Life can be too serious. My mother-in-law lived through two German occupations and the loss of two children and then her husband (when Jos was only two weeks old). From Jos I learned to put things into perspective and to appreciate what we have rather than to think about what we lack. This attitude fits in well with life in Crested Butte. Here we have rugged weather and a fickle economy. Jos helped me see the gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and the beauty constantly surrounding us. With beauty feeding our souls we are able to meet the challenges of each day.
Back in 1985 when our daughter Annie was 2 3/4 years old, she came down with a rare children’s disease. Ten days at home despite constant attention from our pediatrician (who made house calls) the disease left her anorexic, lethargic, and very weak. Another week in the Children’s Hospital in Hoechst brought tests and eliminations. It isn’t polio. Not meningitis. What is it? At last the doctor informed us she had Kawasaki Syndrome with neurological side affects. The first such case they’d seen. Every intern and resident doctor came by to see this unusual case. At that time there was no treatment. Annie had to stay in the hospital until the disease subsided. They wanted her close by in case she had a collapse of the cardiovascular system.
My German vocabulary increased - Krankenschwester, Krankenversicherung, Kontrastmittel… Annie had not yet learned German. She soon learned to tell the nurse at naptime - Ich bin nicht mude = I’m not tired.
Life’s challenges have taught me to embrace today for I cannot foretell what tomorrow will bring. Today Annie is a comedian in Chicago. She does not remember her illness, her inability to walk, her pain. Yet she embraces life. Subconsciously, she knows that life is to be embraced.
Today I told Diana to make the homepage fun while she works on our website. This is a family business. Peter developed our first website. Now it’s Diana’s turn. The website is to show you who we are. For a long time, despite my desire to be light-hearted, I worried about the website. Will it stand out? Will it impress people? Will it get people to shop from us?
After much thought I realized that I want a website so our customers can find us and can find a means of contacting us when they are not in town. The purpose of the website is not to sell our products. We want personal contact with people. If you want to buy from us, we want to help you find that perfect piece of art or the picture frame you need. So I hope you enjoy Diana’s light-heartedness as she struggles to complete this project. Our children have whacky senses of humor - enjoy the unicorns. Thanks for the smile, Diana.
Just as dining out prepared me to wait tables, being a tourist prepared Jos and me to own a gallery. Or at least our years visiting Crested Butte as well as other destinations gave us an idea how we wanted to treat our customers. We wanted people to feel welcome when they entered the gallery. We wanted them to feel comfortable browsing and asking quesitions. We wanted families with children to be at ease.
Knowledge of the artwork might have been a plus as well as knowledge of picture framing. We had to learn. Jos had his carpentry skills and his expertise in some European art, especially paintings on porcelain from the 19th century. Me - well I had my bookkeeping skills and my nurturing skills. A large part of running a gallery is nurturing. Artists need encouragement. Our patrons also need direction. So I have learned to transfer my nurturing skills from my children to our artists and our patrons.
In the early days, however, I did not have much knowledge to share. Jos and I attended workshops and learned from Cindy (our employee who had learned from Susan Anderton). We read and we learned by trial and error. At the same time I was busy helping our four children adapt to life in the United States, preparing them for learning in English at school, and keeping track of them over the long summer months.
Cooking is not one of the skills I am noted for. When the fourth of July arrived and we hosted a barbecue, I had to let Jos go home and use his cooking skills to prepare a meal for our family and relatives. This left me in the gallery with my sisters and sister-in-law, enjoying one another’s company and hoping we could handle a customer. It was my first time in the gallery without Jos or Cindy to guide me.
When customers entered, I hid. My sisters and I got the giggles as we feared answering questions. We survived. Eventually, I learned to greet customers instead of hiding from them. I learned the difference between etchings, silkscreens, limited edition prints, watercolors, oils, acrylics, and the like. Whenever customers ask questions, I am happy to share the knowledge I have gained over the past years.
Jos has learned the history of the area and loves sharing his knowledge with our visitors. An art gallery is definitely easier than a restaurant. So glad we’ve had this opportunity to live and work in Crested Butte.
Growing up, I enjoyed time at our family’s cabin in Cuchara. The town center had the General Store and the Chuck Wagon restaurant. My parents became friends of the couple that owned the two establishments.
When I was a teenager, my siblings and I would sleep later than our parents. One morning Dad came back from breakfast at the Chuck Wagon and urged us to get up and dressed. The owners needed help. Suddenly, I was waiting tables in the diner, my sister Donna had the dining room where a private luncheon was being held. My brother Bob and sister Laura took over dishwashing while the owner cooked with my sister Linda’s assistance.
To make matters more challenging the ice machine was broken and we had to make runs to the general store for ice as needed. We had all eaten out regularly so we knew how to take an order and how to set and clear a table.
It was a busy morning and got busier as the private party showed up for the dining room. A bit harrassed Donna asked one woman if it was okay if she had iced tea without the ice.
The owner was also the local coroner. As fate would have it, someone in the community had a heart attack and died. The coroner was called out leaving me and my siblings in charge of the busy restaurant.
Since the Chuck Wagon was the only restaurant in the community, our pitching in not only helped the owner but allowed visitors to have a place to eat on that chaotic day.
Maybe my father’s belief in our abilities to help at the restaurant gave me courage to buy an art gallery with my husband and believe we could succeed.