Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Glimmer Series: Mixed Media Wall Art Prototype

I want to create mixed media wall art pieces as part of the Glimmer Series. As I started to develop this body of work, I had a strong urge to work with beeswax. Don’t ask me why; I have no idea. But the muse said to give it a go and to see what happens.

Ideally I would love to create the mixed media wall pieces on artist panels. I bought a few 4″x4″ panels with a 3/4″ profile last December. Those panels are intended for a different project but they might be incorporated into this body of work.

Anyways, before jumping right in and working on the panels, I created a prototype wall piece on 5″x7″ artist canvas panel. This gave me the chance to play with beeswax, papers, oil paint and polymer clay all on one surface. Beyond that, I didn’t plan out the piece with a sketch and just worked intuitively.

Glimmer of Hope Wall Prototype

I started out by applying beeswax to the canvas, placed a page torn from an old book into the wet wax, and then fused more wax on top. From there I built layers with rice paper, paper beads, and oil paint. I fused tiny pieces of branch around two words from the book: “Changed” and “Beautiful”. The polymer clay face is taken from a mold made of Glimmer #1′s face and painted gold.

When the entire piece was cooled and dry, I highlighted the raised areas with Gilder’s Paste. Gold stamped words “Glimmer” and “Hope” finish this prototype.


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New Body of Work: Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 is the first in a series that I am creating as part of a larger body of work. This first part is called Glimmer (of Hope.) The Glimmer series developed out of a series of  health issues that I have been dealing with since last November. Specifically, these health issues revolve around that change of life known as perimenopause.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 embodies a time of contemplation, reflection and hope. Below are a series of pictures documenting her creation.

Glimmer #1 starts out with a solemn, contemplative face.

Glimmer #1 Cured Head

I have chosen to paint all the heads gold in this series.

Glimmer #1 Gold

Echoes of the song “Goldfinger” bounce around in my head as I paint. Each head receives two thin washes of gold paint and then a final thicker layer. A wash of burnt sienna acrylic paint completes each head. And then I realized I had a bit of a problem.

Each piece in this series will have an elongated neck representing my struggle to keep my head above it all. But it didn’t dawn on me to add more clay to create the elongated neck until after I had already painted the head. And matching the raw clay to the now painted cured clay could present a minor challenge.

After some measuring and finagling, I constructed the wire core and aluminum foil body and blended the raw clay to the painted gold clay as best as possible.

Glimmer #1 Body Core

Glimmer #1 Clay Core

Another issue I often face in body construction is dealing with balance. My Spirit Messengers seem to either lean forward or tilt backward which usually requires some readjustment of the base. In this series, the elongated necks also present an interesting challenge. I often have to bend and adjust the wire support to the right angle before securing the head to the body. However, I am letting these pieces develop naturally. By that I mean, if the head positions itself at a particular angle, I’m quite likely to go with it.

Glimmer #1 Head

All of the Spirit Messengers in this series will have black bodies. I decided to go with black because the “Glimmer of Hope” appeared at what felt like a very dark time for me. It was like a tiny ray of light poking through dark clouds. Each body will have different embellishments. The gold heads and black bodies will connect all of the pieces.

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1

Glimmer #1′s body is embellished with peach colored size 8 seed beads, kernels of gold polymer clay and embossing metal. She has a lightly textured surface.

Spirit Messenger Glimmer #1

The word “Hope” is stamped into the embossing metal. The metal was tinted with a blend of alcohol inks.

Glimmer of Hope

Glimmer Spirit Messenger #1 is 9″ tall and 3.5″ wide at the base.

Next: Glimmer #2.


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A New Body of Work: The Glimmer Series

When I was confronted with my health issues late last year, I made a conscious decision to slow down. I also decided to use my artwork as a form of healing. More specifically, I am using my health situation as a muse for my artwork.

I introduced this challenge last week in this video.

Recent events have caused me to relocate my studio and my creative muse has laid quietly while I deal with more doctor’s visits and tests. However, before all this happened, I started documenting my process in the creation of the Glimmer Series.

The Glimmer Series is inspired by this particular picture:

This image is a self portrait that I created in early December in response to receiving the first bit of news that potentially explained what was happening to my body. It was ” A Glimmer of Hope.”

I began this series by sketching some ideas for Spirit Messengers, including faces and bodies. I envisioned different shapes. Some Spirit Messengers are free standing; others want to hang on the wall. Then I sculpted three heads:

Glimmer Heads Pre-Oven

I prefer to use Super Sculpey over aluminum foil. I’ve learned that this keeps the heads from cracking which is especially important when you work on a larger scale. I knew at least one Glimmer Spirit Messenger would have a solemn face. Instead of searching for faces online for inspiration, I decided to take pictures of myself with different facial expressions. Afterall, this series comes from my emotions, so why not use myself, my expressions, as a model?

I was pleasantly surprised how my very first solemn face sculpture turned out.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to recreate another face like this again. But that is also why these are one of a kind pieces.

Another face has puckered lips. A face of concentration or frustration or relief. I’m not quite sure which one.

The last face has a wry smile (and a bit of a bulbous head; oh dear.)

Along with the Spirit Messengers, I plan to create mixed media wall art as part of this series. I’d also like to use fabric and perhaps boxes or other forms for the bodies. My goal is to create 6-8 pieces. I’ve completed two Spirit Messengers so far and will introduce them to you in the next few days.


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The Itinerant Artist

Life is up to her old tricks these days, throwing some curve balls into our rather steady day to day activities. I’ve posted several pictures of all the snow we’ve had recently (here and here.)  Last week after back to back storms, the snow and ice took its toll on our house and the ice dams went into overdrive.

As we scurried to stop leaks in two rooms, it was decided that I had to drop the temperature in the studio to 55 degrees in order to keep the top of the house as cool as possible. (Guess that means my studio on its own just wasn’t “cool” enough.) It also meant setting up fans in my studio and a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the ice dams that had seeped into the carpet.

After a couple of days of clearing snow and ice and putting ice melt socks on the roof (which fell off anyways), I decided that I was going to have to relocate my studio for the near future. The process of returning the studio to its normal state is going to take some time and I, sadly, cannot work there in its current condition.

My first reaction to this was similar to this picture I made in Photoshop:

Caught

A friend told me it looked like a cover for a “screamo” band. Well, if I can’t make my art in my studio, perhaps I have an alternate career as a screamo band face model.

Moving out of my studio has not been easy. The studio is my sanctuary. It has an energy all its own and in there I can lose myself. Now I was faced with deciding what to bring to my new location. Not an easy task when you’re used to having all your art supplies right at your fingertips.

After a bit of avoidance, I relocated to our dining room. Eric helped me set up a small table and my work chair. I decided not to bring down all my polymer clay. Instead, I’ll bring down what I need as I work on each project. That alone will be an interesting challenge. I also brought down my sketchbooks, paintbrush carousel, my sculpting tools, some pastels, and a few other tools. My laptop and a few business items round out my new temporary space.

And here it is:

New Workspace

The "Office"

Pippin my Supervisor

The cats are enjoying my new set up. They like to jump on the dining room table and peer at me over the edge of my laptop. Woody has also enjoyed playing on the rug under the work table. I admit there are advantages to this new location. It is closer to the bathroom and the kitchen!

As I write this, the leaks have stopped and the carpet in the studio is almost dry. Of course another project remains and that is repair and repainting. I’m not sure when I will move back into my studio.

Health Update

The stress of the ice dams, leaks, and moving my studio has been compounded by my continuing health issues. Plan A, which included a trial on a pill to reset my hormones, has not worked as hoped. Today I had a pelvic MRI, with and without contrast. A pelvic MRI will give an even better look at the fibroids and their location, how many I may really have, and the blood source. Based on the results of the MRI, I am looking at two options, one more favorable than the other. Both of which would bring resolution to the problem.

The MRI itself wasn’t too bad. My first MRI was in 2009 for my back. That was in an older machine and I had to go in head first. For this test, I went to a different location and went into the tube feet first. They placed a foam like grid over my belly/pelvic area. Because I was also having this test done with contrast, an IV was placed in my left arm. When the first procedure was complete, they rolled me out of the MRI tube, hooked up the contrast, I raised my arms over my head, and back in I went. That was the shorter of the two procedures.

I should get the results on Monday and things could move rather quickly after that. I’m making peace with this situation, with my options, and what may lie ahead. It is not easy to give up control over your body and harder still to lay the burden at the hands or feet of something larger than us. I know I am on the road to a solution. Soon a plan will be in place.


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My 2011 Word of the Year: BIG

As I have done for the last few years, I have finally chosen my Word of the Year for 2011. Drumroll please……

The word I’ve chosen to guide me in 2011 is the word BIG.

So, why did it take me so long to post it to my blog? Because I’ve been working on BIG things. That and well, I wasn’t quite sure what to write about the word I chose.

As 2010 drew to a close and I was dealing with my health issues, I started having very vivid dreams. In one dream, a man spoke of his rebirth as if he were a prophet. That dream stuck with me and I contemplated choosing rebirth or renewal as my words for 2011.

And then I read Lisa Call’s blog post on how she chose her word for 2011 and how she distinguished between “doing” words and “being” words. That made me think. Is the word I choose for 2011 going to be a “doing” word or a “being” word?

The words “rebirth” and “renewal” sounded nice but on some level they weren’t quite clicking with me. They seemed too, um, airy-fairy.

And then the word BIG popped in my head.

I was thinking about some of the goals I want to achieve this year. For me they are BIG. And as I contemplated this word, some BIG things happened:

If the last few weeks are any indication, the word BIG is already guiding me and having a positive influence.

So BIG has become my word of the year. I guess it is both a “doing” word and a “being” word. I want to do BIG things. I want to be BIG and live fully. Who knows; maybe BIG will also bring renewal and rebirth with it.


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When Life Tells You To Slow Down

Note: This post has been through several iterations since I started writing it last month. I alluded to my health issues in an earlier post reflecting on my 2010 word of the year. This post goes a little more in depth on how those weeks of uncertainty called me to slow down and think about the direction I want to take in life. Be forewarned that this post may contain too much information.

__________________________________________________________________________________

It all started in November and got crazier the weekend of Thanksgiving.

Let me preface that by saying I’m a 47 year old female. I know changes lurk around the corner. You know, that time our mother’s referred to as “the change” or “the change of life.” Growing up, that phrase was sometimes followed by stories of women growing facial hair, going “nuts” and essentially turning into something that resembled Fiona Ogre in the “Shrek” movies.

I certainly hope time and attitudes have changed.

As I said, I’m 47 and moving toward menopause. I believe I’ve been experiencing subtle symptoms of perimenopause for the past few years. Some sources report that a woman can begin experiencing these changes up to 10 years before the actual onset of menopause. No wonder many women hate their 40′s. Personally, I’ve loved being in my 40′s. It has felt like the right age for me. Unfortunately, on the health front, it is in our 40′s when our bodies pay us back for the abuse we may have given it in our 20′s and 30′s, whether you’re a woman or a man.

I have herniated discs, bouts with GERD, creaking knees, and tinnitus. All manageable issues that do their best, at times, to make me feel, ahem “middle aged.”

And then there is the perimenopause.

Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with a fibroid. Fibroids are very common in women in our western culture. There is no definitive cause for fibroids. It could be estrogen overload, it could be hereditary. One statistic I read stated that up to 75% of women have fibroids. For many women, the fibroid(s) never act up or pose any problem.

And then there are the rest of us. We must be the special chosen-ones.

Everything has been manageable these last few years. My doctor and I have taken a conservative “watch and wait” approach. Then in November things got a little out of control.

There was the biopsy to rule out uterine cancer, the ultrasound to see what was going on inside, and the two sets of blood work. (Make that four blood tests throughout the month of December.)

One blood test indicated I was hypothyroid, a common diagnosis for women in perimenopause. The next blood test said my thyroid was normal but that I was anemic. By the end of the week I’d learned that the biopsy was negative (Yea!) and the ultrasound showed more fibroids.

Now the picture was getting clearer. My hormones had apparently kicked my butt, dragged me down, and shook me up.

Lucky me.

So, why would I share with you something that is rather personal? Because I believe when our bodies put us through the wringer, it is a signal that we need to slow down and regroup. You may not agree with me and I respect that. But for me, I know my body and it was definitely screaming at me.

I also share this because women often suffer in silence during this phase of life. Sure we joke with our girlfriends and cry on our sister’s shoulders. But inside many women are afraid, unsure of what is happening to their bodies. Society, and perhaps core beliefs learned when we were kids, has told us that women are to be svelte, in control, forever youthful with porcelain skin and nary a gray hair in sight. Just look at some of the “Women’s Health” magazines. We take care of others until we drop.

Menopause means we’re getting old. Things start sagging and bagging. The kids leave home. We find ourselves facing a change of roles in our life. Who are we? What do we want to do with our new self?

During these last few weeks, I found myself slowing down, not only because I felt like crap, but also because my body was telling me to do so. I returned to daily meditation and daily reading of personally uplifting passages. My dreams became more vivid and I started to analyze their personal meaning. I had my first Reiki treatment. I released myself from all structure in my schedule.

Instead of blocking out time to get this or that task done, I wrote a one page to-do list. Whatever got done, got done. If I was tired, I took a nap. If I wanted to read, I read. If I wanted to watch TV, I watched it. I wrote in my journal almost every day, sometimes three times a day. I started exercising again, even if for only 15 minutes.

And I spent a fair amount of time thinking about my business. What is important and what isn’t. What I can let go of in order to create that which is most meaningful for me.

All of this has left me feeling empowered. My health is improving, a solution has been found, and a new plan put in place for moving me forward. I feel a burden lifting and a new door opening.

This time has not been easy. I’ve had more anxiety and stress than normal. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward and 10 steps back. I keep reminding myself that I am well, that I will be well, and that all will be well.

Writing this is cathartic. I admit to having prided myself on my health; that I wasn’t experiencing this or that problem. The risk in that attitude is the shock and fear that comes when life deals you a bum card. Granted my situation is not as bad as what some other women go through. However, when you think all is “normal” and then trip on the rug, it does make you stop and re-evaluate. Writing this is also part of my process of acceptance. Acceptance of this situation. Acceptance of the challenge. Acceptance of a new road ahead.

I jokingly refer to these last few weeks as my “power surge.” You know, there seems to be a double meaning in that phrase now that I think about it. As a result of this situation, I have started to release myself from certain commitments. In turn, new opportunities are already presenting themselves to me. I am moving forward into the power that this change in life is bringing me. I slowed down and I listened.

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During this time, I found the following resources to be of great value:

A GYN’s Second Opinion

Brigham & Women’s Hospital: Obstetrics & Gynecology

BWH: Center for Uterine Fibroids

Advanced Gynecological Solutions

As always, talk to your doctor. Write down your questions and write down what the doctor tells you. Don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion. This is your body. You need to be at peace with any decision you make.


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My 2010 Word of the Year: Soar. A Look Back

In January of last year, I chose the word SOAR as my word of the year. I chose this word because I considered it an extension of the word Momentum. Momentum was the word I almost chose. But SOAR seemed to fit me better. I liked the sound of SOARING through the year. You can read more about why I chose SOAR here.

The idea behind choosing a word for the year, as opposed to making resolutions, is that a particular word provides you with guidance all year along. I admit that sometimes I forget that. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. If I beat myself over the head with my word of the year, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the process any more than I like making New Year’s resolutions. So I often choose my word, put it out to the Universe, and then let it go.

How did I embody the word SOAR during 2010?

I embarked on a long thought about goal and started teaching polymer clay mixed media classes. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by visiting Italy. I had mixed media artwork (on canvas) published in two different books by Patti Digh. I was interviewed by our local newspaper and a local cable channel. I dove more into social networking by finally creating a Facebook personal page and a page for my art business. I also created an online studio on ArtFire.

Many of these events and other accomplishments happened rather effortlessly. For most of the year, I felt like I was soaring on thermals. Opportunities appeared and I accepted or let them go.

My full phrase for 2010 was SOAR with MOMENTUM into ABUNDANCE and have FAITH.

And in the last two months of the year, FAITH came into play. Big time.

First I received a surprising notice that one of my galleries wished to end their contract with me. The loss of a contract is not entirely new. I’ve ended them in the past and consignment shops have ended them with me. In this case, however, the loss caused me to question the value of my artwork and my self-worth as an artist. Would I be resigned to create production artwork forever?

Then came the health issues. At 47 I expect to be facing some changes as I move closer to a new phase in my biological life. However, what I did not expect was several doctor’s appointments, a biopsy, blood tests, unplanned weight loss, and an ultrasound. As a generally healthy person, to be confronted with a body in sudden revolt over a period of several weeks not only made me angry, I was scared, tired, and crying. I found myself delving deep into prayers and searching for faith in my self and my situation. Faith that I was well, that I would be well, and that all would be well.

The sketch below sums up all the feelings I experienced during those weeks.

As the year drew to a close, my health started to return to an acceptable level of normalcy. Answers were received and a solution to the situation was found. The experience caused me to think deeply about several areas of my life. This has put me on a new path for 2011 and influences the word I’m leaning toward to guide me in 2011.

In some ways SOAR in 2010 was a mixed blessing. Much like the hawks that I love to watch, SOAR carried me on the thermals of success but it also meant I had to dive deeply to find the source of myself.


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Monday Reflection-Our Thoughts

All that we are is the result of all that we have thought;
it is founded on our thoughts,
it is made up of our thoughts.
If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought,
happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

-The Dhammapada, verse 2


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Monday Reflection: Awareness

Awareness of impermanence is encouraged,
so that
when it is coupled with our appreciation
of the enormous potential of our human existence,
it will give us
a sense of urgency
that I must use every precious moment.

-H.H. The Dalai Lama

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