Saturday, October 31, 2009

It Was a Dark and Foggy Halloween

Fog rolled in overnight and lies low over the ground and over the nearby mountain... looks like it's going to be perfect weather for a spooky Halloween. Perhaps the predicted rain won't be so great for trick-or-treaters... but for those adults attending parties, it will set just the right mood.

As do these uhh... rather candid photos of one of our dogs...

He was laying on the couch on our porch in one of his usual sleeping poses... on his back with his tummy exposed so his jowls were hanging down showing his fangs, and of course there's the glowing, camera eyes - fairly grotesque, I think!

He wishes everybody a HAIRY, SCARY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Did you think I was going to blog about riding a horse? Nope... this is all about music! After a couple weeks of not being able to sing much because of a cold or some virus that managed to create shortness of breath, wheezing, and a dry cough, I am thrilled to be able to sing again! So this week has pretty much been devoted to musical art rather than visual art, though I did make one new necklace... which you may have seen in my earlier post. It's now finished, but not photographed yet.

This photo is of my dear, dear Guild... circa 1974, a D-35... which means a dreadnaught guitar, nice and hefty. I've had her since 1976; she was a high school graduation gift from my parents, interestingly enough, purchased way back then from my bandmate, Trey! So now you know how old I am and how long I've played music with Trey, though fortunately the two of us have come a long, long way since then... musically and in other ways as well! Over the summer the Guild had a little work done... a new bone bridge and nut installed, some fretwork and new pins, and man, oh man, I love the way she sounds now! Rich and true, a little bright, but not too bright. I'm sooo pleased. Of course, the right strings help and those that are on her now, Elixir Nanoweb Light Phosphor Bronze, are just perfect... they'll be my staple from now on.

So I'm thinking about the originals I'll be putting on my first CD, and the order they'll be in, and I've been working on those songs, polishing them up a little, fine-tuning and such. But I've also got two new ones that my bandmates haven't heard yet, one that I wrote this week, and yet another one in the works. My songs tend to reflect my mood, of course. They are sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes silly, sometimes happy and bright... love songs, songs about loss, songs about the current state of affairs, songs about growing old, and even one song about murder! Some are story songs (I love the story-telling Texas songwriters!); some are not. Sometimes my songs start from a word that I love or a phrase that sticks in my head. Sometimes from a conversation with my husband or from a story I've read in the news or an experience someone has told me about. Sometimes they come from a feeling that is so strong I can't see past it.

Sometimes people ask why I wrote a certain song, and sometimes people assume that every song is true. Well, of course not all my songs come from personal experience. In that sense, they are not all "true." But in some way, they all start from a thought I've had, or a story I've heard or read, or even an image I've seen. But you can't listen to a song and assume it's something the songwriter has experienced. If that's the case, I'd probably be in jail or dead since I wrote a song, told in first person, about first degree murder!

Songwriting is all about word play, enjoying the sound of words, of rhymes, of being very intentional with your word choice and the mood you want to set with your words. And you have to think about rhythm and melody, pacing, and for me on guitar, whether the song will be strummed or picked. It's not unlike painting in which you take a blank canvas and add color, texture, patterns and lines, foreground and background to create an image that speaks of an emotion, a story, or a vision.

Next week, perhaps I'll get back in the painting studio where there is a half-begun canvas waiting for me. And plenty of blank ones as well. But when the song-writing mood hits me, as it did the other night 'round midnight and I had to get out of bed and write down some lines so I wouldn't forget them, I have to follow through.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Beading Studio

Yesterday was again a rainy day, spilling even more of our colorful leaves to the ground, typical for what happens in November around here. This morning we woke up to a thick fog, which is really lovely in the fall. And now the sun is trying to break through, so perhaps it will be a beautiful, sunny autumn day by noon. Yippee! I'll be quite thankful for that.

Today I thought I'd share photos of my beading / jewelry studio, which is really a small loft space in our home. It's where I used to paint before we got that studio built... seen in the fog photo above. The loft is fairly small, approximately 5 x 8 feet, and is accessed by a small walkway from the main area of the upstairs. There's not a lot of room to turn around, but there's enough space for one dog (definitely not two!), who is often my shadow, or the cat, but of course she finds small cozy corners and spaces all over the house.

And the view from the the surrounding windows... well, it's perfect for color inspiration! The first photo is from the front window; the other two are from the large 6 x 4 window at the side. You can just begin to see the line of the mountain range in the background. Once all the leaves are down, it will be clearly visible.

A new necklace style in process... beading on leather (scraps left over from my husband's custom knife sheaths... waste not, want not!). I'll post the final product soon, I hope!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday's Treasures... Five Fabulous Finds

I woke up this morning and found an email from a fellow artist, Jackie Schmitt aka plainspirit on Etsy, who has featured one of my paintings in her latest treasury. I followed the link, and boy howdy... it's a beautiful, vibrant collection of fantastic art and goodies! Check it out here.

Since I didn't know this artist, I took a look at her shop... beautiful work in stones and silver and beach rocks! So I'm featuring her this morning in my weekly Treasures collection.

You can follow the links to other treasuries that I am currently in, or have curated...
Sweet Embrace by theBeadAerie... filled with gorgeous reds!
Meet Me in the Meadow by Humblebea
Etsy Project Embrace by tmariepenrose... in a lovely mix of blues
Knee Deep in Zombie Fun... by moi!
A treasury I curated that just expired this morning had five sales for the featured sellers!!! I was pretty thrilled with that! Woo hoo!

Okay, now on to the good stuff... my five fabulous finds for this week!

Our Bond, a sharing pendant, by plainspirit... carnelian, moonstone, and sterling silver

A fine art photograph, The Last Leaves, by bomobob ...

A red felted poppy brooch, perfect for the upcoming holidays, by BigFrozenMelon ...

Arm warmers, and other really cool accessories and clothes, by treehouse28...

And finally, Secret Rendezvous, by one of my favorite Etsy graphic artists who features birds in unusual settings, PragyaK...

Until next week, remember... BUY HANDMADE, SHOP ETSY!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Musings... Birds Everywhere

I was wondering what I would post today... if anything, and decided I needed to check out all my fellow bloggers since I'd been offline for a couple of days this weekend (outdoor craft show on Saturday, in the rain... ugh! and woodsplitting and stacking on Sunday afternoon as well as some photography of new earrings to list on Etsy... see my Etsy box there on the right).

And voila... one of my favorite bird artists had a post which features her giveaway. Here's the link to peaceofpi studio's blog and an example of her fabulous and inspired/inspiring work!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Of Trees and Birds

Living here in the NC woods definitely influences my art. All these trees, so beautiful in each season, and the birds which alight, sing, and nest in them... they fill my landscape, my soul, and now my canvases. It's not just the colors that I love, but the lines, the rhythms, the textures. It seems to be what I am painting these days. I finished a couple this week, which I listed already on Etsy. There's one 24 x 36 in the studio still in process... trees in the rain. And I'm thinking there's many more to come.

Some, perhaps from these photos taken yesterday, which was an absolutely perfect day... temps in the low 70s, sunny with a slight breeze, and oh that blue blue October sky! My son had come up to collect his dog, whom we'd had here "at camp" for about 2 1/2 weeks, and while he was here, he washed my car and his dad's truck... a chore neither my husband nor I enjoy! But I enjoyed the sun and Jesse's company, and got out the camera too.

This is Empi, my grandpuppy, named for a VW parts manufacturer...

And here are some oil paintings completed in the last couple of months...
After the Fire... 24 x 48

Waxwing Memories... 16 x 20... newly posted on Etsy

Morning Has Broken... 12 x 16 of a Wood Thrush... newly posted on Etsy

October Fire... 16 x 20... recently posted on Etsy

There's much goodness in country living. Y'all come!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday's Treasures... Five Favorites

This week's edition of five of my favorite Etsy finds.... beautiful work in browns!

A pendant with a message... Fear Less... by PointyKitty

A miniature acrylics painting, framed... White Horse by AnikaEaster

A sweet brown owl fanny pack by hitree

A beautifully earthy bracelet by emmsgems

And this Blustery Winter Morning scarf by yarnling

Until next week, remember BUY HANDMADE, SHOP ETSY!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Light in the Darkness

I came across a line, a sentence fragment really, last night in a book I am reading... The Freshour Cylinders by Speer Morgan... about a lawyer, murder, ancient Indian artifacts, political scandal in the 1930s. This quote comes immediately after a description of life on "the lower avenue" with its "dim bars and slouched forms" and poor souls hanging around "the charity hotel." These are "people whose lives couldn't bear too much thinking about."

Far too often, I am that far removed from the workings of the world and its population, of people who live without what most of us call the necessities, of the issues that plague so many. I am here in my small, cozy, comfortable home out in the woods, painting, beading, writing songs, rarely immersing myself in the problems of "civilization." I suppose that is why I feel compelled to sing with the lonely, older folks in the local hospital, why I hold their hands and ask them how they're feeling. I suppose that is why I do adult literacy tutoring. I suppose it is part of the joy I feel when I go to the Special Olympics events of my daughter. I suppose that is why I spent my birthday singing at a fundraiser to support homeless families trying to transition to independence and self-sufficiency.

But still... I am removed.

Yesterday I happened to go up to the barn where my husband was working on knives. Our son had called and I brought the phone up there so he could discuss a VW problem with John. The radio was on, tuned to NPR, and it was talk talk talk. My husband took the phone outside for better reception and I stayed inside with the dog who'd accompanied me there, squatting by the warm woodstove in the corner. And in the silence, I heard the radio... focusing on the homeless and a homeless coalition in California and the discussion of whether the laws governing hate crimes should include the homeless. An interview was taking place with a man who had been homeless for two years, following a psychotic episode where, I suppose, he just couldn't deal with reality... a situation that happens far too often where the help that is needed just isn't found. This man described being asleep in some out of the way or under the bridge setting and being awakened with an aluminum baseball bat. He described the beating, broken bones, cracked jaw, swollen eyes and face and all... and his tormentors... young white males having what they considered a good time. I cringed, wondered how in the world people can do this to others, how can these young men live with themselves, wondering what my own sons would have done had they, in their younger years, knew of acquaintances or school mates who took pleasure in this sort of thing. I hoped I knew.

And then the talk went to some videos that a person can see on youtube and that can be seen in this homeless coalition office in CA. One showed two homeless people being paid to fight each other... being tied up somehow with duct tape and slamming each other into walls and such. I thought about how much I detest the idea of cockfights and dogfights, of how disgusted I am with people who make money and take pleasure and make bets on this type of practice with animals. And I thought how low someone must be to make bets on homeless people. I was overwhelmed with sadness and didn't think I could hear any more of this show. And then a man told about a video of a homeless man pulling out his own teeth with pliers... being paid to do this and being videotaped by someone. My stomach churned, my heart ached, I felt dizzy with it all... I quickly left the barn, telling my husband outside that I can't hear any more about this human misery.

I am happy to not hear these things. I am quite content to not see these videos. I can't imagine watching them. It isn't that I don't want to know, because I do know. I know these things happen. I may not know the details, and I surely do not want the visual stimulation of them.

But unfortunately these thoughts stayed with me, and then I read that description and those words in the book last night. And I know that "the poor will always be with us" - they have been and always will be. And human nature being what it is, there will always be people making money and having such ugly "fun" at the expense of others, there will always be suffering and sadness and loneliness.

But there will always be goodness too, and generosity, and love. And that is why we must do what we can, each of us, however we can, as often as we can, to make some small impression of kindness and loveliness and light on the lives of those around us, not just family and friends but strangers too, the homeless, the orphans, the old ones, the widows, the lonely, the friendless. It is the only way to combat such hatred and ugliness and fear.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Promoting Awareness and Support for Homeless Families

This evening I will be singing with the band for a fundraiser for Family Promise of Forsyth County, NC. Family Promise is "a non-profit organization whose mission is to address homelessness in our community — one family at a time. By offering compassionate guidance, shelter and education through a network of interfaith congregations and community organizations, our goal is to strengthen our community by helping homeless families with children remain intact while they transition toward self sufficiency." This is a new organization within our community, opening their Day Center in August of this year, so this fundraiser is a very important event for them and will enable them to continue offering programs and support for our homeless families.

We are very excited to be a part of this event and to do a small part to recognize this issue and support this organization and these families in need. To have a listen to some songs we'll perform tonight, click here to go to The Ramshackles myspace page.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Land of Silence

"Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation." ~Jean Arp

I have spent this week at home, trying to get over a dreadful cold, and I have enjoyed the quiet of my country life, but that is nothing new for me. Here I have no sounds of city streets, no industrial noise, no slamming of doors, no bulldozers or construction chaos. I have, instead, birdsong, the wind, an occasional rooster, and the barking of my own dogs. Yesterday that barking alerted me to a family of four deer in the front yard at the pear tree. They stood, so quiety and observantly, listening to the muffled barking, their heads inclined toward the house. I watched them for as long as they stood there, and then they ambled back towards the woods and the dogs become quiet again. It was a wonderful five minutes.

This silence is meditative and does wonders for my soul. It allows me to wander through my thoughts, digging at the soil in my brain, rooting through the tangled brush, to find ideas that culminate in songs and paintings. And I fear it is something that far too many people cannot or do not enjoy. It is a necessary thing for me, this silence, as much a part of me as my breathing.

I would suggest that you spend 30 minutes each day in total silence, or in the silence of the woods, if that is at all possible for you. I promise that it will open you to your own feelings, to new perspectives, to a reflection that will bring you to a different place... whether one of joy or sorrow, peace or turmoil... only you will know, but it will be a place where you need to spend some time in order to truly appreciate who you are and the life you live, and to make the most of it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday's Treasures

Happy Tuesday, everybody! Here are five fabulous finds from Etsy!

Starting with this fabulous doll, Rosemary, who is part of a giveaway by The Ruby Nest

Next, a fabulous vintage bag from DejaVuDream...

A gorgeous, up close photograph by tasteslikepurple...

And a lovely, harvest-colored necklace by UnaOdd...

Finally, beautiful upcycled wool mittens by formydarling of Finland (my ancestors' home)...

Until next week, remember... shop handmade, shop Etsy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back from the show

You learn a lot when you do craft shows... specifically which ones to do and which ones not to do, which ones have buying customers, which ones have browsers, which ones have high quality art, which ones have folksy crafts. John and I had done the Shelton Vineyard's Harvest Festival show four years ago when it was first starting up and there were only 15 vendors. That year, it was a very windy weekend which meant our art, and that of our neighbors, blew off the tables and onto the ground over and over again (one of the chances you take with an outdoor show), but worse than that was that there were few patrons and even fewer actually interested in buying. We didn't even bother to go the second day, and neither did many of the other vendors. So we steered clear of the show for a couple years but decided to give it a try again this year after it had a chance to grow in vendors and publicity. While I had a few good sales at the beginning of the show on Saturday, it still did not prove profitable for us so we won't be returning as vendors. But what I will do is email my contact and let her know that our band would be very interested in playing next year... that would be a better way to go, I think. And then we could be the patrons who enjoy a tour of the winery and visiting the art booths while sipping wine!

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the event and the scenery. While Saturday was a very grey and again windy day with temps dropping as the day progressed, Sunday was a stunningly gorgeous October day with blues skies and sun, and we took the slow sales opportunity to visit with our neighbors. So we basked in the sun, had great conversation and a lot of laughs, and even shared some recipes! I also got a chance to talk up Etsy to them, so perhaps they'll open new shops online!

Here are a few photos from the event...

Folks enjoy the music, the wine, friendship...

Saturday's ominous skies...

Rows and rows of grape vines...

Sunday sky... quite a different story from the day before!

Our neighbor and his Japanese Akita (who was a big hit!) soaking up the rays...
How to pass the time on the trip home...

Next show... in two weeks! Much closer to home and only a one-day show. Last year there I did pretty well, so I'll keep my hopes up! And hopefully the weather will cooperate because it's an outdoor show too. And by then, this dreadful cold that I brought home with me on Saturday should be gone!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Necklaces and Upcoming Show

Yesterday I spent the day beading, beading, beading. It was very relaxing... such a nice change of pace. The autumn sun shone through the windows, the doors were flung open, a wonderful breeze blew through, and I finished four new necklaces and two pair of earrings. My husband and I have a show this weekend at a regional winery, so I wanted to get a few new pieces done for that. Now I need to go through my inventory and choose what I will display for the fall and winter seasons, make sure everything is priced, labeled, and tagged, and then start packing up!

But before I show you the new jewelry, let me show you the gorgeous sky I got to enjoy this morning, although briefly...

The Dance... using an upcycled enameled pendant with black glass, brown coral, and more...

Sweet Innocence... with a beautiful lace agate and amethyst pendant, grey cat's eye beads, lilac pearls, amethyst Swarovski crystals, faceted lilac glass rondelles, and more...

The Autism Puzzle necklace and earring set... with a silver colored puzzle pendant (text reading words such as family, kindness, love, trust, unity, charity, hope, etc) and beaded with jasper rounds, African opal, mother of pearl circles, serpentine and more... with extendable silver-plated clasp...

Black Beauty... a very dramatic, short choker beaded with lampworked glass beads and millefiori glass...

And finally, Millefiori earrings which would be so pretty with Black Beauty... on platinum-plated earwires and hanging 2 inches from the top of the earwire...