Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Next Steps...

It has been a few days since the close of our fundraiser for Allegory Gallery.  There were times during the project that I didn't know if we'd make it or not.  So much in our world has been thrown into upheaval and uncertainty blossomed rampantly.  It crowded my mind.  I prepared myself mentally for the very likely chance that we wouldn't reach our goal.  I never gave up hope, but at the same time, I wanted to protect myself in case things didn't turn out...

And then something wonderful happened.  During the last few days, our forces rallied and we received so much support!  We had over 150 participants in Project: Next Step and countless others who liked, shared, and commented on our posts.  So many amazing people helped us reach our goal.

I talk a lot about gratitude.  And some may think it's an act or are tired by my constant talk of thankfulness... but I can't help it.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  I am so deeply humbled by the incredible support and encouragement that we have received.  We are beyond blessed with so many people wanting to see us do well.  I pinch myself just to make sure I'm not dreaming.

So... what's next?

We've been making arrangements to pick up all the merchandise and I've been organizing and moving things and getting ready to make space to accommodate everything.  Since there is so much stuff, the store simply can't absorb all of it all at once.  So we'll be working to add it to our inventory both online and in the shop as quickly as we can.

We're also working like crazy to fulfill our pledge rewards.  We have so many wonderful things that we have to make and we'd like to keep it to the timeline that we posted for each reward, so we're busily working away in the background.  We'll leave the Project: Next Step page up and keep all the store links active for awhile.  There's a lot of behind the scenes costs associated with our fundraiser that went above and beyond our goal, so any pledges after this will help offset those.  There are things like travel expenses, processing fees, and material fees that we're currently covering.  CLICK HERE to see the rewards.

Now that we have reached our goal, we're starting to think of what's beyond the next step and already we have some amazing plans brewing.  The air around here is positively charged with all the possibility and future potential.  There is so much that could be and will be!

And once again... we are so thankful for all the support and positive energy that we've received.  It feels so good to know that there are people out there who have got our backs!  Thank you for making Project: Next Step a success and for helping us take the next step!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Winter Walk...

A winter walk can seem at first a bleak thing.  Everything seems swallowed up in a monochromatic blanket of snow and ice.  It's cold and the sky is gray.  All the foliage has long since dropped and fallen away.  There are no showy flowers – just a stark landscape.  But when you look closer, you see that everything is redolent with possibility.  A riot of blooms and fiery leaves are all hidden within, slumbering until just the right time and just the right conditions.

I remind myself that life can be like this sometimes.  It might not seem like much is happening, that things are uneventful or even a little monotonous.  But beneath the surface, there's a world of wonder and possibility.

Recently I ran into a couple of friends that I haven't seen for awhile and we proceeded to catch up.  They asked me what I had been up to, and I responded back that I mostly was working and that I didn't get out of the house much.  They seemed to take that as a cry for help or as if I was unhappy about my circumstances.  Far from it!  I enjoy my time spent in my studio.  I like that it is a place where I nurture deep thoughts and engage in the act of creation on a daily basis.  My studio is a gateway to a world of infinite possibilities.  My only limitation is my imagination.  In my sanctuary, I can do or make anything I can dream.  Worlds are born in the spark of my creativity and are coaxed into life.  Fanciful creatures that exist no where else are made real and are given shape and form.  Here there is a place where magic is alive and well.  I find comfort in my home and think of it as a happy place.  I like the little nest William and I have built together.  I like my life.

While there are certainly days that it would be nice to travel or have grand festivities or go on adventures, there is something to be said for a quieter season, of calm reflection and simple pleasures.      There is something to be said for winter walks on snowy, cold days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

More Podlings...

I originally posted the Podling Ornaments on Facebook last week.  When I shared what I was working on, I had a customer request that I make 14 Podlings in the same family!  I worked on them feverishly to get them done in a timely fashion and could be enjoyed during the holiday season.

Here they are!  I think they're quite charming.  Someone said that they reminded them of chrysalises and they could imagine these Podlings metamorphosing into grown-up faerie creatures.

These are all claimed and have found their home with a friend, but there are several from the original batches that are still available.  CLICK HERE to visit the Podlings online!

Podling Ornaments...

Sometimes when I'm sad or disappointed, I turn to my work.  The magic of being an artist is that one can create the world that they wish to be in.  So, I wanted a little whimsy and magic... so I made it!

I sculpted these podling ornaments.  Each one is one-of-a-kind and the faces are all different.  I like that, like people, they are all unique and have individual expressions.  I made them in little families of five and they come in four different colorways.  I think they're pretty cute and I made them talk while I was working on them.  They told me secret things in funny little voices!

After I made them, I posted them online in our online store.  CLICK HERE to take a look.  They all come with handmade copper hanging hooks as well!

Ancient Eye Beads...

I was scrolling through Pinterest and came across these ancient glass eye beads and fell instantly and madly in love with them.  I tried to search them out with the sinking feeling that they probably belong to a museum collection or were out of my price range.  I looked and looked, but was unsuccessful in tracking them down.

It made my fingers twitch to want to make some beads that looked like these.  I love the graphic eye motif and the crustiness of the beads.  There's just something about that patina that makes my heart quicken. It conveys that these things have a story.  They are survivors of time and humanity.  When other things were lost and forgotten... these remained.

So, I set about making my own version.

I was never very good at lampwork glass and no longer have a set-up, so I moved my focus to polymer clay.  It's a magical material that can be coaxed into looking like all manner of materials.  Here is what I made:
I used all kinds of tricks to get them to look like this.  I started out by carving a mold and then pressing out the beads.  I rolled them in salt and hand-painted each bead and then did glazes and washes of antique mediums.  I wiped and sanded and altogether distressed the beads until they took on an ancient feel.

I have a feeling that these will be the first of many!  Sometimes things move you and you don't know if others will resonate with them or not.  Happily I can report that most of them found homes all over the country!  I, of course, kept some for myself!

Sometimes Fast, Sometimes Slow...

I batted my eyes as snowflakes clung to my eyelashes.  Snow moved in slow spirals, churning the air lightly.  Footfalls were accompanied by crunching and squeaking and trudging sounds.  We made our way down the darkened path, flanked by snowcapped coneflowers that had long given up their petals and color.

I thought of running through the pine forest of my youth, the sun coming through the branches in slanting lines of light.  I remember the clean smell of resin in the air and the way I felt like I could run forever, darting through the trees quick and easily.

Fingers numb and my nose about to drip, the way was slow.

Up ahead, there were lights and singing.  Ribbons and wreaths hung from every tree and pillar.  The snow glittered, twinkling along with the festive festoons of holiday adornment.  A warm feeling spread throughout me – a glad feeling.  And it suddenly occurred to me that it was the same feeling I felt, when I was little and the forest seemed to go on infinitely.  It was a feeling of happiness.

Sometimes that feeling is quick to come and sometimes it is slow to arrive.  It can be found in the most unexpected places and at the most surprising times.  I am reminded that things work at their own schedule and that they cannot be rushed nor hurried.  Sometimes goals are reached early or late, but regardless, they are always right on time.

I caught myself worrying that we wouldn't make it with our fundraiser and that we wouldn't be able to bridge the gap with our meager savings.  It dawned on me that worrying wouldn't help.  We've worked hard and will continue to do our best right up until the end.  I have a choice to either celebrate our successes and hope for the best, or get knotted up with dread.  Despite my visions of success, I can't know the future for certain.  I do know that it'll be here before we know it and what is meant to be will be.  I can remind myself to be present.  Be in the moment.  Happiness is here, but whether or not I can recognize it for what it is, is ultimately up to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


When I was little, I was raised on a healthy dose of fairy tales and folklores.  My mom used to tell us stories of little men who lived in trees that would play tricks and spirits of the jungles and islands.  My grandma told us that babies were born out of the knots in trees and of creatures made out of creek mud.  My sisters and I read Greek myths until the books fell apart.  My childhood was filled with wonder and magic and I was always on the lookout for the fantastical creatures that inhabited the secret world meshed with our own.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. SOLD
When I read stories of poor children who could change their fortunes with magic beans or enchanted swords, it gave me hope.  Believing in magic allowed me to escape the things that hurt and create my own world.  A world where beautiful and miraculous things could happen and were not impossible.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. $50
I used to create little sculptures out of polymer clay and sell them at a local store.  I was probably 11 years old when I started making them and selling them.  We didn't have much money back then, so the money I raised at the shop kept in paints and art supplies to make more things.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. $90

I got a hankering to make some more little critters.  So I did!  I've been having fun making all sorts of magical creatures.  It's funny how as an artist, I circle back to the things of my childhood.  These little sculptures are more involved than the ones I used to make, but I like to think that they still have that spark of the child's imagination.  They're all made out of polymer clay and glass eyes.  I hand-paint and layer pigments and inks and seal all of the sculptures for durability.

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Sculpture by Andrew Thornton. SOLD
As we draw closer to Christmas/Yule, some of the latter sculptures were more inspired by the holiday season!  I love the stories of Krampus and you don't see a lot of Krampus artwork, so I made this "Kid Krampus".

Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Wall Plaque by Andrew Thornton. SOLD
Once I finished the 3-D sculpture, I was inspired to make a wall plaque! This one really reminded me of old fashioned gargoyles.

A lot of the projects that I work on have to be done in stages with lots of downtime in between.  I like to keep busy.  If I take a break from working with my hands, I get distracted and will sometimes lose focus.  So these sculptures are a great way to keep my creative muscles loose and warmed up.  I've really been in the mood to sculpt, so I'll keep making them until the impulse wanes.


We were sitting around the table.  Our tummies were full of turkey and we lethargically looked around at the piles of dishes and bowls of food still needing to be put away.  All the people had left and the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas was faintly playing in the background.  In the center of the table, propped against an autumn floral arrangement, the turkey's wishbone sat.  I picked it up and proffered it up to William.  I closed my eyes, and he whispered, "Make a wish!"

We've been doing a lot of work lately that has caused me to think a great deal about the future.  As a result, it has given me rise to also think about our current lives and the lives we wish for.  I know that while there are certainly a lot of things on the horizon to be excited for, there are also challenges looming on the horizon.

One of the things that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately is about my aging parents.  How will I help them as they transition into a different part of their lives, but still respect them?  I have this tendency to want to fix things and when I want to fix things, I can get somewhat singleminded.  That focus can seem controlling or overbearing at times.  And I know that it isn't helpful or productive to be this way in a sensitive situation.  It doesn't help that we have all taken somewhat nontraditional paths in life and things like retirement and age-related health issues were both things to think about another day down the road and no one is really prepared.

One of the answers lies in building the business.  The concern there is how to grow it in such a way that retains authenticity and do it in such a way that is holistic, where we can have a semblance of balance.  It's so easy to throw one's self into work and not take advantage of all the many blessings in life or acknowledge the reasons why they're working so hard in the first place.

Business aside, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in life.  What are the things that are most essential to me and how can I make those things happen?  We've been soul searching a lot and really casting out a net into the deepest parts of our hearts and seeing what we come back with.  Some things I'll never really know and are things that I've slowly been letting go of.  It's like clipping the strings that hold down an idea, one at a time, until finally it can float free.

For instance, I'll never really be a parent to human children.  I can try to be a good uncle, a good cat daddy, and a good plant daddy... but we'll probably never have children.  When I was younger, I thought that that was something that was important to me.  I thought that would be a way for our name to live on and for me to right all the things that were wrong in my own childhood.  I tried to tell myself that I'm too selfish or that I wasn't cut out for it, but there was always this thought that it maybe one day it might happen.  But some things are just not meant to be.

Instead of dwelling on what is not and what will not come to pass, I've been trying to envision a realistic portrait of my best life.  That image is not so different than the life I have now.  We truly have good lives.  But that life I can see in my mind's eye is perhaps a little more financially stable and a life that can accommodate some of the bigger challenges ahead.  Right now, we put everything back into the store to help it grow and develop and sometimes that can be scary.  We take risks and work really hard to make sure that those risks are as safe as possible.  It would be nice to have a little bit of a cushion and not quite so much apprehension.  I know we're extremely lucky and so very blessed, but there are times that I have a rock in my stomach, a little leaden pit that feeds off of my worry and dread.  Even though I know it'll all work out, it is hard not give into doubts or fears.

In that vision, I can see another store.  We've been talking about it for awhile.  We'll still keep Allegory Gallery, but we have been talking about another store that has things that are outside of what we carry in our current one.  I've been daydreaming about it and in sleepless hours, I do research and have built up a list of contacts and products and suppliers.  I've researched costs and overheads and planned out how we'd make money... and it is all very doable.  Ultimately, this other store, this future non-human baby, will grow up and help face those challenges lurking on the horizon.  It'll be one of the keys to grow that sense of security.  But it is just out of reach.

With Project: Next Step, it might seem like a short-sighted goal.  Get money, get stuff.  But there really is so much more.  The extra inventory will help us build up our current store enough to be able to expand our vision and do more.  We can consider things like talking seriously with manufacturers and recruit more staff.  We can do bigger retreats and attract more teachers.  We can travel the world and find treasures in person and then tell those stories about those things.  And  we can do more of what we're doing, but on a bigger scale.  We named Project: Next Step what we did, because truly it is the next step.  It is the next step in a long series of steps, but it is a BIG step forward.  It is a step towards the future and our best lives.  It is a step in the right direction.

I've been thinking a lot about the future lately.  I've been dreaming and wishing and gathering all my good intentions and aspirations.  I've also been collecting all my failures and faults, and calling back to me all the energy that was wasted on petty things and past aggressions.  I've been summoning all the false starts, foolish regrets, and future plans that will never be.  I've been digging up the fears and hurtful memories, and I've been taking those things and breaking them up and pressing them down and reshaping them.  I've been transforming them, like alchemy, into something better and brighter.  I've been making them into an arrow, an object of action and possibility.  I have been honing all these things into something that will propel us forward and protect us and keep us safe.

We sat in the kitchen, making wishes and dreaming of better tomorrows.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Pantone Color of the Year 2017...

Ever since they announced the Pantone Spring Color Report, I've been mulling over the selections for the 2017 Color of the Year.  Today, they announced that the new IT color is... GREENERY!

"Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment.  Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose..." said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

I really think their thoughtful selection is spot on.  I know so many people who are desperate for a freshening up and a deeper, more meaningful connection to the world around them.  I always appreciate the thought that goes into their picks.  To see the full report (including possible color palettes and how to work with the color) and a snazzy video, CLICK HERE.

A Matter of Faith...

With the deadline we've set for Project: Next Step, I've had several conversations with people about what we'd do when we didn't make our goal.  Currently we are just shy of the halfway mark and there is about a week left to go.  Naturally, there are a lot of people who are concerned for us.

I can't help but tune them out a little bit.  I know it might sound rude or like not a very smart business move, but I have this sense that it'll work out.  I can see it so clearly in my heart and mind, that it might as well be real.

As a result, I've been thinking a lot about faith lately.  I haven't been thinking about any one particular faith, just in the idea of belief in something without seeing any actual evidence.  I've always been a person full of faith and hope.  I'm no stranger to believing in the impossible.  I guess it all started when I was little.

We were told that my brother would never return and that he was dead and gone.  And at times, it would have been easier to believe that.  It would have given us closure, instead of pining for someone we hadn't seen in over two decades.  I remember being under the table, crying and crying, missing him so fiercely.  But there was always a sense that we would see him again.  And when I'd tell the story of my brother, there would be people with wide-eyed shock and would be completely aghast at our loss... and I would think to myself, "Don't be so glum!  We'll see him again!  He'll come back!"  It took awhile, but eventually we were reunited.

So... at the moment... there is very little evidence that we'll actually make our intended goal, but call me crazy, but I still think it'll happen!  I've always thought that if you have a dream and you work hard enough and you had faith, you can make almost anything happen.  So, I'm not going to give up yet.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Words on the Wind...

I haven't really known what to say lately.  It seems as though the words form and just as I'm about to put fingertips to keyboard, they drift away or are swallowed up by other thoughts.

This is a busy time of year for me.  It seems like all the various projects that I've agreed to all intersect in this time period and I'm frantically struggling to keep up.  Generally when I feel as though there's a respite in my schedule, it's usually because I've forgotten something.  I do hope though that I'll return to a much more subdue and gentle pace over the coming months and can focus solely on the act of making things.

Even though I've been incredibly busy, I've been trying to be mindful of carving out some creating time.  It isn't always easy.  And sometimes when I think back on the things that I am busy with, I cringe a little.  Those errands that seemed so important at the moment ended up really just being distractions.  The work though is always rewarding.  Even if I don't always achieve what I set out to, I feel my mind stretching and loosening up, allowing it to dive deeper in the future.  The work has always led me in the right direction, guiding me through life and never steering me wrong.  When I ignore the impulse to create or force myself too much in one direction, that's where things start to fall apart and unravel at the edges.

I've had many adventures since I last checked in and hope to report on those as time allows.  It is my hope to get back into routine of sharing my thoughts here.  Like anything, it'll take practice and dedication.  It also takes a healthy dose of not caring whether or not the words or read.  I think there's a freedom of just being able to work something out, with words or images, and not caring if it's a commercial success or that others respond well to it.  Sometimes you've just got to do it and put yourself out there and have a sense of audacity.  I think that's when I've been at my best... when I've not worried about the expectations of others and just did it for the love of doing it.