art, Blog, jewelry, Lapidary, music

My Relationship with Art

Image Courtesy of Pixabay (altered)

Day 359

Throughout my life I have dabbled in all types of art. When I was in first grade, I was home sick one day lying on the couch watching “Topper” on TV. A commercial came on for a poster contest. I chose a topic — Know Your Policeman. I sketched a stick figure scene of a child shaking a policeman’s hand in front of a jail. All on notebook paper. I am not sure if my grandfather mailed it for me or just how it got into the mail, but my parents did not know. Long story short, my parents received a letter stating I had won second prize in an FBI poster contest and it was signed by J. Edgar Hoover. I got to go to Asheville to be on TV and was interviewed and had my picture in the local paper. I won a doll, but I was secretly so envious of the older kids who received cameras. This was my introduction to the art world.

In second grade, I realized I could draw differently from the other kids. We had to draw a picture of our home and I remember drawing our stove and made it three dimensional. I can remember kids asking me how I did that and I wasn’t sure what they meant.

I took art classes in school anytime they were offered. Those classes were magical to me and the place where I always felt the most like myself.

My sister and I took ceramic classes from a woman who had a small studio in Alaska. We glazed poured ceramic pieces and she fired them in her kiln. We became good friends with her and eventually helped her poor ceramics in exchange for free classes. It was a great time in my relationship with my sister. One I will never forget.

While in Alaska I took oil painting classes from a woman who painted gold pans to sell to tourists. She was very talented and so much fun to be around. She made enough money selling gold pans that she bought a house and an airplane and paid cash for both. It was not a formal class, but it was at a time when I needed some creative time away from a very chaotic home life.

When I lived in Maine, I took drawing classes from a woman who had a beautiful studio with amazing natural light. She was an accomplished portrait artist and I managed to hone my portrait skills under her tutelage. My children were in junior high and still young enough that I could coax them to sit for me. I wish I had kept all those sketches of my children at that age, but they disappeared somewhere along the way.

I also bought my first 35mm camera while living in Maine. A Pentax K1000. It was inexpensive and all that I could afford. I found a local photographer that helped me learn about black and white photography. He rented me his darkroom for $5 an hour. It was there I learned how to process black and white film and print photos on graded paper. He also gave me my first lesson in handcoloring photographs.

I took piano classes twice in my life — once in Alaska from an amazing concert pianist and once in Maine from a leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding young concert pianist. That was the first and only time I ever got to play a Steinway baby grand piano. I never became an accomplished piano player, but I enjoyed this time very much.

After moving to Florida, I took classes continuously. Stained glass for a while, then photography, life drawing, mosaics, portraiture, painting and eventually my first foray into jewelry-making. It was then my daughter and soon to be daughter-in-law asked me to make their engagement rings — a post for another day.

I taught art to at-risk teen moms for five years. It was a hard job, but the most satisfying job I think I ever had. Art and teaching and children all together was a dream come true.

Once in North Carolina, I took my first lapidary classes — another dream I held for a long time. I have also taken more jewelry classes and love making jewelry so much. I found a wonderful teacher in Molly Sharp and have learned so much from her. Now if I could just get hubby to build me a small studio.

For me, art has been a major factor in my life. Making art to sell was never my motivation. Creating is what I enjoy. It’s the ability to get totally lost in something that feeds my soul.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” 
Thomas Merton

art, Blog, Lapidary, Mountains, travel

In the Midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Part 1

Day 207

Yesterday was not only a cup half-full day it was a cup-runneth-over day. We were exhausted when we got home but it was the best kind of exhaustion!

We had a fairly leisurely morning with coffee and a bagel for breakfast then we headed up toward Spruce Pine for their annual Fire On The Mountain blacksmith festival. This is the third year we have attended. It is the perfect venue if you love moving metal with fire and seeing men in kilts!

On our way, we stopped at our same little road-side vegetable stand and bought a bunch of ramps to tuck away in the cooler. Ramps are a mountain delicacy that grows in moist higher elevations. They are a cross between an onion and garlic — very pungent but delicious. Ramps were one of the early vegetables that native Americans looked forward to after a long winter. There are ramp festivals throughout the mountains this time of year.

We headed on up to Spruce Pine to check out the festival. We always enjoy the youth blacksmithing competition. I love seeing young adults interested in learning these old-school crafts. The ‘try your hand at blacksmithing’ is always popular as are the demonstrations by the master blacksmiths. Hubby found a used Peter Wright anvil he wanted.

 

We met one member of a talented husband and wife team who combines metal, class, and enamel to create some beautiful pieces of art. I fell in love with the gates they make. We were invited to attend their studio tour in early June. Now if I only had a place to install one of those gates.

After we enjoyed our picnic on the tailgate of the car and a trip to the ATM, the 109-pound anvil was loaded into the car and we were on our way.

Since we were so close to Little Switzerland, we decided to check it out. It is a small village just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It boasts Swiss mountain lodges, gift shops, and a few places to eat. There are also some hiking trails, a book store, and some shops to enjoy. We were not interested in the touristy things so we just rode through and then drove over to check out The Emerald Mine of Little Switzerland. I am a novice lapidary enthusiast, so I am always on the hunt.

We were greeted at the sluice building by the caretaker Barbara. If I were to guess her age I would guess early 70’s. She was a rough-around-the-edges kind of gal. I had to continually ask her questions because she was not forthcoming with information. I discovered she bought the mine as a retirement venture and opened it to the public in 2004. Unfortunately, according to the website, her husband passed away so it may just be her running the place now.

They, like many other gem ‘mines’ in this area, offer buckets you can buy and sluice to find the hidden gems. I asked her if the buckets were salted — a term used to describe mixing foreign materials into the buckets of minerals not found natively in the area. She gave me that incredulous look and said “Of course they are salted. You can’t find that stuff here.”

We looked through the gift shop in an old cabin above the sluicing building. I was surprised to see a sign that listed prices for faceting gems found at the mine. Looking around the place, I could not imagine where this could happen. I turned and asked our host who she gets to facet the stones. She replied, “I do.” It seems. Barbara moved here from Washington, D. C. and faceting was something she had done prior to buying the mine.

We left with the promise to come back at a later time to actually go down and do some digging around the mine (the original mine shaft was closed years ago). She just nodded with the warning to call before we came. We chuckled at our interactions and wondered how tourists ‘from away’ might react to her. Her exterior was as hard as the rocks she sold, but I sensed a sweet soul under the rough exterior.

From there we decided to take the leisurely way home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It probably increased our drive time an hour or so, but it was well worth the time.

For photos and details of our drive, look for part 2 later today.

art, Blog, foggy, jewelry, Lapidary, rainy day

The Blog that Almost Wasn’t

Day 58

It’s late and I’m just barely going to get a small entry done today. It has been a long and hectic day. I am not sure I slept at all last night. I stayed in bed but never felt like I fell asleep.

I started at 6:30 am this morning. Coffee, shower then off to my weekend workshop. It was a really foggy morning so I left a little early to arrive by 9:00 am when I thought the workshop started. Wrong. I was the first to arrive because the workshop was not scheduled to start until 9:30 am. Thankfully, my instructor and her husband were very kind and let me come in and hang out while they finished breakfast.

This workshop is a jewelry making workshop. Today was designed to be a workshop where you come in and just do what you want and get hints and tips along the way as you need them.

It may have been my lack of sleep, but everything took way too long for me today. Filing and getting edges to match perfectly was really challenging. I finally finished setting a piece of labradorite (one I cut into a cabochon) on a pendant. A project that should have taken a couple of hours but with my missteps today it was hard.

After the workshop, I found out my granddaughter was sick again which caused a major change of plans for their weekend. She has had a rough year. Shortly after I arrived home we discovered we had no cell service nor WiFi calling. So we have only been able to text tonight. We are still unable to make or receive phone calls.

We also found out some other family members are ill and unfortunately, we cannot call and check on anyone so that’s frustrating.

So, I am ready to usher this day out and get ready to go back to my workshop tomorrow — at 9:30 am this time!

“Life is nothing without a little chaos to make it interesting.” 
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

 

art, Blog, creativity, Lapidary, retirement

Creativity

Day 19

When I decided to retire, I did not give a lot of thought about how I would spend my time. I knew I would take some classes and do some traveling and visit family, but as far as how I might choose to spend the majority of my waking hours, I just did not consider it.

After working for so long, you imagine what retirement will be like. For me, it has been wonderful. I have not missed going to a full time job and working for someone else. Even when I had my own business, I was always working for someone else — my clients. Sure, I could set my own hours but there were still demands. I wanted my retirement to be as ‘demand free’ as possible.

Dreams Realized

I have always self-identified as an artist. I am unfortunately not disciplined enough to work hours on end, apply to shows, advertise and sell my work. I just love to create and I do it for my own satisfaction more than anything else.

meteredLearning to cut stones has always been a dream of mine so I was really excited when I discovered the arts and crafts school here offered lapidary classes. I have taken the same class many times because I do not have the equipment to do the grinding at home. It is also a very messy proposition, which requires a studio dedicated to this type of work.

This morning was my last lapidary class. I finished a few metered pieces and worked on a few freehand pieces. I am always sad to see my classes come to an end because I lose myself in the work.

Silver Jewelry

My other dream was to make more jewelry using sterling or fine silver. I have done a lot of bead work, but as I age and my eyes get worse, it is harder to work with beads. My mind usually goes to the more asymmetrical designs which is not always the design of choice for people buying jewelry. I still make survival bracelets for victims of sexual abuse, but not much else.

engagement ringsI took several classes in Florida before we moved to North Carolina. I even made engagement rings for my daughter and my now daughter-in-law. Talk about stressful! I have taken a few classes since, but again, this work again requires specialized equipment and a dedicated workspace. I love this work even if I do not have a studio of my own.

This coming weekend I am taking a workshop with Molly Sharp. She is an incredibly talented jewelry designer and silversmith. She is also a kind and effective teacher. I am really looking forward to the class this weekend – I’m sure you will hear and see more about it after the workshop is over.

The Urge to Create

Taking continuous classes is not fiscally possible so I have been looking for something creative to do when I am not enrolled in art classes. I have been so inspired by Maitri Libellule and her whimsical watercolors of Anna. They are bright and beautiful and unapologetically Maitri.

watercolor pencilsI have also been drawn to the sketches of Lisa Wagner, who writes an amazing blog entitled “Places of the Spirit”. She has also been spending some time creatively and sharing that work on her blog. So, between the two of these talented women, I have been inspired to try to do a few drawings. I picked up some new watercolor pencils at Michaels, so I will see where this takes me.

These are the activities that I dreamed I would have more time for once retired. So far, I have been successful, but I am really looking forward to having more rainy day activities that do not require a studio and an elaborate equipment set up.

Driveway
As I left for class, the view out my front door morning was delightful. I love this area and now that the trees are starting to turn, I especially love the view. The dogwood trees are finally showing color from top to bottom and it will not be long before the leaves are blanketing my driveway.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” 
Maya Angelou

 

 

 

Blog, Lapidary, rainy day, Sleepy, Weather

Rainy Day Musings

Day 12

It is a rainy day here in the foothills. I did not sleep well last night so I was tired when the alarm went off at 7:00 am. Since retiring I rarely set an alarm, but on Tuesdays I have a 9:00 am class. I get up, have a cup of coffee and a small breakfast, chat with my daughter for a few minutes as she drives to work, and then get dressed and out the door.

Rainy Day Blahs

I love my lapidary class so I am always anxious to get up and go. This morning, though, I actually contemplated going back to bed. I was tired and not in the right frame of mind to do the meticulous work required. Of course, I talked myself out of skipping class as I knew I would.

The doors were not open when I arrived, so I walked around the grounds of the school for a bit. I had a chance to pet a dog someone was walking and snap a couple of pictures of the flowers growing outside the entrance. That’s where the pleasantries ended.

I spent the first hour and a half working on a lovely stone. It was difficult to shape and very messy. The water was like a red clay bath. I was almost finished cutting the girdle and refining the shape of the stone when I heard a slight ‘crunch’ sound. I knew immediately the stone snapped.

At that point there was nothing to do but move on. I made the decision to cut the stone into a different shape and put it aside. I have learned when I get frustrated with a particular piece, it’s best to move on and work on something new. I had a piece of blue lace agate that would make two nice sized cabochons so I turned my attention to it.

lapidary.JPGUsually on Tuesday afternoon I like to post a pic on Instagram of the pieces I finished in class. Well, there will be no Instagram pics today. Everything is still in progress. Next week is my last class so I have three pieces in progress to focus on.

We think we can always do everything on our plates in a given day even if we are not hitting on all cylinders. I learned today that is not the case. Maybe taking the day to rest from a rather sleepless night would have been a better choice. I ended up frustrated and stressed.

Lessons Learned

GirlWashYourFaceI think I should listen to the advice I give so freely to others. Rest. Take it easy. Give yourself a break. Take a moment. All great advice if I would simply listen to my own counsel. My mom always used to say, “Listen to your gut”. Today I should have listened.

My daughter told me about an audio book she was listening to. She was so excited about it, I decided to buy a copy and put it aside for a day — well — a day like today. Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis was (and may still be) #1 on the New York Times best sellers list. If I had listened to my gut, I could have stayed home, enjoyed a cup of tea and read a good book while the rain soothed my soul. Next time I think I’ll listen.

“Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.” 
Bill Watterson