Friday, February 28, 2014

Found Object Series with Guest Artist K Wayne Thornley

Found Object Fridays: We artists love our collections don't we? Even as a child I remember foraging through flea markets and looking for special trinkets that caught my eye. Going for walks, to this day I find myself scanning the ground looking for interesting bits of metal or unique rocks to add to my collections. Long before I knew what I would be doing with them, I collected objects that pulled on something inside of me. As an artist I was thrilled to find there are others who love and collect little oddities and curiosities too. 

Over the course of ten Fridays I am honored to introduce ten different guest artists who will share some of the objects they love. You may recognize some of these names, while others may be new to you, each one is somebody whose style I admire. Check out the photos of their found object-and in a virtual show and tell, read about how it caught their attention and what they plan to do with it. Then check out their bios and links to learn more about each artist. . .


When I decided to do a series on found objects, I immediately thought to invite K Wayne Thornley. As an assemblage artist, I knew he was bound to have a collection of unique and interesting objects to chose from, and as a painter and mixed media artist whose style I so greatly admire, I just plain wanted the opportunity to hear and see what he finds inspiring. 

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce K Wayne Thornley . . .

What is it?
The found object - or in this case, objects - I wanted to share with you are three old and stained cotton velveteen sashes. I believe they are sashes worn by members of Shriners International. I could be wrong, but they look similar to other Shriner regalia.

Where did you find it or purchase it?
I found these mixed in with a bunch of old men’s neckties from the 40s and 50s at an estate sale. They had settled to the bottom of a small cardboard box that held the ties, some old wallets and a few pairs of broken cuff links – personal artifacts now for sale in an overgrown front yard of an old Southern home.

What caught your attention about it?
Because they had settled to the bottom of the container, I felt I was the first one to find them, making them even more special. At flea markets, estate and yard sales, it’s all about the hunt and having the skill to move quickly but inconspicuously through the offerings. Once I scan the scene for obvious treasure, I look for things under tables or inside drawers of old furniture – places most people don’t think to look. That is, until they see you find something great, right? These sashes stood out among the old ties not only for their velvet textures and rich colors, but for the embroidered words, numbers and patterns on each. My assemblage work usually uses numbers, symbols or words that relate to the subject matter of the piece. Sometimes that relationship is very obvious, sometimes it is for the viewer to figure out.

How will you use it?
I often use old swatches of found fabrics, usually to create small bundles that represent personal relics or memories. If I am using a vintage photo of a person, I usually cover the eyes with a clip of fabric, gauze or bookbinding tape. For me, covering the eyes is a powerful way to trigger some pretty primal feelings – anonymity, shame, innocence, a sense of loss, etc. I am sure I will cut and bleach or stain strips of this velvet for that purpose. As I stated, numbers and words also help me tell a story. I know this is how I will use these elements one day, but because the embroidery is so wonderful and you don’t find words like “Prosperity” embroidered on aged velvet every day, I have been reluctant to cut into them. Even the gold embroidered tag in the back of each is interesting to me. As an assemblage artist, you do come across things that speak to you so loudly that you hang on to them until the perfect project comes along. I’ve had these sashes for over 10 years.

K. Wayne Thornley is a mixed media and assemblage artist living in Columbia, SC. His work has been exhibited in shows across the country and featured in publications including Cloth, Paper Scissors Magazine and the book “Mixed Media Self-Portraits” by Cate Coulacos Prato. Wayne also teaches workshops on creativity for school teachers and other artists. You can find him on Facebook here or follow him on Pinterest and see one of his assemblage projects here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Studio Spotlight with Guest Artist Tonia Jenny

For the next ten Wednesday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a glimpse into the spaces that foster their creative process. One of our ten guest bloggers referred to the artist's studio as "Sacred Space", and indeed it is just that for me. Working in the silence of my own studio is the place I am most easily able to connect to my Creator. As our guest artists share images of their own sacred spaces, they tell a bit of their creative process through the answers to four simple questions. Read about the artist in their bio and then explore the links each one will provide to get to know them a little more.
This week I launch the Studio Spotlight Series with guest artist, Tonia Jenny. I first connected with Tonia somewhere in the wide world of social media 4 or 5 years ago where we clicked over common interests and styles. Passionate about social-justice issues, Tonia is a natural encourager. She has a way of recognizing the strengths of others and motivating them to rise to their fullest potential. As an acquisitions editor for North Light Books, Tonia has been able to put these skills to good use scouting for talented artists. And as a Life-Purpose Coach she is taking the advice she has so genuinely shared, and realizing a dream of her own. Join me in welcoming Tonia as she shares her studio space and insight into her creative process:

What is your favorite time of day to create and why?
I would guess my Golden Hours are between 10:00a.m. and 2:00p.m.. I’m a morning person and there are many things I love to do in the earlier parts of the day. However, my left-brain is also at its best in the morning—sometimes a bit too much so for intuitively making art. After 3:00p.m. my brain begins the process of shutting shop for the day, so conjuring up any mental energy—creative included—becomes more challenging and I’m more prone to turning out things I’m unhappy with.

What do you love most about your studio?
That it’s in my home (easy to access) and that it’s truly my space (it can be cluttered if I want to let it be).

What can always be found in your workspace?
At least one clear ruler (a quilting type, or one with a metal edge for cutting), a craft knife, a pencil, cutting mat and tape measure.

What medium would you want to learn if time or money were no issue?
I have two directions: One, I would really like to learn more of the textile and fiber arts: dyeing (I’ve dappled just a little, but would love to explore natural pigments), batik, and spinning. I’d love to learn the art of large loom weaving. Two, I’d love a bit of formal fine jewelry training.


Tonia Jenny is passionate about helping other people recognize their gifts and talents by supporting them as a life-purpose coach. She is the acquisitions editor and senior content developer for North Light Mixed Media. A mixed-media artist and jewelry designer herself, Tonia has authored three North Light books: Duct Tape Discovery Workshop, Plexi Class and Frame It!. When she’s not busy making art, cooking, stitching, reading or exploring new ways of looking at the world, you can find her on her bicycle or on Instagram.
(Crystal's note: You can also visit Tonias blog here)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Redemption Stories Series with Guest Artist Jan Avellena

Redemption Stories Monday: For the next ten Monday's join me in welcoming 10 guest artists as they share a story of redemption from their own life or work. These stories may be a broad overview or observation, or they may be very specific, deep and personal. The post may be very short or very lengthy. I have left the specifics up to each of the ten. View images of their work as you read their words, and bios. Be sure to check out the links each one will provide to learn even more about them. 

To kick off our series, please join me in welcoming Jan Avellana. Jan is a proliferate artist whose mixed media work ranges from digital works, to painted canvases and paper mache sculptures, all with the mission to shine her light into the world through her art. She has been published in numerous mixed media magazines and publications, and was a top 50 finalist in the Lilla Rogers global talent search last year. 

Redeemed through Grace by Jan Avellana

“Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”  (NLT, 2 corninthians 12:9)

Before I was 12, I experienced growing up with an alcoholic and manic depressive parent, endured both mom and dad in the hospital—dad survived a mugging and severe beating and mom had triple bypass open heart surgery. I also knew first hand what it was like to be homeless. It would be wonderful to say that this was all just the unreality of a nightmare, or  that in some seamless grand design, God somehow erased all of those traumatic happenings and I now live happily ever after.

It would be wonderful, yes, but it isn’t the truth.

The truth is I live with the scars of the past. I still live with the memories and the fears that I collected and stored deep inside my bones as a child. As an adult, I continue to struggle with depression. You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t this supposed to be about redemption?” And it is, because of grace.

Yes, it all went down that way. Yes, there are some hurts that never fully heal until we are in the very arms of Jesus in Heaven. Yes, there really is nothing I can do to make the past the way it should have been.

And through it all, there is grace. Grace is a gift. It is like mercy on drugs. Grace brings comfort and meets me in the midst of the mess—takes away the shame of it all—and lets me stand in the truth, brave in the fear and unashamed to bear witness to what it’s really like. Grace empowers me with freedom. Grace enables me to speak the truth in love, to forgive and to accept forgiveness. Grace gives me the power to rise up over all the junk and know that I am made for blessings and to be a blessing to others. Grace lets me shine my light and testify to others that God loves them too.

Grace coats everything like a healing salve. Grace says, “I see that wounds you have and I weep over them with you. I love you, I see you, I feel you.” Grace fills my soul up with hope and encouragement. Grace brings abundance when I have lack. Grace looks squarely in my eyes and tells me, “I have your back. Whatever you need, whatever your weakness, whatever your brokenness, I will take it and make it enough, and in time, even good.”

Yes, good.

Redemption is a process that continues moment by moment, never fearing that grace will run out. The more I have need, the more grace there is. In this truth I stand, imperfect, unfinished, broken, mended and beloved, in the process of being redeemed and dripping from my head to my toes with grace.

I am a late-bloomer, a water woman, a deep-conversations-about-faith-over-dessert-and-hot-cocoa kind of girl. Art is my play and my passion. Art is my way of shining bright. Hello!

My name is Jan Avellana and I am a mixed-media and digital artist with a passion for art, books, deep conversations, and seaside adventures with my three favorite men (ages 7, 9 and 44). With both a Bachelors of Fine Art in Graphic Design and a Master’s of Education in Teaching, I spent the better part of my adult life trying very hard to be a grown-up with a traditional job. After the birth of my two sons, my newfound-mama-love released me to follow my heart, reclaiming the artist that I have always been.

Today, I revel in mixed media and digital illustration, making heartfelt connections with others through art and words.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Announcing Friday Guest Artist Series: Found Object Feature

On Monday I got to tell you about the new series featuring guest artists stories of redemption here. Ten weeks with a different guest artist each week; Stories of beauty rising from ashes. 

On Wednesday I told you about another new series here. Ten weeks of getting to peek into the studio and creative lives of ten different guest artists. As one of those artists, Leslie Avon Miller, described: "sacred spaces that we are honored to get a glimpse of". It is an honor indeed!

And today, something that is so near and dear to my heart, a new series featuring found objects and the artists who love them. Ten weeks, ten artists, ten objects - or likely more. As with any hobby, it is impossible to collect just one, or pick one favorite- as you can see from all the photos from my archives I'm sharing today.

Collecting objects and using them in my art was a passionate pursuit for me way back when I first started exploring mixed media and collage. You can go back in the oldest posts on my blog and see many of the assemblages I made from these items. I collected so many things that it was impossible to use them all, so I sold the overflow on ebay and etsy; forums that brought me many friendships with other artists like you.

Starting next Friday we will hear from a different artist each week and see the objects they find appealing. Each one will tell us what the object is, where they found it, what the plan to do with it and why they were attracted to it.

With each of the three new series, the idea is really to have the opportunity to be inspired by the lives of other creatives. To see that what they are passionate about may be something that excites you as well. And, especially with the Monday and Friday series, the focus is on finding meaning and worth and value in something that may not have had the appearance of having meaning or worth or value at first.

A metaphorical glimpse toward the bits of our lives that we deemed purposeless, for the feelings we all too often may have for ourselves. It is a call to take another look. To cherish what may have caused pain at one time, or to polish up what has been neglected.

It is intended to inspire and fill up our empty tanks. To know that there are others like us. We are not alone!

Are you feeling the excitement yet? You are bound to once you see who will be sharing with us on Fridays, starting next week:

1. K Wayne Thornley - Feb 28th
2.  Rick Farrell - March 7
3.  Seth Apter - March 14
4.  MaryBeth Shaw - March 21
5.  Kariann Blank - March 28
6.  Wen Redmond - April 4
7.  Shary Bartlett - April 11 
8.  Deryn Mentock - April 18
9. Donna Zarbin-Byrne - April 25
10. Barbara Buckles - May 2
BONUS WEEK! 11. Robyn Gordon - May 9

I could yammer on and on about each one of these outstanding artists, how I know them, what exciting things they are involved in, how talented they are, but I will save that for their feature week. In the meantime, be sure to click on each artists name to see their website or blog and get an idea of the fabulousness to come!

If you want to get the scoop on upcoming events; where I am teaching, art openings, publications etc., click on this link and sign up for my e-newsletter.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Announcing Wednesday Guest Artist Series: Studio Spotlight

The excitement buzzing after announcing the new guest artist series on Redemption Stories each Monday is thrilling. So many of you responded via comments on the blog, personal messages and emails letting me know you are eagerly anticipating reading the stories each one of the guest artists will be sharing. 

Imagine then, how excited I am to announce this second series running on Wednesdays!

Yes, ten weeks of Studio Spotlights featuring a different guest artist each week. Oh how curious we are, as creative types, to see where others create. We pour over pictures in magazines, and have entire Pinterest Boards dedicated to other artists studios, hoping to glean ideas from the organizational skills and environments of our peers and those we admire; and even to just be inspired by the view that inspires them!

As in the Monday series, I am so happy and humbled to have had so many guest artists agree to share their creative spaces with us here on my blog. Each one will share at least a couple of shots of their studio or dedicated creative space, even if it is just the kitchen table, and will answer four questions: 

1. What is your favorite time of day to create and why? 2. What do you love most about your studio? 3. What can always be found in your work space? 4. What dream supply would you purchase if money were no issue? - or alternatively – What medium would you want to learn if time were no issue?

To kick us off today, I am featuring shots of my own studio and also answering the interview questions.

1. What is your favorite time of day to create and why? My favorite time to create isn't a specific hour as much as it is about the atmosphere. I am easily distracted, so whether I am writing or working on collage, when the house is quiet and empty I am better able to get into the flow of creativity. Either one requires the ability to tune into what is going on inside of me, to listen to the voice within. If there is activity or noise happening elsewhere it interrupts the flow and I find it dampens my creative voice and ability to be mindful of the work in front of me.

2. What do you love most about your studio? I love that after the number of years I've been working as an artist, I have begun to really understand what I need out of my work environment and have streamlined the room to suit these needs. I especially love that, in spite of the fact that collage is a messy medium to work in, I can tidy up very quickly when I've finished a body of work because of the thought I've put into how and where to store everything.

3. What can always be found in your work space? Absolutely essential - paper and glue. Other supplies can come and go, but what I do always comes down to paper and glue.

4. What dream supply would you purchase if money were no issue? - or alternatively – What medium would you want to learn if time were no issue? My dreams are pretty simple. I have this ginormous antique swing arm paper cutter that I love, but it is cumbersome and difficult for me to cut large sheets of paper to square. After managing to cut a hole in a favorite sweater last week, a new modern paper cutter has moved to the top of my dream priority list. They are expensive, so it may be a while before the coveted tool is mine.

So there you have it, a glimpse into my studio. So who else, I hear you wondering, will we be visiting with over the next ten weeks? Well without further ado. . .

Studio Spotlight - Wednesdays
1. Tonia Jenny - Feb 26
2. Sue Stover - March 5
3. Michel Fletcher - March 12
4. Jason Twiggy Lott - March 19
5. Patrica Oblack - March 26
6. Laura Lein Svencner - April 2nd
7. Tye Johnson - April 9
8. Anca Bonner - April 16
9. Leslie Avon Miller - April 23
10. Kristina Honn-Trudell - April 30

Be sure to click the link to get to know each artist a little and get ready to be inspired!

Come back the Friday to find out what the third ten week series is and who the contributing guest artists are.

Want to be in the know about things before anyone else? My newsletter readers got the scoop earlier in the week. Be sure to sign up here if you don't want to miss out on special announcements, events and workshops.

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Leave me a comment and let me know what you are most looking forward to about this series. Thanks!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Announcing Monday Guest Artist Series: Redemption Stories

"This Very Thing" 6" x 6" Collage work by Crystal Neubauer

Looking back over the posts on my blog of the past several years, I can see a marked progression in doors that have opened and exciting opportunities that I've been able to participate in. I can't help but be hit with a wave of gratitude when I look at my career in this way. And, though I have been practicing the art of collage for going on ten years now, it has only been within the past few that I have had clarity on what it is about the art of collage that draws me in; why I choose the materials I choose to work with, and what the overarching theme of my work is, and really always been. It is the story of redemption, both on a grand and universal scale and in a very small and personal way. 

These bits and scraps of other peoples discards have come to represent so much more to me then just a medium to express myself. They tell a story of triumph and deliverance. Each scrap, if found on its own, may look to be just an ordinary slip of paper, or worse, dirty and worthless trash, but when brought together on the canvas they form a complete picture. The individual pieces each contribute to the larger story and the redemptive beauty can be seen.  

I can remember, as if it were yesterday, sitting in my booth, as an emerging artist, at the American Craft Expo when my eyes were opened to this. Not one piece or bit can be removed from the composition without affecting the entire picture - just as each piece of our past contributes to the whole of who we are today.  

Be sure to head on over to my blog here to read the full story of that profound day, but first I want to introduce ten artists who will be guest blogging for the next ten Mondays. I admire each one of these artists for their unique style and voice and have been touched by their work, words and so much more. Each one has agreed to share a story of redemption from their own life or work. These stories may be a broad overview or observation, or they may be very specific, deep and personal. The post may be very short or very lengthy. I have left the specifics up to each of the ten. 

Oh my! I can hardly sit still in my chair! So honored am I that each one of these very diverse and amazing people said yes! I've linked each one up to their blog or website below so that you can get an idea of the excitement to come. Be sure to come back each Monday, starting next week, as the series begins. 

And as if that isn't enough excitement - stop back by this Wednesday and Friday. I have two more series to announce, each one with another set of ten amazing guest artist contributing! 

Let the fun begin!
Jan Avellana - February 24
Beth Morey - March 10
Amanda Jolley - March 17
Kelly Williams - March 31
Trish Baldwin - April 7
Sue Simpson - April 14
Robin Norgren - April 21
Tessa Emie (Moore) - April 28

Friday, February 07, 2014

"People Never Change" and Other Myths of the Human Spirit

"Revelation" 6" x 6" x 1.5" collage by Crystal Neubauer
Each morning I step out of the shower and look up through the skylight at the large oak tree whose branches reach high over the roof. It is a telling way to mark the seasons. The green buds of spring unfurl into leaves so full they nearly choke out the summer sky, competing with clusters of small brown acorns that weigh the limbs down in a whispering dance until the breeze of summer gives way to the fiercer winds of fall, and the hard-shelled fruit drops in a barrage of sound on the roof rivaling any fourth of July celebration. The season changes once again and the branches are bared day after long harsh winter day. Except for the one lone brown leaf. Dead, but clinging to the tree as if there is life in it still.

Looking up at that dead leaf each morning this winter, I can't help but think of the visual metaphor it presents.

Thinking back, I remember once hearing the words "people never change" spoken to me by, what I can only assume, was an embittered soul who had given up hope of seeing any meaningful transformation come from a person they once cared about. And in truth, the world would have us believe it: "you can't teach an old dog new tricks!"

What a grim outlook on life.

It ranks right up there with other fatalistic beliefs about the human spirit like "I have no purpose" and "I am destined to always be (fill in the negative), so I might as well give up".

Nearly every day we hear of people who have determined to change their circumstances, overcome obstacles, lose weight, finally learn how to dress for social occasions, run a marathon, or whatever the case may be. And it inspires! So we resolve to become the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

The version we know deep down exists somewhere on the inside. Not the crowd following sheep version of ourselves that smiles large and pretends to be nice by saying "no problem" to every demand on our time while secretly resenting the other person for the audacity of having a need. But the version who understands she has worth and values herself before she expects other people to.

It is the verbally abusive rage-aholic suddenly hearing the voice of God and determining to follow it. It is the addict waking up on his 31st birthday knowing he has to change or he will die. and choosing life.

It is choosing to really LIVE.

New Year's resolutions may quickly be broken, but that doesn't stop us from trying.

Truly, I believe, that it is not human nature to stay the same. It is in our very DNA to strain toward that which we know we were meant to be; Created beings wired for relationships, built with a purpose, and given the ability to choose whether to move into that purpose or to turn away. We choose whether to accept our lot in life or to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try to make a change.

And truly, I believe, there is merit in the trying. It is an act of the will that says I agree that I am not perfect. I agree that I need to change. Regardless of the circumstances that shaped my life, there is a point that I have to say "the choice is now mine". 

"Revelation" 6" x 6" x 1.5" collage by Crystal Neubauer
And after years of the choosing. And years of the learning new behaviors and unlearning the old. After years of determining to work really really hard to change. There I was standing in the bathroom looking up at that tree. At that one single brown leaf still clinging to it. That dead brown leaf. And I knew in my heart it was a message from God left there just for me.

"Why is the tree still clinging to that leaf?" I catch myself thinking almost simultaneously with "Why can't I stop (insert agitating behavior pattern or low self-esteem causing belief here)" and suddenly it hits me that it is the leaf that won't let go of the tree, not the other way around. The tree has done it's job to cut off life to the leaf. There is nothing left for the tree to do!

Sometimes it is necessary and good to work toward a change. Committing to that new pattern of behavior and really trying hard until it sticks. But sometimes the more you think about a thing, the more difficult it is not to do it.

Okay - I dare you to stop thinking about that blue ball!

Did you stop?

Sometimes all we are able to do is agree deep down in our spirit that we are willing to change even if we don't know how to do it on our own. And then we have to give up on the trying. Our focus has to shift.

Instead of looking at the dark dead leaf, we turn and look at the blue sky just beyond it.

And we rest.

Until one day. One day when that thing hasn't crossed your mind in a very long time you'll look back at the tree and the dead leaf will be gone. And in its place will be a hundred tiny green buds full of life.

You didn't have to do a thing except say yes.

Yes. I choose life.

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty"  ~Zachariah 4:6