Thursday, December 08, 2016

Pantone Color of the Year 2017...

Ever since they announced the Pantone Spring Color Report, I've been mulling over the selections for the 2017 Color of the Year.  Today, they announced that the new IT color is... GREENERY!

"Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment.  Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose..." said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

I really think their thoughtful selection is spot on.  I know so many people who are desperate for a freshening up and a deeper, more meaningful connection to the world around them.  I always appreciate the thought that goes into their picks.  To see the full report (including possible color palettes and how to work with the color) and a snazzy video, CLICK HERE.

A Matter of Faith...

With the deadline we've set for Project: Next Step, I've had several conversations with people about what we'd do when we didn't make our goal.  Currently we are just shy of the halfway mark and there is about a week left to go.  Naturally, there are a lot of people who are concerned for us.

I can't help but tune them out a little bit.  I know it might sound rude or like not a very smart business move, but I have this sense that it'll work out.  I can see it so clearly in my heart and mind, that it might as well be real.

As a result, I've been thinking a lot about faith lately.  I haven't been thinking about any one particular faith, just in the idea of belief in something without seeing any actual evidence.  I've always been a person full of faith and hope.  I'm no stranger to believing in the impossible.  I guess it all started when I was little.

We were told that my brother would never return and that he was dead and gone.  And at times, it would have been easier to believe that.  It would have given us closure, instead of pining for someone we hadn't seen in over two decades.  I remember being under the table, crying and crying, missing him so fiercely.  But there was always a sense that we would see him again.  And when I'd tell the story of my brother, there would be people with wide-eyed shock and would be completely aghast at our loss... and I would think to myself, "Don't be so glum!  We'll see him again!  He'll come back!"  It took awhile, but eventually we were reunited.

So... at the moment... there is very little evidence that we'll actually make our intended goal, but call me crazy, but I still think it'll happen!  I've always thought that if you have a dream and you work hard enough and you had faith, you can make almost anything happen.  So, I'm not going to give up yet.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Words on the Wind...

I haven't really known what to say lately.  It seems as though the words form and just as I'm about to put fingertips to keyboard, they drift away or are swallowed up by other thoughts.

This is a busy time of year for me.  It seems like all the various projects that I've agreed to all intersect in this time period and I'm frantically struggling to keep up.  Generally when I feel as though there's a respite in my schedule, it's usually because I've forgotten something.  I do hope though that I'll return to a much more subdue and gentle pace over the coming months and can focus solely on the act of making things.

Even though I've been incredibly busy, I've been trying to be mindful of carving out some creating time.  It isn't always easy.  And sometimes when I think back on the things that I am busy with, I cringe a little.  Those errands that seemed so important at the moment ended up really just being distractions.  The work though is always rewarding.  Even if I don't always achieve what I set out to, I feel my mind stretching and loosening up, allowing it to dive deeper in the future.  The work has always led me in the right direction, guiding me through life and never steering me wrong.  When I ignore the impulse to create or force myself too much in one direction, that's where things start to fall apart and unravel at the edges.

I've had many adventures since I last checked in and hope to report on those as time allows.  It is my hope to get back into routine of sharing my thoughts here.  Like anything, it'll take practice and dedication.  It also takes a healthy dose of not caring whether or not the words or read.  I think there's a freedom of just being able to work something out, with words or images, and not caring if it's a commercial success or that others respond well to it.  Sometimes you've just got to do it and put yourself out there and have a sense of audacity.  I think that's when I've been at my best... when I've not worried about the expectations of others and just did it for the love of doing it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

For Healing...

Last night, someone asked us about the status of Project: Next Step.  I had told them that we had received a little over 40% of our goal so far and that we were optimistically anticipating full funding by the end of December.

I didn't say though that the past few days, I haven't been feeling very optimistic at all.

For over half the population of this country, their hopes for a better tomorrow were crushed.  I've been going over and over in my head on how even though the election went one way, it doesn't mean that the fight for kindness, compassion, equality, and diversity is over.  I've been telling myself that now more than ever, we have to call on our better selves to be braver and love harder and be the force of change we wish to see in the world.  I've tried my very best to carry on, one step at a time, moving forward.

As the day progressed, I saw more messages of grieving.  I saw more anger and frustration.  I saw people steamroll over others and their shock and dismay, saying that they needed to get over it and that they were wrong to feel what they felt.  I saw reports of people being verbally and physically assaulted.  I saw hate messages sprayed across the sides of people's businesses and their cars and their very doorsteps of their homes while their children slept inside.  Some of these reports were from friends across the country that I know personally and not merely "things that happened to other people".  I was told that my friends were liars and spreading propaganda.  I was told that I was foolish for being afraid.  I was told that I was being melodramatic.  And a leaden feeling of dread weighed down in my stomach.  It seemed as though my light was draining away and the gray, lightless sky up above was a reflection of that helpless feeling.

And I remembered a time when I felt lost and alone and afraid.  While the circumstances were different, the darkness was remarkably the same.  I remembered that what got me through that terrible time was dreaming of a brighter tomorrow.  It was a blind faith that whatever came next would be better and that I could not give up.  I could not lose myself to darkly drift in mourning, existing in survival mode, and going through the motions of a stunted half-life.  As I look back, I can see now that my faith in better times ahead was rewarded.  I remembered when all things seemed impossible and how I faced the shadows and won.  And it gave me courage.  It gave me just a little.  The world was what it was after all, but that memory gave me something to hold on to, small comfort as it was.  It was hardly anything at all.  But it was enough.

That tiny seed of courage grew.

It grew in my heart the more I watered it with gratitude and positive thinking.  I nurtured that fragile seedling, growing deep roots in all my blessings and good intentions.  I fed it with my creativity.  And the flower that bloomed, was one of determination.  When there are those who would see you less than, be more than.  When your faith in humanity is challenged, challenge it back.  When your dreams are threatened, dream bigger and ever more passionately.

And in that soothing shade of defiant dreaming, there came healing.

Today, I see the light more clearly and am more determined to reach the goals we've set out to achieve.  This is no time to give up.  This is the time when dreamers are needed the most.  This is the time when we must strive harder for the world we wish to see and create.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Love It or Hate It...

Every Friday night, Margot Potter hosts, "The Lady Party".  (Even though I'm a man, I've been graciously invited to join in on the fun and as a feminist, I enjoy Margot's message and what she aims to do.)  The Lady Party usually takes the form of a Live Stream event on Margot's Facebook page and she talks about all different topics relating to being a woman, aging, kindness, and self-acceptance.  She tackles all the varying aspects of life as seen through her particular sparkly lens.  She recently started a blog to supplement the Live Stream events with essays and more in-depth content.  CLICK HERE to visit her new blog.

Last night's Lady Party included a two-part question for her audience... "what do you hate about yourself and what do you love about yourself"?

My response was that I have "diarrhea of the mouth".  It's something that my mom used to say about me and it's such a vivid and graphic description, that it has always stuck in my mind.  It's also a very apt description.  It's not that what I say is poop, but that sometimes I have a hard time of holding back and the words... errrhhhh.... flow freely and with great force.  It is something that I love and hate about myself.

For a most of my life, I've been marginalized and pushed aside.  Whether it was my mixed race, my sexuality, or my age... there was always someone trying to discredit me and tell me not to talk out of turn.  When I was young, I grew up in a household where my parents were both raised with the mottos that, "children should be seen and not heard" and "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all" and "don't speak unless you're spoken to".  While certainly there are virtues to all these old sayings and there are merits to learning manners, they also perpetuate a culture of silence.  We were taught from so very early on that our voices were not to be valued as beautiful and unique, but that they were sources of trouble.  And I got in trouble a lot.  I always questioned authority and got in trouble for talking back.  I guess this started when there were things that happened where I was forced to be quiet and called a liar and a troublemaker.  That little boy lives in my memories and is a reminder of the dangers of silence.

Later in life, there were always other people who tried to suppress my voice.  I was always shocked by how there were so many people able to do bad things, because no one wanted to say anything.  Over the years, I've met several individuals who repeatedly mistreated others, threatened people, stole ideas, damaged businesses, and manipulated people... but got away with it because no one wanted to name them.  I discovered that this was called, "professionalism".  You didn't rock the boat.  You didn't name names.  If you accused someone openly, you became Enemy Number One.  If you had problems, you were told to keep it behind closed doors or that it needed to be swept under the rug.  Often times these guilty culprits got away with wrongdoings on more than one occasion, because they would browbeat others into submission and silence.  They used that silence as a shield to protect them and their misdeeds.  Fortunately for them, we are a culture of silence and raised on sayings that reinforce the idea of maintaining the semblance of peace at any cost.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, that need for maintaining the status quo allows great horrors to take place and we are shown by example how it will continue.

When we were asked what we love and what we hate about ourselves, my mouth is what came to mind first.

I love that I am willing to speak up for what I feel is right.  If I've determined that what I have to say is honest and true, I'll shout it from the rooftops.  It gets me in trouble sometimes.  I've lost friends.  I've lost business.  I've lost credibility in some people's eyes.  Once from behind the curtain at a trade show I overheard someone say, "Be careful what you say around him, because he'll repeat it."  It's not that I'm not trustworthy or can't keep a secret or that I'm an insufferable gossip, it's that if you say or do something wrong, I believe you should be held accountable for it.  I hold myself to this standard.  I would never say or do anything that I would not stand behind.  Sure... there are some things that are private and I'm not going to openly go into graphic details about them, but if I were compelled by a good enough reason and if the relevancy of those detail were crucial, of course I would tell them.

What I hate about this is that it isn't easy.  It ruffles feathers and can stir things up.  There's part of me that seeks tranquility and peacefulness and sometimes when you speak your mind, it's anything but peaceful or tranquil.  I also hate that because of my mouth, sometimes those around me are hurt.  I am more than willing to accept the consequences of my actions, but I feel bad that sometimes those consequences are felt by others as well.  I'm lucky though that I am surrounded by people who know and understand me and trust that if I charge into battle, I don't do so frivolously or without thought.  I'm lucky to have people around me that trust me to be honest, genuine, and that I'll always fight for what I think is right and good.  If I see something, I'll say something.

In the end, love it or hate it, it is all a part of me.  They are all aspects of the same being and while I may have conflicting feelings about it, I've come to know peace by accepting that they are intrinsic to my nature.  I can try to fight it, or I can try to acknowledge it and move forward, knowing what I know and trying to lessen the aspects that give me grief or anxiety – for all things are can be both blessings and curses, and it takes us and our good judgement to decide which it'll be.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Something Out of Nothing...

When William and I left the hustle and bustle of the City behind, we had a lot of good reasons.  We traded one view for another and when I look back over the years, I know that we made the right decision.

But... I wasn't always so convinced.

When we first moved to Pennsylvania, I didn't really know what to expect.  William had his family and his childhood friends, but me... I didn't know anyone.  I was a stranger in a new place.  For me, New York was the place that I really became an adult and forged life-long friendships.  Even in a city filled with millions and millions of people, New York had become my familiar stomping grounds, my neighborhood, my small town in the Big City.  If I needed something to do, there was always something going on and someone to go with me.  If I needed a friend, all I had to do was pick up my phone or send an email and a little while later, there would be someone to tell an inside joke or raise a cheerful toast.

Although I had loved New York and my friends that lived there, in my heart, I had been ready to depart.  A breeze was blowing at my back, urging me to go forward.

The first few weeks were spent unpacking and setting up home.  William had been called back to New York to train his replacement and I was all alone.  The days were incredibly full with just trying to reclaim a sense of normalcy and routine.  And then, when that was done, a sense of loneliness started to set in and I started to get homesick.  Winter had started in earnest and I was trapped inside the house, looking out on an empty landscape of cold white... a mirror into my own heart.  Eventually I fled to warmer climates and stayed with friends and family to avoid the brunt of winter's icy grip.  When it warmed up, I returned and I filled my days with walks in the woods and dreaming up dreams.  I spent my days looking at plants and the big sky and trying to feel not so adrift.  Life was good, but I couldn't shake my sadness.

I had a dream of a place where people would gather and make things.  I had a wish for a place with beads and art and all the things that interested me.  I had wanted a place filled with little sparks of magic and friendship and camaraderie.  I wanted this place, but it didn't exist.

So, as a maker of things, I made it.

When you open yourself up to possibility and give yourself permission to believe in your dream, the Universe has an amazing way of conspiring to help you.  Now, don't get me wrong.  It wasn't always easy and I had a lot of help and at times I questioned why I put myself out there at all, but then there are moments when you look at your life and see how amazing it is.  You see that the dream you dreamed on cold winter days, all alone, and sitting in an empty room, and you see it alive and real.  You survived the tests and marvel at how something came out of nothing... something that was only an idea now inhabits physical space and exists not just in your mind, but is shared by others and is a place that they can go too.  It is something for someone else too.

It's humbling and it makes you appreciate what you have.  And most of all, it bolsters your spirit and speaks to your heart.  It says, "Anything is possible.  Dream as big as you want to dream.  If you will it, you can make it so."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Say, Yes...

When I was in high school, I was told that I wasn't good enough.  I had tried to get into advanced placement studio arts and the teacher said that if he accepted me as a student, I'd be wasting his time.  I'll never forget how crestfallen I felt.  It felt like he had punched me in the stomach.

Art had always been important to me.  It allowed me to create a world that I could escape into and it was one of the few things that I thought made me special.  I would paint every night and it felt as though I was tapping into something bigger than myself.  I felt connected.  It had given me a vehicle to express myself and find my voice and discover who I was.

And when I was told that I shouldn't even bother filling out the paperwork, it felt like the walls had imploded and I started to second guess myself.  Maybe that teacher was right?  Maybe I should listen to my dad and pick a profession that was more reliable and more financially secure and less unstable?  Maybe I had wasted all that time?  Maybe I wasn't special?  Maybe I wasn't good enough after all.

Doubt had crept in and it had settled in my stomach like a heavy weight.  The life that I had envisioned for myself had begun to unravel.  The future that I saw for myself started to fade away.

I confided my disappointment to one of my other teachers.  She was my newspaper advisor and we had spent countless hours together and she had become more than just a teacher, but a friend and a mentor.  Some of those paintings that I had done adorned her classroom and were looming over us as we talked.  Seeing how upset I was, she encouraged me to talk to a new teacher.  He had just been transferred to the school and he hadn't even fully moved into his classroom yet.  She said that if I really wanted it, I had to fight for it.

When I met Phi Yoba for the first time, I walked into his classroom with an armful of paintings.  I had pulled them off the walls and barraged into his classroom.  The desks and chairs were still piled up and there was a very unlived-in feeling.  He was in the middle of unpacking and was sweeping up something that had spilled.  He looked up from his task and asked with a dubious expression on his face, "Can I help you?"

I replied back, "Yes.  I want you to be my teacher."

After hearing my story and showing him my work, he agreed to be my AP art advisor.  Even though he didn't know me, he was willing to take a chance on me.  He said, "Yes".

The year that followed wasn't exactly the easiest.  There were four AP art students and we didn't have an official classroom.  Instead, we had a storage closet.  There wasn't a budget for supplies, so we dumpster dived for found objects and my art teacher brought in supplies for us to use out of his own pocket.  He even got artists from the community to donate art supplies and pay our testing fees.  The other art teacher didn't share his supplies, saying that they were designated for his students only.  The other art teacher always managed to drop in during our class time and would smirk whenever he saw us working in our storage closet.

As the year went on, his smirk started to disappear as our glorified closet filled with artwork and that artwork was accompanied by prize ribbons and trophies.  I ended up testing and submitting my portfolio for not just studio art, but 2-D art as well.  I got top marks for both categories.  I got accepted into several prestigious art schools and won scholarships.

When I think back on those times, nearly twenty years ago, I recognize how very close I came to living a very different life.  Most of my adult life has been filled with artwork and creativity and I've worked in some form or fashion in the maker community.  Our livelihood that supports me and William and covers our home and expenses is an arts-based business.  Had I listened to that man, who didn't believe in me or my talents or my vision, everything that I hold dear would not exist.

What that taught me is that there will always be people who are naysayers and detractors.  They won't believe in you or your dreams and they won't lift a finger to help you... BUT... there are also people out there who wish to see you succeed.  They want you to thrive and be your best self.  They want you to actualize your potential and achieve all that you set out to be.

Fill your life with the latter type of people, the people who lift you up and inspire you to higher things.  Surround yourself with them and be that person for others.  Challenge and encourage and multiply the abundance.  When others say, "no"... be the person who says, "yes"!  If you have a dream, it can be made real and you can live the life you see for yourself... and it can be a great life!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Another Path...

I just finished texting my sister about a few things we pinned on a Pinterest board that we collaborate on.  I talk to Cynthia nearly every day in some form or fashion.  Even though we are separated by distance, we're constantly in communication and are constantly sending each other images and ideas, and we're always planning what we want to make next.  We seize every opportunity to get together and create along side one another.

It wasn't always like this though.

I remember getting a text message that my niece was born.  I was living in New York City at the time and working at a restaurant.  During the days, I attended college, in the later afternoons and evenings I worked, and even later in the evenings and into the early hours, I prowled the City with my eccentric and electric crew of friends in search of the next best party.  Before the text message, it had been months since I heard from her, and even then it was information passed via our parents.

At that point, my brother had been missing for ten years.  (We would not reunite for another twelve.)  My other sister, Sheila had moved to Thailand a few months prior and from the sounds of her emails, it sounded rather indefinite.  We were all arrows, pointing in different directions.  We were all moving at different speeds towards different destinations and different destinies.  We were all refugees, fleeing from family traumas, trying to find home where we could and heal in our own ways.  We were the walking wounded, carrying holes in our hearts... always looking for ways to fill the vacancy.

In another world and in another life, we would still be wandering.  Another path would have us still estranged from one another... but then there was a little miracle.  A girl child was born and that was more than enough to fill the void.  When Azalea was born, Sheila traveled back across the world and I woke up.  I woke up to the realization that even though there was this old hurt within me, it didn't mean that I was cursed and that everything I touched would fall apart.  I had a chance to help fill another's life with so much love that they never knew the pain of loss and the hurt of wondering.  If each of us gave her our hearts, maybe her heart would be whole and untouched by sadness.

Azalea's birth prompted a healing within our family and we all gathered to her side, drawn to her little life like a brilliant star.  And from there, we got to know one another again.  We were strangers at first.  Old sibling rivalries and ancient points of contention crept into our conversations, but for the first time, there was something bigger than each of us and something we were ALL committed to.

As we got to know each other, these adult incarnations of our former selves, we started to find the common ground.  Eerily, our interests overlapped greatly and we found that once the paths were cleared, there was a deeper form of communication.  Perhaps for the first time in a long time, we could see ourselves in each other and what we saw wasn't so different after all.

When I think about those times before Azalea, it seems strange and foreign, almost as if they were days that belonged to another person.  Nowadays we are constantly in each other's lives and our hearts are swollen with abundance.  We are constantly making and creating and dreaming up dreams. We found the path of love and have discovered that it is a path best traveled when shared.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Rare Thing of Beauty...

This photo was taken shortly after I was woken up from anesthesia six years ago.  I had an aggressive form of skin cancer and they operated on me to remove the tumor and the surrounding margins. I had to eat some crackers and drink the smallest can of ginger ale I've ever seen before they would release me.

The reason that I post this is that it is perhaps where "Allegory Gallery" was born.  It didn't have a name then.  When I had returned home from the hospital, I had a hard time sleeping.  The skin bordering the area that they removed (just shy of half a square foot) was pulled tight and cinched with staples.  Before the surgery, I slept on my stomach or my side, but since there was seven inches of stapled skin just below my armpit on one side, it provided difficult to get comfortable.  It felt like I had a corset on and every time I moved or shifted, a shock of pain would erupt from my side.  Those first few nights were hard.

Falling in and out of a restless sleep, awoken by jabs of pain, I would lay in the dark with tears welling in my eyes.  I wasn't alone though.  Around me were the kittens.  Paulo and Babette stayed by my side constantly and purred deeply.  Next to me was William.  When they tell stories of recovery, often times the significant other gets left out.  The trauma of facing your mortality sometimes makes you myopic and you can only focus on your own survival.  But there was William and he was facing his own worries.  He had to be strong for me and take care of everything and that's not easy.  He's a worrier by nature and often times internalizes stressful situations.  I remember us laying there in the dark, trying to find sleep, but being unsuccessful.

I turned to him, instantly regretting the decision to move as a thunderbolt of pain jolted through my side, and asked, "Are you awake?"

He whispered back, "Yeah..."

We laid there in the dark, blankets piled high on me, surrounded by purring cats, and we did the only thing we could.  We talked about the future.  We made grand plans and daydreamed out loud.  We talked until the syllables lost meaning and we both drifted off to sleep.

One of those dreams was to have our own store.  I remember telling him that one day, someday, down the road, I wanted to have my own little shop.  I told him a story of a place I used to go as a kid and a teenager, a store filled with treasures.  I told him about how I discovered myself there and met so many people and it had helped shape my life.  If I couldn't get a ride with one of my friends, I used to take the bus for over an hour to get there.  What I loved about that place was that it was filled with stories and it acted as a focal point for the community.  Likeminded people traveled from all over to be there.  And in so many ways, it was magic.

As we plan for the future and work on our fundraising efforts, I can't help but think back to those sleepless nights, where a dream was born.  Out of the pain and restlessness, a tiny shining pearl was discovered.  We've taken that pearl and nurtured it with all our love and best intentions, and it has grown in size and lustrousness and has become a rare thing of beauty.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Project: Next Step...

If you've been following along with my blog, then you know that I've been working on a personal fundraising project for the store called, "the Creative heART Challenge".  It has been a really wonderful way for me to jumpstart my creativity and purchase additional merchandise and supplies for the shop and the studio.  If you're not familiar with the project, basically I make whatever I want with the hopes of selling it and those funds are earmarked for acquiring new merchandise (outside of what we already bring in).

It started out originally with an offer to buy up inventory from a store that was going out of business, unfortunately that deal didn't end up working out.  We did however use whatever moneys we did raise and put it to good use with various other liquidations.  I recently restarted the project and have been happily making things for it.

A few months ago, we attended BeadFest and ran into an old friend.  She had closed her shop up a few years ago and was thinking about freeing up her guest room.  She said she'd email me once she went through everything, was ready to part with her collection, and talked to her accountant.  Not that long ago, she did!  And it was an AMAZING deal!  Literally, we would be paying pennies on the dollar!  (It's actually a better deal than the one that prompted the original Creative heART Challenge project!  Which is very exciting!)

Since it wasn't an expense that we had really planned for, we had to do some figuring and investigating.  Even if it is an awesome bargain, if we don't have the funds to do it, we don't have funds to do it.  Currently, all our capitol is tied up with other projects and for a moment, I was a little sad that we couldn't make it happen.  The Creative heART Challenge is great and all, but I've found that it is more gentle in its workings and it takes a little while.  This means that we had to come up with an alternate plan.

And so Project: Next Step was born!

In the course of trying to secure funds for this project, we did a lot of research on crowdsource funding.  While there are many wonderful services, we felt that we wanted more of the money to go to the actual project.  So we developed a series of rewards for pledges, including material rewards and experience rewards.  It started with a few notes in my sketchbook and slowly it developed into an actual plan.  William put together the webpage and walked me through the organization and the logistics of the project.  Most of all, he made sure that everything was doable and doable in a fashion that wouldn't overwhelm me.  I am really proud of him and the work that we've done so far and am so excited about this project!  I really feel that it's one of those opportunities that will catapult us and our business forward!

To find out more about the project and to see how you might get involved, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Artist Crush: Allison May Kiphuth...

Allison May Kphuth's sensitively wrought nature-based drawings are carefully protected in antique wooden boxes, protecting them and setting them apart.  To see more of her dioramas and artwork, CLICK HERE.

Nocturne, 6.5"h X 4.5"w X 3.625"d, ink, watercolor, paper
and pins in antique box, 2015
Flight, 4.75"h X 4"w X 1.75"d, ink, watercolor, paper
and pins in antique box, 2015
Perch, 1.25"h X 2.75"w X 1.125"d, ink, watercolor, paper
and pins in antique box, 2015

The Meeting, 4.25"h X 4.25"w X 1.75"d, ink, watercolor, paper, pin
and thread in antique box, 2015

The Wee Hours, 3.25"h X 2 2.5"w X 1.25"d, ink, watercolor, paper, pin
and thread in antique box, 2016

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Artist Crush: Kathy Ruttenberg

Working mostly in ceramic, Kathy Ruttenberg creates a fantastical rumble of modern surrealist art.  To see more of her work, CLICK HERE.
Dog Eat Dog 20"x7"x5", ceramic, 2016
Fertile Ground 12" x20"x4", ceramic, 2016
Ice Age 42"x50"x65", ceramic, metal chain, 2014
Nature Of The Beast 34"x84"x38", ceramic, metal, wood, 2014
The Ladies Chaste 32"x22"x20", ceramic paper, metal, 2007

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Inspired by Reading: September 2016...

If you didn't know, Allegory Gallery hosts a monthly book club called Inspired by Reading.  The concept is simple.  Each year, we select a list of books and assign a book for each month.  Participants are encouraged to read the book and then make something that was inspired by what they read.  Members can make anything they want!  Most of us are jewelry makers, so a lot of the projects usually have a wearable art aspect to them.  For the current list of books, CLICK HERE.

For September, we read "This Census-Taker" by China MiĆ©ville.  The book centers around a young boy running from his troubles and the stranger who comes to town that is the census taker.  It had a very grim, haunting vibe.  I found the rhythm of the language to be almost hypnotic with a poetic quality, leading the reader to feel as though they are experiencing a modern fairy tale.  At the meeting, the book was met with mixed reviews.  Some said that they found the book "woefully depressing" and "ignored all the good parts" and others said that they thought it was "lovingly gothic".  I was on the fence, but I am curious about this author and will probably read other of his books.

In the book, there's a town scene with a vendor who has animals in glass jars.  One of them is a lizard and the boy receives it as a gift.  I didn't have any lizard bones laying around, so I opted to make some out of polymer.  

I put the polymer clay bones in a tiny glass jar with a tiny bronze key and hammered out a bail and soft soldered a top on.  The bottle was simply hung from a decorative sterling silver chain.
Here's a close-up of the focal.  In the book, the glass was green and I made another version where I stained the inside of the glass with alcohol inks, but it got so dark in the bottle that you couldn't really see the bones rattling around.  So I picked a clear one.  I sprayed a little (paint) water in the jar before sealing it up to give it a slightly murky vibe.

I was inspired to make another project!  Part of the story takes place in a little town and from all the descriptions, it seemed like a rather dreary place.  So I made some gray polymer clay house beads and strung them together to create a town scene.  For the base of the necklace, I used tumbled marble nuggets, because most of the other part of the book occurs in a rocky cave.  I also included a key because one of the characters is a key maker.  I actually quite like this piece!  If I made any adjustments, I'd probably make it a wee bit shorter, so that it falls right on the collarbone.

To see all the other delightful creations inspired by "This Census-Taker", CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook page for the book club.  Up next for October is "Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories" by Karen Russell.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Creative heART Challenge: Into the Wind...

The last time I was in Asheville, we stopped by an art supply store and we got a bunch of wooden panels.  I stacked them up in a pile in the middle of my studio, where I had to step over them to get by.  I have to admit that I stubbed my toe on them more than once!

The reason I did that was to create a physical representation of an obstacle that needed to be removed. They would be there until I made them not be there and I promised myself that I wouldn't move them unless they had been painted on.  This challenge was an excellent excuse to use whittle down the pile and start painting again.

Normally, when I'm working on paintings, I start with older work and collage it up and turn it into the base for new work.  The wooden panels were a call to create fresh.

And so I did...
Andrew Thornton, "Into the Wind" 2016,
Mixed Media (acrylic, ink, and colored pencil) on wood, 8"X8"
I've been thinking a lot about dreams lately and how they are layered.  On the surface, they can have very clear symbolism and representations, but if you dig deeper, you start to peel back layers and when you do, you reveal so much more.

This new piece is done in a way that reveals some of those hidden layers. I used a lot of iridescent and pearlescent paints; this image doesn't really capture that, but gives a fair likeness.  I've been playing around with softer color palettes.  It's something new for me and I'm enjoying the exploration.

Friday, September 30, 2016


When I was a little boy, I used to get in trouble all the time.  I mean, ALL THE TIME.  One of my biggest offenses was the way that I responded back to my parents.  I had the penchant for being a know-it-all and a wee bit sassy.  I also never liked to say "yes" or "no" and it drove my dad crazy.  He had been in the military and expected us to say, "yes, sir" and "no, sir".  This went against my grain.  I didn't want to lie and I knew that things could happen that could change the outcome of a particular response.  Plus, I didn't want to be wrong either.  So I would say, "maybe".  He'd get so frustrated and say things like, "Who are you?  Gomer Pyle?!?!?!"

Even to this day, I still find myself saying, "maybe".  I know it can be frustrating.  Some people have accused me of purposefully trying to send mixed signals to be more mysterious or evasive with my noncommittal response.  It's not meant to be purposefully deceitful or vague, but if there's a possible gray area, I don't like committing to one side or the other.

With recipes, this can again be a sore spot for some.  I remember someone asking me for a recipe for a particular rice dish and when I said, "Oh, I don't really have a recipe..." they said, "well, if you didn't want to tell me, that's all you had to say".  It's not that I didn't want to share... but I knew that there were just certain things that I did that effected that particular recipe and that I could copy down the ingredients and the steps, but that it wouldn't turn out just the same.

Now, there are some things that are fail proof and if you do XYZ with ABC, it'll turn out just right.

When it comes to sharing how-to craft information, this can be the same deal.  Recently someone asked for my process of working with a particular material and my response back wasn't super useful.  It wasn't purposefully unhelpful, but in response I told them that they should experiment and play with the material and that play and those experimentations would inform their process far more than what I could communicate.  It's kind of like the difference between giving someone answers to memorize for a test and teaching someone the way to unlock the secrets of a subject that they'll internalize and appreciate and carry with them the rest of their life.  Sometimes you've got to jump right in, get your hands dirty and figure out what works best for you.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Birthdays and Anniversaries...

Today was my birthday!  We celebrated by having a "Craftapalooza" at the shop.  We ate cake (a delicious cheesecake that my mother-in-law made), drank strawberry wine, and made things.  When I'm gone (hopefully many years from now), I hope that they remember me as someone who inspired people to make things – to embrace their creativity and add beauty to the world.  And that's the way that I wanted to celebrate my birthday... enjoying each other's company and making things.

While today is a birthday celebration, it's also an anniversary.  You see, six years ago I was diagnosed with cancer.  I had a bump on my side that I thought was an angry pimple or a spider bite that rapidly grew until it was the size of a half dollar.  It turns out that it was skin cancer and I had to have it and a margin of half a square foot of skin removed.  I have been fortunate and blessed not to have a reoccurrence and according to many experts, after the five year mark... I'm cured.  I have been cured for a year.

With my birthday comes a reminder that life is precious.  It is a gift that we are given and we can do great things with that gift.  The greatest thing we can do is to live rightly.  I don't necessarily mean that we have to do good deeds and the like (which of course is a wonderful way to live), but that each person has a particular path.  I believe that the path shifts and adjusts, depending on circumstances and the reactions to the actions of our lives, kind of like GPS directions that recalculate with weather and traffic advisories.  The path connects our births to our deaths.  But just because there's a path doesn't mean people always follow it.  Sometimes they struggle against the journey and fill their lives with frustration.

I remember going hiking once and instead of following the circuitous path back to the car, I decided to take a shortcut.  I remembered a stream near the parking lot and I figured that if I walked along the stream, I could cut an hour off my walk and save my feet from blisters.  In my gut, I knew that I should just follow the path.  The thing about my shortcut was that yes, it was shorter and it worked out theoretically, but as I drew closer to the parking lot, the bank of the stream became more rugged and steep, until eventually it turned into an impassible waterfall with sheer rock walls on either side, where I could either jump into questionable water of unknown depth or turn back.  Not wanting to become another statistic about hikers who leave the trail, I turned back, climbed back up on the path, slipped, slid down a rock face, and twisted my ankle.  I had to walk back in pain and in the dark.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that I shouldn't have left the path, but I wanted to get back faster and I thought I knew best.

We can fight the path, or we can go with it.  It may take longer and it might have its own perils, but it is the way that has been created by all the shifting dynamics.   When one lives in sync with their path, it creates its own reaction... a reaction of alignment.  Oprah has a great quote about luck being preparation meeting opportunity.  And, when one lives in alignment, they prepare themselves for all the very best opportunities.  This is what I meant by "living rightly".

It's not always easy to know if one is on their path or not.  It's not always clear.  But for me, the confirmation comes in the form of moments of knowing.  They are beautiful moments of profound clarity, where everything is understood and understood in more than just an intellectual way, but understood in your bones and in your spirit.  Sometimes the moment comes all at once, like a bolt of lighting and sometimes it's a quiet realization, like waking up slowly.

As I stood over the candles on the cake, I felt one of those moments.  It was confusing at first.  I tried to rack my brain for a wish and then it hit me... "more of the same... more of the same".  While my life is no fairy tale and there are certainly things that could be improved, the good far outweighs the bad and it is a beautiful life filled with amazing people and lovely things and a deep connection to my calling and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Creative heART Challenge: A Harvest of Necklaces...

My days have been full and rich with creativity.  I've been blessed with a bountiful flush of energy and have been working like crazy making things.  It's wonderful.  It's not always easy to harness the ebb and flow of inspiration, but I've been fortunate enough to ride this wave and over the past few days, have made a veritable harvest of necklaces for the Creative heART Challenge.

When I talk to people about designing, we often times mention the fundamentals of design.  We talk about things like space, balance, contrast, repetition, proximity, and alignment.  We talk about the elements in visual work like color, shape, texture, form, line, and hierarchy.  And with jewelry we talk about styles, fads, movement, and wearability.  But beyond that... there's more.

Every component incorporated has a story.  It has an origin and a maker and in some cases there are rich histories and symbolism.  Gem lore alone could fill many tomes (and has).  But beyond that... what does it mean to you?  How are the things that are made by you special and unique.

Unfortunately in this industry there's a lot of copying.  I won't really go into that here, because this post isn't really about that.  But the reason that I bring it up is that sometimes when you see the work by someone who is stealing ideas from another artist, it feels empty.  I call this work, "rootless trees". Because from the onset it looks fine... it looks healthy and abundant, but should a strong wind blow, the tree falls right over and the work can't stand on its own merit.

In my own work, I'm interested in exploring the roots.  The work that other artists make that excite me the most are pieces that have deep roots too.  When I'm working, I like to dig back into my experiences and the ideas that have filled my life, and run my fingers through this flow of thoughts and emotions and dreams.  Sometimes things stick and those little seeds sprout and develop.  There's a power in this.  There is a power in creating from the heart.  Sometimes ideas come unconsciously and sometimes you have to coax them out in a very planned and methodical manner.

In designing, there are intangibles.  Even the most simple and streamlined design includes these intangibles.  They are everything that went into the creation of the piece that can't be seen.  I know there are some people who might scoff at this idea.  There are some people who will say a thing is what a thing is and a thing is worth what a thing is worth and they'll try to give you formulas and recipes for evaluating and pricing your work.  While this is sometimes useful, I find it can be somewhat limiting and only addresses the tangibles.  Sometimes you've got to dig deeper.

For my latest batch of creations made for the Creative heART Challenge, I encourage you to take a moment to click on each of the listings.  Not only will you find the ingredients, but you'll find little snatches of stories and ideas, some real and some imagined, that connect to these pieces.  While each person will add to it their own ideas and take away what they will, regardless of what I want them to or not want them to, these little bits I've shared helped in the process of their making and I hope you'll enjoy them.

If you'd like to see everything that I've made for this round of the Creative heART Challenge, you can scroll back through my blog.  You can also see the still available pieces by CLICKING HERE.

Pantone Fashion Color Report: Spring 2017...

One of my favorite things about this time of year is that Pantone's biannual Fashion Color Report is released.  After the New York Fashion Week, they launch their color forecast for Spring 2017.  The color report includes the top ten colors that were seen most frequently during the shows and includes an in-depth analysis of what's next in fashion.  It sort of takes the temperature of what we can expect to see in the coming months.  I know a lot of designers that ignore the reports (and can sometimes be quite hostile), saying they don't create things because they are trendy.  For me, I like to know what's out there and what other art professionals are doing.  Whether or not it effects my decisions is debatable, but I still like to be aware.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, reported: "One of the things that we saw this year, was a renewed sense of imagination in which color was appearing in context that was different than the traditional..."  She went on to say that, "... designers applied color in playful, yet thoughtful and precise combinations to fully capture the promises, hope and transformation that we year for each Spring."

The fun thing about the spring color report is that usually the Color of the Year is selected from one of these!  What's your guess?

If you'd like to read the entire report and get a break down of all the colors, CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Power of Dreaming...

Some of my favorite people are dreamers.  They are the people that can reach within and puncture the barrier between what is and what could be.  To me it is one of the most admirable qualities.  One might be brave, but without direction, what is there to fight for?  One might be intelligent, but what use is knowledge without an application?  One might be loving, but what is love without depth or meaning?  Dreamers are the seers and the makers and the doers.  They tap into one of the oldest magics, the act of wishing.  Dreaming is wishing from the heart, the casting out of a wide net, straining the cosmos and forming pictures from what remains.  Dreaming gives shape to that which is unknowable in its vastness and secret from the heart.  And even if one tries to fight this power, it still seems to slip in unbidden.  In the quiet hours of the unconscious mind, to the listless hours of the mundane and monotonous – dreams come in.  We can fight it and we can deny it, but they still find a way.

Dreams show us what once was, what undeniably is, and what could be.  They show us what us what is possible and give us glimpses at what is thought to be impossible.  And that's a scary thing.  While there's the potential for greatness and of the most heartbreakingly beautiful things, there is also the possibility of horrors and atrocities. And that's where dreaming can be a dangerous power.  For dreams can turn into nightmares and can crush the spirit and warp the heart.  They can poison and seduce.  They can isolate and possess.  One can lose themselves in dreams and fly free without tether.

All powers, great and small, come with a price.  And the potential for dreaming darkly is one of them.

But what can be gained by this gift, this talent, this special thing that to so many seems inconsequential or frivolous... is so much more.  Sure, it might not be easy.  It can be downright terrifying, but the rewards of opening up to the power of dreaming are far richer and more abundant than if one tries to close themselves off from this active form of imagination and creativity.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Commission Work...

The past few months, I have had an overwhelming amount of commission work.  On one hand, I enjoy the challenge – I find it interesting to have a client initiate an idea and then I filter it through my aesthetics and work with my heart and hands to create something that I may not have originally made otherwise.  Plus, I appreciate that people trust me with their projects and want me to be a part of their experience.  There are a lot of other people out there who are more than willing and are highly capable to assist with projects... so it's an honor when someone wants me to create something with them.  

On the other hand, because it's something that didn't originate with me, I don't always feel the compulsion to work on a project relentlessly.  With my own projects, I can set to making something and days will pass and I won't notice.  Often times, with commission work, I have to think about things and let them sit out on my work bench and let them "breathe".  Of course, if there's a time crunch, it helps speed up the process.  I try to plug my ears when a client says, "Take your time.  Get to it when you're moved to do it."  Because, if you want me to get to it when I'm moved to do it, it might be months before that particular inspiration strikes.  I still try to do things in a somewhat timely fashion, but it doesn't always come easily and I don't want to just crank something out that I don't feel good about.  Sometimes I try to trick myself into working faster and set little goals for myself, just so that things don't linger too long.  

Since I've been working on things for the Creative heART Challenge, I've found that the floodgates have been open and there's a free flowing current of ideas and energy.  Here are some of the projects that I've been working on this week:

One of my customers likes big jewelry.  She's not afraid of bold statement pieces and has an extensive collection of vintage jewelry by designers like Miriam Haskell.  She selected the kiwi jasper large carved coin beads and the aventurine chip and wanted me to put them together.  I quite like the way this turned out.  I was able to use the chip to create visual weight, without creating actual weight.  The gold spacers also brings out the jade tones in the focal stones and the little glint of gold helps bring the eye around the piece.

I made this necklace for another client.  We have an amazing rug hooking teacher who lives in the area.  She has students that come from all over the country to take classes with her and stay at her studio.  One of the groups that comes in is from Indiana and they usually come once a year.  On one of the trips, my client purchased the sterling silver and turquoise bird pin.  She wanted me to incorporate it into a necklace.

This was surprisingly a difficult necklace to make.  On a trip to town, she picked out the beads and we talked about lengths and the style and everything... but what made it sort of hard to work on was that the pendant was acquired from a fellow shop owner who recently passed away.  He was one of our first friends in town and every time I picked up the piece, I thought about sitting out in front of his shop and talking and about some of the inside jokes we shared.  It was hard to really focus and I ended up making and taking apart and remaking this necklace several times.

I ended using a converter bail, so that my client can use this piece as a necklace or she can take the pin off and use it as a brooch.

The base of the previous necklace was made up of wood opal nuggets, cuprite, and reconstituted larimar beads.  I had some left over from that project and whipped this piece up and I love it.  I'm a smitten kitten with how it came together.  Maybe because I struggled with the last piece so much, working just with the beads was way easier and everything sort of fell into place.

The same client who had me make the previous two necklaces also picked out this fine pewter coffee pendant from my family at Green Girl Studios.  She also picked out the jasper and fire agate beads and wanted me to create a coffee themed necklace for her.  It's a more delicate scale than the previous necklaces in this post, but still has a little bit of interest with the asymmetrical placement of the beads.

I had leftover beads from the previous necklace and used some of the wood opal from the other necklaces to create this necklace.  It's adjustable in length, so my client can layer it with other necklaces or wear it on its own.

This is the start of another commission.  We had a customer come in several months ago and fell in love with the store.  She's planning to get married and really likes mermaids.  In particular, she liked the 80's movie, "Splash" with Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks.  (Which I just found out that they are remaking with Channing Tatum as the merman!)  In the original movie, Daryle Hannah's character wears a necklace with a lion head on it and my client wanted me to make it.

Since it has been awhile since I last watched the movie, I had to do a search to find an image of it.  I found a few small sized pictures that pixelated when I blew it up.  I found a few different ones and ended up creating a metal composite.  The above version is my prototype for the pendant.  I didn't want to copy it exactly and ended up taking some creative license to make it more my own.  The prototype will be molded and (unlike the movie version) will be made in silver tones.  I suggested that she come into the store with her girlfriends to make the rest of the necklace to give it even more sentimental value and to have a nice day together in Ligonier.  Hopefully I'll be able to snag a picture of her wearing the creation on her wedding day.

I'll post more pictures later of some of the other work that I've created for other clients.  It's been a busy end of summer here!