Sunday, October 30, 2016

Say, Yes...

When I was in high school, I was told that I wasn't good enough.  I had tried to get into advanced placement studio arts and the teacher said that if he accepted me as a student, I'd be wasting his time.  I'll never forget how crestfallen I felt.  It felt like he had punched me in the stomach.

Art had always been important to me.  It allowed me to create a world that I could escape into and it was one of the few things that I thought made me special.  I would paint every night and it felt as though I was tapping into something bigger than myself.  I felt connected.  It had given me a vehicle to express myself and find my voice and discover who I was.

And when I was told that I shouldn't even bother filling out the paperwork, it felt like the walls had imploded and I started to second guess myself.  Maybe that teacher was right?  Maybe I should listen to my dad and pick a profession that was more reliable and more financially secure and less unstable?  Maybe I had wasted all that time?  Maybe I wasn't special?  Maybe I wasn't good enough after all.

Doubt had crept in and it had settled in my stomach like a heavy weight.  The life that I had envisioned for myself had begun to unravel.  The future that I saw for myself started to fade away.

I confided my disappointment to one of my other teachers.  She was my newspaper advisor and we had spent countless hours together and she had become more than just a teacher, but a friend and a mentor.  Some of those paintings that I had done adorned her classroom and were looming over us as we talked.  Seeing how upset I was, she encouraged me to talk to a new teacher.  He had just been transferred to the school and he hadn't even fully moved into his classroom yet.  She said that if I really wanted it, I had to fight for it.

When I met Phi Yoba for the first time, I walked into his classroom with an armful of paintings.  I had pulled them off the walls and barraged into his classroom.  The desks and chairs were still piled up and there was a very unlived-in feeling.  He was in the middle of unpacking and was sweeping up something that had spilled.  He looked up from his task and asked with a dubious expression on his face, "Can I help you?"

I replied back, "Yes.  I want you to be my teacher."

After hearing my story and showing him my work, he agreed to be my AP art advisor.  Even though he didn't know me, he was willing to take a chance on me.  He said, "Yes".

The year that followed wasn't exactly the easiest.  There were four AP art students and we didn't have an official classroom.  Instead, we had a storage closet.  There wasn't a budget for supplies, so we dumpster dived for found objects and my art teacher brought in supplies for us to use out of his own pocket.  He even got artists from the community to donate art supplies and pay our testing fees.  The other art teacher didn't share his supplies, saying that they were designated for his students only.  The other art teacher always managed to drop in during our class time and would smirk whenever he saw us working in our storage closet.

As the year went on, his smirk started to disappear as our glorified closet filled with artwork and that artwork was accompanied by prize ribbons and trophies.  I ended up testing and submitting my portfolio for not just studio art, but 2-D art as well.  I got top marks for both categories.  I got accepted into several prestigious art schools and won scholarships.

When I think back on those times, nearly twenty years ago, I recognize how very close I came to living a very different life.  Most of my adult life has been filled with artwork and creativity and I've worked in some form or fashion in the maker community.  Our livelihood that supports me and William and covers our home and expenses is an arts-based business.  Had I listened to that man, who didn't believe in me or my talents or my vision, everything that I hold dear would not exist.

What that taught me is that there will always be people who are naysayers and detractors.  They won't believe in you or your dreams and they won't lift a finger to help you... BUT... there are also people out there who wish to see you succeed.  They want you to thrive and be your best self.  They want you to actualize your potential and achieve all that you set out to be.

Fill your life with the latter type of people, the people who lift you up and inspire you to higher things.  Surround yourself with them and be that person for others.  Challenge and encourage and multiply the abundance.  When others say, "no"... be the person who says, "yes"!  If you have a dream, it can be made real and you can live the life you see for yourself... and it can be a great life!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Another Path...

I just finished texting my sister about a few things we pinned on a Pinterest board that we collaborate on.  I talk to Cynthia nearly every day in some form or fashion.  Even though we are separated by distance, we're constantly in communication and are constantly sending each other images and ideas, and we're always planning what we want to make next.  We seize every opportunity to get together and create along side one another.

It wasn't always like this though.

I remember getting a text message that my niece was born.  I was living in New York City at the time and working at a restaurant.  During the days, I attended college, in the later afternoons and evenings I worked, and even later in the evenings and into the early hours, I prowled the City with my eccentric and electric crew of friends in search of the next best party.  Before the text message, it had been months since I heard from her, and even then it was information passed via our parents.

At that point, my brother had been missing for ten years.  (We would not reunite for another twelve.)  My other sister, Sheila had moved to Thailand a few months prior and from the sounds of her emails, it sounded rather indefinite.  We were all arrows, pointing in different directions.  We were all moving at different speeds towards different destinations and different destinies.  We were all refugees, fleeing from family traumas, trying to find home where we could and heal in our own ways.  We were the walking wounded, carrying holes in our hearts... always looking for ways to fill the vacancy.

In another world and in another life, we would still be wandering.  Another path would have us still estranged from one another... but then there was a little miracle.  A girl child was born and that was more than enough to fill the void.  When Azalea was born, Sheila traveled back across the world and I woke up.  I woke up to the realization that even though there was this old hurt within me, it didn't mean that I was cursed and that everything I touched would fall apart.  I had a chance to help fill another's life with so much love that they never knew the pain of loss and the hurt of wondering.  If each of us gave her our hearts, maybe her heart would be whole and untouched by sadness.

Azalea's birth prompted a healing within our family and we all gathered to her side, drawn to her little life like a brilliant star.  And from there, we got to know one another again.  We were strangers at first.  Old sibling rivalries and ancient points of contention crept into our conversations, but for the first time, there was something bigger than each of us and something we were ALL committed to.

As we got to know each other, these adult incarnations of our former selves, we started to find the common ground.  Eerily, our interests overlapped greatly and we found that once the paths were cleared, there was a deeper form of communication.  Perhaps for the first time in a long time, we could see ourselves in each other and what we saw wasn't so different after all.

When I think about those times before Azalea, it seems strange and foreign, almost as if they were days that belonged to another person.  Nowadays we are constantly in each other's lives and our hearts are swollen with abundance.  We are constantly making and creating and dreaming up dreams. We found the path of love and have discovered that it is a path best traveled when shared.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Rare Thing of Beauty...

This photo was taken shortly after I was woken up from anesthesia six years ago.  I had an aggressive form of skin cancer and they operated on me to remove the tumor and the surrounding margins. I had to eat some crackers and drink the smallest can of ginger ale I've ever seen before they would release me.

The reason that I post this is that it is perhaps where "Allegory Gallery" was born.  It didn't have a name then.  When I had returned home from the hospital, I had a hard time sleeping.  The skin bordering the area that they removed (just shy of half a square foot) was pulled tight and cinched with staples.  Before the surgery, I slept on my stomach or my side, but since there was seven inches of stapled skin just below my armpit on one side, it provided difficult to get comfortable.  It felt like I had a corset on and every time I moved or shifted, a shock of pain would erupt from my side.  Those first few nights were hard.

Falling in and out of a restless sleep, awoken by jabs of pain, I would lay in the dark with tears welling in my eyes.  I wasn't alone though.  Around me were the kittens.  Paulo and Babette stayed by my side constantly and purred deeply.  Next to me was William.  When they tell stories of recovery, often times the significant other gets left out.  The trauma of facing your mortality sometimes makes you myopic and you can only focus on your own survival.  But there was William and he was facing his own worries.  He had to be strong for me and take care of everything and that's not easy.  He's a worrier by nature and often times internalizes stressful situations.  I remember us laying there in the dark, trying to find sleep, but being unsuccessful.

I turned to him, instantly regretting the decision to move as a thunderbolt of pain jolted through my side, and asked, "Are you awake?"

He whispered back, "Yeah..."

We laid there in the dark, blankets piled high on me, surrounded by purring cats, and we did the only thing we could.  We talked about the future.  We made grand plans and daydreamed out loud.  We talked until the syllables lost meaning and we both drifted off to sleep.

One of those dreams was to have our own store.  I remember telling him that one day, someday, down the road, I wanted to have my own little shop.  I told him a story of a place I used to go as a kid and a teenager, a store filled with treasures.  I told him about how I discovered myself there and met so many people and it had helped shape my life.  If I couldn't get a ride with one of my friends, I used to take the bus for over an hour to get there.  What I loved about that place was that it was filled with stories and it acted as a focal point for the community.  Likeminded people traveled from all over to be there.  And in so many ways, it was magic.

As we plan for the future and work on our fundraising efforts, I can't help but think back to those sleepless nights, where a dream was born.  Out of the pain and restlessness, a tiny shining pearl was discovered.  We've taken that pearl and nurtured it with all our love and best intentions, and it has grown in size and lustrousness and has become a rare thing of beauty.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Project: Next Step...

If you've been following along with my blog, then you know that I've been working on a personal fundraising project for the store called, "the Creative heART Challenge".  It has been a really wonderful way for me to jumpstart my creativity and purchase additional merchandise and supplies for the shop and the studio.  If you're not familiar with the project, basically I make whatever I want with the hopes of selling it and those funds are earmarked for acquiring new merchandise (outside of what we already bring in).

It started out originally with an offer to buy up inventory from a store that was going out of business, unfortunately that deal didn't end up working out.  We did however use whatever moneys we did raise and put it to good use with various other liquidations.  I recently restarted the project and have been happily making things for it.

A few months ago, we attended BeadFest and ran into an old friend.  She had closed her shop up a few years ago and was thinking about freeing up her guest room.  She said she'd email me once she went through everything, was ready to part with her collection, and talked to her accountant.  Not that long ago, she did!  And it was an AMAZING deal!  Literally, we would be paying pennies on the dollar!  (It's actually a better deal than the one that prompted the original Creative heART Challenge project!  Which is very exciting!)

Since it wasn't an expense that we had really planned for, we had to do some figuring and investigating.  Even if it is an awesome bargain, if we don't have the funds to do it, we don't have funds to do it.  Currently, all our capitol is tied up with other projects and for a moment, I was a little sad that we couldn't make it happen.  The Creative heART Challenge is great and all, but I've found that it is more gentle in its workings and it takes a little while.  This means that we had to come up with an alternate plan.

And so Project: Next Step was born!

In the course of trying to secure funds for this project, we did a lot of research on crowdsource funding.  While there are many wonderful services, we felt that we wanted more of the money to go to the actual project.  So we developed a series of rewards for pledges, including material rewards and experience rewards.  It started with a few notes in my sketchbook and slowly it developed into an actual plan.  William put together the webpage and walked me through the organization and the logistics of the project.  Most of all, he made sure that everything was doable and doable in a fashion that wouldn't overwhelm me.  I am really proud of him and the work that we've done so far and am so excited about this project!  I really feel that it's one of those opportunities that will catapult us and our business forward!

To find out more about the project and to see how you might get involved, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Artist Crush: Allison May Kiphuth...

Allison May Kphuth's sensitively wrought nature-based drawings are carefully protected in antique wooden boxes, protecting them and setting them apart.  To see more of her dioramas and artwork, CLICK HERE.

Nocturne, 6.5"h X 4.5"w X 3.625"d, ink, watercolor, paper
and pins in antique box, 2015
Flight, 4.75"h X 4"w X 1.75"d, ink, watercolor, paper
and pins in antique box, 2015
Perch, 1.25"h X 2.75"w X 1.125"d, ink, watercolor, paper
and pins in antique box, 2015

The Meeting, 4.25"h X 4.25"w X 1.75"d, ink, watercolor, paper, pin
and thread in antique box, 2015

The Wee Hours, 3.25"h X 2 2.5"w X 1.25"d, ink, watercolor, paper, pin
and thread in antique box, 2016

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Artist Crush: Kathy Ruttenberg

Working mostly in ceramic, Kathy Ruttenberg creates a fantastical rumble of modern surrealist art.  To see more of her work, CLICK HERE.
Dog Eat Dog 20"x7"x5", ceramic, 2016
Fertile Ground 12" x20"x4", ceramic, 2016
Ice Age 42"x50"x65", ceramic, metal chain, 2014
Nature Of The Beast 34"x84"x38", ceramic, metal, wood, 2014
The Ladies Chaste 32"x22"x20", ceramic paper, metal, 2007

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Inspired by Reading: September 2016...

If you didn't know, Allegory Gallery hosts a monthly book club called Inspired by Reading.  The concept is simple.  Each year, we select a list of books and assign a book for each month.  Participants are encouraged to read the book and then make something that was inspired by what they read.  Members can make anything they want!  Most of us are jewelry makers, so a lot of the projects usually have a wearable art aspect to them.  For the current list of books, CLICK HERE.

For September, we read "This Census-Taker" by China MiĆ©ville.  The book centers around a young boy running from his troubles and the stranger who comes to town that is the census taker.  It had a very grim, haunting vibe.  I found the rhythm of the language to be almost hypnotic with a poetic quality, leading the reader to feel as though they are experiencing a modern fairy tale.  At the meeting, the book was met with mixed reviews.  Some said that they found the book "woefully depressing" and "ignored all the good parts" and others said that they thought it was "lovingly gothic".  I was on the fence, but I am curious about this author and will probably read other of his books.

In the book, there's a town scene with a vendor who has animals in glass jars.  One of them is a lizard and the boy receives it as a gift.  I didn't have any lizard bones laying around, so I opted to make some out of polymer.  

I put the polymer clay bones in a tiny glass jar with a tiny bronze key and hammered out a bail and soft soldered a top on.  The bottle was simply hung from a decorative sterling silver chain.
Here's a close-up of the focal.  In the book, the glass was green and I made another version where I stained the inside of the glass with alcohol inks, but it got so dark in the bottle that you couldn't really see the bones rattling around.  So I picked a clear one.  I sprayed a little (paint) water in the jar before sealing it up to give it a slightly murky vibe.

I was inspired to make another project!  Part of the story takes place in a little town and from all the descriptions, it seemed like a rather dreary place.  So I made some gray polymer clay house beads and strung them together to create a town scene.  For the base of the necklace, I used tumbled marble nuggets, because most of the other part of the book occurs in a rocky cave.  I also included a key because one of the characters is a key maker.  I actually quite like this piece!  If I made any adjustments, I'd probably make it a wee bit shorter, so that it falls right on the collarbone.

To see all the other delightful creations inspired by "This Census-Taker", CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook page for the book club.  Up next for October is "Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories" by Karen Russell.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Creative heART Challenge: Into the Wind...

The last time I was in Asheville, we stopped by an art supply store and we got a bunch of wooden panels.  I stacked them up in a pile in the middle of my studio, where I had to step over them to get by.  I have to admit that I stubbed my toe on them more than once!

The reason I did that was to create a physical representation of an obstacle that needed to be removed. They would be there until I made them not be there and I promised myself that I wouldn't move them unless they had been painted on.  This challenge was an excellent excuse to use whittle down the pile and start painting again.

Normally, when I'm working on paintings, I start with older work and collage it up and turn it into the base for new work.  The wooden panels were a call to create fresh.

And so I did...
Andrew Thornton, "Into the Wind" 2016,
Mixed Media (acrylic, ink, and colored pencil) on wood, 8"X8"
I've been thinking a lot about dreams lately and how they are layered.  On the surface, they can have very clear symbolism and representations, but if you dig deeper, you start to peel back layers and when you do, you reveal so much more.

This new piece is done in a way that reveals some of those hidden layers. I used a lot of iridescent and pearlescent paints; this image doesn't really capture that, but gives a fair likeness.  I've been playing around with softer color palettes.  It's something new for me and I'm enjoying the exploration.