Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Deeper Roots...

When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money and there were problems at home. Books were one of my safe places. In them, I could escape any trouble and let my imagination run wild. Reading was a gift that helped me better myself.  I found my wings in the pages of books and those wings could take me anywhere!

I was lucky that the librarians at my school didn't mind my insistent questions. When I had exhausted our library and sought deeper insight on subjects, my librarian said, "You know, there is a bigger library."

I used to bum rides with neighbors and even my older sister's boyfriend at the time. When that failed, I would ride my bike five miles along a busy highway and then five miles back when they kicked me out. I can see my 10-year old self with my ratty combat boots, cut-off denim shorts, a Dollar Store "Welcome to Florida" t-shirt, and a backpack held together with safety pins and patches, peddling frantically across one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. Sometimes I would treat myself with a can of Sprite and a roll of Lifesavers purchased at the 7-Eleven down the street. This was luxury to me – a can of warm soda, hard candy, and a book.

Education is so important, especially in these uncertain times. Reading opened my eyes to the possibility that I could make my life better. I could create any world that I wanted. I could overcome anything, if I embraced my imagination and let it fly.

That's why when I heard about the Ligonier Valley School District Foundation and their efforts to help raise money for the local Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, I jumped at the opportunity to help.  Winter is a slow time of year at the shop and we don't have a lot of extra money right now, so I gave what we could, but I still wanted to do more.  So, I embraced my imagination and creativity and created these Deeper Roots Pendants.

They're made out of polymer clay and feature a quote by Dolly Parton.  It reads, "storms make trees take deeper roots".  I love the words, the message, and the symbolism; I thought that it was very fitting for this project as well.  We'll donate all our profits from the sales of these pendants to this fundraiser to hopefully increase our contribution.  To see the pendant in our Etsy shop, CLICK HERE.  To learn more about the fundraiser and to donate directly, CLICK HERE.

Please consider helping another kid out there find a safe place in the power of words and give them wings to soar!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Broken Things...

I've always had a soft spot for broken things – the things that get left behind, discarded, or passed over.  And it's not just with things either.  Some of my favorite people were the ones that were last in line, never picked first, and have known great hardship.  Even if we never actually talk about what we've had to endure, we look at each other and we just know.  There's a tribe of the wounded hearts and broken spirits.  There's a family of people who have had to overcome and rise up and are stronger for it.  These are my people.

When I'm making things, especially to fill an order, I usually make a few extra just in case.  I've been in situations where I've made just enough and then something happens and I'm short.  So nowadays, I make a few extra just in case.

I have a drawer that's filled with the pieces that are not perfect.  It's true that all of my pieces have little hallmarks of the human hand, tiny nicks and dings and fingerprints, but some have more than others and I pull those.  I don't want a customer to question the quality if they got one that was defective.  So I keep the broken ones.  And I have to admit, sometimes they're my favorite.  I never sell them, but I keep them and mend them and make them whole again.

In Japan, they have a method called, "kintsugi".  It's also called, "kintsukuroi".  It's a technique of repairing broken pottery and ceramics with a lacquer mixed with gold.  Instead of discarding or hiding a broken piece, it celebrates them and elevates them.


For instance, I recently made a bunch of these bronze coins.  Sometimes when I'm pressing them out, there are certain areas that are thinner than others.  And sometimes in the firing process, the area is so thin that it burns away and leaves a little fissure.  I can't sell them like that, so I keep them.

I keep them for a rainy day, when I have time to sit down with them and see how I can help.  Usually things hang around a long while before I get back to them.  I so rarely have free time and sometimes the fixes are easy and sometimes they're more involved.  So that drawer is awfully full.

With these pendants, I ended up patching up the tears in the coins.  I soldered them shut with a few metal shavings.  Even though I've fixed them, they're still a little wonky.  I won't sell them.  I'll just hold on to them for myself or maybe I'll leave them some place, so that just the right person will find them and hopefully cherish them in all their imperfect glory as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

New Fine Silver Pendants...

I've been on a roll lately working on things.  I should be making other stuff, but I've learned not to ignore the muses while they're present.  So I ran with the inspiration and produced several limited edition pieces.

We recently rewatched the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Even decades later, the show remains relevant.  This is both good and bad.  I think it's good, because so often popular entertainment can lose its magic once the then current events have passed and seem woefully dated.  I watched a satyrical comedy show from the 70's not too long ago and unless you are keyed into what was happening (sometimes so specifically as that week the episode aired), the punchlines fall flat.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show continues to be enjoyable and poignant many years later.  How can that be bad, you might ask?  Well, a lot of themes of the show center around women's rights and equality.  When you see Mary's character struggle for equal pay as one of her male counterparts and realize that that STILL happens is mind-blowing and a little frustrating.

In any event, when we heard that Mary Tyler Moore passed away, we were both saddened by the news.  We also rewatched the Dick Van Dyke Show and enjoyed her performance on that show as well.  Mary Tyler Moore was an advocate for the arts, for health, and animals.  She was really a remarkable person and I was moved to create this pendant.

I carved a stamp that says, "Love is all around".  This comes from the lyrics of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the chorus being: "Love is all around, no need to waste it.  You can never tell, why don't you take it.  You're gonna make it after all.  You're gonna make it after all."  I think it's an important message to remember.  Love IS all around and each of us has to reach out and take it.  CLICK HERE to check in out on our online shop.

I originally carved this dragon to be included in my polymer clay and porcelain line.  (And even faux porcelain!  CLICK HERE to see the faux porcelain dragon pieces with the cool green celadon-inspired color.)  Dragons are curious creatures and exist in several different cultures around the world.  Depending on the culture (and the type of dragon), their symbolism changes, but a general feel of what they represent is power, strength, and courage.  They are also guardians and protectors and often times stand sentinel over mysteries, secrets, and treasure.  Dragons are often associated with the elements and are thought of as timeless.  This dragon looks like an air dragon to me.  To me, it represents a fearsome courage and freedom.  If you can face your fears, you can bask in great riches.  I've been feeling the need to call upon the dragon totem lately and as a result, I decided to make one for myself.  While I was at it, I thought others might enjoy it, so I made a few extra.  CLICK HERE to see it in our Etsy shop.

Life isn't always easy.  While there are many blessings in this world, it can seem as though there are as many or more bad things lurking out there.  It can be overwhelming and totally consuming if you let it.  The darkness sometimes feels so oppressive.  We can either give into this or we can chose to shine brightly.  To be a light in the dark isn't easy.  It requires us to draw power from a deeper place and be mindful to nurture and protect this tender flame.  In the middle of the night, when shadows loom tall and ominous and everything is swathed in a velvety blackness, a shiver of fear creeps down your spine, as you miss the warmth, radiance, and reassurance of life given from the sun... but even on the darkest of nights, pinpricks of light can be found burning defiantly in the dark.  This pendant is a reminder to "be a light in the dark".  CLICK HERE to take a closer gander at it.

One of my friends and customers recommended that I make a unicorn pendant.  Sometimes suggestions strike a cord and other times they don't.  This one hit home and I started carving immediately.  The unicorn is a really fascinating fantastical creature.  It symbolizes purity, grace, healing, joy, and life.  At the same time, it can also represent protection and strength.  The unicorn is often depicted as a guardian of magic and faith.  The unicorn has even been used to tell the story of Jesus in the Unicorn Tapestries.  For a fun read, check out Zombies VS. Unicorns.  Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier edited this anthology of colorful short stories by some of the leading contemporary young adult authors.  

I've got an order to make a few more of these in bronze, but once these are gone, I think I'll retire the design (at least for now).  It's not that I don't like it.  I do!  I just think that sometimes things, like unicorns, are special because they're rare.  I go through phases where I want to make a million of one thing so that everyone can get one and then there are times when I just want to make one or a precious handful.  CLICK HERE to get one while you still can!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Music to Make To: How I Learned to See in the Dark...

A map of the heart often reveals a moody landscape, studded with shadowy regions.  Chris Pureka explores this darker terrain with her rhythmic acoustic guitar strumming and haunting voice. Her smoky crooning is punctuated by passionate wavering notes, alternating from the feathery to the ringing.  Some of the songs are punchy like Broken Clock and others are more forlorn like, Time Is the Anchor.  Her music exposes something raw and vulnerable.  Underneath it all, there is a sense of optimism – of someone reaching out in the dark, hoping to find contact.

Chris Pureka
April 13, 2010

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Music to Make To: Servant of Love...

What is love, but a mix of emotions?  Sometimes fearsome, sometimes nostalgic... Patty Griffin's album is like that.  She dives into rocking tunes that call the listener to stomp their feet and shake their fists, and delivers melodic contemplations of hate crime violence that make your heart break, like in Good and Gone.  The album is kissed with happier songs, like Made of the Sun and Shine a Different Way making a bittersweet smile cross your face.  One of my favorites from the album is 250,000 Miles; it feels almost like a spiritual chant that hums with electricity and builds into a spiraling frenzy.

Patty Griffin
September 25, 2015

Friday, January 27, 2017

Music to Make To: Tracy Chapman...

The first time that I heard music from this self-titled album, we were (coincidentally) driving in a fast car. Fast Car was playing on the radio and after it had finished, I was blown away.  "Who was that?"  I wasn't used to music with deep, social awareness being played on Pop radio.  Later, when I listened to the entire album, it continued to pull at my heart and mind.  Tracy Chapman addressed often hard to talk about topics: racism, classism, and sexuality.  Set to music though, sometimes catchy and sometimes starkly haunting, the message was smoothly conveyed and helped break down barriers.  Proof of this came years later while attending a concert.  The opening band (whose name I can no longer remember) played covers and one of them was, Fast Car.  The audience, mostly white and affluent, erupted into cheers at the opening cords and belted out the lyrics from memory.  It was truly remarkable to see an artist's talent, even filtered through another group of musicians, transport people.

Tracy Chapman
April 5, 1988

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Music to Make To: Revelling/Reckoning...

The first time I heard this album, I didn't know what to think.  It was different from the earlier Ani Difranco music that I had already loved.  But the more that I listened to it, I appreciated the great breathe and diversity of the artist.  The album contains a mix of rousing, energetic anthems and sweeping ballads.  My favorite song from this collection of songs is Grey.  It punches me in the gut every time I listen to it... and I tend to listen to it over and over again.

Ani Difranco
April 10, 2001

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Polymer Clay Daily Blog...

If you're not already acquainted with the Polymer Clay Daily blog, you should be!  Cynthia Tinapple, an amazing talented polymer clay artist and blogger, does a marvelous job covering the polymer clay world and has been doing so for over twelve years!  There's a treasure trove of information and inspiration over there and I totally recommend you checking it out, if you haven't done so already!

I was lucky enough to have my Marching Baby Dragon featured in her post, "Marching as one in polymer".  How delightful and what a lovely surprise!  CLICK HERE to take a look.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Marching Baby Dragon...

Pussyhat Project Baby Dragon by Andrew Thornton.  SOLD
I won't be able to march on Saturday, but I wanted to show my support for the Women's March on Washington (and other major cities) and the Pussyhat Project.  I believe that women's rights are equal rights. I am a supporter and an ally.  I created this baby dragon sculpture sporting the iconic pink hat out of polymer clay to represent my commitment to the cause!

Alternative views of the Pussyhat Project Dragon by Andrew Thornton.
To start, I layered a mixture of polymer clays over an armature to create the sculpture.  I work in an additive/subtractive style, building up clay and taking it away as necessary.  Focusing on larger shapes first, I add progressively detailed layers as I work.  Texture is applied at every step.  Once the sculpting is finished and cured, I then add color with paints and pigments.  I paint in a similar fashion to the way I sculpt – establishing shadows first and then color blocking the major areas, and then going back and building up gradations of color.  Then I create highlights to accentuate the details and embellish with metallics.  I use heat to set the paints and finally, once everything is dried and cooled, I seal the piece.  It's not really necessary to seal the sculpture, as the paints are pretty durable, but I like to add it as a protective measure.

Close-ups of the face of the sculpture by Andrew Thornton.
While most of the sculpture is made of polymer clay, I do use glass taxidermy eyes.  I really like the depth and shine you can get with glass.  I've experimented with polymer to make eyes and while they're perfectly fine, I like the contrast of materials and even though it is a small detail, I think it enhances the overall look of the piece.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Kiva...

We know firsthand the power a little help can offer.  Over the course of our business, we have received so much support and encouragement.  We are profoundly grateful and wanted to give back and help spread the positive energy!  We joined Kiva to do just that.  If you're not familiar with Kiva, it is a nonprofit that connects people to lending options to alleviate poverty and grow prosperity.  Kiva works with countries all over the world and tackles a wide range of needs.

One can help someone start a business, grow their business, attend school, rebuild their house... there's really an incredible array of projects to help fund.  Lending options start as low as $25 and the original loan's impact can be grown exponentially as the repayment can be used to fund other micro-loans.  We don't have a lot of extra money, but we've decided to set aside a portion of every sale and use part of that to help others achieve their dreams!

To find out more and to get started, CLICK HERE.  Even though we can't contribute to every cause, I really enjoyed reading the stories about other people who want to better their lives and want to work hard to make that happen!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wings of Fate and Destiny...

When I was younger, I was blissfully unaware of death.  I felt immortal.  I hadn't really lost anyone who was close to me and while I understood the concept of death, it always seemed at a distance.  But as time progressed, my own body betrayed me and my circle of beloved family and friends felt blow after blow of loss.  Death didn't seem so foreign after all.

Instead of dwelling on the hurt and eventual mortality of all living things, I instead wanted to use death as a reminder of the beauty of life.  It's not a new concept.  Memento Mori ("remember that you have to die") goes back centuries.  It is a call to live a good life and focus on the positive.  It was once used as a teaching tool to instruct people to focus on salvation of their immortal soul instead of their earthly body.  To me it is the shadow that makes the light all the more brilliant.  The darkness is a part of the light, and each aspect must be appreciated and acknowledged.

Moths are symbols of intuition, dreams, and visitations.  They are also symbols of faith and determination.  They are also reminders of the shortness of life.  Particularly the death's head hawkmoth.  There are many different species of death's head hawk moths, each with their own scientific name relating in some part to death, but the one I was most drawn to was the Acherontia atropos.  Atropos is one of the three Moirai (or Fates).  She is the goddess responsible for cutting the threads of life.  While some may fear her, and in essence fear death, we all must die – it's how we live that matters.

I wasn't intending on making these in fine silver.  I originally had wanted to add them to my polymer clay and porcelain designs, but I had a few grams leftover in an open package and instead of sealing it up and waiting for another design and another day to use it on (it's never quite the same afterward), I decided to seize the day and press a few out.  I'm happy that I did.  They look like little pools of moonlight and fit the design perfectly.

If you're interested in taking a look at them in our online shop, CLICK HERE.

The Right Words...

I once saw an interview with Oprah about what a typical day looks like in her life.  She said that she liked to take a few moments in the morning to partake in inspirational reading and offer her mind and spirit up to something greater than herself.  That really stuck with me and I try to do the same.  I try to find a few minutes each day to meditate or do some reading about everything from creativity, to religion.  Sometimes it's an artist's biography or a bit of Eastern Philosophy... whatever it is, I try to find pieces of writing that speak to the heart.

Yesterday was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  I decided to pick up, Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  To me, the words struck a cord.  Right now we live in a rather tumultuous time.  While it might not seem like it on the surface, filled with our First World Problems, under the shiny veneer is a lot of uncertainty.  I know that this uncertainty isn't shared by all.  I recently had a conversation with someone who said that we were beginning a new era of prosperity and freedom.  I have my doubts though.  I think nearly everyone who is "different" has those same doubts.  When words of hate and injustice are sounded out clearly from the highest office in the country, there is a real fear.  As a minority and someone who has only recently gained equal rights, all I can do is hope for the best and work on my level to reaffirm what I believe is right and true.

One of the quotes that stuck out to me was, "We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."  While the intention of these words was to stir social equality and gain human rights, I think that this quote can apply to all aspects of life.  Every moment is an opportunity to make something, instead of tearing something down.  Every second is a second that could be spent giving ourselves to something greater.

I was so moved by these words that I decided to put them down in silver, as a reminder and a touchstone.  I carved the mold, pressed them out in fine silver metal clay, fired them in the kiln, and then painstakingly hand-buffed and polished each coin.  While I did so, I tried to focus on positive energy and direct action.  I tried to fill them up with all my best wishes and positive intentions.  I tried to push my feelings of doubt and fear down and away and use my time creatively.

I made one for myself, but I always try to make a few more just in case.  CLICK HERE to take a look at them in the online shop and if you're so inclined, to get one for yourself.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Broken Heart Into Art...

I remember a time when my friends and I would patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) await the awards lists for things like the Oscars and the Golden Globes.  We then would try our best to see all the movies nominated and would have big parties with our own ballots filled out with special prizes for those with the most correct wins.  One of our friends got so into it that he painted himself gold from head to toe to look like the Oscar statuette!  (We had to throw down a sheet over the couch so that he could finally sit down!)

Over the years, I've fallen out of touch with what's going on in Hollywood.  I still watch movies and try to keep up with what looks interesting to me, but I'm not quite so fanatical as I used to be.  I don't watch the award shows now and we don't have hours-long parties anymore.

This year, I did however see Meryl Streep's acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award during the recent Golden Globe Awards.  I was really moved by her words.  I thought of my own mother and how she traveled around the world to start a new life in America.  I thought of my own tribe and the wonderful and diverse characters that populate it.  But I was particularly touched by her tribute to Carrie Fisher.

"Take your broken heart; make it into art."

I listened to these words and my fingers sprung into action.  This is a sentiment that I also share.  I believe that you've got to take what is broken, what hurts, and what is in pain and transform it into a thing of art.  I know that I try to do this in my everyday life and encourage others to do it too.  There is so much in this world that has disintegrated and lays in fragments – only the act of creation can mend the things that ache and bleed and truly turn them into something more, something better, something beautiful.

I turned the quote into a pendant out of bronze clay.  I liked the idea that it starts off one way and then, when it is subjected to fire and heat, all that is inessential burns off and what is left is transformed.  It is solid and whole.  Each pendant is unique even though I've used a mold to make them.  They've got my fingerprints stamped on the backs and there are little nicks and dings and they aren't "perfect".  I like that there are these little hallmarks of the artist.  The give the pieces history and character.  When you hold them in your hand, you can tell that they were not made by a machine, but were made by an artist with love.  They tell a story about a person who wanted to fix what was broken and make the world a little bit better.

If you're interested in taking a look (and possibly getting one for yourself), we've listed the pendants online.  They are available by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Make It Artsy Article...

Pick up a copy of the latest issue of the Ligonier Echo!  In it, you'll find an article about me and my appearance on the show, Make It Artsy.  I had a great time and hope people enjoy the segments!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Make It Artsy...

In the whirlwind of the holidays, I was remiss in posting about something really cool that happened!  Back in June, I ran into Kathie Stull of KS Productions at a luncheon in Milwaukee.  I met her when I did a few segments for the TV show, Beads, Baubles and Jewels.  She's really an amazing woman who has championed a lot of craft-based public television.  We got to chatting and she told me about a new show that they were working on called, Make It Artsy.  She mentioned that she would like to have me come on as a guest.  You never really know how things are going to pan out and I sort of mentally filed it away.  A few months later, she contacted me again and asked if I was still interested!  I jumped at the opportunity!

My background is in fine arts and it was nice to circle back around and showcase some of my mixed media skills.  I ended up filming two segments and one mini-segment.  In one segment, I showed how to create a resin book cover.  In another, I go over creating fabric books that are ideal for swapping, collaborating and trading.  In the mini-segment, I briefly talk about creating a mini-book out of fabric, using old artwork.  I had a really great time.  I always admire the hard work that goes into creating shows like these.  Everyone is so dedicated and I applaud the KS Productions team for everything they put into making quality how-to TV.

Above is a picture of me drilling the resin book cover with a Proxxon drill press.  I love it!  It even smells like a quality machine.  It's so precise and I love that the size is perfect for detailed work and doesn't take up a huge footprint in the studio.

I get asked all the time what resin I use and I have to admit that I have a love affair with the fast-cast resin by Amazing Casting Products by Alumilite.  I'm a smitten kitten with it!  It's sturdy, takes detail great, doesn't have a lot of air bubbles, and best of all... it sets up FAST!  When I'm working on production, the fact that it can demold in 10 minutes really is amazing!  I can really crank out pieces easily and quickly.  I also love that they have wonderful ways to add color!  They have dyes and Alumidust, which is finely ground metallic powdered pigments.  Plus, they have mold putties that are great.  They've got a nice pliability, a healthy working time (where you don't feel super rushed), and capture details beautifully.

To finish off the book cover, I used alcohol inks from Ranger.  I love the rich, saturated colors and their color palettes.  I like that the colors are more earthy and less technicolor.

With the fabric books, I was lucky enough to work with a lovely group of artists.  Not to spoil the episode, but the idea is that all the artists create a group of pages and then they swap with other artists and the books can be easily put together to form a mini-collection.  On the show, we also featured the work of Kecia Deveney and Lynne Suprock.  Other artists who participated are Kelly Russell and Gaea Cannaday and a few others!  So exciting!

The episodes will air in 2017 and I'll be sure to update folks before they come on and when they can see them air and where they can see them!

As an added bonus, Cynthia was filming at the same time and we spent time in the green room catching up.  We had a fun group in the green room!  Susan Lenart Kazmer was there, as well as Mystele Kirkeeng, Joe Rotella, Rae Missigman, and Mary Hettmansperger.  It was nice to finally meet Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  She's very focused and is a powerhouse of energy!

Here are some candid shots in the green room:
Cynthia Thornton (my sister), Susan Lenart Kazmer, and me.

Mystele Kirkeeng and me!

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and me (with Kecia Deveney's calendar).

Me playing with the Proxxon drill (again)!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Next Steps...

It has been a few days since the close of our fundraiser for Allegory Gallery.  There were times during the project that I didn't know if we'd make it or not.  So much in our world has been thrown into upheaval and uncertainty blossomed rampantly.  It crowded my mind.  I prepared myself mentally for the very likely chance that we wouldn't reach our goal.  I never gave up hope, but at the same time, I wanted to protect myself in case things didn't turn out...

And then something wonderful happened.  During the last few days, our forces rallied and we received so much support!  We had over 150 participants in Project: Next Step and countless others who liked, shared, and commented on our posts.  So many amazing people helped us reach our goal.

I talk a lot about gratitude.  And some may think it's an act or are tired by my constant talk of thankfulness... but I can't help it.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  I am so deeply humbled by the incredible support and encouragement that we have received.  We are beyond blessed with so many people wanting to see us do well.  I pinch myself just to make sure I'm not dreaming.

So... what's next?

We've been making arrangements to pick up all the merchandise and I've been organizing and moving things and getting ready to make space to accommodate everything.  Since there is so much stuff, the store simply can't absorb all of it all at once.  So we'll be working to add it to our inventory both online and in the shop as quickly as we can.

We're also working like crazy to fulfill our pledge rewards.  We have so many wonderful things that we have to make and we'd like to keep it to the timeline that we posted for each reward, so we're busily working away in the background.  We'll leave the Project: Next Step page up and keep all the store links active for awhile.  There's a lot of behind the scenes costs associated with our fundraiser that went above and beyond our goal, so any pledges after this will help offset those.  There are things like travel expenses, processing fees, and material fees that we're currently covering.  CLICK HERE to see the rewards.

Now that we have reached our goal, we're starting to think of what's beyond the next step and already we have some amazing plans brewing.  The air around here is positively charged with all the possibility and future potential.  There is so much that could be and will be!

And once again... we are so thankful for all the support and positive energy that we've received.  It feels so good to know that there are people out there who have got our backs!  Thank you for making Project: Next Step a success and for helping us take the next step!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Winter Walk...

A winter walk can seem at first a bleak thing.  Everything seems swallowed up in a monochromatic blanket of snow and ice.  It's cold and the sky is gray.  All the foliage has long since dropped and fallen away.  There are no showy flowers – just a stark landscape.  But when you look closer, you see that everything is redolent with possibility.  A riot of blooms and fiery leaves are all hidden within, slumbering until just the right time and just the right conditions.

I remind myself that life can be like this sometimes.  It might not seem like much is happening, that things are uneventful or even a little monotonous.  But beneath the surface, there's a world of wonder and possibility.

Recently I ran into a couple of friends that I haven't seen for awhile and we proceeded to catch up.  They asked me what I had been up to, and I responded back that I mostly was working and that I didn't get out of the house much.  They seemed to take that as a cry for help or as if I was unhappy about my circumstances.  Far from it!  I enjoy my time spent in my studio.  I like that it is a place where I nurture deep thoughts and engage in the act of creation on a daily basis.  My studio is a gateway to a world of infinite possibilities.  My only limitation is my imagination.  In my sanctuary, I can do or make anything I can dream.  Worlds are born in the spark of my creativity and are coaxed into life.  Fanciful creatures that exist no where else are made real and are given shape and form.  Here there is a place where magic is alive and well.  I find comfort in my home and think of it as a happy place.  I like the little nest William and I have built together.  I like my life.

While there are certainly days that it would be nice to travel or have grand festivities or go on adventures, there is something to be said for a quieter season, of calm reflection and simple pleasures.      There is something to be said for winter walks on snowy, cold days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

More Podlings...

I originally posted the Podling Ornaments on Facebook last week.  When I shared what I was working on, I had a customer request that I make 14 Podlings in the same family!  I worked on them feverishly to get them done in a timely fashion and could be enjoyed during the holiday season.

Here they are!  I think they're quite charming.  Someone said that they reminded them of chrysalises and they could imagine these Podlings metamorphosing into grown-up faerie creatures.

These are all claimed and have found their home with a friend, but there are several from the original batches that are still available.  CLICK HERE to visit the Podlings online!

Podling Ornaments...

Sometimes when I'm sad or disappointed, I turn to my work.  The magic of being an artist is that one can create the world that they wish to be in.  So, I wanted a little whimsy and magic... so I made it!

I sculpted these podling ornaments.  Each one is one-of-a-kind and the faces are all different.  I like that, like people, they are all unique and have individual expressions.  I made them in little families of five and they come in four different colorways.  I think they're pretty cute and I made them talk while I was working on them.  They told me secret things in funny little voices!

After I made them, I posted them online in our online store.  CLICK HERE to take a look.  They all come with handmade copper hanging hooks as well!

Ancient Eye Beads...

I was scrolling through Pinterest and came across these ancient glass eye beads and fell instantly and madly in love with them.  I tried to search them out with the sinking feeling that they probably belong to a museum collection or were out of my price range.  I looked and looked, but was unsuccessful in tracking them down.

It made my fingers twitch to want to make some beads that looked like these.  I love the graphic eye motif and the crustiness of the beads.  There's just something about that patina that makes my heart quicken. It conveys that these things have a story.  They are survivors of time and humanity.  When other things were lost and forgotten... these remained.

So, I set about making my own version.

I was never very good at lampwork glass and no longer have a set-up, so I moved my focus to polymer clay.  It's a magical material that can be coaxed into looking like all manner of materials.  Here is what I made:
I used all kinds of tricks to get them to look like this.  I started out by carving a mold and then pressing out the beads.  I rolled them in salt and hand-painted each bead and then did glazes and washes of antique mediums.  I wiped and sanded and altogether distressed the beads until they took on an ancient feel.

I have a feeling that these will be the first of many!  Sometimes things move you and you don't know if others will resonate with them or not.  Happily I can report that most of them found homes all over the country!  I, of course, kept some for myself!

Sometimes Fast, Sometimes Slow...

I batted my eyes as snowflakes clung to my eyelashes.  Snow moved in slow spirals, churning the air lightly.  Footfalls were accompanied by crunching and squeaking and trudging sounds.  We made our way down the darkened path, flanked by snowcapped coneflowers that had long given up their petals and color.

I thought of running through the pine forest of my youth, the sun coming through the branches in slanting lines of light.  I remember the clean smell of resin in the air and the way I felt like I could run forever, darting through the trees quick and easily.

Fingers numb and my nose about to drip, the way was slow.

Up ahead, there were lights and singing.  Ribbons and wreaths hung from every tree and pillar.  The snow glittered, twinkling along with the festive festoons of holiday adornment.  A warm feeling spread throughout me – a glad feeling.  And it suddenly occurred to me that it was the same feeling I felt, when I was little and the forest seemed to go on infinitely.  It was a feeling of happiness.

Sometimes that feeling is quick to come and sometimes it is slow to arrive.  It can be found in the most unexpected places and at the most surprising times.  I am reminded that things work at their own schedule and that they cannot be rushed nor hurried.  Sometimes goals are reached early or late, but regardless, they are always right on time.

I caught myself worrying that we wouldn't make it with our fundraiser and that we wouldn't be able to bridge the gap with our meager savings.  It dawned on me that worrying wouldn't help.  We've worked hard and will continue to do our best right up until the end.  I have a choice to either celebrate our successes and hope for the best, or get knotted up with dread.  Despite my visions of success, I can't know the future for certain.  I do know that it'll be here before we know it and what is meant to be will be.  I can remind myself to be present.  Be in the moment.  Happiness is here, but whether or not I can recognize it for what it is, is ultimately up to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Critters...

When I was little, I was raised on a healthy dose of fairy tales and folklores.  My mom used to tell us stories of little men who lived in trees that would play tricks and spirits of the jungles and islands.  My grandma told us that babies were born out of the knots in trees and of creatures made out of creek mud.  My sisters and I read Greek myths until the books fell apart.  My childhood was filled with wonder and magic and I was always on the lookout for the fantastical creatures that inhabited the secret world meshed with our own.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. SOLD
When I read stories of poor children who could change their fortunes with magic beans or enchanted swords, it gave me hope.  Believing in magic allowed me to escape the things that hurt and create my own world.  A world where beautiful and miraculous things could happen and were not impossible.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. $50
I used to create little sculptures out of polymer clay and sell them at a local store.  I was probably 11 years old when I started making them and selling them.  We didn't have much money back then, so the money I raised at the shop kept in paints and art supplies to make more things.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. $90


I got a hankering to make some more little critters.  So I did!  I've been having fun making all sorts of magical creatures.  It's funny how as an artist, I circle back to the things of my childhood.  These little sculptures are more involved than the ones I used to make, but I like to think that they still have that spark of the child's imagination.  They're all made out of polymer clay and glass eyes.  I hand-paint and layer pigments and inks and seal all of the sculptures for durability.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. SOLD
As we draw closer to Christmas/Yule, some of the latter sculptures were more inspired by the holiday season!  I love the stories of Krampus and you don't see a lot of Krampus artwork, so I made this "Kid Krampus".

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Wall Plaque by Andrew Thornton. SOLD
Once I finished the 3-D sculpture, I was inspired to make a wall plaque! This one really reminded me of old fashioned gargoyles.

A lot of the projects that I work on have to be done in stages with lots of downtime in between.  I like to keep busy.  If I take a break from working with my hands, I get distracted and will sometimes lose focus.  So these sculptures are a great way to keep my creative muscles loose and warmed up.  I've really been in the mood to sculpt, so I'll keep making them until the impulse wanes.

Wishes...

We were sitting around the table.  Our tummies were full of turkey and we lethargically looked around at the piles of dishes and bowls of food still needing to be put away.  All the people had left and the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas was faintly playing in the background.  In the center of the table, propped against an autumn floral arrangement, the turkey's wishbone sat.  I picked it up and proffered it up to William.  I closed my eyes, and he whispered, "Make a wish!"

We've been doing a lot of work lately that has caused me to think a great deal about the future.  As a result, it has given me rise to also think about our current lives and the lives we wish for.  I know that while there are certainly a lot of things on the horizon to be excited for, there are also challenges looming on the horizon.

One of the things that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately is about my aging parents.  How will I help them as they transition into a different part of their lives, but still respect them?  I have this tendency to want to fix things and when I want to fix things, I can get somewhat singleminded.  That focus can seem controlling or overbearing at times.  And I know that it isn't helpful or productive to be this way in a sensitive situation.  It doesn't help that we have all taken somewhat nontraditional paths in life and things like retirement and age-related health issues were both things to think about another day down the road and no one is really prepared.

One of the answers lies in building the business.  The concern there is how to grow it in such a way that retains authenticity and do it in such a way that is holistic, where we can have a semblance of balance.  It's so easy to throw one's self into work and not take advantage of all the many blessings in life or acknowledge the reasons why they're working so hard in the first place.

Business aside, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in life.  What are the things that are most essential to me and how can I make those things happen?  We've been soul searching a lot and really casting out a net into the deepest parts of our hearts and seeing what we come back with.  Some things I'll never really know and are things that I've slowly been letting go of.  It's like clipping the strings that hold down an idea, one at a time, until finally it can float free.

For instance, I'll never really be a parent to human children.  I can try to be a good uncle, a good cat daddy, and a good plant daddy... but we'll probably never have children.  When I was younger, I thought that that was something that was important to me.  I thought that would be a way for our name to live on and for me to right all the things that were wrong in my own childhood.  I tried to tell myself that I'm too selfish or that I wasn't cut out for it, but there was always this thought that it maybe one day it might happen.  But some things are just not meant to be.

Instead of dwelling on what is not and what will not come to pass, I've been trying to envision a realistic portrait of my best life.  That image is not so different than the life I have now.  We truly have good lives.  But that life I can see in my mind's eye is perhaps a little more financially stable and a life that can accommodate some of the bigger challenges ahead.  Right now, we put everything back into the store to help it grow and develop and sometimes that can be scary.  We take risks and work really hard to make sure that those risks are as safe as possible.  It would be nice to have a little bit of a cushion and not quite so much apprehension.  I know we're extremely lucky and so very blessed, but there are times that I have a rock in my stomach, a little leaden pit that feeds off of my worry and dread.  Even though I know it'll all work out, it is hard not give into doubts or fears.

In that vision, I can see another store.  We've been talking about it for awhile.  We'll still keep Allegory Gallery, but we have been talking about another store that has things that are outside of what we carry in our current one.  I've been daydreaming about it and in sleepless hours, I do research and have built up a list of contacts and products and suppliers.  I've researched costs and overheads and planned out how we'd make money... and it is all very doable.  Ultimately, this other store, this future non-human baby, will grow up and help face those challenges lurking on the horizon.  It'll be one of the keys to grow that sense of security.  But it is just out of reach.

With Project: Next Step, it might seem like a short-sighted goal.  Get money, get stuff.  But there really is so much more.  The extra inventory will help us build up our current store enough to be able to expand our vision and do more.  We can consider things like talking seriously with manufacturers and recruit more staff.  We can do bigger retreats and attract more teachers.  We can travel the world and find treasures in person and then tell those stories about those things.  And  we can do more of what we're doing, but on a bigger scale.  We named Project: Next Step what we did, because truly it is the next step.  It is the next step in a long series of steps, but it is a BIG step forward.  It is a step towards the future and our best lives.  It is a step in the right direction.

I've been thinking a lot about the future lately.  I've been dreaming and wishing and gathering all my good intentions and aspirations.  I've also been collecting all my failures and faults, and calling back to me all the energy that was wasted on petty things and past aggressions.  I've been summoning all the false starts, foolish regrets, and future plans that will never be.  I've been digging up the fears and hurtful memories, and I've been taking those things and breaking them up and pressing them down and reshaping them.  I've been transforming them, like alchemy, into something better and brighter.  I've been making them into an arrow, an object of action and possibility.  I have been honing all these things into something that will propel us forward and protect us and keep us safe.

We sat in the kitchen, making wishes and dreaming of better tomorrows.

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."