Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Ostara

Ostara Revisited-The Vernal Equinox

Enjoy this re-post on the history of the Vernal Equinox. Originally posted in 2008, the first day of spring 2012 looks quite different than what I saw outside my window in 2008. This year the vernal equinox brings temperatures in the 70’s and spring blooms bursting all around.

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Ostara is a neopagan holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Vernal (spring) Equinox when day and night are nearly of equal length.

Ostara comes from the name of an ancient German Goddess, Ostara, after whom the Easter festival may have been named (as speculated by Jacob Grimm in Deutsche Mythologie.)  In addition, Grimm’s source, Bede, put forth a thesis that the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of April, Esotur-monath, was named after a Goddess, Eostre.

The Equinox is considered a time of rebirth and rejuvination.  It is, therefore, not surprising that Easter also occurs around the time of the Equinox.  Several “traditions” associated with Easter find their origins in pagan rituals, such as eggs which are a symbol of fertility; coloring eggs and hunting for eggs (decorated eggs were offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance) and the Easter bunny and Easter chicks.

Chicks and rabbits are very fertile animals.   The rabbit was an animal sacred to the Goddess Eastre (Oestre).  Eastre is the Goddess of spring and presides over the realm of conception and birth (animal and human), pollination, flowering, and ripening fruits of the plant kingdom. By honoring the rabbit in spring, by eating candy in the shape of rabbits or chicks, it was believed that we’d take on their characteristics and enhance our own fertility, growth and vitality.

The bluebirds, a sure sign of spring, made an appearance in our back yard a few weeks ago.

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Unfortunately the first day of spring in Massachusetts is rather dreary.  I found the following images on Flickr to remind me of the warmer weather and flowers soon to come.

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Happy Spring!


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Begin at the Beginning

As I start this new adventure, I find it can be good to look back at where I’ve come from. Some people believe everything we’ve done in life leads us right to the specific moment we find ourselves in currently. Sometimes I believe this and other times I can’t wrap my head around it.

How did my decision to get a degree in Speech-Language Pathology lead me to want to teach and run workshops as an artist?

How did I get to this point?

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who like to pretend she was a teacher, a dancer, an actress….

Okay, we’re not going back that far.

Let’s just go back to when I started my business, back in 2003.

Business Begins

In 2003 my studio was being finished and I was making jewelry in a spare bedroom. Yep, jewelry; the place where I think many polymer clay artists begin. Jewelry; because it is pretty popular and usually sells well. I remember going to the local hardware store to pick out cabinets for the studio. The woman in the cabinet department asked me if I made my jewelry (funny that I don’t remember what I was wearing but it caught her eye.) And then she asked me if I sold my jewelry.

Cue that anxious pit in the stomach. Cue the ego.

“Yes” I replied (Inner voice: Are you crazy? You don’t know what you’re doing. Why would she want to buy your jewelry?)

And so it began. My very first customer. I didn’t ask for it to happen this way. Sometimes opportunities fall into your lap whether you want them to or not. Looking back I know I wasn’t planning to sell my jewelry; not right then and there. Someday, maybe, but on this day?

Specific details are a little fuzzy but I remember she bought several pieces over time. And then her job was eliminated and I lost my first customer.

But by this time I had been bitten by the selling bug. Making money? good; working hard to get it? not always so fun.

Early Jewelry: Assorted Pins

Early Jewelry: Earrings

Early Jewelry: Bracelets

Selling and a crash

Early on I hosted two open studios. The first one was quite successful. The second one bit the dust. I started exhibiting at small, local shows. I moved away from selling jewelry because my heart wasn’t into it. It was (and still is) a very competitive art category and it seemed like everyone made jewelry. And I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing.

I made switchplate covers, pens and pencils, keychains. I tried my hand at making bowls. Some items would sell moderately well for a period of time and then not so much. It was very easy to get discouraged. Shows ran the gamut from decent to absurd (painted hermit crabs and make your own pixie sticks at “juried” shows?) But when I experienced my first art show where the customers told me they came to find handmade gifts, I learned then the kind of venue I needed to target.

Flashlight Keychains

Red Bamboo Switchplate

Blue Nature Switchplate

"Alligator" Pen & Pencil Set

I began to sell my artwork in consignment stores. I started making wine bottle stoppers, business card cases, and perfume pens. Soon these items would become my bread and butter in terms of sales. And then I was turned on to the wholesale market.

Yowzah!

Wholesale was a very good venue for me. I acquired gallery customers across the United States, from east coast to west coast and down to the Caribbean. During this period of time the number of consignment stores I worked with grew as well. Cumulatively I had over 60 contacts. Just me, myself, and I.

And I burned out. After a couple years, I was tired, bored, and not so happy. When the economy started to wobble and sales became less certain, I, like many people, started to re-evaluate.

Renewal

When I took the art doll workshop in 2007 my interest in art was renewed and opened up another side of me. I continued with wholesale and consignment but a shift was happening. 2009 brought the trip to France and my awakening to the fact that I need community; an art community where I can do meaningful work.

Overtime, as I’ve started to shift my intentions, I’ve cut loose those sales venues that no longer fit with where I’m heading. Some were initiated on my part. Some on the part of the gallery or shop. Sometimes there is sadness. Sometimes there is relief. At all times I keep in front of me the direction I’m going. I’m jumping and I hope the net will open.

Right Brain Business

This week I started Jennifer Lee’s Right Brain Business Plan E-course. I was reading our first week’s assignment again last night and had an a-ha moment when I read this sentence:

As a right brain entrepreneur, if your values are not reflected in your work, your work will lack meaning. Are you being authentic in your business? If you’re compromising your values in your work, you’ll feel resentful, upset, burnt out and frustrated. When you’re aligned with your values, you’ll feel fulfilled and energized and that is what people will resonate with most.

Values. Authenticity. Alignment. Not something I necessarily considered in my business. That is about to change.


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The Belle of Bell Tavern

Earlier this spring I accepted an invitation to participate in an art exhibit, Historic Interpretations: Contemporary Artists Interpret the Historic Collection, at the Peabody Historical Museum. Historic Interpretations challenged artists to choose an historical item from the museum and to reinterpret it in any art medium.  Per the historical society:

“The Society is seeking to remove traditional forms of interpretive practice, leaving the object’s interpretation to the participating artist.”

The historical artifact I chose was a 19th century wallpaper fragment from the Bell Tavern in Danvers, MA.

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After some research, I learned that in 1797 Hannah Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or, The History of Eliza Wharton, which detailed a much publicized account of a socially elite Connecticut woman’s death in a tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child. Foster’s novel became a statement for women on the issues of individualism, social conformity, social class, and female friendship in the early American republic.

With this information, I was inspired to create The Belle of Bell Tavern.

Using this photo, I sculpted Eliza Wharton from polymer clay.

Eliza Wharton

Eliza Wharton

Here she is, head attached to the body, before going into the oven. (Doesn’t that sound a little sadistic?)

BelleofBellTavernBaldFull

And then I realized I forgot to give her eyebrows!

BelleofBellTavernBaldHead

Here is The Belle of Bell Tavern completely assembled. I really must order a larger photo cube. Belle is 16″ tall when assembled and these larger pieces don’t fit in a 20″ cube. Below are two shots of her; one in the photo cube and one against a black background.

BelleofBellTavern1

BelleofBellTavern2Black

BelleofBellTavernHead

Belle is attached to an antique wall shelf that I inverted for her skirt. Accompanying her is a handmade journal that opens, a pair of slippers, a suitcase, a gold key, and scrolls of love letters to an unknown beau.

BelleofBellTavernJournal

BelleofBellTavernJournalOpen

The quote attached to her skirt reads: I’ll toll you in if you have need, feed you well, wish you speed. These words hung over the door in front of the Bell Tavern.  From what I’ve learned about Eliza, she was a woman who found herself in a difficult situation, surrounded by friends who criticized her actions and warned her against further wrongdoing. Eliza desired independence and freedom. She wanted to avoid a loveless marriage, to choose a relationship on her own terms, and did not accept the idea of a woman being another person’s personal property.

This piece was great fun to create. Who would’ve thought a simple wallpaper sample could provide so much history.

The exhibit runs August 15-October 18. Opening weekend is August 15, 12:00-7:00 pm and August 16, 12:00-3:00 pm. The exhibit is displayed in two houses, the Osborne-Salata House and the Gideon Foster House. For more information, visit the Peabody Historical Society and Musuem.

To read more about the development of this piece go to this post and this post.


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Historic Interpretations

On Sunday, March 2, during a lightly falling, fluffy snow, Brenda, Laura, and I drove to Peabody. A few weeks earlier I had received an email from the Artists Foundation announcing a call for artists from the Peabody Historical Society regarding a future exhibit. The exhibit, “Historic Interpretations: Artists Interpret the Historic Collection” asks interested artists to create a new work inspired by a chosen historical artifact from the Society’s collection.

This sounded like a wonderful, unique challenge; one that the three of us were all likely to accept.

Arriving at the historical society, we were presented with two binders full of pictures of the historical artifacts contained in Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster Houses. Artists were invited to look through the binders to choose at least one historical artifact. We were also encouraged to walk through both houses to see the artifacts up-close.

Choosing one artifact would not be as easy as first thought!

Artifacts in the Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster homes included period clothing, signs, furniture, sculptures, lamps, wallpaper fragments, and pictures. Our minds were a bit overwhelmed with choices and possibilities.

I narrowed down my choices to two items: a bas-relief wooden sign featuring three faces and an eagle overhead and a wallpaper fragment.

As we walked through both houses checking out the items we were considering, I found myself drawn to the wallpaper fragment. It was the first item that caught my attention in the first binder I opened. And I know well enough that I should go with my first choice.

So that is what I did.

Here are pictures of the wallpaper fragment:

phswallpapersample3 phswallpapersample2

phswallpapersample2-version-2

What drew me to this artifact was the shape of the wallpaper fragment. I believe the open ended aspect of this artifact presents a wonderful challenge. So many ideas for what I could create started to come to mind the longer I looked at this piece. I thought about recreating the design in polymer (challenge #1 as I rarely make cane designs in polymer clay.) I considered the shape of the fragment; curvaceous and feminine.

And then I learned more about the history of this wallpaper fragment.

The wallpaper fragment is from the early 19th century and taken from the Bell Tavern located at the corner of Washington and Main Streets in Danvers.  The Bell Tavern is where the Minutemen gathered before traveling to Lexington. Hanna Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or The History of Eliza Wharton, which is a fictionalized account of the death of a socially elite Connecticut woman who dies in a room at a roadside tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child.

The tavern where this happened? The Bell Tavern. The character Eliza Wharton is based on the real-life Elizabeth Whitman who died at age 37 after giving birth to a stillborn child.

Who knew all this history could be contained in a wallpaper fragment?

What else would this fragment tell me if it could talk?

And how will this information influence and inspire the piece I create?

The mind boggles. I can’t wait to get started.


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Its Beginning To Look Like Christmas

I’m busy this week preparing for my final two holiday shows.  On Friday, 12/5 (6-9pm) and Saturday, 12/6 (10am-4pm), several members of the Bolton Artisans Guild, including me, will have art available for purchase at the Harvard Historical Society Art Festival and Sale, in the old Harvard Library, in Harvard, MA.

On Saturday, 12/6 (10am-4pm) and Sunday, 12/7 (12noon-4pm), I will be selling my art at the Fitchburg Art Museum’s Holly Berry Fair.  You’ll find me in the Greek Art Room.

Below are a few pictures of some holiday themed work that I’ll be selling this weekend.

Santa on Skis

Santa on Skis

A Pair of Santa Wine Bottle Stoppers

A Pair of Santa Wine Bottle Stoppers

Solo Santa Stopper

Solo Santa Stopper

Snowman

Snowman