Monday, September 29, 2008

"Meaning doesn't lie in things. meaning lies in us. When we attach value to things that aren't love - the money, the car, the house, the prestige - we are loving things that can't love us back. We are searching for meaning in the meaningless. Money, of itself, means nothing. Material things, of themselves, mean nothing. It's not that they're bad. It's that they're nothing." - Marianne Williamson

I've been thinking a lot about "things" lately. This summer a not-to-far-from-us community lost over one hundred homes to California fires. More recently a lovely blogger I read, Gypsy Mermaid Life, lost everything to Hurricane Ike. One minute she's showing photos of her remodeled crafting room, the next she's showing photos of the flooded devastation that used to be their home.

And here I sit, dealing with TOO MUCH STUFF in my life, struggling to find a balance between holding on tight to everything like the Raven I am and the zen nonattachment to physical belongings that I could never realistically attain, even if I wanted to, which I do not.

In particular, I'm thinking of "things" as they relate to art and creativity. I know that art isn't only about the end result, the "thing" that is born from the process. It isn't the same kind of "thing" as a toaster or a pair of underwear or a car or a refrigerator. We don't make or own art out of practical necessity, we create it and we surround ourselves with it out of emotional and spiritual necessity. Art isn't only a "thing". It is an "experience" and in the making of art, it is also a "process".

"Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail." - Theodore Dreiser

I'm thinking of all my beloved books. A book isn't valuable in and of itself. It's a small object, paper and ink. The value is in the magical transfer of the story from the author's mind into the reader's mind. That magic can transform a night. Sometimes it transforms a life. It can even, on rare occasion, transform an entire culture. The physical book itself could be gone and the art, the experience, would not be lost. But there is something comforting to me about knowing that the pages of the story are safely bound and stored on my bookshelf.

I think of the museums I've visited, filled with Van Gogh or O'Keefe or Da Vinci or Picasso, the "honey" of generations of humanity. The loss of those paintings and sculptures would be an indescribable pain. I remember feeling an aching hole, sadness and anger watching the news a few years ago when the Taliban destroyed the two ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan. Clearly art is worth protecting even if the art itself is only the medium and not the message.

"Art is not a thing; it is a way." - Elbert Hubbard

Years ago when we lived in San Diego, I stumbled into an unexpected artistic experience. Through a homeschool group we were offered the opportunity to visit the home and studio of a well known artist and architect, James Hubbell. (Since that time it has become a father/son architect/artist duo.) Recently I was reminded of that magical day we spent in their artistic compound, surrounded by fantastical and inspiring buildings, sculptures, gardens, and art, and I thought to search online for more information about them. I easily found their website but was shocked to hear that their property, and all the art and buildings on it, had been destroyed in one of the large southern California fires several years back.

The story, which you can find on their website, of the fire and their decision to rebuild an artist's community on the site, like a phoenix from the ashes, is beyond inspiring. I wonder if I would have the strength and the vision to start from scratch, to put in all the work required, after learning viscerally in a way many never learn, that our creations are always only masquerading as solid and permanent, that the "thing" we create is a creature of time, like ourselves. We may live to one hundred, we may live for only moments. Our creations might survive centuries, or turn to dust and slip from memories before we ourselves are gone. We work on faith that the process in and of itself is worth something. I don't think I have that kind of faith as it relates to my own process.

"Artists don't make objects. Artists make mythologies." - Anish Kapoor

Not all art is even made to be permanent, not all art is a "thing". I'm thinking of Christo and Jean-Claude's temporal work, created, displayed, and then dismantled again. It exists for a brief period and then it does not, but the experience, both individual and collective, lives on. They work under the premise that art does not have to permanent to be worth doing, or to have value. I don't question the value of growing a garden, or baking bread. A garden will be harvested and die at the end of a summer. Bread dissappears, all but a few crumbs left on the counter. If I don't question the need for art, why do I question the value of time spent creating it?

I'm also thinking of the ephemeral art of Sally J. Smith's fairy houses. Her creations last so briefly that they are truly fae by nature. They might exist for weeks or only days. Some last only hours or even moments. She captures these moments in photos. The photos take my breath away but the magic for me, what makes my heart ache and my lips smile, lies in knowing that they did exist, if only briefly, in the mundane world. That she, and artists everywhere, take the time and effort to pull an idea out of the world of possibilities and imagination and anchor it here in the physical world we all are trapped inside.

My mind pulls in these bigger questions but I don't have any epiphanies about the greater purpose of art or what is more important, process or result. It's been debated as long as art itself and will no doubt be debated as long as art continues to be made. My personal quandary is how to balance my need to create art with my very real time and space limitations.
I'm drawn to the idea of creating art but then, spending time and energy on making some "thing", where do I put it? Do I want it? Do I need it? I have lots of beautiful art already, made by my hands or the hands of others. If I make art, do I want to commit to finding a home for it, either by gifting or selling it?

Too, my desire to create art exists within my life as a greater whole, with desires to weed my garden, make cookies, dance with my grandchildren, debate a topic with my husband over a good dinner, cheer on my son at his football game, read a gripping whodunit, or just cuddle on the couch with my cats and one very spoiled chihuahua. How much value do I place on those experiences, those processes? Are some of them more valuable because they serve others or are interactive? Are they less valuable because, with perhaps the exception of a fresh plate of warm cookies, they produce nothing? Or does that make them even more valuable, as they are experiential and create no new "thing" to dust or care for or take up space?

If everything a person owns could disappear in the flare of a fire or the sweep of a wave, do I want to invest time and effort into things instead of people? And yet caring for people, including myself, means creating a beautiful and sacred place in which to reside. Does it all boil down to worrying that creating art feels like a selfish process, the "thing" just a rationale for being allowed to spend my time in the creation of it? Is a day in the studio worth an unmade bed? A dinner made by opening a jar and pushing a button on the microwave? A son or hubby watching television alone in the other room? A few hours less sleep? A friend's phone call unanswered? How much time creating equals how many of the other compromises?

So, that's what I'm thinking about. I'm struggling to find balance between doing and being, experiencing, creating, owning, having, knowing, relating. Can I make art for art's sake alone? And what does that mean, really? I guess what I mean is, can I make art for my own sake alone?
Do I need a reason to make art other than that I want to make it? Or should I make art for others? For money? For gratification from others? My family finds it difficult to understand how and why I can give away their favorite pieces of my work. I find it interesting to observe that doing so often gives me so much pleasure than the "things" that I hold on to in my life . Clearly, for me, ending up with another "thing" wasn't the most valuable part of creating it.

Do you feel you need a reason for your time creating art? Do you know what it is? What do you do with the "things" that are created? If you release your work into the world at large, how does it affect your feelings about creating them? Is the process more valuable to you than the outcome? If art creates "things", how do you balance that with creating "space"?

I've got a post almost up and ready but I still want to upload some old photos to share, which will take awhile, and I'm running out of time to get to the post office before it closes. So, post office first, post post later.

In the meantime, look at the great Post Spooky Button image my friend Deirdre created for me! You can find the small, clickable, working button in the sidebar here and over in the Beach Treasure sidebar where you can also find a list of participating bloggers. Sign up! Join the fun!

Later 'gators!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'm hosting a blogging challenge to Post Spooky! for the entire month of October. This season only comes once a year and I look forward to filling it up with as many tricks and treats, spooky sounds and haunting images as I can. You can check out the details at Beach Treasure.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Now that I can break out of a black and white color scheme again (the Sweet and Sinister Swap), I've been wanting to make a candy corn pillow. So, I did. I just went for it and I think I got the dimensions a bit off. I'll try again. I think I want to make a few smaller ones instead of another large one. The knit pillow (that doesn't have so many fluffies on it as it seems in the photo) was a recent thrift find that works perfectly in my living room. And the pumpkin was a splurge this season. I really liked the carved wood look of it. It's sitting on the coffee table, I just set it there for more "mood".

And remember the little knit pieces I showed you yesterday?

We have a new kitten!

Hubby really loves him.

Charlie Weasley seems to like him too.

On the other hand Rosie thinks there's some rule about how cats should immediately vacate laps that should, by virtue of their obvious seniority, always belong first to chihuahuas. She's a little worry about having yet another intruder on her territory!

He needs a name. Anyone have any ideas?

Oh, first saw the pattern on Fluffy Flowers blog and I adored her little kitten. I actually had the exact same yarn on hand and was tempted to recreate him as closely as possible but then I found the caramel colored yarn and thought I'd see what it would create. The pattern to make him is here, but I think it's available in other places if you just search "knitted kitten pattern". And I'm not sure why the pattern I used worked so hard to make the tail complicated. I think I'd adapt it to something simpler if I was to make another. It was easy to knit up but I'm thinking it might be a nice pattern to use with felted old sweaters as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Sweet and Sinister Swap goodies are all wrapped and boxed. I can't show you any of it until after it's sent and opened, but I can show you a corner of my dining room table after the preparations were over.

I still need to write and add a note or card to each box, something I usually forget to do and something I might still forget to do again before I tape and label because I'm so very skilled at the trick.

More crafting going on, here's some pieces of a project I knit up while sitting in front of the television late last night. Tonight I put most of it together but there's still a wee bit left to do on it in the studio. I didn't feel like going in there tonight, so maybe by tomorrow...

Speaking of boxes, I got a box of goodies in the mail from my mom today. You can see what was in the box over at Beach Treasure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm not a huge Martha Fan. I'm not anti Martha either. I'm more of a Mary Engelbreit magazine type. But I do like her Halloween ideas and I've been on the lookout for a new Halloween issue for weeks. It looks like she's not putting out a special issue this year, but I finally found her regular October issue last night and it's filled with lots and lots of holiday articles. I wasn't disappointed. I even liked the more general autumn themed displays and the food ideas. I'm seriously considering using a few of the recipes.

The Shades of Inspiration color theme this week is gray. Or grey. Depending on which side of the pond you live on. I'm loving it. Since I love cemeteries, standing stones, castles, gargoyles, old walls, beaches, old buildings, old anything.....especially if I can interact with it from behind a lens, it's the perfect color for me to dip into my albums and find photos I love.

Here's one of the photos I used for the challenge today, and conveniently, seasonally shivery.

Les Catacombes, Paris

Monday, September 22, 2008

I never did get around to putting this great swap button up in my sidebar. Nontheless, I've been a busy, busy little witch today, wrapping up (literally wrapping up, by this evening), my projects for the Sweet and Sinister Swap. I had not one, but two partners. I thought I'd missed the swap and so me and another swapper from last year that also missed this year's deadline decided to partner up with each other. Then Kari let me know she'd put me on a waiting list and before I could barely thank her, she'd found me a partner.

I thought easy peasy, I'd just make double of things. It didn't turn out to be that simple as my partners were very different ladies with different interests and lifestyles. But I loved the challenge of creating a box that, hopefully, will be special for each of them. It was a lot of fun having an excuse to do a lot of shopping and thrifting and hunting for unique items. The last week I've been working on the projects I wanted to make.

I hit another challenge when I hunted high and low, left and right, in and out, and couldn't find the special box of Halloween crafting supplies I very carefully packed away all in one place so that this year I could use it all for just this purpose. ARGH!!!!! And it's not like I can just hop on over to Michael's or some other craft shop here in our tiny town. Nope, I had to do something far more difficult - I had to be CREATIVE and I had to IMPROVISE. That, and I did run out and get a few of the more Halloween themed bits and pieces from what I could find at the local Walmart. I'm very pleased with what I made but still, I'm bummed I couldn't find my box of extra goodies. I'm sure I'll find the box as soon as I mail off my packages. I guess I'll be ready for a new swap next year.

Tomorrow I'll get the second box packed up and then I'll be ready to mail them off to places east. I took lots of photos and I can't wait to show them to you, but you'll have to wait until the recipients get to unwrap them first.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tomorrow is the autumnal equinox, so it's time to start posting lots of seasonal photos. I'm starting off with some great images from a local shop, La Belle Maison. It's a gift and home decor shop in town and I was over the moon when it first opened about a year and a half ago. (Or so, I can't remember.) We have some other nice gift shops in town, but they tend towards "mountain cabin" look which thrills my mom. I think bears and pine cones and plaids are nice too, but in someone else's home. I love the whole Tuscany, European shabby chic, and dark color palettes that La Belle Maison specializes in. And it doesn't hurt that I've also come to adore the owners, a mother/daughter team who's grandson/son plays football with William, so whenever I stop in, we usually end up chatting about football, raising kids, tea, chocolate, paint palettes. Y'know, all the important things in life.

So, anyway, I stopped in there the other day as they had a board outside announcing new autumn merchandise. I was totally blown away by the big Halloween display in the middle of the main room. (Did I mention they also do display and decorating consulting?) I asked if I could take some photos to show all my blogging buddies such a great design. Those of you who are doing the Sweet and Sinister Swap in particular will appreciate the new take on the black and white theme.

My one disappointment, the photos I took aren't as clear as I'd expected them to turn out. You can double click on them to enlarge them and see more detail though. Here is a wide view of the Halloween "table". I loved how she used so much simple, every day decor items to create a haunting, sophisticated, and adult take on Halloween. And instead of just black and white, she added browns, which warmed it up without brightening it up and losing the "gothic" mood.

Here's another look, slightly closer. My favorite part of the whole thing is the large urn with the branches full of crows. I think I need to buy some of those branches.

She used black and white foods in these great glass jars. Black licorice and popcorn - Popcorn! What a great idea! Don't you just love those pumpkin tops!?

More jars from a different angle, all in black. In another part of the store she also had jars with decorative orange tops with orange wrapped candies inside them.

This wasn't actually a Halloween display, but I thought it looked pretty "in the mood" as well, with the black chandelier and (I think you can see the detail if you click) those "rotten eggs" in the jars. I have some of those tucked into my china cabinet. Good idea, I'll have to drag them out to use in my Halloween decorating. If you added a few candles or crows or other seasonal pieces, this table vignette is already 80% there.

Let me show off a bit more of the store. Oh, look, there's Lora in the background. She didn't want to be in any of the photos. Oh well, too late. She always sets the table in the middle room (the store is in an old home) with the most wonderful settings. She had one in brown and aqua this summer, this is a new one.

More gorgeous autumn color in the first room. I wish you could see how rich those oranges and rusts are in person. I love this color scheme all year round but of course it's in it's glory during the autumn season. The only places where you'll find a change of palette is through that middle door, where the store displays beautiful gifts and decorations for babies and boudoir. And through the door on the left, which leads into a bathroom, filled of course with soups, towels, lotions, and all manner of pampering lushness to buy for yourself or for a friend.

One more photo, from the small kitchen. Here's a display full of teas, oils, kitchen towels, and more. I really love that bright orangey gold tin Welcome sign. It's new and I'm tempted to go back after the first and make it mine.

I hope you enjoyed this little cyber window shopping. If you fell in love with anything in any of the photos, just e-mail or call up the shop. Lora said she'd be happy to ship to you.

La Belle Maison

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A box arrived on my front doorstep the other day, a surprise package of goodies from my mom.

This very colorful faery was in the box. I'm not sure about the expression on her face. Look, she's holding a bit of yarrow in her hand. I think she's just looking tuckered out after a bit of weeding in the garden.

These great plant stakes were in the box too. It's only two stakes, three ghosts floating above one and three bats flying above the other. I won't leave them in the garden though, I'll bring them in and decorate the indoor plants or maybe add them to some other vignette.

She also included a bar of sage scented soap that smells WONDERFUL.

But I'm saving the best for last. Happy to get out of the box and do a bit of flying, this great witch.

She didn't get far, her muscles were a bit cramped after spending so many days folded up in the mail. She's resting in the peach tree, taking in the view and having a snack, her dress sort of bunched up and her petticoat showing. She doesn't look too concerned about it though.

I really like her face. And her wonderful black braid.

If you want to hear more about the peaches, as well as a ramble through a half dozen other topics (dentists, magazines, deer......) wander on over to Beach Treasure. That will also explain why I didn't get anything done on my Sweet & Sinister Swap activities today. I plan to get back to work on them tomorrow, still pitiful-ish not.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Since I've let an entire week slip by without posting, I just thought I should check in with a "Hi, I'm still breathing!" (Although, not well, hubby gave me a end-of-summer bug and my sinuses are now all messed up again. GRRRRR. Argh!)

I'm not actually posting now either. Well, I suppose it looks like I'm posting. You're reading words I've typed if I follow through and click on "Publish Post" on this silly update.

I managed to make a moderate amount of space in the middle of that insane mess in my studio. I'd like to have cleaned it up more because it's still not easy to move around or find things, but I just needed to get to work so I did what I had to do to get in there and the rest will have to wait. I'm working on Sweet and Sinister Swap goodies so I don't have any photos to share, but it feels really, really good to actually be working on something.

Since you made the effort to stop by, the least I can do is offer you a few photographs for your viewing pleasure.

The morning glories are so pretty. But why do they insist on only flourishing in my vegetable garden instead of in other parts of the garden where I wish they'd grow?

My granddaughter has a very important blankie. She has a tough time when it's in the wash or hanging on the clothes line. So my daughter-in-law made her this replacement blankie for emergency fill-ins. The real blankie is in purples, but this one shares the soft multiple fabric textures.

I have a bumper crop from the apple tree this year. They're falling everywhere and sometimes I find a fallen apple speared on the oddest things - the edge of a rake or the top of a garden ornament. I have to find time both to pick up the fallen apples and compost them and to pick the apples still on the tree and put them up. I'll probably freeze them for pies and cobblers. If I can find the time and energy.

It seems so hard to find time these days for anything. I miss the "good ol' days" when the kids and I were homeschooling, schedules were something other people worried about, and we spent the end of summer and autumn in the garden and kitchen with harvesting tasks. There wasn't any extra money to go anywhere or plan anything, so we didn't. Sometimes what seems like a burden has some blessings wrapped up in the same package. The good ol' days probably weren't as rosy tinted as I'm painting them with my nostalgia, but I do think I was more focused back when our world revolved around our home and everyone was still living in it. I also think that it's a sure bet some day I'll look back on now and remember it as "the good ol' days" too.

Okay, I guess we can go ahead and officially call this a post. But now I'm off to get some more coffee and get back to work on my swap goodies. Hopefully I won't let another week pass before I have something to share.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I found this on Kristin and Julie's blogs.


Okay all you artsy types. Go take the Hue Test and see how you score. Hues have always been hard for me. In fact the words "hue", "tone", "shade" etc. always make me want to tear my hair out because I know I'm gonna screw up and use the wrong term and show what a loser wannabe I am. And I'm always coming home from the store with what I think is just the right green paint or blue fabric only to find that it's got completely too yellow in it or it's much darker than I thought in the store.

But surprise, surprise, I scored pretty well on this test. I got an 11. Although, hmmmm, maybe not so much of a surprise. I can't get the terminology straight, but I am sort of the unofficial fabric coordinator for people who are wandering around the quilt or paint store with a swatch and a confused look on their face. I can usually find something they love that they passed right by without even considering. I think a lot of it is a matter of practice. The more you work with color, the more you notice the fine differences.

So, how'd you do?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

San Diego - Things with Chlorophyll

When I was down in San Diego we went to the San Diego Zoo. The thing I love most about this zoo is that it's also an amazing botanical garden. I don't really even care much if I see the animals. I could just wander around taking photos of the beautiful plants. So I did.


More hibiscus

Not a botanical, but I thought this cart was picturesque.

Even more hibiscus

And just one more. Well, two more.

Don't know the name of this plant that grows on the trunk of a tree. Something like staghorn fern maybe?

Ferns and sunlight high above my head.

There's a lot of varieties of bamboo. Not all of it has graffiti on it. This patch did and I could have been upset but it was sort of cool too.

I loved the light shining through these huge fronds.

Paper lanterns hanging high in a tree near the front entrance. I assume they light up at night.

I would have taken more photos but alas, my camera batteries gave out on me. I did actually take photos of family and animals as well while I my camera still worked. You can check them out San Diego Zoo - Things with Feet at Beach Treasure.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The best laid plans....

For the last four or five days I've gone to bed convined I was going to get up the next morning and spend the entire day in the studio. Knowing that first, I'd be mucking it out. But then moving on to beautiful creations. One thing and then another detoured me each day. William needed a butler and personal assistant while he elevated his injured foot. The family ran out of clean laundry. People complained of being hungry during what's known to many as "dinner time". The phone rang. The dog whined at the door. The temperatures dropped (which was lovely), requiring the lone eggplant and some valiant tomatoes be harvested. People showed up at my doorstep. The television news distracted me.... And so on.

I wasn't terribly frustrated because I thought that once I got started, cleaning up the studio would only take an hour, two at most. This is what the studio looks like:

Hmmmm, I hope you weren't trying to drink anything when you looked at those photos. Maybe I should have given a spew alert. Yeah, delusional me thought that room would only take a quick twitch of my nose and it would be ready to work in. (I only feel brave enough to show these photos because I've shown other photos of it when it was functional proving that it doesn't ALWAYS look like this.)

You can't blame me completely for my insanity. The first layer of all that mess is mostly a huge amount of blankets and oversized pillows from the bed and from the washing machine after our camping trip. And beneath all that bedding there's a giant oversized storage tub where a lot of those extra blankets get stored. So the size of the mess is inflated. The rest of the mess is, well, creative mess from pre-faery festival work and all the boxes of craft supplies or miscellaneous I want to paint or use or fix or turn into something else which I've gathered up about the house and put in there.

Yesterday I finally managed to get into the studio. The first order of business, so I could even walk in there, was to deal with the bedding. Which meant clearing off the bed (a lot of those boxes were originally on the bed, I had already moved them off before I thought to snap those photos) so I could remake it and put all the pillows up there. Clearing off the bed was as far as I got before I ended up abandoning the project because of some distraction, the nature of which eludes me now. While I was off saving children from a burning building or teaching bees to read or whatever it was that I was doing, the cats found the door to the studio open and took their chance to invade the forbidden territory. With everything on the floor there was no way for me to even get back in there to shoo them all out, so who knows what extra damage I'll find to the area when I get back in there today.

At least, that's my best laid plan. To get back in there today.

Wish me luck.