Archives for category: Spirits in the Wind Gallery

I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been working on new handbags, new decorative boxes, new websites, two new businesses, a children’s book, short stories and a screenplay. I am also recovering from a severely broken ankle, so I tend to go at half speed, and can tire easily from something as taxing as taking a shower.  But as my friend, Laura, put it so eloquently a few weeks ago, “who knew a broken ankle would give you wings?”  She’s right too.  It gave me wings, and more creative inspiration than I have had in years.

I just put a shipment of handbags in the mail to Spirits in the Wind Gallery in Golden, Colorado in time for Christmas, plus its time for my annual half off sale, so after wrestling all day with revising my website I am pleased to say that most of the sale bags have been posted along with images of the new pieces that are on their way to Colorado. I am including free copies of my new 2013 calendar while supplies last. The cover photograph of the calendar features a bag owned by none other than Aretha Franklin, and includes a cross section of some of my favorite handbags and decorative boxes.

Over the next few weeks I will be preparing for the American Crafts Council show in Baltimore, February 22, 23 and 24.  We will be in booth number 3203.  I am excited for the opportunity to exhibit at this event, since its still considered one of the top fine craft shows in the country.  Michael and I have also launched a new RV repair business since he is now a certified RV technician. He does all the work, I just do the website design but I think I am pretty good at it!  Check out the site and his services at rvtrailerandmotorhomerepair.com.

I also redesigned our babyboomeradventure.com website and plan to promote our Adventure Rafting experience pretty heavily next year.   Adventure travel is growing in popularity among baby boomers of all ages and we think it would be great to have a four day intensive to learn basic whitewater rafting skills.   The French Broad River in Asheville is the third oldest river in the world, plus Asheville was recently named one of the top five places to live in the US thanks to everything from our microbeer culture, and our harvest to table dining experiences.  PLUS we have the Biltmore, so really, how can we go wrong????

I’ve also started work on a screenplay I wrote many years ago, before the story had an ending.  It’s too soon to talk about what that entails, except to say that I am genuinely surprised to re-discover my passion for screenwriting.   I worked in the film business for 12 years before I finally threw in the towel, but the story I am working on is incredible and deserves to be told. I just hope more than anything that I get to be the one to finally see it made into a movie.

Its been a long year, difficult, and remarkable, in equal measure.  In injuring myself so severely, I’ve been forced to slow down and rediscover what matters most to me, and that’s why I think Laura is right.  My broken ankle DID give me wings, and I can’t wait to see where they take me in 2013!

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I have been cleaning out my life lately, getting rid of old artwork, old clothes, selling things I don’t want or need anymore, giving what’s left over away to thrift stores, or charity, in a focused effort to live by the motto, “nature abhors a vacuum”.

I am ready for so much more than life has given me in the past few years, that I decided to create a vacuum where none existed, and while I know I am luckier than most to have survived the “economic downturn”,  I also know that I have been forced, by necessity, to let opportunities pass me by that I would have normally grabbed a hold of with both hands, and without thinking twice about in the past.

A few days ago, I found a signed and framed print by a Sioux artist named Ed Defender.  Ed and his wife Sue were among the first artists I’d ever met who traded artwork with me when I was just starting out. Shortly after we met, when I was still busy making a name for myself, they came to the Weems Artfest in Albuquerque to purchase my artwork to give as Christmas gifts to their collectors (among whom was the singer, Kenny Loggins).  Ed died of acute alcohol poisoning twelve years ago, and when I found that print, I decided to look him up online, to see if I could find out more about his life and what motivated him to create his innovative, tongue in cheek paintings of traditional Native American activities.  I found just a handful of references to his work and even fewer examples of his art.   It upset me greatly to think that this incredibly talented artist barely registered on a google search engine, like a passing footnote to a life I knew so little about and yet impacted me so deeply.

I was inspired by the memory of Ed Defender to write about an artist I know who is in the final stages of early onset Alzheimer’s.  I wanted to write about her, not because of her disease, but because I want people to know about her before she is gone.  I want to celebrate her incredible talents, her personal journey, and the man who was by her side along the way, so people to remember her, in the same way I hope they remember me, as someone whose life mattered, who was more than a name in a search engine that lead to a few photographs and a line or two on askart.com.

I first met watercolor artist Susan Guy, at Southwest Art in the Wine Country.  Created by gallery owner, Lee Youngman to celebrate the best in southwest, wildlife and cowboy art, I was honored to be included in such outstanding company, and felt I was in way over my head, despite having challenged Lee to be included in the first place.  Held on the grounds of a magnificent old winery and carriage house built in the 1800’s in Calistoga, California, Southwest Art in the Wine Country featured the talents of people like Leo Monahan, Neil Boyle, and Bob Boomer, artists I had only previously read about in magazines like Southwest Art and Art of the West.

One artist in particular stood out for me, even in such a stellar group of artistic talent.  Susan Guy’s work as a watercolor artist was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  I’d tried my hand at watercolor off and on throughout my art career, and I found it to be an absolutely maddening medium.  It is thoroughly unforgiving, in my opinion anyway, and yet, here was a herd of horses, thundering across a river, water splashing everywhere, each crisply rendered detail of every horse as distinctive as the landscape they emerged from.

I had never seen anyone do with watercolors what Susan did, and so effortlessly.  I fell in love with her work as easily as I did the woman herself.  Beyond the fact that she had a smile that could melt a polar ice cap, with wide blue eyes that made me swoon, she left an indelible impact on my life.  I had the chance to do a number of art shows with her over the years, and still kick myself for arranging a trade with her that never happened.

Susan was 22 years old when she met Wes Guy after a performance of Hello Dolly. Just back from a tour of duty in Vietnam and living with three kids from a previous marriage at his parents house, Wes was invited to attend the performance by his best friend, who was married to the woman Susan was in the play with.  After the show, Wes and Susan went to a nearby diner where they talked until 4 o’clock in the morning.  Five months later they were married, and Susan, who was the youngest of four, suddenly found herself living in an old farm-house with Wes and his children.  They raised quarter horses, and Sue continued to act, adding Nell (from South Pacific), Evita (in the title role) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (from The Lion in Winter) to her repertoire. Along the way, Sue continued to paint, but it wasn’t until she decided to enter a competition at a local bank that she decided to pursue her art full-time.

As an artist from Michigan, Sue found it difficult to make her way in a world where antiques and needlepoint were all the rage, so she talked her way into a spot on an invitation only Artists Ride where technique and subject matter were the focal point of each summer session.  Buffalo, Indians, elk and cowboys were brought in to allow artists to paint and observe in an up close and personal setting, allowing Susan to hone her craft to the point that her work was accepted into the prestigious Arts For the Parks.  Arts for the Parks was an event that started with the Top 200 paintings which were then narrowed down to the Top 100, and it was as hard as hell to get into.  I was never accepted into the show.  She was accepted on her first try, and the painting she hoped to sell for $600, was auctioned off for $1800.

Susan continued to gain entry to shows that would never consider my work, and it all came so effortlessly to her.  She managed to show at the Charles Russell Show, the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale and won the People’s Choice Award at the Coors Art Show, selling out every opening night for three years in a row, which, by the way, was one year more than any other artist was allowed to show.  People not only came out in droves to buy her work, what was shocking to both Sue and Wes, was that she couldn’t give her work away in Michigan, and in the West, she couldn’t keep up with the demand.

I met Sue just a few years before Wes was about to retire from his job at Xerox. She was over the moon about the fact that they were going to sell their house in Michigan and move to Wyoming, so she could be among the wildlife  she loved, and cowboy culture that inspired her work, and he could pursue a career as an outfitter.  Despite having been a performer most of her life, she was still painfully shy, so she decided to sew several beautifully crafted dresses from vintage patterns that would  act as conversation starters at her art shows.  I remember one outfit in particular; a deep, rich purple wool outfit with a bustle and fitted jacket that she wore to the Phippen Museum Western Art Show where I saw her for the last time.  Despite the incredible heat, Sue managed to look as beautiful and as collected as she had the first time I met her.

I hate the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease has taken this amazingly talented, incredibly beautiful, warm and engaging woman away from all the people who love and admire her, and I know that her husband of 40 years is suffering more than anyone over the loss of the woman he calls his “heart”.  Wes told me that the inscription on her headstone will read, “All my love, all my life.  Vows were kept”.  He told me he found a clay sculpture she had done of a grizzly with a fish in its mouth while packing up her studio.  He wasn’t aware that she had sculpted it, so he had it cast in bronze.  It is one of one, just like the woman who made it.

I am hugely fortunate to have met Susan and Wes.  My life is better for it.  And I hope, someday, when people are searching for her name online, they will find this blog, and know  how gifted and beautiful and amazing she really was.

When I started my art career twenty years ago, gourds were my choice of medium.  I took a class in Santa Monica from a woman who created gourd art on the side, when she wasn’t working as a prop artist in Hollywood.  I came away from that one day class filled with such an intense passion for gourd art that I decided, right then and there, that I wanted to become the best gourd artist on the planet.  I had no idea how I was going to get there, I just knew that for once in my life, this drive I have to be the best at something might actually have a shot at coming true.  I encountered plenty of obstacles along the way of course, not the least of which was my own naiveté about art.  I had no idea how to get into galleries, how to do an art show, how to even find out to apply for an art show.  I was blissfully unaware of the politics of art, declaring to my boyfriend at the time that I loved art BECAUSE it was so “non political”.

Through a series of events that lead me from a holiday art show in a friend’s garage to my first real art show at the Pasadena Civic Center, I tackled art with the passion of  a religious convert.  I followed up on every art show lead I could find, challenged gallery owners who deemed gourd art a “craft”, and went after the goal of becoming the number one gourd artist in the country as if my life depended on it.  Robert Rivera, who I credit with singlehandedly opening the door to gourds as an art form, was my guidepost for what to do and how to go about achieving it.  Everyone who told me that gourds would never be taken seriously as an art form along the way, unwittingly added fuel to the fire of my unwavering determination, until the day I sold my first piece of gourd art for $20,000.

I still remember standing in line at the bank with the check clutched in my hands so tightly that if an earthquake had hit about then, I would have been found in the rubble, still holding onto it, and probably wouldn’t have let go to grab onto a rescuer.  When I stepped up to the counter to cash it, I had to fight from bursting into tears, and the sense of relief and accomplishment as I walked away from the teller window was overwhelming.  I couldn’t WAIT to tell all those naysayers that they were wrong about gourds as an art form.

I gave up gourd art a few years ago to tackle a new medium and a new way of expressing my artistic talents.  I wanted to create art that wasn’t something you left at home.  I reasoned that since people don’t buy jewelry, or a new outfit, or even a set of golf clubs just to leave them at home, why should art be something that gets left behind every time you leave the house?

Since I consider wood burning my true forte, I settled on wood handbags as the new direction my career would take.  By combining wood burning,  hand painting, and an attention to detail with respect to the linings, the hardware and the fixtures, I could create functional art that would make the women who owned them, stand out in a crowd.  My success at selling these new handbags was instantaneous; I got into every show I applied for, and even some I thought I would never be able to exhibit at, like the Smithsonian Craft Show and the Sausalito Art Festival.

But then the economy tanked and the prevailing wisdom among handbag buyers and art show producers was that my work was too “niche”, that women, especially wealthy women, would always buy expensive handbags, but they wanted them to be handbags other women would recognize as expensive.  And presumably, exclusive.  I still can’t quite get over standing in front of a panel of judges at my audition for Project Accessory and being told that my one of a kind, handmade, exclusive and very expensive handbags were NOT on the same level as a Birkin Bag, which is also one of a kind, handmade, exclusive and very expensive, but that hardly stopped me from continuing to believe that one day, my bags will be as sought after as those bags are.

A few weeks ago, Pam Eggemeyer, who owns Spirits in the Wind Gallery in Golden, Colorado,  challenged me to create  a handbag based on the design legacy of Yves Saint Laurent, after the Denver Art Museum decided to mount a 40 year retrospective of his work.  I began researching his design ethic and settled on an idea I felt I could really make my own. The handbag itself was easy, but since I ordinarily line each handbag with a matching fabric, I decided I had to pull a rabbit out of a hat to make sure this new bag was a show stopper. I found a way to print original designs on fabric, and had a yard of fabric made from the images on the handbag to line it with.  It has a matching clutch and a matching handmade storage bag, along with a  handbeaded  handle.

I am far from where I want to be with this new venture thanks to preconceived notions about wood handbags, but I know myself well enough to know that telling me it can’t be done is a surefire way to make sure I accomplish my objectives.

I have an extremely close friend I’ve never actually met.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never even talked to her on the phone. I have seen pictures of her, and she’s absolutely gorgeous.  She used to work for my husband, and had even dated him for a few weeks close to thirty years ago, which, amazingly enough, is NOT what’s so odd about our relationship.  Her best friend met my husband and I at an art show four years ago.  We were in discussions with Toni about artwork for the new home she was building in Scottsdale, when she died suddenly of brain cancer. Suzie knew how close Toni and I had become, so she wrote to offer her condolences, and we’ve been best friends ever since.

Over the years, we’ve helped each other through all sorts of things, not the least of which were the two years her husband was serving as a doctor in Afghanistan.  When he got back, they decided they needed to change their lives completely, in part because they’d both lost their jobs, and in part, because they both realized it was time to ask themselves what really mattered in life.  A few weeks ago they decided they wanted to buy an RV and travel the U.S. in search of the place they wanted to spend the rest of their lives, and within days, they found an amazing deal on an RV, sold all their things, and headed to Flagstaff to begin their journey.

Sometimes things happen in this lifetime that make absolutely no sense to me at the time.  I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the idea that “things happen for a reason” most of my life.  When things happen that I don’t understand,  I am convinced there is no possible reason there will ever be a good outcome, until the day the lightening bolt hits me and I discover that everything about the events leading up to that revelation happened exactly as they should.  I wanted to tell the story about Suzie, because I think Michael met Suzie, who met Toni, who met me, because Suzie needed a confidente and  a best friend at a particular point in her life, and so did I.  And now Suzie has become my hero, because she made a decision, focused on that decision, and made it happen.  I told her I marvel that she found what she wanted out of life so quickly, and that it took so damned long to get there.

I made the hard decision to quit art a year ago to try to save my house.  I was five months behind on my mortgage with no idea how I would manage to avoid foreclosure, when I got not one, but three jobs in a town were jobs are almost impossible to come by.  I am also convinced that I had a guardian angel on my side.  There is no evidence whatsoever to support this conclusion, but again, the “coincidence” is hard to ignore. I went to New York last summer to audition for Project Accessory.  The trains to Pearl River  where I was staying at the time were under construction so I had to take the bus back.  I was in a tiny waiting room at the Port Authority, when I began a conversation with a woman who was also waiting for the bus.  When she told me she worked for JP Morgan Chase, I told her how unhappy I was with the way they had handled my home loan modification.  Meaning, they kept turning me down but never bothered to explain why.  She asked for my card and told me she would have an in-house mortgage counsellor handle my loan.   I figured she would toss the card the minute I was out of sight….instead, I qualified for a permanent home loan modification in three months time.  I can’t prove this woman had anything to do with it, but considering the abandon with which JP Morgan Chase forecloses on homeowners,  it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me.

“All of the sudden”,  I am in three new galleries and completely revised my website  to focus on these new galleries, as well as the new corporate gifts line I’m excited to launch.  My work was accepted to the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology for their spring fashion show.  I am in discussions with  a Los Angeles based company about providing Academy Award nominees with evening bags as part of their “swag bag” offerings.  I am also scheduled for a radio interview on January 28 at 9:15 PST with Bobbi Jean Bell, owner of  OutWest Boutique and Cultural Center in Santa Clarita, California.  I was also invited to create a new line of handbags inspired by the designs of Yves Saint Laurent by the Spirits In the Wind Gallery in Golden, Colorado in a show to run concurrently with the Denver Museum of Art’s YSL retrospective.  The show runs from April 6 to June 30th.  And last, but not least, I have brand new work at a gorgeous new gallery in Florida called Gallery One, which carries an amazing collection of art and artists that I am extremely proud to be a part of.

It seems a new phase of the journey has begun and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.