Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

What a year 2015 was! I'm wiped out thinking about it! So much happens in a year.  I narrowed 2015 down to these 3 achievements...
Strangely enough in this small town with many dollar stores and one Walmart...there is a vet who practices acupuncture! I was shocked! I know my Mom is smiling down on this. She studied it and used to get treatments too. Now my sweet kitty gets treatments and it's way helping far better than antibiotics to get him healthy again.
I spent a huge part of this year clearing out decades of clutter with the help of an excellent organizer who staged the house for a house walk last fall. I love these before and after pix!
And I discovered that I LOVE to teach Zumba! I just got a job teaching Pound for next year too! I love to trick bodies into thinking they're having fun when they're really working hard!

Do you have your ideas, dreams and plans for 2016? I just figured mine out and they're exciting! I hope yours are too! Happy New Year and have a super fun 2016!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Halloween Fun

This represents where I live. We have 4 Dollar Stores. 2 Auto parts stores. And Walmart.
I got an email saying there was a Halloween Zumba party at my favorite Zumba class in the Chicago area. The theme...Caribbean. I had things to do in Chicago, but none as fun as a Zumba Halloween party!!!!I needed a costume in a few weeks and knew I had to make it and also that I'd have to use stuff around the house because this is not the area to find a Carmen Miranda costume.
I searched my closet for something I could cut up since I had  little time to make something from scratch. I found a Miranda-ish dress that needed work. It never fit me well, so I was fine cutting it up into a two piece Carmen Miranda costume.
But then there was the headpiece! What to do for a headpiece!? That was Carmen's trademark! I don't even know how to make a head piece let alone find the right materials in the woods over here! I found an old pattern from the 80s in my studio and some old black knit fabric I had stashed in my scrap pile. I made a turban. It had a huge opening in the top. What can I use as a base to stick junk on to make a headpiece?
I searched around the house. A styrofoam cone? A huge jug that used to be filled with vinegar that I cut up?

The base of the vinegar jug fit in the turban opening the best, but it was too tall and needed to be more pointy.

I stuck the styrofoam cone on top and glued it with a glue gun. Too tall still.
I tried the other half of the cut up vinegar jug. Too short and narrow.... and as much as I'd love to put freshly cut flowers in the opening, I knew they wouldn't stay in place, if I danced.
Long story short. I decided to use the vinegar jug with the styrofoam cone glued on top.  I cut it a little shorter and painted it with gold glitter paint that I had lying around. I had to staple gun it to the turban. Then I found a fan from a Spanish dance recital number I had choreographed in the 80s. And all kindsa junk in the house and at the Dollar Store auditioned to be on this headpiece.
Tho it was October when I worked on this, there were many a Christmas decoration at the Dollar Store...and plastic fruit. What's Carmen Miranda without fruit? And there were plastic wine glasses at the Dollar I glued all this junk on the headpiece. The glass needed wine in it, so I mixed food coloring and resin in the wine glass and let it set overnight.
Letting the resin set overnight, it spilled on the fan, so happy accident had to be covered with a fake rose. This is a pic of the headpiece waiting to go on the plane to Chicago. I am not new to traveling with severely fragile headpieces. It's way not fun! In fact, the bottom of the wine class fell off because Dollar Store wine glasses have detachable bottoms. It's somewhere between VA and Chicago! I had to find a Dollar Store in Chicago to replace the bottom of the wine glass which kept falling off during the Zumba party too.
It took an hour to put on make up. My dress that was covered in Christmas garlands, plastic fruit and cheesy jewelry left a trail of fallen objects all the way to the class party.  It was so cool to see the Zumba participants in their Caribbean costumes! I could hardly dance in mine! Having a fashion design degree, I was ashamed that I spent most the class fixing wardrobe malfunctions....but the class was so much fun! And the people so nice!

A pirate-ess, who's also my most favorite Zumba instructor (Melissa Kerpel) was there, as were Gilligan on percussion and leading dances, Mary Anne, Ginger and many other fun, cool, creative characters and costumes! Halloween is fun when you're a kid, but I had more fun this Halloween than any other! A Halloween celebration that doesn't make you gain weight or get cavities!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Memorable Momorial

See this group of smiling people? Smiling at a memorial? That's right! We celebrated my Mom's life, who she was, what she stood for, and all she taught us about life by living hers with high quality, integrity and humility.
I knew if my Mom's family and friends were all together we would form a wonderful team and everyone present proved it! Despite the fact that not all attendees were used to drawing.... everyone was supportive enough to try the group project drawing exercise... (Found on page 99 of an inspiring book I've mentioned before in this blog, "Art Before Breakfast")....

Each participant was given a blank post-it, a marker, and a 4x4 inch section of the portrait to draw. Nobody got to see the full portrait they were drawing. They didn't get to see more than the 4x4 segment of ambiguous shapes they had to draw. When each participant drew their post-it shape, they handed it in and all post-its were put up to create the final drawing. This final drawing was the result of a team whether it was a stock broker, accountant, health practitioner, musician, weaver, spiritual lifestyle enthusiast, knitter, hot wheels seller....everyone could draw...proving Danny Gregory's exercise in his book to work beautifully!

There couldn't have been a better art exercise to share what it felt like to have a Mom who taught us the love of creating art together and that the best way to learn to draw is to just draw!

I have to thank the portrait artist, Gracie Oury, who turned a photo of my Mom in the 1940s into a line drawing that made this project She was a pleasure to work with!

It's been a slow process dealing with the sudden loss of my Mom. I doubt this process will end. But it is forever shifting and never stops teaching...which is exactly who my Mom was.
 Last year, as I went through her things... photos, artwork, artifacts and letters would show up....many that I'd never seen before.... and they were speaking to me, begging to tell her story.
Any person who creates projects will admit that there are times when your materials speak to you and tell you how they wish to be created into a project. So you have to take dictation and do what the materials tell you. This was the case with the Momorial. Each day for a year, photos, drawings and other artifacts would show up that brought the stories Mom shared with me to life! They slowly formed into a slide show that told her story in a very strong timeline...and there were enough story-revealing photos to also include a farewell slideshow to a soundtrack of songs that expressed how much she is missed and loved.

I have to admit I lost sleep over the slide shows, wondering if it's TMI to reveal some of Mom's stories...but too many people upon entering the event told me they knew very little of my Mom's story because when she was with them she'd keep the conversation focused on them. That was exactly what I needed to hear! All those sleepless nights when I should've trusted that the materials guided me to a project that let people know the woman who came from challenge, sketched her dreams, and made them into reality!

The Momorial was held at one of my Mom's most favorite restaurants, Frank and Betsie's. Betsie, is an expert at having your back at every aspect of the event. Everyone else who was working on her staff treated us like gold as well! At one point, Michael, a wait staff member, stopped to tell his memory of my Mom and it was so unexpected, thoughtful and touching!

I can't leave out my lovely daughter and son-in-law who flew in from NYC to help with so many challenging beyond-my-realm-of-knowledge feats from detailed artwork tweaks to techno-help and so much help in between! And a very special thank you to my brother who flew in from CA and his best friend from grade school who flew in from AZ with his lovely wife!

Everyone (family and friends alike) who shared memories and stories did a beautiful and touching did Antonio who played a lovely violin piece dedicated to my Mom.  I can't thank enough the participants who so generously donated to the Botanic Garden bench that will be dedicated to my Mom because that was her favorite place to be and thing to do...visit the beautiful garden, walk, converse, and sketch or knit, while enjoying nature and good company.

Because dedicated benches are pricey I will be posting items to sell online to continue raising funds until this bench meets the price requirement. More on that later.

I have to admit after the Momorial was done, something was eating at me and it took a while to figure it out. Because of working on the Momorial every day for a kept Mom alive to me. Now the Momorial is complete and it's time to face reality and let go. They sure don't teach you about this part of life in school.

I am very grateful to everyone involved in the Momorial from helpers, staff, family and friends. Thank you for being there. That is the definition of love....being there.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Signs" of Respect for Artists and the Arts!

 I was having such a colorless, rough weekend until I stepped into Trader Joe's grocery store. I sampled some wine and got into a conversation with the friendly guy who was handing out the wine samples. I commented on how gorgeous and well done the signage was all around the store and how it turned an everyday grocery shopping experience into a pleasant gallery visit.
 That's when I was told about how Trader Joe's hires artists to do their advertising while they also work positions in the store! Trader Joe's suddenly flew to the top of my list because they respect artists and give them opportunity to express their talents...not only in this one store...but I'm to understand this happens in all Trader Joe's!!!! How many grocery stores...let alone businesses... give artists that kind of opportunity and respect????
 When I purchased my groceries I brought up the gorgeous artwork to my cashier. Before I knew it she had the artist...who was working in the back of the store...come out to meet me!!!! (That cashier was such a thoughtful lady to do such a thing...both for me and the artist!)
 The artist was a sweet, humble young lady named Stephanie Spensley. I told her that her work should be in galleries. She said it is!
 The kindness and support of her fellow workers who talked so highly of Stephanie and her work (because they both deserve it)....the idea that a grocery store is so cool that it gives hugely artistic talents exposure and opportunity... and just to witness how fellow workers respect each other in that store made my otherwise challenging weekend turn into excitement!
 I don't have a Trader Joe's where I live. Where I live is saturated in mostly Dollar Stores. I just wish more businesses would give art and the talents who create it, the opportunity to utilize their gifts like this!
And I adore when I get to meet the talents behind the work and find they are humble and kind. I hope you check out Stephanie's work and also that you frequent Trader Joes because they are a rare grocery/ business who supports artists and has workers who respect customers and each other! More of that in the world!!!!!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Thank you, Danny Gregory!

I heard Danny Gregory in an interview talking about his new book, "Art Before Breakfast." It seems my needs and his book matched pretty well, so I bought it. I wanted to get back into sketching again, but life kept getting in the way. It sure makes sense to start each day before breakfast doing a sketch for a few minutes. This exercise is called "Ground Hog Day" where you draw the same household object over and over for a week. It's amazing how this poor little tea kettle was taken for granted for so many years until Danny caused me to pay attention to it in detail. Now it's my supermodel.

 I got a little carried away with this exercise and did more than a week's worth of tea kettle sketches just to get back into various art supplies that have been sitting for quite some time. I'm enjoying the short bursts of sketching focus first thing in the day. It's a welcome addiction that makes me want more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day to You!

I'm a huge fan of recycling and love to turn old recyclable items into some type of art. I also go to great lengths to take recyclables I won't be using as art materials to the recycling center.
Today, while celebrating Earth Day, I was thrilled to find this wonderful service sponsored by H and M. We need more companies doing their part to help the environment like H and M! Bravo!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Accepting What Is, Birthdaywise

                                          Anyone remember growing up with this brand of potato chips?

NPR had a contest a while back asking people to come up with better names for people of my age group and above and you know what? Nobody could come up with a kind name for this age. They offered “Senior Citizen”, “Golden Years”, “Active Older Adult”, “Aging”…there are no kind words to honor people of this age group. I can’t think of any either.

In centuries gone by, white wigs were worn to honor the wisdom of age…but, in general, if people didn’t live as long back then as they do now, I wonder what age the white wigs were honoring!

So on my milestone birthday coming up, I’m not feeling the number I’m given or the ads I’m getting in the mail. All I can think to do is to incorporate my experience into my career (that I’m lucky to have at this age) and make sure I treat all ages with the respect and understanding they deserve.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dining Out in this Era

     I like this era because no matter where you can be with who you really want to be with....otherwise, how do you think I was able to take this photo?!