26 March 2011

The Sunday Creative: Magnified

Aspen Bark, Cloudcroft, NM, March 2011
Given how the past two weeks have been, it figures it's Saturday and I'm just getting to this past week's Sunday Creative -- I did take this photo last Sunday, though, so that's appropriate, right? This week's theme is "magnified," and that's an easy one for me because I love how macro/close-up photography reveals things we don't usually notice at first glance. For me it also demonstrates the power (and necessity) of stopping for a moment to consider, on a deeper level than usual, the world around us. What seems like one thing on the surface, whether a tree or a person or an incident, will likely reveal itself to be much more complex when considered up close and personal. The photo above shows an aspen that, seen from further away, has seemingly smooth white bark that contrasts starkly with the deep blue mountain sky; looking more closely at this bark I see green moss, rust and golden lichens, and rugged scars marking this tree's long and varied tenure in a mountain forest. I know that sometimes we need to step back to "see the forest for the trees" (okay, I'm beating this metaphor to death), but I also see the importance and beauty that comes when pause and closely consider the trees in the forest. Everything is, and is not, what it seems; the closer we look, the more we see, both around and within ourselves.

23 March 2011

BTW: "All your pretties are belong to me"

My bead "table" this Wednesday is my bed because what I thought was an allergy attack seems to be a worsening cold, and Dr. Max Kitty here seems to think I'm best off in bed where I can most effectively focus all of my attention on him. I was hoping to start learning how to solder this week, since I'm on break, but I can wait till next week and, in the meantime, try to finish off a few of my endless UFOs (unfinished objects). The pearl necklace above might be finished (keep it simple, or add danglies?), and last night I finished off some earrings I had laid out a month ago, so I just have... a dozen or two more projects to finish.... Max is good company as long as he doesn't try to climb onto my lap, where the beading tray usually rests. He has been banished more than once for this offense, which I'd like to think happened when he just couldn't contain his affection for me anymore, but I know it's just because my lap is the warmest place in the house.

In other news, I did pick the winner of my giveaway 2 weeks ago (sorry I was so late; coursework had to come first) and the random number generator came up with #6: Shannon C. of For My Sweet Daughter! Congratulations, Shannon -- I know you'll love this book! Heck, you'll probably get to it before I do given how things have piled up here, and I can't wait to see what you come up with. Enjoy your week, everyone!

21 March 2011

Mosaic Monday: Spring Equinox

Early Spring
Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,
hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.
                             -Rainer Maria Rilke

The theme for this week's Mosaic Monday was a no-brainer for me, which was a good thing because I have very little brainpower left after finishing another quarter of coursework. I have been at this (an MS in marriage/family counseling) for two and a half years now, and this would have been my last quarter of coursework before internships except that... I'm insane? No... well, that's debatable... Seriously, though, I also want to earn a specialty in addictions counseling because there is a huge need in my community (and everywhere, really), so I start two of the four required courses in April and finish the other two sometime after starting practicum and internships in (fingers crossed) July. In the meantime, I kicked off my 3-week break by taking the kids way up to Cloudcroft this past weekend to see their bestest friend, whose mom is one of my dearest friends, too. The weather up there at 9,000 feet can be dicey, but we had a perfectly sunny, calm weekend and enjoyed a lovely spring hike on Sunday through the tall pine woods into a meadow that already is greening up. We came home to daffodils and hyacinths in full bloom, and the perennials are reemerging from their winter beds of straw to reassure us that, yes, winter's harshness will soon vanish and be forgotten as the earth awakens, and us with it.

12 March 2011

Studio Musings

The little studio out back, on an almost-spring day
Thank you for your responses so far to my previous post -- if you haven't thrown your name in the hat for the giveaway, you have several more days to do so since the drawing happens next Wednesday morning. I always enjoy reading about what other people are doing and seeing their workspaces and materials. I was surprised by the comments about how nice my studio looks because, while I am very grateful to have a neat little space that I can dedicate to my creations (in fair weather; it isn't heated), it is really a rather... modest... little building.... It is, in fact, a small tin shack with a particleboard floor, a cracked window and, taking up almost half of it, too much clutter that I hope will disappear in a community yard sale soon.

All that said, it IS a great space, one I can play in and mess up and not worry about cleaning up till I've finished whatever I'm working on (or can't find anything!), and it does have electricity and even a little air conditioner my mom put in a few summers ago. Last summer, after she died, I couldn't even bear to go in there, and when I did the thought of moving her paintings and supplies seemed almost sacrilegious. Slowly, though, during the autumn months I started shifting things around, respectfully packing everything of hers up and moving in the old kitchen cabinets, table, and countertops just so they wouldn't get weather-beaten over the winter. I also needed storage space when my dad moved out here (they lived primarily in Philly), hence the clutter... But every once in a while, on a sunny not-so-wintry day, I would step in there and shift a few more things around, put up a rack to hang unfinished mosaics or tack some inspiration pictures on the wall, and just feel the peace. I understand why my mom, who was so sensitive to aesthetics, nonetheless chose this for her painting studio: it is outside but not right in the elements, it is peaceful, and it is a very easy space to be and create in. So once I get over my fear of firing up that torch (I may ask a friend to show me the basics), I hope to create beautiful things in this modest studio -- in fact, if I didn't already love my business name of "Laughing Raven" I'd seriously consider something like "Tin Shack Creations"...

10 March 2011

Creating with Color Palettes

Here's a fantastic new-to-me idea, thanks to brandi girl via Tesori Trovati: pulling color palettes from favorite images or objects and creating jewelry (or whatever!) based on them. I love this idea! For two reasons: first, I sometimes flounder in designing jewelry pieces because the idea I start with doesn't go anywhere, and this can help with inspiration; second, I love the idea of using my own photography to design my jewelry. So here's my first set of palettes, drawn from photos I've taken around my home, town, and state. The top palette is from a photo of a prickly pear blossom I took last spring; there are several varieties of prickly pears, with different colors of blossoms, and I love these soft peachy ones.

I took the second photo just last week, on my first hike of the season. I've become quite familiar with the Magdalena Mountains in the past year and hope to explore them extensively this year, from both the western side (where Magdalena is) and the eastern side. In fact, my great ambition of the year (aside from starting internship for my counseling degree) is to hike up one side, go along the crest for a bit, and hike back down the other side. Given how out of shape I let myself get this winter, I have some serious conditioning to do before I should attempt that. The third palette is from a photo I took last summer during Magdalena's Old Timers Parade. This is a sight to see and offers a real slice of small-town life out here in the southwest.

So here's some major inspiration! I hope to be able to get back to jewelry making soon (8 more days of school this quarter) and am looking forward to playing around to see what I come up from these palettes. If you'd like to give it a try, I'd love to see what you create, from these, your own palettes, or someone else's! Oh, and one more thing: my giveaway is still going on (my first! this is fun!) -- go here to read about it and throw your name in the hat!

09 March 2011

BTW: Adventures in Metalwork (and a Giveaway!)

Studio space, wide view. Thanks to a kitchen re-do last summer I now have plenty of working space.
(It's only neat because I haven't started working in here yet!)
Time for Bead Table Wednesday! Now that the weather is warming up, I've decided to move my messier jewelry-making projects and tools out to the little studio in the back yard. This was my mom's painting studio, and last fall I moved my mosaic supplies out there just to free up space in the house and garage; now I'm ready to start working out there and want to make it the kind of quiet, creative space that it was for my mom. It's also a much more suitable space than the dining/family room for my new adventure: metalwork! So this morning I moved my Dremel, new microtorch and soldering accessories, patinas and supplies, metals, and other metalwork stuff out here, and it looks like I'll have plenty of room as well as light and ventilation to start working out here soon.

New studio metalwork area #1: Patina, soldering, and chasing
I've been wanting to learn how to do metalwork for several years now but have not had the time or money for supplies or training. I was on the verge of signing up for a local metalworking class when my dumb car accident last fall took away the money I'd been stashing away for it. Since then I've gradually been accumulating tools to get started, most recently the very affordable Blazer micro-torch shown at right, which (for now) is about as far as I want to go in the playing-with-fire part of metalwork. I was able to get that, a jeweler's saw, and two books (Soldering Made Simple and Mixed Metal Mania) thanks to an Amazon credit from turning in used textbooks, and this week I picked up some sheet copper and brass, shears, butane, heat-proof blocks, tweezers, and a few other supplies at Thunderbird Supply in Albuquerque so I can get started during my upcoming 3-week break from school.

Following suggestions from other metalworkers and common sense, I'll start with copper and brass given my total newbie-ness and the price of silver; this works for me anyway because a lot of my jewelry lately has included those metals. Once I've made a few things I can then play with the patinas I got from the wonderful MissFickleMedia, whose tutorial I also bought and have found really useful as well as readable. While I love the patinated components I've bought from her and other Etsy sellers recently, I also love the idea of making my own, not just to save money but really to experiment and see what I can come up with. Again, this little studio is perfect for that process, which thanks to my experience with Liver of Sulfer I know can become smelly and a bit messy.

So what new things have you all been up to lately? Tell me all about it in the comments section and, if you're also interesting in trying or refining your skills in soldering and other metalwork, I'll enter you in a random giveaway for a copy of Soldering Made Simple! I accidentally ordered two copies, and this fabulous book is a great way for me to thank both my long-time and new visitors and followers. I'll draw a number using a random number generator next Wednesday (March 16) and announce it in that day's BTW post. Good luck, and thanks as always for visiting!

07 March 2011

Mosaic Monday: Vanishing Point

This week's Mosaic Monday is inspired by a poem I just read that seems to have awakened my winter-dormant brain and brought forth an inspiring jumble of thoughts and visions. I'm not sure this is the entire poem (I haven't bought the book yet; it'll be available for online order soon) but here's what I read:

my God, half the time
it's yourself you're talking to -
need ways to leave that behind,
become God knows what
so long as you cut deeper
pay attention
transform yourself to that narrowing
that vanishing point
-Bruce Holsapple, poem from Vanishing Act (2011), Magdalena, NM 

What amazing poetry, from a (relative) neighbor no less who is also my son's former speech therapist. I forget, especially in the winter when I (and many others) hibernate, that I live in a community brimming with artists. People who create are often solitary, but when they put their creations out in the world it feels like a divine gift -- a gift not just of something beautiful to soften the dark edges of the world but also of inspiration that helps all of us keep creating, for whatever reason. This poem seems to have so many layers, and the term "vanishing point" suggests to me not just a physical vanishing point but also a vanishing of the ego, of that too-present part of ourselves that critiques and dams up and dissolves creative energy.

So tell me, fellow creatives, what helps you get to that "vanishing point"? I know I get there when I'm hiking... Until Saturday I hadn't hit the trail in 3 months because I've been waiting for Lucy's leg to heal up... That one is healing, but as I'd feared the other rear leg is messed up, too, and I just want to cry because I can't bear hiking without her. She helps me lose myself, ditch my ego and just experience the moment, and I also feel safe with her because I know she would take down a bear or cougar or mugger to protect me. Anyhoo, Dad went ahead and told the vet to operate on that leg, too, which means another 8-week recovery that, fingers crossed, will then transition to slow but steady reconditioning and healing for her. In the meantime, I NEED to go hiking again, to leave the world and my nattering ego behind, to simply vanish... for a while at least.

06 March 2011

A Spring in Springtime

Patterson Canyon Spring (near Magdalena, NM), March 5, 2011 ("Abstraction" filter in Topaz Labs Detail)

Patterson Canyon Spring detail (semi-abstract)

First, a note about the Bead Soup Blog Party: I'm still working my way through the 210 wonderful blogs; the last 10 days have been crazy-busy but this week (after tomorrow) should be a bit better. I want to both see and comment on everything, so if you haven't heard from me, you will soon! God that was fun, and I can't wait to do it again.

I finally got out for my first hike of the year yesterday, a favorite short hike up near a friend's house that was enough to get my heart pumping but not too much to stress my winter-lazy muscles and bones (and slowly recovering immune system). Our weather is up in the 50s and 60s most days, and the sun makes it feel even warmer than that, so as I've been recovering from my never-ending sinus/etc. infection I've been feeling restless to get outside -- a sure sign of both recovery and springtime. The shot above wasn't much on its own, so I put it through my Topaz Labs Detail plug-in for Photoshop and decided to go a different way with their "Abstraction" filter, to give this image a painted feel. This little spring runs all year round, and the new green reeds tell of warmer days and nights even up around 7500 feet. So, although my beloved Lucydog still isn't ready to hike (she needed more surgery, and the healing clock for her is reset to 8+ weeks), I can't resist any longer and so will start reconditioning myself to both the exertion and higher altitudes again. I need to hike. Not when it's cold -- I don't need to do anything that forces me to struggle to stay warm when it's cold outside -- but now, yes, it's time to get back out there, leave my ego-self behind, and live in that place of the moment, whatever it might be called.

01 March 2011

One of My Favorite Days of the Year!

For this week's Mosaic Monday (late again; I'm finally getting over a super-nasty cold and sinus infection) I wanted to put up a birthday tribute to my baby girl, who turns 7 today. She is a happy, creative, sharp yet also sweet child who has brought so much sunshine into my life! She also has a lot of her beloved Granna's spirit in her; as sad as we were when my mom passed away last summer, Maggie reminds us everyday that she is still with us in so many ways. Happy birthday, precious girl, and many, many more!