Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's all about the Hamiltons, bay-bee...

This post by Sister Diane has had me giving serious thought lately to what I am, and what I am not, willing to pay for, online or otherwise. My favorite contributors at Craft Stylish were notified recently that their contracts would not be renewed, and I was left stunned. That's what happens when revenue is down... expenses are cut. I get that. I couldn't help thinking, "This was content I would have been willing to pay for!" Now the website is a ghost of its former self. There's still an interesting project every now and then, but the "WOW!" factor is gone. I may drop in once or twice a week now, but Craft Stylish is no longer a daily must. That makes me sad.

I started thinking about my inspiration sources and favorite reads. Which ones could I live without? Which would I be devastated to lose?

You cannot sneeze lately without hearing about the demise of the newspaper industry. Longtime stalwarts in print media are going under left and right. The blame is being placed more often than not on free internet content. While I do not doubt that the plethora of online news options is making a significant impact on papers who rely on paying subscribers, there was more to it than that for me. I have been DEEPLY disappointed by our local paper for quite some time, yet we continued to subscribe because my husband and I both grew up in households where you always got the local paper. In this case we were paying for content as a force of habit. With the current publication, if it was not the lack of usable content, it was the poor editing or bad writing. Maybe it was the we-are-not-ashamed-to-be-ridiculously-biased viewpoint that finally turned me off for good. It was about a year ago that I first wondered out loud why we paid for a daily newspaper that did little more than regularly piss us off. Shortly after that conversation our next bill arrived, and the decision was made we would no longer support the Times-Union. I cannot say I miss picking the paper up from the driveway and immediately depositing it in the recycle bin. I can live without it.

Conversely, I just subscribed to Cloth Paper Scissors. It is a publication that gives me a great amount of pleasure and insane inspiration. I started reading with the inaugural issue and have made many trips to the local book store since then just to pick up the latest release. I have loved pretty much everything they have produced from the get-go. It was an easy decision to become an official subscriber, just one I have put off. They deserve to know that for at least the next six issues I can be counted on to tune in. I need what they are selling.

Sister Diane focused on advertising in her post, and rightfully so. Advertising dollars are directly responsible for the free content we have enjoyed for so long. Diane points out that if we, as end users, are not willing to support the advertisers paying for our "free" information, we should be willing to cough up our own moolah to compensate those who work so hard to bring us fresh ideas and cool stuff. Fair enough.

I echo her sentiment to subscribe to your favorite periodicals and websites. I would add to support your favorite sites and artists ethically. If you pay for a website subscription and share your user name and password with 15 of your closest friends, you're missing the point. If you buy a collage sheet and make copies of it for all of your art group members, you're missing the point. Downloading pay content without paying for it? You're missing the point.

Why is the temptation to "acquire" pay content without paying so overwhelming, and so widely acceptable? Is it because we feel we're entitled to free content on the internet? Are we falling victim to an everyone-else-does-it-why-shouldn't-I ideology? Is it simply too easy to do? Why do people who would never even consider shoplifting or pickpocketing feel perfectly comfortable illegally downloading or sharing digital content? The truth of the matter is we devalue the efforts of content creators every time we take stuff we know we should be paying for. Where does the answer lie? Do we need black and white lines here? Either pay for everything or pay for nothing?

Many artists have tried to strike a balance between free content and pay content and have profited immensely because of it. We saw this firsthand with Radiohead's 2007 album, In Rainbows. Initially released digitally, the band simply asked people to pay what they thought it was worth, if anything. While not the first band to give away their labor of love (Harvey Danger did something similar in 2005, releasing their album Little by Little via Bit Torrent for free one week after it dropped), Radiohead did it up right. Two months later they released a standard CD of the album that included bonus material not available elsewhere. People couldn't get enough. After its retail release, In Rainbows debuted at number one on both the British and US charts. Who says there's no value to "free"?!

Is this kind of success limited to music artists, or could visual artists see similar results? Lisa Vollrath has carved out an amazing niche for herself in the altered art world. Her site, Ten Two Studios, sells great stuff for folks who like to create. More than that, though, Lisa has created a place to learn. For free. She has tons of tutorials, all with photos and easy to follow directions. There are weekly challenges and even free printables, including her fantastic "Holiday Countdown" image giveaways. She works hard to keep fresh content streaming into her site and sends a weekly email to let you know what's new. Lisa leaves you feeling more like a member of a community than a customer. While she is the first to remind visitors that stealing her art is stealing from her, she also expresses heartfelt gratitude for those who keep her fed and stocked in dog chow. Give some... get some. She gets it.

Who else gets it? Lee Meredith (who rocks, by the way) TOTALLY gets it. She designs killer patterns of all sorts... some she gives away, and some she sells. I love to knit, but unfortunately I am NOT-never-have-been-probably-never-will-be a "pattern knitter". I have downloaded some of her free patterns, hoping that one day patience and an understanding of stitch markers will find me... but I really couldn't justify the purchase of her awesome patterns (until THIS!). However, I couldn't click "BUY" fast enough when she released her Bad Movie Bingo set! Why? Because I want to support Lee when I can. She gives me stuff!

Cathe Holden CRAZY gets it! She gives away all kinds of freebies on an almost daily basis and asks for nothing in return. I'll tell you this much... when the day comes that I need a fancy website, you can bet I'll call on Cathe to design it. Is it because she asks me every time I visit her blog to hire her as a graphic designer? Nope. She hardly even mentions that. Instead, she builds value among her readers through her generosity. When someone gives and gives and gives, people tend to remember that. I suspect Cathe's banking on it!

There really is something to the "build it and they will come" theory. You may have to give away your foundation, but something beautiful and amazing will emerge from it. Lisa, Lee and Cathe are certainly not the only artists out there giving stuff away. In fact, the artistic community as a whole is incredibly generous. We live in a day and age where there is a whole new thought process to "free". What should be? What shouldn't be? Start paying attention to what you're being given. What value does it add to your world? Are you giving for what you're getting? Are you expecting (and allowing) others to do the same?

Feeding your muse is not an easy thing. Maybe it costs you time... maybe it costs you travel... maybe it just costs you the subscription rate of your favorite magazine or website. Whatever the price, feed well, feed often and eat right.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The one where my inner geek shows.


In case by some freak accident of nature you haven't seen the current issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, here is a sneak peek at the amazing work of artist Devorah Sperber. She did an entire installation of Star Trek yumminess, including these amazing transporter displays created with colored faceted beads and silver bicone beads on monofilament, suspended from silver painted wooden dowels.

Check out the entire piece, Beaming In, featuring Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy:


I am continually amazed by the artistic talent and creativity out there. I just *had* to share Devorah's work... talk about thinking outside of the box!

And in case Star Trek is not your cup of chai, check out her Thread Spool Works created with, you guessed it, spools of thread. Total coolness.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Help animals in need...

Amazing artist and wonder woman Bernie Berlin is in need of donations to finish the indoor shelter at her animal rescue, A Place to Bark (she takes in kitties, too!). This video is a wonderful introduction to the work Bernie does. Check out her website for more information!

How can you help Bernie and the beautiful creatures in her care?

Donate HERE.

Buy her very cool Collage Sheets HERE. (All proceeds benefit A Place to Bark)

Buy a kitty stamp (or THREE!) HERE.

Spread the word far and wide... help those who have no voice. Blog it. Tweet it. Facebook it. Shout it from the rooftop! Until every animal has a home, they're counting on us to keep them safe.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

... is home.

Friday, June 19, 2009

...is letting someone say it better.


And now, she finally understands what she has always observed on people's faces when they are at the seaside. Years ago, when she and Gopal used to come here, she would notice how people's faces turned slightly upward when they stared at the sea, as if they were straining to see a trace of God or were hearing the silent humming of the universe; she would notice how, at the beach, people's faces became soft and wistful, reminding her of the expressions on the faces of the sweet old dogs that roamed the streets of Bombay. As if they were all sniffing the salty air for transcendence, for something that would allow them to escape the familiar prisons of their own skin. In the temples and the shrines, their heads were bowed and their faces small, fearful, and respectful, shrunk into insignificance by the ritualized chanting of the priests. But when they gazed at the sea, people held their heads up, and their faces became curious and open, as if they were searching for something that linked them to the sun and the stars, looking for that something they knew would linger long after the wind had erased their footprints in the dust. Land could be bought, sold, owned, divided, claimed, trampled, and fought over. The land was stained permanently with pools of blood; it bulged and swelled under the outlines of the countless millions buried under it. But the sea was unspoiled and eternal and seemingly beyond human claim. Its waters rose and swallowed up the scarlet shame of spilled blood.

-Thrity Umrigar, The Space Between Us

Thursday, June 18, 2009

...is awake.


What an amazingly peaceful time of day... in the quiet of the morning, before the sun could fully take her place in the sky, the world was completely silent except for the occasional call of a passing pelican. In times of trouble, when the chaos that is life gets too loud, I am going to come back to that moment, as I sat in the cool sand with silence blanketing me, and watched a new day begin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

...is at peace.


Today's contemplation is spirituality. For me, such matters are intimate and private, and I try to keep them as such unless asked. That said, I won't have much to say today. Based on the novels I've been posting lately, let's just skip to what I'm sure you want to hear. You're welcome.

What I will do briefly is highly recommend Deepak Chopra's book, Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment. Written as a work of fiction based on historical facts of the life of Siddhartha Gautama and his journey to enlightenment, Chopra does an amazing job of bringing the Buddha to life. If you are a student of Buddhism, you will find an intimate portrait of the man who became the Buddha. If you are simply interested in reading, you will enjoy the stories of the life of the prince, the monk, the Buddha. Chopra also weaves an understanding of the basic concepts of Buddhism into this easy-to-read novel. I see Chopra has a new book out, too, Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment. I'll have to check that one out next.

Until tomorrow, look for the divine in the ordinary. Take time to center yourself. Meditate. Pray. Do whatever you do to find peace in the storm.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

...is putting passion first.

We recently had this amazing outdoor market open in Jacksonville. Housed under the Fuller Warren Bridge, the Riverside Arts Market is modeled after the Portland Saturday Market and has brought some much needed culture to a still-behind-the-times Jacksonville. Everything has to be home grown or hand made... no plastic bags... street performers welcome. What's not to love?

I first visited the market a few weeks after it opened. I enjoyed the eclectic atmosphere and the people watching potential. There was a band playing on the stage down by the riverfront... the smell of vegan funnel cakes filled the air when the kettle corn wasn't popping. There were organic farmers with fruits and veggies, a guy suspending himself upside down (I don't know why, either.), and various artists selling their wares. I was in love. These were my people. This was my home.

I admit to being one of the Lookie-Loos that week. Artists at the market have nicknamed it the "Jam and Jelly Show", meaning most of their passers by are of the Lookie-Loo variety. Those that do buy apparently don't want to spend much. Is that because of the clientele though (as the artists contend), or the economy? I would hope the thoughtful artist would have considered the latter in planning their inventory. Let's be honest. These are not extravagant times for a lot of us right now. That's one of the big reasons my experiences with purchasing at the market have been so frustrating.

It started that first visit. I happened upon the booth of a woman who makes dog collars, harnesses and leashes. I have three dogs. We have the potential here to do a LOT of business! I wanted a small mesh harness for my chihuahua, Sophie. She didn't happen to have the size I needed in the pattern I wanted, though. Could she make one for me? Sure, came the reply. Out came a pad and pencil to record my desired size/pattern. She asked for my name. All she wrote down was my first name. Would she like my phone number? Nope. That wouldn't be necessary. Would she like for me to pay for it now? No. That wasn't necessary either. How soon would it be ready? She should be able to have it next week.

The next week I couldn't make it out to RAM, but the following week I drove all the way out there (about 45 minutes from where I live), specifically to pick up the harness. I'm here to pick up a harness I ordered from you. What was your name? Christina. It was this pattern but in a small. Oh. I sold that. I had your name on the tag but you didn't come get it. So I sold it. Um. I thought that was the purpose of giving you my name... so you would hold it for me. I missed one week. I even offered to pay for it in advance, but you refused saying you'd have it for me. I can make you another one. I just have so many people ask for special orders and then they never show up to claim them. (writing my order down... again) I guess I should have people pre-pay from now on. That's a great idea.

Believe it or not, I drove all the way out to RAM again the next weekend, again, specifically to pick up my harness. One of my girlfriends happened to be there with her family, so we hung out a bit listening to the band play. After we parted company, I made my way back to the dog supplies lady. I know you'll be shocked to hear that she didn't have the harness. Apparently the conversation we'd had the week before had never taken place. She had the nerve to pull out that pad and pencil again. At that I told her I was going to have to find something else. She then asked if I didn't want one of the other patterns. If I'd wanted one of the other patterns, wouldn't I have bought that to begin with and saved us both all this frustration? I am not going to BEG anyone to take my money. I thought I was more than patient the first time. To be duped again was just downright insulting.

I would like to say that was my only bad experience of late with an artist and a custom order. I would like to say that, but I can't. Another booth at RAM sells customized jewelry. You pick out the components and they stamp whatever inspirational word you desire onto a metal disk, creating a one-of-a-kind piece for you. My request (I thought) was pretty simple. I wanted them to recreate the exact same piece one of the women was wearing, with a different word on it. As I approached to pick up my already-paid-for-piece, I could hear the two of them talking. This is a different sized disk than the one I charged her for. We have two sizes? Yeah. She wanted the bigger one. Also, the asterisks should have been random, not in a line like that. How will she know? I'm ready to get out of here for the day. I was in such shock I took the necklace and walked away. I know I should have spoken up, but I guess I was ready to get out of there for the day, too.

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I also custom ordered a ring from another artist. I went on and on while talking with her at her booth about how much I loved her stuff. She really does make beautiful, unique rings. I pre-paid for my special order and left not just my phone number but my email address as well, in case she needed to contact me. The artist was kind enough to tell me that she wouldn't be at the market the next week, but I could pick my ring up the week following. That's fine, I said, excited about my purchase. Two weeks passed and I realized late in the day that I wasn't going to be able to make it out to RAM. I phoned one of my best friends who has a booth at the market and asked her if she could pick it up for me. Guess what. No ring. Couldn't get it finished in time to bring it with her. Went to my website but I don't have my email address listed (I do.) so she could tell me it wasn't ready yet. I can mail it to you Monday. She did. It was in my mailbox Tuesday, and to say it was a second-rate version of what she had on display at RAM would be kind. Because of the design, it's not even wearable.

How is it that hard? If you make something I love so much that I ask you to create a piece just for me, and you then agree to do so, shouldn't it be the absolute BEST representation of your work?? I mentioned that one of my best friends has a booth at RAM. Actually, several of my friends are out there, and I would like to be, too. It would be my first official forray into selling what I make. The examples I've seen with the artists I've purchased from though, has honestly scared me. I don't know much lately, but I know I don't want to be like them.

This Selling v. Not Selling thing has weighed heavily on my mind lately. I have managed to avoid this debate up until now by simply giving my creations away to those who inquired. I would really like to sell my work though, and this issue was one of the things I planned to figure out during my soul searching down here on the beach. That's when I came across this post on Dude Craft, which I spoke of briefly in my musing on serendipity. I hope you'll read the post and the comments. The exchange between Paul and me in the context of that post cannot be adequately duplicated here.

What it comes down to is that if you put passion first, in whatever it is you endeavor, success will follow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Meditations

  • the pigeon who thinks he’s a shorebird… I’d like to think my gentle spirit made him willing to walk right up to me, although my keen intellect knows he more likely was looking to be fed (I'm thinking that if I were a pigeon, I'd come live at the beach, too...)
  • the two young twenty-something guys running while carrying on a conversation… not being able to climb a flight of stairs without dirty phone call quality panting, I was mesmerized.
  • the two friends, one fair skinned with curly red hair and the other deep bronze with flowing blonde hair
  • the surfer who despite not having any surfable waves, instead stands on his board and slowly paddles himself gondola-style down the coast…
  • the young mom and her two-year-old bare naked daughter looking for shells at the shoreline
  • the two eleven or twelve year old boys playing in the water with no one around to watch them
  • the crowd of young rowdies smoking, drinking and cursing like sailors, but clearly having fun
  • the entire bag of plastic trash I picked up just in my small area of the beach, including water bottles, bottle caps, cigarette packs and the plastic ring from a four-pack of cans
  • the sizable piece of coral whose discovery holds special significance only I could appreciate… that I really needed to find

...is contemplating serendipity.

1:59 AM

I clearly should have written before now. It's late and I'm getting a little cloudy, so I think I'll head to dreamland and give this a shot in the morning. Or at whatever time it is that I wake up.


4:25 PM

So it turns out that even my delay in writing about serendipity was serendipitous.

I arrived here after hours Saturday night, and the resort office is closed on Sunday, so I needed to check in with them today. Of course, they are unfamiliar with my sleeping schedule, so they mistakenly expected to see me this morning. Ha. Here's what I just found out though... there was a lot of confusion about my reservation, because it came in with someone else's name. To be precise, it came in with the owner of this unit's name. That gentleman apparently owns multiple weeks at this resort and he has never traded in one of his weeks before. Ever. He did this time though. Last minute. Meanwhile, there was a chick in north Florida dreaming of escaping to south Florida for a week. Last minute.

My visit to the rental office was quite unusual. Scratch that. Anyone else would have considered my visit unusual. I have grown rather accustomed to having complete strangers tell me their life stories. My husband claims there’s something about me that makes people feel close to me. I would love to think there’s some hidden gift I have to make others comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts and intimate experiences with me, but truth be told, I’ve always been nagged by the thought that maybe some people just have a tell-all personality. And maybe I just happen to run into an inordinate number of said people.

One of the big questions I’ve been pondering lately, and as part of my current journey, is my “next step” in life. I’ve been seriously considering going back to school to get a degree that would allow me to become a mental health counselor. I have long resisted the idea of doing so because of my tendency to take on the pain of others as my own. That has the potential to be truly disastrous for me if I can’t manage things well. Regardless, it’s a thought and desire that stays with me, and it seems affirmed by situations like the one I had today. Keep in mind… I haven’t spoken to many people since I left my family Saturday and certainly nothing more than the exchange of a few sentences. The first real conversation I have had since leaving was with a woman I’ve never met before (the property manager here) who spent forty-five minutes pouring her heart out to me about the recent death of her ten-day-old granddaughter. She shared intimate details about her loss, her son’s mourning, her granddaughter’s disease and the pain she’s been dealing with. I tried best I could to comfort her. Was this a sign? Serendipity? Coincidence?

My original thoughts from yesterday on serendipity seem difficult to spell out now, partly because there were so many of them and partly because I’m so overwhelmed by them. In an effort to share without writing a novel here, enjoy this compilation:
  • I took a random book with me to read during lunch yesterday that I bought years ago but had never even cracked the cover on and discovered an author who seemed to know every detail of my life and current quest. It was almost scary.
  • I ended my day yesterday by watching Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. Out of all the DVDs in our collection, how did that one make its way down here with me?
  • Another quandary I’ve been exploring is turning my love of creating into an income. I have always hated trying to assign a value to the things I make, preferring instead to give my creations away. Despite my concerted efforts to limit my online activity right now to checking my personal email and blogging, I somehow found my way to this post by blogging dynamo and personal fave DudeCraft. (AND he quotes the Sutras... I *knew* I liked this guy!)

What this has all boiled down to for me is that the answers are out there. Take the time to ask your questions. More importantly, though, make time to listen for the answers. I realize not everyone can run away to a condo in south Florida, and maybe YOU don’t need to. Be willing to ponder. Be willing to receive. You will be blown away by what you learn in the process.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Meditations

  • the two fifty-something friends (maybe sisters?), one clearly wanting to talk, the other clearly wanting to walk
  • the older man far out in the water who persisted in scaring me by doing the dead man’s float for extended periods of time
  • the cigarette boater who shook my beach chair gunning his way up the coast
  • the eighteen or nineteen year old girl by herself having a heated argument with someone (probably her boyfriend) on her cell phone
  • the two girl pit bulls (one gray, one white) and their daddies coming down to play in the surf… the gray girl couldn’t figure out if she was chasing the waves, or if the waves were chasing her… the white girl wanted no part of any of it… they were both so beautiful
  • the father and daughter, or May-Decembers (?), walking with purpose
  • the twenty-something couple clearly on a first date... and enjoying it

...is doing it up Caribbean style.

Breakfast at noon is awesome. Especially when it's the traditional Jamaican spice bread, mango and cheese. Mmmmm. Oh. And did I mention the view?

I obviously had some sleep to catch up on. Let's just say I didn't make sunrise today. Or high noon, for that matter. When I *did* finally wake up, though, I saw the beautiful view I have in daylight for the first time. Awe. some.

This resort is small. There are only 13 units. This one clearly has the best view of any of them. I'm on the second floor with a clear view of the beach, palm trees and all. The two huge front windows of my unit look right out onto the ocean. Bonus? The window frame is such that when I sit on the east-facing couch, the cross rail blocks out everyone sitting on the beach. From here it looks like were I to venture down to the shore, it would just be me and the boats.

Bob Marley is telling me every little thing is going to be alright. Correct you are, Mr. Marley. Message received.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

...is running away.


I did something today I have never done before. I ran away.

Well, sure. There was that time when I was 9 or so. Does it really count though? I only made it to the end of the driveway before my mom asked where I was going to eat dinner if I kept walking. Say no more, mother of mine! I was just coming back inside! Hmmm... food always has been a motivator for me.

This time I did it, though. I really did it. I packed up my Explorer (for the first time EVER, she's aptly named), hit the highway and headed south. Just me, 8 billionty craft supplies, and open road. There were lightning storms, heavy rains, and even an accident that had all traffic shut down on 95. I kept right on going--chug, chug, chugging along. Why? Because I know how to find food all on my own now.

I don't know if it truly counts as "running away" if your family knows where you are and how to get a hold of you, but here I am regardless. I kept hearing that somewhat trite definition of "crazy" and felt more and more like it applied to me. You know the one I'm talking about... "Crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." You have to say it in a sing-songy voice and bounce your head from side to side for the FULL effect, but I think you get the picture here.

When everything in your life feels like it's upside down and balanced precariously on uneven pogo sticks, it is probably time to take some kind of action. Right? Here I am. I'm at an undisclosed beachfront location in south Florida, with my laptop, some chick flick DVDs, my sewing machine and what seems to be a good portion of my art studio. I brought several books along for the journey... self improvement, Buddhism, artsy craftsy, craftsy artsy, and one or two novels just for kicks. It is going to be a week of journaling, discovery, recovery and crafting. I plan to lay on the beach when I want, go shopping when I want, eat when I want, sew when I want and watch what I want. I'm being ridiculously selfish and taking some time for me. In the long run, I'll be a better person for it, and a better person for those who depend on me.

Lest you think I'm footloose and fancy free, without a care in the world... there are no dogs snuggled next to me or in my lap; there is no son to tuck in, watch TV or laugh with; there is no husband to crawl into bed next to; and there will be no kitty curled up between my feet tonight as I sleep. I'm also on a self-imposed Facebook hiatus, which is harder than it might sound! There is, however, a toilet that flushes all by itself... every two minutes forty-five seconds. Yeah. So there's that.

It's after 2am here now, and while it is a much earlier bedtime for me than normal, I think I'm going to call it a night. This has been a LLLLLOOOONNNNGGGG day! Sunrise tomorrow is at 6:27am, so I am setting the alarm clock for 6:15am now. It's been quite a while since I've watched day break over the ocean's horizon. Of course, once the majesty has been witnessed, I'll be right back in bed until it's a reasonable hour for waking. I ran away... I'm not CRAZY!

...is aware.

This was actually written the afternoon of Monday, June 15, 2009. The post options have been changed to help anyone reading chronologically.


I contemplated not writing anything about where I've been/what I've been doing/why you should care/etc. and just picking this blog back up like I hadn't abandoned it for the past four months after promising myself (and Vineeta) to post daily for the month of March. I also contemplated my navel, but that is way less relevant right now.

I always try to look at situations from both sides when I'm faced with some sort of conflict. In this case, I thought long and hard about how I would feel if a blogger I visited daily abandoned me for months, only to reappear out of the blue one day as if nothing had ever happened. Please indulge me in the thought that there WAS even someone feeling abandoned, much less anyone who visited me daily (!)... at times I like to live in a Stina-centric world! That's when I knew some sort of explanation would at least be thoughtful of me, if not necessary.

In this case, too, I had to debate myself over whether the posts you'll find here labeled "Rehab" belonged on this blog, or my personal blog (which has been abandoned WAY longer than four months). In the end I decided that unless I share my inspirations, as well as my struggles, I wasn't being genuine to my creative self, or to you in YOUR journey.

Here's how things boil down. I have been in a really yucky place for a really long time. It started with losing not just *a* best friend, but all THREE of my best friends at the same time. That was followed by all of the joys I talked about here. My health continued to suffer, I couldn't find my muse despite looking for her EVERYWHERE, and I continued to feel like life was a struggle on all fronts... personal, artistic and social.

Sometimes you need to get away from the day-to-day. Sometimes you need to take inventory. Sometimes you need to be selfish. It's not easy. Trust me. Sometimes things aren't easy, though. You have to do them anyway.

I have left my husband, son and pets behind, placed myself on a Facebook hiatus (which is why these posts all have titles paying homage to my favorite online waste-of-time), and traveled about five hours south, all by myself, on a quest to find my center again. I had no idea how hard it would be to be alone. I almost bought a fish at a pet store yesterday just so I would have someone to talk to! That's when I realized another important lesson. Sometimes you need silence.

So no, I'm not at some rehab center because my family or law enforcement forced me into due to some alcohol or drug abuse problem. I drove myself to a beachfront condo to find peace and meaning. I'm having my own intervention. I'm worth saving, and I deserve to live a joyous, purposeful and succulent life. I want ME back. I'm worth fighting for.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Moments of genius...

Ok, so "genius" might be pushing it. Something about today, though, found me in moment after moment of inspiration. I have a great idea for a new felt creature. I re-stocked my shrink plastic stock so that I could make some buttons for my recently finished scarfette. Inspired by this tutorial featured last week on One Pretty Thing, I picked up some wooden clothes pins and a package of the cool little wooden bases for them to stand up in. Aren't they the cutest? I forgot the "heads", though, so I guess there's another trip to the craft store in my future. Darn.

Time to get busy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lemonade anyone?

Life is handing me it's fair share of lemons lately. My precious 9 pound Chihuahua, Sophie, went blind virtually overnight from a stupid disease I'd never heard of until it was knocking on my door. I went to my dermatologist on a lark to see what I could do about a reddish rash that I had appeared several months ago on my cheeks. A routine visit turned a tad more serious when she sent me for a blood test to screen for Lupus. Things grew quite a bit more serious when that test came back positive. I don't have any definitive answers yet, but I do have a rheumatologist. Yay me.

Just when I thought enough was enough, my husband got laid off this morning, which happened to be the 13th anniversary of him being hired by his employer. Come to think of it, Sophie was diagnosed with SARDS on Friday, February 13th. Let somebody try to tell me again that there's nothing ominous about the number 13.

Of all days, today would have been a day I definitely could have talked myself out of posting something. I really wanted to keep this blog focused on my creative endeavors, but some things just need to be let out. I'll definitely be journal-ing all of this. In the meantime, here's my owl collection. The little one was my dad's, and the other two belonged to my Aunt Billie (my mom's sister). I wish I could have picked up the phone and called my dad today for his words of wisdom. He would have either calmed me with some amazing insight, or made me laugh by saying something really goofy. He's been gone almost twelve years now though, so instead I'll just have to hope for a penny sometime soon... but that's a story for another day.


I leave you with owls. Now who wants some lemonade?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Six Degrees of Amazing

I find the most beautiful places in BlogLand through posts made by the few bloggers I regularly stalk. I've also found some amazing stuff through my Twitter follows. One such wonderful discovery was Vineeta's artnlight blog. Leah over at Creative Every Day found a blog she loves, namely Jess Gonacha's Pecannoot, and generously posted the link so I could fall in love with Jess' site, too. THEN, Jess graciously shared Vineeta's site, and I found not one, but two new stops for my daily Blogosphere pArty.

Well, inspiration comes to us in unique ways, and little did I know when I started following Vineeta that this incredibly talented woman who is halfway around the world would be the kick in the pants I needed. She announced in her March 1st post that she was committing to posting daily this month. I recognized all too well her reasons for making such a proclamation. It seems that life has a way of getting the better of us and, "I'll post something tomorrow," quickly turns into a week, then two, and eventually a few thoughts will make their way out of the brain and onto a computer screen. Or not. One way or another, you've made a decision. Continue the journey, or get off the bus.

I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to end this ride just yet. As a matter of fact, I don't feel like this trip has even started. I'm going to join Vineeta and challenge myself to post every day this month. Stay tuned and let's see where this thing goes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Needled.


For several weeks now I've been coveting felt. Not the kind that you buy for $0.25 a piece at the big box craft store that is littering my studio... I'm talking about that thick, gorgeous, mottled, rich looking wool felt that is popping up everywhere lately. Here's the rub. I don't have a hundred bucks to throw into yet another craft obsession right now! What to do? Take the cheap stuff and make it LOOK like the fancy stuff!

Working off a hunch, I invested a whopping $3.99 plus tax for a package of two needles and a foam block the other night, came home and went to town on my cheap felt. It worked! I present you with Faux Fancy Felt (hencetoforthherewith known as "F3").

To make your own F3 , you will need a felting needle, a foam block, and some of that cheap felt from the "4 for $1" rack. Cut squares of the felt and stack them two or three deep. Put the felt on the foam block and punch the needle through the center of your stack several times to secure the pieces together. Continue needle punching in an up-and-down motion across the surface of your your stack from the center, working toward the outside edges. The closer your punches are to each other, the better.

Once you have needled the entire piece, carefully lift the piece from the foam block. The down side will look fuzzy. Turn that side up and put it back on the foam block. Needle punch the piece again, tamping down the fuzzies as you go. A few words of caution for those who have never tried needle felting before... be careful where you put your fingers in relation to the area you're needle punching!! Felting needles are (Duh, duh, DUHN!) sharp! You really don't want to miss the felt and find a finger. I promise. Also, be sure you work on a solid surface. I used an oversize book with a magazine on top to cushion any overly exuberant needle punches so I could work while lounging on the sofa and eating bon bons. Ok, fine. I was watching TV.

This was all about the journey, so I tried different things as I went along. Some pieces I cut into shape first and then felted; others I felted first and then cut. Some pieces I could see all of my needle pokes, so I would gently scrub the surface with the end of my foam block and gently pull the edges back and forth until they softened. Some stacks I worked were two layers, most were three, but one attempt found me using four. I took some wool yarn and felted that onto a rectangle of some F3 and hot glued a pin clasp to the back. Beautimous! I also experimented using two different colors of felt and LOVED that result! It really gives you that yummy, hand-made look. The secret, however, is to put the darkest piece on the bottom when you start. After you turn your work, and punch all of the fuzzies down, you will see what I mean. The lighter colored side just looks bizarre--kinda like a bad hair plug job. My next trial-and-error will be a lighter colored piece of felt between two pieces of the same darker colored felt. I think that will work well for something you want to be viewed from all sides.

I'm going to continue playing with this, and I'll report back with any jaw-dropping new discoveries. Until then, what's been your favorite adventurous discovery?