Sunday, February 5, 2012

Windows to the Past

I don't know why I've always had such a fascination with picture frames. My current work is cued by the frame as much as the other way around. I haunt antique malls, junk shops and flea markets looking for them now. It is becoming an almost sacred ritual to find them, bring them home and begin to clean them up. I love sitting quietly looking at the wood, whatever detailing they have, the weathered finish. I grab my pliers to pull out rusty nails, old wire and eye hooks, and wipe out the dirt and dust. I wonder about them. I wonder whose home they were in, what pictures they held, who walked by them day after day. I wonder what I will put in them. I get ideas just by looking at the shapes. I have a mirror right now that has beautiful beveled detailing at the top-I think I'll put my work right over the top of the mirror and work the beveled decoration right into what I'm doing.

I remember so clearly as a child going to art museums and wondering about the people and pictures I saw, like all of the frames were windows to the past, and the painted portraits would just probably come alive if you tickled their noses, or all the patrons left for the day. I knew they were looking down at me and if I turned fast enough, I'd see them smiling and waving. Or shaking their fingers at me because I got too close to something pretty and wanted to touch. When I went to antique shops with my grandmother, or auctions or house sales, I remember having the same feeling, brought on by the smells and the look of old things. She taught us kids what was of value, and being with her was like being on a treasure hunt. I dreamed I'd find a famous painting in a dusty box, or a special piece of glass she was looking for. She would shush us if we picked something up special and loudly called her attention to our good fortune. There was this incredible understanding that the history of these objects was worth revering. That they were almost living. I quickly learned to enjoy finding something that was special to myself and also of marketable value. I wanted to find something in need of repair, or paint and a little special touch. I vastly preferred unusual old things to new toys.

I find now that this same love is being resurrected in the need to use old frames with character and history. The frames compliment and pull together the work that I do. I find myself looking at old finished drawings and feeling the need to rework, add to and add those qualities that I used to be enamored by as a child-incorporating stained glass, pattern, a Victorian sensibility or at least a nod to design movements of the nouveau, art deco, crazy quilts, jewels and found objects. I guess we now say "vintage". But to me it is more than that. It is a window to my own past and the wonder I used to have. It is vital to the creative process.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A word fitly spoken

Admittedly, the human race is hard for me. I would truly be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every time someone told me I'm quiet, I'm reserved, I don't talk, I'm artsy fartsy and therefore possess the aforementioned qualities. Sigh. Ok. Now that you know this, understand that I like people. I really do. I just don't have a lot of patience with them. As one movie idol (Tarzan) stated it so eloquently after Jane described European mating rituals to him, "Too much talk". I love to write, but I do not love to talk unless I'm sincerely interested in the person or the subject at the other end of the conversation. I hate, bloody, hate, being misjudged. Or dismissed. Or blown off. I'm sure no one loves that, but I can't stand it. That fuels the no talking.

I do love to read. I just got home from a very interesting trip to the library. I needed a break from my art stuff, wanted to walk, wanted to get some books, so I took a stroll to the local book establishment. I took my time choosing what I wanted. I'm a long time patron. I went to check out my books, and was told to my astonishment, that I owed a $25 fine. I do frequent the library, but it had been about four months since my last trip. I was told by a very disinterested high school girl with a lisp that the book had "beverage stains" on it when it was returned. For a $25 fine it sounds like I spilled a gallon of Koolaid on it. I was speechless. I asked the young lady why I wasn't informed...such a large fine. She said the books were returned in the outside box and I therefore could not have been presented with the fine for the violated tome. I felt like a criminal, like I threw a dripping wet, sugary drink engorged copy of a first edition (I don't remember what I read four months ago) into the book drop from a moving car, laughing evilly as I sped off. They'll never know it was me!!!!!!!!! Ha Ha!!!!!! as pages disintegrated out of the airborne volume and it landed in the book drop with a soggy thunk. I paid $5 to rescue my momentarily soiled library patron-in-good-standing reputation and walked away hating the disinterested girl who received my last crumpled dollar bills in the world meant for the vending machine at work. I did see a non-high school age woman in an office through an open door behind the counter, apparently not paying attention-did she hear this?

I got home pacing the kitchen, heating up a cup of coffee, going over the conversation in my head repeatedly. Which book, what beverage, girl with a lisp, $25 freakin' dollars worth of damage, ahhhhhh! And then the phone rang. It was the woman in the library office calling, saying the $5 was payment enough and the remaining $20 was waived. I told her I'd gladly pay if it were that bad-I simply could not imagine how it could be? She smartly pulled the book from the shelf to check it. I thought of that after the fact. Still, I wondered to myself, why...I was grateful, but still disturbed. I had already decided to pay the fine. It wasn't worth not doing it.

I am trying to learn to be graceful with people, to see better, to hear better, to understand the context of a high school girl with a lisp doing her Saturday job, not really worried about an old lady in her eyes with a $25 fine. It's ok. There is a time for confrontation and a time to hold the peace. Or the tongue.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Broken Template

The pictured mess is what is left of a soldered glass template that cracked on a finished piece of work I was papering and wiring the back of, preparing it for shipping. Suffice it to say observing the cracked glass was not a happy moment. Discouraging words left my mouth. When I noticed the crack, my immediate response was to think, screw this. I'm not fixing it. BUT, the piece is for a charity auction that I already committed myself to, sent the paperwork in regarding, and couldn't not send it. Then I thought, I can just tease out the cracked section and add new glass. I used the thinnest framing glass I could buy and had for this larger piece. When I started teasing, the section nearest the broken part snapped. Sigh. Ok, not going to be an easy fix. I left for work and decided I'll try again later, still hoping at least part of it was salvageable.

Fast forward to Saturday. I decided I try to heat the solder joints-that might assist with the dissembling of the cracked parts and maybe still, I could use some of it. I also found and cleaned a heavier piece of glass that I thought I'd use if I couldn't fix the sections that broke. More parts cracked as I heated the glass and tried again to slowly wiggle them out of place like a loose tooth. I had to take five and face the rubber gloves. That meant, the weak glass had to be yanked apart no matter how much of it broke, and the stronger stained glass pieces which were already cut saved out of the mess. I couldn't save any of the thinner glass. The thicker, tougher stained glass wiggled right out of the copper foil, so the end result of it all is pictured. It took all day to recut, grind, foil and solder new glass to the already cut stained glass. I had to make a completely new, stronger template.

I finally made myself realize that if the crack had happened in shipping, there would have been no recovering. It would have been total disaster. The organization I'm sending the piece to is an online art site that services businesses, designers, architects and folks looking for art to use in the workplace or home decoration. This venue would allow me to send a piece no strings really and see if it sells. My work has to have integrity in creativity and structure. If I want to maintain a good reputation, the work has to precede it. Short cuts and wrong materials do not cut the mustard.

It did become an object lesson to me, as I yanked and snapped on purpose in my rubber gloves, pulling apart the broken unusable sections to get to the good parts that could be saved and reused. It feels like the story of my life lately. Weak, bad parts in the template are being broken and thrown aside. The good things are being restructured and reworked into a stronger piece. I have to let God do the breaking. The end result is worth the time and pain. If weak parts don't break now, they will down the road, often at the most inconvenient moment. It will happen. The break was unavoidable and I should have known it. The whole point is, don't structure with weak materials. I just read the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew. Jesus does say something about building a house on sand vs on a rock. People that use good teaching and wisdom as a foundation will have a structure that stands up to use. People that do not will snap one day. I have to get this lesson.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Big 5-0

My life as a woman of a certain age seems to be filling up with other such women, and they are wonderful. There is something very special about getting near, past or around the half century mark and beyond. Seems like old fears and insecurities die, and what is left is so real and truthful, spending time with women in this category is a special blessing. I'm privileged to work with six such wise women, have four sisters plus one honorary sister/friend in this group, and two friends I meet with on Saturday. I can add to that now a pastor who felt God's call at 53, and is serving in her first pastorate here in Northeast PA. I was so impressed by that!! Shoot, when I was ten, being 50 seemed like you were ready to crawl into the desert and experience ceremonial dessication and blow into dust with the sand.

I work at a local dental distribution company in the tooth department. We stock, order, send and received denture teeth (seems rather appropriate). We seven women are actually our own little company within a company. The room we work in is closed off from the rest of the building, windowless and can only be entered with a special swipe card code. So, we are pretty much there by ourselves all day, and as it is famously stated in other context, "what happens in the tooth department, stays in the tooth department". But I have to share a little, which is like an episode of the Golden Girls. A tiny sound bite on a given day...first, you have to know, we get daily hot flash reports, timed fiber consumption reports, and frequent medical and bathroom habits are discussed. Nothing is really sacred. At this point in life, what is the point?

Ok, so here goes-the conversation was about black kohash helping hot flashes, so one of our number was asking about that, but called it "black hummus". Another voice was heard from a desk shouting out, "I thought that was what you put on your feet". (She was thinking, pumice). Yes, the deafness, the total lack of propriety...Hummus, pumice, kohash-a female conversation in the day in the life of the half century club. I love it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

jars of clay

The painting pictured is a Cezanne, lovely vase of flowers. Something I have learned over the course of the content to be the vase. If a vase thinks it is fulfilling its purpose to sit there and look good, it will never find happiness. The only thing that makes a vase beautiful is flowers and water. And the vase must be empty to hold those.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fear Factor 2

Well, I made the drive to the Mission, see previous post, and first of all, it is on a major connecting street to the Wyoming Valley Mall and a Walmart Superstore, and the street is under construction, so there were no signs and it was dark. I drove all the way down the street and back up, made the correct turn, only to see about three cars in the mission lot. It looked like a nice building, though there was a liquor store at the turn off and the neighborhood is a little sketchy. No matter. It wasn't that. I couldn't deal with three cars. That meant like 5 people in church. Ughhh...can't do it.

So I drove home, got a huge pile of soldered earrings done while watching Fred Astaire on my tiny, tiny CD-DVD player in "Royal Wedding". Then I watched Shirley Temple in "The Little Princess". I love, love, love the dream sequence in that movie, never tire of it. "I know my rights, I know the law!!" How can you beat a totally tall, hot young Caeser Romero as the Indian servant, and Arthur Treacher paired with Shirley in great comedy and dance sketches. Too fun.

I did decide to try a local Lutheran church with an 8am service. I'm up before God cracks the sun yolk and so I wanted early. Also, they have a second service soon after, so it's sort of in and out quickly I hope. Sincerely, I'm hoping to find a creative faith community-how or where I don't know, but I want to serve in my gifting capacity. I know it isn't impossible. Nothing's impossible with God. Don't get me started! He took a no talent housewife in the middle of NEPA nowheresville and built something I still can't believe. But that's the trick-believe.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fear Factor

I've been away from church for probably over a year. The year was hard. I wasn't away from God necessarily, as I think about Him daily, but I was away from other people. Many things contributed to the absence. Honest questions, about myself and my faith, about the world, what is sin, what is good...hard things I couldn't necessarily answer. I couldn't endure being in a formula environment, as church sometimes feels like-we do this, then we do that, and we sing like this or that and we smile and nod during the sermon or look appropriately thoughtful. Nothing prepared me for the gut-wrench of the year, where I don't think I could smile or nod even if I wanted to. And I really didn't want to, so I'm a holy refugee.

But I feel like I have an invitation from the only Person who matters, and He needs me to come back. I have made a commitment to the one thing I believe comes directly from the Father, as all good and perfect gifts do, and that is my creativity. I work an 8-5 or thereabouts, so what precious little time I have outside the office is devoted to the arts and my family. And it isn't much. The pressure of endless Sunday morning music, "fellowship" and sermo-gasms, is too much for me. I need baby food again and the quiet of the post sickroom. Too much excitement and noise doesn't suit me on the best of days, and certainly not now. I'm not trying to be irreverent. In fact the opposite. I need to behold the One person in my life who holds out the invitation. Anyone who ever looked at the Man from Galilee with expectation was not disappointed. But the fear of trying to make it through the crowds when you feel like a spiritual leper is tough. I know I'm accepted, but I still have to get in the car and drive to a place I've never been to go into the most personal of times with strangers. Maybe it is better. There is a Rescue Mission that has a 6pm Saturday service. That is where I'm going. Seems appropriate.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Daily doubts-the art process

This is my daughter, Becky, my muse and model for many years, graciously submitting herself to my less than professional photography methods (easel set up in our tiny kitchen with a piece of black fabric draped over cardboard behind her). She makes it easy to get great shots, a natural model. She is wearing one of my necklaces. With any sort of art venture, if an artist wants to sell work, they must wear a couple of hats. Being the marketing department is one. I was dreading setting up an Etsy store for my necklaces and just this past weekend FINALLY started in. Etsy is a fantastic art lister's site that pretty much does the hard work for you as far as setting up a web store-you as the artist just "decorate" your shop and list product.

Still, there are a few is one. It takes me forever to photograph product. The shots can't just be ok. They have to be great. They are the only link between your unique product and the buying public, very important people for an artist. I wanted to do this and was so proud of myself for even getting a profile done. I also had to develop a banner for the site. In Illustrator-so add to photographer, graphic designer. And set up PayPal. Add to graphic designer, savvy financier. Ok, setting up PayPal doesn't really qualify one as savvy. But for someone who knows NOTHING at all, I'd say, throw me a bone.

It was a long weekend and I have to go back to my day job today. It is three in the morning and I can't sleep. I didn't do any actual artwork over my break. By the time evening rolled around, even after getting all this work done, I was melting down. I posted myself by the boob tube with bag of cookies, watching re-runs of Project Runway. It was the season of Santino, so I got to see a designer diva having tantrums or just being a butt. And doing great impersonations of Tim Gunn. What I also had to watch was these people killing themselves for their art and never being sure if they got the job done. Those awful questions, "Why am I doing this?", "Is my designing something that will endure?", "I hate myself", lol, (only because after doing the absolute best you can, you can still feel like a no talent amateur in a second-I totally understand, sitting there, munching cookies I don't need, feeling like crap after the most productive weekend I've had in forever).

Well, I finally quit the sugar blues and moved on to classic movie land. And TCM was playing "Portrait of Jenny" starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones. A strange, otherworldly offering based on an American short story about a girl who keeps appearing to a struggling artist, and every time she does she's older and he begins to find success in his life because she inspires him so much. The musical score is taken from The Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Debussy, haunting and so beautiful. One of my favorite pieces. And we see Mr. Cotten as a creative person questioning his work, feeling his life has no purpose only to have the one thing he needs appear out of time and space. Jenny keeps telling him, "you have to have faith". Well, yes, that what you need will appear out of time and space, that it is worth it after all, that art has its own reasons, and you cannot give up. Got it.

I have to say, thinking about where I've been and where I am, people and opportunities do appear-I've had some things happen, and I know we could all as human beings and artists share stories-things that seem to be aligned by the stars, acts of God, never expected, totally amazing. I need those things, and little things, like receiving email responses and blog comments, knowing a few people are out there who care, just a little reassurance for today to be lifted over those waves of doubt that keep ebbing and flowing. The boat does still float but some days I just have a struggle with the oars.