Friday, March 25, 2011

Why get a simple bouquet of flowers for your wedding day when you could spend the next 4 months digging through flea markets, antique stores, second hand shops, and graves for vintage brooches? Right?

Look out. Today I discovered Brooch Bouquets.

What is a brooch bouquet you ask?
I had planned on finding some simple orange blossoms the day before the wedding, maybe roses or tiger lilies. And then today I came across a knob bouquet which then lead me to discover the dreaded brooch bouquet. My God, no, the horror. The horror because immediately my mind flashed to fond memories of Amy and I sewing rhinestone buttons onto elastics to create button bracelets in ninth grade. It flashed to the 15 or so brooches my Nana Irene left Mom and I. It flashed to the 2-3 jewelry boxes of Nana Irene's other, cheaper or possibly broken brooches and clip on earrings. It flashed to the brooches Amy and her grandmother Ghee gave me as gifts over the years. It realized how much fun it would be showing Mom the new pieces I could find, as she loves vintage jewelry possibly even more than I. The horror because I knew the simple blossom bouquet I was most likely going to buy at Whole Foods the day before our wedding had just been swapped with four months of trips to flea markets, second hand stores, and vintage shops. Unwrapping a plastic sheath and cutting a rubber band had been exchanged for painstakingly wrapping green floral wire through pins and filigree. Some folks even make matching "Groom's Pins" as boutonnieres. 

There was no looking back now.
If you love this look, I highly recommend visiting the original creator of the Brooch Bouquet, Amanda at Fantasy Floral Designs. Whenever possible, I feel like the artist or creator of an original idea should be credited, and this is one heck of an idea. She has a number of beautiful creations, and when you think about the fact that so many quality vintage pieces are in one bouquet, $350 actually doesn't seem like such a bad price. The quality is gorgeous, and I enter into my own project knowing full well it won't be quite as lovely as her exquisite works!

However, for myself I am going to learn how to make one. The whole appeal of this project to me is the connection to my Nana Irene and a way to bring her into my wedding day.  The brooches I have been given by friends and other family also play a huge role in deciding to preemptively toss my real flower bouquet. Okay, okay--as well as the excuse for trips to flea markets, second hand stores, and vintage shops. Ryan is already itching to start flea marketin' once the weather turns a bit warmer, and having a treasure hunt in mind is all the more fun. Ryan himself collects retro gaming systems, and it has us out not only to flea markets, but also auctions and garage sales throughout the spring. In the next few months I'm going to be looking for affordable (cheap) brooches and vintage button flower earrings in pale blues, oranges, and creams, ivories, whites and rhinestones.
Nana Irene's brooches, as well as a few Nana Dee Dee
and Mom have given me. Irene was my great grandmother
who loved antiques, sales, color, and IHOP,
and Dee Dee is my feisty, amazing grandmother.

I gathered together the brooches I brought with me to the west, and I've got pictures here to share. I already have one little bee, whose shape as a bee immediately forgives its pink stones. (Hey, there's gotta be some small splashes of other colors too I figure). I also have my enameled skunk Mom gave me when I graduated college. I think these are a great starting point. In a small black velvet box somewhere in this apartment is an orange sunflower set Amy and Ghee gave me, and somewhere back home is the beloved yellow enamel and pearl pansy pin I wore through high school.

I'm excited for my wedding project. We want the wedding to be simple, but it's got to be us too. And not only do I love my collection of family favorite vintage jewelry pieces, but Ryan loves to yell, "MY BROOCH, MY BROOCH, SOMEONE STOLE MY BROOCH!" whenever electric lights go out.

Let's go riding way out west!

Tim adjusts a box as Ryan and Preston look on,
You can just see Nelson's feet in the upper right
corner of the trailer, hanging over a mattress. 
A year ago today Ryan and I bid Rhode Island a fond farwell, and began our drive to the west coast. I grew up loving the stories of pioneers making the long journey westward in their covered wagons, and the excitement I felt boiled away any nervousness. Our friends and us had filled a Uhaul trailer the day before with everything I owned, and we hitched it to my Toyota Matrix and hit the open road. The trailer had been jam packed between the amazing junk-coordinating efforts of Kaela and Tim. Kaela had an eye for what would fit where, and Tim arrived with his shipping and packaging experience just as space was getting tricky. Our slender friend Nelson crawled into the dangerous depths of the trailer to stuff the very last items into place. We slid the backseats down and stored the more delicate lamps, pictures, and breakables into the Matrix bed, wrapped in blankets and covered with cushions. Elvis, my Siamese cat, was placed in his carrier and the carrier rested safely on these cushions. We were able to fit the rat cage with Atticus and Gabriel beside him. As I drove Ryan reassured Elvis and fed the rats Cheezits. The rats, safe in their usual home, loved traveling. They slept in the sun and happily sniffed the air coming in from the open windows like two tiny dogs. Elvis was not as amused at first. That first night we ate dinner in New Jersey and slept in Pennsylvania.

Our modern day covered wagon!
Ryan and I start our journey, Elvis's
carrier just behind us.

It was a sort of prequel honeymoon for Ryan and I. We had been friends for years before our first date, having gone to the same high school and sharing a group of mutual buddies. He had settled in Washington after college, but sometimes visited home. It was one of these visits that he asked me to dinner. We managed to fall in love before dessert. We were immediately inseparable. Our first date lasted almost three days. Ryan asked me to move to the west with him the next week. (That's all a story for another post). It took about a month and a half to wrap up my life in New England, telling my friends and family, giving notice to my job at the bank, sorting and packing my belongings, and Ryan finding a place for both of us in Washington. My friends were thrilled for me, though most of my family thought I was crazy. Ryan and I just knew, we'd found something extraordinary, and nothing extraordinary is easy--or there would be no 'extra' in the word. Save for one week long visit, we spent our first two months together 3000 miles apart. Now here we were rolling down the highway, holding hands and making jokes.

Over the next six days we saw the country (spoiler alert most of the middle is flat). We ate in diners and  slept in hotels, checking in, waiting until the coast was clear, and then sneaking Elvis and the rats into our room through whatever back entrance we could find. As the days went on Elvis became quite the little traveler's kitty and was soon making himself at home in every hotel room. Ryan was able to point out the
Ryan and I, in a seemingly abandoned town in North Dakota.
skyscrapers in Chicago he'd lived in from the highway. We spent a nervous night in Gary, Indiana after walking into the world's seediest motel and encountering a desk clerk in with a gun tucked into his belt by  the light of a flickering television (we didn't stay there). We got lost in an endless graze of Ohio suburbs. We accidentally interrupted a town meeting of four wonderfully kind people in North Dakota as we searched for a bathroom and delighted in a cheesy alien themed restaurant in Bismarck. We had pizza in Whitehorse, Wisconsin and believed everyone in the place was a serial killer (middle aged white men with awkward five o'clock shadows and shifty eyes sitting alone in every booth. It was like a scene from a David Lynch film).

Though the rats were just tickled to be traveling,
Elvis was not a happy camper at first. Here he is
clinging to me in our first hotel room.
...However, by the end of the trip Elvis
was quite the traveler's kitty.

Montana was by far my favorite state we drifted through. The sky was just unreal. You drive long enough through flat enough country and you discover you've taken the sky for granted your entire life. The ground stretched for miles of gorgeous golden fields, but the blue sky and great, wide clouds ruled the landscape. We pulled over at sunset and sat in a field, stretching our legs, watching the sun sink further and further into the west we were chasing. We discovered the world's BEST (and I'm serious) tomato soup in 4B's Restaurant. Montana was beautiful, and I hope we return there some day.

As we hit the mountains snow began, and a snow storm kept us in the mountains only a few hours from Seattle. We snuck the animals into one last hotel, slept through the storm, and reached 'home' that afternoon, to the apartment Ryan had found for us weeks before. It was springtime in Everett and the cherry tree outside our living room window was in full bloom. It was a wonderful journey westward.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blue Shoes

Between brush strokes and pencil lines this morning, I was trying to convince Mom that baby blue shoes would be amazing with my wedding gown in August. It's one of the few wedding trends I think is adorable, but Mom was a hard sell. I think she was envisioning peacock blue, while I was imagining my vintage ivory lace gown with powder blue heels. (If anyone wants to see pictures of my dress, send me your email at!)

She was very hesitant to agree, and at first continued to send me links to white and ivory shoes. After an hour or so of trading links, we somehow manged to send each other the same link. Naturally she's now on board and we're trying to find a more affordable pair, although it would be like Mom and I to spend more money on the shoes than the dress. 

A-Corn On the Cob is up for scoring

My collaboration with Evan Ferstenfeld, aka 'Frickinawesome' is up for scoring on threadless! Click here to check it out! I painted a second collaboration with him today, but it's still currently in the tweaking process. Hopefully I will be able to post it soon.

I began an illustration this afternoon I can't wait to paint. I'm taking it slow to really think out what colors I want to use, right now I'm thinking a lot of blues, browns, and oranges, with some hints of light greens and yellows.

The idea came from something I said last night while admiring photographs of octopus tentacles--which I love if you can't tell by the banner of this blog or by my online pseudonym. I said to Ryan, "it's too bad mermaids can't have tentacles instead of fish tales. I imagine it would be much easier for them to move around." Once I said it out loud I couldn't shake the notion. So this afternoon I sketched an 'Octomaid' out, and posed her investigating the remains of a pirate skeleton.

Today's illustration sketch, pencil and ink. A little stiff right now,
but that should be corrected with paint and shading.

Detail of the Octomaid's face.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A-Corn On the Cob has been submitted to threadless!

A few posts back I wrote that I was collaborating with a gentleman on some threadless submissions. The concepts are his and I do the illustrations with guidance and tweaking to make certain what's in his head matches what is happening on my page. I promised I would share the images as we submit them, and the first one is pending approval!

You can view it here:

How cute is this idea? Wait until you see the next two! As I wrote before I usually don't collaborate with folks I don't know personally, but the strength of his ideas sold themselves to me. As you can see this concept is a play on the word "acorn" and has a sloppy, fuzzy squirrel messily chowing down.

I feel pretty confident that this will be accepted for scoring! I'm interested to see what the score will be over the next seven or so days.

Today I'm featured on "Wave of Life Surf Studio!"

It's only half past noon and already I feel really good about this day. For one thing, I was featured on the art site "Wave of Life Surf Studio" this morning! You can read the feature here. I follow this art blog myself, along with over 600 other folks. Its reviewer Kelly has great taste and never fails to share the wonderful items she's hunted down, whether it be paintings, handmade jewelry, or fantastic natural hairsprays. Whenever I read her blog I'm happily reminded of my cousin Lacy and Ryan's Aunt Joanie and their love of sand and surf!

As I was reading this feature, I was contacted by a new local merchant in Westerly! For folks who do not know a marvelous new art shop is going to be opening across from the Perks and Corks in downtown Westerly sometime in June, possibly even earlier. My bud Jackie is pals with the owner and put me in touch with her yesterday. I'm beyond thrilled that I'll have some work selling back home, and especially delighted it will be in downtown Westerly. Amy and I have spent many a Sunday lounging on the couches in Perks and Corks taking in the eclectic furnishings and the delicious coffees, chai, and goodies! (Now that I drink coffee I miss the place all the more). Wilcox park, the library, Herbwise Naturals, and the Other Tiger are favorite haunts back home. Entire afternoons have been spent riding the brass bunny in the park with Gracie, imagining us on incredible adventures, ignoring the looks from strangers that clearly say "Those women on the children's bunny are clearly in their 20's."

Ahem, I will NEVER be too old to ride the brass bunny in the park. I will kick aside my walker to climb onto him, and one day, he'll scamper me to Heaven....Well, him or the Dinosaur-built-for-two in the Wakefield park.

In any case, it's already been a good day and I'm feeling very happy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Webcams: Capturing my idiocy for future generations.

First off, I had just the best day. Ryan and I went to the gym early, then I spent the morning courting local art stores to sell my prints and looking for a wedding dress. Neither of us want a long engagement, so we've got our sights set on August for a wedding date! And believe or not, I already found and bought the dress. I love it so much, and wish I could post some pictures here to share, but naturally I can't risk Ryan catching a peek before the big day! After I bought the dress I met Ryan in downtown Seattle and we got lunch and had my ring resized just a wee bit.

I came home and accidentally figured out my webcam. Since I can't show the photos of my dress, I can at least show you how a few click quickly progressed into nuttiness.

I clicked this one to check the camera's settings....

Uh-oh...I could make faces in this....

...Stupid faces....

I could show I love my cat, Puck.

I can demonstrate how scary unexpected trolls are....

1980's Family Portrait with a troll.

This one went off as I was looking over my ridiculousness.
Proof I crack myself up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Super Moon Goes Extreme

A painting I did two years ago, 'Enchanted
Moon', ink and watercolor.
How beautiful was last night? With all of the terrible things going on around the world right now, it was wonderful we could all share one powerfully bright, perfectly round, purely white sparkling Moon. I wish we had more positive world wide events like that, something to make everyone pause and press their noses to the window pane like children. To lure folks out onto their lawns in the middle of the night, to gaze up in wild wonder at something still far more amazing than anything we've come up with. We can create tiny devices with calming GPS voices to tell us where to turn, but they sure as heck can't guide us to the Moon. It reminds us we still have distance to explore, horizons we've never seen but for a handful of us. If we'd all just work together we'd be there already. Instead we fight about the simplest thing, how to treat people (the answer is nicely, just treat them nicely).

Maybe someday we'll be traveling to the Moon the way Ryan and I take planes back east. A simple trip, a search through security, free diet cokes, all the peanuts you can eat. And we'll look out into the sky from the Moon and see the Earth, the distant place we need to return to in days or weeks time.

The Moon is the one Earth held land (literally held, not by bedrock or rolling sea, but tied to our spiraling side with gravity) that we've yet to pollute or build a McDonald's on. Besides a stiff American flag and a few dusty footprints it's the same vast landscape as it was in the 1800's, 1500's, 400 B.C. No foundations breaking into the crumbling soil, no burnt stones where once a hearth glowed. Just rock after rock, crater upon crater, for miles and miles of silent, pearly dust prairies. The lunar planes.

It doesn't get more vintage than the Moon.
The fact that the lands of the Moon have been the same for centuries fascinates me endlessly. Travel anywhere on earth and where you walk will be different than it was even one hundred years ago. Trees grow, trees fall, forest fires erase, rocks roll, rocks crumble, wind shifts pebbles, waves slice a shore. Our earth has been changing since it began, landscapes forming and reforming over lifetimes. Man has cleared roads, chopped trees, moved stones into mysterious Celtic monuments. We've scurried across its surface like birds with seed and ants with grain, making the land what we needed. However the Moon remains as it was. Without wind, without substantial water, and yes, without us it's been theorized the Moon's surface has not changed since a gas release a million years ago.

That would mean with the exception of that flag and those footprints, the Moon we see is the same Moon Jules Verne thought upon, pausing between sentences, searching for the next right word to craft the future. Marie Antoinette celebrated it during parties and glimpsed it from a jail cell. Galileo studied the very Moon the Mayans took into account when they made their calendar. When Leonardo Da Vinci solved the riddle of moonshine, he solved it for folks who had walked by moonlight in the Dark Ages, the Roman Empire, and the time of the pyramids. Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem under the watchful gaze of the same craters and volcanic formations their child and all children see as the Man in the Moon. Think of a person you admire in history, and they saw the Moon exactly as you see it. (Okay, not Helen Keller, but I imagine the Moon held a dreamy fascination for her too, whether or not she could physically look upon it).

Even in fiction: Elliot and ET flew by the same Moon
Odysseus journeyed beneath for years.
And what of that flag and those footprints? To realize that in our lifetime, or our parents' and grandparents' lifetime, man has touched the Moon? That man has walked its surface--we ourselves come from the first generations to leave footprints on that pristine frontier? It makes me simultaneously happily amazed and a little sad. In all the lifetimes since Earth began birthing humans, we are that one blink. That brief second where we broke the bounds of H.G. Wells novels, stepped off the page, and touched the Moon.

What will the Moon look like in one hundred years now that we have made contact? In a thousand? Are we not only the first to cross its border but also the last generations to view the same Moon our ancestors have enjoyed before us? Are we going to smooth roads for dune buggies? How long after can we keep Walmart from breaking ground? People will need matching hand towels and Tang after all. Will we one day indeed catch space flights to the Moon? I think it's inevitable. If Star Trek communicators and cell phones have taught us anything its that once man sees it in painting, print, or film--he wants it real. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells didn't predict as much as they inspired.

However if we'd been there last night, we would have missed the view. Last night the best place in the world was in each of our own backyards, or in our beds gazing up through the windows. Seeing that big, bright, beautiful beacon in the sky drawing the eyes and imaginations up since the first man searched for something comforting in the dark.

A lovely seaside photograph of last night's Moon
captured by my friend, photographer Jed Thompson.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tiny owls, penguins, and hedgehogs oh my!

Nicodemus and Wendall
In the evenings after my painting is finished for the day I've been sewing. It keeps my fingers busy and I like to work the muscles in my hand since gripping a pencil and pushing a paintbrush can get a little weary after several hours. Usually I only sew my little 'pocket pookahs', but this week I made a very tiny owl, penguin, and hedgehog. My kid sister turned 21 yesterday, and so she received the first of my new little creations in the mail.

I believe I'm going to put them up for sale in my shop soon. I've had mixed results selling my pocket pookahs, the little monsters folks can keep in their pockets and squeeze when needed. The results are they don't sell well at all, but the few people who have bought them have all contacted me to tell me they love them? That's worth it to me. I made my own pookahs out of necessity since living on the opposite coast for the first time in my life meant I was a stranger at every party.  As I met new people and went on outings around Seattle to places like the Vintage Mall or Trophy Cupcakes, I found that having a tiny monster in my pocket to squeeze made me feel a little better. A kind of itty bitty security blanket for a grown up. Discreet and fluffy, Wendall was a comfort.
Ryan was pretty excited that the pookahs didn't sell, as he had already squirreled 6-7 of them away, named each of them, and begun walking to work with little stow aways secretly tucked into his pocket. I discovered this when I happily exclaimed, "Ooh! The fat earth pookah sold!" and Ryan replied in horror, "NO, NOT CHARLIE!" Cut to a scene of me sewing a duplicate fat earth pookah at midnight while Ryan sat scribbling away on his drawing tablet with 'Charlie' safe and sound on his knee.  

Gracie's Unnicorn Pookah
My sister Gracie began demanding one pretty much after they were first stitched. We dreamed up a creature years ago called an "Unnicorn", a half bunny, half unicorn beast to answer the question "What's the cutest thing you can think of?" Naturally, I made her a pookah to resemble the Unnicorn we so love. We share a love of owls, penguins, and hedgehogs and so I also created her a tiny friend of each. 

I'm pretty happy with how they each came out, although I may extend the belly fabric to the face on the little hedgehog if I do decide to sell them in the shop. Part of me thinks maybe more people will buy them since who doesn't love owls, penguins, and hedgehogs? Another part of me thinks that these will be another rare purchase, however if the people who do buy them love them, well, that's exciting enough for me. I love toys and dolls and always find myself making them. I have a rag doll 80% finished right now, I'll share her soon! For now, here's a look at my owl, hedgehog, and penguin!

The owl paired with the quarter to show the size of these
little critters!

The Owl!

The hedgehog!

The hedgehog being camera shy....

The penguin!

Teeny tiny penguin tootsies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Amazing reward for believing in magic today!

I spent the afternoon boiling corned beef and adding carrots, potatoes, and cabbage with dangerous splashes (I adore cooking, but my natural clumsiness always works against me). I turned off the stove and dashed out for cupcake supplies, (which I had forgotten of course) returned, got the stove up and running again and cooked up some mighty fine traditional Irish grub if I may say so myself.
The beautiful ring Ryan gave me, it's an estate piece
from the 1920's! And art deco! I love it so much.

Earlier in the day I had written a post promising that I was going to try and stay optimistic this St. Patrick's day and keep an eye out for magic. I finished cooking dinner, lit some green candles, and spread the table with plates. Ryan came home and we ate together, joking and laughing and talking over our days as usual. I asked if he'd like his tea topped off, and when I returned from the kitchen he crossed the living room and dropped to one knee, catching me around the waist with one arm. "Will you marry me?" he asked, opening a fuzzy little black box.

We had been discussing marrying lately, and now it turns out he'd been sending me clues all along in texts (I received one two days ago from him that read "i miss you veRy much. rIght Now i'm out findinG lunch.") All the same I was taken off guard so happily. Of course I said yes, and now St. Patrick's day will most certainly remain a day of magic!

I know how corny that last sentence must sound, and before falling in love with Ryan I would have been the first to gag, but I just can't help feeling marvelously, wonderfully, terrifically happy! I feel incredibly blessed to have found someone who is in every way my other half. And soon will very literally be my other half!

St. Patrick's day 2011 for the win!

The Pseudooctopus has been featured on TotusMel's Wunderkammer!

This is exciting for me, it's the second time I've had a piece of work featured on the incredible steampunk site TotusMel's Wunderkammer! Click here to see The Pseudooctopus hanging out with some other underwater pals. If you like steampunk, TotusMel's Wunderkammer is a nonstop source of new art, jewelry, and fashion devoted to the style. Over 500 followers agree!

Old Enough to Believe in Magic

Last night I had a kind of Irish Christmas Carol happen. For years I've disliked St. Patrick's day. Oh, don't get me wrong. When I was a child, I was all about it. However, as I got older it began to lose its charm for me. Look at any picture of me and it's hard to miss I'm incredibly Irish. There's pretty much nothing else in these veins, my blood's straight green. My parents even met on St. Patrick's day, tomorrow is my kid sister's birthday. I should love this holiday but often it gets me down in the grumps. Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, a green wave of memories came over me you might say.

It's hard to mistake me for anything other than Irish.

One reason I've disliked the holiday is I don't drink. Another is the history of the Irish people. No one was wearing any 'Kiss Me I'm Irish!' shirts when Americans were lobbying to close their borders to the Irish during the famine. For a long time the only decoration with the word 'Irish' were the 'Irish Need Not Apply' signs businesses hung in their windows. Now that we're considered human, everyone wants to wear green and come to our parade? Yet another reason is the history of St. Patrick himself. Driving out the snakes from Ireland is a charming euphemism for persecuting the pagans. St. Patrick was one of the first in a long line of English men who told the Irish how to behave, and we celebrate him? I'm Catholic, let me tell you, we've got better saints we could be celebrating. Many Catholics pray daily to St. Anthony, St. Francis, and St. Jude respectively to find our car keys, protect our pets, and win us the lottery. And do we honor them with so much as an ice cream cone?

I have to pause here to share that Preston just sent me a text, "I hate St. Patrick's day, I wish it were dead."

Last night I laid in bed anticipating the day. I don't like being a downer, and I thought back to when I was little and St. Patrick's Day was one of my favorite days of the year. Why was that? What happened? Travel back in time with me to five year old Georgia Dunn, won't you?
There I am, gooney smile and all!

We would find me dressed in a green Osh-Kosh-B-Gosh number, socks with shamrocks, green ribbons in my pigtails. You should know when I was very little I misunderstood leprechauns. (I blame the 80's tv show the Littles for this). I didn't categorize leprechauns with fairies, unicorns, and elves which I hoped were real, I somehow managed to lump them in with mice, ants, and moths which I knew were real. Like any morning my father was going to come up from the basement and tell Mom, "Candy, call the exterminator! We've got leprechauns." I awaited this as excitedly as I hoped we'd be infested with mice which I knew from books were soft, adorable creatures. I imagined I would sneak down into the basement and catch a glimpse of leprechauns dancing in little circles, playing tiny fiddles, and quickly warn them of their fate---"Run! My parents think you're going to chew through the wires and poop everywhere! A man is coming with leprechaun traps! Quick, follow me, we'll have adventures in the garden!" (Later my parents would spray for leprechauns in the garden).

Magic was serious business when I was little. Here I am
 fueling up on sugar to stay awake on Christmas Eve,
not realizing I've been duped with a diet soda.
Just as I had misunderstood leprechauns I also believed rainbows actually ended in pots of gold. I figured not only was this where gold came from, but it was probably how people found it in the first place. (Cut me a break, I was five). My Mom would point out a rainbow as we drove in the car and not understand why I would struggle against my seatbelt, pointing and kicking furiously, "Follow it! FOLLOW IT! What do you mean we can't? We're going to Nana's? Who cares?! Nana will understand! Tell her we saw a rainbow--FOLLOW IT!" I knew leprechauns had something to do with rainbows and harvesting gold from them, and so the whole month of March I was on full alert for any movement in the grass or colors in the sky. I stalked the forest behind our house, I patrolled the stone wall running through our backyard. I had it all planned out. I was ready to spring on one of those little buggers at a moment's notice and scoop it up. "WHERE'S YOUR GOLD? TALK YOU!" I'd say, hoping to God and all the saints that leprechauns didn't bite.

When my mother would snap the buckle on my corduroy overalls in place St. Patrick's day morning she'd whisper, "look out for leprechauns today! This is the one day of the year you can be certain they'll be about. If you see one follow it back to its pot of gold, okay?"

I would solemnly promise, cross my heart. Bees made honey, leprechauns made gold. Gotcha, check! I'd pick up my Muppets lunchbox and swagger into pre-school. I was obnoxious all day. "I'm wearing green because it's St. Patrick's day. Do you see the mouse on my pin? He's Irish. Do you know I'm actually Irish? My family came here from Ireland. We built the mansions in Newport." I thought that was awesome; I didn't get that we built the mansions in Newport because we were cheap labor.
My Irish Mouse Pin from my school days.

As I laid in bed, this was the first time I paused. I was really proud back then, and excited because I didn't know the centuries of miserable history or the Debbie O'Downer stories that come as you get older in an Irish family. "And t'en Unc hung himself down by da' river be'cus dere was no socks. Dat was in the year nineteen hundred and twelve---" All I knew was hey, I'm Irish, this day celebrates me and my family. "You're English, what do you have? Boxing Day? Okay, well that sounds like the worst. We're having corned beef tonight! Do you have leprechauns in your basement? Because I'm pretty sure we do."

Great-Great Nana Sarah's necklace
At twenty nine years old the memories broke back and I was left in bed with a past of springtime adventures behind me and a day of grumbling ahead of me. I tried to weigh the positives. What did I like about St. Patrick's day now? Corned beef and cabbage, and I'm attempting to make my own for the first time this year. That's something. And every year I wear my Great-Great Nana Sarah's beautiful green stone necklace and I love doing that. All day I collect compliments and get to speak about a cool lady who's been gone almost one hundred years. It's a respectful way for me to honor my family and my heritage on the one day Americans celebrate that heritage by mocking our culture's alcoholism.

There's that edge again. The annoyance I can't seem to shake. Five year old Georgia didn't have that. Back then the day was all about misunderstood magic and great possibility. Irish magic. An instinctual excitement that had my little fair head bent into any thicket of clovers to scan very, very carefully for itty bitty creatures of the past. Tiny people who had followed us from the old country to chase after new rainbows and harvest gold for us in the young America. Life has a funny way of looping around and showing you all the stuff you grew too old for and scoffed about may have actually been important after all. When you grow too old to believe in magic and the impossibilities, what do you win? Reality. The same dull grey stuff we're all handed and told to accept. No leprechauns, Georgia. And here are some flowers for Santa's grave while we're at it.

It's all about believing though, isn't it? Children get that. They understand it's a choice. Believe, or don't. Believe in magic, or win at having the answer for everything. We get too old to believe because we learn what feeling silly feels like. Can we grow old enough again to not care? I recalled we'd get to Nana's after those car rides and I'd tell her, "We saw a rainbow, but Mom didn't follow it." Nana would wave her cigarette furiously, "Candy, why didn't you follow it? There was probably a pot of gold sitting at the end of it!" Mom would shake her head, "Oh Ma, c'mon." And here in bed last night I remembered, that I believed in leprechauns because Nana whispered to me afterwards, "Your mother's too old to believe, but I know it's true for a fact. My kitchen is filled with leprechauns. They're always turning the faucet back on to drip whenever I leave."

You tried to make the Irish lose their magic, St. Patrick. I think for myself, and my future kids, and Gracie's future kids, I'm going to keep the day magical. Rainbows, leprechauns, pots of gold, the works! So today for the first time in years I got out the Irish Mouse pin I wore so proudly through elementary school. I'm going to pin it on my jacket before I head out to the post office. And chase any rainbows I see on the way. Maybe there's some magic left in this holiday that St. Patrick missed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My thoughts and prayers go out to Japan

I feel so badly for the people of Japan. I can't imagine facing a disaster like this. I think of my hometown and the hills and streets I drove, the trees I watched grow over my lifetime, the building I visited daily. When I try to imagine if a tsunami came and washed the familiar trees away, shaved the landscape, and demolished favorite houses and stores--how do you cope? How do you comfort yourself when you find yourself in a wasteland that barely resembles everything you knew? How do you feel safe when home is washed away?

It's overwhelming and I just feel terrible for them. Now I'm watching the news about the nuclear power plant and newscasters promising us that nothing like this could happen to our power plants. It was the tsunami from a 8.9-9.0 earthquake that did this. How do you really prevent something like that? Japan was one of the most earthquake prepared places on earth. If this happened elsewhere in the world the devastation would have been even worse--if you can believe it. How can you say a force of nature could not happen here? New fault lines can happen at any time, and what about California and its existing fault lines? What about other acts of nature? When will we learn that a form of power you can't reach to safely shut down in an unforeseen emergency is not a form of power to rely on?

It's so frightening, but people are coming together to save the survivors, there's news of a four month old baby girl found alive and safe in the rubble after days. I hope that good news continues, I hope that the people know the world's thoughts and prayers are centered on them.

A friend of mine began an effort to fold a million paper cranes to send to Japan. If folks don't have money to give or goods to send, they can still show the Japanese people they are praying for them and hoping for them. If folks have sent money and goods, it's an additional donation of love. For everyone wanting to share their hearts with the people of Japan it's a beautiful way to occupy worried hands and show caring thoughts. If you want more information, please contact me and I'll let you know where you can send the cranes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ready, Set, Prints! A Post for my fellow Print Sellers on Etsy.

You have a great scanner that picks up every feathery pencil line and captures every brush stroke on the canvas. You've invested in a printer that reproduces gorgeous giclee quality prints that are rich in color, detail, and look every inch like the original. You've tested different papers and finally found that perfectly velvety page that holds crisp edges and soft washes. You did it, you created fantastic prints of your work! Well, show them off!

If you sell prints on etsy you may just be using simple scans of your artwork in your shop. And that's great, I do too. However, recently I began taking photographs of my prints 'in action' as it were, (on a desk, laid beside a notebook etc) and including one or two in my example images. It has worked well for me, so I wanted to share the idea with other folks selling prints!

Think of it this way: buyers on etsy can't see your product in person to imagine it in their own home. You have a chance to tell them a story, to hold their attention beyond one or two clicks through scans. Here you can allow them to view your print in a real setting. Take the time to set up some shots in your home and prove to potential customers your prints live up to their written descriptions! (Archival ink lifetimes are vital, but make for dry reading). Select a few interesting objects with similar hues to the colors in your piece, but be careful they don't overshadow your work. You're not selling the props, the props are selling your prints. The idea is to enhance the print, not to distract from it. This is a great opportunity to show how beautiful your print would look in a frame or placed behind a matte.

Here are some examples of the scanned images I have and the photographs I've added. If anyone tries this and has success with it, I would love to write a follow up blog post and include your scans and photographs!

The scan of my print 'Gnome Home'. 
To keep the whimsical feel of the print, I placed it on the underside of
a writing desk I have with a quaint, green country pattern.
The scanned image of my print "The Pseudooctopus".
Maybe try to get a few close up shots on the
prints for details. I took a close up of this one because I
 wanted to show the  pencil lines in the tentacles.
The scan of my print "Letters From the Edge of the World". Here's
a good example where a scan might look a little plain on its own,
or a buyer might not be interested in lavender print.
I paired the print with some earth tones. While a buyer might not have
a lot of purples in their home, they may have plenty of browns!
The scan of my print "Gentle Robot". This is another
example where a scan might be a little plain on its own.
However, when surrounded by cheery colors a
buyer can see where this print might fit into a child's bedroom.
The scan of my print "An Avid Anthropologist."
If you have a print with a lot of details, a photograph can properly show the
buyer your printing capabilities better than a scan of the original work. A buyer
might worry the printer you're using could lose those little touches.
The scan of my print "Flightless No Longer".
A close up can display the quality of the inks and
papers you're using.
New to photography? Don't be shy! There are plenty of articles out there telling etsy sellers just how crucial photographs are to the success of a product and many teach new photographers the basics. Etsy offers some wonderful tutorials of their own if you're interested in improving your photography skills, in particular "Etsy's Guide to Photography" which can be found here. If you're having a rough time getting photos that catch the real appeal of your product, "Etsy's Guide to Photography" is going give you everything you need to create pictures worth a thousand words. Positive words like: beautiful, well made, quality, clean, want, need, now! 

These photos aren't meant to replace the stand alone images of your work, only to add to them. I still like to use a scan for my first example image, so the buyer can see the illustration as it is. These photographs have certainly helped to give folks a better idea of the quality print they will receive in the mail. They will quickly demonstrate the written descriptions of the paper and inks you've chosen, and promise a beautiful, affordable alternative to an original piece of work. I hope this has given you some inspiration!