Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Creative Workshops Digital Collage with Gail

My first, official ,effort with digital collage using Photoshop Elements 6. I am taking a wonderful class at Creative Workshops.

Gail Schmidt at Shabby Cottage Studios organizes this creative group and workshops. Gail worked overtime getting me started today! She is incredibly patient with the digitally challenged and I do appreciate her efforts. The lessons are well done with easy to follow directions. I am impressed and excited for the next lesson!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Regalo Per Me ZNE Convenzione 2009

Brandi Butcher-Isley took my "Regalo Per Me" Make and Take Class at the Zne Convenzione Vendor Fair! How exciting was that. Brandi is an expert at making marks on her collage pieces with unusual items. Do not leave a shot glass, starbucks cup holder, old or new toothbrush, or other unusually textured or shaped item laying about. It will be dipped in acrylic paint and voila! an exciting mark will be added to her work. I had the pleasure of showing her how to do the stampers emboss resist method. She's a very attentive student. ( And a fabulous artist and instructor.)
Emobss resist is pretty simple really, as with most techniques, basic instructions and the right tools get the job done. Stamp your image on your paper with a watermark or versamark ink. Sprinkle clear embossing power, heat with your embossing tool, allow to cool for a moment. Using a sponge, paper towel or other ink applicator ( your fingers work) apply ink. The embossed image will resist the ink. Continue to apply ink until you get the desired result. It's fun to use a couple of colors. Don't be afraid to apply some serious color on your paper. Or you may like a more pastel effect. You can also stamp some images with ink to your paper, before stamping with the water mark ink and embossing....those images will show through the embossed areas.

One of my shy participants added her own flair to her project. She would only let me photograph the end results.

All of the participants were very creative! And quick studies. I think they have stamped before!

Grandmother and Granddaughter made a Mother's Day Card together. Very nice!

What a wonderful group of participants!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes they chew on your ears.

It's Abby dog again, taken while frolicking in the snow, in February 2008. I stumbled on this photo when looking thru my "Archives". I like thinking that dog spelled backwards is god. Dogs exude unconditional love and acceptance. We all want it. We all don't give it. Being only human, and not canine or divine, it's hard. We have 4 dogs. I know that four dogs are easier to manage than any number of kids. But even the best of dogs get into mischief. I noticed that our most recent addition to the menagerie, a rescue Scottie, has been a little less tolerant of Abby's seizures. He snaps at her ears and legs, I think he is probably trying to herd her some place and not being vicious. Nonetheless, I learned my lesson. We came home one evening last week to discover that Abby had a seizure while we were gone, and Sam ( the Scottie) had bitten her ear and the inside of her back leg, repeatedly. Yes, she looked like someone had chewed on her ear. Well, they had. We ended up at the late night vet clinic ER. ( Nice folks at the Webster Groves Animal Hospital). Abby had her ear shaved to check the wounds, no stitches needed, there were several puncture wounds on her ear, head and leg, but not bad. (Those bleeding wounds in the middle of the night often look worse than they are, thank goodness.) We came home an hour later with some antibiotics and the decision to put Mr. Sam in his crate when we weren't at home.

My "bleeding wound" incident happened during the school day. I had experienced a series of losses, a marriage that ended, a home is a beautiful historic district that I had to sell, an old dog friend had to be put down, my new puppy and I were attacked by dogs that some guy let off of their leashes, my less than competent principal moved my class room to an undesirable location....and the list goes on. I was struggling to stay afloat. I was seeing a counselor, but resisting medication, resisting seeing a psychiatrist, thinking I could fix this myself, wanting it all to go away. I had taken anti-depressants some years earlier and it was horrid, and involved my flushing the last of the meds down the toilet and hoping for the best. But more on that later. It's been over 25 years, so some of the stories start to overlap.

I was convinced if I had a mental illness I would lose my job, lose my home, lose my friends and family, and end up living out of a box under the overpass. So the best way to have that not happen, don't go see the doctor who will diagnose that illness. DUH!

I finally decided to see the psychiatrist for medication. Our insurance was through GHP, at that time you saw the doctors thru a clinic set up. It would be a month before I could get in to a psychiatrist, and the counselor could not find a medical doctor who would sign off on the meds in the meantime.

The principal started chewing on my ear. Not literally.( For every horror story that you can tell about a bad teacher, there are teachers who will can tell you their horror stories. That too is another topic)

It was obvious to all involved, ( and I knew too, but was in denial) that I was seriously stressed. A post traumatic stress disorder caused by the loses in my life. Most immediate was the school situation. I was moved from an area of the building that held my friends and support system. The principal shuffled the deck to maintain control and power over the peons in the building. ( Yes, I am still bitter on some level). I was dropped into " no man's land". It was an area of the building that had a large carpeted area, that ideally would be used for group could hold about 50-60 children sitting on the floor. It became the between class teacher supervision nightmare, the place you went to "play tag", met to beat up the goth kid, met to embrace your sweet heart. Yikes. My class room was one of three facing this area. The other two teachers I'm sure struggled as well. It was a huge play pen, wrestling ring, nightmare, between every class. I had broken up several serious fights between 14 - 15 year old kids, bigger and stronger than me. When trying to break up fights you also had to deal with the kids in the circle, who egged on the fighters, who would not leave the area, who would mouth off and resist your direction, knowing you couldn't deal with all of them. I took one kid by the arm, and threatened his grade in my class if he didn't back off from the fighting madness....certainly inappropriate. ( I thought it was better than trying to slug him in the teeth, which is what the other kids were doing to each other....oh...I wasn't a kid, not suppose to do that. And remember I was neither canine nor divine.) I did what any self respecting teacher would do in the same situation. I went to the teacher rest room, locked the door, and started kicking the trash can, until it bounced off the wall and hit me in the shin.

Of course there would be consequences for me later, in the form of a reprimand in my personnel file, that did a pretty good job of making a case for insanity on my part. I am proud to say, that I was able to summon enough energy to write a rebuttal and the superintendent removed the reprimand from my file, which REALLY pissed off the principal . ( oops I'm getting hot reliving these events....bad words. lol)

But meanwhile, back in the bathroom. I was looking down at the dent in my leg, and there was blood and a knock at the door. The school counselor. I let her in. ( This was a tiny room, and neither of us were/are tiny people.) Hugs and reassurances were given, and a suggestion that she call the doctor and we go to the ER to get an emergency psychiatric evaluation. My worst fears come true I must be crazy.....I'll be living in a box under the overpass. It was also music to my weary soul.

I'm sure the diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure,or other illness involves the denial and the deals, and the thought that it must be something else, or it's a mistake, surely not me, and if I just act a certain way, it will all be OK, and I'll get a cookie for being good. And this will all go away.

Carol B, the school counselor, was one of the first, of many, faces of God, or angel, whatever you want to call them, who appeared to save my life.

So while my ear was chewed on ( sort of ) that day, it was divine intervention, I went to the ER with my loving friend and coworker, saw a nice counselor in the ER, was prescribed some medication, told that I didn't need hospitalization, would survive, should try to eliminate stress, etc. I went home. My folks were a bit freaked, but supportive and understanding.

The story doesn't all get fixed there. But it's the first step on the road to recovery, survival and success.

If you have feelings of depression, I know it's hard to decide to get help. I hope you have people in your life who are aware and will step in. If you have a friend who you see struggling, do not hesitate to offer help. In the long run, they will be grateful.

My friend Chel, in the Land of ZNE has inspired me to write about my experience with depression. She is trying to encourage conversation and understanding about the mental health issues that so many of us live with. So many of us have stories, some of those stories end in suicide, others stories tell of recovery, survival and success.

We need to tell those stories.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dogs Are Better Than Humans- and my story of survival, recovery and success.

They Know But DO NOT Tell

You ask of my companions.
Hills, sir, and the sundown,
and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me.
They are better than human beings,
because they know but do not tell.

- Emily Dickinson

Above is a self-portrait of me and my golden retriever, Abby. She will be 13 this year. I know her time here is short. But it's a reminder to enjoy today. Abby struggles with arthrits and seizures, but does well with a dose of remidyl daily and some over the counter "calm down" during thunder storms. ( I should give her a glass of wine, since it is 13% alcohol.) I decided to try to take some photos of Abby and me, holding the digital DSL at arms length. Now that was funny.

First Abby is afraid of the camera, which might flash, which reminds her of a lightening and thunder storm, which will mean she must pace around the house, and find a place to hide and pant and cry.Which is not unlike myself.....chaining negative events one after another, ending in some horrid yet unlikely consequence. But she let me do this that day. No flash, no red eye blinking lights, so she tolerated it.

How is that like me?

I struggle with depression that comes and goes, since about 1984. I'm afraid to not take the medicine. I do not want to be in a pit of despair, ever again. It hurts my soul. It takes too long to climb out. It's too hard to climb out. It distracts me from those I love and from what I love. I lie in bed, curled in a ball, or flat on my back, covered with a blanket, that surely will protect me, from....out there.

My friend Chel, in the Land of ZNE is sharing her story, to try to open discussion and understanding about mental illness, depression, suicide. I admire her courage. I will try to start sharing my story.

It's a story of survival, recovery, and I like to think, success. There are success stories.

We should tell them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Commit To Joy

"I have committed myself to joy.
I have come to realize that those who make space for joy, those who prefer nothing to joy, those who desire the utter reality, will most assuredly have it.
We must not be afraid to announce it to refugees, slum dwellers, saddened prisoners, angry prophets. Now and then we must even announce it to ourselves. In this prison of now, in this cynical and sophisticated age, someone must believe in joy."

- Richard Rohr, OFM

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Marcia Harmon's Cottage Jewel : ZNE Convenzione Field Trip

Just when I thought it was safe to put the wallet away, we traveled on down the road to Danville to Marcia Harmon's Cottage Jewel. A wonderful store full of jewels, linens, photos, and goodies, too numerous to list, all from a vintage era past. Sigh...and displayed so delightfully. I couldn't stop taking photos. I'll let them speak for themselves ( the photos). I ended up with some vintage photos, one a souvenir from Fisherman's Wharf, a vintage silver Ethiopian ear ring and a little silver and enameled watering can pin. ( It of course had sunflowers in it and I had to have it.) Marcia was so thoughtful to let me take photos of all her colorful vignettes.

Chel checks out the wares, while I surprise Marcia with a photo.

Pretty in Pink

Symphony in White

Bingo Cards with vintage buttons and baubles.

Marcia hams it up for the photographer, she wants you to have one of her cards.

very cool photo op.

Julee finds something cool and needs to have its photo snapped.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gina Gabriell's Tangerine - ZNE Convenzione Field Trip

One of the highlights for me during ZNE Convenzione is the Monday Field Trip. I was able to stay an extra day last August and again this year. I wasn't disappointed. It was great fun to spend the day with Chel, Nicole, Julee and more on a day spent shopping in some fabulous stores in Pleasanton, Dublin and Berkley. I would never have found my way to these shops without Chel's contacts in her local art world.

Our first stop was Tangerine. Proprietor Gina Gabriell, greeted us with tea and pastries. Always a hit with wannabe artists. She has a lovely little shop in Dublin, which I think doubles as part of her studio. You can find her original art all over. In addition are all sorts of gift items, and supplies for the mixed media artist. I purchased one of her hand made gypsy fortune tellers, you remember those from your school days, I'm sure. I also bought a cute little vintage wooden toy that she picked up on a recent trip to Paris. Check out her blog for info about her trip.

Chel and Gina

In addition to fabulous tasty treats, we made some little eye candy treats as well. Each of us made one of these little treat purses, and she gave each of us a "kit" to go.

I really enjoyed visiting with Gina in her special space, and working on these little treat purses. A tip I shared:When you use your hot glue gun, and you have all those annoying glue stringies...well....use your heat tool and blow a little hot air around your work, and the little stringies just disappear.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Coiled wire @ ZNE Convenzione with Ruth Rae

Yet another amazing class with an amazing artist, Ruth Rae. We made these delightful necklaces from 16, 18, 20 gauge copper wire. Yes, bare naked straight pieces of wire that we coiled up in secret ways using a drill. POWER TOOLS RULE! And we used sharp metal things to cut with. Ok, lots of pliers and wire cutters. I"m still amazed by how this piece came together. Ruth was so patient with all of us as we did weird things to our jump rings and grimaced at the drill. My first real adventure in jewelery making, beyond stretchy cord and beads. I love it! Ok, now where has my dh hidden the drill? Check out this link to Ruth's blog. That's me seated at the back left of the photo!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Free Spirit Style of Brandi Butcher-Isley

Who would have thought that dripping paint, making marks with bubble wrap, or painting with a shot glass rim could produce such delightful results. I had the pleasure of taking a class at the ZNE Convenzione with the talented Brandi Butcher-Isley. Those were just a few of the mark making and background techniques that we learned. I was able to create 3 projects. All feature vintage photos of my father. I think they may need to have some further additions, but right now, I am going to let them "rest" and contemplate further action. I like them like they are. But I want to do more, similar work with the same images.