Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Quick Trip...

William and I just returned from a quick trip South to take care of some business and visit with family.  We started our journey to the Durham area.  According to the GPS and our directions, the trip wasn't supposed to take that long... but we got snared up in traffic and it added several hours to our travels.  It was a beautiful day though and we were listening to Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, so the extra time spent in the car wasn't so bad.

Our stay in Durham was really short, but we got to see a good friend and talk business.  We also got a chance to visit Scratch and had some tasty treats.  I ordered a slice of sorghum shoofly pie and some cheesy grits.  Durham seems to be a really cool town with a lot of interesting businesses and a lot of potential.

Once we finished up a quick tour of Durham, we headed across the state to Asheville.  Of course, we got caught up in traffic again and it put us way behind schedule.  But we arrived and it was good to see my sister and her family.

It's a little heartbreaking to see the kids.  They're growing up so fast.  I remember when Azalea was a baby and I was afraid to hold her, because I was worried that I'd break her.  Now she's on the verge of being a teenager and is a little person with her own thoughts and ideas.  I know she was a "person" before, but it just seems so much more real now.  Above, she was showing us one of her costumes for a school project.  She was emperor Hadrian and was sporting a wig/beard combo that Cynthia made for her.

Here's another picture of Azalea.  She had just finished baking a butter cake!  She made it all by herself and was so proud!
We weren't supposed to stay in Asheville as long as we did, but we were fortunate enough to stay a few more days.  We wanted to stay and she Azalea in a play she was in, so we extended by a few days.  Above is a picture of Max observing Cynthia crocheting while waiting for food at the Sonic.

I really enjoy my time with my family.  Not only do we get to catch up and spend time with each other, but we also get to make things.  Above is a picture of a collaborative project that I worked on with Cynthia.  Cynthia and I came up with the concept, Cynthia sculpted the wax master, Greg molded it and cast it, and I bezel set the stones.  All of us worked on the finishing.  I love them.  Each one is different and unique.  I also love the heft of each of the pendants.  They solid sterling silver and a have a comforting weight to each of the pieces.  If you're interested in taking a look at them, CLICK HERE.

Here's a snapshot of Azalea on stage in As You Like It.  She did great!  She played Jacques and performed the "all the world's a stage" monologue.  I'm really proud of her!

I'm really glad that we got to stay.  William and I probably won't have our own children, so these moments that we get to spend with our nieces and nephews are gold.   It's weird.  Before the kids were born, it was hard for me to imagine children or wanting to be a parent.  When I was little, I remember play acting as a father, but after that, I couldn't really picture being in that role.  I guess my complicated relationship with my own father and my self-absorption with my career put a damper on all that.  Now I've reached a point where I could see myself being a nurturer, but know that it is unlikely that we'll go down that road.  I guess the world really is a stage, "and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances..."

Before we departed, we stopped at the Moose Cafe for lunch.  It never ceases to hit the spot, filling that hunger for home cooking and sweet tea.  

On the way back, we listened to Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.  It was nice to listen to the interconnected lives of the characters, as we wove our way through the mountains and along the highways headed home.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

PayPal Donation Button for Creative heART Challenge...

When I first mentioned the prospects of acquiring the additional inventory of the store that closed, we received a lot of great feedback and suggestions on how best to fundraise to make this project a reality.  One of the ideas we got was to create a PayPal Donation button.  At the time, I had this thought that if someone wanted to contribute money to us, they should get something tangible in return.  So, they might as well buy something outright.  But after evaluating what worked and what didn't work during the first run of the Creative heART Challenge, some of the points that folks brought up made sense.  For instance, what if all of the current items are above their budget, but they still want to contribute?  Or, what if they'd rather donate money directly to the cause instead of having that money go towards shipping?  Also, what if someone wasn't interested in acquiring more things, but wanted to contribute funds without strings attached.  So... at the urging of a friend and fellow blogger, I decided to give it a whirl.

While I would prefer participants of this fundraiser to find things that speak to their hearts and creative spirits, if this is something you're interested in doing, we want to thank you in advance and let you know that we appreciate every little bit!  Little by little, the bird builds its nest!  Every penny helps us get a little closer to achieving our goal.  

Here it is:

An Update...

In my last post, I discussed where my 30 day project sort of derailed.  While it wasn't all bad and I did have some successes, I couldn't help but be a little crestfallen.  I think when you start something like this and you give yourself permission to invest yourself completely, you imagine the shiny golden ring at the end of it all.  You imagine yourself triumphant!  And that image is sometimes what gets you through the hard times and makes it all worth it in the end.  It's a tool to help you manifest your dreams and make the abstract real and solid.  But then... when that ring slips from your grasp, and it seems like the dream is dead... well, even with the most sunny of dispositions, it can be a little disappointing.  I won't lie... I was a little sad that I couldn't reach my goal in the timeframe planned.

And sometimes... when you're ready to give up and let go of that thing that didn't come to be, something happens.

I sometimes wish that I could glimpse the masterplan and see how everything is supposed to work out.  Along the way, it can be confusing and it can seem like you're flying blindly, flailing frantically.    Even so, I do think there's a path.  One thing leads to another, and if you're careful, you can trace a delicate finger along the ribbon of causality.

Two things...

Sometimes when you're a little down, it makes all the good things seem all that much better.  We recently were the recipients of tremendous generosity and can't count our blessings enough.  My sincere gratitude goes out to those angels.  Thank you!  You know who you are and we are so thankful.

As it turns out, our initial goal isn't completely lost after all.  I won't go into the details, mainly because they aren't mine to go into, but how it shakes out is that I have extra time to fundraise to make the transaction happen.  Second chances do exist.

I will say this, the Creative heART Challenge isn't over yet!  What I've learned through the evaluation of what worked and what didn't work is I need to listen to the muses and focus on that first.  I'll update as projects are completed and that may or may not fall within a daily schedule.  I'm also not going to give a definitive end time; I'm keeping the schedule to myself and if something strikes your fancy, grab it!  Don't wait!  I so very much want to make this happen, but I also don't want to sacrifice my life in the meantime.  As a result, I'm going to approach this much more fluidly and see if that doesn't generate a better result.  I feel really fortunate for this opportunity and will gladly engage some of those ideas that sparked during the first run of the Creative heART Challenge.  Keep your eyes peeled for more things to come!  Great things will happen!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Successes and Failures...

If you've been following along with my blog, then you know that I've been participating in a self-imposed challenge.  The idea was to make new creative things for 30 days, post them each day, sell them, and fundraise for a project for the store.  The goal was to purchase the remaining inventory off of a store that was closing and use this to supplement our current offerings.

I started off well and made a ton of stuff.   I even kept up with posting things each day.  But little challenges kept creeping up.  For instance, one of the obstacles that we were facing was moving everything to a new online store.  I don't think we were ready for something like that.  I also don't think our customers were ready for that either.  So we've sort of had to backtrack on that idea.  Our resolution to this issue was that we would post things that appeared online and in the brick and mortar store in the new online store and keep online only offerings in the old store.  It's not ideal, but I think for the moment, it'll have to work.

One of the other challenges was that there simply wasn't enough time.  I'd sit down to work, look up and realize that most of the day had zipped by.  And then I'd have to take photos, edit photos, upload items to the online store, and then blog about it.  While it doesn't seem terribly different from what I do on a regular basis, on top of all my other current projects, I found the time crunch to be a little intense.  Plus, if I struggled with a project, I'd be empty-handed for the day.

Another of the biggest problems was that I don't really work like that.  I'm more of a pollinator.  I have multiple project going on, I float around, I give a little attention to each project, and move on.  It might not seem like I get much done and then all of a sudden, BAM! I have a mountain of finished work.  I think with this project, it's more about setting little goals and planning for smaller, more manageable projects and getting them done.

And then... well... there just wasn't any response.  I was literally going without sleep and running on caffeine fumes and there wasn't a single sale.  I talked with a few folks who were interested in helping out and they said that they wanted to wait until it was over for them to decide on what they'd get.  I think I was getting subconsciously a little nervous.  What if I spent 30 days working on a project and no one bought a single thing.  It'd be an incredible waste of time.  I was naturally a little apprehensive.  A further distraction from this project was that I posted a few of my things that I was working on via Facebook and that DID get traction.  And then the next day, I posted another thing that I made on Facebook and that sold and so forth and so on.  And then a week passed and I realized I hadn't listed a single thing that I made on my blog.

Perhaps the biggest thing to come up is that I like my life.  I've built a happy little home and I enjoy spending time with William and my cats and taking time for things to happen as they happen.  With the challenge of the daily deadlines, I wasn't really able to enjoy any of the things that I was working so hard to have.  The goal was to acquire more beads, but behind that was the ability to better serve our customers and behind that was to maintain my happy little home and build an even brighter future.

So those were my stumbling blocks...

Even though things didn't work according to plan, there were a lot of successes.

I think one of the most profound successes in this project is connecting with so many great people about my work.  I received so many positive compliments and so much encouragement and support.  I ended up getting a few sales (far short of my goal, but still some sales), I traded some of my work, and I received some wonderful gifts from friends.  It really blew me away to see how many people wanted us to do well.  It's amazing and I feel blessed.

All was not lost.  In engaging this project, I also tapped into my muses and awoke things within me that were long dormant.  Parts of my creative spirit soared!  It wasn't always easy.  Sometimes coming face to face with these aspects of myself was relentlessly daunting, but the process provided rich creative fodder and germinated a thousand different ideas.

It seems like my list of successes is far shorter than my list of failures, but those things that did work far outweigh and outshine any area where I felt like I fell short.  I think there are times when it's easy to focus on the negative and it feels as though you've hit a stone wall.  But if you examine everything, there is always good to be found and sometimes that thing which was at first invisible, turns out to be the greatest and most important thing.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Weekend with Kieu Pham Gray...

We are so lucky to be able to work with Kieu Pham Gray.  She's a talented jewelry-maker, teacher, and all-around tool guru.  Kieu and her husband, Andy, have a wonderful jewelry-making supply business called The Urban Beader.  They offer a wide array of tools and interesting jewelry-making materials.  We at Allegory Gallery hosted her weekend of workshops and we used Main Exhibit Gallery's awesome new classroom space.  Make sure to visit Main Exhibit Gallery's website to see a listing of all the great classes that they're offering in the new art center.

Kieu taught six classes.  On the first night, she taught how to solder and make the Double-cross Bracelet.  On the second day, she taught how to saw and solder in the Essential Pendant class.  The Essential Pendant is a wonderful project, featuring a diffuser pendant for essential oils.  We had a break between workshops for a book signing (with tasty treats from Warrior King Pastries) and then jumped into drilling beach glass and tube riveting.  Since our class was smaller for pearl knotting, we had the class at Mountain Palace over plates of steaming dumplings and Northern Chinese cuisine!

On the third day of classes, she taught torch enameling and silver-casting with cuttlefish bones.  It was a really great weekend, filled with creative information.

It was a really fun weekend and I think everyone had a really good time.  These weekend intensives are really a wonderful immersion experience and I feel my head swimming with possibilities.

One of the things that I love about these weekends is that they provide quality classes that might otherwise be out of reach for a lot of people.  They're also smaller, so there's a lot of individual attention and I feel like you get to know the instructor (and your fellow classmates) better.

We had such a marvelous time that we're already talking about having Kieu back in 2017!  It seems like a long time away, but it'll be here before you know it!  We are so appreciative of all the students who came out to support these classes; without you, we would not be able to do these things.  We are also grateful to Kieu for coming out to Ligonier to share her wealth of information and provide a fun and relaxed learning environment!  Thanks, Kieu!

OH!  And be sure to sign-up for a new project that Kieu is working on!  It's called, Ever Crafting and is an online community for serial crafters!  I'll be playing along as one of the jewelry gurus!  CLICK HERE to sign up.