Sometimes ya just gotta get a little French into your system. Arrived at my friend Becky’s gallery a bit early this morning, so I stopped off at a nearby cafe and enjoyed a leisurely peoplewatch with juice and brioche.

galleryfolkMy friend Becky’s out for a few days, so I’m babysitting her gallery (do you call that gallerysitting?) and writing this between sales lulls. Becky and her husband Len are lovely folk; their gallery, Fireborne, is in downtown Portland near Pioneer Square.

Fireborne covers the gamut in glass art, from highly functional goblets and chandeliers to wall art and candleholders, virtually all of it from northwestern artists.

Becky bullied me into putting some of my work here–I skim off my experimental overflow and stuff she saw on my wall and said “How about THAT one?” and drop a few at the gallery every few weeks. She obligingly hangs them on her walls with pricetags. Despite my initial misgivings, they’re actually selling quite well, which is fun.

(SHAMELESS SALESPITCH: If you’re into glass, just about ANY form of glass, ya gotta visit Fireborne–Becky’s prices are almost embarrassingly low. You should hear the eastcoasters ooh and ahhhh over the savings.)

In fact, between the glass currently residing at my Guardino Gallery show, and the Fireborne sales, I’ve pretty much stripped my house of my own art. When I get home tonight, I suspect I’ll start a firing flurry.

There’s something serenely intimate about an empty store–when I was a kid I used to have these fantasies about what the stuff on the shelves at Kmart did after the people went home. I desperately wanted to hide in a closet somewhere inside and watch. At Becky’s I turn on the lights, put on some music (Becky said I could pick, so today I’ve brought old folk instrumentals). Nothing’s moved since Saturday, so I open the door for business.

galleryearringsThree women scurry in, becoming my first customers. They’re late for work but desperate for earrings. “I dunno, I dunno, the red, the blue or the green?” frets the youngest, hopping up and down on one foot and trying on pair after pair.

“I don’t care,” snaps the second, “We are L-A-T-E LATE! Just pick, for god’s sake!” I’m already ringing up #2’s selection, probably the biggest, longest dangles in the place, festooned with dichroic and crystals and all kindsa sh… (Oops. One thing I’m learning as a fledgling salesperson: EVERYbody’s choice is excellent, whether their taste is crummy or not).

The third places her selection on the counter and turns kindly to the fidgeter. “I like the blue best, I think, or maybe the green.”

“I’ll take the red ones,” declares the fidgeter, and her companions roll their eyes.

gallerymywallI have clients in the next building and we’re screaming down a campaign deadline right now. I must have web access today but Becky’s wireless network won’t let me in–EEEEEK! So the gallery gets a temporary closure while I run up and down the streets looking for a 50-foot Ethernet cable (don’t ask). Twenty minutes, a plug-in and a tad bit of hacking later, and I’m finally connected.

Whew. Whether I’ll actually get any work done today is debatable; there’s a pretty steady crowd here, unusual for a Monday.

A large woman with the most beautiful art-carved citrine earrings I’ve seen in awhile comes in next. “Earrings! They told me this was the place to go for glass earrings!”

She’s buying a birthday gift for her best friend, “and I need something special. It’ll be our 25th consecutive birthday lunch. 25 years! Doesn’t have to be expensive…just special.”

Intrigued, I help her plow through rack after rack of glass earrings–Becky’s surely cornered the market on glass earrings–and she sets a dozen pairs on the counter. “We have the same taste, so if I love it, she’ll love it…hmmm” and she starts winnowing down to her final choice.

In the end, I box up a half-dozen pairs, including the ones that I (blush) had my eye on. “I’m not sure which I’ll give her yet, but I’ll just keep the rest for myself!” she says triumphantly, and marches out.

I sure hope I’m getting this cash register thing down pat. Amazing what they don’t teach you in engineering and journalism schools.

I’m finding people want to KNOW about the glass. I never need a reason to expound on this stuff (as many bored friends will attest), so it’s fun to be asked. I’m surprised at how much I actually do know about the work here and the artists, and customers seem to like hearing the “behind the scenes” stuff.

Most common question today: “Was this artist a student of Chihuly?” I gently explain that Chihuly mostly works with glassblowers, so it’s unlikely he taught the artist how to kilnform a plate. Unimpressed, the customers usually go back to the blown piece that WAS made by a Chihuly student. I need to work on my “why this is incredibly rare” speech.

A mother and her 20-something daughter come during lunch, on break from a conference on nuclear proliferation. “If you want to be bored out of your skull,” sighs the daughter, “Listen to 50 different people saying the same thing about encapsulation strategies.” Mom’s apparently a nuclear waste management expert, and she’s heard this before. She smiles indulgently at her daughter, then stops.


“What are THOSE?” she asks, pointing to the nail files. I explain that they’re made of glass, last forever and fit in a purse.

“They’re gorgeous AND practical. Just what I need for little presents!” She and her daughter study the little cups of nail files as if they were small nuclear warheads or something, and finally hand me five to ring up.

“And I want that glass lizard, and that little perfume bottle, and we haven’t even looked at the jewelry yet, Mom…” and the mother holds up a warning hand.

“Hang on–let’s go buy the clothes at Nordstroms first and THEN come back here for the jewelry. But right now I’ve got to get back to the conference; I’m speaking in 15 minutes.”

She turns to me. “Will you be here Wednesday around lunchtime?”