Stock in Trade


Desert Wisdom Card "play" with image of pottery jackrabbits
Play, a Desert Wisdom Card by Bo Mackison


Early in my pottery-marketing career (at a student sale) someone kindly schooled me in another form of transacting: “Artists don’t buy from each other, they trade!” she chided and grinned. And so we traded: hers for mine, mine for hers. It was right for all the right reasons.

I have now traded bunches of times. Some were as sweet and simple as that first, others not so much. I’m not often the one to suggest it, yet I usually don’t say no when a swap is proffered. That is mostly because I haven’t found a good rationale to refuse: a trade is always interesting, even if it goes awry. And every time it gets out of alignment (but never because of me! ūüėČ ) I get better at avoiding the pitfalls of forgetful, stingy, unskilled, or unrealistic traders, of which I have sadly met a few.

A feel-good-all-over trade goes beyond mere parity and commerce because it forges a compact. It leaves numbers behind and enters the realms of connection, story, and intrinsic value. My most recent trade is a example of that trifecta of goodness.

Connection:  Bo Mackison and I have known each other virtually for years. I think it started when we shared an online workshop which had a private Facebook page.  We connected personally from there. I have casually followed her posts, her marvelous photos, her stories Р as she has mine. Not assiduously, but never far away, commenting and liking when so moved. I know about her dog Grace, her family, her treks from Arizona to Wisconsin and back and her encounters on the road.  When she sent me a message inquiring about my current stock of beer cans, I was tickled to further our connection.

Story:¬† Bo wanted to find the perfect beer can for her husband for a milestone anniversary. She’d checked out the Beer Cans in my Shop, and had a few ideas, but wanted to know if there were more. There were! (Because I am so stinkin’ slow at adding work to the Shop.) ¬†I emailed her some photos. While doing that and thinking what price to quote her, ¬†I remembered her very personal¬†Desert Wisdom Card¬†series from a couple of years ago: a collection of handmade letterpress printed cards, each with a thoughtful word and a lovely photograph from the Sonora Desert to be used for inspiration, contemplation, meditation, enjoyment. ¬†An idea for a swap took hold.

Intrinsic Value:¬† So here’s where The Art of the Trade comes in. I wanted Bo’s Desert Wisdom Cards more than I wanted money for my beer cans. She wanted beer cans and possibly had a set of Desert Wisdom Cards to spare. Could it be that our specific arts were¬†more valuable than money to each of us? ¬†I crossed my fingers when I hit Send and, happily, she wanted to trade too. I packed and mailed the three beer cans she chose and she sent her whole DWC series. The photo up top is one of the first cards I pulled when they arrived –¬†PLAY!¬†¬†Those pottery jackrabbits celebrating with gusto express how easy and fun it all can be.

Here’s a photo of the my happy cans installed in her husband’s office. Goodness prevails all round. Thanks, Bo.

Three ceramic beer cans on a windowsill



–Liz Crain,¬†who has become more selective about trading because she wants only the truest connections, stories and intrinsic value. ¬†And, sometimes, when she does not want to take money for a rogue piece or a favor and the receiver has naught they want to trade, she asks them to make a donation of any amount in her name to a non-profit art organization. And she recommends one for them. Win-Win.




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4 thoughts on “Stock in Trade

  1. Hey Liz, wanna trade? I love everything you do. Maybe “Crazy Heart Scum Salve Flask” for something of mine? I love trading, just traded 2 big collages with my dentist, talk about piece of mind. I also have long admired Bo’s cards.

    1. We talked about it awhile ago and now’s the time!!!! Yay. Scum Salve is yours and I will go looking at your site. Looking forward, Kathleen.

      1. this is such a fun way to conclude my birthday month! your treasure is flying its way to you, perhaps landing on Saturday, thanks Liz, can’t wait to be the proud collector of your art

        1. And your two are headed your way, hoping they cross paths and high five each other for such a wonderful trade. Happy Birthday month indeed!

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