Thursday, November 15, 2007

Olive Riley

Thanks to Eric Shackle, I've heard about another inspiring woman who, at age 108, has a website called The Life of Riley. There's nothing I can say, really, to top Olive's own words and stories. I encourage you to check it out! Thanks for taking the time to let me know about this, Eric. Much appreciated! Hope you all will check out Eric's website, too!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Maria Amelia Lopez

I heard an inspiring piece on PRI's The World about Maria Amelia Lopez who, at 95 years of age, decided to learn how to use the internet. Her grandson started a blog for her as a birthday present. Because Maria can't type well, she dictates her entries to her grandson who types it all out for her. Right now, she's pressuring officials in her community to make provisions for broadband! Kudos, Maria!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What Shoes Rachael Wears

Interview with Rachael (Motley Misfits)

What I find cool about the whole internet-thing is I get to meet and talk with people it's likely I wouldn't get to know otherwise. One of those people is Rachael from Motley Misfits in California. She found me, actually, through the Hope and Healing Project on Etsy. She's also a member of the Visual Arts Street Team (VAST) and graciously agreed to be interviewed. As you can see from the picture of What Shoes Rachael Wears, she is no stranger to the camera!

Among other things, Rachael is a writer. She's particularly interested in the process of documenting one's existence. "If each and every single person kept a diary of their lives we would not only have a marvelous record of what the varying degrees of lives were lived but proof that these individuals had existed. They live on in their lives and their record preserves them; keeps them just a bit immortal."

Rachael spent 2004 and 2005 interviewing and immortalizing "fabulously talented people" in a series she calls Adventures in Journalism for her website Cyberlola. It's great fun to read about and see pictures of the people she's met--everyone from "fetish models to fashion divas to rock musicians."

Rachael's also started a blog featuring her handmade one-of-a-kind dolls. "I make my dolls when I have writer's block," Rachael says, "or when I need to do something with my hands and need a visualization. Being a writer can be frustrating in the sense that all of those wonderful people and events that are created only exist in my head. My dolls are real, tangible creatures that I can share with everyone."

These dolls aren't the bland, boring ones you find at the mall. Each doll reflects Rachael's different moods, inconsistencies and imaginings. "I like my dolls to reflect the many facets of my personality and interests. All of the dolls that were available to little girls when I was a kid were dressed in pastels and designed to preen like a princess; I wasn't like that at all. It was frustrating to like the idea of dolls but not be able to actually pick out one that best reflected me. Now I can design all of my misfits to reflect my emotions and the way I view the world at the moment." Rachael generally starts with a blank muslin cloth doll and adds embellishments with materials ranging from spray paint to wires. If you want a kooky, spooky--maybe even neon--doll, these are the ones for you!

"My whole life has been kind of a challenge due to a limiting heart disease." Rachael tells me. She's survived four open-heart surgeries that gave her a taste for the slightly morbid and a desire to always strive to be alive, bold and bright with color. "In fact, my misfit dolls have really sprung out of depression--something I only shared recently on my blog. When I can't write, I work on my misfits and I am usually inspired by color and mood since each misfit is usually bursting with color and represents the mood I was in at the time of its creation."

Each doll is lovingly and painstakingly made. The process of doll making is a slow one. "If I break from one I have to be in the exact mood I was in when I last touched it in order to work on it properly."

Perhaps because of her turbulent health years, Rachael thinks about immortality and the importance of leaving something concrete behind, something to show she was here, enjoying life and having a little something to contribute. "My goal is for my writing to be the securing factor," Rachael says, "but I apply this goal for immortality through my dolls--solid pieces of matter for people to hold and say, 'Yes. I love my misfit. It's one of a kind, you know. That Rachael lady made it.'" Rachael continues, "I will have more ahead of me, that is for sure, I am not sure when my number will be up but I am hell bent to make sure there is something left behind for the world to take notice of."

True to her word, Rachael recently donated limited edition dolls to the non-profit organization Camp del Corazon, to help raise money for the camp the agency holds for children 7-17 with cardiac issues. Rachael also has dolls in her Etsy shop, the sale of which will benefit Rape Response Services in Bangor, ME. When asked why she joined the Hope and Healing Project, Rachael says simply, "I just saw another opportunity to help out a worthy cause."

Of course, I asked Rachael what shoes she wears and her answer reflects her colorful personality. "19th century Prairie style button-up boots and colorful platform sneakers both describe me pretty well. The boot represents a simplicity I strive for in my life while the colorful platform sneaker, though just a sneaker, is striving to be unique while remaining a simple, functional object."

You can learn more about Rachael and her work by visiting her website or her blog and purchase her Motley Misfits from her online shop.

BTW -- If you're ever in Southern California, Rachael thoroughly recommends the guava pastries from Porto's Bakery. Yummy!

Swampy Locks (by Motley Misfits)

Circus Circus Doll (by Motley Misfits)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Hi" Card (By Lucky Duck Designs)

Tree Gift Tags (By Lucky Duck Designs)

An Interview with Ahna (Lucky Duck Designs)

Okay, I'm going to let you in on a secret. I started this blog, in part, so I could learn from people who I've met over the past couple years. People with quiet wisdom and gentle souls. People who have experienced life--with all its crazy twists and turns--and still retain a positive take on the world. People like Ahna of Lucky Duck Designs.

I've never actually met Ahna, just written back and forth via Etsy convos and yet I feel a connection. She's open, straight-forward and generous with her time and talents.

Lucky Duck Designs is "home to a line of delicate, creative and inspired greeting cards for you to share with loved ones near and far." Each piece is made by Ahna in her sunny south Florida home. "Creating is part of my attempt at balance in my life," Ahna explains. Her professional work is very analytical, so creating with textures and colors and shapes in her spare time is really centering. "Being able to share the product of that time with others makes me so happy."

Ahna's participated in the Hope and Healing project for Rape Response Services all three times it's been on Etsy. So, I asked her why this issue holds such importance.

"I've always felt a connection to those working with issues of sexual violence, even before I became involved myself," she says. "A number of years ago I worked for a small college campus in the Midwest and found myself engaged in many conversations with women who had been through difficult, sometimes horrible, experiences. For some, I was a sounding board; for others, I was an advocate in the campus adjudication process. It was a difficult couple of years, but I developed an immense respect and admiration for these women and their strength."

Ahna currently has in her shop a Hope and Healing card, the sale of which will benefit Rape Response Services. This special card is 3-dimensional and hand-pieced for a unique effect. It's ideal for a romantic occasion, a friend who needs some support, or just to say hello. It comes with a white perfect-fit enveloped. The heart is placed on a shimmery white backdrop for a nice added texture.

When life tosses in some downs along with the ups, Ahna takes inspiration from her partner. "His way of dealing with his own difficulties by staying calm and working to simplify, is really inspiring." Ahna also shares a deep connection to her grandmother, though she died a few years ago. Ahna says of her grandmother, "She was immensely positive toward the world, despite the occasional bump in the road."

One of Ahna's recent favorite books is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, though books of all kinds bring comfort. "I am so in awe of good fiction writers and poets and what they are able to do with words." She also takes great pleasure in the weekly poems that come to her mailbox from Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser.

Of course, I had to ask Ahna what shoes she wears. Her answer? Socks! "Comfort trumps fashion for me every time," she admits, and, "If I'm at home, you'll rarely find me wearing shoes!"

Ahna's sweet creations may be found on Etsy at Lucky Duck Designs or visit her blog for more great etsy gift ideas.

What Shoes Ahna Wears

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Far Afield Ring (By Far Afield)

River Blues Earrings by Far Afield

An Interview with Polly (Far Afield)

I first met Polly a few years ago when she lived in Maine. From the first meeting, I felt honored to be in Polly’s presence…such a gentle, wise and thought filled person. Talented, too. She’s the owner of Far Afield, a jewelry store on The alternative to ordinary.

“I find it hard to talk about why I love to create jewelry,” Polly admits. “All my life, I have dabbled in creative writing and art, but I wasn’t really into crafts. It sounds funny, but I feel like making jewelry is something I have to do.” Polly is captivated by beautiful stones and colors, by the way wire bends, by the natural world and exotic places, and how moods or images can inspire a piece of jewelry. “Making and selling jewelry is fulfilling to me on many levels.”

The environment is also important to her, as reflected in the stones and the designs of her jewelry--the names of which often make reference to places others might overlook: river blues earrings, aurora borealis ring, floating weeds earrings. She’s made a conscious decision not to purchase genuine coral for her jewelry, as it is an endangered organism. She also recycles her excess sterling silver wire. Polly prefers to purchase handmade products over mass-produced, and tries “whenever possible to personally know the origin or maker of the goods I buy.”

Polly calls her shop “Far Afield” to reflect both a love of travel and the fact that this is 'far afield' from her former career working at universities. “To me being far afield means stepping outside of your comfort zone, being open to adventure, seeing through new eyes. That is when we feel most alive.”

I’ve seen Polly go gracefully through some significant changes since I’ve known her. Moving with her husband from Maine to Pennsylvania. Selling the house in Maine and looking for (and buying) a house in an unfamiliar part of the country. Becoming a mom for the first time and deciding to stay home instead of returning right away to the work place. And, in 2006, opening her shop on Etsy. Her love of learning, growth and introspection is something truly to be admired.

Polly’s favorite musical artists include: Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, more contemporary folk, and Tom Waits.

As for the shoes Polly wears… “I’ve never been a shoe person,” she says. “They’re mainly an afterthought for me, and just have to be comfortable. Since becoming a stay-at-home-mom, my choices have been able to lean even further in the direction of comfort! I usually wear flip-flops, sandals, or slip-on clogs in the summer; in the winter I add socks to the clogs and occasionally wear winter boots or other leather shoes without ties.” Her favorite shoes have cool texture- like pebbly leather, soft suede. She did make a big splurge (for her anyway) on a pair of patent leather–finish rubber boots she bought in an airport on the way to Europe. She likes texture and variety in her jewelry, too. “Sometimes I prefer rugged and earthy, and other times modern and streamlined, like my funny boots.”

Polly’s work can now be found at the Bonita Bead Boutique in Maumee, Ohio. If you live in that area please come check out their shop!

Polly has a flickr page where she unsystematically uploads pictures now and again of her work. Her Captiva Ring is featured on (See July 16), and also in the August 12 version of the Southwest Florida News-Press.

What Shoes Polly Wears

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First Etsy Sale for Rape Response Services

It's fitting the first Etsy sale for the September Rape Response Services fundraiser was this Flower Postcard by Kathy of Beauty Flower Poem. Congratulations Kathy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Work by Beauty Flower Poem

Marie Dobash: A Folk Artist Remembered

An Interview With Kathy (Beauty Flower Poem)

I first met Kathy last spring through where she has an on-line shop called Beauty Flower Poem. Kathy is an experienced artist and art teacher and works with a variety of materials. You’ll find in her shop watercolors and postcards featuring nature and female figures as their theme, as well as copies of her book "I Have No Arms!" The book is a collection of eight poems that focus on recovery from traumatic experiences. She is also collaborating on three book projects with photographer Marlin Wagner. Kathy donates a portion of her profits to such organizations as (where she is an official RAINNmaker), Rape Response Services, and Artists for Autism.

Kathy draws inspiration from her mother, Marie Dobash, a folk artist who at 82 continued to paint despite illness. Marie used a TV tray as her art studio. "I just let the brush tell me what to do," she told Kathy. "I paint and daydream."

Marie died in the spring of 2007 and Kathy honors her mother’s life and memory by continuing to reproduce her mother’s work. Marie’s whimsical bird, fish and landscape, and flower notecards may be found in Kathy’s shop. Shortly before she died, Marie also participated in the Rape Response Services fundraiser held in April 2007.

Marie encouraged her questioning daughter to work with children. "You can still reach them when they are young." Both mother and daughter found contentment with living in the moment…and, it seems, the little things of life: sharing lunch together at bedside, listening to polka music, taking photographs (of flowers, architecture, children creating art, family), and painting together to inspire creativity. Their bond was (and still is) based in the spiritual. They prayed together, read affirmations aloud, and focused on helping others.

When life gets tough, Kathy focuses on solutions, setting goals and achieving them. She pushes negative, irrational thoughts away and tells herself "I can try again tomorrow." She focuses on accomplishments, not failures. "Learn from the mistakes," she recommends, "and MOVE on."

Kathy’s main goal is to leave some positive energy with her art, writing, etc. "I hope that anything I accomplish, whether it is the smile on an individual’s face or some art that is in a gallery to view, that it is remembered and leaves my mark on this planet.
That is the way I get through life's trying moments."

Each day, Kathy reflects on what she’s accomplished and plans for the next. She’s facing some big transitions since her mother’s passing. "Right now I am not sure where I will live when the house is sold, but I know I will be okay...I am a survivor."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Welcome to What Shoes I Wear

This quilted wall-hanging is called "Orange Flower and Me" (© 2007 Sojourn Quilts). I'm a fabric artist who enjoys--sometimes quite literally--putting myself into my work! My business is Sojourn Quilts. A "sojourn" is a "resting place along life's journey" and, for me, each piece provides an opportunity to reflect, learn and grow in my understanding of the human condition. I’m intrigued by the emotions behind the events in our lives and how channeling them into a piece of artwork can change and sometimes challenge our preconceptions of the world. Whether the artwork turns out "good" or "bad" is almost beside the point for me. It’s the process that brings me to a broader understanding of both my inner world and the community in which I live. Artistry comes in all forms, shapes and sizes, so for this blog, I’ll be interviewing artists, jewelry makers, writers, songwriters and more. As the title states, this is a place to explore and celebrate how different people find their own special ways of moving through and rising above life's more trying moments. Thanks for taking a peek. I hope you will visit often!--Janyce