What are ACEOs? Why Collect Them?

Remember the baseball trading cards wrapped inside a pack of gum when you were a kid? Remember accumulating a big stack and the fierce shuffle of brisk trading that went on on the playground during lunch time recess? Remember the satisfying sound of stiff cardboard as it smacked into palms and the clink of coins in your kid change-purse?

Now, as you imagine the whole phenomenon, substitute major players, team colors and stats with original tiny delectable pieces of art in all styles of painting.

How many of us have the wall space or can afford to own and hang original paintings? How many artists have the kind of budget and publicity to have their work seen literally by thousands of potential patrons?

Enter the exquisite world ACEO cards. AKA Artist Collectible Editions and Originals.

Whether your taste runs to oils or acrylics or pen and inks, surrealism, abstract, black and white, or snap shots ACEOs have it.

For a mere $.50 or a few dollars an art lover or art collector can amass quite a variety of cards in her collection. An artist can work for an hour or two on a 2.5" x 3.5 " piece of Strathmore water color paper or a like sized piece of canvas or wood block to come up with something both exquisite and affordable on both sides. The artist does not have to own a big studio with expenses or alot of equipment. The kitchen counter will do as workspace.

Multi-media is the rule whether his patron's taste runs to oils, acrylics, photography, poetry on compositions, fabric art, watercolors, and more, or his own taste lies in producing pencil drawings, pen and inks, or wood block prints...

Each card arrives carefully slipped into its protective clear cellophane envelope for easy display as is. Or there are endless attractive framing options available to the buyer for display purposes.

Whether you plan to keep your collection in a photo album, a former baseball card album, a shoe-box under the bed or in frames filling up a wall in your home, for the art lover on a tight budget, ACEOs rock!

Doll Collecting - Why We Do it

I have always found dolls and bears appealing as collectibles because a person can hug them. With a collection of fine stained glass or metal objects, one doesn't have that same freedom. Glass is cold. Bears' fur is soft and warm. Humor aside, another advantage for the doll collector is being the "parent" to a "child" whose psyche can't be warped with poor parenting skills or lack of experience. Dolls don't care if they sit on the bed or a shelf for weeks. Dolls aren't picky about their outfits-- pink frills or blue sailboats--all ok. Dolls not anatomoically correct (and even some that are) don't mind being dressed as a boy or a girl. And when you are done, they sit where you put them without running around getting dirt and schmutz on their new clean clothes.

Research in child development even supports the idea that we humans having been hardwired to bond to young for survival of our species, are attracted to teddy bears and dolls because of the round cheeks and big eyes, round bellies so similar to those of human babies. Price can be an issue in doll collecting. If a person prefers the artist doll, limited edition or one-of-a-kind it is possible to pay thousands of dollars and to wait several years for a new piece. On the other hand, Ashton-Drake type collectibles make dolls affordable for most budgets. And yet further still on the scale, a person can find a loveable doll in a thrift store or kids' shop just because it was love at first sight.

There are so many kinds of dolls, bears adn other animals out there now. Just go to any Barnes and Noble and check out "Doll Reader" or "Contemporary Artist Dolls" magazines. From abstract bizarre creations, classic sculptures, porcelains, resins-- Fimo, Sculpey and others, babies so life-like they seem to cry, babies that "breathe", vinyls of very good quality with paint that looks like skin tones, fabric dolls, dolls made by hobbyists and dolls made by professionally trained artists, clothing by fashion designers, bear creators who start with raising the rabbits and sheep to harvest the wool to make the felt to make the bear..the possibilities are endless.

One thing is for sure--we're not talking your mother's Barbie dolls any more! To be fair, Barbie does seem to endure and remain ageless and isn't she lucky? even though Ken went by the wayside, usurped by an Australian surfer dude after 40 years. Poor guy! Barbie stands up to all the new exciting fashion doll creations as well.

The aisles of Toys R Us contain very good quality vinyl play dolls made by German and Spanish companies who can become under the watchful eyes and skilled hands of "Re-born" artists another class of one-of-a-kind collectible babies. Left to their own devices these dolls make wonderful durable play babies for children.

It is possible to search online for dolls and bears in several ways. If you like a particular artist you can search that artist. If you like a particular shop you can start there. Many shops and artists have their own websites. Know what you like. Classified ads for doll shows. Trade magazines.

It is up to the individual collector whether he or she keeps the doll out. Puts it in a cabinet or keeps it boxed with acid free paper or to play with it. A lot depends on life style. A person with animal pets may find it challenging to keep the bear or doll out simply because four footed folks do find them tasty to chew and in worse cases, tempting to mark on. I have one dog who loves to carry a teddy bear in her mouth. She is a fierce protector! But just in case, she will bark at you around the dolly she carries.

Certain fabrics, vinyls, and resins are vulnerable to sunlight which can cause fading and damage. Others are temperature sensitive. Porcelain breaks. Many folks have made the mistake of trying to remove marks on vinyl dolls with acetone only to lose the paint as well! I've had poorly fired resin dolls crack and lose body parts. Dust can damage dolls and bears as well. Whatever way displayed, it is often important to keep not only the box the doll came in but also the tags, receipts, papers and certificates. This completes the piece's provenance and in the event of re-sale adds much to the worth. Some prefer rotating the doll or bear so it spends some of its time boxed and protected from the elements.

To sum things up, don't be shy or embarrasssed or afraid to like dolls or bears. They are not only for children. We carry good memories of these friends with us into adulthood. Friends who comforted in hard times. Always available for a hug and a secret. Loving them still makes perfect sense.

Doll & Bear Photography - a few how-tos

Dolls and bears make good photo subjects. Why? They don't move for one thing. Don't get red-eye. You can go back and back . With today's digital cameras you can see immediately if your shot succeeded and re-do it for other effects. You can cheat with an over-large outfit folded around behind the doll or use a "real" prop like an actual cookie with a child doll and fool the eye of the viewer. Dolls and bears in photography take us into other worlds, other lives. Visual fairy tales. How wonderful to be able to glimpse a moment of someone else's story? Let's face it taking pictures of dolls and bears is just plain fun. Yes, it is also work. Sometimes, like with any other subject the picture just does not come together and all the photographer ends up with is a headache. But lots of times the camera "sees" and you come away from the experience with a picture of magic in your hand.

What elements do you put in a photo? Well, as with any kind of photography simplicity is best. Let's consider the photography done on Annette Himstedt's website for a fairly well-known example. There are not a lot of distractions from the doll! While her work endeavors to capture "real children" in her doll creations, so does good doll photography of any doll. A simple prop like a ball or a toy to be held, a seat on a bale of hay, a real guinea pig at the feet of a boy doll such as I have done...this helps make a good composition. Background of things in the same scale as the doll. Good light ,simple composition-remember your subject is not going to run off in the middle of your shoot! Believe what you see when you are all through.

How can you use the photos for something besides filling boxes and albums for your own delight? The possibilities are endless. Wall art, greeting cards, posters, advertising photos, gallery work, shows--one thing can be said with absolute certainty. While many many people are out there taking garden shots, macro insects, nature, urban blight, buildings, weddings, headstones and cute pets, a good doll and bear photographer is hard to find.

Floral Erotica: How to Find Sensuality in a Grocery Store Bouquet

What makes a flower erotic? Sharp crisp lines, seductive curves, warm enticing colors, ripe, rich textures...stiff parts seeking fertilization...It begs for photography.

A classic erotic flower picture should have simple composition. One curve, for example, one swelling and two colors to invite the viewer to �fall into� the photograph. To ask the viewer to lick the teeth, swallow,to sigh. To create in the viewer a desire to stroke, to reach into the picture and participate. To remember. Simplicity and clean lines.

This is different than �dirty flower pictures.� While a blooming plant in a pot of soil may constitute a �dirty flower�, humor aside, I am talking about navigating away from the adolescent reaction of �Oh yeah, look! a tiny pair of boobies� snicker, snicker.

To consider a plant/flower/root/bud/leaf as a metaphor for human body or metaphor for human sexuality in all its starkness and magnetism.

The sensual in nature surrounds us especially in Spring in northern climates. Birds, their deepest most dramatic colors, sing rich songs unique to mating season; lush growth of all colors of plant life after winter�s monochromatic white, tan and gray. Flowering trees and fertilizing bees at their cups. Its all about sex! The way the Earth opens with a sharp shiny edge of a farmer�s plow, the waves of folded back rich brown soil, that is sensuality at its most extreme. Begs the buttocks to slap down into it.

All that is required to discover the erotic in flowers and natural life around us, is a macro lens and patience. The viewer must be willing to have not only a �slow hand� to paraphrase the Pointer Sisters, and "an easy touch." My years behind the lens opened an entire universe of sensuality and sensuousness to my eyes. Poetry as snap-shots. Point and shoot, yes. But take time don't shoot and run.

Flowers that lend themselves to this type of viewing are many. But the orchid family comes to mind first and foremost with its riot of shapes, long-lasting stiff flowers, fragrances that attract and mesmerize..even the root growth slipping out the dormant end of a white stubby root with a shine of slick green new growth emerging.