Thursday, December 26, 2013


Christmas is a time of reflection, appreciation, family, and love. This year my wee family decided to stay home; not to make the usual 1200 mile journey east or north to be with extended family that seems to scatter in more directions as the years go on.  Though I miss my parents, my in-laws and the familiar traditions of home, this year I am so happy to be spending these holidays with my two biggest supporters. My husband and daughter have taken this handmade business journey with me for the past two years and I couldn't be more grateful.
Living with a crafter, artist, or creative type has many hazards. Kevin and Emily seldom criticize or condemn. So in honor of their fortitude I am confessing my creative sins that they have so faithfully endured
For each of these aggressions, I love you all the more :)

  • For every stray sewing needle you've found with your feet or as you sit on the couch
  • For every household appliance I've turned into a studio purposed machine
  • For every "in-process" creation that has cluttered the living room
  • For the tower of storage bins that blocked a clear path to the bathroom
  • For the wool lint cloud that blanketed every surface on felting days
  • For every meal I forgot to cook because I was cranking out orders 
  • For each road trip I spent in  the back seat stitching away the miles
Thank you for believing in my abilities, loving me through my bad days, and never doubting I can reach my dreams.  To be supported on this journey is the best Christmas gift of all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Show Prep Truths

My first art show is now under my proverbial belt and I am now hopelessly addicted to show life.  The merriment, customers and artist camaraderie are my new drugs of choice (in addition to Starbucks, vintage wool, and thrifting).
 Amongst the lessons I learned about timing, planning, and budgeting while prepping for an art show, many truths revealed themselves.  I wrote these down to save my sanity for the next show prep.

1. No one is going to take over your chores.  Buy a biohazard suit because that crap is going to pile up!

2. Kitchen counters make better worktables than studio tables.

3. The dogs will eat at least three creations carelessly left out during emergency Hobby Lobby runs.

4. One creation will meet its end by iron scorching in the final step.

5. My laptop and I will live in a constant antagonistic battle for domination.

6. For every imperfection I see in my work, every one else sees only perfection.

7. I can live on a diet of bananas, Triscuits and Starbucks.

8. One teaspoon of glitter can create weeks worth of sparkle cheeks.

9. Laughter is the best side effect of exhaustion.

10. I have the best family and friends in the world~ who believed in me every step of the way. 

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!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Beach Walking

The coast has always been ours.  She's a Florida girl by birth, raised between the warm tranquility of Gulf Coast beaches and the raucous waves of the mighty Atlantic. Some of her very first steps were in the white sands of Sanibel.  Now living across the Gulf in Texas, the murky waters of Galveston call us home like the proverbial moth to flame.   Like me, being raised on the Connecticut coast, the beach is our soul soother.  No matter the weather, our feet hit the sand in search of inspiration and rejuvenation. 
As much as Kev and I struggle with our empty nest, Emily is having a difficult adjustment to life outside the nest.  College classes, autonomy, and living 300 miles away is taxing and Emily's mind hit overload in recent days.  So this weekend she made the trek home and we immediately hit the shore.
Walking in the waves, picking at half torn shells washing ashore, the worldly woes fall away.  There is no need for words, no need to hash out life's problems.  Only the need to be remains.
On the beach words are useless.  We both see the dolphins playing in the wake, the gulls wading patiently. We both understand the beauty of this landscape. 
To interpret it verbally removes its magic. So we stand together absorbing the world, healing in its simple complexity.
These are the days I treasure.  Watching Emily grow into her own reasoning.  I see so much of Kev in her, and so much of myself.  And though there are essays of logical advice I want to give her I know this is my time to be still.  To just be there as she figures it out for herself.  Hoping she will take flight.  Knowing she will soar.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hidden Beauty of Texas Painted Churches

Traveling the back roads of Texas is always a serene experience.  Miles of curving pastures, endless sky and cows standing hillside placid like decoys.  With College Girl 300 miles away, I have lots of new roads to explore.  The roads between Houston and San Antonio are loaded with painted churches; quaint country churches so unassuming their exteriors speak to the simplicities of frontier life. Upon opening the doors, one is transported to the rich texture and vibrant beauty of the Czech immigrants who infused the ordinary with their homeland traditions.
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church marks one's arrival in Dubina, Texas.  Eight miles north of I-10, on FM 1383, Dubina is a ghost town whose charm has never worn off. Stopping by this past Saturday, the clouds loomed with a threat of rain but inside the church was prepared for a wedding so treading past the last pew was not allowed.  I can only imagine how spectacular the starry ceiling looks in the evening glow!
Aside from the church, reception hall and a few meticulously kept houses, the evidence of former prosperity lies behind barbed wire.  The cotton gin and blacksmith shop are kept at safe distance, protected from ghost seekers.
Continuing along Farm Road 1383, Ammannsville sits three miles NW of Dubina and is home to Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church
The drive between Dubina and Ammannsville will turn any city dweller in to country-drooling Texan in less than  one sharp curve.  The hillsides give way to panoramic views and well preserved farm houses look like pages from Country Living. But anyone who has lived the country life knows it's not all front porch sitting.  It's hard work with little reward.
And when Mother Nature denies the farm lands rain, crops are in danger.  In this cotton-rich country this year's drought has devastated the yield. 
Ammannsville's painted church is pink heaven inside.  Floral motifs frame every ceiling panel and stained glass windows block out all negativity.  The pastel palette lightens the mood and offers hope, rebirth and good spirits to all who enter.
I was alone in the church for a good while, taking a moment to pray, and longer moments to listen.  The absolute silence was musical and I was reluctant to leave.  I imagined this small church filled with song from the choir loft, voices in praise softly collecting within the walls. 
Generations, decades, lives welcomed, unions consecrated, and souls passing.  All mingling in the songs, the silence, the hopes and prayers of those who congregate in these smallest works of Texas art still standing in honor and glory to their founders.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Two Photographers, One Car

I've been down this road before. Bright blue skies, wide open Texas in seasonal change, one map, 4 cameras, one brand new convertible, and one husband (also a photographer)....... in the driver's seat.  Oh he's left me on the road before! Taking that slow roll away as I am knee deep in wild flowers waiting for the breeze to stop blowing my perfect shot out of focus. Expecting peace on today's drive was unrealistic at best but we hit the road with good intentions.
Texas reveals her autumn with subtlety.  Sturdy yellow flowers rise in rolling pastures, green crops are harvested leaving brown stubs behind, and tractors recline with ease along barn sides.  Even barbed wire fences take on a rusted orange hue. 
As we twist through empty county roads, the perfect shot is around every corner.  The trouble is knowing where to stop.  I know the spot instinctively.  I notice small details, the tree line opening, the lone remaining corn stalk spared, or the longhorn whose cinnamon coat catches the afternoon sun. 
  My husband is a big picture guy.  He jokes he's "the one who knows the perfect shot". So when I say "here"!  He keeps rolling.  Inching along at 5 mph as my shot gets smaller in my rear view.  We playfully bicker away another 300 feet of asphalt.  And when he finally says "here's the shot"- I am hoofing it back to my muse while he checks his phone.  (Smoke billowing from my ears.)
I get my revenge when I am in the driver's seat.  There's no stop I won't make, no U-turn too sharp for the right composition in nature.   Loose pit bulls threatening that shot of the bayou curving off?  No problem!  And those antique stores my husband slows near and asks, unimpressed, "Really?  You want to stop here?" as he rolls on by.....  Oh yeah!  I'm stopping when I am behind the wheel.
 No wonder our photo explores wear us out!  But after 20 years, we've got this photo sharing thing figured out.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Crowded Workbasket

It's that time of year again! My fingers are dye-stained and stitches are flying as I create to keep up with demand.  Studio work reigns supreme and my writing cravings simply have to wait.  But I am not complaining! 
 The baskets are full of critters in all sorts of unfinished stages!  Friendly basket banter can be overheard as Halloween peeps face off with Holiday mice and snowmen.
The mice are natural wisecrackers, hiding behind innocent smiles.
Those creations without mouths wait patiently, contemplating future retorts.

This fall I have the privilege of selling my goods at Hendley Market and this batch of pumpkins is excited to join the store shenanigans! It won't be long before the rest of their workbasket buddies join them in Galveston!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Traitor's Ghost

New England cemeteries are living history.  Interactive, open air museums that boast of colonial revolt, romance, lives lived and lost.  As some of the earliest records of our nation, eighteenth century graveyards house the strongest roots of the American story.  Whether you are a history buff, a taphophile, a ghost seeker, nature lover, artist or a photographer, the graveyard welcomes all without prejudice. 
The key to the best New England cemeteries is a good story.  New England loves local lore!  One small cemetery in Norwich, Connecticut is a prime example.  Located just off Norwichtown Green, at the dead end of Cemetery Lane, the Old Burial Ground rests peacefully along a babbling brook and green meadow footpaths.  Revolutionary War soldiers’ remains mingle with early folk art death angels under lichen and moss.  There are headstones so crudely carved it takes a few tangled looks to read the epitaph.  Some stones stand hilltop in graceful repose- having withstood harsh New England elements for more than 200 years. Here, fearless sea captains rest alongside key players in the Declaration of Independence.   But it is the graves that are missing in the Old Burial Ground that get the most attention.  To this day, Hannah Arnold, a grieving mother and wife, is rumored to walk these grounds looking for her husband and sons. It is said, her most infamous son, Benedict Arnold, returns every Halloween on a ghostly white horse to ask his mother for the forgiveness of his sins.
Benedict Arnold, famed traitor of the Revolutionary War, was born and raised in Norwich.  Though he would be a very successful Continental Army General he felt he was slighted in both recognition and money for his service. He traded sides and gave key information to the British that cost the lives of many colonists.  In one particularly bloody battle in New London, Connecticut, a ship named Hannah exploded fueling the fires that would destroy the town.  Benedict’s mother, Hannah, and father, Benedict, died before these acts of treason took place.  But once the Norwich colonists heard of Benedict’s betrayal, an angry mob formed looking for revenge.  Angry citizens descended upon the Old Burial Ground and destroyed the gravesites.
In New England, legend and fact often mix to create campfire stories that are anchored in truth.  Playing in this graveyard as a child I heard both sides of the tale.  Some say the bodies of Benedict Arnold’s father and brother were dug up and destroyed by the angry mob. Details of the destruction depended on the storyteller and the tale grew longer with every new narrator. Others say only the headstones were toppled.  I remember one vivid story about the houses where he served as apprentice and the home where he was born were both burned to the ground. Details of the destruction depended on the storyteller and the tale grew longer with every new narrator.  The one certainty we all counted on: Never be in the graveyard at night, especially not Halloween night. 
No matter where one travels in New England, an early cemetery is in every town.  Ask a local and they are sure to share a haunted or intriguing tale. 
This story was originally published in Folk Magazine Summer 2013.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Empty Nest Newbie

I entered into the empty nest with the highest of hopes and guilty anticipation of new found freedom.  My daily Mom duties would subside.  The days would be full of creative bliss and cupcakes, and all that other happy crap. Yeah.... That was how it was going to be!  All sweet icing and sunshine.
Somehow I have ended up head first tangled in the briars and thorns of emotions, financial strife, heated arguments, and a stress level that hums at non-stop high frequencies.  Go ahead and try to be creative in that!  My studio still remains clogged with the clutter of moving out.  And with Kev in Bangladesh we get to spend the one hour we are both awake in different time zones arguing about who is more off center in the change.  Awesome. (By the by- Dads feel the emptiness far worse than the Moms!)
Most parents say they are sad in the empty nest- a longing for youthful cheer to be all cherub-like at the dinner table again.  Whatever.  Our house was full of free spirits with very big ideas and a tendency for wanderlust.  So when college move-in day came around I thought there might be a chance to stand still for awhile.  A chance to settle.  A chance to live in the moments that previously were filled with the chaos of parenthood and putting out fires.  I am still waiting. 
Funny thing is, we raised a child to be a free spirit, to embrace the world, to travel, and never settle for ordinary.  So why are we so distraught with the result?  Is it the old adage that we find annoying in others what we don't recognize in ourselves?  Looking at everything that has turned my empty nest upside down in the first trial run, I see me at a younger age.  I was never content to be still, I needed more, craved more of this world: to be where life hummed and buzzed.  I married a man who shared this view and together we have been roaming the world seeking new experiences.  Our daughter came with us and learned by example.  Now she is ready to fly.  Sort of.  Maybe not so much- more like she has her training wings on.  And I am in my nest, hiding my head, trying not to micro-manage her life.
So for now I will be still.  I will shed my preconceived ideas of what my empty nest SHOULD be like.  Nothing has ever been normal, routine, or "as expected" with the family I have created and that is what has brought me the most joy over all the full nest years.