Exit the Looking Glass

October 21st, 2017

What the past year has taught me, most of all, is that I am stronger than grief. Not that I am stronger alone – no one is. I am strong because I sought out, found, and accepted support; I crumpled, but I persevered.

I am still grieving – grief does not have an expiry date. But I am not completely overwhelmed.

Being my mother’s primary family caregiver was a choice I will never regret, and while I miss her deeply, I am ready to emerge from that part of my life and enter whatever new adventure (adventures) I choose. I’m exiting the looking glass behind which was this agony filled universe of grief and coming out a woman with purpose.

7 Ways to Overcome the “Keep Busy” Gene

August 25th, 2016

Packing too much for a short trip

Packing too much for a short trip

When you pack for a trip, do you find yourself adding “just one more?” You know, one more shirt; one more pair of socks; another pair of earrings. I do. And then I have to either try to stuff all of it into a case that has somehow gotten smaller. Or I have to start all over.

Recently, I noticed that this tendency towards over stuffing bleeds over into other aspects of my life. Sometimes it works: one more dash of paprika on my eggs. More often it doesn’t. I add project after project, task on top of task. Until my do to list is longer than the hours in a day. I think this behavior may be hardwired into the human psyche. Is there a “keep busy” gene?

Here are seven overload traps I’ve either experienced or heard about from others. Is yours here?

  1. You sign a petition. Emails start coming in
  2. There’s an offer of a free white paper – if you leave your email address. More email to read.
  3. Take a class. And another class. Not only do you have more homework, but if you are in university, you have to worry about your GPA. (Not to mention your social life.)
  4. Teaching another workshop
  5. Doing another festival – before having a chance to unpack from the one last week
  6. Agreeing to not only serve on the comittee, but also to chair it. Again.
  7. * Getting yet another idea for a major series before you’re even halfway through the paintings you promised your best gallery

Yes there are some remedies. The first is to be firm and unsubscribe from every email list you aren’t actively using (or that doesn’t make you smile). No matter how interesting (and you might need it in the future). If you do need it, you will find it again. Or something better. Don’t go looking for these emails, though. Just when they come into your inbox, scroll all the way to the bottom and hit that unsubscribe link. Here are seven more remedies to the “keep busy” gene.

  1. Meditation – yes, I know it’s obvious and you knew you were going to see it here. Try five minutes of sitting still. Focus on your breathing. Calm breathing. Deep breathing. Whichever seems most compatible with your own preferences.
  2. Mindfulness practice – similar to meditation, this calls for you to be focused on some very small action. Say, chewing a dried cranberry. Or a nut. You close your eyes and before chewing anything, roll the nut (or whatever) around in your mouth, using your tongue to explore the surface of the food. Then take one slow bite – one! Listen to the crunch, think about the sound and the pressure of your bite… And so forth. It’s agonizing not to chew the whole thing down. Especially trying this with a dried cranberry!
  3. Go to bed without any reading material, without your phone or tablet or laptop.
  4. Do five minutes of really gentle yoga.
  5. Go for a short walk. Best if there is nature or interesting architecture to look at. Bring only music no work related recordings.
  6. Read a funny or interesting article or book not related to work.
  7. Take a nap.

Why do these work? Because they recharge your brain and body. Do you have a suggestion? Have you tried any of these? What works for you? The comment box is below and I can’t wait to read your responses.

I Can Engineer a Vision, So Can You

July 28th, 2016

Feminine Power Pendant, Perseverence by Patricia C Vener

©Patricia C Vener

Perseverence. This is the synergy, the intersection, of being of a working artist and primary family caregiver. Perseverence gets things done. Not easily nor quickly, but in spite of difficulty and rapidity. The pendant illustrating this article earned its name. The design I sketched did not easily come into being. Neither does being responsible for the care of a loved one with a debilitating (and now terminal) disease.

The first parallel is finding answers to unanticipated obstacles. In the case of caregiving these have been in the realms of relationships, medical problems, communications, financial. And so forth. We’re at 10 years and counting and the obstacles change as my mother’s condition declines. For Perseverence, it was a case of engineering the vision. I made a sketch of what I saw in my mind’s eye. But my mind’s eye seems to believe I live in a micro-gravity environment. (It also doesn’t care that seedbead holes are finite and you can pass even the thinnest needle and thread only so many times before that hole is filled, but that’s another story.) When I finally got the whole design beaded and hanging properly, I found that the pendant would flip upside down no matter what kind of cord, rope, or chain I slid it onto.

The vision for caregiving varies but the commonality in all cases is the comfort and appropriate aid for the care recipient. To engineer solutions to problems that arise requires research and communications. Ask for help. Be specific about what you need, be it information or actual hands on relief. Family, friends, and care professionals don’t read minds. Sometimes you might still be stuck, (I am still not sure if I could have got Aid and Attendance for my mother or not), but it often turns out that you will be best off with a second or third opinion if you don’t like the answers you’ve received so far.

When it came to the Feminine Power Pendant, Persevernce, the solution turned out to be quite simple. Add a permanent chain that doesn’t allow the pendant to slide or flip. And make it adjustable (up to 23 inches) with a small bead and loop adjunct.

The lesson here is that all of problem solving comes down to “engineering the vision.” How have you engineered a vision of your own? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Do these Jeans Make My Earrings Look Fat?

June 27th, 2016

Unexpected use of beautiful bead woven necklaces

Be Bold When You’re Out and About

“I love your work, it’s so beautiful.” Says the conservatively dressed woman fingering one of my works of art, a beadwoven necklace of some complexity.

“Thank you,” I reply smiling.

“But where would I wear it? I never go out.”

Which, really, isn’t quite true. She’s here at whatever this event is, where my work is on display. “How about to the grocery store?” I’m not brave enough to respond.

And, if I think it, can I do it? Apparently the answer is yes. Yes, I sometimes do outrageously different things. Like wear a 200 plus dollar necklace when I go grocery shopping. Or to the movie theatre. Not when I’m gardening, though.

I think, ‘what can I wear to go with this necklace and these earrings?’ Of course, since I make my jewelry art for other people to enjoy as much as I do, I should be asking, ‘what can my collectors wear with this necklace and these earrings?’ I don’t wear jeans any more (not since Lees for Ladies stopped making pinstripe jeans) but I suspect some of the people who buy my work do. Or how about suits?

Of course I wear ornate jewelry to artistic events, to parties, to almost any occasion that is not likely to include mud, sand, or hiking. Unless it’s the track. If fancy hats can be worn to the track, why not also elaborate jewelry?

Why not dress it up and make a statement. Would you wear an ornate handmade work of wearable art to the grocery store? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Please visit Featured This Month to read more about these two necklaces. For the month they are featured, they will be available for purchase at a special price.

Pink and Purple, Colors Together

May 30th, 2016

A collection of three unrelated but color coordinated works of art jewelry.

Subtle, Shimmer, Spectacular
©Patricia C Vener
$ Necklace 175.00 USD, Improv Earrings 30.00 USD, Chandelier Earrings 125.00 USD

One day, long ago, my kindergarten class made plaster of paris handprints. I squished my hand into the wet cement and thought about the colors I wanted to paint mine. Purple and pink. The teacher was adament, “No. Those colors don’t go together.” So I talked her into pink and gold. I was angry, frustrated, and to this day I put those colors together any time I get the chance. (Though I love how adding gold enhances any color or color combination.)

As I matured, my use of this combination became more subtle. For example, in the large earrings and necklace in the above collage, purple is represented by lavender and the pink used here is a pink with a strength that mirrors the lavender’s. The smaller earrings use a dark purple and the pastel version, as well as the pink, show up in the aurora borealis finish and facet shimmer of the vintage crystals. These three pieces of jewelry will work very well with each other but they were conceived and created at different times without planning them to match. Serendipity. I love it!

    There are three great lessons to be learned here.

  1. creativity will find a way
  2. pink and purple do go together
  3. never underestimate the mind of a child

Artist in Motion

April 28th, 2016

Yes, this is me. A Dancer always.

Dancing with the Stars in Motion Yet Not

Three things that let you know you are moving even when you are standing still;

  1. It’s late. And dark. The night is clear. Go outside and wait. After an hour or so, note how the stars seem to have moved. They have not really moved. Rather, the Earth has continued in its perpetual rotation about its axis.
  2. Are you in a car, plane, train, or boat? Look out away from your mode of transport. That landscape is not traveling, you are.
  3. You breathed! At least I hope you did. Which means, of course, you moved. Just try taking a photo in a dark room while you breathe.

and 1 that fools you.

  1. Vertigo. Feel like you are falling even when laying flat on your bed.

Are you constantly in motion? Do you feel exhilerated or exhausted? Please use the comments to tell your story.

How Fine They Are

March 17th, 2016

Fine Art Bead weaving, three necklaces

Can three necklaces convince you that bead weaving is art?

The work, “On the Beach,” upper right in the collage, is an abstraction of a beach. There is representation of a sea or ocean, sand, shells and, in the carving on the focal piece, the tropics as well as the grass that abuts many beaches. At the same time, if you are a lover of beaches this could also be a work that ignites positive emotions.

“Lace Me Up,” the work on the bottom of the collage, is important for its demonstration of skill used in a unique manner to create beauty for its own sake. That the piece is wearable adds to its value, I believe. This work is also a study in limiting my palette.

“Overnight Success,” the third piece featured in the collage, is another abstraction. In this case it is the abstraction of a story that can be told by me but is open to some interpretation or embellishment by all observers, depending on their own imaginations. The one defining parameter is the sun that has just set and the sun that is just coming to the horizon.

For another example, go back to my post,Red Sky Warning, where I tell a story and weave a landscape in a pair of earrings.

Shades of White

February 25th, 2016

Different white beads

Different white beads

White, as the eye sees it, is the color with the least amount of pigment. So what looked like a white painted wall might be pink, or blue, or beige when you bring in a set of curtains with even less pigment then the paint used on the wall. The eye in conjunction with the brain defines white as a comparison with surrounding colors and ambient light. I recall a Color Theory class where we had to create a white on white scene using torn scraps of Pantone papers. It was both revealing as well as fun!

There are two ways to make white. One is by mixing of all colors of light (red, green, blue). The other is by removing pigment (cyan, magenta, yellow). (Although to produce most white paints, the manufacturers use mostly minerals that, when ground up, seem whitish. Zinc oxide is one example.)

For glass beads, whiteness depends on finish as well as the white pigment used to color the glass. The angle of incident light (light hitting a surface) also plays a role, but it is more transient. For the whitest seed beads, I prefer a shiny luster – the shinier the better! Matte beads tend to seem kind of greyish to me.

If you’ve never paid attention to the variety of white, try it now. And tell me what you have discovered for yourself in the comments below.

7 Obstacles Creative People Overcome

January 28th, 2016
Discarded Armature Concept for "Goddess with a Boa"

One of the concepts I started working before deciding the idea was not what I want “Goddess with a Boa.”

1. I thought I had more of that. White lined green beads in size 11/0. Translucent ab finished beads in a pale peach sort of color. These colors feature in the goddess and her boa so using them in what I think of as her frame (her situ?) seems a great way to tie the piece together, given that I want the sides and back to be in shades of purple. Unfortunately, I am almost out if these both. Simple solution: buy just a little bit more. Maybe 20 grams of each.

2. Ooooh shiny! Yes, we artists are easily distracted by new materials, new ideas, new tools, new (at least to us) almost anything. Right now, there are some intriguing new shapes of beads to be used for bead weaving. Some of these have multiple holes! While colors and finishes have long been variable, bead shapes were slow to have entirely new shapes designed. What a marvelous distraction! I am interested in trying a few of these, but I still have a lot to say (and many experiments to make) with the bead types I already use.

3. Ok, that’s a lot more tedious than I anticipated. No matter how much I love creating works of art, there’s still the cleaning up that has to be done. The worst? Tiny little seed beads that fall into the worn nap of the carpet in my studio. I go after them on a semi-regular basis. On my hands and knees. There is another method using a hand held vaccuum but that method kind of grosses me out.

4. Living in the now. True, this is often a good habit, but unless we also remember to plan, we are led to the trap of…

5. The deadline is when?! Some people claim that they work best when the deadline is close. Yeah, I have been one of them. I’m no longer convinced it’s true. I am finding that giving myself time results in better works of art (however one defines better).

6. Just five more minutes. Also known as sleep deprivation. Who hasn’t had to overcome this one? Either we’re on a roll and can’t stop working or modern living has screwed up our sleep habits. Either way, a tired brain will not be as creative as a well rested brain.

7. My work speaks for itself. A picture may be worth a thousand words but without some kind of sharing the message is going to get lost. And people always want to delve further into something that interests them. I do, don’t you?

Summer Now, South of the Equator

December 24th, 2015

Cold Fusion ©Patricia C Vener Extra long draping fringe dark blue and green

Cold Fusion ©Patricia C Vener

It’s Summer in the southern hemisphere. Hot in the southern temperate zone while the northern temperate zone shivers. Of course six months ago things were reversed, so it’s fair, I think. Once, I was in Chile in February. Instead of a snow storm I got sun poisoning for my birthday.

When I was very young I decided to dig a hole to the other side of the world. I didn’t get very far. On the other hand, strip and pit mines do get pretty far but it takes time, work, and a desire to scar the Earth in order to glean the minerals you want. Chuquicamata is the largest working open pit copper mine in the world (though not the largest of all open pit mines. That distinction belongs to the now closed Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in Utah in the USA). Copper is an element that is part of the chemical make up of both minerals, Azurite and Malachite. These soft stones have been used in jewelry for a long time and their colors are distinctively rich.

Malachite is unique for its green banding, light then dark in graceful alternating swirls of varying widths. Azurite is a blue of such depth you could fall into the color and forget to emerge. My necklace, “Cold Fusion,” uses these colors but instead of soft minerals, I used silverlined bugle and seed beads to create a slippery wash of these colors with contrasts of texture. This is a single fringe bib style with a long draping bib that curves around the shoulders, distributing the weight of the piece for a more comfortable wear. There is a mathematical precision to the textural work that is softened by the wearer’s motion. Thus, the wearer becomes part of the piece.

Top 10 Largest Open Pit Mines in the World