Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Talking Stick Art Doll Round Robin: The Final Swap

Last week Karen, Judy, and I gathered to have the final swap in our Talking Stick Art Doll Round Robin.  A bit of time has passed since our last swap.  At that time we exchanged the doll heads which now had bodies attached.  In this final swap our original doll heads were being returned to us completely finished with bodies and any other embellishments that the last artist felt would complete the doll.

Here is the head that I created for the first swap:   Amy’s RR doll head  In return I received Judy’s doll head. 

This is the body I created for Judy’s doll head: rrdoll2sideblog.jpg

For the final swap, I received Karen’s doll head with the body created by Judy:  karensrrdoll3.jpg

This art doll was fairly complete and I couldn’t think of anything else to add to it.  After several weeks had passed, I decided that Karen’s Talking Stick Art Doll would receive a place of honor; a shrine in which to reside.

Below are pictures of Karen’s doll inside the shrine, the back of the shrine and the side of the shrine.

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The fortune says “Keep true to the dreams of your youth.”  The mirror chip is to keep away bad spirits.

finalswapshrinebackblog.jpg      finalswapshrinesideblog.jpg

The figure on the side is a tree spirit.

Here is my completed doll as it was returned to me.  Isn’t he great?  Karen created the body and crown.  Judy did the final embellishments and the feet.  I love those feet!

amysdollfinalblog.jpg      amysdollfinalbackblog.jpg

And, finally, a picture of the three Talking Stick Art Dolls; our little tribe.

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The talking stick art doll round robin was a great experience.  It gave each of us an opportunity to try some new techniques, to test our creative muses, and most important, to play and have fun.

To read about the inspiration for this swap, go here

To read about the first two parts of this swap, go here and here


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Happy Solstice

Midwinter Solstice or Yule is the time of year when we experience our shortest day and longest night.  On this day the rebirth of the Sun god Yule is celebrated and evil winter spirits are expelled.

Winter solstice is considered a mysterious and powerful time as the sun begins to make a return journey across the sky.  Bonfires are lit to simulate the ascent of the sun and lamps are illuminated in homes with evergreens to simulate summer.

Winter solstice is a time to look back on the year’s achievements.  It is a time to use the darkness to dissolve old, outworn attitudes and defenses and to become vulnerable and sensitive.  With the fire of new light real joy arises.

Build a fire or light a candle.  Clear your mind, slow down your breathing and watch the flames burn for a while.  Let the flames burn away old habits and thoughts.  Think about your achievements for the year and clear a space for new goals and new intentions.  You may not know yet what the “new” will be.  At Imbolc (Candlemas or Feast of Lights) it will stir and reveal itself and keep the wheel turning.


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Be Nice to Your Customers

Last Monday in the Boston Globe’s Business section “Business Filter” a small, one paragraph article titled “Customers Hate You” caught my eye.

According to a recent Marketing Daily report 62% of Americans say companies don’t care much about their needs; 62%.  That is up from 52% in 2004.

And what does that have to do with you?  Well, if you sell your work at retail art and craft shows, it seems to mean that you better pay attention to your customers.  Though the Marketing Daily report targeted large companies and corporations, I think you can extrapolate this to the art and craft show circuit.

How often have you gone to an art and craft show, walked into an artist’s booth, and have not been acknowledged with a simple “hello”?

Have you ever wanted to make a purchase or perhaps place a special order only to get some strange vibe or attitude from the artist which caused you not to make the purchase?

Now I’m not saying we, as artists, can’t have a bad day.  Perhaps in the run-up to the show you’ve come down with a cold and go into the show feeling less than ideal.  Perhaps it is a slow show; people aren’t buying or people just aren’t coming to the show.

Yet when that potential customer walks into your booth, as much as you may not feel like it, you need to acknowlege the person and put on your best “game face.”  It doesn’t mean you need to turn into the proverbial used car salesperson.  It does mean, however, that by simply saying “Hi.  If you have any questions feel free to ask” you’ve welcomed this person into your booth. 

Most customers welcome this simple recognition.  You’ve acknowledged their presence.  They know you’re aware of them.  And then you can back away.  Simple conversation may follow; a question about your work, your inspiration; whatever.  It doesn’t guarantee a purchase.  However, you’ve made a positive impression and perhaps they’ll take your business card for future reference.

And in these days of stress, anxiety, and customers feeling their needs aren’t being met, a positive impression really can go a long way.


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A New Addiction

Well, perhaps “addiction” is a bit of a strong term since I’ve only done this once.  However, the soldering class I took last Thursday was quite fun.  This form of soldering involved using a 60 watt soldering tool, copper tape, flux, and lead-free solder; not the traditional metalsmith soldering with an open flame.  I’ve experienced that type of soldering and was not entirely comfortable with it.

The class I took was taught by Patti Euler of The Queen’s Ink and was held at Ink About It in Westford.  It has been quite some time since I’ve taken a three hour class where the goal is to leave with a finished piece.

The goal was to make 1-2 ornaments or focal pieces for a necklace.  Here is what I created:

notpoutsolderblog.jpg       solderpracticeblog.jpg

Constructing the ornaments was the easier part.  Getting comfortable with the soldering gun and the solder itself took a little adjusting.  Yet once I got the hang of it, the process was really fun.  Fortunately, I like the organic look and didn’t stress over the less than smooth soldering lines on my ornaments.

There was something else I learned in this class; to let go and just “do.”  Because of the short length of time to create the ornaments I was forced to go with my first decisions and to not labor over and think too much about what I was doing.  That is something that I have a hard time doing; just “doing.”  It was a great lesson in what I learned to do (solder) and in what I learned I must do more of: play, let go and just “do.”


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Thursday 13: Movies

With the end of the year approaching it seemed like a good time to list 13 of my favorite movies (in no particular order.)

  • K-Pax: Kevin Spacey stars as Prot an alien visitor who happens to arrive in Grand Central Station on a visit to earth and subsequently finds himself transported to a mental hospital.  Jeff Bridges is the chief psychologist who tries to learn who Prot “really is” and in turn learns more about himself and life in general.  A sweet movie.
  • Real Genius:  An early Val Kilmer movie about a group of MIT-like geeks who are tasked to build a device that they eventually learn will be used by the military to destroy human life.  A great movie with lots of geek humor and one of the best lines about meeting a woman’s expectations.
  • Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban:  Alan Rickman gives a great performance as Severus Snape in the third installment of the Harry Potter series.  Gary Oldman is introduced as Sirius Black and David Thewlis is Remus Lupin.  ‘Nuff said.
  • The Fisher King:  An excellent performance by Robin Williams as a sweet man who suffered a breakdown due to a horrific trauma in his life.  Jeff Bridges encounters Williams’ character as his own life spirals out of control.  Williams leads Bridges on trip of self-discovery but of course there is some tragedy in between.  Directed by Terry Gilliam.
  • Like Water for Chocolate:  A very sensuous movie set in Mexico it tells the story of Tita and Pedro who fall in love but are not allowed to marry.  Tita is the youngest daughter and is expected to take care of her mother as is tradition.  It is the eldest daughter who must marry first.  Along the way, Tita learns that her cooking has special powers as evidenced when the wedding cake she made for her sister’s wedding causes the guests to be overcome with sadness.  This movie follows Tita and Pedro through their life, the relationships they forge and the love between them that never dies.  Will they ever be united?  What is this power that Tita possesses when she cooks?  A great romantic movie.  Subtitles.
  • Four Weddings & A Funeral:  Directed by Mike Newell, this movie stars Hugh Grant as a commitment phobic Brit and Andie MacDowell as the American he falls in love with.  Great humor about relationships, weddings and marriage.  A touching scene about love and loss.  A good movie on a rainy night for the hopeless romantic.
  • Glory:  This movie about the first all black regiment in the Civil War stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Carey Elwes, Morgan Freeman, and Andre Braugher.  Matthew Broderick gives a great performance as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who led the regiment in battle while dealing with aspects of racism and prejudice from both his enemies and friends.  Denzel Washington won a Best Supporting Oscar for his role as an illiterate and angry former slave who channels his anger into the battle on the field.
  • The Breakfast Club:  A fun and honest reminder of what it is like to be in high school and the cliques we may or may not have belonged to.  Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall spend a Saturday in detention for various infractions.  During this time they open up about fitting in, loyalty to your “friends,” stereotypes, parental expectations (or lack thereof) and the pressure of being a teenager (albeit in the 80’s).  One of several John Hughes movies featuring the “brat pack” in its various incarnations.  Good soundtrack.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:  The Fellowship of the Ring set the tone for this film.  Here the characters are more developed.  The battle scenes are intense, friendships are challenged, and good and evil rage against each other.  And a couple hours watching Viggo Mortensen and Billy Boyd isn’t bad either.
  • The Usual Suspects:  Kevin Spacey won an Oscar for his role as “Verbal” Kint, a crippled con-man, in this mindbending criminal film.  Told from Verbal’s prospective, the story revolves around five criminals (the usual suspects), an boat explosion on the waterfront, $91 million in drug money, a hijacked truck, and the legendary “Kaiser Soeze.”  Watch this movie closely; the end is a stunner and may leave you as surprised as Chazz Palminteri’s character.  Also features Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, and Pete Postlethwaite.
  • Edward Scissorhands:  A classic Tim Burton film about a misfit (Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands) who is orphaned when his “father” (Vincent Price) dies and is discovered by the well-meaning Dianne Weist who brings Edward to live in suburbia as only Tim Burton can imagine it.  The vibrant colors of suburbia pop next to Depp’s pale Edward.  The neighbors appear to exist only in Burton’s imagination yet on a deeper  level some of them seem strangely familiar.  Burton makes you think about how you perceive and treat someone who is “different.”
  • Braveheart:  FREEDOM.  That is what Braveheart stands for; fighting for your freedom and standing up for your beliefs.  Mel Gibson portrays William Wallace who fought for Scotland’s independence from England (the English crown) in the 13th century and forged a relationship with Robert the Bruce.  Lots of great scenery, men in kilts, Scottish brogues, men in kilts, well-choreographed battle scenes, a love story (debatable whether this part is fact or fiction), Celtic music, and men in kilts.
  • Kundun:  A visually stunning movie directed by Martin Scorsese about the 14th Dalai Lama.  This movie begins with the choosing of the Dalai Lama at age 2 and follows him through his training to become the Dalai Lama, until his escape from Tibet in 1959 to India.  The colors, the scenery, and cinematography are spectacular.  Phillip Glass provides the soundtrack which is as emotional as the movie.


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Creativity and Talent

I recently started reading Eric Maisel’s newest book Creativity for Life.  Maisel’s books are always insightful whether your art is writing, acting, singing, fine arts or crafts. 

In the first chapter, Maisel defines creativity as having three elements: loving, knowing, and doing.  In other words, people are artistically creative when they love what they are doing, know what they are doing, and are actively involved in making art.

Of course we know that on any given day that is sometimes easier said than done.  We all have moments, days, weeks, months, and maybe years where we ask ourselves “why am I doing this?”  We tell ourselves we don’t know what we’re doing.  We avoid getting our butt into the chair.

In this first chapter Maisel does an excellent job of describing just that conversation.  We tell ourselves we love what we’re doing and then become dismayed when someone else creates something similar and receives sudden recognition.  Perhaps we set our standards so high and compare ourselves to the masters in our field that nothing we do can compare.  We kill our self-esteem and question our talent.

Maisel poses several questions to consider when you are beating yourself over the head in this situation.

What do I mean by creativity?  How is it different from talent?  What do I mean by talent?  How do I define talent?

Do I believe that I can be more creative?  In what ways?  What must I do to be more creative?

Do I love my art enough; do I feel passionate about my art?  How can I test whether I love my art enough?  (Can you imagine yourself doing anything else?)

How can I increase my love for my art?

Do I work hard enough on my art (in hours and in giving it consideration)?

What does it mean to be talented in my field?  (Think about skills and abilities needed in your field, how many are needed to do good work, do they matter equally, and are any absolutely necessary.)

How talented am I?  What are my strengths and weaknesses?  Do I possess the skills and abilities needed?

If I feel I lack skills and abilities, do I consider them innate or can they be acquired through learning or enhanced through practice?

Have I developed strategies for mastering my “disinclination” to work?

Maisel then provides nine strategies to consider:

Examine creative blockage: Does anxiety, guilt, fear or ignorance keep you from manifesting your full talent?

Work on a mighty theme: What is the biggest, most ambitious project you’d like to tackle?

Affirm that you can create or perform:  Write or speak your affirmations.  Affirm that you can do what you attempt.

Carry your work differently:  If you disown your work or treat it indifferently, it has no life within you.  Be enthusiastic, curious, disturbed and obsessed about your work.

Change formats:  If you work on a small-scale, make something large.  Work within set limits or outside those limits.  Shift your perception of the limits of your medium and the limits of your talent.

Turn things on their ears:  Work in a different style.  Change color palettes.  Break habitual ways of thinking, seeing, hearing, and doing.

Discover ways of working more deeply and effectively:  What distracts you?  How do you handle distractions?  Fend off and dispose of these distractions.  Recognize how you work best.

Track your creativity:  When you sink into uncreative periods, remember the three components: loving, knowing, and doing.  Choose a project and dive in.  Learn a new technique.  Visit a museum or gallery. 

Make every effort to bring passion, knowledge, and will to your art making; you will become more creative and manifest your talent.


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Art Date: New Art Center-icons & altars 2007

On Friday I visited the icons & altars 2007 show at the New Art Center in Newton.  icons & altars is the New Art Center’s 14th Annual Benefit Exhibition that features the work of 98 regional artists who were invited to create an ‘icon’ or ‘altar’ that was social, personal, spiritual, or cultural.

Some of the art pieces, such as Claudia Arcia’s doll which was suspended in a woven basket, were jarring and made me wonder “What inspired this piece?”

Some pieces were subtle and possessed an air of innocence, such as Lorey Bonante’s ballet slipper and small bird encased in beeswax, Alyssa Jone’s “Good Fortune” which featured a collection of Chinese cookie fortunes on wood with a large copper mesh fortune cookie at the center and Mark Cooper’s “Mask” which had a simply drawn face (that reminded me of a teddy bear) surrounded by miscellaneous shapes and doodles.

Other pieces incorporated nature themes or nature itself such as Maddy Bragar’s “Diablo,” Kelly Burke’s “The Mystery of Faith,” and Marja Lianko’s “Garden Games #3; Morgan’s “Untitled (Fish)” and Judith Motzkin’s “Cairn.”

Unique use of material can be seen in Sharon McCartney’s “Morning Sermon” (mixed media on vintage linen), Ceci Mendez’s “Correspondence” (insides of security lined envelopes) and Tracy Spadafora’s “Sweet Memories (14 Bottles).”  Remember those wax candy bottles?

And probably the most humorous (to me) was Leigh Medeiros’ “You Can’t Have Both” that featured a large cake in the center of hard board.

It is always a joy to visit small galleries and exhibitions.  They are sometimes more casual and feel less “sterile” than visiting a large museum.  It is also a great way to view the works of local artists and perhaps find a piece of art work by an “up and coming” artist.

To view the online slide show of icons & altars 2007, click here

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