Monday, November 25, 2013

The Leaf Pile

The Leaf Pile
Article appears in the current issue of FOLK Magazine, Fall 2013.
Autumn is pure excitement!  As an adult it means cable knit sweaters and well heeled boots can come out of summer slumber.  Fall means sipping hot spiced cider while browsing quaint Main Street shops as holiday goods make their debut.  But as a child, autumn meant a new season of magic as nature’s leafy curtain fell open to reveal bone like branches, fiery colors falling from the sky, the grandest sight of all: the leaf pile.
To kids in the Northeast, autumn officially arrived with the first fleck of orange on the maple tree, regardless of the calendar date.  It would be only a matter of weeks before the ground was covered in crunchy oranges, reds, and browns- the perfect blend for leaf piling!  Neighborhood kids would assemble with rakes and hoodies prepared to work hills of fun in fallen foliage.  Most of us were content with a medium sized pile, about waist high, close to a wooden swing.  The first jumps were slow, just a few gentle swings to test our bravery and be sure the rocks sifted to the bottom. Before long we were pumping our legs to go higher and smiling wide as we leapt from safety to land leaf covered, laughing at the awkward whooooosh!  A quick raking to reform the pile and it was time to launch again.
But there were some among us who pushed the limits of the pile and toppled wheelbarrows full from deck edges to create a monster pile!
Over the rake’s gritty scratching, we could hear them.  They were there, again, just like the years before!   We could hear their triple dog dare taunting and hoots and hollers. The middle-schoolers! They were more experienced, had already broken bones, and were massing a mountain-high pile granted by the largest oaks on the block.  We couldn’t help but be lured in by the promise of danger.  My friends and I would line up along the white picket fence separating the street from the twelve foot drop to the yard below.  There it was: the mammoth leaf pile of doom! It was higher than the garage door and centered eight feet out from the second story deck railing: the ledge of legends.  One by one, the older boys would perch atop the wooden railing and pitch themselves into the pile, burying themselves completely and emerging from the pile base with a victorious “Yeeeeeeeeehaaaawwww!”  The leaf pile so well constructed it needed no re-raking.  One boy, a tall scrawny blond with a bicycle mishap scar down one arm, launched off the railing followed, without warning, by another boy who landed right on top of the blonde head.  A howl escaped as the boys tumbled down the side of the pile in mock fist fighting.  Brushing themselves off with laughter they headed back up the deck steps for more.
My friends and I stared on in awe, boasting we would swan dive that pile if only they would let us….. secure in the knowledge we wouldn’t get the chance.  It would be years until we were in middle school; until we were cool like that. In those days we were content with our mini leaf pile under the swing.  When we were done jumping we sat in the pile eating sunflower seeds, boasting about our Halloween costumes and promising to be the best of friends forever.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Show Prep!

Snip, stitch, stuff, paint, latte...... repeat.
My wee hands are busy with preparations for the Artifacts Show November 30th, in Galveston.  This is my first official show, coming on the heels of many firsts for me this year- and I have no idea what to expect, or how much to create. So I am in turbo studio mode, just in case.
My studio runneth over! Stuffing is flung from one corner of my house to the other. My kitchen counters are full of painted figures in a variety of coat progressions. Cinnamon and vanilla wafts from the oven as prim figures are baked to grungy perfection.  Coffee tables topple with half stuffed rodents and my dining room table has become stocking central as the washing machine spins old sweaters into felted wool.  If ever I've made a strong case for an out of home studio, it would be this past month.
Ten days to go until show time! I will be in good company alongside fellow artists Robert Dampier, Rachel Montemayor, and many others taking part in Galveston's Art Walk.  It will be a festive evening of art, wine, and good cheer.  Stop in at Hendley Market on the Strand, November 30th, between 6-9 pm, to meet the artists! If you're not local to the Houston-Galveston area, check your local art scene for similar Holiday events and support your community by shopping local.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tigers Big and Small

The rooms that carry children through high school are obsolete after college whether it's been one semester or four years.  No matter the time away, the lessons learned change our children.  What was important, previously essential, has been rearranged.  There is a new independence, a certain seriousness about life.  Perhaps the realization that the real world awaits truly settles in.
As Emily gets older, I see the excitement in her eyes, coupled with a nervous wariness.  She wants to travel, wants to save every lost animal, wants to make a difference somewhere, somehow.  She is only 18 but has travelled across the US and Canada and has been to the jungles of Thailand.  She has seen more than most do in a lifetime.  But right now, she wants to be home.
 With Emily's decision to return home and pursue school locally, it was time to update her room in preparation.  Gone are the bright pink walls, the high school mementoes, and homecoming mums. Old furniture has been moved out and a spa blue pallet now serves as a backdrop to house her one true love: tigers, big and small. 
I was going to make the bed before taking this picture but Emily's neurotic cat wouldn't let me near the bed.  It's as if he knows she is away at school and he guards her bed until she returns. He thinks he's a tiger, as if the painting on the wall is his self-portrait.  He believes if he acts fierce no one will know how much he misses Emily.  He doesn't understand we've all been doing that for months.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

To Thine Own Self Be True

Perhaps it is the late fall that has me waxing poetic, but never has Shakespeare seemed closer in truth than this past week. To thine own self be true.

It is often in the following that we find we are better taking our own path (skipping desire to quote the obvious Frost here).  But first we must do what we perceive as expected, "the right thing" even though the norm is at odds with whom we truly are. All experiences, good or bad, hold value if we choose to learn from them.  For every negative there is a positive, every slammed door opens an opportunity, and for every awkward journey there is the chance to turn around. 

Emily has decided to leave UIW after this semester and follow her dream of cosmetology school.  It is where her heart has always been and where she belongs. I've known it since she was a small child spending hours in the bathtub washing and styling the hair of allllllll her Barbie dolls.  The bathroom was a stock pile of those large Barbie heads whose hair could be styled and make-up applied.  They were everywhere like a macabre scene from a B rate horror movie.  But they always looked divine. 

Emily has a natural gift.  But cosmetology school didn't seem to be "the right thing" for her to do when all of her friends were headed off to college.  So she headed off to college, too.  She just needed to know what she would miss if she never tried dorm life in a big city. Turns out all she missed was home. UIW is a beautiful school but it isn't the right path for her. As a Mom, I knew her decision was made early but in true Emily fashion, she wasn't giving up without a fight. But no matter how hard she worked, it just wasn't a labor she loved.  The only advice was to tell her to go in the direction of her heart. 
To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. ~Shakespeare

Saturday, November 2, 2013

October's Story

Holy crow where have I been???! (and thanks to all who've inquired to be certain I haven't vanished 3 miles east of Deliverance on a country explore!)
October was one wild crazy ride of a month with mixed blessings, fresh opportunities, and "pinch me" moments, but I have emerged unscathed and thankful.  Very appropriate for the most thankful month of the year.  So exactly WHAT have I been up to?
In early October I was approached by a publication for a feature story on my artwork.  If you follow me on Instagram then you already know the magazine... but for the rest of the world, mum is the word for now.  Though they fell in love with my autumn pumpkins, the story will run in December. 
No worries they said- just bring your holiday items to the shoot in a few weeks.
Cool.  I got this.  Go home check stock.. There's a good healthy start.  Enter Etsy and that anomaly all artists pray for: someone loves the inventory shown and buys it all.  Really??  All of it???  But I neeeeeeeed it!!
Rut Roh Raggy.... Houston, we have a problem.
 Confidence turned to panic as I said farewell to the existing inventory. Out came bin after bin of fabric.  Snip snip snip! My sewing machine remained on turbo stitch day and night. Any moment not filled with my day to day responsibilities was consumed in conjuring a reasonable holiday stash. 
What does enough look like? How much more can I create in the time I have?
How can the cat possibly be so calm in times like these???
Before I knew it, Halloween arrived and it was GO time.  The photo shoot would take place at Hendley Market in the worst of circumstances:  the Lone Star Biker Rally had the Galveston Strand completely impassable.  I would have to park 5 blocks away.  And then adding insult- it was pouring that kind of windy rain rendering umbrellas useless. Avoiding puddles was a futile effort.  Rolling up my jeans, I tossed my shoes in to my bag and hoofed it barefoot through ankle-deep water. Hair that was styled just so was straggling in my eyes. So much for the well-coiffed look.
Weeks of nervous worry melted away when the photographer arrived, equally frustrated by the weather and traffic situation.  She put me at ease and I knew my work was in the right hands.
I found my first photo shoot to be much like that first school picture day so many years ago with my daughter.  Dressing, prepping, making sure she is comfortable and the smiles aren't too posed.  Looking on with careful caution. Relaxing when the final shots are taken and knowing all has gone well. 
Alongside my own inventory build-up, I've been working closely with Hendley Market and getting invaluable insight at what goes into prepping for a major holiday show.  After two months of supply packing, pricing, and prop planning, Hendley is on the move to setup at Houston's Nutcracker Market.  In the next week we will recreate the store inside Reliant Stadium for one of the biggest holiday shows Houston offers.  All of this knowledge I will employ in my first official show November 30th during Galveston's Art Walk and Hendley's Artifact Show. 
It's a good thing us Hendley folk know how to blow off all that steam!!
Here's to an amazing October and an awesome November unfolding!