Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hard/Easy vs. Easy/Hard or Back To School - A Season of Change

"Self Portrait: A Work In Progress"

First counseling and now school. My head is spinning over the suddenness of it all, and yet, not so sudden.

It started with a single thought. One innocent thought.

"Hey, I'm not working full time now, I can take a class!
Something fun.
Something I can use to take a step toward my art goals and build a better future."

That one innocent thought led me to enroll for a class, add another class, then another, and oh why not just one more? Whoops, I'm a full time student!
Phew! Is it only Wednesday?

So suddenly I'm going back to school. But at nearly 43 years old, I guess it isn't really sudden at all. It took me a long time to get here. I signed up for Digital Photography, Electronic Graphic Publishing, Web Design, and Metalsmithing. Many of the classes I would have loved to take if I had gone to college straight out of High School.
Well, I would have loved to take them if they actually had computers and the internet way back then! Ha!
Okay, they did indeed have computers. And maybe the internet even existed, but nobody had heard of it and the one computer class I took in High School involved IBM key punch cards.

I know very little about computers. Enough to show you my latest work and tell you a little about my life here. Enough to list and sell my wares at the store and the studio on Etsy, but that is about it.
So to say I am feeling a little overwhelmed with my choice of classes; learning Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver all at the same time, is an understatement. And deciding to do this at the same time that I have decided to dive into counseling has me questioning my sanity just a bit.

It's not going to be an easy season, this season of change.

There is that voice track in my head, you know the one, that puts up all the objections that sound rational and reasonable to making these changes.
Its too hard. I'm too old. What about all that time you thought you were going to spend just working on art? What about the housework and the kids and dinner? What about all that homework?
And do you really want to open that can of worms?

But then I think about a sermon I heard not long ago. I can't remember the scripture it was based on, or really, the main message at all. I just remember the pastor giving this tidbit: Hard/Easy versus Easy/Hard.
Making the choice to do the hard thing now can bring about the fruit of easier paths in the future, whereas, taking what looks like the easy road can make the future a whole lot harder.

I guess I'm old enough now to testify to the truth of that statement.

Not dealing with the pain of my past "issues" and always having a good excuse not to go back to school? Easy.
Life after those decisions? Hard.

Doing the work it will take to heal and to learn? Hard.
Finally being free of that baggage and having knowledge that will give me more choices for my future? Priceless.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Let Me Tell You About My Blog Friend...

"People let me tell you about my blo-og friend....A warm hearted gal who will love ya till the end...."
Ahhh, did I just date myself there? Changed a few words around but I'm sure some of you will recognize that tune!

Well I do want to tell you about my blog friend, Cindy Forrester, who is one talented artist and I am lucky to call her a friend.

Speaking of Lucky, check out this amazing necklace Cindy made by that name:

And this piece titled "When Teardrops Fall", which moved me to even more tears when I found out that Cindy had made it with me in mind:

This October Cindy will be leaving her home in Florida and heading all the way across the country to teach In The Artists Studio in Seal Beach, California. How I wish I could be there to learn Cindy's techniques in bezel making and her signature heirloom bottles:

But if I can't be there, I can send you. Be sure to get in early. This girl is going places with her talent!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Very Charming Announcement!

Over the weekend I ran out to Barnes and Nobles looking for inspiration on the bookshelves and nearly fell over when I got there! I've been eagerly waiting to make this announcement for my copy to arrive in the mail, but apparently it has taken a slight detour due to my change of address this year. I knew that it was available on Amazon, but wasn't expecting to see it on the shelves of my local book store already.

A Charming Exchange is a collaboration started by Kelly Snelling and Ruth Rae, inspired by a round robin charm swap involving 24 other artists. Ruth began a blog to have one place where each artist could give instructions on the charm she had created and from there the idea for the book was born.

How lucky to be included, not only in the initial round robin (which I managed to get in by the skin of my teeth!) but to have it turn into a book!

As the book project began I was asked to be a part of a round robin group project specifically for the book with 4 other artists. Each one of us began a necklace or a bracelet and sent it off, round robin style, to the next participant, who then added their own elements and passed it on to the next person.

Here are photos I took of each necklace or bracelet as it passed through my hands. Each of these are featured in the book and many have step-by-step instructions for creating some of the charms shown.

Ruth Rae, the host of the original charm swap and co-author of the book, created this wonderful bracelet and an equally wonderful felt carrier to keep it in. Be sure to check out her instructions in the book for both the carrier, and her layered centerpiece for the bracelet.

The little riveted wing charm below is my contribution to Ruth's bracelet:

"Gothic Romance" necklace by Catherine Witherell. Romantic to the very core of the felted heart centerpiece Catherine created. I can't tell you how intimidated this necklace made me. Of course, I felt that way each time one of these talented artist's works arrived in my mailbox!
In order to get over my fear of ruining somebody else's work, I would display the necklace in my studio when it arrived and "live with it" for a time. As I grew more comfortable with the piece, touching it and getting a sense of the artists style, I could let myself go and begin to be inspired.

My addition to Catherine's necklace is the peek-a-boo style charm at the center top. The antique religious charm swings to the side and reveals an antique image of a flower and the word "beauty". The word "strength" is etched at the bottom.

Here is the spread from the book featuring my necklace, "History Lesson":

Unfortunately the photos I took before I let it go were on the blurry side. It was such a flurry of activity to finish and get the pieces out by the deadline that I didn't stop to think I would probably never have these items in my hand again and lost the opportunity to get really good photos.

I am delighted with the way it came together. I created the centerpiece from an antique camera lens, which was empty when it left me. It was also swinging from side to side on the steel wire bar. But these were opportunities for the other participants to "fill in the blanks" and they did quite nicely!

Next Deryn Mentock's finely crafted necklace arrived in my mailbox. Deryn is an amazing jewelry artist and the one who recommended me to Ruth for this round robin. I bow to her talent, not only with working the steel wire with the ease of fine silver, but also with an eye for composition, which she has taken to an extraordinary level.
Be sure to stop by her blog to see her Shepherd's Amulet Bag, which she created for the Amulet bag challenge presented by Ruth for the book.

And finally this fantasy fairy necklace arrived by Jessica Moreau-Berry. I was one of the first to work on Jessica's necklaces so it looks a little bare in this photo, but the finished piece is so whimsical and I half expected to see elves jump out of the package when it showed up. I don't think I've ever wanted to dance through a woodland meadow as much as when I was working on this piece.
As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever wanted to dance through a woodland meadow before at all. But check out the finished project in the book and see if it doesn't make you feel the same way!

As part of this group of 5 artists, I was also invited to contribute to the cover project. To create my charm I used an antique earing, an old brown ribbon, and antique MOP button.

The bracelet has a story of how it came to be. Be sure to read about it in the book and watch the website for an announcement of when this piece and others from the book will be auctioned off for a great cause, breast cancer research.

There were other group projects that I participated in, including earring swaps, that you can see in the book, along with some other charms I created that wound up being used in some really cool pieces. Here are some photos of my charms, but you really have to get the book to see the finished pieces!

This piece "XOXO" was created from two antique wood printers blocks, two antique tintype photos, old wire and nails salvaged from other items, and one tiny link from an antique cuckoo clock chain:

Kelly, the author of the book, created a gothic style necklace to show off the charm and then Ruth stepped out instructions on doing something similar if you don't have genuine tintype photo's to use.

This side isn't shown in the book:

I brought these elements together:

And created this charm, which also wound up being used as the centerpiece for a necklace in the book:

And finally I was surprised and delighted to find that my amulet bag was featured and instructions stepped out by Ruth on creating the wire cage.

This piece was inspired by the scripture verse "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

The top of the cage is designed to look like the crown of thorns.

This necklace is big and clunky and could never really be worn, but I really love it anyway and just thrilled to death that it was included, along with my explanation of the inspiration from Gods word!

To Him be the Glory.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Embracing The Mess

As mentioned in the previous post, I've done some re-organizing in the studio this summer. Ever since I moved into this space I've had piles on the floor and piles on various surfaces that have just never made their way into a permanent location.

Finally, with the determined pace of a migratory snail, I managed to get every last pile picked up off the floor and into a semi-satisfying arrangement and I could officially call my studio clean. Of course there are plenty of things still on my to-do list to further organize my space, but for the first time in a long time it had the appearance of being clean.

And there it stood.

I could envision myself creating wonderful works of art in this freshly organized space. I could see myself creating my next masterpiece in my minds eye and knew just what the process would be to bring it to fruition.

But I couldn't seem to get started.

Something about the appearance of order in what had once been so much chaos begged not to be disturbed. The work it had taken to get it to this point had been exhausting, time-consuming, and seemed like such a waste of effort if I was just going to turn around and mess it all up again. I should leave well enough alone and maybe take up gardening instead.

Not wanting to deal with the mess was nearly crippling any progress I wanted to make as an artist and one morning I woke up and knew I had to overcome this.

I had to accept that it was going to get messy.

I brought out a stack of blank canvases that I found at an artists estate sale earlier in the summer and laid them out one by one.

To get over the intimidation of the blank canvases staring up at me I quickly coated each one with a layer of leftover house paint. This process seemed to release me and soon I was having fun pulling out scraps and papers from my collage bin and throwing them around the work table imagining what each one would be.

I was embracing the mess.

The process itself became somewhat therapeutic and, as is so often the case when I am in the midst of creating, I felt my Creator begin to talk to me. He whispered words of encouragement and spoke to me of the similarities between my reluctance to stir up the mess in my studio again and my reluctance to stir up the mess in my life again.

He began to show me how the mess had a purpose. That looking beyond the individual pieces or set of circumstances, one could see a complete work of art coming together. Something beautiful that would not have come about any other way.

Over the past few years the foundation of my life had been shaken to the core, to say the least. I've written before of how the hardships my husband and I endured as a result of his being laid off from his job, and my subsequent return to the work place full time, started bringing many issues not being dealt with to a head in our lives. Just when we felt that things were settling down and I would declare that we had been delivered through the storm, we would get shaken again.

And again. And again. And again.

We dealt with the job loss and ultimately the loss of our home as the mortgage crisis began to take it's toll on our country, so many individuals with stories not unlike our own. We have each dealt with major health issues and the health issues of many loved ones. Car issues, appliance issues, heaters breaking, child issues, on and on and on.
On a personal level all this shaking began to take a toll and we separated for a time. And finally we brought our lives back together and began to build from the mess it had been, picking up pieces from the pile and finding a place to put them and appreciating how things are so much better now.

And there I stood.

Something about the appearance of order in what had once been so much chaos begged not to be disturbed. The work it had taken to get to this point had been exhausting, time-consuming, and seemed like such a waste of effort if I was just going to turn around and mess it all up again.
I should leave well enough alone and maybe take up gardening instead.

But I hear God whispering once again. My creation isn't finished. There are things that I still need to do. Things I still want you to face and overcome. You still need to heal. There are wounds, messes, from so long ago that you keep pushing away. The mess had a purpose and it isn't finished yet.

I know He is right. Not dealing with the mess is nearly crippling me as a person. I cling to the appearance of order. I'm avoiding people, projects, events, many things in life that I loved and cherished just to avoid making another mess.

I know I have to overcome this.

I have to accept that it is going to get messy.

I finally made that appointment with a counselor. It was a long time in coming. I met with her yesterday and God was faithful to meet me there as well. I felt something inside of me being released. A fresh washing of tears. A girl waiting to be seen by her Daddy.

I know it won't be easy but I am excited at the possibilities, the outcome, the finished creation, imagining what it will be. Something beautiful that cannot come about any other way.

I am embracing the mess.