Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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PHEW!

Checking in briefly today. I’m in the midst of final preparations for the Paradise City Arts Festival show on Columbus Day weekend, October 10-12. I’m in booth #733, so stop by and say “hi.”

The past two days have been productive. I’ve got 15 little faces and wings for the Soulful Sprites, plus 15 little stones with words to complete them. I’ve made one small Cat in Striped Pajamas, to go with his big brother, and I’ve made 10 Heart in Hand Talisman which are now waiting for their hands to hold them.

I’ve also completed and sent off my October email newsletter to my collectors. If you’d like to be on my email newsletter list, please leave a comment on this post indicating your interest.

You know, some days you just can’t leave the sculpted heads alone and without supervision. I chuckled when I saw one head appear to give one of the ladies a kiss….

Gimme a Little Kiss

Gimme a Little Kiss

The head in the front right looks a little shocked!

The MRI

No word yet on the results of my MRI. I haven’t received a call from my doctor which means one of two things: either he hasn’t received the report OR he has seen the report and nothing significant was found. I spent about 10 minutes on the phone with his office getting circulated from the front desk to the wrong office, back to the front desk and back on hold. At least they play relatively pleasant music. Unfortunately, I never reached the desired person and hung up. So I submitted an email via their online system.

I can say that my pain has been rather minimal since the MRI. Maybe I just need exposure to large, thudding magnets a couple times a year?

Books

This weekend I started reading a book by Anne Paris, Standing at Water’s Edge. I plan to share a bit more about this book in the next day or two and the a-ha moments I’m already having. I’ve only read the introduction and first chapter and boy is it speaking to me.


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The MRI

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my chronic issues with sciatic pain. Late last week I had my annual physical and mentioned my concerns to my doctor.

After a series of questions, which left me feeling like I should’ve said “Look, I have cramping/muscle tightness in my right and left glute, cramping in the back of my right calf, muscle tightness in the back of my left thigh, numbness and/or tingling in the bottom of my right and left foot and it might happen every day, a few times a week, or some combination thereof. Spin the wheel and let’s see what combination happens today!” my doctor recommended I have an MRI of the lumbar region.

Oh, oh. I was hoping for a simple x-ray first. He explained that the best way to view the spine was with an MRI.

So I left his office with referrals in hand for an MRI for bilateral sciatic pain and for physical therapy.

The MRI took place this past Saturday.

At first I wasn’t very nervous about the procedure. Then I started to feel a little anxious after talking to people about their experiences. I wondered if I could go through with it.

I tried to picture myself in the MRI. I started calling it the “hot dog bun.”

I woke up on Saturday morning at 5am in a slight panic. My head was telling me I couldn’t do this. That I was “gonna freak out” in the tube. Great! I rolled over onto my back and laid flat for 20 minutes repeating the mantra “I am calm. I am relaxed.” Sometimes, on the inhale I’d silently say “calm” and then say “relax” on the exhale.  Eventually I fell back to sleep.  I also proved to myself that I could lay flat for 20 minutes. (I knew I’d be in the MRI for 20-30 minutes.)

The alarm went off at 8am. I had to be at the hospital at 10:30am. I kept repeating my mantra silently in my head throughout the morning and while driving to the hospital.

When I walked into the MRI, I was promptly greeted with “Hi Amy, they’re ready for you.”

Oh yippee, skippy. No time to sit and wait. No time to get nervous.

Actually, this is a good thing.

I’m shown to the changing room (johnnies, pants and you can keep your socks on) HospitalJohnny

and then told to wait in chair just outside the MRI chamber. I can hear the dull thud of magnets in the distance. Thud, thud, thud.

The MRI tech comes out, escorts me into the suite and asks me a few more questions. I lay down on the table and stare at the huge skylight. I’m given a set of earplugs and headphones. I opt to listen to classical music. I tilt my head backwards and see the MRI tube behind me. Small gulp. The tech puts a pillow under my knees, gives me a little rubber ball to squeeze if I need help, asks me if I’m okay, and rolls me into the hot dog bun.

I keep my eyes open briefly as I pass under the beginning of the tube. Then I shut my eyes tight and start my mantra. I’m supposed to be in the MRI for 30 minutes. Oh yes, you have to stay very, very still.

During the course of testing I think about our trip to Nova Scotia…there is a cool breeze blowing over my head. Where is that coming from? I repeat my mantra. I start thinking odd things and actually start relaxing. I am tempted to open my eyes to see what the inside of this tube really looks and feels like. I decide that probably isn’t the best thing to do.

Periodically the tech checks in via a speaker to ask how I’m doing and to tell me how much longer I’ll be in the tube. At one point there is complete silence as he prepares to take pictures from some other angle. I start to doze and then the bang, bang, bang starts again. I feel my body jolt. And then I have to keep myself from laughing! I can’t believe I started to fall asleep during the MRI.

This is oddly meditative!

Eventually the test is complete and I open my eyes as the tech rolls me out of the tube. I imagine this is what it must be like in a space capsule. The MRI tech tells me that he got “lots of good shots.” I tell him thank you and I look forward to seeing a different side of me.

I leave the hospital relieved that the MRI is finished. It wasn’t a bad experience at all thanks to my mantra.

I’ll get the results on Tuesday and see what road I go down next.


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Expectations

It is bound to happen in every artist’s life that you experience a customer who is, well, difficult. Now you can define “difficult” any way you want. In my case, it means when a customer places an order but then cannot meet your expectations of payment for said order.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my art business that I have never had to deal with such a situation until now. The closest I’ve come to playing “collections officer” is requesting past due payment on a couple Net 30 orders. And that situation was resolved without difficulty.  Perhaps it is part and parcel with the economic times. Earlier this year one of my wholesale customers closed the doors to her store. It was sad to hear that she had to close her business.

This situation, however, was a challenge for me because I don’t like confrontation. In fact, I don’t really like the word “confrontation.” (The word just conjures up images of anger and frustration.) But anyways, I truly dreaded dealing with this issue. When you’ve lived a good part of your life as a people-pleasing-I-don’t-want-you-to-be-angry-with-me human being…let’s just say it takes a while to prime the engine, swallow your weeniness, and make that call. No one likes to be a hardass.

But this is a business and in business expectations are set. When you receive an order, you expect that payment will be received under whatever arrangement you and the customer have agreed upon. In turn, the customer expects that you, artist, will deliver your product in a timely manner or under whatever schedule you have agreed upon.

Sounds pretty straightforward and not complicated, right?

Sigh.

To prepare for this situation, I set an intention for the conversation. I used my tingshas to help clear the stuckness I was feeling. And then I made the call. In a nutshell, I set a final, firm due date for payment or I cancel the order.

No one wants to do this. You really do want the customer to get their order. You really don’t want to lose the money. But you also need to stay true to your expectations.  At some point you can only be so accommodating. I keep reminding myself that this is part of business; the good and the not-so-good. But it still sucks.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from this situation:

  1. Set your expectation up front and early. I relied on a previously agreed upon payment plan that worked well the first time and not so well this time.
  2. Follow-up. Don’t let too much time pass between conversations. The “out of sight, out of mind” motto rings true in these situations too.
  3. Rehearse what you’ll say, set an intention, and don’t get angry. Money is an emotional trigger. Don’t feed into your frustration or the other person’s frustration.
  4. Don’t take what they might say personally. Don’t react to their words; just be neutral. Sometimes it is better to say nothing.
  5. Accept that the outcome may not be what you hope for. Not every situation has a happy ending. Don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and move forward.

Though I’m not sure what the final outcome of this situation will be (cue the voice-over: “Will the money be received? Will the order be canceled? Will someone tell me why I’m talking this way :-)”) I feel better knowing that I handled it professionally and with confidence.

What has been your experience in dealing with these situations?


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Cat In Striped Pajamas and Angel Talisman

This is Woody

Woodyclose

Woody is our oldest cat; 10 years young. Both of our cats are very special to me. Woody, though, has a special spot in my heart because he helped me through my grief when our first two cats died six months apart. I’m sure he figured he was getting lots and lots of attention because he’s so darn handsome.

A few weeks back I sculpted some cat heads using both Woody and Pippin as my inspiration. Today I am happy to share with you the first completed cat sculpture using one of those cat heads, Cat in Striped Pajamas (aka Woody in Striped Jammies)

First, here is how this piece looked before clothes were added.

WoodyCatWOPajamas

My first idea, if you saw my sketch book, was to create a hinged body similar to one I made in France. (Yes, I still need to share those pictures…really, we did make some art in France.) However, I wasn’t happy with the way the construction was going, so I switched to the shelf sitter idea. The scrap clay body parts gave me an idea of how the finished piece might look.

And, Viola,(oops) voila, Cat in Striped Pajamas

WoodyCatStripedPajamas

Cat in Striped Pajamas is a solid core polymer clay sculpture. He sits approximately 6.5″ tall. His head is sculpted polymer clay. The color was created with soft pastels and his eyes are hand painted. His whiskers are bristles from a scrub brush. Cat in Striped Pajamas arms are secured with buna cord (rubber cord) and accented with rhinestones. (Every cat needs a little bling, right?) He is hand sanded, buffed, and finished with an acrylic wash. Cat in Striped Pajamas resides in my personal collection.

Angel Heart Talisman

At the spring Paradise City show, I introduced a few Heart in Hand talisman. They were quite popular. While I intend to create more in a few different colors for my fall show, I had another idea for a very specific talisman which I’ve named Angel Heart Talisman.

AngelHeartTalisman

Similar in construction to the Heart in Hand Talisman, these pieces have the addition of tiny faces and one wing. All are stamped with the word Angel.

AngelHeartTalismanOut

The Angel Heart Talisman can be removed from its base for use as a wish stone. If desired, the Angel Heart Talisman can be personalized with a name or date on the back. Each talisman is hand sanded, buffed, and finished with an acrylic wash to bring out the textures. Size: 2″. Retail price: $35.00.


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Sunshine on a Plate

As creative types we are usually open to trying new things and taking a risk here and there. And that tendency includes cooking and/or eating new and different foods.

One food that I’ve never been fond of is beets. My only experience with beets was limited to the kind you get in a can; all purpley -red and tasting, well, awful. And the smell…fuhgedahboutit. One tiny bite of that variety as a kid and I swore off beets for the rest of my life. Blech!

Then, a few years ago some friends served beets at a gathering. Yes, these were the red beets that make me flashback to the stuff in a can. However, the difference, the BIG difference, is that these were fresh beets from their garden. And they were prepared with a creamy dressing.

I was pleasantly surprised. Could beets really taste this good? Apparently so, if you use fresh beets.

On our last day in the workshop in France, Dayle bought a fresh beet salad to go with our lunch. This beet salad had vibrant red beets, cut into small cubes, and prepared with a light dressing. Again, I was amazed at how good beets tasted when prepared well. (Of course, just about anything you eat in France tastes good; even the not so great stuff still tastes pretty good.)

When the Boston Globe food section recently featured a recipe for beets, I knew I had to try it.

When I tweeted that I planned to make a new dish for dinner using yellow beets, the comments ranged from a quote from “The Office” suggesting I grow candy (“something that everybody likes”), to a fellow Tweeter sharing how she prepares beets (steamed with a light, oriental style vinaigrette), to another Tweeter referring to yellow beets as “sunshine on a plate.”

Hence the name of this post.

So, if you’re feeling creative and up to trying something new, here is the recipe for “Sunshine on a Plate,” otherwise known as

Beets in Creamy Horseradish Dressing

1 bunch red or yellow or orange beets (about 1 1/2lbs)
1 T prepared white horseradish
1 T mayonnaise
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t white vinegar
salt & pepper

Cut off the leaves, stems and ends of the beets. In a pan, cover the beets with water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer 30-45 minutes or until the beets are tender and easily pierced with a skewer.

While the beets cook, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the beets.

Drain beets in a colander under cold, running water. Let drain. When cool enough so you can handle the beets, remove the skins from the beets. Cut beets into 1/2″ to 1″ cubes and toss in bowl with the horseradish mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Served chilled or at room temperature.

This dish goes well with fish. I served the beets with red snapper and sliced baguette.

Beets in Creamy Horseradish Dressing

Beets in Creamy Horseradish Dressing

And thanks to wvclaylady on Twitter for the inspiration for this post.


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Espirit en France Meridionale-Spirit in Southern France

No trip for me is complete without visiting a cathedral or two. In this post you’ll find select pictures of stained glass, the inside of St. Cecile, and artifacts from the Musee des Augustins.

The first two pictures were taken inside a church in Carcassonne. The design is reminiscent of Notre Dame.

StainedGlassWindows

StainedGlassWindowsDk

This next group was taken inside the cathedral of St. Cecile in Albi. This first picture shows the ceiling of St. Cecile. The vault is nearly 100 meters long and 20 meters wide. The blue and gold painting is considered a “biblical encyclopedia” and was created by Italian painters from Bologna. These paintings have never been restored.  Below the pipes from the organ is a painting of The Last Judgment. This painting was created at the end of the 15th century.

End Times or The Last Judgement

End Times or The Last Judgement

Angel in St. Cecile's

Angel in St. Cecile's

Large Angel in St. Cecile's

Large Angel in St. Cecile's

Remember how tricky it was to learn the sign of the cross? And remember how amusing it was to watch someone not raised Catholic try to make the sign of the cross? All Catholic churches need one of these (see below)

Sign of the Cross Directions

Sign of the Cross Directions

In Toulouse, Dayle recommended we visit the Musee des Augustins. The Musee des Augustin is the former Augustine monastery which dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. It is an example of southern Gothic architecture and contains over 4,000 works of art. Cameras were not allowed inside the museum. The pictures below were taken with my iPhone.

Big Bishop

Big Bishop

The sculpture above was rather intimidating. Notice the shadow of the cross behind the big guy? That extends out of range of this picture. You’ll see him holding the base of the cross in his left hand. I think he could’ve crushed us with his right hand. No wonder people were fearful of the church.

Wall of Epigraphys

Wall of Epigraphys

An epigraph is an inscription, such as found on a statue or building or wall. The Musee des Augustin had an entire wall display of epigraphys from various religious buildings. I did not, however, find a tablet of the 10 commandments.

Epigraphy

Epigraphy

This last picture is one of my favorite pieces at the Musee des Augustin.  Our Lady of Grace was created by an anonymous French artist in 1450. This sculpture has recently undergone restoration to bring back the original colors.

Our Lady of Grasse

Our Lady of Grasse


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Who Does She Think She Is?

Quick, name five female artists.

How did you do? Who did you name? Were you able to name five?

ten?

or maybe only three?

This question is posed to several people during the movie “Who Does She Think She Is?”

Most people can’t name a single female artist.

A group of us, all women and all artists, attended a special viewing of “Who Does She Think She Is?” as part of a fund raising effort for the Maynard Cultural Council.

I think I counted 2 men in the entire audience. Maybe 3.

That is a curious observation.

Yes, “Who Does She Think She Is?” is a movie about five female artists. But it is also a movie that talks about society’s perception of women artists and the challenges women face when we wish, no, when we MUST embrace our creative, artistic calling.  All five women in the movie are married and have children. All five women struggle with their roles as artists, wives, and mothers. And not all of their situations have a happy ending.

This is not Hollywood.

The movie reminds us of the role that women used to have in society, before we became a patriarchal, westernized society. Women were leaders and goddesses and powerful. Women presided over tribal events. Women were the glue that kept society together. Women were “cultural muses.”

And somewhere along the way, our role was diminished.

Thanks guys!

(Okay, I know that isn’t true in all modern day situations. I know men who are very supportive of the women in their lives.)

The reality is, however, that in many cases, artists (male or female) are not considered part of the fabric of society. Remember just earlier this year some members of Congress refused to endorse stimulus funds for art groups and organizations because that “doesn’t help create jobs.” We just paint, draw, sculpt; you know, play around but don’t do anything “serious.” And for women this is often even worse.

Statistics presented in the movie reveal that while women often are in the majority in art classes, it is men who make a name for themselves in the field. When it comes to exhibitions at major museums, the majority of exhibits feature art work by men. Is this because the subject matter may be “too feminine?” Is this because those who make the decision on who exhibits are predominantly men? Do women simply give up?

On the home front, it isn’t always better. We see relationships develop and fall apart. We see women striving for independence and the role support, communication, and economics all play in this scenario. I was struck by one artist’s comment that she works and creates in isolation, that no one in her church or at the schools her children attended knew she was an artist. (Of course this film probably changed that!) Another artist compared her situation to being in the woods, alone, and the wolves were circling. Support and networking is another theme that is present in the movie.

“Who Does She Think She Is?” provides insight into the lives of five female artists as they pursue their artistic goals, the roads they’ve traveled, the heartache they’ve endured, and the successes they’ve achieved. Interspersed is commentary by Dr. Maura Reilly, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (Brooklyn Museum), Doctor and author Leonard Shlain, attorney and social scientist Raine Eisler, among others.

I left the movie feeling inspired, empowered, and a little depressed. I found myself shaking my head in agreement to statements made in the film, my eyes welling with tears as I felt the pain and sorrow several of the women expressed, and I wanted to cheer as they achieved some level of success and stood fast to their goals, hopes, and dreams.

Regarding the lack of men in the audience; Like I said, the title of the movie implies that this is a “chick flick” and on some level it is. But this is also a movie that should be seen by men (partners, husbands) and women (artist or not), parents, and sons and daughters. It is a learning tool on the lives of modern day artists. It is a learning tool on following your dream and embracing your creativity.

So I ask you Who Do You Think You Are?

To read more about Who Does She Think She Is? and for information on upcoming screenings, click here.


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Joseph Wheelwright’s Tree Figures

On Saturday, Eric and I spent some time walking the trails at Fruitlands Museum. Here we took in nature and art because Joseph Wheelwright’s sculptures on are display throughout the Fruitlands property.  You can read more about Fruitlands here

Joseph Wheelwright is a master carver of stone, trees, bones and other natural materials.  He works in Boston and Vermont and received his BA from Yale and his MFA from RISD. His website doesn’t explain much about his process in creating the tree figures.  My understanding is that he tends to use trees that have either been uprooted or have their roots exposed. The tree is then removed from the ground and taken to his studio where a transformation occurs.  The root ball (or some variant of it) is preserved and serves as the figure’s head and/or “hair.” You can visit Wheelwright’s website here.

Here are pictures of the figures on display at Fruitlands. They are quite fascinating. In the first picture, you’ll see a woman coming down the trail toward the figure and a small child staring up at the tree figure. This gives you an idea of the height of Wheelwright’s figures.

Cherry Figure

Cherry Figure

Jaunty Hornbeam

Jaunty Hornbeam

Oracle

Oracle

Oracle is a pine tree and was, appropriately enough, placed between two large pine trees just off the hiking trail.

Under The Oracle

Under The Oracle

Sometimes, the photographer’s timing and the lighting are in sync. I was thrilled with the way the picture below turned out.

Hornbeam Dancer

Hornbeam Dancer

Doesn’t it look like she is playing with a ball of light?

Smoke Jumper

Smoke Jumper

This tree, another hornbeam tree, really did look like it had survived a fire.

Smoke Jumper's Face

Smoke Jumper's Face

Shiva

Shiva

Dragonfly On Shiva

Dragonfly On Shiva

These last two figures can be seen from Prospect Hill Road as you drive past the entrance to Fruitlands. From the road they look rather imposing and scary.

Pine Man

Pine Man

Under the Pine Man

Under the Pine Man

Pine Man's Face

Pine Man's Face

Predator Tree below looks the biggest and scariest from the road. Walking up to him, he didn’t see so big and scary.

Predator Tree

Predator Tree

On second glance, however, his face is a little intimidating. A face, as they say, that only a mother could love….

Predator's Face

Predator's Face

Joseph Wheelwright’s Tree Figures are on display through the fall of 2010 at Fruitlands.

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