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Such a long long time to be gone…

“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.”

~ Jerry Garcia

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Remembering Dad…

dad painting a mural in a church in Clearlake, CA

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.

oil painting

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.

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Dia de los muertos

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.
  

source: www.pgmuseum.org

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.

source: www.greenhouseexpress.com

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:

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California I’m Coming Home…

“Day of the Deadheads” Calavera Mask

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!

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9/11 Bead Quilts are Finally Home!

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.

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Holiday Shipping and Gift Certificates!

Just a quick reminder ~ the USPS says that if you want your packages to arrive by December 25th, they should be shipped by  December 21st (which is also the winter Solstice).

If you’d like to avoid shipping and shopping hassles all together, gift cards are a great way to go. They allow your loved ones to choose just what they want, and best of all it spares you from dealing with crowded malls and congested traffic. I’m now offering these in both of my Etsy shops.

You can print them at home or if you prefer, I can personalize and mail it for you… Did I mention that I’m a calligrapher?

These are available in multiple denominations in my mask & jewelry shop, which showcases one of a kind beaded jewelry and original leather masks… Aannd, you guessed it! You can also find gift certificates in my bead and jewelry supply shop, Treefrog Beads, which focuses on vintage and unusual materials. This is an awesome gift for your favorite bead addict 🙂

Whatever you choose (and however you celebrate) I hope that you find a way to avoid the stress, and enjoy some  time with the people you love!
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Precious Things

I was cleaning out my studio recently, and it struck me that I tend to collect – and cherish – the oddest things. I have saved every little note or scribble my daughter has given me over the years, along with pebbles, feathers, sticks, bones and other random mementos.  As I tidied up, I arranged some of these things into more contained groupings. This one is my favorite:

  • The abandoned nest came from good friends – they came across it doing yard work and they saved it for me, knowing that I would love it. 
  •  The little white stones were collected over a decade ago, when I lived on the beach. My daughter and I loved to go beach combing with the neighborhood kids. They would pick a different color of rocks and shells to collect each day, and we’d bring them all back to my house and put them in clear glass jars, which we lined along the long stone wall between my yard and the beach. When we moved out, I saved this small handful of white pebbles to remind me of how much fun we had.
  • Friends of ours have an old family cabin out on Whidbey Island where they hold an annual camp out, which is where Robb and I met. We found this feather on the beach that weekend.
  • The rose petals are from one of the first rose bouquets he ever gave me.
  • The little dove skull is particularly special to me. I’ve always found beauty in the antlers and skulls that I find while hiking. A few years ago, I (very randomly) told Robb that I thought birds have the most beautiful skulls of any animal, and I wished that I would find one some day. Later that week, I was hiking in my favorite city park and I stopped to catch my breath. I noticed some owl scat at my feet, and a little voice inside my head said “maybe it’s in there?” I laughed at myself for being so ridiculous, but some hopeful part of me kicked it with my toe just in case. Out tumbled this perfectly clean and intact mourning dove skull! Whenever I see it, I am reminded that sometimes the universe grants our wishes.

Those are the stories behind this little collection. Most people will see an old pile of worthless tidbits … I see symbols of time spent with family and friends, precious reminders of childhood innocence, memories of falling in love, and proof that dreams and wishes (even really silly ones) can come true.
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Thanking our Veterans

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Many of the social networking sites have a meme going around right now, that encourages people to list what they are thankful for during the entire month of November, rather than just for one day (Thanksgiving). I’m doing this privately, in my paper journal, but I may share some of these things here … if I remember … and if I have time. This one is important enough to me that I’d like to post it publicly:

I’m thankful for the warriors in my family, and for the efforts they’ve made and the risks they’ve taken so that I can be free. My stepdad Tom (Vietnam)  my partner Robb (Desert Storm) my cousin Jeff (Gulf War) and Robb’s brother Shawn (on his way back to Afghanistan now). I disagree with the politics of war, but I respect our warriors.
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