yesterday an old neighbor friend of mine from the songbird lane days took me to a shop in asheville she'd been wanting to share with me called feather your nest; carol knows how much and how long i've loved birds, and upon walking into this little delight of a shop, i can see why she'd wanted to bring me along all these months. nests were everywhere, and paintings of nests; jars and bowls, too, were filled with wooden eggs for sale, and i scooped up ten of the small blue ones to carry home with me.
this morning i wandered around snapping photo- graphs of these sweet little eggs in various spots throughout the house (you may click on any of the photographs you see here for a closer, crisper view); heaven knows there are many a place where an egg would feel snug and comforted nestled in these four walls. the first one, for example - oh, how i love this spot. the "nest", which i believe to be an iron ore deposit, was sent to me for my 50th birthday from sweet friend karen michel, who found it on the beaches of long island years ago and thought it would have a happy home here in north carolina. it does, as you can see, mingling there with the semi-precious stones i found washed up along the shores of moonstone beach at cambria in california last early february.
i love this wooden hand; i found it tucked into the very back of a glass display cabinet in the very back of an offbeat antique shop somewhere in montreal, quebec. i couldn't tell you where. that was years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, but the wooden eggs seem right at home in a wooden hand, peeling paint and all.
ah, the crown - do you have a crown? a crown?! i've two tiaras (yes, two; my mother sent me one years ago when i said my boys took me for granted; and another, a lovely vintage one that dear friend tracie sent to me). tracie, i do wear it on occasion, when the need arises! this little crown was a gift from my beloved misty: we were laughing and skipping and tripping together, arm in arm, down the steep streets of lamp-lit asheville one evening the first time she came to visit, and there was a shop with ankle-level foot high narrow windows, just beside the concrete walk; lining the window were perhaps six or eight of these wonderful little crowns, meant to be holders for tea candles. this crown holds bird eggs on this day.
i mentioned that my house is filled with nests, oh! so very many nests. friends bring them to me, even send them in the mail. i love that; it makes me feel like the bird that i am, and brings a bit of the outdoors right from there beyond, into here. sticks and straw and dried mud find their way onto shelves, and under glass, and into jewelry, and onto paper and other forms of art. here are some tiny little wire nests i hurriedly constructed by mashing scrap bits of pesky copper wire that remained after i'd been assembling some twenty eight kits containing copper mesh. the wire goes everywhere after being torn down to size, and i've taken to constructing miniscule bird structures fit for eggs of any shape or reasonable small size. these tiny nests remind me that friend geri newfry has created a lovely "audubon" book, seen here, that will deservedly be featured on a show called that's clever (i'm very proud of her!) and is in need of several small nests, if any of you have extra small ones on hand...
ah, the hand. she is always photo- graphing her hands! you say. well, yes. i happen to be quite fond of my hands; they are my primary tools as an artist, as a jewelry designer, and i also find the human hand to be quite beautiful and fascinating as a photographic subject. too, both of them are readily available, thank goodness; i never have to go searching the house to see where i've misplaced the left or the right. today, i enjoyed using the new camera's timed release, as well as its macro lens, for an up close shot of the ten little eggs on my wonderful red bed pillows. i justified spending a full two hours' worth of photography by saying that i'd be using the images - and i truly will, and as you can see, already have - in both my jewelry and mixed media designs. but why am i struggling so with the flat paper medium?! i think i've focused too long on the textural, dimensional aspects of my jewelry, and have found myself sitting staring blankly at the journal project laid out on the studio table before me, wondering what has happened to the creative juices that used to flow so freely. i longed, deeply longed, today for the painting lessons that misty and i had planned to take place during her visit; when i look at her work, then turn to look at mine, my stomach lurches. how someone can take a blank white page and create something simply from paint and pieces of paper is absolutely beyond me! i used to stay with colors of the earth, of the rocks and of the trees - browns, greys, burnished metals - but a flow of journals coming my way for two separate projects urged me to try color, a field not familiar to me. currently i'm attempting to combine creative juices and inspiration with my photography for a jump start; heart rocks, nests, and imagery had best get me moving soon, or i'll be headed into a tailspin that will not be pretty, or wax eloquent. muses, speak to me! (or, to quote thomas wolfe, an asheville native: o, lost and by the wind grieved ghost, come back to me)...
editorial note: i withdrew the above post after going through my typical period of january self deprecation. but, two days later, i'm posting it again, with the additional content below.
i feel that i've lost my sense of individual artistic identity. does that make sense? do you understand what i mean? for years and years i worked with certain materials, in very defined palette colors (softly muted, and as i mentioned earlier, earthy and metallic ones); and during that time period i blithely plodded along, creating pieces of art - both jewelry and mixed media - that felt original and unique in nature, for a good long while. i gathered what natural materials grew around me - even the boys brought slabs of mica from the surrounding woods, where it had been mined in the 1930's, some in the wonderful shapes of flat hearts (i have those still; i couldn't bear to split them apart, to part with them). i harbored twisted, gnarled sticks with curly- que vines growing 'round their stems, cut hardy rhododendron twigs and small branches to use for clasps and trim. spring, summer and fall found me standing knee deep in mountain rivers and streams, searching water beds for the smoothest of stones that would serve as fodder for jewelry, for books, for trinkets to set around the house; when drilled, the stones could be threaded on ribbon, wired to book covers, hung from chain as beads. combined with tarnished copper mesh and faded leather, the effect was one i found to be deeply rewarding.
some years passed, and i began to feel that my work lacked the look that once allowed it to stand on its own. my studio, filled to the brim with old mother of pearl buttons, brass metal lamp trim, aged copper mesh, vintage book covers, old song books began to seem cluttered and filled with tired items that were overused, overwrought, and stale, stale, stale. blank pages now stare back at me defiantly, quite brilliant in their whiteness, and i stand lost in the doorway to the studio, disgusted at the mayhem of disorder before me. resin charm pieces knock about on the table top with various torn paper pieces, and there is no direction for me to take. as a workshop instructor, i'm expected (nay, required) to come up with new and refreshing conceptual projects or techniques roughly twice a year, and lord knows i try to retain a balance of freshness and wisdom within these classes, which is certainly not an easy feat. and today, this week, this month, i haven't felt that i've been succeeding within my heart, within my mind, within my very soul. i look at the art of other workshops around me and see work that looks quite similar to mine. sticks, mica, vintage bark cloth, cabinet cards - so many of us use them, and have used them for so long, that i'm fearing my work is beginning to blur with the rest of the world's. this is an age old monster that goes round and round in artist friend discussions - we all suffer this beast, and i seem to suffer the height of its viruses come january and february, when my energy level is at an all time low and creativity wanes to a pale little trickle. it's tough, though, to look out into the art world and see so much of what i do staring back at me, in spite of the obvious many emotional rewards teaching brings. students take my classes and turn right around and teach them again; i've read several articles in national magazines published by these same students, complete with detailed instructions, for my hard-worked designs, while that particular class is still being taught. my gut reaction? to run straight ahead of the wave, blindly, forcing myself to create something completely different from my old style that won't be like what is out there on the other side of the glass. but why? why run from myself? why shirk the body parts and clothing that i love, the cloaks of leaves, the bones of sticks, the hearts of stones, the irises of mica? why try to put on a different hat when it doesn't really fit, or look good on me?
bottom line is that i am what i know, and i need to remind myself of that fact day in, day out. and i don't know much, which is why i am so drawn to the sweetness and innocence of nature that surrounds me: the woods don't nag me if i stray a bit too far off the beaten path, or linger too long at the window in the sun, or stare at the leaves at my feet for an inordinate amount of time. nature knows i'll put those moments to use, somehow, someday, some way, and i need to remember to listen to the natural world around me when it whispers in my ear to breathe. rather than worrying about whether or not you all will get or understand what it is i'm trying to say, or even whether i'll understand what point it is that i'm trying to make on this slow, quiet, steady afternoon, i should stop right now, turn off this computer, and go outside. take a breath. look up. look down. turn around. somewhere in there is a bit of inspiration, and a bit of enlightenment, and even a bit of encouragement. and whether or not we all make the same pieces of art from the same pieces of nature is not the point. the point is what we all choose to say with what we make, i think. and i'm hoping that my messages have been heard, all these years, those little messages that whisper to you when you turn the pages, pick up a charm, hold a rock in your hand. i think they have. i hope so. i do.