Friday, November 25, 2011

GRRRL Pirates!

Will you look at this gorgeous picture of my niece in her middle school play (in Minnesota) called Capt. Bree! Caroline is the standing pirate on the right -- looking very threatening I must say.

And for all my fabric and fiber friends, check out the costumes!! My very own sister Liz creates these fabulous concoctions for her schools and community theatre. She is amazing!

These productions are massive creative projects, but Liz has been studying theatre from the wings her whole life and really knows her stuff. She is starting a business now using her skills and talents and expert eye.

I can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Should I Give up the Ribbons?

You would not believe how many ribbons I have. Lucky me.

I'm going through a serious review of stuff. Not just the weekend time-killer of sorting fabric or shuffling pretty paper around. I mean this is an internal calculation involving absolutely no lifting of any kind and boy, it's taking MONTHS! I race through my craft/art room as if it's haunted, on my way to the dark back office where I use my computer and work on email business: MyTeamConnects marketing and customer copy, template design, etc.

This business is what I love to do, and what drives me to do better -- both for myself in creating a successful business and for my customers because they use email marketing to help their businesses succeed too. When others are depending on me, I take that very seriously. When it's just a hobby I enjoy, well, I can let it fall off my radar. That's just how I'm wired. This business is just a natural progression of doing freelance copywriting/emails for other people, so I'm thrilled that I can serve others and connect with other small businesses like mine.

Although email is what I consider my "real" work these days, I'm tempted by some hands-on "play" from time to time, and so I simply cannot dismantle my art room, as much as I know i could beenefit from having a nicer room to do my marketing stuff in.

As long as you own it, your house is there for you to change as you grow and live. When Katie was tired of her pink painted flowery bedroom, we overhauled her room into an elegant teen-aged spa-like retreat, complete with brown walls and bamboo accents and a grown-up looking art print she chose. It's the most peaceful room in the house -- and room to dance, too!

When the kids started using the great room to spread out and play video games, we moved the TV into the smaller and cozier traditional dining room and brought the family dining table into the room off the kitchen so we could lounge and eat meals around the fireplace. Now the TV room is just that: a TV room -- you really don't spend time there unless the TV is on. (Love that.)

I'm a big believer that your house should reflect the way you live and work. That's why I made this room back here into a craft room when I started getting into doll-making, scrapbooking, fiber arts and art-journaling; and all the other fun stuff I used to do. USED TO DO...key point.

This idea of taking apart my art room and spreading my wings with my email business has been pacing around in the corner of my mind for awhile, but I simply cannot make a decision to make the big haul. See, I actually like sewing, and getting paint under my fingernails, and making funny little stuffed things and embroidering words on things, etc. Feeds my soul; always has. But I'm driven to extremes, clean sweeps, new beginnings; and so I'm flirting with having a huge bonfire. Or a van-sized Goodwill dump.

I am beginning to expose this idea to people I care about. I ask, "Should I prove my commitment to my email marketing business by cleaning house and making over my art room into a lovely office? Or will I regret the color, whimsical materials and creative stuff all strewn about; ready for play at any given moment (although those moments are so few and far between anymore...)

Here's a smattering of responses on whether I should dismantle the art room:

Sister: ..."No. Keep it. You never need to go to the store when your kids have to recreate the lost city of Atlantis or build a 1:100 scaled Eiffel Tower for a school project. At least until the kids fly the coop, keep the art supplies and the place to do projects." (Wise mom.)

Husband: Shrug..."If you get rid of it you'll just start buying it all over again." (He knows me so well.)

Biz Partner Sam: "...but I love your creative side. I love art!" (I take that as a no, but then he offers to help re-do the whole room, so you can never tell.)

Kids: ..."if you sell it on Ebay or Etsy, can we help you and then split the profits?"

See? Ambivalence left and right.

The recent fires in Texas started me thinking about all of this in earnest. What if it all went up in flames? Would I even try to save some of my favorite things, or would I grab the kids and the dog, my papers and some pictures; and be out the door?

If given the choice I guess I would like the stuff to go to loving homes. Here are some possibilites:
  • There is a group called Austin Creative Reuse which takes art supplies off your hands when you no longer need them.
  • I could put the things up on Etsy and have a barn-burner of a sale.
  • Photograph stuff I made and keep them in a space-saving digital scrapbook -- then give away or sell most of it.
  • Keep one wall of a new office for craft/art supplies and another wall for handmade art -- but only  my favorite things. Make the rest of the space into a functional office.
I am coming closer to making a decision on this; and I realize it's a natural progression from hobby to a business I love that takes increasingly more of my time and energy. It's all good. Maybe if I got rid of just a little bit of stuff I know I'll never use, then I'll be able to concentrate on the projects that I'm certain I want to keep dabbling on...flaxseed neck pillows, soft houses, small quilts, pillows, etc. I could narrow the playing field and still feel like I had some creative options open.

Just yesterday, Katie and her friend Lizzie spent some time at my craft table making pretty ribbon hair clips with my three boxes of ribbons, buttons and silk flowers. I was so happy to see them spend a pleasant hour crafting, talking and giggling about stuff that 13-year-old girls giggle over. They left a delightful mess (and remembered to turn off the glue gun) when they were done. 

Not every house can provide that experience -- a place for teenagers to create and play as if they are little kids again...after all, that's why I like my craft room, too! A predictable home office is just what everyone is expecting. Even though an organized and well-lit desk space is what I need right now, a small part of me needs the creative play too. Maybe if I just tidied up I could have both?

What do you think? Should I make a clean sweep? Start all over? Keep some stuff, but not all of it?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

America Saw Evil: My Washington Post contribution, 9/11/2011

When I saw the call for responses to the question, "How has 9/11 changed you?' I dashed off my opinion. It's included in today's Washington Post coverage of 9/11 under the "Age of 9/11" section, separated by ages. I'm in the 32 - 44 section. Here it is:

Before 9/11 I was many things. After 9/11 I am fewer things, but better things.

On 9/11 America saw evil. Unabashed, unapologetic evil. This was a first for me at the time; a housewife, aged 34, pregnant, with a 2-year-old daughter.

I remembered, as a child, seeing a television film about the Holocaust (from which I still remember scenes, though not the title) and I began to understand that the world had witnessed evil in Nazi Germany in WWII and in other times throughout history. I harbored that knowledge, but it was over 20 years later before I felt it viscerally on 9/11.

Later that evening we watched on TV with our neighbors scenes of Palestinian women dancing in the streets over America's blow; the shock and sorrow of our American brothers and sisters; the early desperate hopes for rescue amidst the sinking realization that so much was lost forever -- including the innocence of a generation.

I will never be the same. This evil had names and faces, and a searing image that I now knew personally. To be attacked not for our wrongdoing, but because of who we are (the Jews understood this in Nazi Germany), required newfound strength -- personally and as a nation -- and justified retaliation. Seeing evil demands mighty and resolute goodness of heart and mind; and the fortitude to stand up for what you believe, and for who you are.

I grew up that day. In one day I understood true evil. 9/11 choked away any waffling and untested opinions about relative evils.

Adulthood (and paying taxes, having children, etc.), regardless of history, tends to move a person towards defining one's life, actions, opinions, and beliefs. And 9/11 tinged all those things with the reality of evil. When I was a child I looked away from the television and imagined evil. Now, how perilous it would be to look away, when I KNOW that evil exists and is powerful!

Since 9/11 my husband and I had two more children (that makes 3) and I started a business, which is growing. My identity is incomplete without describing myself as an American.

In spite of evil in all its many forms, the biggest lesson after 10 years: goodness and love always win in the end. And it's not the end yet.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Water Inspires Art

I just spent some time at the gorgeous website of a talented and prolific artist, Mary Edna Fraser, who creates batiks from a aerial photographs she takes from the window of her family's plane. Most of the subjects are rivers and waterways in outrageous colors.     

My friend Martha League-Calhoun also makes paintings featuring water, especially the creeks and streams around West Austin that feed Lake Travis.
So what is it about water? As we were driving south from Omaha to Kansas City, before we were forced to take a detour from Interstate 29  because of the flooding, we saw evidence of the heavy rains in the midwest. Even though you couldn't see much from the road, every glimpse through trees and grass glinted with the reflection of sun on water. Although the crops were ruined, the water attracted wildlife and waterfowl where before there were none. Nature, ever abundantly opportunistic, moved into farm territory with sudden vitality.

Floods, tsunamis, heavy rainfall, rivers, deltas,and oceans all have a mesmerizing and impressive energy. Even when water's effects are damaging to human life and property, it's impossible not to be awestruck by water's power and life.

Some say someday humans will wage wars over water. I hope we can do better than that. Humanity sure does have enough on its plate already these days. But if it ever happens, imagine the art we will make.

The drought in Texas is severe. I'm not sure if the scarcity of water here makes it more achingly beautiful in my eyes, but the thought of having to fight for the right to water tinges that beauty with something a little sinister.

Sending up a prayer for water...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Tall Painting" Appeal is Hypnotic Precision and Unpredictability

You're getting sleepy...very, very sleepy. I wish. At 2:54 I cannot sleep.

Just a couple of months ago I was boasting to a friend about how I slept like the dead, now here I am these days (nights) up in the dark, reading, surfing the Internet, or sketching. Serves me right, but at least I was correct to appreciate a good night's sleep while it was mine.

How I found this mesmerizing video: Reading The Comeback by Emma Gilbey Keller, about women who set down their careers for a while to raise children, then pick up again later. (A la "You really CAN have it all; just not all at once.") One of the women interviewed for the book was Maxine Snider, a furniture designer, whose life (at least as described in the book) seems quite perfect. From the descriptions of her childhood, her home office in the late 70's, her successful daughters, art-savvy lawyer/photographer husband and their travels together; who wouldn't want to peek at her furniture line and website to see the public material results? For sale to the trade.

That's what I love about design, all of it: furniture, architecture, graphic design. I even delight in those fat reference books on color, filled with endless chiplets of it, arranged in tables of cascading shades and hues; and all sorts of delicious combinations. Everything about the design world -- and the people who inhabit it -- seems just, well, too perfect. Coincidentally I'm also reading a book about small dwellings in which the author refers to shelter magazines as "housewife porn," which shames me into admitting my guilt in that regard.

But art is a little different, isn't it? It's messy, for one thing. Enter the Maxine Snider blog for the insomniac's delectation.

Holton Rower's Tall Painting video is a little bit of both art and design. Organized, unpredictably precise messiness.

We all know that when you pour paint over a box it will flow down; that old gravity thing. We know, after some experimentation, when the paint is "set" enough to hold another color without mixing and becoming muddy. So we know in a sense what to expect.

And yet to watch the painting being made -- the succession of color and the lines the paint forms as it flows -- is a surprise possibly more pleasing than the finished result.

Somehow I guess that's the point. I knew if I wrote it down I would find the end of this thread so I could sleep again...

It's the process. 

Perhaps Ms. Snider would not have become a furniture designer if she hadn't stopped working to raise her kids. Perhaps she might not have begun painting and drawing in that lull women feel when the kids grow up and begin to not need Mom quite so much. Perhaps she'd have stayed in her first career (commercial interior design) forever if not for those years at home.

Although I'd have preferred eight straight hours of z's, I probably would have missed this video, and possibly a tiny moment in my evolution. (Don't think for a moment it doesn't embarrass me to say "my evolution," but it is almost 4:00 am.) Maybe this indulgence was a fair trade for sleep.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From the Roadside to the Table

This is Roger -- well known purveyor of tomatoes and peaches on Highway 71 just west of Bee Cave. He's usually there every day between around 9 and 4 or 5 (I guess whenever he runs out of produce, or gets bored or hot.)

I can get 7 nice tomatoes or peaches for 5 dollars. Let me tell you, it's a bargain compared to the grocery store!

If you've never eaten a tomato or peach still warm from the heat of summer and never exposed to air conditioning, then you haven't lived, I'm sorry to say.

I photographed the gorgeous fuzzy oranges and yellows and that tomato-y sheen on my shady back porch and then proceeded to make lunch.

As I was chowing down on the tasty salad and reading a library book, it occurred to me to stop and enjoy every blessed bite.

I put the book aside and delighted in the taste of SUMMER.

Monday, July 18, 2011

An interesting Hill Country Rock

If you're always looking down when you're outside, it might not mean you're depressed; it could just mean that you are a rock hound like me. I runs in the family. In the ten years we've lived here our pile of interesting rocks, fossils, arrowheads and other finds has grown into an impressive cache of natural history. Now that we have the new hill in Kingsland to explore, I'm sure we'll be adding to it in future years.

The kids found this rock last weekend and they are sure it's a dinosaur egg (dino do?) fossil. The cracks are unusual. While it is a gray boring rock color, its cracks make it unlike any rock we've ever found around here..."Here" being the Hill Country of Texas.

I told them that I'd take them over to the Natural History Museum on the UT campus to have someone looks at it and tell us more. We've done that before with interesting stuff we've found outdoors and the woman we spoke to in the basement level was very agreeable to explaining what she thought our find was (and what it wasn't). Usually stuff turns out to be way more mundane than we imagined.

The color is wrong, by the way. I played with the picture in photoshop and illustrator before posting it here. If you have any ideas about this rock, I'd sure like to know what it is. I'll tell you when we know.