I just put my few patio and garden ornaments out. I’m not a gardener, though thanks to kind, generous, garden-loving friends I have some nice flowers around my patio now. Last year I bought some decent patio furniture – not expensive or fancy, but not the cheap plastic junk from the grocery store. While I like my new table & chairs and pretty umbrella, it’s the little things that really make me happy. Tibetan prayer flags, a glow-in-the-dark gazing ball on a stick with stars orbiting around it (it’s the earth, you see), two new sets of wind chimes (thanks, Ellen! thanks, KJ & Trish!). And the cranes.
Last year I went to an art fair with my buddy Diane (yes, another Diane). I was on the hunt for a birthday gift for someone I was dating at the time and I found a great necklace for her. But then I stumbled upon the cranes as we were getting ready to leave. You know those paper cranes the Japanese make – origami cranes – often made by the hundreds. Well these are origami cranes made of Tyvek – you know that stuff they put on houses they’re putting up? It’s weatherproof, you see. And colorful, as it turns out. So this clever artist made some Tyvek cranes and strung them together on a weatherproof chain with a hook from which to hang them.
I love them!
And – they were $50. There are 5 of them on the string.
I paid the lady. Told her I loved the cranes. She said she did too – that’s why she made them. I was as thrilled with my gift for me as I was with the moonstone necklace for my then girlfriend. Happy Diane!
I proudly showed my buddy my find. She said “yeah, that’s pretty cool! What did you pay for something like that?”
Uh oh. She’s not an art fiend. Not even close. “uh, $50” I said.
“What?! You paid FIFTY DOLLARS for that??? The material probably cost FIFTY CENTS!” While the “what are you, NUTS?” wasn’t spoken it was very much implied.
My buddy and I are very good friends and we laughed about it. She really DOES think i’m nuts to ‘overspend’ on art.
And in this case I would have to say, the artwork was most definitely “overpriced” by objective standards.
But I have a longer view, I think. Art and books and people are what make me happy – so for one, I had just purchased not just cranes, but happiness.
But it doesn’t stop there. The woman who made the cranes was a bit younger than me and had said she had escaped a dumb and boring corporate job and LOVED doing her art. So I had also purchased happiness and right lievlihood for someone else.
That should be enough – but wait! there’s more! I voted with my wallet for art as a concept, for artists as a species, for beauty. I voted for the delights of handmade things. I voted against monotony, chain stores, corporitazation of life.
And I helped perk up my least favorite season (Summer) by making my south and west-facing (code word – TOO DARNED HOT!) patio with beauty and delight.
If I can figure out a way to post pictures I’ll post the cranes. For those who are personal friends, you’ll see them in my photo album on Facebook from last summer.
How about you? What do other people see as extravagant that you see as more than sensible? Where do you “overspend” but get way more value than cost would imply? how are YOUR values evinced by where and how and with whom you spend your money?
I’m serious – I wanna know these things!