Monday, December 22, 2008

First "Official" Day of Winter in Maine

Welcome, Winter! This particular storm started around 11am on December 21 and dumped about 16 inches of snow on my area. Unfortunately, I live on a double wide street, so the bank at the end of the driveway was about 3 feet wide and lots of shovels full deep! I say, if it's gonna be winter, though, we might as well have snow! I took this photo of the backyard before going in for some hot coffee and a big bowl of oatmeal. Maybe it will inspire a snow lobster or, perhaps, a fabric collage or two!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Watercolor Landscape (By The Creator's Palette)

The Ballerina (by The Creator's Palette)

Interview with Melanie (The Creator's Palette)

The more I do these interviews, the more deeply I am honored by people's willingness to share their lives and, through their experiences, teach us how to live life with courage, creativity and grace. It is my great pleasure to bring you this interview with Melanie. I met her through the Visual Artists Street Team. She is the creative mind and spirit behind The Creator's Palette.

"When I was a little girl," Melanie tells me, "I was very active. My favorite thing was to be outside--twirling on the bars, learning to do cartwheels, roller skating, and riding my bike. As I got older, I did a lot of gymnastics, but never on a team. I did compete as a springboard diver for many years and I played tennis. My mom told me I would never be an artist. So--I never tried."

Melanie's life was characterized by activity. She obtained a degree in Early Childhood Education and taught a bit in the classroom before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. "I was active in the kids' schools and taught my husband to play tennis with me." When her daughter had been taking ballet for 4 or 5 years, Melanie decided it was time to learn what all the terms meant. "I'd always loved ballet, so I began taking an adult ballet class. I also danced the part of a party parent in the Nutcracker (didn't really require much dancing) and eventually was cast as Clara's mother! What a thrill it was my second year as Clara's mother to have my own daughter dancing the part of Clara!"

Melanie was asked by the studio to develop and teach a preschool creative dance program. She trained and taught pre-ballet. During this time, she was also a published author in some prestigious magazines, had her own book in process and spoke at many women's conferences and retreats. "I had," she says, "a full and happy life."

But then came the whammy! "I was struck with a severe virus. From then on, I have slowly become more and more ill - dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Dysautonomia. Both Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Dysautonomia cause severe weakness and fatigue and can have a profound effect on the daily activities of people with these conditions.

"My active life," Melanie continues, "came to a sudden halt! Yes, I had many pity parties, but I also soon began to seek out new things to fill my life. I watched a lot of PBS painting shows. I've always loved watercolor but had never tried painting." Melanie took an art class on basic drawing and color, but has never taken any other professional art classes. "I finally got up the courage to purchase a little paint and paper. I was disappointed. It looked horrible." Melanie checked out a few books from the library and switched to artist quality paints and paper. "As soon as I did--I was hooked!"

Melanie discovered ACEOs and began painting in this small, 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch, format. "What I sold my first ACEO on eBay, I was elated. I WAS an artist!"

"Now that I look back on my life," Melanie says, "I know I've always been an artist. It comes out of the soul. My art was expressed in the artistic dives I used in competition, in gymnastics, in dance, and now--it is expressed on paper!" Though Melanie's first love is and always will be watercolor, she has expanded to oil pastels and collage ACEOs. "Even if they one day find a cure for my illness, I will always be a painter!!! It is my love offering to God, my joy, and hopefully my way of encouraging others as they enjoy my creations!"

Melanie's caring and concern goes beyond her artwork and to social issues as well. "I care deeply about trafficked women in other countries - especially India. I feel deeply about the children who grow up in the red light districts and the women coerced into selling their bodies." It is difficult to document how many people--primarily women and children (though men are not excluded from being victimized by human traffickers)--are exploited throughout the world. There are powerfully complex economic and political forces at play that keep such activities from being accurately documented or eradicated. Particularly vulnerable are people from war-torn or devastatingly impoverished areas, though human trafficking and sexual exploitation occurs in every country throughout the world. "I wish even more for them (the victims of these atrocities) than just to find a way out," Melanie offers, "I wish for them to find hope, and a refreshed sense of self-worth, to really know who they are as an individual, and to experience genuine acceptance and love."

Hope plays an important role in Melanie's outlook on life. "When my days get tough, and they often do, I am mostly inspired by my HOPE. Hope that God loves me no matter what I accomplish today, what I look like or how I feel. Hope that nothing in this world can take away my two main purposes in life: to Love God with all my heart and to Love others. Hope that one day, I will be free of health issues and the real me will live in my real body! That's what keeps me going when life throws rocks at me!"

In the early days of dealing with her illness, Melanie found inspiration through the writings of Larry Crabb (Shattered Dreams), Joni Eareckson Tada and the beautiful paintings she learned to do with her teeth, and Laura Hillenbrand and her story of writing Seabiscuit in the midst of contracting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

"As coined by Gary Thomas," Melanie continues, "I am a Sensate. I draw close to God and am moved and inspired by my senses! Smells, tastes, sounds and visual beauty are all important to me. I constantly have bouquets of roses in my house during the summer and candles burning the rest of the year. I LOVE music!!!!! It depends on what mood I'm in. I love a variety of music. I have a play list on my i-Tunes called "Relaxing and Painting" where I have mixed the best music to paint to. It includes piano music by Jim Brickman and Michael Allen Harrison, Enya, a few individual favorite movie soundtracks, and Solitudes - which are music and nature sounds mixed together. I also really enjoy Jack Johnson and there are times I have to go back to my long time, but always favorite, James Taylor. And I have favorite spiritual music, too. Some upbeat, some more quiet: David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, and Kathy Troccoli, for example. Many of these musicians have inspired specific art pieces with their music." In addition to music, Melanie adds "...nothing is more comforting to me than a perfectly made cup of tea!!!"

As to what shoes Melanie wears? "Slippers! Being chronically ill, I am home most of the time and spend the majority of my time in a recliner. Part of my illness causes my extremities to get very cold. Last Christmas, a friend gave me these wonderful down boots. I wore them all year. What a funny sight I was when it was hot: a tank top, shorts and my down booties!!! I've worn them so much that they are already worn through on the heels - just in one year! I love my down booties!!! But you'll also see in my picture, along with several pairs of slippers I wear around the house, I added my Adidas'. When I do get out, these are my favorite and represent the real me - active and competitive!"

You may find more information about Melanie's life and work at the following links:
The Creator's Palette Blog
The Creator's Palette Etsy Shop
The Creator's Palette Website
Melanie Pruitt
Melanie's Journey
Art Wanted
Image Kind
My Space

10% of all Proceeds from Melanie's work on Etsy is donated to The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro Immune Disease.

For more information about Human Trafficking:
Trafficking Project
The CounterTraffickers: Rescuing the victims of the global sex trade
Sex Trade Economics
International Organization for Migration

What Shoes Melanie Wears

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inspiration with a Little Perspiration

The Perspiration: Peak Of the Ridges

Baxter State Park closes its gates for day use around the 15th of October every year. That's because the peaks start getting icy and snowy and there's not always enough light to safely complete all the trails. So, a friend and I decided to get in one last hike of the season Saturday, the 11th.

Our intent was to do a trail called "The Traveler," which encompasses 3 peaks. It was my first big hike of the season. If all went as planned, we'd be walking 10 to 12 hours. I'd spent the last six weeks in physical therapy recovering from a twist in the muscles in my back caused by too many hours at the sewing machine with really crappy posture. Fortunately, it's an injury that responds well to movement and exercise. I'd been walking at least an hour a day for a couple months had done some shorter hikes in Acadia National Park earlier in the season. As I packed my backpack, I was pretty excited to being going on an adventure.

This is a view of "Peak of the Ridges" where we'd decided to hike. It's about 6:30am. Cold, overcast, exhilarating...and, to me, a bit intimidating. I kept calling the mountaing "Top 'O The Mornin'" to remind myself to laugh and have a good time.

This is what climbing this mountain is like...picking your way over rocks at each step of the way. Doable, but be prepared for a rugged hike.

See that notch at the end of the lake? That's where the car is parked.

It's not too far into the climbing part of the hike that you start getting some views, though...

...and more views...

...and more views...

Look cold to you? YUP! That's because it was! And windy. We didn't hang out too long at the top. Don't even have a picture of it.

We made the decision at the peak of "Peak of the Ridges" to turn around and go back the way we'd come. My pace was pretty slow because of my inexperience rock-hopping. Earlier in the season, we would have had more light and could have finished the loop. As it was, we didn't want to put a time pressure on ourselves. Admittedly, I was disappointed not to do the whole Traveler loop, but it was a good decision. Better safe than sorry...

Afternoon shot of the mountains and lake.

This was a rugged hike for me--about a 9 hour round trip. It wasn't my first time on scree, but, really the first time I'd rock hopped for such an extended amount of time. It's tiring. You have to pay attention every second. I fell once. We'd reached a relatively flat part of the trail and I decided to grab a snack. Apparently, I can't walk and eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich at the same time. I whacked my knee hard enough for me to need a few minutes to decided whether I should go on or not.

I faced some challenges coming down the mountain. Parts of it were really scary. This kind of hiking brings with it its own kind of problem-solving. A lot of it was new to me. Doable, but new. In the past, I might have freaked out and become frustrated. This time, I didn't. I admit to a few...ah..."moments"...when I wasn't sure how to proceed, but my friend and I took it slow and remembered to laugh when we could. We focused not on what was ahead, but what each moment held in store. It's when you're tired you have to pay the most attention and, in doing so, I felt alive and present. It's a bit of an adrenalin rush! Despite its challenges, this was not a bad way to spend the day.

When we got back to the car my legs were achy. I definitely was ready to sit down. I had blisters on my feet. I was ready for a nap. And I was happy for the day, the fresh air, the exercise, and the companionship. It is not every day a person gets the chance to soak in the wonder of Maine's Baxter State Park. And, for me, personally, being in the park somehow helps me feel like I'm the right size. It's an awesome place to be...literally and figuratively...and I wouldn't trade a day like this for the world. I'm already planning to do the whole Traveler loop next summer.

The Inspiration: Mountain Escape Soft Sculptured Art Lobster Doll

Front View featuring a mountain day scene.

Back View featuring a mountain night scene.

"Mountain Escape" lobster is made from recycled/repurposed leather, cotton and denim fabrics, embroidery floss, cotton thread, beads, buttons, craftlace and cotton batting. It's machine stitched with hand embroidered embellishments. One-of-a-kind. ©2008 Sojourn Quilts. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lobsters! What Was I Thinking? - Part 3

This is part three of a series called "Lobsters! What Was I Thinking?"

The idea for these postings came from someone I met in Etsy chats who asked, "Why on this green earth did you pick lobsters?" Once I stopped laughing (it was meant as a kind-hearted comment), I started considering the question in a more serious way. This is my attempt at an answer. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you can find them in the July 2008 and September 2008 postings on this blog.

The photos you see here and in the previous articles are by Liz Grandmaison, a photographer in Bangor, ME. She is awesome to work with, so if you get the chance to hire her for a project, I strongly recommend it. Otherwise, please do check out her website.

Today's featured lobsters evolved over time. As you recall, I started with plain lobsters, then developed vested lobsters and, now, occasionally, I get excited about fabricating a whole scene on the little creatures.

I have started seeing the lobsters not as stuffed toys or pieces of cloth, but as blank palettes on which pretty much anything goes. I am only limited by my imagination.

The older (or, rather more mature) I get, the more I value Maine and its way of life. Living in Maine is rugged and beautiful at the same time. Some of its mountain and ocean vistas are simply breathtaking. The more connected with Maine I get, the more its influences appear in my artwork.

While working on a vested lobster, I realized the actual piece work was very similar to the quilted wall-hangings I make. At first, it seemed far-fetched to quilt a lobster, but then I thought "Why not?" I did a few sketches to see what might fit on an 8 inch long by 3 inch wide lobster (body and tail) and took the plunge.

What is fascinating to me is how the lobster takes shape through the applique and piecing process. The creature comes to life in fabric. I just love how a speck of an idea grows and changes with the limitations of space and fabric. It pushes me to learn about and make the most out of the materials I am using. I have come to see the soft sculptured lobsters as quilted wall-hangings that happen to be shaped like lobsters.

Reflecting the dichotomies of Maine, I enjoy making each side of a lobster different. Sometimes, I choose a city and country theme. Sometimes, I go with a mountain and ocean theme. Sometimes, I think about the hikes I have done in Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park and I try to imagine what is on the other side of the mountain or forest path I have created. I like embellishing the lobsters with buttons and hand-embroidery to add interest or break up an open space.

Almost more than anything else I do, these soft sculptured lobsters feel like art to me. They symbolize a life style and philosophy that is difficult for me to put into words. Quilted scenes on lobsters will have to suffice. And, if people see them as silly or interesting or weird or beautiful that is cool with me. I have grown to love these little creatures and am happy to share the lobsters with anyone who finds a connection to Maine within them.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Pastel Moment Treasury

I recently curated this Etsy treasury featuring beautiful work in a pastel rainbow. Links to artisan shops are as follows:

Row 1: Hammered Circles Sterling Silver Earrings by She Dreams In Metal, Honeydew - Airy Crochet Scarf by Kind of Cool, Teal Beaded Dreaming Tree by I Am Annie M, 20 Origami Boxes by Whimsidoodle;

Row 2: Rice Bowl with Chopsticks by Blue Sky Pottery, ZiqZaq - Little Ceramic Glass or Toothpick Holder by Studiotto, Field of Blue Skies by Red Heart 13, Floating in Sand Hand Screen Printed Fabric by Hollabee;

Row 3: Rainbow Sherbert Earrings by A-moni Creations, Nest Full of Lockets by Across the Pond, Pastel Shabby Cottage Oval Pantry Boxes by The Broken House, Fleur Textile 3 Lavender Eco Flowers by So She Sews;

Row 4: Watching the Sea by Mary Ellen Golden, Waldorf Inspired Scandinavian Matryoshka Doll by Ravenhill, Mexican Terracotta Clay Brown Wide Headband by Stylish Mode, Ice Cream Cone Necklace by I'm Your Present


Friday, October 10, 2008

Papillon (by Crown of Storms)

Where You Are Is Where I Belong (by Crown of Storms)

Interview with Justine (Crown of Storms)

The thought of transitioning my hobby into a business was, in its early stages, a daunting proposition. My formal education was in education, not business. So after pacing back and forth for about a year, I took a workshop on starting your own business. This workshop lead to another and to another and to another and, slowly, I began to see how I might fit into the business world. After doing some shows (which I did not like) and sewing for other people (which did not leave me enough time for my own stuff), I decided in April of this year to focus full time on my own business and on building a stronger on-line presence. It continues to be an exciting journey.

Most of the workshops and adult education classes I took focused on traditional ways of doing business: leasing or buying a space, establishing a brick and mortar presence, retail, wholesale and consignment. Very little was said about on-line businesses. So, I have learned a lot by watching and doing business via the World Wide Web.

The weirdest thing for me is the visible invisibility of it all. I post something on my blog or on Etsy or Flickr, hit the OK button and that is it as far as I am concerned. Where the images go or who they reach is not in my control. No one walks through my studio doors to give me a sense of how I am doing. In fact, mine are among the bazillions of things posted every day on the web. It is astounding to me that anyone sees anything of mine at all!

As you may imagine, I am completely humbled and honored when someone finds something of mine and gives me feedback about it. So it was with delight that I heard from Justine a while back saying she had featured one of my lobsters on her blog. I am learning the power of on-line social networking (something the business classes I took never mentioned) and how wonderful it is it be connected with creative people world wide. In this case, I went on-line to be in contact with someone from my home state of Maine! How cool is that?

In the spirit of reciprocation and because I love her photography, I invited Justine to participate in this blog. To my delight, she agreed. Justine is the creative spirit behind Crown of Storms and it is an honor for me to bring you this interview.

"Some of my favorite things in the world," Justine tells me, "are cupcakes, David Duchovny, chocolate soymilk, exclamation points, spooning, the ocean, guacamole, natural light, pink wine, Radiohead, books, antiques, ice cream, Legos, tea, spiral staircases, whales, asymmetry, David Lynch, vulnerability, owls, androgyny, people-watching, nesting dolls, roller-coasters, Ellen Von Unwerth, heat lightning, ambiguity, home-made crafts, giraffes, lesser-known joys, anticipation, vintage clothing, driving at night, Diane Arbus, crossword puzzles, simplicity, dinosaurs and photography."

"I have been an amateur photographer," Justine continues, "for about 6 years now. My favorite camera to use is my Nikon D40X but I also use a couple Canon Powershots. I take all kinds of photos: nature, landscape, animals, portraits, candids, architecture, macros. I work in all digital right now but hope to move on to some different forms of photography in the future (35mm, vintage cameras, etc.). Right now, digital is the cheapest method for me, important since the boyfriend and I are still trying to save as much money as we can. It also allows me to experiment the most. I can take as many photos as I like and pick the best ones from the lot!"

"The people that influence me the most," Justine says, "are people who take the photos they want, when they want, where they want. They don't really mind who likes them or who buys them. The photos are extensions of themselves and while they are glad to be accepted, they don't require it. It is quite admirable to be so selfless in your work."

True to this selfless ideal, Justine uses her own blog, Etsy Gems, to showcase other Etsy artists and items within a theme. "This is a place for me to simply and efficiently show off all the things that make me ooh and aah. None of this work is mine: none of it. It is all brilliantly photographed, designed, doodled, sewed, crafted and otherwise created by other fantastic minds."

When life gets challenging, Justine turns to her family and her boyfriend. "All of them are extremely supportive and amazingly unbiased. My brother especially will give me completely honest advice about anything I do and really help me to grow and improve myself. In a way, when I am challenged, I am more driven to succeed because I know they are behind me."

Justine also gains inspiration from books and music. "I have TONS of favorite books. I read all the time. Godspeed by Lynn Breedlove is completely surreal, with so many mental images accompanying the reading. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (one of my favorite authors) is so brilliantly written, so full of confidence and adventure, he reminds me of myself. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is such a beautiful book. It is filled with heartbreak and confusion but most of all acceptance and absolute unconditional love that spans time. As for music, you can almost always find me listening to Radiohead."

And, the shoes Justine wears? "Converse All-Stars. They're the only "sneakers" I've owned in the past 5 years (at least) and they fit me pretty well (har! har!). Comfortable, understated, functional, practical, dorky and cool."

Justine lives in Scarborough, Maine with her wonderful boyfriend and their two kitties.

You may find out more about Justine's life and work in her shop and photo gallery.

You may see her favorite artists on her blog.

If you live in or are visiting Maine, you will find Justine's work at Twinkle's Gallery, 284 Main Street, Canaan, ME.

What Shoes Justine Wears

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sunny Side Up Treasury

I recently had the opportunity to curate an Etsy treasury. These works made me smile on a rainy day!

The artists/sellers shop names and item titles are as follows:

Row 1: Sunny Side Up Ring by Far Afield Jewelry, Happy Sun Gocco Print by Matte Art, Sunshine and Stars in the Garden by My Mother's Garden;

Row 2: Within My Spirit by Maia Art, Tripod Funky Sun Bowl by Twisted River Clayworks, A Little Bit of Sunshine by Glass Cat Jewels;

Row 3: Southwest Sun Soap Dish by TMusichans, Setting Sun Flower by Borderline Bonkers, I Love the Sun by Tactile Eclectics;

Row 4: The Ancients - Sunny by Cee Vee Arts, Abstract Dawn with Blue Sun by Else Art, Sun Face Soap by Uniquely Pampered

I wish there was a way to show the alternates' pictures as well. In lieu of that, I recommend the work of these artists as well:

Setting Sun by Artmixter
Rising Sun by Slvilov
Watch Out for Solar Flares by Mia Sophia
Here Comes the Sun by Paper Art Studios


Monday, September 29, 2008

Faerie of Dawn (by A Heart of Mersea)

Mermaid Moon Watch (by A Heart of Mersea)

Interview with Julia (A Heart of Mersea)

I walk in the mornings. It is my way of waking up to the day and shaking the cobwebs out of my head. Especially since my dog, Papillon, died last May, I do not always want to go. Taking that first step out the door is the most difficult one. Sometimes it is rainy or cold or I just do not feel like going. But, once I get into my routine--passed the corner with the tall pine tree, passed the little store on the right, passed the cute house with the flower gardens--something snaps into place. I feel myself sighing, easing in to the rhythm of one step in front of another. It is like my body has a memory for ritual movement that automates and motivates the rest of my mind and soul to synchronize as well.

Most days, I see a woman circling the local park. Usually, she is too far away to greet. From what I have observed, she walks nearly every day in her turquoise pants, white hat and yellow coat. She is tiny, stooped a little at the shoulder and looks as if a breath of wind could blow her down. She walks with a walker. Determined, steady strides--or as determined and steady as an eighty (maybe ninety) something year old can take. She is old. She must have aches and pains and kinks and cobwebs to shake out just like me. And yet she routinely makes the trek around the park--no easy feat with crappy, chewed up city sidewalks. I wonder how her daily rituals and routines have kept her moving forward year after year after year. She has become one of my heroes. I keep her in mind when I am feeling too lethargic to get out of my door.

This is my way of introducing my next guest on this blog: Julia. She is the creative spirit behind A Heart of Mersea. Currently Julia works with colored pencils and her artwork features mermaids, angels and faeries. Julia has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes people to suffer from an increased sensitivity to pain and fatigue--far from any ache and pain I might have getting up in the morning. I wondered how Julia gets through her days and she was kind enough to share with me some insights about her life, her work, and living with fibromyalgia.

I am honored to bring you this interview.

"I have always loved to write and draw," Julia tells me. "When I was young, I used #2 pencils, pastels, and charcoal when drawing. In the mid-80's I tried my hand at acrylic painting and loved it, but I couldn't afford to continue. Now, I use colored pencils. I started using colored pencils when I became familiar with Mary Engelbreit and her work. I fell in love with the pencils, but not the markers...I am too prone to make mistakes and marker faux pauxs are very hard to hide, for me anyway!"

"I started off illustrating things that happened in my life," Julia continues. "In a lot of my artwork you will find cats, faeries, and angels. I live in Norfolk, Virgina and the symbol for the city is a Mermaid. I began doing mermaid art so the cards will sell better...hopefully! At one point I was asked to paint one of the City's mermaid statues which was great fun!"

"Sometimes when I sit down to begin a piece I will have an idea and start out with that in mind. Sometimes during the process the art goes off on its own and I go along for the ride. It is fun and addictive! Sometimes my art reflects the things I am contemplating or watching on TV. Jane Austen movies always put me in the mood for Edwardian looking faeries and angels."

Along with the Jane Austen series, Julia finds inspiration in books and period films such as the Anne of Green Gables series, Out of Africa, Little Women, Gone With the Wind, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, and some of the REALLY old movies. She also loves to listen to Mood music, New Age, Celtic, some Classical, Contemporary Christian music, Praise music, and John Denver. "Also, I have a huge plastic container I call my Inspirational Journal and it is filled with pages and pages and pages of greeting cards and pictures that inspire me to draw, write, and expand my creative mind."

"I am planning on trying watercolor soon," Julia says. "Using pencils are great but I am a bit of an uptight person and when I draw and pencil paint my hands are very stiff and my arm gets to hurting. I am hoping watercolor will help relieve the muscular tension. Ha ha, don't I sound like a medical doctor?"

Almost in passing, Julia mentions she has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and what Julia calls "its ugly step-sisters": myofascial pain syndrome, fatigue, panic disorder to name a few. "Which," Julia says, "makes life interesting..."

The Mayo Clinic defines fibromyalgia as "a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points--places on your body where slight pressure causes pain." Other symptoms include sleep disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and facial pain, Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and heightened sensitivity to odors, noises, bright lights and touch. People with fibromyalgia may also experience depression, numbness or tingling sensations in their hands and feet, difficulty concentrating, changes in mood, chest pain, dry eyes, skin and mouth, painful menstrual periods, dizziness and anxiety.

The cause of fibromyalgia is still up for debate and more detailed information may be found on the Mayo Clinic website (as well as through organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation and the American Chronic Pain Association). There does seem to be a chemical change in the brains of people who suffer from this condition that causes an increased sensitivity to pain signals, along with a "memory" for pain that heightens sensitivity further. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, keeping activity on an even level (trying not to overdo), maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking support from family, friends and the medical community are all strategies aimed at minimizing bad days over good.

"Upon arising I take my morning medications," Julia continues. "Then I get a soda or sometimes a cup of tea and sit at my desk that faces a big window through which I view the world. I can see everyone who enters and exits the neighborhood. Some days I read a chapter of the Bible. Some days I jump into cyberspace and see what is going on and pray that I have had a sale in my Etsy shop. Sometimes the piece of art I've been working on calls to me, and some days I just sit and dream. No matter what I do though, our fat cat, D.C., has to be in the midst of it and 'help' me in my work. Do you know how hard it is to read, write, draw, or be on the computer with a fat cat sitting in front of you or on top of what you are doing? LOL! I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what D.C. stands for!"

"Exercise is good for fibro, so I have taken up swimming," Julia continues. "I have been swimming a mile a day at the warm water pool at the Fitness center for about a year. What with this gas crunch I have decided to try running again though it is hard on the body. People with fibro usually feel things several times more than normal people. I take turns between swimming and running. I love to run but I never know what pain I will be feeling during and after. I am building up my stamina because I'm thinking of trying to run in the Jingle Bell Run in November. I did it in the early 2000's." The Jingle Bell Run is sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation which seeks to raise money for arthritis research, provide public health education, influence public policy and legislation and improve the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

"It is hard to work a regular job with fibro," Julia continues, "so I have started doing Pet/House sitting. Sometimes I just visit the pet in their house, feed them, give meds, and play with them. Some jobs I stay at the house and take care of the pet(s). The longest time I have been gone is three weeks so far. From time to time I do some companion sitting jobs but find it easier for me to do pet sitting. Though I wish I could make a living selling my artwork and cards, the pet sitting service seems to do better at this time."

"I am of an age," Julia admits, "where there are lots of lemons that come my way so I have to find creative ways to make lemonade! LOL! I've always been partial to being in nature or at least sitting in a window and looking out. Journaling, drawing, praying, reading the Bible and other books help me through all my lemonade projects. I also like to surf the Net for beautiful art and writings that bring peace to my heart."

Along with her creative work and pet/house sitting, Julia volunteers with her husband for a non profit no-kill dog rescue called K-9 New Life. "We provide a foster home for dogs that are about to be put down so, along with our own two dogs and two cats (all rescues), we always have an extra dog hanging around. While they live with us the dogs get medical attention, spayed or neutered, and training (well, my husband ruins them--our current medium sized foster dog sits nowhere but in his lap and kisses him as much as he can). Just about every Sunday the Rescue takes the foster dogs to a Pet Smart so people can see and meet our foster 'children' and maybe put in an application for a dog. I like to help the Rescue in every way I can so I have been donating a percentage of every sale I get from my art and greeting cards."

As to what shoes Julia wears? "Okay, now you are gonna be a bit shocked but I am not a shoe person. During the winter months I wear knee high boots unless I am wearing pants. Just think black knee high boots with buckles at the top. The rest of the year, I wear black running shoes and water shoes when I go to the pool to do my mile swim. I am nondescript when it comes to shoes. I will say, though, I adore wearing my boots the most! I definitely am NOT a Sex and the City type girl...and I never liked that show at all!"

You may find out more about Julia's life and artwork on her website, shop, and blog.

Sequoia (the Foster Dog) with Sunglasses

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thanks to The Creators Palette

Every once in a while, you cross paths with someone...someone you know is kind of heart and spirit. So it has been with Melanie of The Creators Palette. She has featured a few of my lobsters on her blog and always been generous with her warm words of support and encouragement. She actually does not know this, but several times she's touched base with me when I really needed a boost from the universe. These acts were spontaneous and uplifting and I wanted to thank her publicly for being such a special person.

Now, Melanie has nominated me for the Brillante Weblog Award! What a sweet surprise! Thanks, Melanie!

This award is one that continues to be passed on so I too will nominate 7 blogs for this award!

Each nominated blog should:

* Add the logo of the award to your blog
* Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
* Nominate 7 other blogs
* Add links to those blogs on your blog
* Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

I will update this posting to add nominees over the next few days. Nominees are in no particular order. I love them all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lobsters! What Was I Thinking? -- Part 2

As some of you may already know, I worked with a really cool and talented photographer, Liz Grandmaison, at the beginning of the summer. She kindly and compassionately took portraits of a few of my lobsters. If you have not had a chance to check out her website, please do so. You will be glad you did!

I promised, a while back, I would introduce a few of my lobsters to you. So today, I am bringing you one from my "vested" series.

This little lobster came to life as part of the Visual Artists Street Team challenge to make something green.

Green is not necessarily a color associated with lobsters, unless of course you are talking about the tomalley. Some people love the stuff, think it is a delicacy even...not's lobster liver! Blech! What is more, most people only see cooked lobsters on their plate, so naturally, they think "red" not "green." Lobsters do come in a variety of colors--yellow, orange, greenish-brown, grey, blue--(but still, probably not any of the shades I was thinking of for my lobsters). So, the challenge I set for myself was to make "something green" that still looks like a lobster.

My first stop: the thrift store. In the past, I admit, I pooh-poohed thrift stores. All I saw when I stepped through the doors was a dingy bunch of dusty junk. It is still there, the junk, but after a while I started seeing little gems of fabric popping out at me. I read somewhere this is called "getting your eyes on." I think the person was referring to hunting mushrooms, but I am pretty sure it applies to hunting cool fabric as well.

I think it was in a thrift store I started seeing lobsters not as lobsters, but as palettes for...who knows what. Really, I am only as limited as my imagination. lobster? Why not? Quilted lobster? Why not? Vested lobster? A vested lobster! Cool! Let's do it!

I laugh when I make these lobsters. Each stage, each step of the process brings out their personalities just a little more. Sometimes, I have a real idea about what color combinations to use...and sometimes, I just let the fabric guide me (to varying degrees of success, I might add).

I like using bits of "found" fabric. The limited supply forces me to be creative. There are no matching dye lots. There is no purchasing extra material just in case. Once the shirt or skirt or yardage is is gone. And, unless I want to get all pouty about it, I am forced to use what I have creatively and then head back to the thrift store to see what new treasures are waiting there. This limitation expands my imagination and my excitement for making lobsters. I always go shopping with the idea that the "perfect" fabric is out there somewhere. If I had an endless supply of the same type fabric and thought I had to make each lobster exactly alike, I would lose interest very quickly.

I like that the fabric I purchase has had a life before me (for the most part, anyway, some of the stuff I find is brand new). I like making lobsters from pieces and parts. I like supporting my community by making purchases at thrift stores that, in turn, make donations to people less fortunate than I am. And, every once in a while, I like pushing the boundaries with a lobster that is purple...or pink...or gold...or green...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thanks to Cricketapollo!

I'm sending a big THANKS! to Cricketapollo, who curated this Etsy treasury. It made the home page on 8/3/08.

Other sellers who shared the honor:

Row 1: I Love Nice People by Will Bryant, Da Da Long Bubble Skirt by Wear It, Fire Engine Red by Timothy Adam Designs;

Row 2: Handwoven Naturally Dyed Silk Shawl by J Schubert Designs, Hugs and Kisses Paper Pillow by Sweet Bunny Home, NotYerAverage Red Ramie Lobster by "Sojourn Quilts;

Row 3: Kate Brilliant Ring by Andes Cruz Designs, Custom Pencil Urchin Pin by Jen Maestre, Colonial 2 by Gush;

Row 4: Modern Melamine Tray by Uncommon Eye, Hidden People by Samy Paden, Hand-painted Gift Bags by Emily The Robin

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Dream (by Tree Artist)

Twisted Purple Tree (by Tree Artist)

Interview with Jordanka (Tree Artist)

I once had the distinct pleasure of "doing art" with a three and five year old. We spread newspapers over the table and then, on top of that, what seemed like a ream of paper, several jars of water, a jumble of brushes and a huge array of watercolors. Painting, I soon learned, was a seriously fun business.

The three year old seemed more absorbed by the process of painting than what he painted (though he gave an elaborate story afterwards about his subject, I got the impression that he was making it up. I sensed the story telling was also part of his "art"). His technique was to grab hold of a big, fat paintbrush with clenched fist and gob paint--as much as possible--onto the bristles. He spent a good deal more time feeling the movement of paint on paper than he did trying to make objects out of paint. His was as much a tactile experience as visual.

The five year old, likewise, was intent on her painting project, but in a different, more studied way (befitting her personality). Subject was definitely important to her. Lines. Color. She worked swiftly with brisk movements of the brush. She took a sort of minimalist approach. Decisive (she'd planned out her painting), yet unfettered, free with her strokes. I couldn't have reproduced the vibrant paintings she made.

Fast forward a few years to "art" projects these children now brought home from school. Gone were the thick, flowing lines. Gone were the energy and freedom of movement. Gone were the unrestrained, surprising colors and creative spirit. Self-consciousness had crept in. Stiff stick figures. Dictated subjects and forced perspectives. Painting wasn't something to be done just for the fun of it. "Art" was now a homework assignment: just another subject in school. It was something to be done within a prescribed time limit and to get a grade. Ugh. I couldn't help but feel sad.

"I could paint realistic portraits by age 10, but it took me a life time to learn how to paint like a child."--Picasso

I took this quote from the website of Jordanka, Tree Artist. I read that Paul Klee, a Swiss painter who taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture, felt similarly and I wondered how many artists, known and relatively unknown, struggle to get back something into their artwork that life, maturity, and formal schooling often knocks out of us.

Jordanka is a Naive artist I met through Etsy and whose work I've admired from afar. Those TREES she paints! You can't help but get drawn in! In 38 years of working her craft, Jordanka has won numerous awards and participated in solo and group exhibitions in both United States and Canadian galleries. She has also been featured in countless articles in local newspapers, including Chatelaine Magazine, and appeared on four local television shows. Since "getting the child back" into my own work is something I think about a great deal, I was delighted when Jordanka agreed to share some of her insights.

"I was born and raised in Bulgaria," Jordanka tells me, "and interested in art ever since I was a little girl. I used to visit the only Gallery in my hometown, Burgas, and wished I could paint like those great artists. I came to Canada in 1970. Along with raising a family, (a son with Cerebral Palsy and a daughter), I taught myself to paint. First I copied every picture from the "How-to" paint books and later from National Geographic and other magazines. I tried all kinds of mediums: Pastels, Oils, Colored Pencils and Acrylics. I painted flowers, animals, and mostly portraits in a truly realist manner."

Jordanka worked this way for about twelve years. "As I learned more I discovered the whimsical art of Henri Rousseau, a Naive French artist who painted famous Jungle scenes. Later I discovered Grandma Moses. She painted her everyday life experiences in the country in a very simple way. This made me want to paint scenes of my childhood memories of Bulgaria, but I did not start until about 19 years later. I guess I wasn't ready before that. I just had to follow my inner gut feelings."

World Wide Arts Resources defines Naive Art as follows: "...the work done by an artist who was not trained in an academy or other traditional manner of art education. It is characterized by an unusual approach to the formal qualities of painting and awkward drawing skills, resulting in an almost childish image. Other qualities of naive art include pattern, unrefined color and simplicity. Notable naive artists include Henri Rousseau, Camille Bombois, and Alfred Wallis. Naive artists are sometimes referred to as primitive artists."

While Naive artists may lack formal, academic training, they are often well read and practiced and capable of using sophisticated (if intuitive) techniques to obtain simplistic, childlike results. "My primitive, naive style," Jordanka says, "evolved over the next 19 years."

"I think this style of art was in me all along. I wanted to tell stories of my life in Bulgaria in a simple, childlike way. That's why it's called Primitive, Naive art. No one can teach you how to do it: untrained and unrestrained. I am a person who does not like to follow any specific rules, especially when it comes to painting. I learned to trust my gut feeling and go with it. I have not become rich from my art, but I am rich, because I am happy when I paint."

"I worked on the Bulgaria series until 2005," Jordanka continues. "A I painted my childhood memories, I refined my style more and more. I had so much fun that I included scenes of my life in Canada, as this Country has become my second home. UNICEF and Leukemia Research Fund of British Columbia, Canada created Christmas cards from 8 of my naive scenes of children playing in the snow with all the proceeds going to the Charities."

"Now I work in acrylics on canvas, watercolor paper or mat board and paint TREES. I don't put much detail in my TREE paintings. I want to show each tree has a character and soul all its own. If you observe trees in the spring--before they start getting leaves--you can see how different each tree is by the way their branches twist and turn. Of course, I take liberties in design and mood and make each tree a star. People tell me my TREES have human qualities. When I look outside my window or go for a walk and see all those beautiful trees I want to paint. Painting, creating, helps me keep my sanity, and it makes me happy."

Along with trees, Jordanka finds solace and inspiration in music and dance. "When I go in my studio, I put soft rock music on and sing along or whistle while I paint. Sometimes I stop and dance. It energizes me and puts me in a great mood for creating my art."

As to what shoes Jordanka wears? "Dancing shoes. I love to dance."

You may find out more about Jordanka and her work in her shop, and at Yessy, Zazzle, and Cafe Press.

Some of Jordanka's paintings are available on pendants, created by Anna Leah Designs and Cross Stitch Designs.

Jordanka is a member of the following groups:

Interior Design Team
Visual Artists Street Team
Worldwide Women Artists

What Shoes Jordanka Wears

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Little Rain (by Studio Virgo)

Too Good To Last II (by Studio Virgo)

Interview with Melissa (Studio Virgo)

I have a friend who is moving cross-country to become part of an artist community. It was, at least initially, a pipe dream. It is now becoming real as she sells off her stuff this weekend and gets ready to leave. By next Sunday, she will be on her way to parts, largely, unknown.

I sit here writing this excited for her and mildly jealous of her resolve to make something happen with her art. At the very least this change--and the process of making a fairly significant decision--has rekindled her artistic fervor. She knows there will be challenges and is going anyway. This move, for her, is a mixture of adventure, destiny and necessity: something she needs and wants to do. I see it as courageous.

I have often thought how slow we are, as humans, to change--even if the change we need has the potential of making us stronger or safer or healthier or more authentically us. Personally, I go kicking and screaming through change. I am grateful for lessons learned after a period of transition, but I go kicking and screaming nonetheless.

Sometimes, like in my friend's case, we can take an active part in bringing about change. Sometimes, life takes over, "helps" us out...knocks us for a loop...shakes us up in unexpected ways...throws us in the mirky, squishy, messy realm of the dark unknown. Here, we have a divine opportunity, should we choose to take it, to learn about ourselves, the human condition and redefine how we move through the world. Making that choice to move forward even when we can barely see the next step, even when we have lost our sense of self or direction, takes its own kind of courage.

I had the great fortune, recently, to meet Melissa, an artist on Etsy, and interview her for this project. Hers is a story both moving and difficult to tell. It is one of losing and then redefining creative energy. It is one of courage and hope. "It is something," Melissa tells me, "that I think is really important to share with other creative moms since so many women go through it." I agree.

I am honored to bring you this interview with Melissa of Studio Virgo.

"My artwork," says Melissa, "has always been something that I look at on two levels. First, the purely formal, which is about the object or image I am trying to capture. Second, the personal aspect; the things that compel me to a particular image in the first place, and whatever personal allegory or iconography the work has for me at the time. My hope is that by filtering real things through my expressive lens, some element of that meaning and emotion I was processing as I made the work comes through to the viewer."

"I was trained," Melissa continues, "as a painter (oils) and printmaker (primarily etching), but currently work in acrylic, gouache, and mixed media. I stopped making art altogether when I started graduate school for Arts Administration." She took up art again shortly before becoming pregnant with her daughter in 2004. "I found that small paper collages were a great way to "play" -- creating images and reacquainting myself with color and composition without putting pressure on myself to make work I considered "good enough." Paper collage was also the perfect medium for working with limited space and time. The joy of mixed media has stayed with me as I have become more serious about my work again, and introduced bright colors and a lot more light into my work."

I have always found artwork to be a way to process and understand my own inner life," Melissa continues. "It is very much a process of making meaning. Creating an image can be both active and cathartic, and meditative. But the need for me to create has come into play in my life in the last few years in a way I never imagined. After the birth of my daughter in 2005, I began to suffer from postpartum depression. As a person who has always excelled at everything I have taken on, I was bewildered, confused, and ashamed by the complete devastation of my very self in the wake of both bringing my wonderful daughter into the world and the geographic relocation our family underwent shortly thereafter."

"I think it's really hard," Melissa continues, "to convey true Depression to someone who has never experienced it. I, myself, used to really pooh-pooh it. I guess I struggle with how to explain the fact that "big-D" Depression and Postpartum depression are not just feeling blue, a little sad, but feeling completely hopeless, not wanting to exist. Postpartum depression is a medical condition, but it doesn't get treated because it feels like a personal failing."

"I did everything I was supposed to do. I ate right, exercised. I got out for walks, joined groups, met people, socialized. But it didn't stop the walls from closing in on me; the ache of missing friends and family, the irrational anger and frustration, the bouts of crying, the feeling of being trapped, of being not me, of being a terrible mother. It's so hard to admit, when you have this beautiful baby and everyone is smiling at her, that things are not OK, that you can't get over it on your own."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, Women's Health, perinatal depression is "one of the most common complications during and after pregnancy." It is not clear how many women are affected by perinatal and postpartum depression. Researchers believe rapid hormonal changes occurring in a woman's body during and after child birth may trigger symptoms of depression. Sometimes, it is difficult, at first, to distinguish between normal, transitional feelings that develop as a result of being pregnant and then having the baby (such profound physical, psychological and emotional changes), and a deeper, longer lasting depression that occurs when these feelings do not subside over time.

For Melissa, the depression happened gradually, rather than all at once. "It was like I went for a walk in the snow and it got deeper and deeper until I was hip-deep in drifts, struggling to move. This isn't 'Gee, I'm a little grumpy about work.' This is the physical feeling of not being able to move or summon the energy to do every day tasks. The inability to focus thoughts, see past tomorrow, or find any hopeful thought in your life. The color drains out of everything, obsessive thoughts take over, and numbness sets in. You just don't want to BE."

Other factors that may contribute to postpartum depression include feeling tired, overwhelmed, stressed by changes in work and home routines, loss of identity and loss of free time. Postpartum depression brings to those who suffer from it a profound sense of loneliness. Many women also experience panic attacks, anxiety and obsessive thoughts about something bad happening to the baby. "A lot of us who have been through it," Melissa confides, "still struggle with the guilt ridden idea that it seems such a self-centered type of problem when so many other people on this planet are coping with such terrible circumstances on a day-to-day basis."

These societal pressures and feelings of embarrassment, guilt or shame sometimes prevent women from admitting they are feeling depressed at a time they are "supposed" to be feeling happy. "I still find myself trying to grasp why, and having a hard time accepting that there isn't necessarily any answer to that and, once again, that it isn't some mark of failure on my part."

It is important to repeat, here, that perinatal and postpartum depression "can happen to any woman and does not make the person a "bad" or "not together" mom." (Women's Health) Postpartum depression is a real and treatable occurrence that affects a woman's ability to feel connected to herself and her baby. Reaching out to family members and friends, and seeking help through doctors, counselors, and/or other support groups can help a woman with perinatal/postpartum depression learn ways to understand and cope with its often debilitating effects.

For Melissa, complete recovery has been a long process. "It has only been in the last year that I have realized what an important role my art-making has in my life. As I get to know myself as a mother and try to find a new path, regaining competence as an artist and having a creative outlet has given me back a sense of purpose, of individual identity, and re-sparked my interest in a creative career." Melissa has yet to decide whether she will focus totally on being an artist or pursue a career in arts administration. "This process has also given me endless inspiration in creating: with my current work exploring my constantly shifting relationship with my child, the new social networks that have formed around motherhood, as well as my conflicting feelings about gender, domesticity, and what really brings me joy and centering in life."

"I think what I read or listen to tends to fuel what is already inside of me; helps me make intellectual connections among disparate things. My taste in movies, music, and literature tend to be very eclectic. Depending on my mood I might listen to anything from Yo Yo Ma to the Ramones. I just love the process of discovery where one idea leads you to another and it all comes full circle, if that makes any sense. I am also such a visual person that really just looking at things, taking it all in, really excites me. Everything from the patterns on fabric in new clothing at the store, to art magazines, to great web design, to the negative space between a building and a tree. I just love looking. I have spent some time learning about and working in graphic design, and I would say that that has been a huge influence on how I approach the formal aspects of my work now."

As to what shoes Melissa wears? "Here again my tastes can be so eclectic as to almost be bipolar...on the one hand, being on the short side I really enjoy a sexy pair of heels to make me feel good. On the other hand, a pair of Doc Martens makes me feel powerful in a more physical way: just sturdy, no-nonsense, and solid."

You may find out more about Melissa's life and works at her website, shop and personal blog.

Melissa is a member of the following groups:

Visual Artists Street Team
The InCrowd: Indiana's Etsy Street Team

What Shoes Melissa Wears

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks to Creatively Tangled

A big thanks to Creatively Tangled for featuring one of my lobsters in a treasury that made Etsy's front page on August 8.

The artwork and artisans in this treasury are as follows:

Row 1: Blue Crystals by Whirlwind Jewelry, Seaside Reverie by Lillyella, Broken Birdie Clothespin Magnet by lmno Products;

Row 2: Curious by Polarity, Original Oil Painting by Kendra Zvonik, NotYerAverage Lobster by Sojourn Quilts;

Row 3: Green Green Tea by Shellie Artist, Lime Berry by Sweetness Jewelry, Vintage Lime Green Gravy Boat by OddznEndz;

Row 4: Seashell Green -- Necklace by Kimikal, Wish Fancy Enamel Drop Pendant by Jewelry by Natsuko, Envy by Lickety Split

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dreaming Goddess (by Barbara Giordano)

Moonlight Majesty (by Barbara Giordano)

Interview with Barbara Giordano

It is something artists I talk with say quite frequently: I stumbled upon my craft. I was not planning on being a painter or quilter or writer or artisan. Something happened. A chance occurrence, perhaps, or a phrase or word of encouragement from an unexpected person, or maybe a need for something that did not previously exist and the creative juices started flowing. Yet, not everyone hears this calling. Not everyone has the foresight or insight or courage to follow an artistic path.

I looked up "chance" in the dictionary. The first part of its definition spoke to the randomness, the unexpected and unpredictable associations we have with the word. As I kept reading, however, I encountered these phrases which deepen the word's meaning for me: an opportunity; a fortuitous event; the likelihood of an event; probability.

So, what is it in the life of an artist that sets the stage for such fortuitous events as discovering paint or clay or fabric or pen and ink? And then, further, recognizing opportunity when it knocks, and actually doing something with these materials: splashing or molding or shredding or scribbling--taking action when others might let self-doubt or disinterest override the impulse to take materials in hand and make something from pieces and scraps and parts?

I do not know that I have the answers to these questions. What I do know is that, by chance, I met Barbara Giordano through the magic of the internet. She is a jewelry maker and artist. I had the opportunity to talk with her about her life and work. A fortuitous event indeed!

Barbara is the creative inspiration behind two websites: Sunfluer's Jewelry Designs and Off The Cuff Art.

"The first website I launched," Barbara tells me, "is Sunfluer's Jewelry Designs. I make awareness and healing gemstone jewelry." Sunfluer's Jewelry Designs features made by hand beaded jewelry and gifts including meaningful awareness designs, artwork pendants, and healing gemstone adornments for body and soul. "I have a signature line of adoption jewelry which is very successful."

"Although art has always been of interest to me," Barbara continues, "I didn't think of myself as an artist until fairly recently. By chance I began drawing and painting. I wanted a special logo for my website. I love sunflowers and faeries or fantasy art. I decided to take a stab at drawing the image that came into my mind, which was a sunflower fairy. I liked the way the drawing turned out. It didn't end up as a logo but a motivator for me to continue with drawing."

"I'm primarily a self-taught artist." Barbara continues, "I've been in self-study since 2003. I enjoy working with pencils, ink, markers and acrylic paint. My creative focus has been on endangered species and social/political concerns. I have a lot of interests so it's difficult for me to pinpoint a favorite. It's usually things I find in nature. I take solace in the natural beauty that surrounds me. I'm fortunate to live in the countryside and have a great mountain view. Looking at the wonder of nature gives me a sense of peace and joy." As a result of her new-found interest in art, Barbara opened a second website, Off The Cuff Art, where you will find ACEO (Art Cards, Original and Limited Edition) Drawings and Paintings.

Along with being a jewelry maker and artist, Barbara describes herself as "Wife, Mother, Artist, Household Engineer, Independent, Political Minded, Environmentally Concerned." She loves to dance, read, cook, travel and create. "Not necessarily in that order," she says. "The order is subject to change depending on the mood of the day."

When life gets harried, Barbara turns to music. "My music interest is wide and varied. I find classical music very calming. It comes from when I was a kid. A next door neighbor who was an artist played classical music while painting. I think the interaction I had with her, which was always kind and inviting, had a lasting, positive influence on me as far as the arts are concerned."

As for what shoes Barbara wears: "When I'm not barefoot, I'm a sneakers and flat sandals woman. I like comfort, no doubt."

To find out more about Barbara and her work, please visit her shops:

Sunfluer's Jewelry Designs
Off The Cuff Art
Sunfluer's Jewelry Designs on Etsy
Barbara Giordano Art

Her blog is: Sunfluer Designs

Barbara is a member of the following groups:

ARTery Team
Etsy Bloggers Street Team
HoneyBee Helpers Team
Hudson Valley Street Team
Interior Design Team
Visual Artists Street Team

What Shoes Barbara Wears

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rainbow Plumeria (by Kauai Artist)

Rhythm of The Hula (by Kauai Artist)

Interview with Marionette (Kauai Artist)

I have been thinking a lot lately about how place influences people and visa versa. So much of Maine is stunningly beautiful and stunningly destitute at the same time. The Maine winter offsets the wonders and beauty of an unfolding spring, bountiful summer, and brilliantly colored fall. All this is inscribed in the faces of the people who live and die here: the farmers, foresters, hunters, and fishermen. It is both a rugged and sensational existence, living in this state, and bound to leave a lasting impression on anyone who spends time here. Its essence rubs off and into the way one thinks and works and speaks and moves through the world.

Recently, I met Marionette, an artist from the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. She is the creative inspiration behind Kauai Artist. The vibrancy of her work not only reflects the textures and colors of a tropical island, but also the textures and colors of a life lived well. Her work embodies a place she fell in love with on her first visit in 1992 and celebrates the culture and imagery of Hawaii. This work, I believe, gives you a glimpse into the inner beauty and openness of this Kauai artist. It is with great pleasure I bring you this interview.

"In 1999," Marionette tells me, "I started out doing my art part-time and opened a studio in the small historic town of Wyandotte, Michigan. It was in a very old building with other artists, restaurants, a coffee bar and galleries." Sparked by visits to Hawaii, Marionette, here, started developing a very tropical style to her artwork.

"In March of 2001, the whole building burned down." Marionette continues. "Quite the eye-opening experience! By this time, I had no plans to re-start my art career in the same town and focused instead on moving to Kauai! I felt that God was trying to tell me something." Along with her artwork, Marionette used her degree in biochemistry working 14 years at a major chemical company in the Detroit area. "After massive cut-backs and layoffs at the company and the fire, I was ready to do what I really love--paint in Hawaii!"

It took a few years of planning and saving. Marionette moved to Kauai in 2004. "I am now a full-time artist running my own studio in Waimea, a small town on Kauai, where I teach art throughout the week. I wholesale my art to shops and galleries around the island. I also do graphic design and have had my images on packaging for Kauai Coffee. I recently did the cover of Bob Tripp's first novel, Last Clear Chance which was recently published. I also do commission paintings. I truly believe that if you do what you love, the rest will follow."

"I work in many mediums and generally flip-flop between them. Pastels, watercolor, acrylics, silk painting and scratchboard are among my favorites. I tried oil painting but never liked the turpentine. I prefer to work fast, anyway. I love bold, bright colors and the way sunshine lights up my subject. I guess this is why I love Hawaii and painting tropical scenes. The sunlight here on the island of Kauai gives the vegetation a beautiful glow. The sky is a brilliant blue. With spring/summer weather year round, I can always find something in bloom to paint."

Marionette's subject matter is tropical flowers, landscapes, hula dancers, plantation cottages, and the ever-popular Kauai chickens. "If you have ever been to Kauai you would know that chickens roam freely over the island since they have no natural predator here. Other Hawaiian Islands have the mongoose, but they never made it to Kauai. The chickens and roosters flourish everywhere--parking lots, at the beach, and especially in your own backyard. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I actually love the chickens and enjoy watching them."

"Whatever the subject is," Marionette continues, I want it to be colorful and fun. Dreaming of a tropical paradise takes you away from your day-to-day problems. Most of my collectors have been to Kauai or somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. They connect with my art as a way to remember their trip or honeymoon."

Turning serious for a moment, Marionette offers some insight into her resolve to bring art and beauty into the world. "When I was a child, I was abused. I carried around guilt, and as I grew older, I realized that what happened was not my fault--I was a child. As I started to connect with other women in my life, I found the majority had been the victim of some type of abuse through rape, incest, or spousal abuse. I realized that I was not alone."

"I decided in my early twenties," Marionette continues, "that I would not let what happened to me ruin the rest of my life. I guess that is why I am a very independent, self-motivating person. My goal is to be happy and productive in life. I have forgiven my abuser and let go of any anger. I can't change what happened in the past, but I can certainly change my present and future by following my dreams and making a difference in the world."

"Life is definitely full of challenges. I enjoy a good challenge and attack it head-on! Be persistent and don't give up. The first time I opened my own art studio, it burned down. No one was hurt, and all I lost were "things." Some people would have quit right there. Instead, I put a plan into motion to move to Kauai and open another studio where I can show my work and teach classes. Every day I come across little challenges. The first time I try something new, I usually fail. I learn from my mistakes, make changes, and try again. On the second or third attempt I generally succeed! Just keep doing what you love to do!"

I love to teach children art. Every so often I have a "free craft day" at my studio where I provide all of the supplies and refreshments to the public. Anyone (but mostly kids) can come for the day and freely create. I usually have 4-5 different projects to make. The next one is on Saturday, August 9, in celebration of the one year anniversary of my studio, Painting Paradise."

Marionette's favorite music is, of course, Hawaiian. "I enjoy the mellow slack key" guitar music that tells many stories of the islands. I find the music to be relaxing and great for painting!"

As to what shoes Marionette wears: "I only wear "slippahs" (local talk for flip-flops). They are extremely comfortable and everyone wears them. The best part is that you can pick up a pair at your local grocery store for under $5. I have gotten so used to wearing slippahs that I can't wear "real" shoes anymore. For my wedding, I wore white flip-flops with rhinestones because I knew if I wore heels, I would be miserable and all blisters!"

You may find more about Marionette and her work on her website, blog and shop.

Marionette is a member of the Visual Artists Street Team and the Garden Island Arts Council.

Mahalo and have a warm and beautiful day!