My mom has been sending old photos. Here’s one of my daughter and me from 25-ish years ago. Based on her expression and the hair clip in her hand, I’m betting that I’d just chased her down to try to corral those wild hairs. It was a common occurrence back then 😂⠀ ⠀ This child came in to the world with a full dark mane, and I just loved making her pretty little hair clips. I’d been making my own hair accessories long before she was born. Today she’s in grad school, and my once dark hair is now salt and pepper (extra salty). All these years later, and I’m still making barrettes for our wild hairs…
We’re adjusting to this whole social distancing thing, and I hope the same is true for you and yours! May this update find you healthy, safe, and sane 🙂
When this shift began, I told myself that I’d just hunker down with my beads and my seeds, and do my best to create and grow my way through this whole experience. While that’s still the ideal, it seems that my muse (and my focus!) are currently MIA.
At first, I was angry with myself about this. I should be “using this time productively” and “finishing all those projects”! Now I’m just breathing through those expectations, and letting them go. Seeds are planted, and I’ve got creative projects on the table. More importantly, everyone that I love is still upright, and adapting.
My creative work is happening slowly, and I’ve decided to just go easy on myself, and accept that. I hope you’re all cutting yourselves a bit of slack right now too… you don’t HAVE to start a new project, or knock out all of those chores. Just breathe. Love your people, stay human, stay home, and be well.
My creative energy seems to go into hibernation during the winter months. This used to frustrate me, but now I accept that I’m simply not prolific all the time. I’ve come to appreciate this time to rest, restore, and plan.
It may not look like I’m doing doing much … but below the surface, I’m dreaming, planning, and planting creative seeds for the year ahead.
My semi annual trip to the gem show always helps to kick start that creative vision. It’s a much needed dose of sunshine, family, friends, and rocks! It’s also an opportunity to hand select high quality materials for my work. Playing with these sparkling stones definitely helps to awaken the muse!
“You need music, I don’t know why. It’s probably one of those Joseph Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic and bliss, and power and myth, and celebration and religion in our lives and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.”
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.
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:
Hopping on a plane tomorrow to go visit one of my oldest friends down in southern California. Kim and her daughter are crafty too — Kim makes beaded jewelry and really cool wine bottle decor, and Alli does a little bit of everything (poly clay, gourds, henna, soap making) — so we’re going to share a booth at one of the local festivalson Mother’s Day weekend. The show is called “Dead on the Mountain” and it’s a great big hippie fest with tons of Grateful Dead cover/inspired bands.
I’ve been beading a lot the past week or two, which is a nice change of pace since I’ve been so focused on leatherwork for the last several months. So I’ll have plenty of beaded jewelry for this event, as well as a good selection of leather barrettes, fascinators and hair slides. Not sure how well the masks will do, but I’m bringing a bunch for good measure. Hopefully, we’ll do well there as I’d love to have a reason to visit more often. I miss the sunshine, the redwoods, the ocean and mostly, my peeps. I’m very excited for a chance to see them!
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.