just don’t let Cookie know that.

Capturing all Cookie’s freckles and spots and stripes was indeed a challenge, especially when I went to actually cut them out of the surface of the linoleum block. Below, compare the reference photo and the print.

tortie cat on back

Reference photo for "The Goddess"

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski