Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

It's been a little while since I last posted a Bead and Craft Bloggers round up.  Several of us felt the spark to post again, and so here we are...

Quilting on the Fly
My mom and my grandma used to quilt, so reading how the Crafty Princess picked up quilting brought back all kinds of memories.  In this blog post, Tammy discusses the process of picking up an unfinished quilt that her grandmother started many year ago.  The blog post also includes a short video, describing her hopes of completing this piece of family history.

Black and White
Using a collection of art bead components from Jenny Davies-Reazor and SagaHus Components, Ann creates an elegant necklace in black and white.

Lovely in Lilac Bead Embroidery
Inspired by Pantone's Pink Lavender, Cyndi shares a tutorial on how to create this bead embroidered button pendant.  Such lovely, soft colors!

More than Love
Hearts aren't just a symbol for love!  Allegory Gallery debuts their new heart-themed laser-engraved wooden pendants!  You could use them as they are, or embellish them with paints or pigments.

Sun, Moon, and Stars
Seizing upon the Artisans Create Together monthly challenge for July,  Sarajo gets her celestial groove on with an array of art bead laden earrings, bracelets, and necklaces!

The Little Bead Shop that Could
While many local bead stores are closing or are in decline, this one isn't!  In this post, I describe our experience as one of the winners of SCORE's 2018 American Small Business Championship.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

SCORE American Small Business Championship 2018...

And just like that, we're done. The characters were counted. The form was filled out. The button was pushed. And now there's no more that can be added or changed. This part of the American Small Business Championship has come to an end.

After an adventure out west to Reno, where we met some amazing people and heard empowering, educational, and encouraging speakers and small business experts, and months of work implementing those ideas... we're done. It's hard to fit all those many days and all those many hours into 1000 characters. It's hard to summarize all the time and energy we've spent evaluating our business and trying to make it better. It's hard to wrap our minds around what an incredible experience this has been and convey it.

When William and I decided to put Allegory Gallery forward for consideration for SCORE Mentors's American Small Business Championship, we were just coming off of a near win with another national small business competition. We were semi-finalists and had put so much into the contest and when we found out that we didn't win, we were crestfallen. Of course, we were happy for the winner, but so many of our customers and supporters had believed in us and put forth so much time and energy into helping us get to the finish line and when we just barely missed the mark, we felt like we had let down our friends and customers. So we were apprehensive about jumping back into another competition.

But we did.

One of the things that I tell people often is that you never get anywhere, unless you try. You might not always succeed and the path might be very different from what you excepted, but you'll never make manifest your dreams by waiting for someone else to turn them into a reality. You've got to want it. You've got to push forward. And sometimes... if you're patient and the circumstances coalesce just right, you'll be successful. But, first, you must try.

Resa Kierstein, Andrew Thornton, and William Jones.
We did try and with the support almost 7,000 votes, we advanced in the championship. Out of thousands of applicants, we were one of the 102 entries that moved forward (and out of Pennsylvania, we were one out of three). We became #bizchampions and joined a family of fellow dreamers and doers from across the country.

This would not have been possible without YOU! You got us here. With your loyal support and encouragement, you helped us get where we are today. And for that I will forever be grateful. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

I think that this is an incredible distinction!  Despite the odds, we're thriving.  We didn't have much money to start with, but little by little we've grown the business and set down roots in the community.  William and I are an openly gay couple in a tiny town in rural Southwestern Pennsylvania.  The population of our town is 1,500 people!  Going by numbers and popular misconceptions, we shouldn't be here.  This is particularly true in an uncertain economic time for local bead stores and brick and mortar stores like ours; so many of them are going out of business.  The fact that we're still here and growing steadily is cause for celebration in itself.

What sets the American Small Business Championship apart from other competitions is SCORE. This competition sponsored by the generosity of Sam's Club is not so much about creating one winner, but empowering and encouraging 102 different small businesses. SCORE is dedicated to mentoring entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams, strengthen the economy, and better society. It's true that there are three Grand Prizes and there's a monetary reward for those winners, but this challenge also incorporated training and networking.

American Small Business Championship Winners 2018
"Training" and "Networking" are two words that describe what took place in Reno, but they're not good enough. How could they be? We were trained to refine our vision, be happier, be more successful, connect better to our customers and supporters, push ourselves creatively to be the best we can be, and how to turn obstacles into opportunities. Networking sounds so clinical, but we met other business owners who moved us with their stories, intrigued us with their products/services, and inspired us. We didn't just meet other small business owners, we made lifelong friendships. In the short time that we've known each other, we've cried together, we've laughed together, we've celebrated together. We've been tech support for one another, collaborated together, bounced ideas off each other, and provided recommendations and sales. So... it's so much more than just merely "training" and "networking".

Ron Cates, Betsey Dougert, Rieva Lesonsky, Giselle Chapman.
Over the past few months, we've worked hard to implement those ideas that we gained. It has inspired us to attend other SCORE events like webinars and local chapter events. We are fortunate to have a SCORE Mentors chapter (555) so close! We've evaluated our business on a financial level, a structural level, a community level, and dare I say it... a spiritual level. We are lucky to share the path with the other champions, as they've been a constant source of guidance and encouragement.  Each day I'll see positive motivational quotes from multiple people.

As I look back over the experience, I'm filled with a sense of possibility. With the other competitions we were in, there was such a feeling of finality. That this is where it stops. This is the winner and the rest of you are not. But with SCORE Mentors's American Small Business Championship, it feels as though we're all winners. I know that might sound cliche, but really, what we've learned and the people we've met will impact the rest of our lives.

Reno skies full of possibility.
While we'd be over the moon to advance to the Grand Prize round, we're happy with the gifts that we've received already. It would be wonderful and change our lives, don't get me wrong, but I feel as though if you listen to the lessons and be mindful about implementation, and we maintain our peer group, then the experience will easily have a tenfold return, far more valuable. I know that I feel more enriched by the experience.

All of us have done our best, crossed our fingers, and now it's up to the judges to award the Grand Champions. I don't envy their jobs! I've come to know several of the other #bizchampions and they are strong, kind, brave, clever, creative, talented, hard working, tenacious, resilient, ambitious, and courageous. Their businesses are no less remarkable. Each of them has worked hard to envision a problem and seek to address it in their own way.

To our fellow #bizchampions, we wish you good luck and continued friendship!

And... once again... to our customers, family, friends, supporters, SCORE Mentors, and Sam's Club who have made this experience possible, THANK YOU!


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Message Received...

I try to start each day off with pulling a card.  Sometimes I'll pull two if I need further clarification.  Sometimes I'll do a full spread if I'm really perplexed.  I find that the cards are helpful in providing guidance and allowing me to gain perspective.  I believe that each of us carries with us the fingerprint of the Divine, that we are all connected and if we listen with our hearts, we can hear the hidden message.  While we can feel isolated, stranded in our individuality, science tells us that we are all connected on a sub-atomic level.  I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in Quantum Theory, but there's the String Theory that says that the building blocks of the Universe is made up of tiny string particles and waves and that those fibers are woven together and we are all connected through a concept that Albert Einstein called quantum entanglement.  We are connected to our neighbors and loved ones, we are connected to strangers, we are connected to the cosmic movements of the heavens... because there is an unconditional bond that binds us on an infinitesimal scale.  If we are connected to the Universe or God or the Divine, or whatever you want to call It, why can't we be conduits to the messages?  Whether you believe in all that, I find that the practice of pulling a card helpful for me.

This morning, I pulled the Death Card.  I use the Wild Unknown deck designed and created by Kim Krans.  In this deck, the illustration depicts a desiccated bird.  While it can be scary at first to pull this card, I think Kim does a great job at outlining that it's not necessarily a bad thing.  It signifies closure and an ending.  It can be sad when things end, but once that chapter is closed, a new one can start.  Life is miraculous like that.  When one thing ends, another begins... and there's a beauty of transformation.

I think that when you're in tune with the message, our life can be filled with omens or signs.  This is can be dangerous, because sometimes people can lose themselves in these portents and allow them to give power to their anxieties and apprehensions.  They stop seeing it as guidance and see it as edict.  When we live in fear, we surrender to it and become slaves to it.  So, it's important to remember that while the world is full of symbols and signs, that we must acknowledge the beauty of our own paths and that those paths are designed maybe by the Divine or our own cause and effect relationship with the Universe to educate, inform, and enlighten our spirits.  Simply put: Listen and learn.

After I drew the Death Card, part of me was reflecting on what it could mean.  I was searching my heart for a deeper meaning.  Since it's blueberry season, every morning, before it gets too hot, I go out to pick them.  When I go out on walks and have a question in my heart, I ask that I see a sign.  Sometimes it is a lightning strike of information and sometimes it's subtle.  Today, it was the former.

As I approached the blueberry bush with my bowl, I saw something bundled at the base of the tree.  And there was a dead wood thrush.  On the surface, it doesn't have any great symbolism; there are cats that prowl the neighborhood and the blueberry bush is a powerful draw to the local birds.  When you combine cats and birds, you can guess the end result.

But, having just asked for a sign and having just pulled the Death Card, I knew the meaning.  I looked up the symbolism of the wood thrush for confirmation and further illumination.  According to the SunSigns website, the wood thrush is a "symbol of solid, healthy relationships.  It happily appears in our lives to signify that we are engaging in a long-term relationship that will never break down at any cost."

Without going into too much detail, because they're not really important to this conversation, I recently had a falling out with a friend of over 15 years.  I've actually known this person closer to 20. I was shaken by our conflict.  The interaction hurt me.  I was sad by the way things were handled and how things were left.  But... I also think it's important to surround yourself with positive people, who recognize and appreciate you for who you are.  And if our friendship was not good enough to agree to disagree, then perhaps it is best that it ended.

This morning I pulled a card.  This morning I asked for a sign.  And the message was received.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Star Child...

I'm lucky to live in a place with low light pollution.  On clear nights, when I stand out in the dark and look up, the sky glitters with thousands of stars.  You can see swathes of cosmic dust, dotted with the glow of planets, and the moon seems so close you can almost touch it if you stand on your very tippy toes and just reach a little higher.

When I look up into the night sky, I'm filled with a sense of awe.  It never gets old.  The sky seems so vast and immense and there's a sense that it is endless.  Science tells us that the Universe is expanding, even as massive and incomprehensible as it is... it is still growing.

It would be easy to feel insignificant faced with such immensity.  But science has also revealed the hidden secrets that shows us how we are a mirror for the cosmos.  Within each of us are chemical reactions, cellular activity, and infinitesimal atomic activity that mimics the movements of the heavens.  The micro mirrors the macro.

Carl Sagan said that we are all made of "star stuff" and recent scientific discovery confirms that.  (If you're interested in finding out more, look up Sloan Digital Sky Survey and their work with APOGEE.)  We are children of the stars and descendants of the night and connected to that ever-growing vastness.

Sometimes in life, you will meet people who will try to make you feel small.  They will try to reduce you down to your parts and make you fit comfortably into the role they have designated for you.  Don't listen to them.  They will try to diminish you.  They will try to shrink you, marginalize you, and break you down.  Do not let them.

These people do it for all sorts of reasons.  There are some who are raised on power, suckled on privilege and entitlement.  They've been glutted with self-importance and have greedily been consumed with filling themselves up with power at any costs and will go to any corrupt lengths to obtain it.  There is a flaw in them, where they cannot see others, but only see themselves and their hunger for more.  But I honestly have not met many of these people.  In my experience, the people that try to belittle others are people who were once made to feel small themselves.  They've been abused, disenfranchised, and systematically oppressed.  They try to find their own self-worth by making others feel less worthy.  They feel that they are bigger if others feel smaller.  This is the curse of trauma.  Trauma is passed from one person to the next.

In a perfect world, there would be no trauma.  Sadly, this is not the case.  We like to imagine that those who pass the curses down are strangers, that they could not hurt us if they knew us.  But often times that's not the case.  Sometimes a parent or a friend or a spouse can inflict their own control dramas on you.  It's easy to get caught up in their tragedies and reenactments of the violence inflicted upon them.  This is a cycle as old as civilization.

The truth is... we are powerless to change them.

This truth is inconvenient.  Hurting those who hurt you is not empowerment.  It's punishment.  It's vengeance.  It's trading one person making others feel small for another.  "You made me feel small.  Now I'm going to make you feel small."

Remember the stars.

I'm reminded of a story from Hinduism, where young Krishna has been reported to eat dirt.  Upon investigation, his mother looks in his mouth and sees the whole Universe.  I am not Hindu, but I have always found beauty in it and we have proven scientifically now that indeed, if one looks within, they can see a mirror for the Universe.

When you know that you are a child of the stars and hold within you the vastness of the Universe, you do not need the approval of another.  You do not need to be validated.  You do not need to feel bigger than someone else, because you already contain within you, in the very building blocks of your being, the map of an ever-expanding Universe... and no one can make you feel small, because you are infinite.  You are made of star stuff.  You are an entity of possibilities and potential.  You are a force of nature.

In knowing this, you must also recognize that those around you are also children of the stars.  They too are forces of nature.  They too are vehicles of endless potential and possibility.  And when you see this in them, it changes the way you see them.  To revisit Hinduism, there is a greeting that we're all too familiar with nowadays.  In Pop Culture, it's often the brunt of jokes and there's a very funny article online called, "Surviving Whole Foods".  The word is, "Namaste."  While we can make light of it, there's actually a very beautiful meaning.  It means, "I bow to the divine in you."

Recognizing the divine in another allows you to come to terms that you cannot change them.  They are on their own path.  You are on yours.  Leaving aside spirituality, we are all on the same journey.  Each step forward is a step towards our eventual deaths.  It's shocking, I know.  But it is eventual.  It is undeniable.  Our bodies, that star stuff, will return to the Earth and the very fibers of our being will again, rejoin the Universe.

So... what do we do with this information?

Embrace your heritage as a child of the stars and a being of infinite possibilities.  The Divine rests within each of you.  I am reminded of the much disputed Gospel of Thomas of the Gnostic Texts.  One translation reads, "If those who lead you say to you: 'Look, the kingdom is in the sky!' then the birds of the sky will precede you.  If they say to you: 'It is in the sea,' then the fishes will precede you.  Rather, the kingdom is inside of you and outside of you."  "When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will realize that you are the children of the the living Father."  What I take away from this text is that when we realize and actualize that we are children of the Universe, we have the power to make manifest the world around us in word and deed.  If we speak our truth and tell our stories, we will give those stories power.  If we speak of love, we will be of love and manifest love.

I am reminded of the word "abracadabra" and what it means.  The etymology is debatable, but in Hebrew it's thought to mean, "I will create as I speak".  In Aramaic, "I create like the word".  If you're familiar with the practice of magic, you know that this is the fundamental basis.  Shape your will, speak it with words, and manifest it into being.  You are a conduit of the Universe, weaving the energy and giving the words life.  It is a drawing down of power that ignites with the catalyst of our energy and intent.  The same can be said of prayer.

As a creative person, I see this every day.

The process of making art is taking an abstract thought, filtering that through our heads, moving it through our hearts, and using our hands to make it manifest.  For storytellers, these thoughts are coalesced into words, words that inspire images in others.  They are a living thing, that when fed and nurtured will grow.  Our minds are a garden of growing things and it's up to us, to tend those gardens and be guardians of those divine sparks.  Our bodies are made of star stuff.  Our minds are a collection of stars, a garden of light.  And we have the power to be tools of the Divine and shape the world around us.

When I am feeling lost, I look up at the stars and I pray.  I am reminded that I am a child of the Universe and am a mirror, a conduit, a maker, a manifester, a keeper of the light, an entity of endless potential and possibilities.

And so are you.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Painted Prayers...

When we would visit Pennsylvania for trade shows, I noticed the brightly colored decorations on the barns.  I love folk art and was intrigued by the iconography.  When we moved here, I became even more curious and remember asking an older local what they meant.  I was told, "Oh, that's so the barn don't burn."  Apparently they are Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Symbols and different symbols represent different petitions.  They are basically painted prayers.

As an artist who infuses my work with mindful intention, this is really interesting to me.

Now that I'm aware of them, I see them all over.  They're tucked in the eaves of churches and barns and there was even one hanging in our kitchen when we bought the house.  It's fascinating to me.  What I find particularly interesting is that it's not exclusively "pagan" or "Christian".  It seems like a lovely swirl of beliefs and traditions that have been passed down in the region.  I like when things cross boundaries and blur the lines.

What's perhaps not discussed as much are the beliefs attached to the hex symbols.  To learn more about them, the origins, the uses, and how they are used, I wanted to do a little research about Pow-Wow and Braucherei.  Here's a view books on my reading list:  "The Long Lost Friend" by John George Hohman, "Hex and Spellwork" by Karl Herr, "The Powow Grimoire" by Robert Phoenix, "Folk Medicine Plants Used in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country" by Paul R. Wieand, "HexCraft: Dutch Country Magick" by Silver RavenWolf, and "The Red Church or The Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei" by C.R. Bilardi.  I also picked up a little book called, "Hexology: The History & the Meaning of the Hex Symbols" by Jacob Zook and Jane Zook.

I'm curious to see how this will impact my own work and if these symbols will start appearing in my own work.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild Workshop...

Me (in the apron) with some of the PPCG at the Swissvale Fire Department.
A day after I got back from San Francisco, I headed over to the Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild to teach a two-day workshop on working with resin and mold-making.  As I've taken a step back from the front of house operations at the shop, so too have I stepped back from teaching.  It seems like for awhile, I was on a roll teaching, doing presentations for arts groups and demoing for TV.  I know that it pales in comparison to some of my teacher friends who teach on a daily basis or teach workshops for the majority of their income.  Still... for awhile, it felt like I was all too regularly in this position, putting myself in front of people and facilitating learning opportunities.  This isn't something that comes naturally for me.  I am most comfortable in the sanctuary of my studio, keeping my own company, and playing mad scientist with my art supplies.  But as much as it's outside of my comfort zone, it has been very rewarding and I often look back with fondness to my teaching experiences.  I am very thankful and appreciative that the Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild asked me back to expand upon a demo that I did last year.  It's a big honor considering the incredibly lineup of their past instructors!

Left: Mushroom tile in progress by the very talented, Les Polinko.  Middle: My traveling feast of ideas and art supplies.  Right: Me showing how to make mold walls out of inexpensive materials... aka a toilet paper roll!  All of these photos are courtesy of Les Polinko!  
I always feel like I'm moving in when I teach, especially for these more in-depth workshops!  I always come loaded down with bags and bags of art supplies and examples of my own work.  I think I filled up four tables of different materials and examples and projects in various stages of completion!  It's like I've transported a little chunk of my studio with me.

Top left: Texture tiles created by the fabulous Laura Tabakman. Bottom left: Les Polinko's mushroom tile in progress with polymer clay gnome.  Bottom center: Lovely fish pond scene made by Rebecca Watkins.  Right:  Les Polinko's baby mandrake about to get molded! 
We had a fantastic group of talented students!  Several of the participants of the workshop are accomplished professional artists.  It's always a curious situation when teaching colleagues and others who are experts in their own right.  I shy away from project oriented workshops, because to me, what's more valuable are the techniques and guidance.  I want to help people best achieve what they want to do and help guide them to where they want to go.  I know that it can be frustrating for some with this loosey-goosey style of teaching; I know some folks prefer more structure and are more results based.  I do hope that everyone had a good time though and that even if they were pushed outside of their comfort zones and subjected to my own particular brand of teaching and humor, that they found it a valuable and empowering experience.  Everyone seemed to have a positive class and that there was lots of learning and growing.  I could see the gears turning in the heads of several of the attendees, adapting their own practices to incorporate these materials and ways of working... and I think that's a very good thing indeed.  I can't wait to see what they create!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Western Skies...

I recently had the good fortune to travel out to the Bay Area with my sister, Cynthia.  We stayed mostly with our friend Jess and had all kinds of adventures.  Truthfully, I've been reluctant to put it down on paper, so to speak.  Now that I'm home, there's a finality to it.  I've been holding on to the experience like a worry stone, rolling it around in the palm of my hand, smoothing it like a piece of agate plucked from the sea.  I've been sucking the juices out of the memory, like the last bite of a delicious meal, not wanting it to end.  I know now why there is that saying... "I've left my heart in San Francisco."  It truly is a beautiful place, full of magic and wonder.

My heart is brimming with gratitude to my sister and Jess for making this trip possible, being amazing traveling companions, making me laugh until it hurt, and for kinship and camaraderie; also to William for holding down the fort while I explored and for not being too disgruntled while I described all the awesome things we were getting up to.  Many thanks also go out to Kate Richbourg, who generously opened up her studio, arranged art outings, provided wise counsel, and made arrangements for memories that will last a lifetime.  Much love also goes out to Diane, Emily, and Elsa.  Really there were so many lovely souls that I met during the trip that I will surely miss someone.  I am remiss that I didn't see more of my friends out in the area, but our days were so full, it is hard to imagine filling them any fuller.

I've partially documented my adventures as they were happening over on Facebook and on Instagram, but I felt that I needed to fill in the gaps and capture all the little details before they've faded too much and are too far gone.  If you're interested in more moments from my trip, swing by those various social media outlets and scroll back through, as I've tried to keep things relatively unique to each platform.

Normally, I would try to describe everything, but really there was so much that it's hard to wrangle it all and I know that if I try, I won't do it justice.  So, instead, I'm going to go about this in a photo essay style with captions.

Good morning, San Francisco.
View from Buena Vista Park.

Golden Gate Bridge.

Alameda Point Antiques Faire.

We stayed in a cottage once owned by writer, Kathleen Norris.

Montara sunset.

Pillar Point Marsh Beach near Half Moon Bay.

Tide pools at Pillar Point Harbor Beach.

Montara seascape.

Sea anemone, mussels, and goose barnacles in Montara. 

Vivid green algae flowing down the cliff in Montara.

Sea Star in the tide pool.

Raven posing on a fence post near the entrance of Muir Woods.

Carpet of clover (wood sorrel) in Muir Woods.

Muir Woods Cathedral Grove.

Towering redwoods in Muir Woods.

Mini roses and ferns in Muir Woods.

Wildflower path to Muir Beach.

A feather in the foam at Muir Beach.

Flotsam and jetsam and a crab claw at Muir Beach.

Muir Beach.

20th Century Cafe.

Cynthia admiring our delicious yield at 20th Century Cafe.

Goodbye, San Francisco.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Good Omens...

Could this be a good omen for our trip out to Reno for SCORE's Small Business Championship?  We're heading out west soon to meet up with and network with the other finalists in the competition.  We'll also be hearing about how to best grow our small business from industry experts and influencers, and how we can qualify for one of the grand prizes.

While I'm excited about this opportunity and grateful for the chance to represent our business on a national level, I have to admit that my stomach is a bit twisted in knots.  You would think that after meeting thousands of people at trade shows, teaching in front of groups of strangers, and being on TV, that I would have this whole meeting new people thing down.  But still... there's that little shy boy, who didn't know where to sit on the bus or was uncertain of where to have lunch.  Still there's that awkward teenager who doubted his own self worth and tried to disappear into the crowd.  Still there's that nervous young man on a bad blind date, and the feeling of snap judgements and impending rejection.  Still there's that nervous person trying to find the right words, grabbing them from thin air like playing jacks for the first time.  Sweaty palms and all.

Over the years, I've worked hard on letting go of the past and pushing myself forward.  I've developed a thicker skin and learned to love myself.  I've discovered secrets of body language and how to hold myself.  I learned to swallow down my doubts, my fears, and my apprehensions, hoping all the while that they don't balloon up and carry my words away.  But still... the echoes of my former selves linger like stains.

I've mentioned this in the past, about the nerves that I feel.  I know that when I'm in the moment, everything will be okay.  But it's the time before that brews these foreboding tummy rumblings of not being good enough.  Will they like me?  Will I make a good impression?  Will I wear the right thing?  Will I say what needs to be said?

It's in these moments that I cast my heart out like a net, searching for something that I can hold on to, looking for good omens in unexpected places.  I know it's silly to be so superstitious.  I know that a slip of paper folded up in a cookie has no sway, but still I cannot walk away from this small comfort and sign that everything will be okay.

The Drunk Season...

Like a lot of people, winter isn't my season.  While the first few days can be charming and the holidays have their own special sentimentality, the cold and snow just aren't for me.  Before my dear friends ply me with advice about full spectrum lights, vitamin D, essential oils, and anti-depressants, I'm well aware of coping mechanisms for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For me, winter has a hunker down feeling.  I curl up inside myself.  But as the days grow longer and the light gets brighter and the days get warmer, I feel myself unfurling.  I find myself standing still, my feet in the grass, with my face turned to the sky, letting the warm rays wash over me and fill my starving eyes with color and light.  Don't worry, I'm not looking directly at the sun, as tempting as it may be.  My neighbors probably think I'm nutty, but I don't care.  There's a magic in the birds tipsily whirling around me, collecting bits of this and that for their nests.  There's a beauty in the smell of green grass and growing things.  There's a sense of peace as the rabbits hop by, playing games of chase.

It might seem strange that a self professed night owl should enjoy the growing days so much, but there's a shift that I can feel within myself.  From hunker down mode to singing silly songs, it's as though the blooming of flowers makes me drunk.  That seasonal intoxication makes all things seem possible.  Maybe it's my allergy medicine?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Weeds...

I remember a time when if I didn't update the blog at least once a day, I'd get a queasy feeling of panic in my stomach.  But that was before Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest.  This was before Facebook Live and streaming videos.  Nowadays, there are so many platforms that it often times feels as though I'm being swallowed up in the weeds.  And that's social media and not the day to day tasks and urgencies.

I miss blogging.  It really did help me organize my thoughts and I think it helped with my memory as well.  I think what I really miss is the blogging community.  It was new back then and everyone was trying to figure things out and there was an electricity surrounding it.

The people who made up the community are mostly still around, but they're much more spread out than they used to be.  The content has also changed from deep introspection that you could sink your teeth into, into snippets that are rapid fire and more easily consumed.  I remember reading some posts, sometimes of content matter that was far from easy, and feeling closer to the author – as if by writing what they wrote, they grew and by me reading it, I grew too.

Part of me has a desire to get back into blogging, but part of me wonders if I haven't outgrown this path?  What once came so easily now seems harder.  What once flowed, now halts in choppy jerks.  Perhaps it is time to let go and give it to the weeds, let it get buried and forgotten.

I don't know.  And maybe that not knowing is the answer.  If I'm not absolutely positive, maybe there are a few good posts still left in me that need to be written.  If there is doubt, then maybe it should linger on a little bit longer.  Maybe that unwillingness to let go is all I need to continue.  At least for now.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Aloha, Hawaii...

Before the popularity of shopping for beads on the internet became mainstream, if you wanted beads, you either had to order from a print catalogue, go to a local bead store, or attend a trade show.  Believe it or not, there used to be bead shows every weekend (sometimes more than one show would happen at the same time).  I used to help my family at Green Girl Studios and traveled the country from coast to coast doing shows for them.  One of my favorite shows to do was in Hawaii and we would go a few times a year.  It was perhaps one of my favorites because not only was it set in a tropical paradise, but the people.  I met so many amazing, kind, generous, sweet people.  (I'm lucky to still keep in touch with some of them!)  We made the show a family trip and have a lot of lovely shared memories.

The other day I got a little "homesick" for Hawaii.  We had over ten inches of snow here in Pennsylvania and I just wasn't feeling it.  Instead of getting dragged down into the blues for sunshine and the sound of the ocean, I designed a collection of Hawaii-inspired components.  We used our new laser to create them.  I'm lucky to have my creativity as a way of channeling my feelings into something positive and productive.  I'm really happy with how they turned out!

If you happen to be in southwestern Pennsylvania, you can get a little taste of Hawaii at Allegory Gallery in Ligonier.  If you're fortunate enough to be in Oahu, you'll soon be able to find these pieces at The Bead Gallery!  And if you can't make it to either, you can always swing by the Allegory Gallery Etsy page.  CLICK HERE to visit the Etsy shop.