Patti Edmon Altered Attic: 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

HoW Do yOu EXpReSs GrAtITuDe?

Certainly not like I do... by receiving not one, but three blog awards!!, all in the month of December and then not acknowledging a single one. I think that instead of posting them and writing things about myself, I'll mention the lovely artists who were kind enough to bestow them and provide links to their sites. That way you can explore the art and wisdom and warmth and devotion that these women share regularly.
Denise at Couture de' Papier awarded me a Butterfly Award, for having a cool blog. Check out her yummy, delightful creations. Earlier in the month, she posted one of my favorites, about the need for making Christmas real by sharing ourselves and using a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on gifts to help the many who are going to die from lack of clean drinking water.
Lani, Leader of the 14 Secrets of a Happy Artist, a group I'm fortunate enough to belong to, an art therapist and extraordinary mixed media artist. When you visit Lani's blog, you'll find that not only is she generous about sharing her art, she regularly provides links and portions of posts that further and enhance the creative process, spirit and life in general. She promotes other people's blogs and giveaways and teaches a fabulous course on Happiness in Art, which is how I met her.
Sharon, jeweler extraordinaire from Mana Moon Studios, was kind enough to tag me with the Bloggy Goodness Award - early in December. Wow, it has been weeks though they have flown by so quickly. Sharon just received the Spreader of Love Award, how apropos. Just prior, she received the Christmas Spirit award. If you read her reasons for loving Christmas, you'll get a grand idea of why she is the recipient of so many awards.

Thanks to all of you who entrusted me with these awards and my deepest apologies for not passing them along appropriately.  

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Laugh Much

Another in the series - supposed to have a rich crimson-purple background, instead of, well, whatever color this is. It imparts the general idea though, another of the sentiments that I loved about that Christmas card I cut apart. 

I hope you are all enjoying a bit of rest,  peaceful, slow days that follow the hectic, harried pace leading up to the holidays. Whatever it takes to recharge and renew your spirit. 

Only 3 days to the new year? I know it's corny, but I'm making my list of resolutions; if you are, I hope you put creating at the top of your list!

p.s. images  used for this series purchased from ArtChix Studios

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sing Loudly

It seems that so much of Christmas is about preparation - shopping and cooking, wrapping and embellishing. Energy expended with wonderful intentions but little left over for the real meaning of the season - connections. So, I was more than a little happy to enjoy visits with close friends, meals with family and my favorite Christmas Eve church service (lessons and carols, along with a homily on gifts - what they represent and reveal about the giver's idea(s) about who we are... mention was made of a Scooby-Doo Chia pet and slippers with light-up toes before she moved on to the way those who know us best often give us what we need, even if we don't know it at the time). 

I think of the many gifts I've received throughout the year and am happy to blog hop, leave notes and find similar sentiments; I am blessed to be in the company of talented mixed media artists, writers and other creative spirits who appreciate and focus on the truly amazing gift of a creative moment. The time and space to translate the myriad emotions and issues we face in life into wondrous works. I didn't have as much time to work in the Altered Attic as I'd have liked this holiday season, though I did my series of 4x4 canvases. And, now that I'm able upload photos again (thanks to my bud Karin for uploading the one below), I realize how pitiful they look when photographed with a flash. Scanning is definitely the way to go, except when objects are too dimensional, so this will just have to do. Ah well, the sentiment is there. Sing loudly.
One of my favorite activities this season is the Christmas breakfast we serve to those not fortunate enough to have family, friends (or a home) for their own holiday meal. Having had very little sleep, which was probably a good thing, my husband, kids and I headed to Maxwell Street Presbyterian  at 8:45 on Christmas morning to help hand out long underwear and socks, plates of food and a little holiday cheer. A group of four or five from another church had stopped by to sing carols accompanied by guitar; I didn't realize it at first, they just weren't singing with the kind of gusto that I reserve for my favorites - church hymns, classic rock or Silent Night. I didn't hesitate when they handed out a few song sheets and in no time we had significant volume, which seemed well-enough received. Fortunately, my kids were otherwise occupied so they weren't even embarrassed. Joy to the World.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays

I am in the habit of saying Merry Christmas; I'm a Presbyterian and I've grown up with most of the same traditions that I now practice with my own family. Like lighting a candle in church as we sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve. 

To say Happy Holidays is not an attempt to generalize, only acknowledgment of those friends to whom Christmas isn't the focus of their December. So whether it be Hanukkah, Kwanza, or a quiet day away from the noise and fast pace, Happy Whatever You Celebrate. 

Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate the community I have grown to cherish and the comments I look for every time I post; the encouragement and friendships that keep me feeling a deep sense of connection to something much larger than my own little world, up in the attic where I explore mixed media and focus on creativity to keep my life in balance.

Over the past couple of weeks, I  made a series of 4 x 4 canvases using a Christmas card that I cut apart - each phrase its own piece. I'm going to try to post the rest within the next couple of days. Please come back soon!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How Many Crackers...

How many nuts would a nutcracker crack if a nutcracker could crack nuts? Well, I'm nuts and more than a little crackers after spending the past 10 days immersed in ballet world. It is Christmas time though and what are the holidays without the timeless classic. 
In addition to the two roles my daughter has been rehearsing for months (Waltz of the Flowers and Spanish Corps), her best bud broke her left foot and Al filled in, learning a third - and very long - role in one day, the day before dress rehearsal, one week before show time. 
This is also her first year performing en pointe, which was so exciting. As a seasoned ballet mom, every year I think it can't get more challenging or thrilling. The early days she was a honey fairy, a snow flake, a candy cane, and putting on her makeup and gelling until absolutely not one hair went astray and organizing snacks between shows were the  monumental tasks. Now she is doing is doing her own make up (except the eyeliner and mascara, she is only eleven after all) and I hardly hold her hand back stage. But instead of getting easier, as her job becomes harder my work has become far more challenging. Now it's quick costume changes, sticking bobby pins in hair pieces and tacking tutus, steaming and stitching in the ESR (emergency sewing room); also the need for navigating the politics and personalities of nearly a dozen pubescent divas... 
Alice has always been a natural on stage, every drop of performance ability in her DNA coming from her father's side (jazz singers, musicians and extraordinary hams - Jim played Mother Ginger for three years:) I never had to calm her nerves but little girls rely on us moms to ask if their lipstick is dark enough or the skirt fastened in the center. One year as we waited in the dressing hall (now they have graduated to dressing rooms, which acquire a definitive odor after six performances in two days), I photographed mothers and daughters, a series of ten or twelve friends with their daughters in various sages of preparation. While waiting our turn on stage, they sat and colored pictures and played games on the floor while we sat around them, gabbing and laughing. We've been a ballet family for more than six years, with a very few it's tradition to attend the after-final party at a favorite Mexican restaurant that reserves two rooms - one for the adults and the other for the still-shrieking dancers, The load lifted, there are pitchers of margaritas and salsa as the adrenaline simmers down. 
After days of not dancing a single step my feet are killing me and it takes more than a day or two to recover - every moment of which is one of my primary reasons for being a mother. Spending this kind of time, watching her grow and develop as a seasoned, committed dancer and beautiful young lady, and knowing that I had just a little bit to do with it is more than gratifying. 

On her toes, Alice is nearly as tall as her brother, who hasn't missed a show in six seasons.
The costume for the Snow dance is befitting a princess; she is with my very proud mother and my sister after the afternoon show.
She loved wearing the Spanish Corps costume, which accented her looming maturity. A few years ago it was hard to imagine her in these roles, let alone the costumes, or twirling and leaping across the stage in pointe shoes. The bond is still there, but it has changed, as has every facet of our relationship; her growth and independence, the spreading of wings that have been nurtured since the earliest days of pinning buns and wrangling with tights.

One of her first roles was a black ant in a recital; she's hugging her best friend, Maddie, the same one who broke her foot this past Thanksgiving Day and turned the pointe shoes over to Alice, the director - and I - knowing that she'd pull it off. Just like always, that in spite of the technical and other difficulties, all ends well when the curtain closes, even if I am more than a little crackers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Make a Wish...

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill

Chrysti has an inspired idea - and a giveaway! Check out her blog and leave a comment, that's all there is to it; except for generating goodwill and encouraging meeting and exchange among artists/bloggers in the land of mixed media!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I set out on a pre-Thanksgiving walkabout, part of a 3-week challenge I signed up at the last possible moment. The program was developed by Marguerite Bryant and I read about it on a post, I think on Creative Every Day. 
Her method blends daily morning pages (remember Julia Cameron's groundbreaking stream-of-consciousness cleansing) and art journaling, prayer, partnering with buddies, with a focus on a creative goal. Mine is to stop worrying about what I didn't do, ran out of time for, left unfinished on the table... Take a 30 minute walk? I could do a wash on the series of three canvases I'm starting; I could wrap my mind around the two swaps I've stalled on... I could start a blog post.... It's well documented that writers and artists walk, though, and my feet are in good enough shape to facilitate so I grabbed my camera and, as my bff Karen does daily, took a time out to renew my vision.
So, I ended up walking way longer than 30 minutes and finding some interesting angles and objects to photograph, though I've combed these streets hundreds of times before. Our neighborhood occupies the eastern edge of downtown Lexington. It's a historic blend of towering Victorian four-squares, smaller Arts & Crafts with really cool architectural detail; a park and Greek Revival Mansion in the center was once the estate for Colonel John Todd who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. Acquired by the Bell family in 1842, the Greek Revival mansion is the scene of countless weddings, anniversary and holiday parties and, our chili cook-off and Harvest Feast that are the platform for our neighborhood association's annual meeting.

What was once the carriage house is now home of the Studio Players, a theatre troop that performs regularly in the auditorium on the lower floor. The visible upper floors house a reception area and offices. The grounds provide the dozens of neighborhood kids (and parents), including mine, with space to frisbee, run with the dogs, hunt easter eggs, play football, picnic, practice skateboard techniques and build forts in the cavernous bushes. The Bell House is visible from Main Street and more than once, I've pointed it out during tours as our house, but never let it get past the first laugh.

Our house is very modest and extremely square, the curves and angles that spoiled us in the bungalow we used to live in have been replaced by enough room to spread out, acquire major clutter and, of course, house the Altered Attic (windows across the top floor.) From my window seat I've watched birds playing in the water (oops) making rivers in the box gutters, and the change of seasons, trees flowering, greening, fiery and then graceful upstretched arms awaiting a new life cycle.


What I find so amazing, is that every time I do take a walk I see things that weren't in focus before; not that life is stagnant, or that neighbors don't change their outer surroundings, but it's refreshing to quickly breathe in that sense of discovery.  I think most folks around here are used to my peering about, sometimes a bit closer to the porch that I should be, with my face pressed against the camera. 

Today is Black Friday and a friend and I are going to set out on our ritual walk to the many locally-owned shops in our neighborhood to peruse the art, jewelry and fresh fun and functional array that you can only find in such small, attention-to-detail independent shops. More on that later. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Got Mine!

One of the (many:) issues of being compulsive is pre-ordering. Of course, what else is one to do when reading about the impending publication of such a delicioso book! I'm a fan of Susan Tuttle's and I have to tell you, I've been carrying this book around for an entire day now only peeking in now and then. I'd like to say that I stayed up until 2 a.m. devouring it, but anyone who knows me would spit out their coffee laughing at that thought. (auto-immune disorder - sleep = no-person's land). 
It's like trying to make a candy bar last a reaaalllllyyyyyyy long time. Only a nibble. One of the difficulties is, that she's a great writer, and I want to read it. Savor each page and make it last. What an inspiration.
If you click the book photo it will take you to Amazon, where you can look inside and see what I'm talking about. However! Please consider ordering your copy from Jane at Random Arts, or another independent artist working their tush off to make our mixed media world a better place.
With that said, happy reading, Happy Thanksgiving, take time to make a gratitude list if you aren't already art journaling, morning paging or practicing some other form of self-connect that opens up the nugget of joy that is nestled inside each and every one of us. I'm off to bake pumpkin pies....

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Amazing Jane Does it Again!

Jane Powell, proprietress of Random Arts, in Saluda, NC, one of my favorite havens on earth, issued a challenge in September (I think?) that was answered by 75 people! Our assignment: make a 5 x 7 journal page using the ingredients she sent each of us in an envelope. That's all, no further instruction. 
That sure didn't help me one bit. I stewed and procrastinated, all normal so far, and then I asked if she'd be posting any early... like an incentive. She saw right through that one and told me to have fun. Well. One day I was looking at the envelope and saw an image stamped on the back: We are Famous, Glamorous Artists.
Finally, some inspiration! I cut apart the envelope and went to work. I've not done much art journaling and I still think my page is kinda kooky, but I did have fun. 
In November, once she had a whopping stack of envelopes, Jane started posting 5 entries every day on her blog (Random Notes). From there they went to the 'tower' in her shop. Once she binds them, the book will be auctioned off at the Saluda Senior Citizens Center. Something tells me that the charity event won't be the last we see of this project.  
If this is the first you've heard about it, go look! You can spend hours poring over some of the most diverse and wildly creative art you'll ever see in one place. What an amazing, generous and phenomenal undertaking - way to go Jane. Mine is post number 71, I think, though, so I'm not sure what that means, exactly....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Take a Look!

My bff (remember Frog & Toad?) Karen, recently finished a Biographia project, compiling, distilling, translating an amazing woman's life journey into gorgeous, handmade books. Karen is a master at listening, something we could all use a lesson or two in, and her writing is, well, visit her blog and you'll see.  If there are people who have at least one of everything they need, I can assure you this is the kind of gift that opens itself for generations to come. 

Another childhood friend, Carol VanZandt, whose work is in collections around the world, creates stunning works that are unlike anything I've imagined. In Boston and then while living in Japan, she studied with masters of the art of Japanese Calligraphy; I find that meditating on her images, even tiny and on screen, charges the creative neurons.

My friend Karin, Beyond Words, posted yesterday one of the most amazing journal pages on pain and its relationship to spirit and body. Her recent surgery and lingering recovery are evident in the raw, stark beauty that she has captured.

As for me? Ornaments, ornaments, ornaments.... The Street Scene open house is Saturday, with a Meet the Featured Artists' event from 6 - 9. Notice I didn't say crafters:) Wish me luck!

Monday, November 17, 2008

new collage

amid the glitter and gold of holiday production, I managed to set aside some time to work on my development as a creative... an... art person. artist. ok, I said it. I still somehow manage not to consider myself an artist - in fact, this piece is the latest of a very small handful that aren't functional in any way.  I mean, the clock doesn't even work. ha. 
the collage I used for my banner is another non-utilitarian piece - I made it long before I had an inkling that I'd blog. I don't hesitate to  make art on journal covers and ornaments and switch plates, but  working on canvas is still somewhat foreign ground. so I started with a small one.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

My First Holiday Show

Last night Traditional Bank hosted their first annual "Connections... Holiday Bazaar." We have had a relationship with the bank as both a customer and vendor (they have been an EdmonDesign graphic design/marketing client) for more than a dozen years; when we started working together I established a very fabulous friendship with my contact there, who is now the president - and still one of my all time favorite people.
The event was designed to bring community women in, serve them fabulous food and wine and offer a selection of holiday gift and decor items, from jewelry and giftware to catering, skin care and a variety of specialty items. And, they were kind enough to invite me to display my Altered Attic holiday art. Jim also framed several of his illustrations to add a little variety to the scene.
Each booth was 'personed' by women, in my case our business manager Kristyn, me and Alice, my wonderful daughter, without whom I could not have managed - let me tell you, that one is an entrepreneur, artist, detail person and all-around delight - and she's eleven!! 

One of the downsides of making small product is that it takes a lot to create a presence. So, since I don't exactly have an inventory, I made 50 pieces - this past week. Yes, 50, fifty, FiFtY, 5-0, and I've been eating, sleeping and dreaming in glitter, paint and wire. I keep finding buttons in the oddest places and have enough gel on my hands to make a salon wrap. And the prednisone, well, that's my crutch of choice, along with caffeine, one I'll have to start trimming back on. Soon.
I made ornaments, light switch cover plates, pins and gift flair. Had business cards and order forms made (thanks to Jeff the photographer/groom and my DH), along with signs and holiday chocolates, which we ate most of:)
It was a good, albeit exhausting experience and I have enough inventory left for two shows next week, a Gallery Hop and open house at Street Scene, the coolest vintage shop in the region. Phew.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Leave it to Jane

So what makes art fine, anyway? Is it fine art photography, like the panoramic photo published by my friend (and recent groom) Jeff Rogers, that appears on the coffee table book, Kentucky Wide? (for which I wrote the forward:)

What makes art, for that matter... Is it my son marching with the Thriller ensemble, channeling his passion in rehearsed and spontaneous rhythm through his drumsticks?

Or the grace and amazing beauty of my daughter, who has been a ballerina for 7 of her 11 years...

I admit it may have been a bit petty to even post the cartoon below, and Jane's comment is beyond perfect. But after living for years as an 'invisible' artist, with a painter who has a BFA in Fine Art (and earns our living at our graphic design business), I was curious to see what kind, if any, response it elicited. 
According to my dictionary an artist is "a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby; a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker; a person skilled at a particular task. 
In Kentucky there is a diverse, amazing wealth of art, including some of the most popular (and pricey!) folk art that is, to me, finer than much I see labeled fine art. Like Lady Feeding Chickens, by Lonnie & Twyla Money. But, that's the issue isn't it... labeling. Living in Kentucky is a factor - cosmopolitan islands awash with waves of good-old folk and rednecks. Now that's prejudice, and that's another story.

So, whether it's one of Jim's (dh) paintings

Or one of the mixed media puzzle/hanging art/magnet pieces I so love to make...

Or a Jackson Pollock, it's pretty wide open to interpretation.

There's a guy, excuse me, a professor who teaches art and design at a private university, along with being a fine artist of some regional acclaim. He gets really bent when referred to as a teacher or instructor. At an opening several years ago I studied one of his new pieces, which was essentially collage, non-original material integrated into his painting. I really liked it. When he had a free moment I asked what was going through his mind as he worked, was there an inspiration, did it begin with an idea... He shrugged and said, "I don't guess I think about anything when I work, they (pieces) aren't about anything, really."

Cartoons like Speed Bump may well be intended to poke fun at those who take such matters to heart. That by separating the masses (crafters) from the few (artists) with hope that by lowering their entry standards they'll attract enough students - or talent - to have a real sign. Who knows and, now that I think about it, who cares?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Comments? Please?

I'm tucked away in the Altered Attic, on a blustery, chilly, gorgeous fall day, making ornaments... a little crafty project that I hope will help me pay for some art supplies. There was a time when this might have offended me, and I know fine artists who would jump at the chance to be even further validated.
I'm not sure where the line is between art and craft and if mixed media has blurred it - I'd like to know what you think.... 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Day at the Beach

Jetting off to Florida for a beach wedding.... how romantic, even if it wasn't ours. I've never done it, so of course it sounded exotic. So, we'll try not to think about how we got up at 5:00 for a dry run (missed our original 7:00 a.m. flight), were selected for additional security and the bracelet that was stuck halfway up my arm went undetected 27 times. Jim (dh) had to turn the propellor so the plane would start... But the pilots were waving and the flights were short.

Once we arrived in Fort Walton Beach, we rented a GPS, along with a brand new Jeep. It didn't understand that the WaterColor Beach area is all so new that none of the streets are in the system but our arrival was only delayed by 45 minutes. And what an arrival! The 4500 square foot house we stayed in (on the market for 2.5 million) was grander than we'd ever imagined.

The bedroom was fit for royalty, or newlyweds:) And after traveling for 15 hours it didn't take us long to crash on Saturday night, after availing ourselves of the walk-in bath that is larger than our second floor.

The next morning, after an infusion of coffee, we slid from the bed and dressed (casually, fortunately) and headed to the garden for music, readings, communion and what turned out to be a bit of a roast. The groom has been one of my best friends for almost 20 years. We were psyched, to say the least.

You may now kiss the bride, eat barbecue and cake and head to the beach for one of the grandest sunsets I've ever witnessed! A late dinner at a biker hangout in Grayton Beach, crashed again (fortunately all the crashing happened on the ground), up Sunday, coffee and hit the road... for the airport.  

The GPS system also tried to send us to the bombing range at the nearby Air Force Base, so the agent was calling our names when we hurtled the seats and hit the gate. It's a lovely place and I'd highly recommend a vacation there, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach, all in the Panhandle. Next time I'm hoping to take the kids and wander through the galleries and shops, sample more of the seafood... next time.
In the mean time, congrats to Jeff & Missy, may all of your sunsets be so blissful.

Friday, October 31, 2008

November - so soon?

The candy has been passed out, the lights turned off, orange and purple candles extinguished, and I'm packed. Our plane leaves Lexington in a couple of hours, destination Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, to attend the Sunday wedding of one our long-time best friends. They don't have kids so of course they didn't plan their big day around Halloween and the Thriller re-enactment that follows, which my son is played in for the first time (snare drum). So, it has been an interesting mix of last minute laundry, costume details, and packing, wondering what the heck I'm going to wear to a wedding on the beach.

I'm leaving a horrendously messy studio layered with Christmas ornaments gessoed and painted, in a sea of found objects, buttons, ribbon, charms, piles of images and papers, glitter and trim to finish them, along with the cards, collages and jewelry I'm making for a Holiday Bazaar - in two weeks. That's way before I start my holiday preparation, so it has been a bit challenging to get into the spirit. Hand me another mini Snickers please! I am so fortunate to have been invited to be a vendor this year, and it will be great exposure, hopefully enough sales (if anyone ever figures out out much 'enough' is, please let me know). Even if I don't have a clue how many of what to make, I'm sure it will be a valuable and memorable learning experience.

While digging through stuff, I came across this print, which I realize now is a collage. For over a decade BC, (before children) I had a darkroom in my house; I spent hours immersed in chemicals, resulting in tons of prints that weren't precisely right, needing a dodge here or slight burn, maybe a different paper. I could never throw the ones that were nearly good enough.
Just for the fun of it one day I cut apart a bunch of images and stuck them onto a background photo of a tiny country church on a hillside. The church didn't hold much interest on its own so I found elements that seemed to coordinate somehow and started sticking them together. I didn't think of it as collage, since I didn't know what the heck that was, but I made several pieces before switching to digital manipulation.
My friend Jodi at Sweet Repeats said I should post this one, so I am. Not just because she told me too, though she is sitting might pretty these days, her article newly published in Cloth Paper Scissors and all... multiple pages that showcase her brilliant work. But because she pointed out the fact that it was collage and I somehow knew it instinctively back then, even if I didn't recognize it as such.
Blog buds, where would we be without them? Where would I be without you? Sharing stories, support and advice, basking in the feeling that arises from connecting in a tangible and meaningful way with mixed media artists around the globe? A post, comment, help with a technique or email has sustained me in the hollowest of moments. Come to think of it, I wouldn't even have a blog if Jane at Random Arts hadn't told me I needed to start one (ha, there I go again, bossy me, making it sound like I wait around for further instruction), while I was visiting her shop this past April. So, I returned home and the next day shoved aside many chores and issues that needed tending, to make a page that would do what... be a place to stick my art and photos, and ramble on about one or another of the many subjects about which I am passionate? But by golly, she was right, and I've told her so.
Being such a newcomer to the world of mixed media has its challenges, but with friends like Jodi, Jane, Karin at A View Beyond Words, Sherry at Esprit d'Art, my swap group buddies, the incessant nagging of my best friends Tani and Karen at Biographia, and SO many others, I am uplifted, challenged and nurtured. Unlike the man on the bench in the collage I made years ago, when being an artist was furthest from my mind, I am definitely not alone. So, if you are reading this, thank you. I appreciate your spending time here with me.

By the time we get back from the wedding it will be (gulp) election day! That's another story...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween ATCs

Halloween isn't here yet, but like most major events, my favorite part is the preparation, whether it's decorating, planning or art projects, like making ATCs for a swap. I made these for my 14 Secrets Swap and I might as well admit, I'm truly a novice when it comes to this cool, inspiring art form - this is my third swap. I love the challenge of working in this size and, like inchies, am amazed by what is possible in such a small space.

Today is cookie decorating day - my daughter and her friend, Maddie, probably with a little help from my son, are going to frost, sprinkle and eat their way through a plate full of sugar cookies; I'm sure it will trigger a wave of sweet nostalgia and a couple dozen photos. 

Another tradition is waiting until 4:00 p.m. on the 31st to buy the first piece of candy. When the kids were little I bought stuff I don't like, but that's getting harder as they have a little more pull in the selections. I'm planning to wear the same costume this year - tired old mom - anyone have a better idea? 


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Journey

I've kept a written journal nearly all my life, dozens, no hundreds, of notebooks -  from the 89-cent spiral bound notebooks (for morning pages) to hard cover books - zillions of letters forming  a record of my life, the better and a lot of the worse parts in detail that I don't think could be any more vivid, even if I had known how to draw. I made money writing, ad copy, articles, public relations and marketing campaigns, technical copy, video scripts.  
I made the leap from personal essays to writing short stories and an entire universe opened up. In search of help I wound up with teachers who are among the best in the country, the list of authors they've edited reads like a literary Who's Who; they've taught at Iowa Writer's Workshop, edited Esquire Magazine, published novels... How did I get in that program?? Naively, of course, by responding to a classified ad for editing services in Poets & Writers, sans credentials. It wasn't until after I'd sent off a manuscript "so Tom could get a feel for my writing style and I for his reading, that I found out how well they are known in literary circles. Like much of my life, things just sort of happened, I was signed up for a workshop and it felt like I was on my true path.  
I dove in head first, worked harder and more intensely, got shredded, constructively of course, and learned more in a week than I imagined possible. My existence began to revolve around fiction; if I wasn't writing  I was reading. I felt guilty for taking time away from my family though I worked a great deal  at night and early in the morning.
A couple of years later I flew out to San Francisco for my third workshop, having filled in with private tutoring; I had an MFA's worth of knowledge and several promising stories. The weather was perfect, chilly with brilliant blue skies. After an early breakfast with my comrades, we walked the two miles to class ready to engage. But, on the fourth morning when I got out of bed, I was swollen from head to toe; every joint in my body felt hammered and I couldn't think clearly, in a haze I felt drained and exhausted. I couldn't focus and the conversation I had been plugged into so tightly whirled in the air around me, clouds of discourse on the resolution of conflict, condensing a plot outline into 150 words, writing every word to do at least three jobs. I struggled through the final days but with little success. 
As soon as I got home my internist got me in to see a new rheumatologist and a diagnosis: psoriatic arthritis, a systemic form of inflammatory arthritis very much like RA. In the ensuing months I tried several different drugs that compounded the fatigue, confusion and overwhelming task of coming to grips with significant life change, a bend in the road. Thankfully it isn't terminal and my joints aren't permanently damaged. But, life as I knew it was over. I was no longer the healthy, thin, very active small business owner and mother and promising writer. I couldn't make a sentence. 
The grief process that results from releasing your identity and shaping a new life is lengthy, for me anyway. And I've come to terms with it, most days. In November it will be 4 years since I last wrote fiction; this illness lops 30 or 40 hours a week off my schedule and even if I had the resources, writing would consume every last minute. I've written in my journal, a few poems here and there, an introduction to a photography book. But my stories are buried with reams of notes in the closet in the studio. I hear whispers from the shelves now and again, so I stop to visit my creations, the characters I knew so intimately, as I shaped their lives and built dreams and drama and destinies. Destiny. Apparently becoming a short story author is not in my plan.
So, what is my point in all of this? After several roller-coastery months, with the help of a very dear friend who also has this illness,  I realized that I was gripping a safety bar not a steering wheel, Realizing how little in life we really have control over, I stopped trying so hard, And, I started puttering around with art. I had experience with photography and a little with collage and altering came naturally to me, a metaphor for my life. But, I still wrote in my journal. 
I embellished, embossed, drilled, dremeled, sanded, painted and wired; the art journal remained elusive. I have a number of wonderful books - True Colors, 1000 Artist's Journal Pages and others, and I've met so many wonderful, supportive people, including a  blog buddy who is a master at the process - Karin at Beyond Words.
Finally,  I pulled out an oversized 8-page board book and started to gesso the pages, search for images and words and objects I might want to use. As I 'tackled' the first page I realized the theme was life stages. I'm not finished - how do you ever know when you're done with an art journal page?! It's even more subjective than other forms of art! But I think I'm ready to reveal bits and pieces anyway.
What's the story in all of this? Four years ago I was a writer; now I'm a mixed media artist. How much of what we do in life, who we are and the journey we take, is really up to us? If you'd told me then that I'd have a blog and be swapping art pieces, I would have either thought it crazy, or realized that where your heart is, truly is where your treasure lies. My heart has always yearned for self expression and if one avenue closes off, another opens. I am just so thankful that I went to that ballet scrapbook fund raising event three years ago, the one where I used a rubber stamp for the first time, fell in love with shape, color, process...
If you're still reading (awake:) I'd love to have your comments - about art journaling, creating a life or managing a bend in your road.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crafting with Al

It isn't often enough that my daughter, Alice, and I spend time making art together. I needed to make 5 ATCs for a swap and didn't think I had the right 'materials,' so earlier in the week I ordered papers and rub-ons. I had all five cards done by the time my package arrived, so Al and I retrieved a piece of chipboard shelving headed for the trash, covered it with papers (including the Daisy D) and embellished with a pumpkin and pipe cleaners, which aren't the easiest thing in the world to glue. Alice warned me, it has been so long since I've worked with them - I nearly got out the E6000, but Elmer's and waiting/weighting did the trick.
Then we raided my button stash for orange and I made a few stems. My kids are getting a bit old for some of our Halloween decorations but we still have some pretty cool stuff that we can still use, a ghoulish severed head, that sort of thing. So, today will be decorating day.

Several years ago, before we moved to this house, we lived in a similar neighborhood of old bungalows, an eclectic group of people, several other mothers with small kids the same age, many of with whom we are still quite close. We had traditions for every major holiday, including Halloween. We'd gather in my kitchen and our kids, from age 1 - 6, would cover the sugar cookies and themselves with black, purple, orange frosting and loads of sprinkles. Moms and husbands would join in and we'd have some pretty outrageous results. I miss those days.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

fall poem

Fall Plantings

The morning just right
for planting fall
mums, small pink translucent

Blooming, just before the rains
darken the sky, lighter
after the hail storm
of acorns drumming against the roof
the rhythm of hunt and gather and nest

The earth shifts away
from summer's yawning oven
and into cool nights and pleasant
days when breaths are not just
another source of damp heat

But whispers, down deep in
rich soil, where fragrant
earthy secrets dormant
from another, distant time,
begin to grow.


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