I’ve been a bit stressed and down lately. Nothing major, just working through changes and fear of the unknown. In my heart of hearts, I know that everything will work out right; but sometimes my heart and my head aren’t in synch. My heart’s in a good place, but my brain wants to over analyze everything and think me to death in the process.
At times like these, I instinctively reach for my beads. Creativity has a healing element to it, and of all of the crafts that I do, this seems most true of beading. It’s hard to explain, except to say that there’s this very zen space – a meditative place – that I go to when I bead. It soothes me and helps me to let go, and in the process I often find creative solutions. Last night as I sewed, I remembered this story that my friend Beki Haley tells about her Nana, which sums up that feeling so much better than I can:
My grandmother did almost every craft imaginable, knitting, crochet, needlepoint, tatting, shrunken apple head dolls, ceramics, watercolors, we even made toilet seats out of resin with seashells trapped in it! She was a very energetic and sometimes nervous woman who couldn’t seem to sit still or calm down. Until she picked up her beads. Then she would become very calm and quiet. When I was about 8 I asked her, “Nana, how come when you play with your beads your leg stops shaking and you get so quiet”? She called me over to her chair and said, “See all these little beads in here? Do you see the little tiny holes?” I nodded yes while squinting my eyes to look into her metal cigar box lid that she used for her beading tray. She said, “When I bead I climb inside that little tiny hole and there is no room in there for anything else to bother me. No worries, no aches, no stress.” At 8 I didn’t quite understand how that made her leg stop moving. But by the time I was an adult I fully understood and her words have never left me. I climb inside that little tiny bead hole whenever I need just a moment of calm.
Thank you Beki, for giving me permission to save and share this story <3
Today would be my father’s 78th birthday so I’m dedicating this “inspiration Wednesday” to him. My dad made his living via his art at a time when that wasn’t so easy. He was a redwood sculptor and also a very talented tattooist, but I think his greatest love was oil painting. Growing up, I dreamed of being an artist too.
He used to have a gallery in the California redwoods and he also worked with other galleries along the coast. I got to tag along when he sold at shows and galleries, and watching this taught me a lot about the the art of craftsmanship.
working on a tattoo
He had a powerful commitment to his work — to him, creativity was a spiritual practice. He treated it with great respect, and he taught me to do the same. He always impressed how important it is for an artist to take great care of your tools –especially your hands and eyes! — and also to use the best materials available. He stressed the value of really learning your craft, paying careful attention to detail and quality, and always striving to hone your skills no matter how much you think you know. Beyond these practical skills, he taught me a lot about the healing properties of art. I won’t go into that too much in this post because it’s highly personal, and because I don’t know how to write about it without sounding corny or lame. Suffice to say that like my father, my creative process is also a spiritual process.
I suspect it was my dad’s influence that first exposed me to beads and beadwork, and he is indirectly responsible for my learning how to do leatherwork too. His soul mate Michele is a talented leatherworker who makes beautiful buckskin garments and bags. She taught me to work with garment leather back in the early 90’s, which quickly led to my interest in tooling and sculpting leather. So I guess he’s ultimately responsible — or at least, influential — for my career choice and my choice of materials.
My dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always loved and admired him. There was nothing traditional about him, so he was never a traditional father figure (thankfully, I have an awesome stepdad who has more than filled that role in my life). Still, he was an amazing individual and a talented artist. He passed a few things along to me, and they’re some of the things that I like best about myself. Thank you dad, for sharing your art and spirit.
Last year, one of my friends posted on facebook about The Circus Project , encouraging folks to contribute to the group’s Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their annual show. When I read about their mission to help homeless kids through circus arts, I was blown away! What a creative and beautiful way to empower young people to change their lives. I decided to donate a few bucks, and also volunteered to create some headpieces for their December 2011 production.
We’d really hoped to drive down and see the show, but the timing just didn’t work out for us. Still, I’ve been keeping up with the project via their facebook fan page, and I was excited when they announced that their org has been featured in an episode of the TV documentary series “Turning Point”. This is a 24 minute segment about how the project started, and what it does to help homeless youth get off the ground. It’s an absolutely inspiring story – please consider taking the time to watch it!
My mother is Mexican and Spanish, and I grew up in Los Angeles, a city that is steeped in Latino culture. My abuella came from Mexico to America in a covered wagon in 1918, and my daughter and I had the good fortune to hear this story from her directly. Despite all that, my own upbringing was pretty American. My family still continues our tradition of making turkey tamales on Thanksgiving, which we’ve done since I was a little girl. I love Sandra Cisneros because her writing captures the feeling of my family in such a poetic and sentimental way, and I can speak Spanglish at a toddler level. That’s about as Mexican as I get.
Similarly, my father was Native American (Cheyenne-Arapaho) and ??. He identified with his Native roots, and drew most of his spiritual and ethical principles from that. You know, the idea that “we are all connected” and we should walk in balance and with respect for mother earth. I don’t mean to cheapen those ideals with buzzwords and catch phrases — I’m just trying to convey the concept quickly. My dad’s art and ideals were deeply influenced by his Indian heritage. He passed that along to me to some degree, by taking me to pow wows and teaching me what he believed in; but I didn’t grow up on a reservation or anything. I grew up roller skating along the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice 😉
These cultures are certainly a part of me, they reflect my family and my history. They have colored my perspective, and helped to shape my thinking; but I didn’t really live them the way a first generation Indian or Mexican person would. As such I view them as my heritage, rather than my culture — if that distinction makes any sense.
There are aspects of each that resonate with me. Little fragments that I like to keep alive in my own way, however diluted. For example, my dad’s people had a great reverence for life. When they hunted, they took only what was needed, and made an offering to the spirit of the animal to express gratitude for the nourishment and sustenance it provided. Their respect for that animal’s life motivated them to use every part of the body. In keeping with this, I smudge every hide that I use in my leatherwork with sage, and silly as it may sound, I thank that cow for the sustenance (income) it provides. I do my best to use every scrap, so that nothing is wasted.
My mom’s ancestors have a beautiful way of viewing death. Every year in Mexico (and much of California 😉 the people celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It is not as morbid as it might sound. Rather than mourning the death of loved ones who have passed, this holiday (which actually spans two days) is intended to celebrate, honor and remember those who have passed. I’ve always appreciated this holiday, for that sentiment and also for the beautiful artwork that it inspires.
This year, it is especially important to me, as I’ve lost several friends and family recently. Most notably, my father. Even though we knew it was coming, it still hit me pretty hard. We did not have a perfect relationship — in fact, we butted heads a lot — but I always loved and respected him. I’ve been doing DotD inspired stuff for some time, but even more so over the past year. Silly as it may sound, it has helped me to work through my grief for my dad and to focus on the positive. It reminds me to honor what he taught me, and to value the aspects of him that live on in me and in my daughter.
I am going to go out and grab some marigolds and candles today, so that I can create a special altar in his memory. I’ll add pictures of him and sage that he picked, along with photos and mementos of my grandparents and my friend Mahala, who died of cancer last fall. I’ll spare you the full roster (suffice to say that it is long) but know that it reflects much love for many wonderful people who have added to my life. Meanwhile, I’ve created this virtual altar over on Etsy. My online ofrenda:
This picture shows 4 of the 576 beaded squares that comprise the 9/11 Bead Quilt Project that I was so blessed to be a part of. The square in the lower right corner was my (then 8 year old) daughter’s first piece of bead embroidery. Her square, like all of the others, measures 3 inches high by 3 inches wide. By itself, it’s a small token — but collectively, these quilts measure approximately 9 ft by 9 ft. That’s 81 square feet of tiny little beads, woven by people from around the world; woven by people who felt compelled to share their grief, love and hope in response to those tragic events.
The quilts are now in the collection of the National September 11th Museum and Memorial at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. A few people have asked me if the quilts will be displayed publicly today. Unfortunately, they will not. I misunderstood and thought that the museum would have its grand opening today, but in actuality, the memorial is the only portion that will open this year. The museum will open next year (2012). Until then, you can enjoy these beautiful and healing works in our online gallery. I encourage you to take a moment to view the project today. Remember what happened, pray for the families and survivors, and hope for healing.
This is my second year participating in the Beading for a Cure project. I had all sorts of elaborate ideas, such as a beaded leather purse, an ornate headdress, or possibly another mask; but when it came down to it, I was in too much of a time crunch to be able to do any of those ideas justice. In the end, I decided to keep it simple.
The end result is the 5th bead embroidered filigree cuff in what will be a series of 6 (cause I only have one more of these filigrees left ;). I will probably continue to play with this style, since I really enjoy it … but as the components change, so will the overall look.
I really like this year’s colors — they’re sort of a mix of earthy and watery tones. To me, this blend feels playful, yet grounded. Interestingly enough, I use a lot of these colors in my work — but not typically together in the same project. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they work together
As to the shapes, I really loved the matte metallic swirly bugles — which is saying a lot, since I’m not much of a fan of bugle beads. I also really liked the Swarovski “lochrosen” (sequins, basically) that were included, but I was not as fond of the cubes or long magatamas. They were maybe just a bit too angular/odd shaped for my style of bead embroidery. Then again, I bet the geometric mathy types just ate them up! 😉
It was fun to play with colors and shapes that I might not have chosen on my own. I do wish that I’d used them in a way that pushed my limits a bit more, but again, there was that whole time crunch issue. As it stands, I’m satisfied that I was able to complete something for this special charity. I do hope it helps to generate a bit of attention and funding for this worthwhile cause!
Wow, I’ve got a lot going on this month! Some of the highlights include the Beading for a Cure Charity auctions, a gorgeous new Fae Team Exhibit, vending at the Spring Fairy Festival in Auburn and of course, more school. Reading it back to myself, that list doesn’t look anywhere near as big as it feels… but regardless of how it looks, it’s enough to keep me hopping. Hopefully, some of this will be interesting and exciting to you as well 🙂
The mask that I donated (pictured above) has been listed today, and the auction will end on 4/18. In case you’re not familiar with this charity, Beading for a Cure is an annual art challenge and fundraiser. Participating bead artists each purchase an identical kit and create something with the materials. They can create anything they choose, as long as they follow the same ground rules. Starting in March, the items are auctioned off and the proceeds are donated to the National Colorectal Cancer Research Association in memory of bead artist Layne Shilling, who lost her battle with colorectal cancer in November of 2002. It is an amazing gift of love and talent. This year’s participating artists went all out, so please visit BFAC’s eBay page and show them some love.
Annnddd, the new Fantasy Artists of Etsy (or Fae Team) exhibition is live! These exhibitions showcase the artwork of the team’s talented members, and they’re a real feast for the eyes. The theme for the current exhibition is “Faeries, Elves and Pixies, Oh My!”, and it is truly fabulous. Please take a moment to visit the site, and tell them that I sent you!
Last, but certainly not least, we will be vending at the Spring Fairy Festival in Auburn WA this coming Saturday, April 16th. The event takes place at the Green River Community College in Auburn WA — please visit the website for details and directions (cause I assure you that you never want to get your driving directions from me 😉 Besides an impressive array of talented vendors to shop from, there will be fun workshops, exciting performers, a kid’s corner and a costume contest! It promises to be a fun show — hope to see you there!
In November of last year I wrote a post about the 9/11 Bead Quilt Project, explaining that we needed help getting the quilts to their final home at the National September 11th Museum in Manhattan. Between coordinating, creating, exhibiting and finding a home for the quilts, our team has spent nearly a decade on this project! As much as I have loved (and learned from) being a part of it, I really wanted to send it home to the museum by the end of 2010.
Shortly after I wrote that post, the museum contacted me to let me know that they might have some funding available to cover shipping costs. Serendipity? Possibly — but sometimes I suspect that there are angels watching over this project. We’ve been blessed with an incredible amount of “luck” along the way, and this was no exception.
I didn’t post anything at the time, since they weren’t sure if they could do it and I was afraid to “jinx” it. Fortunately, the only setback we encountered was a delay in shipping due to the winter snowstorms on the east coast. In the grand scheme of things, that is no big deal. The quilts arrived in New York at the end of January.
As you can see in these photos, the shipping crates have seen many miles — how I wish we’d thought to add stickers from all of the places they’ve traveled, like you see on the old steamer trunks! My dad reinforced them to ensure that they could make this final trip; despite their tattered appearance, they arrived safe and sound.
This has been an incredibly beautiful effort to be a part of, and I’m thrilled that we were able to see it through and secure such perfect placement.
It was truly a collaborative effort, made possible with the help of many many hands. As such, it would be impossible to name and thank everyone, but please know that we are very, very grateful to every single one of you! I would like to give special praise to Rosa Meyer and Julia Pretl for their exceptional dedication.
The 9/11 Museum and Memorial are being constructed at the WTC site in Manhattan. I believe the museum will open by or before the ten year anniversary of the attacks, which is this September. If you get the chance, please stop by and blow the quilts a kiss for me.
A collection of artisan glass beads via the BOC blog
Sometimes this world can be a pretty dark place, but in spite of all the sadness and the ugliness that barrages us on the evening news, there are people out there doing amazing things. A light in the darkness, if you will… The folks at Beads of Courage are an excellent example of this. They have created an “Arts in Medicine” program that strives to provide comfort and aid to children and families coping with childhood cancer.