Patti Edmon Altered Attic: October 2008

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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dia de Los Muertos



When my daughter told me her class was going on a field trip to the Lexington Cemetery, I wasn't surprised. It is historic, majestic, with lovely seasonal displays of color and flower. The date did stop me though. October 14, the birthday of my dear friend Sally (and my kids' godmother), who passed away in August of '07.
My daughter has a history of 'seeing angels,' and I've never questioned her, but I've been envious. Children are so open that they don't filter out the many wonders of the universe that we often walk by without noticing. 
I have been thinking a great deal about my Aunt who died in June, the long talks we had when I was directionless in my early 20s, and later when I had relationship 'issues.' She was always there for me and in many ways she still is. I can feel her presence, as I can Sally's; they both left such wonderful, honorable legacies, women who will long be remembered as giving, compassionate, understanding, powerful...
I have wanted to make an ofrenda for the past few years, during the Dia de los Muertos festival, which has blossomed in Lexington, in part thanks to my daughter's ballet company, whose founder is from Mexico. Adalhi choreographed an entire ballet based on the day set aside to celebrate life by honoring death. 
Ofrendas, or alters, are usually 3-dimensional, made in boxes or on stands but I wanted to work flat. I used a large, chipboard tag, Day of the Dead bead/charms I found at Stampington that are really cool, (made by Connie at Altered Route), a packing tape transfer and an illustration my husband did last year for the ballet. The photo I used for the packing tape transfer doesn't show up in the scan - it's the same one I used for one of the charms. Taken 50 or more years ago, my aunt was looking out over water and the image fills me with curiosity, a longing to know what she saw in the distant landscape. (click on the photos for a larger view)
While it isn't as grand as many of the larger pieces artists make, it is far more practical; I can enjoy it all year long. And it sparked a lot of ideas about ways my husband - a fine artist and illustrator - can collaborate. Celebrate. Life.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Make your Day - Make Someone Else's Day


Found this on Patti Digh's Blog; the author of Life is a Verb. This video will make your day. Post it, share it, visit Amy  at her site to find out what her plans are. It will make your day!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Think Pink



I don't think I need to tell you that October is the official month that we take action in the fight against breast cancer; we're surrounded by an incredible dose of evidence - on blogs, in magazines,  and the volume of pink ribbons that grow exponentially each year. At least I shouldn't have to. Wouldn't it be nice if the collective energy meant no more new cases, that the efforts to find a cure had been successful? 
Five years ago, just after a friend was diagnosed, I ordered fifty  pink wristbands from the Susan G. Komen Foundation so there would be plenty to go around at an October school fund-raising event. They came in just in time and she was heartened to see so many women wearing them in her honor. She also looked great when I saw her in the grocery the other night, buying poster board for a college class project.
I've had a number of friends endure and most all are survivors. The smartest thing we can do to honor those special ones is to take care of ourselves, to schedule a mammogram today if it's overdue. To remind friends and loved ones to do the same. And support the cause.
I just purchased this beautiful collage from Sherry at Esprit d' Art, who is doing her part to make a difference. A fabulously talented artist, wife, mom and great friend, and three-plus year survivor, Sherry has a variety of art available at  Shop for a Cure. Sales are raising money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
So, if you somehow managed to be oblivious to the media shouts and ribbons and races, events and galas held in October,  hear it now. Take care of yourself, honor the courageous, inspiring survivors  you know and do something to make a difference. I have to believe that if we all keep working together it will matter, that our daughters and granddaughters won't have to live with the current statistics that are chilling, startling - our odds of being touched by cancer are 1 in 9, way too high for my comfort zone. 
Thanks to Sherry and everyone else dedicated to the cause.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

(a few of) The Things I Love



I love the first days of fall, when the nights are chilly and the mornings crisp, the mums and summer blossoms that linger as the trees begin their transformation. I love walking around the neighborhood and discovering all the different ways people express their sentiments about the changing season.


I love Third Street Stuff, which now carries my art pieces (yay), always has a warm and inviting atmosphere and a coffee shop that serves freshly roasted brew and a kind of cake - I don't know the name of it but it should be called instant addiction. And pumpkin chai. I also love Hendrick, who makes my pumpkin chai, latte or whatever I'm drinking that day. His smile, like his attitude and his spirit is, well, the best word I can think of to describe him is real. A deep and positive word and a hug from Hendrick have made more than one of my days.



I love enchiladas. Especially when my mother makes them and my dad drops them off.  She has been sending me dinner once a week, knowing that my energy levels have been low, following the barometer, which mimics a roller coaster this time of year. She has chronic back pain but that never stops her. She embodies the meaning and philosophy of giving. They didn't last long, soon we'd eaten the whole enchilada. 
Curious about the origin of that idiom, I did a little research and other than the obvious, "the whole thing," the most interesting explanation I came up with was that some guy was recorded saying it to John Erlichman on one of the Watergate tapes and when they went public the expression became popular.


I love watching my son get his hair cut. It doesn't happen often - fortunately he's ridiculously handsome no matter what his hair looks like - but we always enjoy making the most mundane errands into events. And everyone knows events require photos. 



And humor, which Dylan excels at, particularly improv and impersonation.


I love that my daughter cared enough about her tiny frog, which lived for a few months in a small tank in her room, to properly memorialize his passing. Including hamsters and birds, we have had several services in our back yard, reminding us that the least of us is deserving. 


I love Patti Digh's new book, Live is a Verb. I already knew that, and almost always live my life that way, but her insights and prompts are opening up incredible new ways of thinking. As a mom and an artist, I struggle daily with the guilt of 'stealing' time to make art which, even if it sells, won't cover the cost of my art supplies. On Lani Gerity's blog, she wrote about this very subject and included a link to Cathy Malchiodi's blog entry on Psychology Today. I urge you to read the article and watch the video clip, a trailer for "Who Does She Think She Is?" It's a documentary film by Pamela Tanner Boll, about five women who are professional artists and mothers, and as Malchiodi states, "...the critical importance of art in their lives, and how parenting and art making are often devalued in our culture." 



My mother was busy raising four kids, making our clothes, baking bread, cleaning the house and supporting my father's corporate climb - starching his shirts, hosting receptions for foreign clients and occasionally joining him on European expeditions. No doubt she would have liked to have more time for herself, for art, reading, anything that didn't involve us. But, in keeping with her commitments, she spent most all her time caring for her family, including cooking a zillion dinners. 
My mom knows that I spend a good chunk of my limited energy making art and I felt more than a little guilty when she made the first couple of meals for us. Then I realized that it's her way of supporting my creativity, making sure that I can indulge my passion for making art and still care for my family, making for the richest, fullest life possible. I love her for that. 

Friday, October 3, 2008

Art in a Carton

It's Like Christmas in October!


When I signed on to participate in Art in a Carton, a few months back, I thought it sounded fun, like a way to connect with a variety of artists I'd never met and, well, just a cool idea. I didn't think about the fact that it would begin with a carton. Filled with incredible art. The package I got the other day from Susan - who lives in Germany - was packed with exceptionally high quality pieces. the matchbook and carton are beautifully embellished. 

The notebook - is actually a cover with a pad of post-it notes inside! And just when I'd gotten over my addiction to post-it notes. At one time I had lined pads, flags, tiny rectangular ones, in a variety of colors... What a great idea. The thing I like most about this project is the lack of restrictions. Whatever fits in a carton.
The packet rattled, like it was an embellished seed package, but I couldn't find any trace of labeling, so I had to open it - very carefully (I still can't figure out how she sealed it) and found beads, thingies and a length of 2-1/2" wide gorgeous ribbon -  leaves in shades of turquoise, red and gold - I've never seen any like it, which means I'll probably keep it until one day, when a project requires this precise piece and I part with it, painfully.  
 
I love the global sharing of art materials, like this ribbon from Germany. Maybe I'll include a packet of bluegrass seed, or bourbon, something horsey... all that Kentucky is known for (drinking and gambling??)

Now it's my turn to make three cartons - one will go back to Susan, another to a gal in Spain and one to.... you??Hopefully one of you will leave me a comment (or email me) and say you want to play. Did I mention the other really great thing about this project? In each of the cartons I send will have address labels in them and two will be mine! So, one day I'll get two more delightful surprise packages!

It's very easy to play, I know many of you already have, but if not, let me know. I'll send you the details - or you can click on the Art in a Carton logo in the right hand column, for the scoop. Come on now, who's game??

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