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!

What Shoes Marionette Wears