Thursday, March 19, 2015

On Losing Your Head - A Cautionary Tale of One of My First Submissions

The mission of The Visual Art Exchange (VAE) in Raleigh is "To foster the advancement of and provide opportunities for all visual artists, particularly emerging, and to increase community awareness, appreciation, and support of North Carolina artists."  I love the VAE.  As a newly professional artist, they provided me with an accessible venue to test the waters with my creations.

I was absolutely thrilled when they accepted my very first submission for a Mixed Media event there, and over-the-moon when an image of "The Guardian" graced the promotional email that I received for the show. 

I visited the VAE on the opening night of the show, and I still remember my excitement at seeing my piece on display.  A month later, a bit disappointed that it hadn't sold, I returned to retrieve my creation.

Imagine my surprise, when halfway home on US Highway 1, I heard a thud from the backseat.  I glanced in the rearview mirror, and quickly realized that my masterpiece had lost his head.  Literally! Apparently the generous quantity of E-6000 that I'd used to attach it had reached it's limit.  After my laughter subsided, and I phoned a friend or two with the news, an overwhelming sense of gratitude overcame me.

Gratitude for the experience.  Gratitude that the head only rolled onto the floorboard of my own car and not onto the floor at The VAE, or worse yet onto the floor at a collector's home!

Lesson learned.  I stayed away from E-6000 for years as a result, and I learned a variety of other cold connection techniques that would ensure a more secure future for the work of my hands.

My approach to chemical adhesives has softened a bit through the years.  I use it judiciously now.  Often it remains unseen, as it serves its function as a temporary bond while an alternative and more secure connection is made.

The moral of my story, "It's OK to lose your head, as long as you learn from the experience."
At the time, of this piece I wrote, "The Guardian makes use of many of my favorites. A doll's head that I'm sure was loved by a little girl...or two...or three. A lampshade halo and kitchen-gadget wings. Tins and buttons, spools and game pieces, keys and scrap-metal, springs and a garter hook; and words...lots of words. These and more combine to bring this piece to life. It's my way of honoring the past while
encouraging hope for the future.

As for its purpose? It's to protect and guide. It's to keep dreams alive in the face of adversity. It's sole purpose is to brighten the heart and feed the spirit. It's something that we could all use in our world today."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Inner Peace - Outward Passion Lessons Learned

As a young idealistic bank officer and wannabe artist, I was resolved to live my life with Inner Peace and Outward Passion.  At the time, these words summarized the transition that I was trying to make.

I was passionate about art and creating, and I knew that my days in the financial service industry were numbered.  I also knew stress...the stress of being a workaholic...the stress of family health stress...and the stress of loss.  I realized that it was all part of life, and I was resolved that I'd find a way to navigate these waters with a sense of inner peace at my foundation.  It only seemed logical to me that my first formal metalsmithing class as an adult would pay tribute to my mission..

My friend Barbara, a fellow banker, and I enrolled in a ring making class in Pittsburgh.  It was taught by the talented Jan Loney, and skills like measuring, cutting, texturing, stamping, sizing, soldering, and finishing were all included.  With all of this in mind, I decided that my ring would feature the word "Peace" on the inside and "Passion" on the outside.  (Clever and symbolic, right?!?!)

The sentiment that consistently
finds its way to the top of my
finger each time I wear this ring.  
Jan was an excellent teacher, and the skills that I learned ignited my imagination with possibilities.  After practicing stamping on aluminum, I tried my hand at sterling silver, and things went swimmingly!  Cutting, sizing, soldering, and finishing were equally successful, and I was in love with my new creation.

I wore this ring to work every day!  It became a touchstone to remind me that  my dreams were within reach.  It also became a lesson in the importance of thoughtful design in the creation of jewelry.  It still brings a smile to my face today.

Mistakes happen.  I've learned to embrace them, learn from them, and laugh at them.  I've also come to realize the value of sharing my foibles with others.

Care to share your own creative mishaps?  We're all in this together, and I'd love to hear about them!  Please leave them in the comments below this post.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Art In The Schools on Ocracoke..... Out and About with My Mom

As you may know, a few years ago my Mother was diagnosed with a disease called Lewy Body Dementia (LBD).  At the time, with compassionate care and proper medication, her quality of life remained high, and she was still able to do many things for herself.  

As time passes, my role in her life has increasingly becomes one of caretaker.  At times I long to be "just her daughter" again; but in most cases this isn't possible.  In part this explains why I was thrilled that she was able to join me on my Ocracoke Adventure in January.  Travel isn't easy; but one of the blessings of it is that in the absence of her daily routines at home, she returns to me in some small way.  Conversations are sometimes possible; her fear of strangers subsides a bit; and while her mobility is limited, she still seems to enjoy seeing life from a different perspective.

As I look at these first two pictures, I wonder if this is what it feels like to be inside of her head.  Yes, she admires the beauty of The Lighthouse and The Snow Geese, and at the same time things are still a bit our of focus.  They're there in the distance, and she has to fight her way through the rest of it in order to appreciate them.  Some days more than others, it's more challenging to find her way through all of it.
Mom admiring The Bodie Island Lighthouse.
Migrating Snow Geese at Pea Island. 
I appreciate the moments of clarity.
Her smile is genuine, and the look in her eyes tells me that
she's fully present.
The travel took a lot out of her, and by the end of our trip,
her disease reclaimed her with a vengeance.  
On our way home, we toured Ocracoke.  Our first stop was at
Eduardo's where she was able to greet the man who provided
us with so many delicious lovingly prepared meals.
No trip to Ocracoke is complete without a visit to The Lighthouse.
I can't explain how happy I was to share the home of our
ReMe Retreats with her.  My parents were always supportive of my dreams,
and I'm grateful that she could be a part of this one.
Next stop was our private ReMe Retreats Sunset Spot.  
And finally, one quick stop at The Beach as we departed.
The look on our faces says it all to me.
We were both happy and content in the moment, and
I'll always treasure this trip.

To read more about how I learned about this opportunity, the
Ocracoke Community, and our Retreats on Ocracoke,please visit our 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Art In The Schools on Ocracoke..... Out and About - Critters & Creatures

It all began innocently enough.  I was twenty-seven years old when Theresa, my friend since Kindergarten, and I were on a road trip to The Beach.  We stopped in Breezewood, Pennsylvania for a drive-thru dinner, and we gave into the temptation of buying a talking chihuahua at Taco Bell.  "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" became our mantra for the season, and he became our mascot for that trip, and many more.  We photographed him EVERYWHERE!  This type of fun continued with my son's Flat Stanley Project in elementary school, and most recently with my frequent travel companion, Mr.  Bill.  It just seemed logical that I should honor this tradition with our Recycled Critters and Creatures!

Their first ride in the front seat.  On our way to The Beach.
Lola by Jodi Ohl, one of my partners in ReMe Retreats.
Joy by Jodi Ohl.
Gizmo by Mary Neligan.
Frank by Mary Neligan of Mary's Funky Fish.
My very own Scooter.
Lunch at Eduardo's for Food Made with Love.  The Kids had to eat!

A romp through Books to Be Red with Leslie Lanier.She assures me that I'm "a good kind of crazy".

Groovin' to the sweet sounds of Molasses Creek, Coyote, Katy Mitchell,
and the other talented Musicians of Ocracoke.
Just a Swingin'
Lovin' The Live Oaks...
...and The Lighthouse.
One last gathering with friends...
...a visit with The Ocracoke Dolphin, and we were homeward bound.Until next time...


To read more about how I learned about this opportunity,
the Ocracoke Community, and our Retreats on Ocracoke,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Art In The Schools on Ocracoke..... Deepwater Theater & Music Hall... Our Classroom

While on Ocracoke Island, my classes were held in Deepwater Theater and Music Hall.  

Through the years, I've attended numerous shows by the talented artists of Ocracoke Island, and the walls virtually echo with their performances and creativity.  Deepwater Theater and Music Hall is at the heart of the arts community on Ocracoke, and I was thrilled beyond words to spend time there.

Snow on Ocracoke!  Another first for me.  
I wish that you could have heard the kids.

Color coordinated mixed media materials from Debbie Leonard!

Google Eyes.  Never leave home without them!

Hi.  My name's Jean, and I'm addicted to train cases...
and tools...and maybe Piggly Wiggly Bags.  ;-)

Most of the artwork on the walls at Deepwater Theater
was created by the talented Kitty Mitchell.
On this trip, I learned that she's also from Pittsburgh.
I knew that I liked her for a reason!

When on Ocracoke, if it's at all possible,
you MUST attend a performance at
Deepwater Theater and Music Hall!
You'll be glad that you did.


To read more about how I learned about this opportunity, the Ocracoke Community, and our Retreats on Ocracoke, please visit our ReMe Retreats Website by clicking here.