Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 9 - The Blue Ridge Forest - In Which I Learn to Reflect and Dream

During my middle school and high school years, my family would go to West Virginia to visit my mother’s parents, who lived up the road from the Bluestone Dam.

Visiting my grandparents was pure pleasure for a number of years, since we got to know all the kids for miles around and everyone in the neighborhood had a porch. Porches in those days had real purpose--this was where the grown-ups would always sit after supper, enjoying the cool evening breezes and catching up on the happenings of the day across the neighborhood.

We kids would run from house to house, where each family welcomed us as if we were their own, sharing cookies, sweet lemonade, lollipops, and love.

We used to go across the street to the elementary school to hang out and play on the grounds. The school was often closed for breaks when we visited. One time we snuck inside and wandered through the hallways and classrooms, soaking up the feeling of magic. This was a place of learning that smelled of chalk dust which floated in the sunbeams coming through the big windows, and crayons, and paint, and floor wax. It was like being in a theatre before the play starts or after it's over and everyone's gone. The magic lingers. 

As I got older, many of the kids weren’t as available as they’d been in past years, and I found myself alone more of the time--our school breaks didn’t always coincide when we visited. I loved to walk up the street in the early afternoons, past the porches to the Bluestone Dam, where we’d spent many afternoons playing by the river while our daddies and granddaddies fished.

I’d hike around the sheltered part of the water and head up the steep side of the mountain into a thick forest of pines that grew just to the side of the dam (bottom right in the photo within the link above). I loved being under those trees, walking barefoot on the soft, spongy carpet of needles that had been piling up for decades, and I’d usually choose a spot to sit about half-way up, where I could see down through the trees to the sun sparkling on the river below, but mostly nobody could see me.

I’d practice smoking cigarettes and write in my journal, another new habit I’d picked up and enjoyed. I liked to reflect on things that were going on, figure things out, and daydream in my journal. It was someone to talk to when no one else was around. I've written in my journals every day for some 40 years now, hmmm....

Being in the pine forest felt safe and nurturing, ever so fragrant, and peaceful.

The alone time helped me grow inside myself, surrounded by the twittering of tiny birds, soft summer breezes, and the security of knowing I’d be going home to Gammy and Granddaddy’s to help with dinner, be around family, take a cool bath, and slap a bunch of Calamine on my mosquito bites.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Tree Book Chapter 8 - My Hiding Place - In Which I Learn How To Have Secrets

Here my tree stories start to get a little spicy - just skip by them if you can't relate. I've decided to just be me cause I find that sharing brings a lot of comfort to a lot of people, surprising - but that's what I'm all about.

As I navigated my middle school years, I hit some bumps along the way like everyone, and one of them was when I decided, in my infinite adolescent wisdom, that it could be useful to start smoking. Because I’d lived overseas with my family for a large part of the first ten years of my life, I’d missed the chance to form enduring friendships in childhood, and by the time I landed back in America at the age of 11, most of the kids in town I should have been cultivating had developed elite cliques which were very hard to break into. New Jersey, close to beautiful New York, was not an easy place to grow up.

The area in which we lived was composed of various neighborhoods that reflected their inhabitants. There were pretty strong boundaries in those days. There were the "rich kids," the Italians, the Blacks, and the rural people. I didn't know better than to love them all, since I had travelled and experienced many cultures - I didn't have any understanding of the boundaries that I found myself surrounded by in middle school. And I didn't have allies either.

After being pushed down the stairs at school a few times by one of the racial groups, shoved around the hallways by others, I realized I needed to gain allies as fast as I could. I was a lamb among wolves. "Kids" can be very, very mean, and somewhat dangerous at that age, between 13 and about 16 years old.

I once went with an Italian (boy) friend to a bowling alley to play, but found I had crossed unacceptable boundaries in building a friendship with him, and when we went out to the parking lot to head home, we were stopped by several dark haired, dark skinned, gum smacking Italian females. There is nothing so impenetrable as a group of females who can trace their ancestry. I was a mutt, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, the hated WASP.

After surrounding us, one of the girls got into my face and was bullying and teasing, and she made the mistake of touching me. She picked up my wrist, upon which rested my watch, and said something about me needing to be home on time, and after all the admonishments of my parents to "turn the other cheek," I saw red. So I shoved her hand away and told her not to touch me - she got even handier, and I fought back. Wow I learned a lot about myself. I'd been taught NEVER to fight. ("Ladies don't fight, and you're a LADY," said my very Southern mother.) But I'd had it with the bullying and fear, so after this lovely little fluff started getting truly violent, I bit her and drew blood. I grabbed a handful of hair and removed it from her head. And I kicked her very hard in her shins. She retreated.

I was shaking all over and angry as hell and my (boy) friend had stepped back during this whole episode, not helpful at all. I think he might have whistled, as they do at boxing matches. After she and her friends retreated, he drove me home and quit flirting with me forever. And the girls NEVER bothered me again at school. So much for turning the other cheek. I learned that sometimes you need to speak the language that other people understand. And class isn't relegated to "race," it's all about behavior. I didn't start it but I sure as heck finished it.

I was very grateful to learn that inside myself was something strong and protective. Don't mess with me. Just don't. Many a story has been told of the father who beats his son getting his comeuppance once the son grows stronger than he is, well this is my Warrior Princess chapter. It was wicked, but I survived.

After a couple of years of little success at friendship building (finding allies), I discovered that cigarettes could bring immediate recognition between the smokers in middle school and myself - a shared, forbidden pleasure, a bond. A group of us would stand in-between the trees by the stone wall of the church next door to our school and puff our way into the mornings before classes started. The cemetery across the street made no impression on us then. We'd also meet in the restrooms during the school day, gossiping and whipping our cigarettes back and forth in the stalls so the smoke didn't have a chance to rise. We had a code word for when a teacher came in so we'd all know to flush them in order to avoid getting caught. At the time, it seemed a good and very necessary "club" to belong to.

So at this tender age of 13, I started tapping my parents’ stash for cigarettes to practice with, which were always in ample supply. With a fresh pack of Mom's Virginia Slims in hand, (You've come a long way, baby!) I would sneak out of the house in the afternoons and over to the park, heading away from the houses down towards the end where a puffy little white pine tree grew.

I’d duck under its branches and sit with a sweet, cold bottle of apple juice in the open space underneath, where the ground was covered with thick layers of thin red pine needles, scattered with pine cones, soft, fragrant, and glowing in the dappled sunshine. I’d light up and puff away to practice smoking.

Eventually I started buying my own - my favorite was Marlboro back in those days – the red and white box with a pack of matches tucked under its lid would last me a couple of weeks. Nobody paid any attention to age regulations. Cigarettes were available everywhere and the shopkeepers would sell to practically anyone, child or grownup.

I can’t imagine what the neighbors might have thought if they had looked out and seen little clouds of smoke wafting out from under the puffy little pine tree. They never bothered me; I got my cool on without interference: me, my apple juice, and my Marlboros, and developed a kinship of sorts with all the other young smokers. I survived middle school and learned to cultivate allies. Sometimes you don't have much choice in the selection of allies, but smokers have been, to me, for years, so very wonderful. Rock on. And don't be too quick to try to correct what you perceive as a failure, or a death wish, or an addiction, or a "problem." When you learn the backstory it might help you to take a look at your own glass house. Ah yes, my sweet little puffy pine....

And by the way, one of the countries I lived in while travelling with my family was beautiful Italy. We lived in Bari, which is very close to Rome. We had a very loving Italian housekeeper who saved the little plastic dwarfs out of the laundry soap boxes for my sister and me, and she cooked and cleaned and hugged and her eyes twinkled and sparkled. The air smelled like grape lollipops from all the pine trees, and the light was golden all the time. We visited some of the greatest museums on earth and I developed a love of all things Italian, including the beautiful, loud, ever touching, celebratory people, which endures. My classmates were not this.

Isn't it interesting that the one thing you choose to help you survive challenges at one point in your life can turn out to be the thing that can kill you at another point? If we're smart we learn to let go of things that no longer serve us. Still working on that.

New Ojime Bead Necklaces Available at the Bellefonte Art Museum

Creepy Rabbit Ojime Necklace
The jewelry show at the Bellefonte Art Museum is going well. I sold more than I had anticipated the afternoon it opened, so when I got home I made some more beautiful necklaces and some fluffy dangle gemstone earrings. The beautiful Ojime bead necklaces have been very popular. The photo above shows the little rabbit I call "Creepy Rabbit," because he seems a little scared and in need of some love.

Look at his little cute.
I had included the Creepy Rabbit necklace I wear all the time in my exhibit, and it was marked "Artist's Collection," which is how I label things I want people to see, but they're not necessarily for sale. However, one of our members fell in love with Creepy Rabbit so I went ahead and sold him to her, hoping I had another rabbit at home so I could make another necklace to replace him. Thank goodess, I did - so that very night I made a new Creepy Rabbit necklace, and popped it on - we get so attached to our little creatures.

The Ojime beads I buy are inspired by traditional Japanese Ojime beads, which are hand carved boxwood. The detail on the animals is amazing - the bottoms of their feet often include the toe pads, and their fur is beautifully carved. Their faces are also very detailed. Each one is signed by the artist, who spends about four hours carving each one.

The lovely ram.
Since we live in sheep country, I decided to make a necklace with the lovely ram Ojime bead. He's a happy little fellow, embellished with gemstone bugle beads, including tiger's eye, jasper, onyx, and agate. Gorgeous Czech glass leaf beads dangle from the tips. These necklaces are strung on FlexWire and crimped, so they're nice and strong. They hang about 18" down, so the bead sits below the chest.

Two rabbits playing....
Here's another one I made with a very cool Ojime bead that depicts two rabbits playing. I used a wider selection of gemstone bugle beads for this one, so it's quite colorful in an understated way. It includes blue lapis, red tiger's eye, brown tiger's eye, white jasper, onyx, and several other gemstone beads, along with some copper metal seed beads and some green, root beer brown, and glowy iridescent seed beads. 

I just love these rabbits!
Perhaps my favorite new Ojime necklace is the monkey below.

Happy monkey playing on his necklace.
I love this monkey because the carving is so good - he's holding his arms up, as if swinging from vines in the jungle. I had fun making the necklace and weaving it through his arms. This one includes jasper, agate, red tiger's eye, brown tiger's eye, and onyx bugle beads.

They'll be available through the museum through October 25th, and then either up on Dreamkeeper Creations or available at the Green Drake Gallery. They go with everything from dressy to casual. Each one is unique, and because they're one of a kind they make extra special gifts.

Thanks for visiting!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Make your own Dream Catcher at the Bellefonte Art Museum!

Detail of my new Dream Catcher!
Lucky me, lucky you, I get to teach a class at the Bellefonte Art Museum this Sunday, October 11th, 2015, from 1-4:30 p.m. on how to make your very own Dream Catcher! It's a drop-in class, takes from 1 to 2 hours depending on the size you choose. All supplies are provided. 28 hoops available. $15.00 for children, $25.00 for adults. Proceeds go to support the museum so we can do more lovely, fun, artistic things together!

Who can resist this kind of texture and color?!
I must thank my good friend, Judith Finkelstein for the opportunity to teach this class. She had planned to teach it but had to travel to New York, so I get to step in, hope I can do as well as she does. Judith donated most of the materials too, and they're GORGEOUS. She's a textile artist whose work can regularly be seen at the museum.

More colors to choose from, yummy!
Today was practice day for me, since I've never done this before, and I can say it is the most FUN! I think I'm now addicted to making beautiful Dream Catchers and you'll be seeing some at the Green Drake Gallery for sale. 

I studied up on the history of Dream Catchers, and there's all kinds of information, from how they are done traditionally, to the embellishments creative people have added in their own creative ways, inspired, but not bound by tradition. One of the best places for information on not only Dream Catchers, but various types of dreams, is

My Dream Catcher
I really enjoyed the process of making a Dream Catcher, and it was pretty easy. It's very peaceful winding the soft, colored yarn around the hoop (that takes the longest), and exciting to build the web and watch it grow. I added some sparkly beads to my web, and a beautiful little turkey feather in the center. Choosing the embellishment for the bottom was loads of fun, and also very easy. 

And now my heart is glowing and I can't wait to do this with you on Sunday, so your heart can glow too! It's so much fun to make something so beautiful, and to have it hanging by your bed each night, catching those bad dreams, and letting all the good ones through.

Here's a beautiful, soft Dream Catcher that Judith made.
You can see by the photos above that part of the fun is that Dream Catchers are as different as the creative people who make them. Aren't they beautiful!

Hope to see you soon and spend some fun, creative time with you.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 7 - In Which I Learn to Take a Break

About the same time I enjoyed visiting my Mama Tree, I discovered a pair of pines at the other end of the park across the street from the new house.

These pines flanked a small stone building that wasn’t really a building at all, since it had only a thick stone column on each corner of its raised concrete platform, a heavy, slanting slate roof overhead, and a single bench in the middle. The bench was painted a rich deep green. Sitting on it, I could look out over the expanse of grass to the fountain in the middle of the park (where I had my first kiss), and further beyond it to my Mama Tree swaying in the wind as if waving hello. The building was great for rainy days and forbidden kisses, but on sunny days, I much preferred being alone with the trees.

One of the two pines was perfect for climbing and I loved to tuck a book in my pocket and grab hold of the lowest branch, swing my legs up and climb out to a set of branches that were perfectly arranged to cradle my butt and brace my back while I sat in the dappled sunshine breathing in the heady pine fragrance and losing myself in a good story.

I spent many an hour there, rocking in the wind, soaking up the peace, then going home with sap on my arms and legs that didn’t come off for days. Sometimes I’d get it in my hair too, and that was a challenge to try to remove but well worth the effort for the sweet times I’d had. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Show is Set Up at the Bellefonte Art Museum!

One of my favorite necklaces!
We'll be hoppin' at the Bellefonte Art Museum on Sunday, October 4th come rain or shine. Come see us, show's open from 1-4:30.

The photo above is one of my favorite necklaces, made of hand-carved African sandalwood beads. I have a necklace similar to this one that I've worn for years, and the sandalwood beads just get more beautiful with time. This one was extra fun to make because as I chose each sandalwood bead I soon discovered there were about five different artists who made them. I could tell by the shapes. One of the artists was a true perfectionist, and his or her beads are perfectly round, smooth, sanded, and the holes were cleared out nicely. Another carver's beads reflect their maker by their shape, which is a little bit like a cone, fatter on one end than the other. Some carvers may have been young, because their beads were a little bit unpredictable, and the holes were full of wood shavings. It is like the artists left fingerprints as they created their beautiful beads. It was like working with friends to string them.

This necklace is punctuated with African hand-carved bone beads that have been dyed beautiful, soft colors, and different types of silver metal spacer beads. It's strung on FlexWire, and crimped three times for strength. The best part of it that I get a kick out of is that I was having such a good time I kept stringing until it reached 106 inches! So you can wrap it around several times, giving you many options on its length as you wear it.

The other fun part of this necklace is that when I finished it around 2:30 in the morning, I got all inspired to tea-stain it. So there I was in the kitchen, tip-toeing around to get hot water and several tea bags - used PG Tips, "England's best tea since 1930" for its gorgeous dark color. The beads gently soaked up the color after I stirred them around for a little while. Delicious.

The brown hand-carved beads that you see on the glass in front of the earrings were fun to work with too. Same artists - these beads started out unfinished and I took them down in the basement last year and dipped them into a can of rich, dark wood-stain. I stirred them around and let them sit to dry on cookie sheets. Went downstairs several times per day for days to roll them and change out the parchment they were sitting on. I let them dry for a year, cause I wanted to make sure they were dry inside the holes before using them. When I strung them, again on FlexWire, I mixed them with beautiful hand-carved, dyed long bone beads that have the rich dark brown and a bit of beautiful gold in them. This necklace goes around about twice.

I made an effort this year to design earrings that could go with my necklaces, but not be too "matchy-matchy." Let me know how I did.

Pure unfinished sandalwood
There's also a much lighter colored pure unfinished sandalwood necklace mixed with beautiful hand-carved white bone oblong beads. Very lightweight - this one will only get better with time as it's worn, especially if next to the skin. Wraps around about two or three times.

Hawk Inspired Petrified Wood Necklace
The necklace above includes a tea-stained sun/moon face cabochon and a lovely petrified wood cab below it. The design was inspired by a recent nature walk, where we were followed by a beautiful hawk. It includes peyote stitch, stop stitch, and seed beads of glass, tiger's eye, and jasper. A very earthy piece. The earrings I made that go nicely with it are of bronzite. I have a pair of bronzite earrings I wear all the time and the energy they impart is very uplifting, helping me to concentrate and get things done.

The Fun Corner
I'd bet this little harlequin doll gets up and dances around when the museum is closed at night. This is the fun corner, full of color and fantasy. It includes the Mad Hatter necklace from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, and WonderPrayers, a necklace designed around one of my favorite Mucha images. There are a couple of Rainbow Catcher necklaces and lots of colorful earrings.

Cloisonne Bracelets and Necklaces
I made 11 sets of the ever popular cloisonne bracelets, this time they're a little bit larger than before, including 15 cloisonne beads rather than the 14 I used to use. Makes them a bit more comfortable for those with medium sized wrists. AND I made two cloisonne necklaces, since people have been requesting those. I have a necklace which I like to wear a lot - and it wraps two or three times around. Come try these on, they're way cool, and very affordable.

Heaven and Earth Necklace and Blue Dichroic Cabochon Necklace
The Heaven and Earth Necklace is on display and available AND I made a pattern for it. Be sure to take a peek through the pattern and let me know how I did. The images in the pattern are hand-drawn cause I'm still tinkering with the bead pattern software, but the pattern's been reviewed and approved by one of my master beader friends. It'll give you an idea of what goes into making a piece like this, aside from just the pleasure.

Handmade One-of-a-Kind Lampwork Beads with Fluffy Dangles

The two necklaces to the right are also my very favorites. I wanted to WEAR them! I wanted to KEEP them! But I said NO, you have too much jewelry and now you have to share! So here they are. I wanted to keep them affordable so they come on dark black lace leather, which you can make any length you prefer, with a simple knot in back. I LOVE these and I think you will too. Lots of earring choices to go with them. The pink one on the left reminds me of the fascinating ebru painting we learned at the museum a while back. Very cool.

Bottom Shelf - Choose your own cab and have your necklace custom made!

This year I'm trying something new. On the bottom shelf of the display case on the right is a whole lot of fun. I've brought in a ton of cabochons for you to choose from to have a necklace custom made. You can choose from three styles - the style like the Muchas that includes a peyote stitched border and fringe and seed bead necklace chain, or a simpler style with just peyote stitching and border on a black leather necklace, or one in-between with the cab, the peyote stitching and border, and fringe, on black lace leather. Comfortable price ranges - GORGEOUS cabs. They include square summer cabs, fairytale cabs, and some really beautiful Madonnas. Turnaround time should be about two weeks and I can contact you to discuss colors. Don't forget to ask to look through these cabs, you might just fall in love. Options rock!

It's glowing....
There will be 15 artists at the museum doing book signing for the launch of the "Landscapes of Central Pennsylvania" - get your copy signed and meet the artists. This book makes a great Christmas gift.

Check out our new sculpture that's been installed in the tiny magical Sharon McCarthy Garden, "Warrior Knight Seeking Balance" by Jeanne Stevens-Sollman. It's absolutely enchanting.

Warrior Seeking Balance by Jeanne Stevens-Sollman
Hope to see you there!