Tuesday, August 22, 2017

For Better or Worse...

Earlier today, I added a post called, "Balancing Acts".  If you're interested in reading it, you can certainly scroll back or CLICK HERE.  In it, I outlined a general path for my own personal growth and how I wanted to develop changes in my life.  I talk about finding and maintaining balance and some of my general thoughts on the subject.

I think though that some of the language was misconstrued as an attack or a passive aggressive jab.  That was not my intention and I apologize to anyone who felt as though I was directing my words at them.  The people I vaguely mentioned know my feelings very clearly and there is no need for guessing or self-blame.  If you read what I wrote and wonder, "Is he talking about me?" and there hasn't been previous correspondence about it, in all likelihood, it wasn't about you.  The folks who I wrote about know it was about them, as I made my thoughts known to them.

So... in the words of a beloved friend, "Snap out of it!"  Insert silly face emoji here.

Instead of reading between the lines, enjoy the fresh night air, make something, or try and understand yourself better.  I encourage you to write about your own thoughts and feelings.  My posts are my way of ordering my thoughts and writing through my thought processes.  For me, it helps tremendously.  Sometimes that strikes a note with others and may inspire them, but mostly my writing is for myself.  I am not a guru or a life coach.  I don't pretend to know in-depth about psychology or about how others should best lead their lives.  I am exploring my own path and trying to work through my own issues.

I'm reminded of a Golden Girls episode where they find Rose's diary and Blanche and Dorthy think that she's writing terrible things about them, when in actuality, she was writing about the pigs she raised.  Hijinks ensue as they get to the bottom of it.  Rose is hurt because of the invasion of privacy and the lack of trust that her friends have in her.  In the end, they make up and everything is all better.

I know the show is just a comedy from the 80's, but there are life lessons there.  I think one of them is that one shouldn't assume the worst.  If we are friends, please think better of me.  Please trust me and know that my life includes many, many, many people and that if we have a connection, I will always make my thoughts and feelings known.  For better or worse, I speak my mind.  And you never know... I could be writing about pigs!

As for what follows now, while I'm acknowledging the misunderstandings and apologizing for unintentionally hurting anyone, I'm going to chalk it up as Mercury being retrograde.  This isn't to diminish or marginalize any concern that might have been brought to my attention.  But Mercury going retrograde is the poster child for miscommunications, delays, and hurt feelings!  What I've found is that if you fight against these things, it only gets worse.  The frustration grows.  But if you speak from the heart, try not to let things get to you, approach things with humor and humility, and move forward with purpose and an attempt at clarity... well, the damage is lessened.

Balancing Acts...

As I try to cultivate a more mindful existence, in-tune with the experiences of my life, I notice the reoccurring theme of balance.  I see how when things are balanced, I feel more connected with the moment and more insightful.  This isn't to say that I experience GRAND revelations or some otherworldly perceptions, it feels just "more right".  It feels like the coincidences and random happenings of life seem to align and the pattern that connects these seemingly arbitrary acts of chance coalesce and make sense.  Maybe not complete and total sense, but more sense than otherwise.  However, when there's an imbalance, everything sort of careens into chaos.  In most cases, it's nothing too dramatic, but they are the everyday frustrations that seem to pollute any kind of mental peace or wellbeing.  The little pebbles in the shoe seem to add up until they feel so much bigger and larger and more imposing than they really are.  Because really, most of the things that I fret over are very little indeed.

Much of maintaining balance is how I deal with things and in essence, my own personality traits.  Sometimes when there's a problem in the world, I look inside myself to see why it is a problem.  The world is a mirror to the self.

I struggle a lot with my relationships in life.  Part of me wants to be the fun-loving, popular kid surrounded by friends and at the heart of all the bustle.  The other part of me is more quiet, contemplative, and prone to solitude, existing on the edges and away from the crowd.  I have to admit that I am growing ever more towards enjoying isolation.  I find it harder and harder to "deal" with people nowadays.  I get this sensation that they want more of my time and energy than I am willing to give... and there becomes a struggle.  Maybe because I realize that I don't have the boundless energy of youth and that I feel the consequences of being depleted and feel them profoundly.  Sometimes people try to pressure me and try to emotionally manipulate me and control me.  I get it.  They may not be actively and intentionally doing it, but it's there.  Each of us has that hunger for more energy and we go to where we think we can find it.  Sometimes that's in another person.  Sometimes it is from a compulsion or a passion.  Sometimes it's from a physical place or a way of life.

As I become more mindful of these situations, I realize that part of this is my own fault.  I can't say that it is someone else's issues.  We all have issues.  The source though of my own struggles is myself.  I've created these psycho dramas where I put myself out there, as far as I can, and then run the other direction and hide.  It's a seesaw.  It's an imbalance.  I put myself in situations where I create dependency and expectation.  I put myself in roles where I am a source of energy and then I am shocked when people come to me for that energy that I offer.  And when I say "energy" it comes in many forms – it could be time, emotional receptiveness, mental headspace, or even physical objects that are imbued with my intention.

So it comes back around to... how to deal with the imbalances?

I wrote a little bit about my intentions on Facebook about seeking a level zero, completing all the outstanding projects and promises, and then sort of work from an even place of existence.  Also, not creating situations where there is a perpetual cycle of overextending myself or offering more than I have to give at any given moment.  I often use what I am capable of as a form of energetic currency, and I am finding that it's a higher price than I am willing to pay on most days.  It wears me down and makes me feel exhausted.  It's okay to say, "No, thank you."  For so long, I was conditioned to say yes to everything and while that served its purpose, it also created an imbalance.  I have to remind myself to say yes to the things that make my heart sing and say no to the things that do not speak to me, moving me by intuition and a higher guidance and alignment.  So the current goal is getting back to zero, where my commitments are maintained and not allowed to go too far one way or the other.

I think another important thing for me is establishing boundaries, both mental and physical.  I've put myself in a situation where people can contact me so easily and that ease of connection allows more people freedom to attempt to engage in this energy exchange.  I've been trying to channel my communications and engage in exchanges only when I feel ready to, instead of when others feel ready to.  And it has been met with struggle.  When you offer easy access and then pull away, there is friction and frustration.  Sometimes people get mad, thinking that I am ignoring them or not wanting to interact.  That's not always true.  For me, I need to communicate in the ways that do not constantly impede on the flow of my energy.  For instance, when I sit down to finish a project and then my phone lights up with notifications, instead of allowing the energy from the Universe to connect to my head, my heart, and hand and then to the act of creation, the notifications are distracting me from this.  Instead of focusing, I worry over if I've offended someone or if they are mad at me that I am not fast enough or did what they wanted to their satisfaction and then I freeze up.  I get tired by this constant EXTRA expenditure of energy, this control drama that repeats so often because I allow it to.  I've attempted to course-correct by becoming a hermit in some ways.  I don't leave the house and limit my social interactions.  This was mostly borne from feeling emotionally wiped out from the constant expelling of energy and wanting to create a private, safe space where I didn't give any energy away.  While this has been good in some ways, it has also been bad in others.  Again, it comes back to finding balance. The idea is to get back to zero, where there is not an imbalance, where there are meaningful exchanges of energy and everyone can feel that equilibrium and equality.

Of course, like most balancing acts, it looks easier than it really is.  A tightrope walker looks so graceful and effortless, but that wasn't always the case.  Their sublime relaxed composure, in the face of staggering heights and dizzying consequences, was carefully cultivated.  Balancing acts are all about active and conscious participation, and hopefully after purposeful and mindful practice, that effort becomes second nature and flows easily and beautifully.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Little Garden...

I don't really have time for a garden.  But... still... I try to grow one.  A garden is a reminder of the miracles of life that surround us and a lesson in caring for something other than yourself.  It's also a chance to slow down and give over to the sheer act of physical labor.  Hauling water and pulling weeds don't give much room to mull over the state of the country or the doldrums of adulting.  Even if thoughts of such things cross your mind, they seem like small matters compared to the task at hand.  A garden is also a lesson in patience and reward.  If you mind your garden and care for the plants, keeping them watered, fed, and free from competition, riches will emerge like shining jewels – a single tomato, brighter and more intense than any ruby or glowing garnet.  A small treasure that tastes of sunshine and summer soon gone.

Like most things worth doing, if you give of yourself and your time, nurturing it with love and tender devotion, it too will nourish you.  If you give, you will get back.

The lessons aren't always easy ones or entertaining.  We are made to remember that sometimes, no matter how much we love and water, pick, pluck, prune, and coddle... some things just aren't meant to be.  A garden, like life, is all about taking chances.  Will the weather be good?  Will a blight take hold?  Will slugs, ants, and other insects take notice?  Sometimes our best efforts just aren't enough or are too much, for a heavy hand can be just as bad as a negligent one.  We are taught in the language of leaves and stems, roots and flowers, that life is a balancing act and that it is fleeting and we must rejoice in the harvest when we can!

I don't really have time for a garden, but... still... I try, because it is a quiet teacher and what it offers to learn is important and well worth the time and effort.  A little garden is a teacher with big lessons.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pruning...

In the house that we moved into, there is a grapevine that grows along the back porch.  While it was a beloved feature, it had become unruly and the grapes were suffering.  The clusters would blacken and wither before they could ripen, filled with a powdery mold.  Not only did it threaten to pull down the gutters, but it also provided a safe haven for undesirable critters.

Earlier this year, I decided to finally tackle the grapevine.  It was a HUGE project, involving hours of careful removing of dead vines and plant debris.  I also attempted to train the remaining vines, so that they wouldn't grow into the window screens or pull down the downspouts.  My arms and legs showed the evidence of my vine wrangling.

Once I had finished, I was a little nervous.  It felt oddly stark and barren.  I had taken for granted that the extra vines that were no longer alive and were harming the living ones had provided shade and privacy.  I started to regret my decision.  It was something that I knew needed to happen, but it felt a little too different.

It's the height of summer now and all thoughts of those naked vines and empty gaps are a distant memory.  The grapevine came back vigorously and profited greatly from the much needed pruning.  The leaves have turned into an impenetrable wall of green.

What I learned from this is that sometimes you've got to remove the dead and diseased things in your life, even if you've grown comfortable with them.  Taking the steps that you know you need to make, opens up your life for lush new growth and abundance.  I've started to examine my life through this lens.  What brings me joy?  What brings me frustration?  What steps can I make to remove the unhealthy things that prevent future prosperity and well-being?  What relationships in life inspire, challenge, and encourage me... and how can I maintain, feed, and promote them?  What relationships weigh me down, invite unwanted feelings, and are toxic... and how can I either change myself to be better equipped to handle them or how can I initiate closure?  It won't necessarily be easy or be quick, but they are steps I know that I have to make.  Just look at the grapevine.  I am looking forward to the sweet rewards for all my efforts.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Brambles and Webs...

Once, when I was very young, I wandered into a blackberry bramble.  As soon as I felt the needle pricks through the fabric of my pants, I panicked.  I tried to free myself.  But the more I struggled, the more I got tangled.  The more I jerked towards freedom, the deeper the scratches.  Like a butterfly in a spiderweb, fighting only made it worse.

I wish that I could say that I had a moment of clarity and that I relaxed and surrendered to the moment, slowly unwinding from my thorny captors.  But, it didn't quite play out like that.  My father heard my screams and sobs, and in a flurry of curses and adult stature, he swooped me up and rescued me.  I was free, but it cost.  My pants were ripped and my legs were crisscrossed with ruby lines.  The scars are only memories now, long since faded.

Life is a little like that sometimes.

Tempted by a berry, we can stumble into a thicket.  We can become trapped in the needling fray.  Our wings can get stuck, rendering us incapable of flight.  I find that the solutions are the same as when I was young... find the peace inside myself or surrender to a Higher Power, something bigger than myself.

The question then becomes... what is peace?  I often times hear people use the word, "peace" as though it were an otherworldly state of extreme serenity, devoid of all conflict or inconsistencies.  If this is what peace is, I've never known it.  The world around us, the greatest teacher, has never known this perfect purity.  The world... life... it is raked across with imperfections, deviations, and irregularities.  Even the most tranquil vignette is marked with the song of birds, the sound and feel of wind in the grass, and the sometimes subtle and sometimes savage cycle of birth and death.  Life is a riot of colors and sensations.  Does this mean that "peace" does not exist?  No. Rather, peace is a verb, not a noun.  Peace is a mindset to tolerate, to compensate, to surrender, to allow, to maintain, to be compassionate.  Peace is the action of finding stillness and holding on to it.  Found deep within, peace is a way to look outside yourself and the moment.

In this sense, discovering peace and surrendering to a Higher Power, are not so different things.  Both require a measure of faith, an act of believing.  This isn't about theology.  It could be.  And maybe it is for some.  But this is about being apart of something bigger.  Even the spiderweb is a collection of silk threads, strong and purposeful.  It is created by design.

We can go through life avoiding the brambles.  We can walk a path, running away from possible dangers and avoiding hurt.  But the berry will be plucked by another who is less fearful.  The brambles are still there, teaching their lessons to those who will listen.  Life is still unpredictable and chaotic.  The spider will still weave its web.  We can endeavor to exist safe in homogeny or surrender to the wild, conquering our fears and championing what ignites our hearts, and find a path through the thicket... unscratched as possible, or at the very least, alive to tell the tale crisscrossed by memories, but no less beautiful.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Days Like These...

I'll skip the hollow promises of blogging more.  While there is every intention to communicate in a more meaningful way and return to my roots, it seems like now just isn't the right time.  Days like these seem to slip-slide by in a runny blur of activity and I am just not in that mindset at the moment.

For the past few months, I've sort of been in a fog.  Deadlines loom like hanging swords and unmet expectations weigh heavily.  I find myself feeling scrapped raw emotionally and navigating the everyday world has not been easy.  Despite everything, I persist.  I try to wear a brave face and try to carry on.  It feels like the smallest efforts are manufactured miracles, summoning up more than what I've got to give.

I think the worst part is the feeling of guilt.  For the most part, I have everything that I want and need.  Of course, there's always more that could be desired or acquired, but at the heart of it, I have a good life.  It isn't always easy, but it is still worthwhile and rewarding.  But at the same time, there's a swirl of feelings that is elusive and impenetrable like a dense mist – once you clear a spot, it fills back in.

Reminding myself to be patient (with myself and others) has helped.  Also remembering that even though one might have many blessings, it is still okay to feel disconnected and it is still okay to struggle.  It helps to focus on gratitude and to fill the heart with appreciation, but still... days like these can be slippery, sneaky things that contain hidden barbs and unexpected jabs to the heart.

Small steps.  Quiet footfalls.  Fumbling.  But still moving forward.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Whiskey Miracle Pony Sculpture...

Meet Whiskey the Miracle Pony!  He has had quite the journey.  He survived living with a broken, locked, and fused jaw for over ten years!  He braved surgeries and fought through kidney failure.  He has quite the remarkable story.  CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.

Now that I've introduced you to Whiskey, let me tell you a little bit about what I've been up to.  I was commissioned to create a piece based on Whiskey.  I happily accepted and started working.

What I came to discover, fairly quickly, was that this was going to be a much bigger job that I originally thought it'd be.  (Seems like the ongoing theme of my life.)  In any event, while I have ridden a horse a few times and am fairly familiar with their general shape and silhouette, I didn't know the first thing about actual horse anatomy.  Most of the things that I sculpt are fantasy-based, so there's a lot of room to play when it comes to proportions and structure.

Creating a likeness based off a beloved animal... well... that would prove to be quite the challenge.

So, it's not just enough to know about horse anatomy, it has to be put into action.  Horses are somewhat visually top-heavy and balance on four sturdy legs... that are very slender and long in comparison to the powerful weight of the rest of the body.  The problem with that is that when working in polymer clay, you simply can't just make legs and bake them and have them stand up.  Polymer gets extremely soft and flexible while heating and the poor horse sculpture would topple over.  So an armature is necessary.  With a lot of pieces, a simple wire armature is all that is needed.  However, twisted wire wouldn't cut the mustard for this piece.






I ended up covering the wire armature in solder.  Giving the piece internal strength, the solder reinforced the joints and points of connection, while remaining somewhat flexible and movable.

Once I had the armature ready, I drilled holes in the feet and planned it out how it would sit on the base... which was another interesting process.  Originally I wanted to put him on a petrified wood slab, but when I went to drill it, it cracked.  So, I opted for a more forgiving medium.  I bolted the armature down with some micro-bolts.









Then, I fleshed it out with aluminum foil to create volume and musculature.  I next covered the piece in layers of polymer and roughed out the shapes and added detail.

Now, this is where it also becomes tricky.  Whiskey is a living, breathing, very distinctive animal... that, to be honest, doesn't look the same in any picture.  The early pictures show him with shaggy hair, later ones with huge shaved portions, later post surgery pictures include big changes to his facial anatomy, and changing colors with the season and the camera lighting.  It wasn't easy coming up with a sculpt that combined everything and created an overall impression of Whiskey.

I tried my best and think I came up with something that captures the spirit of the brave pony.

The next challenge was the paint job.  In theory, it should be easy... right?  Actually, no, it's not that easy.  Horse hair has an almost reflective quality, with a healthy sheen that makes black look like toasted chestnut.  I wanted to capture that iridescent quality without actually painting it iridescent.  So I built up layers and washes and brushstrokes and more layers.  I think I did a fair job.  It's not exact, but I think that I'd need to invest in an air brush to really get that horse-hair quality.  Either that or work in thinner washes in oils.

Whiskey has a very particular crooked smile.  I went about making tiny teeth and filing them down and aging them and setting them.  Not all that easy!  I wanted to capture the energy of his face without rendering it too detailed.  I did want to keep the sculpture on the more whimsical side.



I also encountered a problem with the eyes.  The more I baked them, the greener they got and the smaller they looked in the head.  Whiskey has very distinctive blue eyes that are almost a periwinkle.

To address this, I had to build up layers of liquid polymer and paint to create the new eyes.



 As with most things in my studio, the longer they stick around, the more I start to nitpick at them.  I decided that after I had changed the eyes, that I didn't like how they looked now.  They popped out a little too much.

The solution to the eye-popping was to create some patches and carefully add on material.  Since I had already painted it, this became someone problematic and I had to work around that.  I also had to repaint the face, which I think turned out better. I smoothed out some of the texture, and I think that helps dramatically.
Here it is!  All done!  Well... maybe!  Even though I sealed the base, I might go back and embellish it or stain it and make the grain pop a little more.  I also might stamp the name and add it.  But here it is, as it is now... mostly done.

If you're curious to find out more about Whiskey, CLICK HERE.  Even though Whiskey has made great strides, there's still a long road ahead for recovery.  Unfortunately, these procedures are very expensive and they require them to do fundraising events to help pay for these operations.  If you get a chance, make sure to attend one and show your support for this amazing creature!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wonder Woman Contest...

I grew up watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.  My sisters took turns playing her, roping each other (and me) with the Lasso of Truth, and floating dolls with fishing line to recreate the invisible jet.  Cardboard tubes painted gold became the Bracelets of Submission.  Sometimes our mom even joined in on the game!  I grew up watching a strong female character empower girls to be heroes and save the day instead of needing to be saved.  I didn't know it then, but early on it instilled in me a sense of gender equality.  Women could be strong and powerful.  Women could be courageous and bold.  Later, when I started to learn about feminism, I found that those concepts already lived in me.  Our childhood games, inspired by a TV show, prepared us.

Over the decades, I've been surprised that there weren't real efforts to reboot the series or portray Wonder Woman on the big screen.  It seemed like there was always a Batman or Superman movie coming out, but it was curious how Wonder Woman's character never seemed to be revived.  That's why I got very excited when I heard that they were working on a movie about her!

To celebrate the release of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, Allegory Gallery is hosting a little contest!*

Create a piece of jewelry inspired by Wonder Woman and be entered to win a $40 gift certificate from Allegory Gallery! Send a picture and a short description to us before NOON EST on June 2nd for a chance to win! One winner will be selected and announced at midnight. Send your submission to info@allegorygallery.com. 

The fun doesn't end there! The Allegory Gallery crew is going to the movies! Want to hang out with us and watch the film? Join us at the Diamond Theatre of Ligonier at 7PM on June 2nd for opening night! We will have Wonder Woman-inspired goodie bags while supplies last! Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for children 10 and under, and an additional $4 per seat for VIP seating! We hope to see you at the movies!

*Disclaimer: This contest is not associated, affiliated, and/or sponsored by Atlas Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, DC Entertainment, or DC Comics.

Ligonier Art Walk...

I'm getting excited for the Ligonier Art Walk!  The event is coming up soon and is only a handful of days away!  Allegory Gallery is participating with a bunch of other venues on Saturday, May 27th to celebrate art and creativity.  We are pleased to represent Chicago-based modern folk artist, Mystele Kirkeeng.  Her mixed media pieces are truly inspiring.  We hope that people will come out and show their support for the arts in our area!  We would love to have people join us for this awesome opportunity to see and experience artwork!

Resin Reliquary Class...

We had a fun day at the Allegory Gallery Reliquary Doll Class!  Since I'm not at the store anymore on a regular basis, I don't often teach much these days.  (Even though I didn't always teach formal classes, it always seemed like I was sitting down with someone to show them how to make something.)  It was definitely good to connect with people over creativity and hopefully give them some useful techniques that they'll be able to add to their art-making tool boxes.  We had a delightful group!  We didn't all finish our projects, even after working hard all day, but I hope everyone had a good time and is set-up for success and can complete their projects independently.

I hope that they'll share pictures of their work when they're done!  All of the students did an excellent job and had some really interesting concepts going.  All they have to do is bring everything together.  Here are a few pictures from the class:
Process pictures from the Reliquary Doll Class.

Lennis Carrier and Andrew Thornton at the Reliquary Doll class.

Chris Harris at the Reliquary Doll Class.

Lennis Carrier with her bird-head at the Reliquary Doll Class.

Alison Adorns with her creation at the Reliquary Doll Class.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Inspired by Reading: April Reveal...

For April, the Inspired by Reading Book Club read a delightfully interconnected novel by Armistead Maupin called, "Tales of the City".  The book starts off with one of the main characters deciding to stay in San Francisco during the mid-70's.  She finds an apartment in a house presided over by the ever-so quirky landlord, Anna Madrigal.  From there, it introduces a wonderfully vibrant cast of characters and weaves their lives together.  I love how rich the depictions were and even though the book is over 40 years old, it didn't seem dated or stale.  This isn't always the case; sometimes I'll pick up "great works of the day" and once they're out of context or the buzz has died down, they seem to lose their zip and sparkle.  Not so with this title!  Maupin worked his magic and flash-froze the era filled with zesty details.

Here is my submission for "Tales of the City".  It's a long, strung necklace with rose quartz, amethyst, brass, vintage Czech glass, and polymer clay by me. The polymer clay beads feature a paisley cane pattern that I made.  I was inspired by Anna Madrigal and her flamboyant, bohemian style and her purple kimonos and purple paisley dressing gowns.  I also thought the amethyst was a nice nod to the references about being in the Age of Aquarius. (Amethyst is the birthstone for Aquarius.)  The brown is an allusion to the brown shingles of the building, which one of the characters says is like bear fur.  Rose quartz is usually used to symbolize love and friendship, which are central themes in the book.  I used a yellow brass as a nice contrast to the purples. The flower bead caps remind me of a 70's floral print and dress up the polymer.  I strung the piece so that there's no beginning or end, a nod to the way all the stories seem to circle back on each other and connect.

I really liked the book! (There were definitely some sketchy characters I didn't like, but I was charmed by most of the lavishly fleshed out figures that populate Maupin's world.) I loved how nuanced and detailed all the characters were and how the book captures the vibe of mid-70's, post-Summer of Love San Francisco. I definitely want to read more in this series!

To find out more about our book club, CLICK HERE.  You can also join our Facebook page by CLICKING HERE.  Up next is, "Mistborn: The Final Empire" by Brandon Sanderson.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Book Club Tips...

GoRead.com did a feature on book clubs and Allegory Gallery's very own Inspired by Reading was featured in it!  I was happy to be interviewed about our book club and share it with others.  The article had some really great insights on running a successful book club.  To read the post, CLICK HERE.  And to join our Facebook group for Inspired by Reading, CLICK HERE.

Small Business in Rural America...

Remember this little gem of press?  Allegory Gallery was featured alongside the Amazing Race-winning, goat-raising, book-writing, TV show-making, fabulous Beekman Boys in an article called, "Small Business Ownership in Rural America: Where Community is Everything."  The post appeared on the Insureon blog and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for it.  The piece does an excellent job of outlining some of the benefits and challenges of having a small business in a rural area.  To take a look, CLICK HERE.  You'd think that a blog by an insurance company would be just about... well... insurance, but it's actually packed with all kinds of useful small business tips and interesting spotlights.  For instance, there's THIS post about small business activism.  As a small business owner, I've found their content super fascinating!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Make It Artsy: Episode 212...

One of the things that I wanted to do when I got asked to appear on Make It Artsy was to help promote and shine a light on other artists.  I firmly believe that the rising tide raises all boats.  This project dovetailed perfectly with that intention.  Episode 212 is all about your personal style.  In my segment, I feature a collaborative fabric book project that spotlights your individual artistic aesthetic and documents creative explorations in various mediums.  I show how to get started and share examples of the fabric book pages.  The examples highlight work by Kecia Deveney and Lynne Suprock!

The new series has already started airing and you can catch it on most public television channels.  Check your local listings to see if you can watch Make It Artsy where you are.  (And if you can't, do be kind and suggest it to your local PBS channel.)  Of course, you can always see my slice of the show above (through YouTube) and you can get the full instructions and see examples created by Kelly Russell simply by CLICKING HERE.

Make It Artsy: Episode 210...

Episode 210 of Make It Artsy is all about wearing your artwork.  The episodes also include segments with Candie Cooper, Susan Lenart Kazmer, and Jane Dunnewold.  In this short mini-segment, I show how to create a necklace from fabric book pages.  If you want to see the fabric books, tune in to Episode 212.  The 200 series started airing on March 30th!  Make sure to check your local listings to see when and where you can see it where you live.  If you can't access the show near you, take a gander above (through YouTube) or check their website.  CLICK HERE to visit their page.

Make It Artsy: Episode 207...

I was fortunate enough to be able to appear on Public Television's Make It Artsy.  It was a lot of fun.  Episode 207 is all about books!  In my segment, I show how to create a sculptural book cover.  The new series started airing on March 30th.  Check your local listings for channels and times.  If you can't find it locally, you can see my portion above through YouTube and on their website.  CLICK HERE to visit the Make It Artsy website.  You can get full instructions on how to make this by CLICKING HERE.

Catching Up...

There was a time when missing a day of blogging would make me panic a little... let alone a month or more!  At one point, I was posting three or four times a day.

In addition to taking some time off from the internet to ground and center, I've been posting more on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Now that I have a smart phone and reliable internet, it is so easy to upload ideas and images to those forums.  I still miss blogging though and I see how the act of blogging has helped me a lot in organizing my thoughts.  It takes a little time and forces you to pick your words and not fire off so easily.  With some of the other ways that I share the inner workings of my brain, it is dangerously easy to get in trouble by reacting and posting without really being mindful.  That can happen with blogging too, but I feel like there's more work in composing a post and formatting it, that those extra steps help alleviate some of those rash put-your-foot-in-your-mouth moments.

I also see blogging as a valuable tool to preserve things.  I've noticed that some of the other social media platforms are somewhat ephemeral and you have to really dig to find content that you created that you're looking for.  For instance, if I was curious about what I did at any given point throughout the many years of blogging, all I'd have to do is search the date and there it'd be.  It's a little bit harder with the more immediate platforms.

So, I'm going to be more mindful about posting here as well, even if the content is duplicated.  (Sorry folks who follow me in multiple places!)  I imagine it'll take some time to get back into the rhythm of posting on a regular basis.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Deeper Roots...

When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money and there were problems at home. Books were one of my safe places. In them, I could escape any trouble and let my imagination run wild. Reading was a gift that helped me better myself.  I found my wings in the pages of books and those wings could take me anywhere!

I was lucky that the librarians at my school didn't mind my insistent questions. When I had exhausted our library and sought deeper insight on subjects, my librarian said, "You know, there is a bigger library."

I used to bum rides with neighbors and even my older sister's boyfriend at the time. When that failed, I would ride my bike five miles along a busy highway and then five miles back when they kicked me out. I can see my 10-year old self with my ratty combat boots, cut-off denim shorts, a Dollar Store "Welcome to Florida" t-shirt, and a backpack held together with safety pins and patches, peddling frantically across one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. Sometimes I would treat myself with a can of Sprite and a roll of Lifesavers purchased at the 7-Eleven down the street. This was luxury to me – a can of warm soda, hard candy, and a book.

Education is so important, especially in these uncertain times. Reading opened my eyes to the possibility that I could make my life better. I could create any world that I wanted. I could overcome anything, if I embraced my imagination and let it fly.

That's why when I heard about the Ligonier Valley School District Foundation and their efforts to help raise money for the local Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, I jumped at the opportunity to help.  Winter is a slow time of year at the shop and we don't have a lot of extra money right now, so I gave what we could, but I still wanted to do more.  So, I embraced my imagination and creativity and created these Deeper Roots Pendants.

They're made out of polymer clay and feature a quote by Dolly Parton.  It reads, "storms make trees take deeper roots".  I love the words, the message, and the symbolism; I thought that it was very fitting for this project as well.  We'll donate all our profits from the sales of these pendants to this fundraiser to hopefully increase our contribution.  To see the pendant in our Etsy shop, CLICK HERE.  To learn more about the fundraiser and to donate directly, CLICK HERE.

Please consider helping another kid out there find a safe place in the power of words and give them wings to soar!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Broken Things...

I've always had a soft spot for broken things – the things that get left behind, discarded, or passed over.  And it's not just with things either.  Some of my favorite people were the ones that were last in line, never picked first, and have known great hardship.  Even if we never actually talk about what we've had to endure, we look at each other and we just know.  There's a tribe of the wounded hearts and broken spirits.  There's a family of people who have had to overcome and rise up and are stronger for it.  These are my people.

When I'm making things, especially to fill an order, I usually make a few extra just in case.  I've been in situations where I've made just enough and then something happens and I'm short.  So nowadays, I make a few extra just in case.

I have a drawer that's filled with the pieces that are not perfect.  It's true that all of my pieces have little hallmarks of the human hand, tiny nicks and dings and fingerprints, but some have more than others and I pull those.  I don't want a customer to question the quality if they got one that was defective.  So I keep the broken ones.  And I have to admit, sometimes they're my favorite.  I never sell them, but I keep them and mend them and make them whole again.

In Japan, they have a method called, "kintsugi".  It's also called, "kintsukuroi".  It's a technique of repairing broken pottery and ceramics with a lacquer mixed with gold.  Instead of discarding or hiding a broken piece, it celebrates them and elevates them.


For instance, I recently made a bunch of these bronze coins.  Sometimes when I'm pressing them out, there are certain areas that are thinner than others.  And sometimes in the firing process, the area is so thin that it burns away and leaves a little fissure.  I can't sell them like that, so I keep them.

I keep them for a rainy day, when I have time to sit down with them and see how I can help.  Usually things hang around a long while before I get back to them.  I so rarely have free time and sometimes the fixes are easy and sometimes they're more involved.  So that drawer is awfully full.

With these pendants, I ended up patching up the tears in the coins.  I soldered them shut with a few metal shavings.  Even though I've fixed them, they're still a little wonky.  I won't sell them.  I'll just hold on to them for myself or maybe I'll leave them some place, so that just the right person will find them and hopefully cherish them in all their imperfect glory as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

New Fine Silver Pendants...

I've been on a roll lately working on things.  I should be making other stuff, but I've learned not to ignore the muses while they're present.  So I ran with the inspiration and produced several limited edition pieces.

We recently rewatched the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Even decades later, the show remains relevant.  This is both good and bad.  I think it's good, because so often popular entertainment can lose its magic once the then current events have passed and seem woefully dated.  I watched a satyrical comedy show from the 70's not too long ago and unless you are keyed into what was happening (sometimes so specifically as that week the episode aired), the punchlines fall flat.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show continues to be enjoyable and poignant many years later.  How can that be bad, you might ask?  Well, a lot of themes of the show center around women's rights and equality.  When you see Mary's character struggle for equal pay as one of her male counterparts and realize that that STILL happens is mind-blowing and a little frustrating.

In any event, when we heard that Mary Tyler Moore passed away, we were both saddened by the news.  We also rewatched the Dick Van Dyke Show and enjoyed her performance on that show as well.  Mary Tyler Moore was an advocate for the arts, for health, and animals.  She was really a remarkable person and I was moved to create this pendant.

I carved a stamp that says, "Love is all around".  This comes from the lyrics of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the chorus being: "Love is all around, no need to waste it.  You can never tell, why don't you take it.  You're gonna make it after all.  You're gonna make it after all."  I think it's an important message to remember.  Love IS all around and each of us has to reach out and take it.  CLICK HERE to check in out on our online shop.

I originally carved this dragon to be included in my polymer clay and porcelain line.  (And even faux porcelain!  CLICK HERE to see the faux porcelain dragon pieces with the cool green celadon-inspired color.)  Dragons are curious creatures and exist in several different cultures around the world.  Depending on the culture (and the type of dragon), their symbolism changes, but a general feel of what they represent is power, strength, and courage.  They are also guardians and protectors and often times stand sentinel over mysteries, secrets, and treasure.  Dragons are often associated with the elements and are thought of as timeless.  This dragon looks like an air dragon to me.  To me, it represents a fearsome courage and freedom.  If you can face your fears, you can bask in great riches.  I've been feeling the need to call upon the dragon totem lately and as a result, I decided to make one for myself.  While I was at it, I thought others might enjoy it, so I made a few extra.  CLICK HERE to see it in our Etsy shop.

Life isn't always easy.  While there are many blessings in this world, it can seem as though there are as many or more bad things lurking out there.  It can be overwhelming and totally consuming if you let it.  The darkness sometimes feels so oppressive.  We can either give into this or we can chose to shine brightly.  To be a light in the dark isn't easy.  It requires us to draw power from a deeper place and be mindful to nurture and protect this tender flame.  In the middle of the night, when shadows loom tall and ominous and everything is swathed in a velvety blackness, a shiver of fear creeps down your spine, as you miss the warmth, radiance, and reassurance of life given from the sun... but even on the darkest of nights, pinpricks of light can be found burning defiantly in the dark.  This pendant is a reminder to "be a light in the dark".  CLICK HERE to take a closer gander at it.

One of my friends and customers recommended that I make a unicorn pendant.  Sometimes suggestions strike a cord and other times they don't.  This one hit home and I started carving immediately.  The unicorn is a really fascinating fantastical creature.  It symbolizes purity, grace, healing, joy, and life.  At the same time, it can also represent protection and strength.  The unicorn is often depicted as a guardian of magic and faith.  The unicorn has even been used to tell the story of Jesus in the Unicorn Tapestries.  For a fun read, check out Zombies VS. Unicorns.  Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier edited this anthology of colorful short stories by some of the leading contemporary young adult authors.  

I've got an order to make a few more of these in bronze, but once these are gone, I think I'll retire the design (at least for now).  It's not that I don't like it.  I do!  I just think that sometimes things, like unicorns, are special because they're rare.  I go through phases where I want to make a million of one thing so that everyone can get one and then there are times when I just want to make one or a precious handful.  CLICK HERE to get one while you still can!