Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bargain Seating

I go to the auction to entertain myself.  It's a small town auction house usually selling off the wares of old estates and the goods range from really cool old stuff to cheap knick knacks, coins, and Dear God: the endless tool lots from old workshops.  If anyone wants a great wrench set for $3, this is the place to be.  But it's more the camaraderie that gathers us in an old air hanger on Saturday nights.  The smell of fresh popped corn wafting through the bid calls as we all wait for the auctioneer's expected price to trickle down to where the bidding actually begins.  One can never judge how an auction will go.  What brings top dollar one week falls flat the next.  The thrill is in the hunt and we have all gathered for the kill.
Sometimes what I have purchased isn't at all what I had planned to buy. Exploring the preview, I marveled at a Victorian chair that reminded me of my great grandmother.  Surprisingly solid for it's age but in need of a new seat cover-  easy peasey.  But in the auction world, furniture doesn't always go cheap and with the clean straw stuffing exposed, this baby was the real deal.  Original and intact. 
 By time the chair hit the auction block I had already been outbid on the items I really wanted.  Now it was time to play.  I love watching what people buy and auctioneers are comedians skilled at keeping an audience through the sale.  The auctioneer started the bid call at $100 noting the chair's curvy lines. 
 The crowd averted their eyes, checked their watches and continued doodling on their bid cards as the bid call lowered to $50- Very reasonable considering her tufts were firm.
 Small splinter conversations were on the rise as the disinterest plummeted the bid call down to $20. 
Raised eyebrows and disbelief, I locked eyes with the auctioneer.  Seriously?? $20 for this chair and no bids? She just needed a few cosmetic fixes!
 Then he did the unthinkable! He called out an all time low of $10 on a piece of furniture.  Maybe he knew I wouldn't be able to resist!  Maybe he knew I was losing faith after so many failed bids already this evening!  Or most likely, he knew I would take pity on a chair too beautiful to go without a bid.  I flew my card in the air before he even finished the word ten!  Certain I would be outbid I weighed how high I was willing to go to fight for the chair. After all, I was now emotionally invested.  The auctioneer's calls for $12.50 buzzed from his microphone like a swarm of flies ready to spoil my bid.  But nothing... my fellow bidders were still doodling, still chatting, still checking watches when the gavel came down in my favor!
This chair and I were meant for each other!  I am pretty sure I saw her smiling when I picked her up and hoisted her into the Element. Her delicately carved hands curling in a tight grip, her exposed stuffing gently tucked in place, as if she knew I had fresh fabric waiting for her.  As if she knew we were meant to be.  As if she knew she was finally going home.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Proper Dress Required

My friend told me this morning that it was 58 degrees in her part of New York.  I looked at my weather app and confirmed what I already knew at 7 a.m. Texas time. Yep. Hotter than hell with 100% chance of humidity hair. Why bother showering in the summer? I leave my house looking like a cover model (yes, that's my opinion!) and by time I get to my car I look like I look like I've hiked up the wrong side of a volcano.  In thinking this, I immediately took pity on this gal in an 1883 fashion catalog I stumbled across yesterday at Hendley Market.
July fashions????  Seriously??  These poor gals must've stunk something awful by the end of the day!  Even on the coldest day in Galveston, this amount of proper fabric would stifle the good senses of the modern woman.  Galveston dress code today is free and easy.  Most people are wandering in off the beach, shopping the Strand, or a combination of the two.  Recently, while working at Hendley, I was coerced into modeling the island fabulous shirts we sell.  Very coastal chic and I even threw on a hat to hide my humidity hair.
But even with three summer layers: a silk wrap, linen tee, and feather weight cotton island shirt, I was roasting!!!  And as with all things Hendley, even the most serious of photo missions (sell those shirts!!) turns into a festival of goofing off. 
One good goof leads to merry mischief as the props come into play!
Seriously though, those island shirts sure are comfy!  I wonder what liberation Miss July 1883 would've felt if she could have traded in that huge hat and sturdy skirt for a boho chic island shirt?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jacq The Ripper

Sometimes when I am in the thrift store, I feel a little like a deviant- stalking the ladies' wear for just the right "look"; the perfect specimen.  I touch places I shouldn't. Turning down collars, fondling the buttons, running my fingers along the bust line, and looking under the skirt.  Oh my!  It all feels a little...... naughty!  But I need perfection in the piece.
I've never met an old garment I can't re-purpose but making just the right selection is a skill I've honed over time.  All fabrics beg to live another day; to be spared the dump where their fine lines, petite buttons and natural threads will disintegrate like old magazine pages.  Doomed to return to the dirt, so far from their glamorous retail showroom roots.  But I fancy myself as a pied piper of the lost fashions, a re-maker, a ripper.
Vintage coats are my favorite deconstruction.  They tell a story of fine craftsmanship and simpler times when a dress coat didn't pull double duty and therefore usually survives the decades in pristine condition.  This cashmere coat is a recent find.
Don't be fooled by the simple exterior.  Looking inside, the detail is astounding: hand quilted silk, intricate pocket details, and an owner's label.  I love finding these names, like souvenirs of the hunt, elegantly stitched into the lining.  I wonder who these ladies were and imagine their joy at picking up such tailored lovelies.
No piece of coat ever goes to waste.  What is left after the careful cutting, lining extraction, and label preservation- all those wee "unusable" scraps will become traditional stuffing for rag pillows or dolls to replicate the old lumpy stuffing used in the primitive crafting tradition. No evidence left at the scene, so to speak. ;)
Autumn is fast approaching.  The grounds are primed for closet cleaning and the annual tossing of the old in many homes.  I will be there..... Waiting.....  At the thrift store.... or maybe I'll even show up at the estate sale.... but oh yes.... I will be there...to rescue the forgotten.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Even Side Of The Street

Something happened this weekend on the roads between Goliad and Galveston.  I realized that after 20 years of marriage and 40 years of friendship, my husband and I don't agree on the basics.  Oh we love each other with a kind of love that just feels like we've traveled through many lifetimes together.  We are true soul mates. But ask us to agree on something like artistic vision and we will defend our separate grounds with gusto. 
 Standing in the middle of the empty road somewhere outside of Tivoli, Texas, as I was framing up a perfect shot of the sun kissed fields with my iPhone, Kev put the car in drive and started moving on down the road.  He'd had enough of my artsy ways.  I've come to expect these limitations from him.  After all, he was from the even side of the street.
Growing up across the street from one another, his house number was 360, mine was 363.  He was from the even side of the street.  The OTHER side of the street. One of THOSE kind. It's the fundamental difference that has divided us like an asphalt river all these years.  It's as black and white as his thinking.  The even side of the street was home to the engineers, the mathematicians, and the architects.  My odd side of the street was where all the historians and free thinkers lived. We were the preservationists, the art teachers, and the activists. 
Road trips lend credibility to the even/odd debate.  Kev prefers a map.  I prefer driving on instinct.  Kev likes Willie Nelson where I like Sublime (though one could argue these two artists are joined by their mutual affinity for weed).  Kev enjoys righting the wrongs of offensive drivers whereas I am just thankful no one caused an accident.  I will stop the car every 5 feet if the sun changes the photo composition ever so slightly.  Kev will roll down the window so I can catch the sun's changes at 80 mph.  If Kev finds a souvenir he likes, he buys it.  I will consider the price and determine I can make one myself... and then regret not buying it because I know I have 654 "things I can make" ahead of it.  You get the idea. 
Luckily we don't sweat the small stuff.  And though there are days we wonder what it would be like to find a mutual fascination somewhere between Shakespeare and the poetic voice behind Eminem's twisted lyrics, we've always enjoyed a healthy debate on even and odd.  But every now and again, we are tempted to drive off into the Texas sunset, leaving the other in the middle of the road.  But we'd always come back.  At least I would.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ghosts of Goliad

When I need to get away I hop in my car and drive.  Texas country roads are full of breathtaking scenery, mysterious landscapes, and sudden surprises.  Miles and miles and miles of twisty turns and straight shots from one ghost town to another.  There is so much pasture land and forgotten space in Texas that when one gets out of the car under the massive Texas sky the sound of the wind is sweet melody ripe for losing oneself.
 On a 30 mile stretch of road between Tivoli and Goliad I passed only two cars, and no one was ever in front of or behind me. I can't help but imagine I am lost in one of those "end of the world" scenarios where the population has died off  in an urban science experiment and I am left like a peaceful Mad Max roaming the countryside seeking other survivors. The falcons high in the sky swirling close to the sun add credibility as I push the petal to 80 mph.  After all, I need to get to Goliad before the Mission Espirtu Santo Zuniga and the Presidio La Bahia lock their doors for the day.
Goliad immediately joins the ranks of my top 10 Texas towns!  A key player in the War for Texas Independence, this tiny town packs volumes of history in a very short distance.  With tragic battles, a game changing massacre, and a famous hanging tree in the town square, Goliad was prime pickins for a ghostly explore. 
First stop was the Mission Espiritu Santo; a beautiful restoration of the original structure on the grounds of Goliad State Park.  A docent in Monk attire explains how the Mission was moved several times due to Indian raids before settling on the San Antonio River. 
A comprehensive museum shows the recovered artifacts and illustrates how artists replicated the works that had been destroyed by nature or locals who sourced the stones in construction of their homes.  Thanks to the WPA and progressive efforts of community leaders in the 1930's, the Mission was granted protection and preservation funds. 
Less than a 1/4 mile up the road is the Presidio La Bahia, an 18th century fort and Mission that became the end point for as many as 400 Texan soldiers massacred by Santa Ana's troops in the Texas War for Independence.
 Though I didn't encounter the wailing woman ghost or hear any mournfully departed cries, here I fell in love with the early Texan flags and found inspiration for a future needlework project.  Both the Mission and the Presidio were history buff bargains with the entrance price for both setting me back $7.  A small price to pay for the privilege. 
Goliad's town square is lined with picturesque shops, many named to playfully reflect the dark ghost on the courthouse lawn: the hanging tree.  After Texas won independence from Mexico, the towns were in shambles from the battles.  Looting and lawlessness abound.  The crime spree came to a sudden end with the decree that these criminals be captured and hung.  And so they were. 
I am pretty sure the "orb" is just a sun spot, but perhaps the figure in the lower left right window isn't so natural.  (Insert eerie music here.)
Like a specter itself, Goliad rises from the dead at dawn and closes back into herself at 5 p.m. Rumor has it Goliad's ghosts prefer the night. But that explore will have to wait for another day.
As evening hours settle in not a soul is seen on the streets and again I am back in my "end of the world" scenario.  Having learned what I could from Goliad, it was time for me to leave town, pack up my Mad Max Honda Element and speed on under the wide open Texas sky, to chase the sunset and find the next glimpse of civilization. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Karma Kinda Girl

I am a karma centered kinda girl.  I believe every action has an equal reaction and ripple effect in the world.  I have come to a place in my life where I can see where I have been, where I am going, and how karma has influenced every step of my journey.  I am a pacifist at heart. I believe in the greater good inside people, and I have honed the skills to reject negativity in my life. But it wasn't an easy road to get here.  And lately I am bothered by what karma road The Secret Project will forge.
This past week was a creative hiatus.  A self-meditating week when no Hand of Bela Peck studio work was done and all means of writing were suspended.  Just fun, low thought projects and mind cleansing thrifting.  This is how I seek clarity when questions of karma arise, waiting patiently for the universe to respond.  The Secret Project often calls karma onto the wrestling mat and I have to get tangled up in the sticky questions.  How does one create a true depiction of events that will hurt others while simultaneously trying to remain objective? What if the greater good demands the condemnation of the action of others?  And how does one tell a story and not be called a liar by the opposing side?  Is the result worth the risk?
Speaking with my project advisor yesterday, we discussed the karma question in terms of what I fear I could lose in completing the work.  There were only two things on the loss list and they turned out to be things I lost years ago.  The gain list was significant and went on through laughter, light bulb moments, and a higher hope for the greater good.  I know the potential benefits far outweigh the risk. Bravely, I will push on.
Creative hiatus is over.  Time to get back to work :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Secret Project: An Observation

My writing has always gotten me into trouble.  Love notes intercepted in middle school, petty girl fights, party promises and late night ranting.  I just loved my pen and paper so much that I overcame the feared school counselor or the inevitable parent-teacher call.  Blah blah blabbity blah, I was in hot water...again. But despite the content, no one ever told me my ramblings were poorly written.  Guess there's something to be said for that small victory.
 Through my teen years I honed my talent to code meaning and avoid those embarrassing confrontations with authority.  I never wanted to be without my voice- or to curtail what I was saying because no one wanted to bear witness to the ugliness of adolescence.  I bought pretty books in which to put my thoughts, as if one would balance the other.  Ugly versus pretty. Truth be told my journals held all the unpleasantries of my formative years but they were contained inside pretty wrappers that looked lovely on a shelf.  Perhaps more symbolic of the real me than any vulgarity spelled out on a page.  We all have trials, things that happen to us, good and bad.  It's how we react to events that shape who we become.
I always knew I had a quirky dark side.  Most artists and writers do.  It is the give and take for talent.  I find it odd that darkness in the mature artist is celebrated, contemplated and theorized over, yet darkness in a child is not a welcome sign of a creative soul. Or is it the suffering in silence that turns a young soul into the artistic kind? As a child, I masked my trials and experiences. I coded them into all those pages with pretty covers.  Though I tried to voice them to the adults in my life, no one really wanted to hear it. But for years my codes have wanted to be revealed for what they really are: A triumphant will for survival.  No longer a secret but a story. A way to give tragedy an opportunity to heal. Not just for my own healing, but for so many others as well, artists or not. 
My writing has always gotten me into trouble.  Why should I stop now? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Artist At Rest

In a recent conversation with my artsy bestie, Ashlie Blake, aka Painting Bliss, we couldn't figure out what was up with the universal stalemate going on this summer.  We ended the spring with a bang! Published artwork, debut articles, and creative abundance.  But just like a kid mid-summer break, the doldrums have swept in!  No schedule, bad eating habits, and vacation slacking has taken it's toll.
"We are not lost and hell-bound!" We assured one another, "We are transitioning." 
 Now is the time for inaction! A self-gentle allowance to put down the work and enjoy our families, our friends, and all the silliness we put aside when we are hard at work.
 Time to hear the subtle changes happening around us. The deepening laughter of our children as they grow older, their nudges for independence, and our own vocal wavering as we reluctantly let them go to play a little farther from the safe shore of our arms.
Time to sleep in a bit later, take that nap, and admire the very good works of others instead of forcing our own growth.  Strong roots are not formed under duress.  And though we feel guilty if we aren't creating everyday the truth is no one, no thing, can perform 100% of the time. 
 So let us be still.  Let us listen to the universe and rest as we take it all in. After all, summer is a time of transition, marking the end of one growth spurt, and preparing for the next.
So to Ashlie, and all my dear friends, rest now.  We are not lost.  We are transcending.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Twenty Years Later

It's a question most newlyweds ask themselves, half laughing, half dreaming after the vows are said and the bind is legal; "I wonder where we'll be in 20 years?" Asking and never imagining the twisty turny journey of the years ahead where the brave hold fast and a deeper love transcends expectation.
Hubby and I will spend our 20th anniversary in San Antonio, bringing our only child to her college orientation.  Texas would've been my last guess on my wedding day. Just a year prior to our wedding we had fled the great state of Texas after a failed grad school adjustment at Baylor.  It's a hard transition at 21, from liberal Boston to ultra conservative Waco back in the day of the Branch Davidians.  But here we are.  Yankees turned Texans.  With a Southern child who says y'all, loves her guns and cowboy boots. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've never not known my husband.  We grew up across the street from each other, went to the same high school, went to proms together but not as each other's date.  We went on double dates together, but not as each other's date- even though we'd be playing footsie with each other under the table.  It wasn't until one June when we were both home from college that we started seeing each other as more than just friends.  We figured it was just a summer thing, an odd curiosity, an unusual blip in our life long friendship.  But once September arrived and we returned to our separate colleges, we simply couldn't shake the idea of "us".  Four years later, we married.  My mother swore it would never last.
Twenty years seems like forever when you are 23, but as we all know it zips by with bullet speed and suddenly what was once the fodder of late night discussions is now all written in a shared history.  Looking back, it was twenty years of magical memories and grueling challenges. No matter what we faced, we always stood by each other, defended one another, and put our selfishness aside to be certain we stayed strong as parents, friends, and partners.  Marriage is hard work but yields great reward. And so on our 20th anniversary, as we sip margaritas on the River Walk, I can't help but ask my Hubby, "I wonder where we'll be in 20 years?"


Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Primitives Ahoy!

Summer is in full swing and finally my jet lag is wearing off enough for me to enjoy it!
Somewhere between the unpacking and sleepy haze of the past week I was able to finish up a few summer projects to offer on the Early Work Mercantile for July.  I've discovered dolls are so much easier to complete when they are half naked.
Sam and his clams emerged in just two days from idea to final stitches.
I have been making these starfish for years but have never offered them to the public until now.  Made of vintage linen they are pure sun bleached summer breezes.
Swing by the Early Work Mercantile to see all the fresh offerings for July 1st from the best prim artists around! Then skip over to By Your Hands to visit my shabby chic alter ego on Up-Cycle Nation Monday.
For such a sleepy girl, I sure have been busy!