Seeping in

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Cathryn Schilling, Jane Bruce, Lisa Cerny, Ellen Abbot, me, Natali Rodrigues, Nancy Nicholson, Evy Cohen, Marzena Krzemińska, Martie Negri, Purnima Patel, Susan Cox, and Alison Kinnaird at the Bay Owl Restaurant.

As I adjust to being home, I have been talking to friends and family about my trip. Choosing what I say – how much do I want to say (as in how much talking do I feel like doing), analyzing the effect it has had and will have on me and my work.

I think the single most important thing has been the way I was received by 12 other people, most of whom had no idea who I was. I had met 2 people before, and knew of 3 others via Facebook, but really I didn’t know any of them very well at all.

First, I was invited. Invited on the merit of an afternoon in NYC where I brought my work to be critiqued by Jane Bruce at Bullseye’s Resource Center in Mamaroneck, NY. That in itself should have told me something, but I didn’t really let it sink in. Second, we had a discussion session about the work we were creating, and I expressed my ideas about what I had done in the past and what I was considering doing in the session and future. Everyone listened and commented, contributed, and I felt like I had merit for the first time. Third through one hundred and twentieth, were all the side discussions that were had between individuals, like Cathryn and I talking about symbols, runes, and ancient languages. And finally, the late night winding down at the Pine Lodge between Natali, Purnima, and I talking about art and creating, ideas, and life.

Everyone accepted everyone at face value and as equals. This attitude was vital to making the Symposium work and so special. As I was trying to tell my husband, Donald, this morning, it wasn’t that his opinion that I am a good artist worthy of attention by the world was not valid, but it was more akin to submitting a paper to peer review. 12 strangers (essentially) had given me positive feedback on the work I was submitting for comment. It began to give me a foundation. I felt there was no “but…” to “you’re good.” Heck, I didn’t realize until this morning that that’s the message I had been hearing for a LONG time now. There was only just “you’re good!”

There was only “you’re good!”

After all the work was presented and we had been working a couple of days, I had a bad morning/afternoon. I kept to myself and stayed outside and out of sight. I wanted to work it out and not let anyone know I was in a funk. I finally got to talk to Donald and get grounded again, enough to get back to it and get working.

A couple of days later, I had another, bigger internal meltdown on the way to Lani McGregor’s house in Latheron. Again, I didn’t want anyone to see me, so I stepped outside. Or tried to. I ended up twisting my ankle (no, the other one. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t walk on it, at least). I kind of lost it when Jane came out to check on me. She gave me a good talking to, encouraging me and also holding me accountable. I agreed I needed to get it out, and then get on with it.

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But my being upset wasn’t really about my work, at that point. I was actually feeling a bit jealous of being out of the conversation. I know, a lot had to do with my not inserting myself, but I was feeling the culmination of a year and half of being adrift, with only 2 or three local friends, being separated from my previous network of friends and my family, still trying to recover from a deep wound, and completely doubting my personal and artistic worth. I was afraid to put my trust into these new people only to have it yanked out from under me. And the ankle just made it all the worse.

I got back on the bus to go to dinner, but I couldn’t pull it together enough to go inside. I lingered on the bus, hoping that I could spend some time alone to get over it, but Natali spied me and I just lost it. Ellen came back out to check on me and made it a group hug. I hadn’t felt that kind of love in a good while from friends. As I stood there sobbing, I could hear Natali’s heartbeat. Something about that sound made me feel better.

They declared me part of their tribe and invited me to come to their get-together next year in Houston at Ellen’s. I can’t wait to go.

On the last official night, dinner was an hour away and we waited for George to come and show us how to make a fishing net. Natali and I slipped outside after his initial demo and got a breath of fresh air. We talked more about our work and the ideas behind it. Just as I started to say I also really love Mayan glyphs, she broke out an app on her phone that was about Mayan glyphs. That was kind of awesome. That whole conversation, though, was enough to restore my trust that these friends I had just made over the past 10 days weren’t going away. It solidified the foundation that had been laid down.

I have a place to stand, a base to move forward from.

I am excited about the work I am going to produce. I want to integrate my art into my jewelry and jewelry into my art. I may not be making any commercial work, except maybe the dangle drop earrings I love so much, but I’m not worried about that. I have a confidence in myself I haven’t had in way too long. I’ve let so many things along strip me of my self-esteem. I have work to do and a story to find and tell. The data mining has begun.

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(Thanks, Ellen, for inspiring me to do a more detailed blog session. <3)

Stone and Sand and Sea and Sky

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I’m sitting in the kitchen at North Lands, thinking about my time here. This morning we went to the Whaligoe Steps, once used to haul fish up the stairs by the fishwives in baskets on their backs. 300+ steps up the cliff face. Natali and I were talking about what first drew me here (Louise Tait’s presentation “Only Sky Above Us”) on the way down the first sections of steps and she shared “Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky” by Penny Lang, a beautiful folk song that feels tied to this country.

20160629_095202Panoramic view above the Steps – click to see a bigger image.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got here, but I knew it would either carry me forward or see me abandon glass as a focus in my work. I gave Caithness my heart and trusted to her gentle care.

As we presented our work the first few nights, I was intimidated by what I saw and heard. I felt the least experienced. Everyone else had years of experience and a developed body of work. I felt out of place.

Over this past week, though, I have been encouraged by my “flatmates” Natali and Purnima, by Nancy, Ellen, Cathryn, and Jane, really everyone has been so open. I have been gifted again and again by an incredible set of artists who are here on this symposium. They helped me feel like my thoughts and ideas have merit. Not that I require anyone’s approval, acceptance, or validation, but they drew me out of a place that I had been hiding in.

As I sat on the wall of the Steps, I realized that I am beginning to heal. I am so grateful Jane invited me to attend. This was the right time, the right place, and the right people to lift me up and mend my broken parts.

 

P.S.

I also discovered that I just don’t create a lot of work when I am in a class or workshop. My focus is more on absorbing information and percolating on it. I have declared that I am a “slow cooker.” It just takes a while for me to process and then produce. I create pieces to test ideas, but I don’t feel the need to be a flurry of activity. I am happy with what I have made and where it will take me.

There’s Freedom in this Cage.

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My first real venture with my new Winsor &Newton pigment markers on their marker paper. The paper is kind of like yupo, a plastic paper, in that the marks kind of sit on the surface and aren’t really absorbed. I can use my fingers and brushes to move the ink around before it dries. Because they aren’t really absorbed, whenever I make a new mark, it can pick up what I had already laid down. Challenging.

I was feeling frustrated with my progress and this helped me work it out.

What a year.

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2015 – What a year.

At the end of 2014, Donald accepted a job at Amazon in Seattle and we prepared to make the biggest move of our lives, literally and figuratively.

Donald’s father, John, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer some time ago, but it was finally taking its toll on him. By the time Donald had moved to Seattle in January, John was in hospice care. I remained in Jacksonville to pack up the house and get it ready to rent. I continued to work and help John, the Cowarts in general, and my parents (my father has Parkinson’s). I broke when one of my cats started to show signs of thyroid cancer.

John died on February 22, 2015.

I moved to Seattle in March. Donald and I flew back to Jacksonville for John’s service and to inter his ashes. Donald was sick and the flying only made it worse. After all this, we decided to upgrade to first class on the flight home. Worth every penny.

I worked from home in our new apartment. The transition from 1,500 square feet to 630 was not too bad, but when that becomes your entire world, it does something to you. I had a really hard time adjusting to not knowing anyone in our immediate surroundings. My main connection to friends was via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

I did have some friends in the general area, and I visited them occasionally. But I felt like I was imposing or intruding. I valued them too much, and in my effort to keep from abusing their generosity, I somehow ended up losing them by October.

By April/May I had kind of reached my limit. I started drawing again just to have something creative I could do. We had purchased 2 sets of Copic markers at Emerald City Comic Con, and I started using them in earnest. In June, I found a studio that I could afford. I made glass pendants and started working on an idea I had for fine art.

Slowly, I have made new friends. Lisa, in Everett; Ryan, owner of the coffee shop; Jeff and Ellen, pastors at Seattle First Presbyterian.

Through all this, I tried to manage my depression, loneliness, creative needs and goals, personal finances (job), selling my pendants, etc. I was probably drowning and just didn’t realize it.

I had a wonderful visit with my daughter in August. It was so nice to have her here – to be active, out and about, and socializing.

I found out that I was accepted as a volunteer for Desert Bus for Hope (charity fundraising event). Something I had wanted to do since 2011. I was so excited. I would get to meet people, do something important, make new friends and meet online friends.

Then October hit. It started with spraining my ankle at a friend’s home in Portland and ended with losing friendships over something in which I truly believe I am the innocent party. I have low self-esteem, I acknowledge my faults, my supposed faults, and the faults others put on me, but my integrity is one thing that I shouldn’t have to defend with friends.

I was recovering from this when I went to Victoria, BC for Desert Bus. It was so great to finally meet everyone involved and to be hands-on raising money to help children in hospitals around the world. But I brought a lot of baggage with me to the party. Somehow, I felt lonelier than I had ever felt in my life. I felt so disconnected. I cried in my hotel room every night. It was not what I had hoped.

And yet, it was. I did make friends. It will take time and effort to develop these friendships. I love the Desert Bus crew and I love what they do so selflessly.

When I got home, I was just drained.

December rolled around and I found myself with a little extra money. I signed up for a beginning jewelry class at Pratt Fine Arts. I help my daughter buy plane tickets so she could spend Christmas and New Year’s with us in Seattle.

Maggie’s visit was just what I needed. Not a lot of sight seeing, just hanging out and being a family. Jewelry class is just great. I am really excited about what I am going to do and learn. I feel like I have a new direction, in general, and specifically about my creative endeavors. I’ve been more involved in church. I think things are picking up for me, on the inside.

Ever since I started working with Bullseye glass in 2009, I have teased Donald about moving to the Pacific Northwest. October 2014, I was taking a Bullseye class in New York. My friends in class urged me to move to Portland and I was all for it. I woke up in the middle of the night with this really strong, good feeling about really moving out there. I called Donald and when he said, “Let’s do it” I was surprised and elated. I felt like this was going to be the right move at the right time. That it would be a really good thing for us.

It has been. Through the good and the bad, even when I was in my most depressed state, I couldn’t shake that feeling of rightness. And yesterday, when another odd, but hurtful thing happened, I eventually realized that I am really grateful for those friends who are now not friends. I can forgive them. Because without them I wouldn’t be here.

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EDIT:

After posting this, I realized I should also highlight some of the really good things that happened.

Like taking the Bullseye jewelry class and spending a week with my friend Kym last April. She lives in Brisbane and we originally met in the New York class in October 2014. We email & video call regularly. I love her creative and practical ways. She’s a treasure.

Seattle First Presbyterian Church. I’m not the best example of a christian, and I’ve been put off of church for quite a while now, but these people have given me a safe place to be.

My lunches with Lisa. We met via Facebook and then we met in person. She’s a wonderful person who takes me as I am and as she can. We share a passion for glass. She’s a great listener.

I have a great little studio and I can create beautiful metal jewelry at Pratt.

Maggie’s visits. We explored some of the places in the area like Whidbey Island and the Seattle Aquarium. I also got to take her to Bullseye where we lucked out and got a tour of the factory.

My visit with my childhood friends Valerie and Kris. Valerie used to live in Seattle, and her family still has a summer cabin over on Bainbridge Island and we were able to spend the day over at that lovely little slice of heaven. Kris was here on a trip and made time to visit me at my studio. I love my friends.

My illustrations. I had not ever really illustrated before, even though I knew it was in me. I love making my fanciful images.

Most of all, Donald. He has been so amazing. He loves me and believes in me so completely. He also keeps me grounded when I’m flying off or falling off the deep end. He’s the best part of it all.

Volunteering for Desert Bus

I am a site volunteer this year at Desert Bus for Hope and while I’ve been here I’ve done a few things like, cleaning, helping feed people, running errands, going to the post office, random dance parties, Epic Rock Paper Scissors (in which I epicly fail), met some great people and helped them raise (as of right now) over $420,000 dollars for Childs Play Charity.

I got to travel to Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada to spend the week doing something good, fun, and cool with awesome people who all donate their time and energy to help sick children have better experiences when they have to be at the hospital, and support victims of domestic abuse.

I didn’t manage to take too many pictures, but here are the few that I did take:

I made some art for the shifts and one as an entry for a contest.

I had loads of fun, and we still have more to come.

Thank you to everyone at Desert Bus, Child’s Play, and LoadingReadyRun.

Fear and the Creative Process: A Manifesto for Creative Survival –Valerie Curtis-Newton

BREATH.

Find the Fear in the room and face it.

Its presence says the work is important.

Everyone is afraid.

It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Things that make you afraid reveal your heart.

Scared is ok. Paralyzed is not so much. Do what you must to move—to take even the smallest step forward each day.

You are not your work. The things we create are not who we are.

BREATHE.

Leap, if you hope to fly.

Do the hardest, scariest thing first. No matter how badly it may go, you won’t die. You’ll learn something about the work and about yourself.

Practice compassion for yourself and for others.

Stay open. Listen. Don’t be so afraid of hearing the worst that you don’t stay present to the possibility of hear the best.

Be willing to deal with the consequences of your choices.

Be humble enough to ask for support.

Cultivate Courage, Confidence, and Compassion. Commit to physical, spiritual, and intellectual practice.

Enter the work boldly believing that there are 1,000,000 ideas in the air.

BREATHE.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid of approval seeking. To hell with what others might think.

Burn the tape that plays “I am not good

not smart

not worthy enough to be among the good and talented. I deserve to be left on an ice float to die.” Melt the Ice Float.

Try out as many ideas as you can. Be artistically promiscuous.

Practice healthy detachment. Lower the stakes—not the bar.

Tenacity is showing up. The willingness to show up changes us. Be tenacious.

Equivocation is poison. Have something to say. Be brave enough to say it.

Use your art to change the world one project at a time.

Give what you have.

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Start with what you have to offer today. It will be more than enough.

Don’t erect altars to your failures.

Police your self-talk. Root out: “I can’t…I’m not…I’m afraid that…” They are fear words.

Make a choice. And Act.

Prioritize Joy in the doing.

Expect miracles every day. You are built for Success.

Know who you are at your core—courageous, competent, strong, free.

Celebrate the opportunity to shine. BREATHE. Then, leap again.

–Valerie Curtis-Newton

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Taking the plunge – I am realizing that I have become a lot less directly interactive with my friends, less of a friend myself. I think, in part, that is due to my reliance on Facebook to connect me with people and really, that’s not good. So, I am going to try to limit my FB time. I won’t say how much I will limit myself because it’s going to be a REAL challenge, but I hope it will be pretty drastic.

I’m feeling the need to relearn how to be a good friend. So, I will be using phone, emails, and texts to connect with people and will work to have better relationships with everyone. I’m not shutting down my account, but putting on the back burner.

Because friends and family are important to me.

So… email me, text me, or call me directly. All my contact info is easily found out here on the webs. <3

Funerary Art

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I’ve had this idea of a soul “catcher” or container for at least a year, if not 2. In the past 2 years I have lost family members who are dear to me. Part of what I am learning and observing is that death is such a part of living and yet, our society generally wants to sanitize it and separate it from every day life. This is my way of making it a companion and not something to be feared. Life must be celebrated in every way. We all are born and we all will die.

I want to create something that will be its own entity artistically, but will tell the story of my loss and learning about how death and life are entwined. I want to create these items in a way that they are remnants of a society that is no longer active. An archeological find, that we are discovering and interpreting for ourselves. There will be symbols, figures, and items that we will not be able to know the true meaning of, but as a whole will speak to us about how these people lived and died.

This idea started with just a simple bowl – something that would be light (luminous) and substantive. Over time, it has evolved to become more. I realized my symbols could enrich the meaning behind these tools. I could create a full story that would share what I have learned, what I am learning, and even what I don’t know yet. I could bring peace to my sorrow and celebrate the lives that have ended.