Tuesday, January 10, 2012

prognostications, inspirations and musings...

I have no idea if any of you believe that forces outside of your self can predict or guide your future. I’m not sure I believe in destiny or that my path is laid out at my feet only to follow it blindly without my choices affecting each step and phase of life.

That said I do believe that there may be clues along the way that might help you to look at things differently and help you to choose consciously which steps to take in your life’s journey.

Many peoples around the world choose to be a part of religious organizations and frequently use the teachings of their religion to be their guides or the absolute rules they live by. I am not good at being hemmed in by absolutes, the innate curiosity and creativity I was born with, and treasure do not allow for treading such a narrow path. I have gone to church for most of my life and believe that the model Christ set to live a life of kindness, generosity, understanding and dedication to others is a wonderful guide to emulate. Sadly many who call themselves his followers choose other aspects of “Christian” teachings to adhere to and seldom, in my humble and undoubtedly flawed estimation, live up to the model he set. I aspire to follow the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” rather than the “eye for an eye” kinds of life models.

I also look to other cultures and other ways of seeing the world to inspire my life choices. Many of them help to feed the creative side of my spirit. Among those sources of inspiration are those who believe in the world of Fae. Fae or fairy is a collective term for lands/creatures we normally cannot see. Fairies, trolls, goblins, elves, tomte, mermaids, Selkies, sidhe, etc. all belong in this category but I suppose angels could also be said to fit here.

A couple of years ago I purchased “The Heart of Faerie Oracle” by Brian and Wendy Froud. Admittedly I initially purchased it so that I had the cards to look at as artistic inspiration, Brian Froud’s paintings are so wonderful and speak to part of my creative nature that I sometimes struggle to access. At Faerie Con I attended Brian & Wendy’s workshop discussing the Oracle. I don’t follow the instructions for use as they are written, but they are suggested guides, and these cards are not as tied to the layout pattern as Tarot. My method is to shuffle and shuffle until it feels like time to stop shuffling. Then I spread the cards out in a fan, at least 3 passes from left to right (just because that’s more comfortable for my right handed self) after the 3rd pass I start to lightly drag my hand back the other direction. When one card catches and follows my hand I pull it. If a bunch of cards shift I nudge them back in line and return to the gentle passing of my hand over the cards. When I get 3 (or sometimes 4 if, like this morning a 4th card comes free independent of the others around it) I put the bulk of the deck away and examine the cards. Brian’s paintings are so rich and full of hidden images that this is always a treat. Each time I look at one I seem to find new things in it, even cards/paintings that I’ve looked at countless times before.

This morning I had 4 cards come free of the pack. The first was the Queen of Hearth and Home, the second was The Pan, 3rd came The Faerie of Naughtiness and 4th was The Green Woman. The cards come with a book that helps you to gain understanding of the cards, but these texts are a guide, not an absolute, you are meant to look at the cards and find meanings that connect with you personally. So, I looked up each card. The Queen of Hearth and Home is giving you or guiding you towards making a home/a welcoming atmosphere where ever you go & whatever you are doing. I’ve been meaning to work on household chores today anyway, but she’s more about creating a sense of welcome and acceptance. Having clean floors and all the dishes and laundry put away is a good thing in and of itself, but it does not create a sense of warmth and welcome. That comes from the hearts of the people in the home. I have been struggling with how I feel about certain people in my life, people I know I should be more open towards but am often willfully holding on to the negative feelings I have rather than allowing myself to value the parts of their natures that I know they possess. OK, so today’s lesson from this Queen’s card is to allow myself to open up my heart to let the warmth I know those I struggle with possess and allow the warmth of my heart to spread and share a greater sense of welcoming and generosity with the world.

The second card, The Pan my reading of this card today addresses a part of my life that I often avoid, the business side of being an artist. Ironically, just before pulling out the cards I’d been writing a ToDo list, something I used to keep and refer to regularly but fell out of the habit sometime last year and have been suffering from that lack of structure ever since. So, on this morning’s list were a variety of things I know I should do and manage to keep on a back burner long enough that they fade from my focus. Things like submitting my work to magazines, looking into getting my work in galleries and teaching more classes in more places. A fear of rejection and that my work will be seen as meaningless/valueless and a shyness I have never conquered has held me back for far too long. The Pan card is about facing the adventure in front of you. Something I’d been resolving to do just moments before pulling the card, but something that would probably have fallen to the bottom of the list, again, without an external nudge reminding me that I let those things slide far to often and that it’s time to take a firmer hand with myself and dare to dream, dare to put my work out there, dare to accept the adventure that life is, rather than passively letting life pass by.

The 3rd card, The Faerie of Naughtiness, is reminding me not to take things too seriously. A little mischief and a little naughtiness can make the world a brighter more energized place. I’m not advocating practical jokes or being spiteful but allowing play and a playful approach to be part of my life and my world. If you read yesterday’s blog entry you know that my world has a lot of pain and angst right now. As I look around, follow the news the world is full of pain and angst, it always is. But, it’s how you choose to accept and deal with pain, angst, challenges, the world that makes the difference. You cannot choose what life throws at you, you cannot avoid all pain, pain can sometimes be a good thing it warns us away from doing things that may harm us – don’t hold your hand over a flame or grab a hot object or you will get burned. But, pain does not have to rule your life. There is a lady at the church I attend that spends most of her days coping with pain in the 7-9 range every day. No one would ever know it to look at her, she presents the world with her best face, she takes an interest in others around her and looks for pleasures and happy moments to contrast her physical pains and bring joy to her life. Her smile brightens a room and her joyful acceptance of those around her speaks of her love of life, no matter how hard it can be sometimes. I aspire to be as positive and as welcoming of the world and the adventures it presents as she is.

The 4th – bonus card – was the Green Woman. She is an emissary of subtlety, beauty & fruition. She inspires us to look for the beauty in the world around us, to cultivate it, to marvel and cherish the small things like green ivy in a winter landscape. The final section on the entry about her reads as follows: “When she appears before you in a reading, let her powerful, gentle energy surround and nurture you. A relationship calls for gentle “greening” sometimes. Tread softly and gently to bring a relationship to fruition in its tentative stages. Be strong in your convictions, but gentle in the manner in which you present them, and you emulate the Green Woman.” Tread softly … be firm within yourself but treat people and relationships gently … what a great way to approach the world. If only we could all adopt a similar approach, the world would be a kinder place.

It’s funny, I haven’t read these cards in ages, but what always surprises me when I pull them out what ever card(s) I pull they always seem to be a perfect prompt for thinking about what is going on in my life at that time.

Where do you draw strength, peace, courage, and inspiration from? What tools or faith systems do you adhere to or use to put your life in perspective?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Resolutions already being tested ...

Well, we are little more than a week into 2012 and one resolution/hope has been shattered and one has started pretty well.

The shattered one, hospital/Doctor visits.  Part of this one is good the other part is sad.  Sad first, as I type this my mother in law lies in a hospice bed unconscious and unresponsive.  In the last 6 years she's coped with lung cancer, broken hip, broken vertebrae, untold numbers of flu's and other maladies.  At Thanksgiving she had a small stroke, which at first did not seem to have done much damage but she has been loosing ground health wise ever since.  It is hard on us all to watch this happen.  I think the worst part, for me, is watching my husband cope with all that an ill or dying parent can bring with it.  His brother and sister both live about 3,000 miles away (one on the West Coast and one in England) so as far as caring for his mother he is pretty much on his own (save what the kids and I can do).  The happier part of the medical sagas of my clan - my daughter's post operative bandages came off late last week!  She's down to a small custom fitted splint that just protects the pins that are sticking out of her finger from getting bumped, wiggled or pulled. She was so happy to be able to wash her hands and even her own hair again she squealed in delight in the doctors office! I will admit to being simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by the site of the pins.  She will happily take the splint off at any opportunity to show off the pins.  I think she is enjoying watching peoples reactions.  Those reactions are wide ranging - from "aw how COOL!" to clasping a hand to their mouths trying not to be sick.  But she gets the pins out on the 26th and is thrilled that she will have the full use of her hand soon.

The other resolution that is going well - late last fall I started toying around with (no pun intended) making steampunk softie dolls.  The taller of the 3 dolls in the first photo is a nearly finished example.  But, over the winter holidays I started playing around with a variation on that doll/sewing project.  Using plastic bottle caps as a base (these 2 have Gatorade bottle caps as their bases) I've been experimenting with making what I'm calling "Steampunk Stumpies."  They are a cross between a softie doll and a pin cushion, with a steampunk theme. These are the "in progress" dolls.  They are still waiting for some accessories.  He is called Albert vonPompompom, she doesn't have a name yet.  He will be getting a monocle and a watch chain.  I'm not sure what steampunky accessories she will be getting, maybe a top hat & goggles, maybe something completely different, who knows?

The theme of the stumpie dolls could be anything,, in fact I've been looking at netsuke carvings (similar scale) for inspiration for a variation on this series of dolls. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

New Year's Resolutions are not normally something that I make, as like most people I rarely keep them for any length of time.  So I hesitate to call my new plan an actual resolution, never-the-less I am resolved to post more regularly. 

What are your hopes for 2012? 

I hope to spend less time with family members in hospitals (because I hope none of them will need to spend anytime in them.)

I hope to be more creative - to break out of my comfortable box and push myself to greater levels of creativity, to learn new techniques, master new materials ...

I hope to pay more attention to this blog and to turn it into something meaningful to readers: to share any fabulous discoveries I make, to share techniques and write tutorials, to make people look forward to my next posts.

I hope to submit more of my work for publication, galleries ... (check out the Spring issues of Art Doll Quarterly - I started on this resolution last fall and the results will be out soon!)

I hope to help my family through what ever challenges may face us with grace, energy and enthusiasm, and even competence (SATs, college visits are coming, health issues continue, transition to high school is looming ...)

I hope you all have a fabulous 2012!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday - Cyber Monday

Black Friday is here already!  How did it get here so soon?  It's been busy around here, tuxedos other uniforms given out and sized for my daughter's school concert and symphonic bands (as well as some of the choral groups) a major health crisis in my family (I still have many hospital visits in my immediate future, but with luck and faith and good health care all will be well soon.)  yesterday my daughter participated in the Tournament of Bands All Star Band in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade.  The family members that were well enough all gathered at my brother's house yesterday for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  And, so, that brings us to Black Friday.  The closest to shopping center's I got to today was visiting my bank to sort out my bank card - it was blocked due to someone getting/using it without my knowledge or permission.  But the bank was quiet and all will be well there.  I got some of my shopping done today - much of it on Etsy!  This weekend I have made shipping free on everything in my shop.  If you are one of my facebook friends or if you read my blog you can use this coupon code to get an additional 20% discount. FBBlackfriday2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Etsy, sooo many choices!

Just out of curiosity I did an open search on Etsy - under "all items" I did not put in any search terms and clicked Search.  As of the time I'm writing this there are 11,669,654 items listed for sale on Etsy.  Repeating the exercise for shops yielded 1250 pages of shops - 10 shops per page = 12,500 shops.

There are so many items, so many categories, so many shops to choose from there is truely something for everyone there.  If you are shopping it could be overwhelming to find just the right thing, but with patience and an open mind you could find just about anything you might want, at least in the Handmade, Vintage or Supplies categories.  The prices range from $.10 to $100,000 so every budget is accounted for. 

All that said, as a seller on Etsy it drives home the point that Etsy is easy to get lost in, and that it is really incumbant upon each seller to find their own market and let the people who would most appreciate your offerings know where you are.  This is the journey I am on, where are the people who would love my work and how do I find them.  FaerieCon http://www.faeriecon.com/ is a good start, I'm also thinking of going to the MD FaerieFestival http://www.marylandfaeriefestival.org/  I would love to the the PA FaerieFest but that will have to wait until my kids don't have their final band competitions on the same weekend.  I am happy to announce that 4 of my dolls and a feature article will appear in an upcoming issue of Art Doll Quarterly! http://www.artdollquarterly.com/

Who knows what else will follow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fantasy made real at FaerieCon

After "dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I fought my way to" ... wait that's a different fantasy story. But, there is a connection.
It's hard to believe that nearly 2 weeks has passed since I was preparing to pack my car for FaerieCon. There were many challenges I had to overcome to get there, and many things I was hoping to happen. The hardships were of the mundane car variety (timing belts – ugh) and the normal challenges of getting last minute projects done, and reworking booth set up for the umpteenth time… In the category of hopes – being profitable is always on the list but there were a lot of more personal dreams as well. This focuses on that area …

Wendy Froud ( http://www.worldoffroud.com/ ) one of the creative minds/hands behind the movies Labyrinth, Dark Crystal and one of the creators of Yoda (some of you may have heard of that little film franchise it’s called Star Wars) has been making dolls since she was five. She is one of those artists you (well I) fantasize about meeting and talking about dolls with since I started making dolls. I have loved her work and the work of her husband Brian Froud for longer than I can remember.

Wendy & Brian have been featured artists at several of the FaerieCons that I have attended/been a vendor at. Yet actually meeting them and talking to them had eluded me for years. This year that dream came true. Wendy, with Brian at her side, stopped at my table the first night of FaerieCon. I believe I managed to talk like a sentient human, and avoided gushing at her like an overwhelmed crazed fan. I have seen many a fan fall apart when their idol/muse is actually in front of them.

Wendy was as charming and personable as every report of her I’d ever heard. She had some complimentary things to say about my work and table, as well as my dress (which is why she stopped to talk to me in the first place) The next night at the Bad Faeries Ball (vendors on my hallway stay open through the balls) Wendy was shopping for some fabulous silk creation across the hall from me at Reyen Designs (http://www.silkcloque.com/ ) when I beckoned her over to my table. I told her that her feedback was so important to me that I would like to give her a present. She said “really?” and I told her to choose something from my table. To which she said “REALLY???” when I said “yes!” She did not hesitate; she knew exactly which doll she wanted, which resonated with her. We discussed how my daughter, when much younger, did not want me to sell my dolls but that I could allow them to be adopted by appropriate families. Wendy touched my arm and said she feels exactly the same way about her work.

On Sunday morning we had 2 more connections, one was a short word as we passed in the hallway. The second on Sunday and final of the weekend was quite lengthy. We were waiting to have Dancing Hands, the Faerie Goddess Mother put Fhairy Strands (http://www.faecraft.com/ )in our hair. She gave me some great advice regarding how to display my work and how to view my creativity in regards to the world outside of FaerieCon, and so many other things.

Dreams do come true.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inspirational people in your life…

Many of us have people who influence us directly or indirectly in this life. Parents may be among THE most influential people in anyone’s life. Parents teach us many things sometimes well sometimes not so well, they teach us how to walk and talk, how to cook and do laundry, how to care for each other (or not) how to love and hate, how to learn …

My mother has taught me all of those things (well except how to hate – she’s really bad at hating) one of the things my mother taught me that few people can boast is how to be creative. I get antsy if I don’t have at least one creative project going and like my Mom I rarely can just sit and watch TV without something creative to do with my hands. One of my Mom’s favorite mediums is wood, she’s a carver or a whittler. She’s been carving since I was in school (and I don’t mean college). She also sews and knits and cooks among other things. I’d like to share some of her work. There are some of the pieces of hers I happen to have knocking around in my studio. Some were made for me to sell at craft shows, some were gifts. I hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

Mom if you read this you have always and will always inspire me!