Thursday, August 19, 2010
We are unfortunately, not all born with a bushel of self confidence tucked under our arms.
Since I have been a "learn as I go" kind of person, I've often undermined my own abilities by telling myself I must not dare call myself a writer, an artist, a teacher, or a musician...... That the moment I do, someone will come along and slap it out of my hands stating, "Who do you think you are? You don't know ANYTHING about THAT!"
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Yo Fish Mandala by Stephanie Smith
I don't usually end up with specific symbolism in my mandalas, but this one seemed to have been inspired by a recent trek to the river on a day when I decided to walk down the boat launch and get my feet wet. Throughout my entire childhood I was warned away from the river for reasons that are beyond my comprehension save for a pair of overprotective parents.
For the 1st time in my 41 years, I walked into the water about calf high and was thankful for it's coolness on my tired legs. Why did I wait so long?
Monday, August 16, 2010
Since the age of 16 when I dropped out of high school, I've come to rely on teaching myself what I need to or want to know. Years ago when I started making jewelry, I was very hesitant to take classes or workshops because I didn't want to be so influenced by a particular teacher/artist that I would end up producing clones of their work. Most of how I learned was through looking at images of other artists work, deconstructing their technique and then applying it in my own way. I might "copy" a design one time to understand its structure or form, but would always just add that technique to my overall design vocabulary.
In the end, I did decide to take a few workshops by a couple of very well know artists to see what they had to offer. One of these artists was a woman by the name of Arline Fisch- who would turn out to be one of the most influential teachers I would ever meet.
Arline Fisch is a pioneer with regards to making jewelry and sculpture by using methods that one would usually think of using with yarn or fiber. She in fact, wrote the book on the subject, Textile Techniques in Metal. She would use various weaving, knitting, and wrapping techniques with wire and metal in ways that were to me, indicative of the direction I was heading. I loved weaving with metal and I just HAD to take a class with Arline when she was in the area and hopefully learn some useful techniques that would help propel my work to the next level.
This was a two-day workshop and the way she started it was by showing a slide show retrospective of her work and also work by her students. It was a way for us to see ahead of time, the possibilities for how we could apply the techniques she was about to show us. I could have sat there for a hundred years watching those slides and listening to her describe them. Sigh....
She then proceeded to teach us some extremely basic weaving techniques. Very simple techniques indeed, but a little bit more challenging when you are using strips of metal or wire to fabricate them.
Arline's teaching style was phenomenal. She was 75 when I took her class in 2006 and she had the warmth and patience of your favorite aunt. She would show things over and over again- never criticizing mistakes but instead offering helpful suggestions for how to improve. When I messed up one of the exercises she was teaching, a zig-zag pattern (middle bottom silver piece) rather than rip it apart or start again I worked through my errors and made a pretty silvery bird. She loved it and applauded my efforts.
But probably the most important thing I learned from her was to not place restrictions on your students - as in, "You have to do it like this or it won't work." She was meticulous in teaching the techniques in that she anticipated most every variant of every question that could be asked, but when people asked about using variations on a theme she was teaching, such as using an 18 gauge wire rather than a 22 gauge, her answer was almost always the same, "You should try that!" Unless there was a significant reason for not encouraging someone to take what she was teaching and expanding upon it, (such as, using wire that thick could cause physical injury when trying to twist it without assistance) she always did. overall, I'd say she placed NO restrictions on our creativity and since I had experienced teachers in my life that did, to this day when I think about her I send her mental hugs for being such an influential teacher. Not everyone who can do, can teach. Arline can definitely teach.
There was no specific "final" project for us to complete in that class and I thought that was such a smart idea. I loved that we walked away armed with a pile of technique to use at our will. She gave us handouts - clear instructions for later, (if we needed them) and we went on our merry way.
It was literally only a few months after taking her classes that I stopped making jewelry. I have since reproduced some of those weaves with paper, but I've moved on. 3-4 years later when teaching my personal growth workshop, "Mandala: An Artful Meditation" I remember her words loud and clear. I see no mistakes when I look at my students creations, only personal expression and opportunity for discovery. I found that the best way to cultivate a new love for creating art is by letting it grow wild.
Weaving exercises from Arline Fisch's workshop.
One of my old woven pieces of jewelry. Antiqued copper wire over a Unikite donut.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Tuesday night at Dave Phillips Music and Sound in Allentown, PA, a crowd of over 100 musicians and music enthusiasts gathered for a Latin Percussion sponsored event - a free drum clinic with veteran percussionists Raul Rekow (conga) and Karl Perazzo (timbale) from the band Santana. To say the event was amazing would be a gross understatement. I am actually at a loss for words to describe the experience because it was just that good. Watch the video below to see some of the masterful musicianship from these two men. To sit less than 20 feet from them, you could feel their energy reverberating off the drums and washing out over the crowd... Thanks LP!
Pictured above, me with Moe Jerant, (friend & drumming teacher) Raul Rekow and Karl Perazzo.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I am not really one to use colored pencils, but I really wanted to try these Red & Blue Hermitage checking pencils. I was mesmerized by the fact that the pencil had two ends. Sadly, the red end was waxier than the blue and a pain to use and the two pencils I bought wouldn't sharpen without breaking. Brand new, and I'm left with a couple of doubley pointed nubs.
There is something to be said for a double ended pencil's ability to multi-task and I had fun trying to use just this one tool to color/sketch & doodle, even if it wasn't the best pencil in the world.
I need more colore dpencils like I need a hole in my head but I just couldn't resist ordering a set of these Colleen brand (from Thailand) double ended pencils (from Ebay) after seeing them reviewed on Pencil Talk. Hopefully I'll have better luck with them.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
(recently published on my other blog, Rhodia Drive, I wanted to share it here as well.)
Each year for the last five, I've been driving to a retreat in central PA located at a small university in the mountains. At first glance, the Summer Rhythm Renewal (under the direction of my friend Jim Donovan) is 4 days of drumming, dancing & spending time with good friends both old and new.
But peel off that glorious layer and there's so much more!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I present to you the much sought after Allan's Journal which was provided by Bibles-Direct.com for the purpose of review. Every now and again someone tells me about a journal that they have but are unable write in it. That the overall beauty of the book intimidates them. I've never really felt this way, I'm willing to just dive into any book and start making a mess... Until I received this one.
A high quality personal notebook with 256 pages of lightweight lined writing paper. Bound in Morocco goatskin leathers and now in two page size formats. With red under gold page edges and ribbon marker.
20-25 GBP ($33-$41 US) Free international shipping. (They ship from Scotland)
Large version: Page size: 7 3/4" x 5 1/16" : 3/8" (200 x 130 mm)
Pocket version Page size: 6 1/8" x 4 1/2" : 3/8" (155 x 115mm)
Rounded corners on the cover & pages. Flexible leather cover. (Which smells fantastic!)
End papers are a sturdy plastic-ish material.
Line width is extremely narrow in this pocket version. (4mm) I am unaware if the line width is the same in the larger version. Book both opens and lies flat, and it can also be folded back upon itself.
Ribbon bookmark of sufficient length.
Pale blue ruling combined with the red under gold ink on the page edges gives the book a vintage look.
I tested the journal with a plethora of water based fountain pen inks and despite the incredible thinness of the paper, there was only very minor feathering with a few of the inks and almost no bleed through with the exception of the occasional blood dot. (Broad nib users may experience different results. I used EF, F & M nibs to test.) There will be see-through, but I'd call that pretty typical for a paper so thin.
Reverse of page. The paper is pretty smooth to write on, and my only issue with it is that as I can't contain my writing to a 4mm line, and as I write over the lines, the ruling shows through with certain inks.
Watercolor paints worked decently with no bleed through but the page did buckle.
The journal I'd most likely compare the Allan's to would be the Small Quo Vadis Habana- shown on left, Allan's Journal on the right. The books are similar in size and each has a narrow line ruling. (Habana has 5mm ruling)
Similar, though the Habana costs about 1/2 the price of the Allan's Journal.
The Allan's Journal has more pages (128/256) than the Quo Vadis Habana (96/192) which has 64g paper. I can't imagine how thin the paper weight must be on the Allan's. I've tried asking questions about the paper but haven't received a response of where it's made or it's weight. When I first wrote asking for a review sample, Nicholas Gray of RL Allan Publishers stated that the journals are made by a very classy London label (which he wouldn't mention) and that if they were sold in their shops with their name on them, would be 3x the price. Yipes! (I'm thinking Smythson)
*Note The small Habanas currently have either 64g (lined) or 90g (blank.) The 64g lined version is being used here for page comparison.
Slightly wider and a smidge taller then the small Habana - each would work well as a pocket style book. (Though each is larger than a small Moleskine.)
In conclusion, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a well made book. It looks good, feels good and smells good. But 4mm ruling would drive me insane. My handwriting is much too big for that. Now if there was a blank version available... But I don't know... Since I don't know where the paper is being sourced, I have no way of knowing if it would remain consistent from book to book. For its price, I'd like to think so.
Monday, August 9, 2010
While performing a Google search for womanwithin.org, I inadvertently came across a clothing company with the same name - one that seemed to specifically cater to plus sized women. As I am a plus sized gal, (one who is easily frustrated with clothes shopping,) I clicked the link to check them out.
People - if you wish to sell your clothing to the plus sized community, how about using plus-sized models to show how the clothes will really fit? I was so put off by this that I called their customer service number and told them how I felt.
Last night at a local festival, I stopped to buy a bottle of water. The woman behind the counter looked at me and said, "I know you." Looking back at her, I felt bad that I couldn't immediately place her. I have discovered that my brain does not always know how to add years to a memory and I'm left to struggle...
She correctly guessed where I grew up and also the junior high I attended, then identified herself as Janice, one of a pair of identical twins that were a year ahead of me. I didn't really know the twins that well, but I remembered their mother Joanne.
Joanne was a school crossing guard whose post was on the corner of the end of my block. For 1st and 2nd grade, I attended a local Catholic school and Joanne would stop traffic so we could cross the busy street to safety. When I saw Janice yesterday, a deep memory came bursting through.
Her Mom saved my life.
It happened so long ago that I have but the faintest memory of it. A speeding car did not stop at the corner and she pulled me out of its way. I can vaguely remember her sweeping me under her arm- putting herself in harms way to ensure my safety.
I really think I was too little at the time to understand what had almost happened.
Even now, I'm still not sure I can comprehend the far reaching consequences of her actions. I mean, I understand the concept of treating each day as a gift, but when given a second chance.... Wow... I just don't know what to say. But maybe it wasn't a second chance at all, but instead, just another event that makes up the fabric of your existence.
I would love as a 41 year old adult to thank Joanne but sadly, I learned last night that she passed away 4 years ago. But I think she can still hear me... :o) Thank you Joanne!
* I'm pretty sure it was Janice that I saw last night and not her twin. The music was loud or maybe it was just my aging ears and brain that is making me doubt which name she told me. My sincere apologies if I am wrong.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Many apologies to you my dear reader, for it has been a while since I've taken the time to bare my soul to you. A lot has been happening with regards to my personal growth (my spiritual evolution) and as one thing after another goes flying by, it's been challenging to put these experiences into words before something else happens- though each is ultimately teaching me some kind of profound life lesson.
Some of you may know that I have a famous rock drummer friend. Long story short, as the band was about to travel to California to record the album that would eventually sell 2.5 million copies, they collectively visualized their success by imagining every step of the process as being golden. Based on the teachings of Shakti Gawain in her book Creative Visualization, the basic premise was that thought creates form.
Since my birthday happens to fall on the last day of the year, I often spend a fair amount of time at the year's end reflecting on the events leading me up to that point. About a week prior to my birthday last year, I asked my husband if he would do something a little unusual with me. I had grabbed a large piece of paper and a pile of crayons. We then took turns writing down what we wanted to manifest in the coming year as I wanted us to visualize great things to come. One thing that my husband wrote on the paper was "Non Smoker" and then after it, he wrote the word, "Try." I looked at him and I said, "That's not how it works. You are only declaring your intention to try, not to actually do it." Right below what he had written, I write in capital letters one of my own declarations/visualizations for the coming year- I wrote, "Ex-Smoker."
I have been smoking since (I believe,) the age of 12, when a pack of smokes at Mike's corner store cost .50 and they never questioned the fact that a 12 year old was buying smokes to begin with. At the time, it was hip and cool and the thing to do. I never even thought about quitting until one year when my grandmother offered to pay for me to get hypnotized. I sat there in the room with a dozen other people including my Mom. I was skeptical and quite honestly didn't care one way or another whether or not I stopped smoking. So it might come as a surprise that I was the only one that it worked on. I actually stopped smoking for a full year - until the day when my stepmother said to me, "Oh yes, I got hypnotized as well. It worked for about a year until I couldn't remember why I had stopped smoking... and then I started smoking again."
Her words had pulled me back out and I started smoking again. :o( Then there was the time when I was taking some kind of anti-depressant and I decided to quit cold-turkey. Well sure... those drugs will suppress those urges... for a while. Not sure how long I lasted, but I eventually started smoking yet again. And so for the last 10 years or so, I've been smoking - but I haven't really been enjoying it. It wasn't tasting good and it didn't really do much for me, or did it?
My famous drummer friend also teaches workshops where we use drumming in combination with chanting - and not your typical devotional chanting like you might find in a Kirtan, but simple vocal mantras that force you to breathe and does a really great job of moving energy throughout your being via sound. Do enough of it and you learn that the combination of drumming/breathing/chanting can make you feel pretty ecstatic. And if you break it down, what is one major component to smoking but forced breath?
In a way, I've been wanting to quit for a while but no matter how much I didn't like it, I was having a hard time letting go of the act itself. Sure, it would save me money and make me feel better, but when you break any pattern whether good or bad, it gives you more energy and it's sometimes daunting to give up the devil you know for the devil you don't.
After spending a week at my friend Jim's Rhythm of Life Design Intensive and also the Summer Rhythm Renewal retreat (the former focused on personal growth, the latter a smashing time of drumming, dancing, music- great times w/ greater friends) I came home prepared to let go of many bad habits and patterns that had been holding me back from living my life to its fullest. The funny thing is that I hadn't really thought at all of quitting smoking, as I had too many other demons to battle. Smoking can wait another day- or would it?
While I was away for the week, I barely smoked. On my four and a half hour drive home, I smoked a lot. When I got home, I smoked even more. But when I woke the next morning, first cigarette of the day in my hand and my new red Bic lighter in the other, I remembered how Jim always used smoking as the ultimate habit that people try to break. Before I was able to light the smoke, his words came to mind - "Don't worry about tomorrow. Just concern yourself with not smoking right now... If you can hold off lighting a smoke for 5 minutes, you are succeeding. Then next time instead of lighting that cigarette, you could take a 5 minute walk instead."
Yea.... that's the ticket. I put the unlit smoke down next to the lighter and put my Teva's on. Grabbed my house key and took an hour long walk down by the river. Once I got back, I still didn't light up and I instinctively knew that this was it. My time was now. With that small gesture of setting the cigarette down, I instantly became an ex-smoker - just as I had declared at the end of last year.
I am on my 4th day and as far as I am concerned, this is easy. Tell your mind what you want it to believe and it is so. I have zero cravings. I can stand right next to my husband as he is smoking and I have no desire to light one. Not when I wake up in the morning, not with a glass of wine- it's because I am simply done with it. Once in a while I think, "Oh, now is the time I would so outside" but similar to the feelings I experienced the day after we put our 15 year old dying dog to sleep, I know now that that part of me is dead and gone and while it might feel for a while like there is a hole of sorts within me, it stands poised to receive nothing but goodness- as I am deserving of all the great things the world has to offer.