The Ramblings of a Creative Soul

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mother Nature Gets Creative

We are constantly surrounded by amazing pieces of art work that we barely notice. Have you ever looked at a spider's web in the morning with dew glistening from it? Or how about icicles? Right now, there are some stunning looking icicles hanging by my window. They look like glass. Nature is filled with wonderful artisans.

Earlier this week, Mother Nature did a reinterpretation of a sand castle. Her material this time - ice. The lighthouse is located in Cleveland at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. I think it is magnificent.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rounding Third and Headed Home

Cleveland lost a sports icon. His name was Bob Feller. By most accounts, Bob was one of the best right hand pitchers to ever play the game. The only pitcher to ever pitch a no hitter on an opening day. Bob had three no hitters in his career. What astounds the baseball nerd in me - he pitched twelve one hit games. To have the mental where with all to not get rattled after giving up a hit, is quite the feat.

Bob's career was interrupted by World War II, and when he returned to the Cleveland Indians (the only team he ever played for), he was part of the last team to win the World Series for Cleveland in 1948. After he quit playing, he became one of the Tribe's biggest cheerleaders. He was a familiar face at spring training and games. He threw out the first pitch during the 1997 World Series at the age of 79. It was a strike.

A lot has been said about Bob today. The one phrase said over and over - a gentleman. In light of the recent uproar over a certain someone rebuking Cleveland and moving south, it is refreshing to hear of an athlete called a gentleman.

Bob's statue will stand guard at the entrance of Progressive Field and remind people at one time, they had one of the best in the game playing for them and oh yes, he was a gentleman, too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Tree

I think it goes back to when I was a kid. My mother got this crazy idea that a little tree would be perfect for Christmas. She wanted to set it on a table in the front window. She thought it would look pretty from the street. I hated that tree. I did not fit my idea of the perfect tree. From that point on, there were rules as to what was the perfect tree.

Rule #1 - The tree has to be taller than me. I'm 5'7" and was the shortest person in my family so I was adamant about that rule. The rule holds true today. What helps with this rule, our old house has high ceilings so the tree has to be really tall to look good.

Rule #2 - It has to be real. Sorry, but hauling an artificial tree out and having it up in seconds isn't putting up the tree. You have to go to a tree farm on a blustery day and spend a great deal of time looking for "the one". There is also much whining from my loved ones while I take my time looking. This adds to the ambiance of the excursion.

Once we get the tree home, it is decorated with ornaments that are filled with memories. There are items my mother made, prisms from my great-grandmother's chandelier, ornaments my sons made in elementary school and the year balls. Every year, I take a ball and write down the year and things that occurred during it. It is a great way to remember memorable family events. It is a big deal each year to read aloud the items on the balls. There are also ornaments that I made and ones we received as gifts. My sons fight over one particular ornament. I'm fond of saying "When pigs fly" so of course, we have a flying pig ornament. It is a fight to see who can find that ornament and hang it from the tree. I love that my tree isn't a theme tree. It is filled with memories and love. The best kind of tree in my book.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trapped In A Snow Globe

Help! I'm trapped in a snow globe.

We are experiencing our first big storm of the season. I live in an area fondly called "The Snow Belt". Thanks to Lake Erie (and sometimes Lake Huron), the open water of the lakes and the higher terrain on the east side makes for ideal conditions for lots of snow.

Right now, we have over a foot of snow and a lot more expected. An hour and half south of here, where my son goes to college - they have a dusting of snow. It is crazy the difference.

We have already shoveled the drive four times today and the roof once. I am figuring my poor husband, after a white knuckle drive home from work, will attempt the roof once more.

I must say, it is quite pretty. It has also put me in the mood for Christmas. So I guess the storm is not that bad. Give me a month or so and then I will be complaining.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 18

I have always been in awe of fiber artists. I come from generations of women who knitted, crocheted or embroidered. Somehow, the genetic ability to do that skipped me. I have no trouble with the embroidery, but knitting and crocheting have caused me fits.

When I go to shows, I like to visit the fiber artists. The colors of yarn and the feel of the items draw me in. I love the idea that while you are wearing something functional, it is also art.

One of my favorite fiber artists is Tricia Hodson. Tricia is a fellow member of Cleveland Handmade and has her shop on Etsy. I am lucky to be the proud owner of some of her work. I asked Tricia the question:

What inspires you?

I've come to realize how much of an influence people have had on what I create. At first I thought it was family that inspired me most since I'm always making things for them. Lately, as I've been "out and about" more often, meeting people at local events and shows, I see more and more people wearing handmade things.

A woman approached me last year in need of a small wool hat. She was cold all the time and said that only wool would keep her warm. I was so happy to be able to make just what she wanted and needed.

Years of cross-country skiing helped me to understand the need for warmth. I still prefer mittens to gloves when skiing. With all the modern fabrics and textiles available for Winter sports, it's wonderful to see people wearing natural and handmade. Felted wool mittens are perfectly warm, and unless you fall through the ice or something, they're waterproof. My husband has had a pair of Dachstein mittens for decades. He always had a flair for old-world styles of Alpine hats, Scandinavian mittens, and chunky handspun wool socks.

So, I've discovered that I have people, their culture, and their fundamental needs in mind when creating my own hats, mittens, shawls, etc. Whether it's modern, has a vintage style, or is a reproduction of old-world designs, it's nice to know that it will be a functional favorite.

You can find Tricia's work at Her beautiful handmade items would make wonderful gifts this holiday season.

Thanks so much Tricia for sharing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quailcrest Herb Fair

Simple Elements Design was at the Quailcrest Herb Fair yesterday. This is the third year we have participated. This show is special to me for several reasons. First of all, the show is held at a beautiful site, filled with incredible gardens. The owners of the farm are dear family friends. My husband and I spent our youth there at family gatherings for Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. It was so special to us, we were married in the herb garden there and had our reception there, too.

The other reason it is special to me, the owner Libby Bruch, was one of my first supporters for my business. She helped to push me off that cliff. I will forever be grateful for her support. Libby passed away in February so it was nice that her family continued the fair which was so dear to her.

The show was successful and very enjoyable. The weather was perfect - not too hot. It was wonderful to have customers from years past say "There she is!" It is also fun to hear what people had to say about my work. When you sell online, you do not often get that feedback. I chatted with people from Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Ohio. Many remarked that they have been making the trip to the fair for years. One customer, a bride-to-be from Texas, was in search of jewelry for her wedding. She and her fiance were such a delight. She found the perfect necklace and said "Now I can find the dress to go with it." That made my day.

It takes so much work to prepare for a show and one hopes the weather cooperates. So far, Mother Nature has been kind to me.

I look forward to returning to the fair next year. But today, I am happy but tired.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 17

One of my favorite things to do when I have free time is to look at art on Etsy. It is like going to a gallery without having to leave home. More times than not, I am drawn to the paintings there. Ever since I was a kid, I have had a passion for them.

One of my favorite artists on Etsy is Matt LeBlanc. His shop is MattLeBlancArt. Matt does abstract paintings. I love his use of color and texture. I find his paintings to be very powerful. When I first saw his work, I was reminded of one of my favorite painters, Mark Rothko. I decided to ask Matt the question,

What inspires you?

Painting abstract for me is just plain fun. I really feed off colors, emotions and music. I’m not a type of artist who will take a walk and get instantly inspired by something I see. For me, it’s more the mood I’m in and the emotions I feel when I’m in front of the canvas.

I think a lot about colors, shapes and forms. Those items are at the basis of all my artwork. Abstract is seeing objects in a different perspective and I really enjoy hearing what my clients actually see in my work. The answers are very different from a person to the other.

By definition, abstract art is basically a different perspective of objects and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. Every artist has obviously different ways to create art. Techniques, feelings, emotions & experience all play a role in the finished product.

I love that Matt said it is just plain fun to paint. You can find his amazing work at

Thanks so much for sharing your inspiration, Matt.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 16

While I await the response from several artists to the question, "What inspires you?" I thought I would enter my own response.

What inspires me?

In no particular order -

Acorns - they can become massive oak trees.
My friends who have children with autism. They inspire me daily.
My gardens - I love watching how they evolve during the year.
Old Hollywood movies. I love the style and elegance of them.
People who follow their dreams.
Listening to a thunderstorm or the rain falling.
The first snowfall of the year.
Spider webs with dew - spiders are pretty wonderful artisans.
Hearing my sons and husband laugh.
A walk in the woods.
Sitting by the river.
Cemeteries - I love looking at the artwork on the stones.
A trip to an art museum or gallery.
Sitting outside, looking at the stars.
The first warm day of the year.
New supplies.
Crayons - I love the idea of all of the possibilities that can be created with them.
My customers.
My fellow Cleveland Handmade members - Their generosity and support is most inspiring.
My great aunt - She was all class.
Trees in winter - I love looking at the architecture of trees.
Great novels.
People who focus on the positive.
Mother Nature.
People who volunteer.
Dumpster diving.
My old barn.
Bird nests - Birds are also great artisans.
A walk on the beach.
Watching birds fly in the sky - I often wonder if they go weeeeeee.

I am sure there are more but I think I will stop here. I hope it gets you pondering that question, What inspires you?

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Decision

My home was publicly humiliated last night on television by one of its own. "King" LeBron James announced to the world that he was turning his back on his team, his fans and his city. It is fine that he wants to move on but the manner in which he did it reminds many of Art Modell announcing he was taking the Browns to Baltimore. I thought it was telling that he named his show "The Decision". Cleveland sports' history has been saddled with titles that start with the. The drive, the shot, the fumble...the decision.

The fans are getting a bad rap in many circles today because of their reaction. Cleveland sports fans wear their hearts on their sleeves or should I say jerseys. This town is so hungry to be a winner. They been so close - once in the NBA finals and the ultimate heart breaker - one out away from victory in the World Series before Jose Mesa imploded. Can you not blame them for being hurt once again?

Let me tell you a few things about this city. You have to have a sense of humor to live here. Given everything that is thrown out you from the state of the economy to the weather, humor gets you through. Maybe that is why there have been quite a few comedians to come from the area - Bob Hope, Tim Conway, Steve Harvey, Martin Mull, Fred Willard, Molly Shannon, Don Novello, Teri Garr, Patricia Heaton and Drew Carey to name a few. Our contribution to acting isn't too shabby either - Paul Newman, Halle Berry, Joel Grey, Debra Winger, and Hal Holbrook.

The people of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are generous and have huge hearts. Even with record unemployment and a declining city, they give generously of themselves. The philanthropy here reaches across the country thanks to Clevelanders with names like Rockefeller, Gund and Lewis.

Cleveland is also filled with determined people. Art Modell took the beloved Browns away and the fans fought until they made sure their Browns and history would stay in Cleveland. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also ended up in Cleveland thanks to determined fans. Never underestimate what Clevelanders can do when united.

Have a heart condition? The finest place in the world to go for treatment - the Cleveland Clinic.

The arts are thriving here. University Circle is home to the best orchestra in the world and one of the finest art museums. And that art museum, free to the public.

It is also home to some of the finest restaurants in the world and an Iron Chef thanks to Cleveland's own Michael Symon. Stroll down East 4th street in downtown and you can find restaurants that have been touted by foodies all over the world. And talking about food, a trip to the incredible West Side Market is a must.

We took friends from Chicago on a tour of Cleveland last weekend. We started at the Market and wandered around the downtown, along the lake by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, through Rockefeller Park and up to University Circle and back home along the historic Fairmount district. Our friends on their way out of town commented that maybe they should look into moving here. They were impressed by all it had to offer.

Cleveland isn't perfect but no place is. It will survive this latest heartbreak, and I think come out better for it. It needs to turn its attention away from courting the "King" to stay and focus on getting lots of "Princes" and "Princesses" to come because we all know, the kingdom won't continue without heirs.

So Cleveland, I'll let you lick your wounds for a few days but then it is time to get to work.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 15

I have an eclectic art collection in my house. I like that. One of my favorite pieces is a watercolor of a cow. There is a story connected to my cow. Years ago, my uncle (the one I pass the clock back and forth with) came home for a visit and brought a friend. She had never been "to the country" before. She was in awe of the dalmatian cows that were all over the countryside. We found her description hysterical and inspiration for future presents. The funny thing, we can't remember her name but we remember the dalmatian cow. My kids grew up thinking they were called that and now find it funny that up the road, we have Oreo cows. Several years ago, a large box was delivered. Inside was the cow painting. My uncle was traveling and had stopped at an art show. He was taken by the cow and figured I should have that. It now hangs in the room I spend the most time in and smile when I see it.

Today's featured artist, Robert Joyner, first caught my eye because of his cow paintings. When I explored his shop more, his countryside paintings reminded me of where I grew up. Having had a lifelong love affair with horses, I was really drawn to his horse paintings. I also liked that he told a story with each of his paintings. I have a weakness for storytelling and love to know what inspired the piece or the feelings of the artist. I think it makes it even more personal. I decided to ask Robert the question,

What inspires you?

Expression is the key to my creative process. Subjects vary, but the sense of expression stays the same. Watercolor was my first medium. The magic of transforming blank white paper into colorful paintings brought me back to the easel day after day. I soon began to add other mediums such as crayon and charcoal to my watercolors. This form of mixed media gave me a sense of personal style.

Having loved the outdoors all my life, I decided to start plein air painting. This experience opened other avenues of creativity and techniques. It also brought me back to the subjects that I enjoy the most. Having grown up in rural Virginia and with a background in commercial fishing, I was quickly drawn to the coastal harbors, fishing boats, and the Virginia country side. Plein air painting gives me a more personal connection with the subjects. By being on site, I’m able to capture and omit certain nuances that give the viewer room to use their imagination and allows me the opportunity to include certain features that add character to the scene. Plein air paintings will often lead to larger studio works which are fueled by time invested on site.

One of the toughest things for me to do is to throw away unwanted paintings and brushes. Many of my favorite acrylic paintings on paper are completed with recycled watercolor paper and well worn, or frayed brushes that many artists would likely discard. It seems like painting on inferior works is less inhibiting. The strength of my art is allowing each painting to have a life of its own. Even though I do not have a methodical way of painting, there are always certain techniques and methods I use throughout my works. Therefore, finishing a piece is always a unique journey.

You can find Robert's wonderful work at

Thanks so much for sharing, Robert.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Family Heirloom

The summer before my freshman year in college, my great aunt died. She was one of my favorite people on earth. She was born in 1900. I loved that she was the perfect age for each of the decades she lived in. The twenties were the perfect time to be in your twenties or the forties to be in your forties. Her name was Mildred but I called her Oo-hoo. When I was little, she would come to the door and ask "Oo-hoo, anyone home?" I just assumed she was calling out her name. She spent her adult life on the faculty at the University of Kentucky, and I would send mail to her addressed to Oo-hoo. I'm sure the mailman wondered about that.

When Oo-hoo died, my uncle and I were packing up her belongings. My uncle, who is more like a brother to me given our close ages, found a rhinestone clock in a drawer. We both joked about how ugly it was and who would get it. I don't know what possessed me but I hid it in the trunk of things he was having sent to his home in San Francisco. I forgot about the clock until Christmas Eve. There was a present from my uncle that had a strange note attached. Christmas morning, that was the first present I opened - suspecting it was the clock. Sure enough, it was. Thus became our ritual of passing the clock back and forth. In the beginning, we were rather boring. We would send it with a Christmas present or Birthday present. The clock would travel across the country a few times a year. We decided to get more creative in our passing of the clock. My uncle once slipped it to my husband during a family dinner, and he placed it on my nightstand during the middle of the night. I woke up to discover it. I had a co-worker who was traveling to San Francisco deliver it to his office while he was at lunch. His most original method was to send me a wooden box that looked like a clock face. I was sure I was going to open it up and discover the clock. When I lifted the lid, I found my favorite Grandma See's candy. I reached in to take a few and yes, found the clock underneath the candy. I managed to slip the clock in the pocket of his coat at the airport, saying goodbye. He found the clock as he went through airport security. I also sent it to him at the end of daylight savings taking advantage of the line, "time to change your clock".

We should have marked the back of the clock each time it was being shipped. At best estimate, it has been across the country over a hundred times. The joke was always the first to die was buried with it. Now that it has so much history, that won't happen. It's a family heirloom. I am sure Oo-hoo would have enjoyed this all.

The clock is in San Francisco right now. I can't wait to find out how it makes its next appearance. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 14

As I have stated before, one of the great loves of my life is the game of baseball. My father got me interested in it when I was little. He was (still is) a huge sports fan. I used to wait for him to get home from work so we could play catch. I'm sure the guy was dead tired from the long day but he would quickly change clothes, and we would head to the backyard so he could throw the ball with me. Once I got older, I liked to watch the game more than play it.

One of my favorite places to watch baseball is Wrigley Field. A day game there is something everyone should experience at least once. Several years ago, we took our sons to a game there. A family member got us seats fourteen rows behind home plate. My eldest commented that he could call balls and strikes from the seats. We managed to see a ball get lost in the ivy. A home run ball hit by the visiting team thrown back onto the field, and participate in that Cubs tradition of the 7th inning stretch. It was a magical day that we still talk about.

My love of Wrigley Field is what first attracted me to today's artist, Stephen Fowler of Gemini Studio Art. I love the graphic quality of his work. I decided to ask him the question,

What inspires you?

For me, inspiration is found all around me. When I first started Gemini Studio Art in Chicago, I was living in Wrigleyville and naturally was inspired by the Cubs and baseball became a big part of my work. As a graphic designer by trade, I'm always seeking out new and impactful graphics that I find intriguing and visually interesting. Of course much of my work takes on a vintage feel, so I definitely gather inspiration from stuff that isn't new, like vintage advertising posters and signage.

You can find Stephen's work at

Thanks for sharing your inspiration, Stephen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Garden

When we moved to the farm thirteen years ago, there weren't any flowers to be seen except for the lilac bushes. I thought that odd given the age of the place. I figured I would find old fashioned flowers like hollyhocks, digitalis and coral bells. It became my mission that I should be able to see a flower by looking out any window in the house during spring, summer and fall. It has taken years of work, but I have achieved the goal. The only problem, things keep growing so that means more beds to hold more flowers. To me, that really isn't a problem.

The photos show what the farm looks like in early June. My own little paradise.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 13

I love books. There is nothing like cracking the spine of a new book and being transported to somewhere else. As I have stated before, I refuse to jump on the electronic book craze. I love having the bookcases in my study/workroom filled with books. They are works of art in themselves. There are books that belonged to my great aunt with notes she wrote in the margins in those shelves. I like having that connection to her. My books are like old friends.

When I saw the bookcase sculpture done by today's featured artist, Papernoodle, I was in awe. It is entitled, Bookcase, and the detail from the individually cut letters to the curve of the books is magnificent. Her other work is stunning, too.

I decided to ask Cheong-ah from Papernoodle the question,

What inspires you?

When I was studying fine art in school, I happened to look at some advertising design books, and saw all this wonderful paper sculptures. I knew that this art form was going to be the vehicle of my expressions. I don't have a proper art language to explain my work. I'm an art college drop-out. I make anything that interests me, or pleases me. I love living. I like paper medium because it's an everyday material we use, and it's versatile. My childhood memory starts with me making something with paper. When I was young, my parents ran a printing business in Korea. I was always surrounded by all kinds of paper. I like many kinds of paper art, but particularly, I love paper sculpture because I get to play with 2d and 3d elements at the same time, and that fascinates me. I call paper sculpture 2 1/2 dimension. I've been making them since 2000.

Papernoodle can be found at:

Thanks so much for sharing your inspiration, Cheong-ah.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 12

When I was a little girl, I somehow got it in my head that ants opened up peony buds. My backyard had rows of peonies, and I loved to watch the buds gradually open into big, beautiful white flowers. There were always ants crawling all over the buds. I thought it was their job to help push each of the petals from the tightly closed buds. Years later I learned they were there for the sticky substance that was on the buds. I have peonies in my garden now. I love to watch the progress of the buds opening up each day. And yes, there are always ants.

Today's featured artist, Helen Klebesadel’s paintings of flowers are amazing. They look more like photographs. The featured painting is entitled; Ants Love Peonies, and can be found at The title made me smile. I decided to ask Helen the question,

What inspires you?

Careful looking inspires me.

Painting has given me permission to spend a long time looking carefully at how a flower or leaf is constructed. The same is true when I decide to consider a social or cultural issue. My art gives me permission to look a little closer and spend all the time I need contemplating.

I don’t know what I am going to find when I start a painting. For me it is always a process of discovery, whether I am contemplating how a poppy is constructed, how we learn to value certain things over others, or to examine the effects of global warming. I plant the question and then pursue it through a series of studies that lead to larger paintings layered with meaning.

I think art making is intellectual, spiritual, and emotional work. Art can help society see and feel things with new clarity, and provides opportunities to re-examine what we thought we knew.

While I do art about subjects that appeal to me or concern me personally, I have learned to trust that if I put the artworks out in the world they will find their audience. I have also learned that the paintings I have created that I was most afraid to share with the world were the ones that had the most impact on others. They were the most important works for me to share.

I’ve learned to recognize fear as a guide that lets me know when I am addressing a subject worth spending time with. These artworks are usually breaking some convention in art or exploring a subject I’ve been taught is taboo.

My subject matter has run the gamut from mythical self-portraits as Medusa, to works that celebrate women’s traditional arts, to nature and environmental subjects. In each series I had some element of doubt that I had to overcome to move forward.

I guess you could also say I’ve been inspired by fear, fear of telling my truths.

Fear based questions I asked that turned out to be important:

* Is it too beautiful, too decorative, too emotional?
* Is it too feminist, too political, too personal?
* Is watercolor an important enough medium? Are quilts and lace important enough subjects? Am I good enough?

I’ve learned to drop the ‘too’ and embrace the beautiful, decorative and emotional, the feminist, political, and personal, and to paint the subjects I’ve been drawn to with the medium I love. I have learned that my art making is not about the products but about the process of discovery. I have learned that only I can make my art, and that if I do it might inspire others to make theirs…too.

Helen’s work can be found at her Etsy shop, Niceharpy:

Thanks for inspiring me, Helen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 11

One of the first presents my husband gave me was a painting. A painting he had done. The painting is an abstract that is filled with the colors of red, orange, blue and green. I love the colors and the great texture to it. I first hung it in my office at work. I didn't have much of a view so it was nice to have something special to look at. After I became a stay at home mom, the painting was placed in the family room. Today, it hangs above the desk where the computer is.

I have loved people's reactions to it. I have found those who are creative or appreciate art really like it. Kids in particular, comment on it. Others look at it and wonder what it means. That always makes me laugh since I don't ponder what the art means but more what it makes me feel. That might explain the very eclectic collection of art that graces the walls of my home - all original. Each and every piece makes me smile.

When I spotted the work of Modernmarks, another fellow Cleveland Handmade artist, I smiled. I loved her use of color plus her black and white prints. I was particularly drawn to this print entitled, Archival Abstract Print - Colorful Angles. The colors remind me of the painting my husband did for me. I decided to ask Sondra of Modernmarks the question,

What inspires you?

What inspires me? Really many people, things, incidents, it is probably easiest for me to list some of them (in no special order):
- fifties and sixties retro designs, artists, designers
- art: minimalism, abstract, abstract expressionism
- my deceased aunt, Margaret Milliken (she was an abstact expressionist)
- fiber artists: Jane Dunnwold - the originator of art cloth, Linda Colsh, Els van Baarle, Jean Williamson, Joan Schultze, to name a few...
- artists: Hans Hofmann, Rothko, Pollack, Krazner, Kandinsky, Miro, Mitchell, de Kooning, Rosenberg, Gotlieb, name a few.
- Designer: Issey Miyake
- artists that I started blogging about on Modern Marks, and will continue to do so...they are all inspiring.
- the concepts of change, inequity, peace.
- nature
- geometric and abstract shapes
- color
In summary, I think that everything that we create with our eyes and hands is affected by a variety of influences...people, incidents, events, our environment, the planet. I have many plans that I hope to develop this summer on paper and fabric. Be well.

Modernmarks can be found at

Thanks so much for sharing your inspirations, Sondra.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 10

One of my favorite childhood memories is walking the beach with my mom. She was quite the beachcomber. She and I would spend hours with our heads down looking for treasure. A great find would be beach glass, an interesting shell or white "stones" that had a letter L on them. She called those lucky stones. I learned years later they were actually bone from a fish. I have a container on my work table that is filled with those treasures. When I miss my mom, I open up the container and am flooded with the memories of those treasure hunts.

When I discovered the work of Susan Saltzman's SToNZ jewelry, I immediately thought my mother would have loved it. Our beloved treasure was transformed into beautiful jewelry with a wonderful organic look to it. I asked Susan, a fellow member of Cleveland Handmade, the question,

What inspires you?

What inspires me….

a few hours at a great museum
a well written biography
flea markets
art classes
really old family photographs
my honey playing music
anything written by my kids
a day of shopping in a big city
quaint new england towns
trying a new tool
a new box of crayola crayons
leafing through art books
farmers markets
listening to a great joke teller
tv programs about ancient civilizations
putting the top down and taking a drive in my mini cooper on a beautiful day
hearing a great singer for the first time and tracking down their music for my ipod
the last story on the evening news
teachers, nurses, doctors, surgeons, soldiers, firefighters, paramedics
olympic athletes
lebron on a good day
a well written novel
the smell of play doh
the sound of waves crashing on the shore
people who have overcome addictions
a beautiful symphony
sipping a great glass of wine while watching someone else cook
people who keep smiling even when they have been through the wringer (“glass full” people)
the words “thank you”
a really starry night sky away from city lights
making a baby smile
the changing seasons

The bracelet shown is called Summer Memory and can be found at:

You can find STōNZ at

Thanks so much for sharing, Susan.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 9

One of my favorite things to do when making jewelry is to play with wire. There are so many things you can do with it. I can take fine wire and use it to make a bouquet out of beads. Heavier wire can be flattened with a hammer or shaped into a swirl. The possibilities are endless.

I think my love of wire goes back to my childhood. I can remember my mom giving me a paddle of florist wire to make creations out of. One of my favorite things to create were small flower sculptures. They would line the windowsill of my bedroom. Some were embellished with beads. I guess I should have known I would end up playing with wire and beads when I got older.

I enjoy seeing how other artists incorporate wire into their work. One of my favorites is the Etsy shop Sparkflight. Their sculptures are amazing. The sculpture shown, Baseball Player, immediately caught my eye since I love baseball. It can be found at

I asked Ruth Jensen from Sparkflight the question -

What inspires you?

I never have to think about "What inspires me?" because EVERYTHING does!! My family jokes about going on "non-walks" with me, during which I dawdle along picking up every old stick and rock to say "Ooh, isn't that pretty?" or "Doesn't that look like a person sneezing?" or some such remark. Uncontrollable free association, combined with ignorance of limitations, leads to amazing things!

I love her last line. I think that sums up inspiration and creativity so well.

You can find Sparkflight at

Thanks so much for sharing, Ruth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 8

When my sons were younger, my house looked like one massive art project. The boys were highly creative (still are). They used Legos, boxes, paper bags, and other such items to create sculptures. These masterpieces often took days to complete. I was always amazed by their imagination to turn a common household item into something really cool. Now that they are older, their artwork graces the second floor of our barn. I often find myself saying, "That is really clever", upon seeing the newest creation. I love that they make art and that it has a sense of humor to it.

When I discovered the work of Reclaim2Fame, I knew my sons would love it. You are first struck by how the sculptures make you smile and then, you start analyzing all the parts and find yourself thinking how clever. It takes a very creative mind to think a camera and a lunch pail could make a great dog. The sculpture pictured is entitled Fannie Flathat, The Accidental Fashion Plate Of Faversham Kent. Her story is a hoot.

I asked Will Wagenaar of Reclaim2Fame the question -

What inspires you?

For me, right now, it's all about recycling materials.
The work starts with the need to create something new out of something old.
My materials inspire me.
Sometimes they talk to me... sort of.
I take a thing, look at it from every direction while considering what it could be.
A new purpose usually comes to mind.

You can find Reclaim2Fame at

Thanks so much for sharing, Will.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Alien on the Planet Three Stooges

I am the lone female in my house. Okay, if you count the dog, there are two of us. If we are counting the dog, we then have to count the two cats so that means there are two females to five males. I often joke that I am an alien on the Planet Three Stooges, and I am waiting to be rescued.

I have learned a lot living with males. For example, to the male mind, putting something away means adding it to the already large stack of things that over time, had also been asked to be put away. In their mind, job done. Clutter doesn't seem to bother them. Also, putting dishes in the sink counts as putting them in the dishwasher since the dishwasher is right next to the sink. They don't see well, either. They never notice the large pile of laundry, the food items left on the counter or the empty trash cans at the curb. They also miss things like keys, remotes, cell phones and IPods. Remotes are their lifelines - whether it is to the television or video game if it is missing, chaos ensues. They like to eat pizza, Chinese food and cereal...a lot.

They make weird noises and think it is funny. The youngest one when he was age 4 was proud he could burp the alphabet. My God, he could burp the alphabet!

They also seem to like to get undressed as they move through a house. You can find a sock in one room, a shirt in another and the other sock in a third room. And let's not even start on their shoes.

Being the only female poses challenges. If for example, I am working on a jewelry design and want some input, these really are not the people to ask. They usually provide their pat answer, "Looks fine" without even looking at the item. They are good sports about some things. They tolerate having bouquets of flowers throughout the house and especially like it when I try to be creative in the kitchen.

They are handy to have around at times. They can lift heavy items, program the DVR and fix things. I am sure there are other good things about them but my focus is on that stack of laundry, dishes in the sink and items all over the island. Can I get back to you on that?

Friday, May 7, 2010


Being a mom changes the way you look at the world. Being the mom of a child with a learning difference more so. I hate the phrase learning disability. My child can learn, he just learns in a different way. His way does not fit into the assembly line method we call public education.

It has been a long battle to get where he/we are today. We knew there was something going on in kindergarten but got the classic response, "He's a boy. They take longer." That wasn't an answer but an excuse to not look into things. Even after we got the diagnosis of dyslexia, it took three years before the school district would address it. By then, his educational foundation was shaky. If you were building a house, you wouldn't want that foundation holding up your house. Those years were spent full of outbursts caused by frustration. My son felt his teachers thought he was stupid. He said he knew he was smart inside, he just couldn't show it outside. I learned I had to become an expert on dyslexia and be his advocate. I used to joke that my name was written on the wall at school under Pain in the _ _ _. There were days I had to physically take my son into the school because he didn't want to go. He often pleaded with me to home school him. We both relished the weekends and summer when school wasn't in session to give us a much needed break from the stress of school and low expectations. Finally, in the the fifth grade my son got a teacher who got it. In fact, she lived it with her own daughter. Under her guidance, my son started to soar and believe in his ability. She looked him straight in the eye and told him he was smart. She even told him how smart by telling him his IQ. He began to excel under her guidance. I compared him to a kite. His teacher was giving him more and more string so he could soar. It was the greatest gift a teacher could have given him. He continued to soar in middle school until eighth and ninth grade when the teachers started to pull in the string and lower the expectations. Once again, I went into advocate role. I had to fight to get him into the higher level courses he so desperately wanted to take. Thanks to the support of some of his teachers, his sophomore year has been a success.

My son is intelligent and highly creative. He is a gifted artist and musician. He is a history buff and soaks up information like a sponge. He is finally starting to believe all of this.

This morning, I dropped him off at school and wished him luck on his AP History test. I smiled as I noticed a kite flying across the way. It seemed fitting today.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 7

When I was a kid, one of my favorite places on earth was the library. I loved the look and smell of the books. I would spend hours sitting on the floor in a corner. As I got older, I found myself spending more time in bookstores than libraries. I loved (and still do) cracking the spine on a new book with anticipation as to what the journey will be as I travel through the pages. I have passed on that love to my sons. My eldest is quite the reader. His taste is vast and wide - everything from American classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "On the Road" to the work of Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez. We both share a love of poetry. To me, poetry really demonstrates the power of words to convey images and meaning. Being a calligrapher, I also love how poetry can be presented in unique ways.

Today's featured artist, Meliors Simms first drew my attention with her beautifully photographed work. The photos got me to look but her words made me a fan. She uses creative ways to present her poetry so they really are works of art. Here is Meliors response to the question:

What inspires me? Probably more than anything else I am inspired by reading widely and the impact that my reading has on me. My work is inspired by
science: ecology, evolution, geology, biology, physics, astronomy; science fiction novels of ideas and theological writing especially contemporary Buddhist and Jewish thinkers. In the past few years I have discovered many websites with intelligent podcasts, so I can be inspired at the same time as I am making.

I am also inspired by the natural world as I experience it- living in the Daintree, Australia's tropical rainforest next to the Great Barrier Reef, was incredibly inspiring. Sometimes I'm directly inspired by the unlikely images and scenarios of my sleep dreams. I feel inspired pretty often so that I have many many more ideas than I ever develop into anything concrete let alone completed. Ideas that can be expressed through materials and techniques that inspire me come to fruition: letterpress printing or the sensual heft of old woven woolen blankets. But since my practice is always deeply meditative and thus slow to produce visible results, I have to be selective about which inspirations deserve ongoing enthusiasm. If I ever run dry of inspiration, flicking back through my journals will provide plenty to go on with.

Meliors work can be found at

Thank you Melior for sharing your inspiration.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 6

I have had a thing for ceramics since I was a kid. My house is filled with pieces that I have collected over the years. My collection is eclectic. It contains items I have inherited with names like Rookwood and Weller as well as pieces found at art fairs and galleries. I love the fact that ceramics are functional but also art that has been shaped by hands.

One of my favorite ceramic artists is Gina DeSantis. Gina uses bright colors in her glazes which first drew me to her work. Here is Gina's reply to the question - What inspires you?

As for an answer to what inspires me...
I have also been compelled to make functional art. I find joy in making something that will find a life in a person's daily routine. While I am inspired by other potters and artists I find most of my inspiration in the environment of Cleveland. We are lucky to have industry and lush green spaces in close proximity. We also have the extremes of climate. I think I chose many of my bright colors to counteract the long, gray winters.

I also find fashion to be a huge influence. I'm always curious to see how people put together outfits and what accessories they chose. It plays a part in how I put together colors. The materials may be different from clay but the way color interacts in fashion affects the decisions I make with color and texture.

Gina's work can be found at

Thanks so much for sharing, Gina.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


It is has been a rough week for me. My eldest made his choice for college, and I wrote my first of many checks to a college. I have been fully aware that this is was going to happen but still, the realization got me misty. I swear it was just a few weeks ago we walked hand in hand into his kindergarten classroom to start his educational odyssey. He also experienced his first heartache. That was rough to watch. I miss the days when a superhero band-aid made it all better.

This kid is most like me. We have gotten along since we first locked eyes. I brainwashed him into believing OSU is THE team to support, baseball's opening day is sacred, Bruce Springsteen rules, and there is nothing like opening up a book. I'm proud of the fact he is interested in the world around him and has a better understanding of our government than most citizens. He can converse on the great novels, what is happening in the U.K. election or the merits of Batman vs. Superman. He is a true renaissance man.

He is a wonderful judge of character and is extremely loyal to his friends. His circle of friends is diverse. Our home is their headquarters so I have learned to get to know each and every one of them. I couldn't have picked better friends for him. The door is constantly opening with the ebb and flow of the group. They have an uncanny ability to know when I have just returned from the grocery story. What amazes me is that they like to visit with my husband and I. Many nights, they are just eating and talking with us. We find that surprising given the fact when we were kids, (hubby and I were best friends growing up), hanging with parents was the last thing we wanted to do.

Now, their discussions center on their college choices, the AP and IB exams and their student internships. Graduation parties have been carefully planned to not overlap. It is a hectic time. That is probably good for me since that keeps my mind off of August when everyone will scatter. I'm getting misty again...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 5

Often times, I find myself drawn to someone's art after hearing their story. This is definitely the case with today's artist, Jackie Moravcik. Jackie is a fellow member of Cleveland Handmade and also the mother of another featured artist, Chris Zielski. Jackie relayed the story of moving into her home and having thieves break in to take her copper pipes. She told of enduring without water. Living in an old house where freezing pipes are something I have dealt with far too often, I felt a kinship to her. I then checked out her art and became a fan. Jackie makes jewelry out of old bottles and is also a fiber artist. I love how she plays with glass and fire but also fabric and color. Besides being artists and mothers, I learned we have lots of other things in common - a love of baseball, Kaffe Fassett, the architecture of trees and dumpster diving. Oh, the treasures you can find on the curb!

Here is Jackie's response to the question, What inspires you?

Ok, it depends on what I'm working on...overall, I am so inspired by nature, color mostly; I love studying colors I see and trying to figure out what they REALLY are...

When I'm making my jewelry,( its as if I'm sculpting the pieces. I plan and cut but the glass won't always break the way I want it to...then I stare at each piece until I can 'see' a shape and I start grinding it until bit by bit, the shape emerges.

Each step is individually created; after soldering all the pieces, I again study each one to see if it needs embellishing or just decorative solder.

When I'm working on my quilted fiber art (, THERE I'm intrigued not only by color, but by the rhythms and patterns that abound everywhere.

I am fascinated and inspired by everything I see...
architecture-the lines and shapes...its fun to pick out the different styles and influences and try to discern exactly what is it that makes it that style...
pottery-the shapes, texture and colors...
trees-have you any idea the multitude of different styles there are, even just of evergreens??? Some branches reach upwards, some downwards; some have long needles, others short bristly ones; some branches grow from the trunk like spokes of a wheel, others alternate....
And my pieces inspired by locations-trying to distill an area to its essence and then stitch just enough detail to be recognizable...

And then I'm inspired by junk...I like to shop curbside and see what I can find. Two summers ago I found an old metal headboard and I want to use it as a garden fence. I've a collection of wooden chairs I'm going to paint bright colors to hang on my patio wall-(after I finish my patio)--and use as plant holders-I saw that at a restaurant in Tremont, I think, and it was really cool...I've pulled some really neat things out of the trash and with a bit of paint-or not, I can't wait to repurpose them into usable furniture or art.

"There are 2 main inspirations/influences I've had to my work. The first is my all time favorite artist/designer, Kaffe Fassett-his books on needlework, quilting, interior design are all about color and patterns and design and his books are filled with fantastic photos of his inspirations--whether flowers or brick patterns or Islamic tiles or dhurrie rugs or Victoria and Albert Museum kitsch. My favorite quote from him is, why use 1 red when you can use 40??? or something like that, and that pretty much defines my use of color. I was excited to hear him lecture a couple times, and I also had the thrill of meeting him (and feeding him) for a couple days when he was in to film a segment for a needlework show we filmed when I worked at Beachwood Studios.

The second inspiration was when I discovered a closeout book on the Watts Towers in LA...what Simon Rodia, a small immigrant Italian man, did all by himself creating a fairyland of broken china, bottles, tiles, and anything else he could find to mix with concrete and this started me on my fascination with the magical-ness of creating with STUFF that has stayed with me ever since."

Thanks so much for sharing Jackie!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 4

I have viewed the walls of my home as a gallery. My gallery is very eclectic and I like that. Everything that hangs there is an original piece of art. I love thinking that they are unique and created by people who used that outlet to say something. There is a marvelous small watercolor landscape done by my husband's great-great-aunt. Her brother, his great-grandfather, was a well known painter but I find myself drawn to her work. I have paintings done by my husband and sons as well as my uncle. I love how they use color. I also have photographs, many taken by a friend whose muse is our old barn. His photo of the windows of the barn looks like a painting done by Andrew Wyeth. Most of the artwork in my gallery is of landscapes. Nature holds a huge influence on me.

Our friend the photographer and his wife own a lovely little gallery in The Little Italy section of Cleveland. They hosted an exhibition for a landscape painter named Angela Saxon. I was drawn to her use of color. She paints in all sizes - from the back of a playing card to massive canvas. Several of her paintings reminded me of one of my favorite painters, Mark Rothko. I decided to ask her what inspires her.

What should I paint?

I have always been an artist. As a little kid, when asked what I wanted to be, I always replied, 'an artist.' But then there was that question of what to paint or what to draw. I remember asking my mom this question many times. I suppose she offered some suggestions, but somehow the void was never filled.

I went to college to study art, and still was asking the same question….what should I paint? I earned my BFA in painting, and made a lot of paintings in the process. I explored color and pattern, the still life and interiors, and the general moving around of paint. But something was always missing--I was still searching.

A few years after graduating, after marrying and having my first daughter, our family moved to northern Michigan. I don't know what my exact feelings about landscape painters or landscape paintings was, but it wasn't necessarily something I ever thought I'd strive for.

But there it was. The landscape. Staring me in the face all day every day. It is spectacularly beautiful in northern Michigan, in any time of the year. After a few months I finally started to paint it. And the more I paint it the more I see. My eye then and now is just drawn into intimate spaces in the landscape. Light playing across a meadow, huge clouds towering over the lake, it's always captivating to me. Sometimes I wonder how many times I can paint a cloud over a lake, but so far it's new to me every time. And I thing that it is through this subject matter that my work is starting to move away from the literal, expressing more of the emotion of what I'm looking at, not just the imagery. Go figure.

Angela's work can be found at:

Thanks for sharing, Angela.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 3

I first became aware of Andrea Jenson's, Inkadinkadoodle when we were both featured in an Etsy Treasury with the theme of fiddleheads. I was immediately drawn to her note card. Having been a calligrapher, I have an obsession with paper and ink. Word processing and email may make life easier, but there is nothing quite like putting pen to paper to convey feelings and thoughts. It is also something you can save. I have a box that is filled with letters my mother wrote me when I was in college. At the time, I didn't know why I kept them but I am glad I did since she died much too young. When I miss her, I pull them out and see that familiar handwriting. Those letters are my treasures. I plan on sending letters to my son when he heads off to college in the fall, and most likely, they will be on beautiful notecards made by Andrea.

Here is Andrea's response to my question:

What inspires you?

I enjoy designing elegant paper goods that are timeless and classic. I am inspired by architecture, vintage clipart, gardening, and nature each and every day. I thoroughly enjoy pouring through my vintage clipart books and dreaming of all the possibilities for each piece of clipart. While designing I love being surrounded by antiques, my 1880's Golding & Co. letterpress, the type cabinets and all the letterpress cuts that I have accumulated through the years as they inspire me too. My mom works with me and helps me decide what looks good and what doesn't. It is so nice having a fresh set of eyes after working on a design for a long time. She is my greatest inspiration!

You can find Inkadinkadoodle at

Thanks for taking the time to share, Andrea!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 2

When I was in college, I would often venture up to the Toledo Art Museum to study. My favorite place was the gallery that housed a massive mobile by Alexander Calder. I loved watching it move. Years later, my son remarked that he liked mobiles because they were dancing sculptures. I like that description.

One of my favorite mobile artists is Mark Leary of Mobilosity. He creates amazing mobiles out of his Bend, Oregon studio. Here is Mark's answer to my question.

What inspires you?

I’ve always been fascinated by stuff that moves.

When I settled down in the mountains of Bend, Oregon, where the high desert air is constantly twisting and twirling, I think I finally found the perfect muse to inspire my creativity… and that took shape with mountain biking and mobile making.

As an avid (okay, obsessive) mountain biker, there are few things I dig more than pedaling deep into the mountains on some choice singletrack and watching the world (and my place in it) transform.

In my graduate studies, I explored our relationship to and with place, particularly the place of nature. I’m totally captivated with the way we interact with the places we inhabit and pass through and how – when we “bump into the world” – we create meaning/focus/purpose in our lives.

And, it’s that interaction with nature (usually as I’m zipping down a trail on my bike) that really inspires my designs – wresting form out of pure metal to realize feathers layering on a wing, leaves rustling in the wind, or bubbles rising into the air.

As I see the branches of a tree moving in a breeze, I’m mesmerized. A bird in flight, totally hypnotized. A ripple in the canal behind my house, spellbound.

See, I live by a semi-humorous "little things please little minds" mantra. Keep it simple. Keep it real.

In that vein, I’ve been inspired to keep my “process” as basic and fundamental as possible.
That means all my mobiles are hand cut, shaped, sanded, primed, painted, and assembled one at a time. I don’t use templates, or mass production, and regretfully I don’t employ a team of elves. It's just me in my humble little shop with Buddy the Cat enjoying good tunes and paint fumes while creating fun art.

The resulting creations range from works of peaceful simplicity, featuring repetitive shapes spinning hypnotically on an air current, to whimsical jumbles of bright colors and bouncy motion that vibrate with energy and joy.

In the end, I just feel pretty dang lucky to be able to create art for people to enjoy. That’s pretty cool.

Mark's wonderful work can be found at

Thanks so much, Mark.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I had an incredible art teacher in elementary school and junior high. He taught me how to open my eyes and take in my surroundings. He would often say, "Inspiration can be found anytime, you just have to open your eyes". Ever since then, I have been fascinated by what inspires artists to create. I decided to ask some of my favorite artists a simple question, What inspires you?

Today, the spotlight is on Chris Zielski and her Copper Leaf Studios. Chris does incredible work in copper. I love the colors she uses in her art - wonderful blues and rich reds. I am fortunate to own one of her pieces.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by colors, textures, lines and shapes, and how they all interconnect. A lot of my work is about balance and integration. Sometimes working on a design is like an engineering puzzle, when different elements must work together and integrate to become a new whole. On a concrete level, things like twists in branches and cracks in a sidewalk often inspire lines and shapes in my work. I've used photos of lightening to get just the right edge to a piece of cut copper, and my copper maps are inspired by the shape of different shorelines and rivers.

Chris' artwork can be found at

Thanks for sharing, Chris!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In The News

I woke up this morning to discover one of my necklaces featured in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The necklace, Hula, is at the bottom of the picture. What a lovely way to start the day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Talking to Myself

There are days, in fact most days, the bulk of the conversations I carry on are with myself. Sounds crazy but true.

Working from home, especially when home is a farm without neighbors close by, makes it really easy to be a hermit. I actually don't mind it most of the time. I have hours undisturbed to work on my jewelry. There are days when the ideas are flowing and time will sail by. I will mutter to myself if things aren't working well or if I misplaced a tool. (Jewelry tools disappear just like the scissors or tape when you are wrapping Christmas presents. You know they are there, you just can't see them. Or is this something that only happens to me? See, there I go again....) I will remark if something turns out better than planned. The cat, Jack, who seems to enjoy watching me in my creative endeavors from his perch on the chair next to the work table will often lift his head as to say, "Are you talking to me?"

I find this talking to myself humorous. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a customer at my first show. He was an older gentleman who had worked in business. He was giving me tips on how to make my business successful. His key tip - staff meetings. Well, when you are a business of one, I guess that means you have to talk to yourself. That reminds me, I need to hold a staff meeting....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Play Ball

One of the great loves of my life (family, friends, being creative are at the top of the list) is the game of baseball. My love affair started when I was a kid. Daily in the summer, a pick up game could be found in the backyard of the Morrison's house. The rules were simple - everyone got to play. Kids of all ages could be found there and girls were included. It was magical.

My love affair continued as I got older. A childhood friend was drafted by the Dodgers when we graduated from high school. I took great delight in that since I once caught one of his hits in the outfield in the Morrison's field. In college, I would watch my school's team and was impressed by one of the pitchers. He went out to have an outstanding career in the major leagues. It was fun to think I saw him before he was famous.

My pro team has always been the Cleveland Indians. They have broken my heart more times than I care to count but I am loyal. There is nothing better than sitting in the bleachers at Jacob's Field (sorry, it will never be Progressive to me) on a warm, sunny afternoon. It is to me heaven. I often joke that my religion is baseball.

Today is Opening Day. One of my favorite days of the year. The day of optimism and hope. For us Indians fans, today IS next year.

Play Ball........

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

The last remaining bits of snow have finally melted. The ground is starting to turn green, and the tree branches have noticeable buds. Sweet peas have been planted. The birds are singing, and the teens are once again flocking to the barn. After enduring a cruel winter, it is finally spring. At least for now...who knows what tomorrow will bring...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Turquoise Love

When I was about five or six, my mother gave me a turquoise ring that had been hers as a child. The ring looked like a flower - sterling silver petals with a green turquoise stone in the center. I remember thinking it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I guess my love affair with turquoise began then.

I love the organic quality of turquoise. The veining gives it character. I like seeing it used in different ways. I recently had a bride contact me about a turquoise necklace I had in my shop. She thought it would be perfect with her wedding dress. The thought of a white wedding dress and that turquoise necklace makes me smile. That is the perfect untraditional use for the stone.

I have been playing a lot with turquoise of late. I am drawn to the color especially after dealing with the white of winter. I like the way turquoise works with other stones. I also like to let it be the star every now and then. My favorite piece so far is this cuff bracelet I call O'Keefe.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green acres is the place for me....

I was at lunch the other day with a friend, her mother and a friend of her mother. My friend was explaining to the other ladies my adventures of living on the family farm. She finds my life most amusing. Looking back, it was.

When we first moved here, thirteen years ago, the house was scary. My mother-in-law sat on the back steps and sobbed that her grandsons would be living in a slum. Mind you, my mother-in-law had played landlord for fifty years for the place and hadn't thought to keep tabs on it so that too, made her cry. We laugh about that now. The house had NO electrical outlets on the second floor and a grand total of FIVE in the house. Two were in the kitchen, two in the living room and one in the downstairs bedroom. Please note, NONE in the bathroom. Hello, I have curly hair and my flat iron is my best friend. Within several weeks of moving in, the house had been totally rewired and the house thankfully had outlets everywhere. Oh and switches, too! No more pulling the chain to get the lights on. I think the reason it was done so quickly was because hubby was tired of me calling him at work, singing him the "Green Acres" theme song whenever there was a problem. And there were lots of them.

Being an interior design major in college, I kept waiting to make the house cute. But of course, I had to put up with the electrical issues, plumbing issues, a new furnace and new roof. I kept asking "When do I do cute?" No one, and I mean no one - okay, maybe guys - wants to see a new furnace or electrical box (did I mention they are located in a creepy basement that causes hubby and I to do rock, paper, scissors to determine who goes down there?). Finally, after three years I got to do cute. It was then I learned the old saying "Be careful what you wish for."

We found a contractor who liked working on old houses to do our kitchen remodel. The guy and I bumped heads from day one. His vision wasn't my vision and he didn't like it. He showed up to demo the place and then didn't return for days. This saga went on for months until he finally just never showed up again. We were living with our "kitchen" in the dining room and our only sink was a tiny one in the bathroom or the big claw foot tub. We ate out just once a week and the rest of the time, I cooked using hot plates, electric skillets and a microwave. Looking back, I don't know how I did it without losing my sanity. I finally took over the job and got the walls done and painted (and let me give a shout out to the local paint store who failed to tell me that a tinted primer would be best for the color red I used. Yep, six coats of paint later and I got the color I wanted) and the floor laid. During my tenure as contractor, I found a valuable resource in a fellow old house dweller who worked at the local hardware. I would walk in and look for him and describe my predicament in my own unique language - this do-hickey does this and the thingamajig does that - and he knew what I meant. Finally, after nine long months - the kitchen was done. I was so happy, I actually sent out birth announcements.

Just like childbirth, one forgets the pain and trauma involved in remodeling and you decide to do it again. This time, it was the back porch. The open, gaping hole that allowed critters to visit was the determining factor for that job. I thought this job would be easy without the impact on us that the kitchen had presented. The porch would finally allow me to have the washer and dryer in the house. No more driving to the next town to the laundry. Yeah, right. Needless to say, the porch was finished - no washer and dryer because of something called pitch (maybe because of the fit I pitched upon learning of the news)- and the contractor took it upon himself to finish the ceiling without talking with me. Starbursts weren't not discussed. Nothing was done as I had envisioned.

The third time was the charm. We tackled the only bathroom we had. We found a contractor who understood me and was adorable. That helped to make the whole ordeal more pleasant. I had the support of friends who would show up regularly to watch him work. Their nickname for him, Eye Candy. He understood the one rule during this whole process - there must be a working toilet at night. Unlike the males here, I refused to do my business outside. The same friends who came over to offer "support", opened up their bathrooms to us so we could shower. The contractor even found a way to put in a tiny laundry area in the tiny bathroom. He was my hero. He even understood hubby's desire to save the huge, heavy cast iron tub (which now is fondly referred to as my West Virginia garden and resides on the patio). He and his workers would laugh at my sagas of previous remodels. They called me "Laura Ingells" and would laugh that their wives/girlfriends wouldn't put up with the things I had. (Another class I missed along the way - along with nagging, creating honey do lists, etc)

These are just a few of the adventures I have had living in an old house. I haven't touched on the frozen pipes, the art of the shim or the creative uses of newspaper for insulation that I have dealt with. Those are for another day.

As trying as it has all been, green acres is the place for me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Barn

I love barns. I have had a life long fascination with them. I remember telling my mother I was going to live in one when I grew up. I didn't achieve that goal but I do have one in the backyard. I think she is special.

She was built by my husband's ancestors around 1817. The barn is entirely pegged and has tree trunks for posts. The first floor has stalls that over the years served cows and then horses. Now it is often filled with the laughter of teenagers.

The exterior is sided in walnut that no doubt was found on the property. My father-in-law thinks I should paint her but I love the worn color she is. There is a quiet elegance to it. I just don't think she'd look the same painted red or white.

The barn serves as storage for the large collection of two wheeled vehicles (bicycles and two motorcycles) that my husband is so fond of. He often jokes that a bike shop might be nice in the shed end of the barn.

The second floor of the barn is special. It is the sanctuary for my sons and their many friends. Living in an affluent town, the barn is something most kids don't have and the boys love that. They are picky about who is welcome. Only a select group has access to it - something else they love. In the summer, you can hear the laughter emanating from the open doors of the second floor. It has served as a concert venue (for shows aptly called Night in the Loft), a theatre (thanks to the projector) and club house. It will be bittersweet this summer to see many of them scatter, leaving the barn just a bit lonely.

I can't help but think that the ancestors would appreciate the fact their hard work is still being appreciated after all these years.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spring Fever!!!!!

I give up. The ground has been white everyday of 2010. I no longer love snow. Yes, I'll forget this come November (if I am lucky), when I see the first snow fall of the season but right now, I'm ending the love affair. I want color outside. I want flowers and birds singing. I want to put away my big bulky boots and coat for something more fashionable. I am tired of being in a bad mood because I have to shovel the driveway to get out. I feel bad for the poor dog who can't go out into the yard because the snow is too high. I don't want to have to worry about my husband shoveling the roof so we don't have water coming into the house. I have been a good sport. I put up with not having heat on two different occasions for a total of fourteen days. I endured (the family motto thanks to ancestor Sir Ernest Shackleton) but enough is enough. Mother Nature could you please jump ahead to more spring like weather? Pretty please....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Tendril

I often have people ask me about my avatar/logo - the tendril. A lot of people think you should show your wares in your avatar so that helps promote them. I view my avatar more as a logo - something that doesn't change and can be easily recognized as me.

I came upon the tendril for several reasons. First of all, it reminds me of wire wrapping, something I enjoy to do in my work. Secondly, it looks like a c which is what my name starts with. And lastly, it has to deal with gardening. I love how tiny tendrils of the sweet pea will latch on to the trellis I have in my kitchen garden. They look so delicate but are so strong. So there you have it, the mystery of the avatar solved.

Cleveland Handmade Giveway

Follow the directions to win a beautiful straw flower madala from Playnature.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I lost a dear friend the other day. Her death was like a punch in the gut. It is hard to imagine the world without her.

She was a friend of my mother's. I grew up thinking she was the most elegant woman I had ever seen. I wanted to be her when I grew up. When I grew up, I still wanted to be her. She was a joyful person. She loved tending her gardens and her business. Her family was everything to her and it included people that weren't related by blood. She was an incredible hostess, chef, and gardner and would have put Martha Stewart to shame.

When I became an adult, our friendship really began. I was married in the herb garden of her home. When we moved away, I would return to her business to buy plants for my gardens. I loved having a bit of her here. She came to visit several years ago. She was in awe of the gardens and work we had done to fix up our old house. She wandered about commenting that my mother would have loved this place. That was something else about her, she would often mention my mother who had died while in her fifties. Those comments were gifts to me. A way to keep her alive to me. It saddens me to know I have lost that.

A year and a half ago, I sent her an email telling her I had finally started my own jewelry business and sent her the web address. Her reply back floored me. She invited me to participate in her yearly Herb Fair as a vendor. The event was three weeks away. The fair averages around 3,000 visitors. I didn't have the inventory but didn't want to tell her no. So, I jumped off the cliff and said yes. I worked constantly making items for it. A friend helped me with my display and we headed off to the fair. She was there to greet me and show me my spot. She approved of the display, especially the chairs that we had put outside the tent so people could sit and enjoy the gardens and ponder their jewelry purchases. She would stop in from time to time to check up on me always with a big grin on her face. At the end of the day, I was amazed at how well I had done. For just starting out, it was a bit overwhelming to realize that people did like my work. When I went to say goodbye and thank you to her, I got choked up. I told her that her faith and support in me was such a gift. She just chuckled and gave me a hug and told me to remember she was my biggest cheerleader.

She was an extraordinary woman who had such an impact on my life. I am grateful that come spring and summer, I can gaze upon the gardens filled with plants from her and remember the woman who was such a huge influence on me. I was so blessed to have Libby in my life.

The Worst Winter Weather in the Nation

I can proudly say I live in the area that was recently anointed "The Worst Winter Weather City in the Nation". Thanks to our proximity to the beautiful lake known as Erie, we get more snow than anyone. That according to Forbes magazine is a bad thing. I like to think otherwise.

Just this past weekend, a large portion of the nation was hit by a huge snowstorm. The grocery stores were out of bread and milk. Cities came to a stand still. The national news covered it as their lead story. Those of us who reside in the Snow Belt chuckled as we watched these people freak out over their situation. To us, that is any given day when the snow flies.

Living with the worst winter in the nation affords us the opportunity to nest. We hunker down in our homes and recharge our batteries after the chaotic holiday season. We tend to projects inside the house because we know once spring comes, we will be outside. We dream of plans for the gardens or read that book we have been dying to pick up. For those of us with artistic abilities, we create. Living in a snow globe has its benefits. Any kid who learns they have a snow day will verify that.