Archives for posts with tag: jaguar

bigI didn’t start life as a Gourd Goddess.   To be honest, I didn’t even start life as Denise Meyers.  I was born Denise Condit, a fact I did not discover until I was 39 years old, and which is another story entirely. The point is,  I have been reaching for the stars since I could remember, always dreaming of a life much bigger than the one I grew up with, always wanting to stuff  everything I possibly could into a day, always keenly aware that I would not live forever, and if I didn’t grab every opportunity that came my way – even ones I had to invent myself – I might never get the chance to do it again.

When I was fifteen, our psychology class in high school was reading ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST,  which was being filmed, at the time, at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem where I lived.  I called the production office one day and asked if anyone from the production would speak to our class. Joel Douglas, the production manager (and Michael Douglas’ younger brother), agreed, and showed up two days later to discuss the film at length.  When he left that day, he invited me to come to the set anytime I wanted.  I went as often as my mother would allow, and was there the day they filmed Will Sampson pulling the sink out of the floor and tossing it through the window just before he escapes from the hospital. Icuckoosnest photographed the basketball scene through the fence one afternoon, ate lunch in the commissary in the general vicinity of Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas, had Scatman Crothers ask me if I smoked and if I did, could I light his cigarette for him, and was the reason Joel Douglas remembered to order sea sickness pills for the cast when they headed to Newport for the fishing sequence.  I got my first kiss in that insane asylum as well when Joel Douglas pounced on me in the production office one afternoon, something I did not expect, but which makes for a great story.  My first kiss was in an insane asylum on the set of an Oscar winning movie!

Years later, when I was in college and decided I wanted to work in the film business as a career, I wrote a letter to Michael Douglas, asking for a job.  His business manager wrote back, largely because Mt Saint Helens had just erupted, and stories of the ash covering the Pacific Northwest were all over the news, so I sent her a jar of that ash and a friendship was born.  She agreed to get me work if I moved to Los Angeles, and a few weeks later, with my Volkswagon bug packed to the gills, I headed south by myself for a job at the Willliam Morris Agency.   One day while I was waiting to use a pay phone at the gas station across the street from Warner Brothers Studios, I struck up a conversation with a man from Oregon who not only had just moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of a career in film, turns out he was from Salem, was a popular disc jockey at a radio station where I had interviewed – with him – for a job.  We became roommates a few weeks later,  are still great friends to this day.

meandrayTaking no for an answer has never been my strong suit.  I wanted to live at the beach, and found an apartment right on the water in Malibu that was part of a small complex owned by a bachelor who had more money than he knew what to do with.  We paid $850 a month for four years, and hung out with people like Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), Sherilyn Wolter (Celia Quartermaine, on General Hospital), David Simkins (who wrote Adventures in Babysitting) and Ray Abruzzo, who would later go on to star as Little Carmine in The Sopranos.  I wanted to write screenplays, so I did, and after awhile, I wanted to get as far away from the film business as I could, because quite frankly,  as much as I love movies, I didn’t love writing, or the process of pouring my heart and soul into something that I found so intensely frustrating, and so incredibly unrewarding. Besides, everyone in Los Angeles is a screenwriter and I wasn’t good enough, at the time, to make much of an impact.

I went to work at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore for some perspective, and that’s where I saw gourd art for the first time.  When the woman who was making, and selling them, offered a class one fall, I asked my boyfriend at the time to sign me up as my birthday present.  I fell in love with gourds that weekend,  back when no one knew what a gourd was.  I had no idea Robert Rivera even existed at the time, and which I still think has benefited me greatly in terms of developing my own artistic style, because I had to teach myself everything I know now about gourds.  I had to learn to work with a surface that was curved in two directions, had to learn about tools and equipment, about photography, about applying to art shows, and then art galleries, how to write a contract, and what to say in a cover letter to a magazine editor.

oldgourdI was so naive about the art world that it never occurred to me there were rules, so I barged in where other artists “feared to tread”.  I saw a news brief in the back of Art of the West Magazine about an art show in wine country that featured some of the top Western and wildlife artists I’d been reading about, and so I decided to apply.  The gallery owner called me back and said she didn’t accept gourds because “they are a craft”, so I shot back that she obviously hadn’t seen mine, and I would appreciate it if she would at least take a look at my work before passing judgement.  I got into the show, and into the gallery and did extremely well at both.  I had my first, and only, sell out, a year later, at the San Dimas Art Festival, which is a funny story in itself, because after challenging anyone and everyone who said gourds weren’t a legitimate art form, I started getting into some of the best art shows in the country.  The day I delivered my work to the San Dimas art committee, I spent the entire rest of the day crying, I felt so out of my league.  The artists in the show were famous, at least among the Western art crowd, and I was embarrassed to have my pieces shown alongside theirs.  And by the end of the show, the only thing I had left to take home was a nice, big, fat check, and a tremendous amount of respect from my fellow artists.

piggycanvas1aA few years ago, I decided to test myself artistically to see what I was capable of.  I could design, woodburn, carve and paint a gourd with my eyes tied behind my back, but I felt horribly uncomfortable around canvas.  I liked the “cheat” of woodburning, and how fast acrylics dry, I was used to the curved surfaces of a gourd, and how to make allowances for imperfections in the gourds.  Painting on a flat surface felt foreign to me, but I wanted to see if I could paint things other than cougars and coyotes.  I am embarrassed to say that the first few weeks of this new experiment were horrible.  I hated oils, and canvas, and not working on something I could rest in my lap.  I missed my woodburning tool, and my Dremel, and thought most of what I was working on was dreadful.  I decided to take gourds in all different shapes, cut them into pieces, and reassemble them into works that were five and six feet tall, with contemporary themes.  I covered some with hundreds of flat backed beads, and painted others with copper and brass from powdered metals I found online.  I painted nursery rhymes, and Japanese geisha’s, and even found some bare wood frames that would allow me to expand the artwork beyond the edge of the canvas onto the frame itself.  I bought a hollow core door and woodburned a tiger on it that is two thirds the size of an actual tiger.  I was commissioned to create a piece for the executive producer of The Lord of the Rings with Frodo, Sam, and Golum, and painted a leopard in oil, on a three foot by five foot canvas, and just for the fun of it, reproduced an Ed Hardy painting from a Sailor Jerry’s campaign just to see if I could.

LOTRtroutcontemporary1sailorjerrysIMG_0600bluejayevan_elvishighres#B1A6heytigerlargegeishapaintingpin up girl wine boxdodcoffinleopardhandbagflowerbox

And when I could see that the economy was turning on its ear, I decided to create “functional” artwork, that would allow a collector to justify the purchase, because the art had more than one function.  I turned to handbags like my life depended on it, then decorative boxes, then functional boxes,  day of the dead coffin boxes, boxes designed to look like vintage ads, or wine boxes with pin up girls on them, and recently began working my way back to gourd art again.  I am currently in the process of designing the largest and most elaborate gourd I have ever attempted, with every sort of creature I can think of to put on it, from hummingbirds to blue whales.  I expect this new piece to take at least four months to create, and when I am finished with it, I expect to sell it for more money than I have ever sold a single piece of artwork for, which is a pretty high bar considering that I’ve sold work for $22,500 in the past….

But that’s okay.

Because taking no for an answer just isn’t part of my internal make-up.  I may not have been born a Gourd Goddess.   But I will never stop reaching for the stars…..

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I am back from the Natureworks Show in Tulsa and before I go any further I just have to say this.  I wish every art show on the planet was like Natureworks.  This event was started over thirty years ago by Bill Cox and Ken Greenwood in an effort to provide artists with  an exclusive outlet for their work (and a MUCH appreciated respect for the incredible diversity of sheer talent on BOTH sides of the “artistic fence”), and the citizens of Tulsa with a host of arts programs and public art works, paid for with the proceeds of the sale.   High school art students compete for and receive generous college scholarships, the riverwalk near Oral Roberts University features dozens of wildlife sculptures from some of the most talented wildlife artists on the planet displayed in a beautiful park setting, the Federal Duck Stamp Program and the National Elk Refuge all receive support and donations from the organization.

The show is run by volunteers from all walks of life; there is a retired general, a bank manager, a mortgage broker, an ex-sheriff…you name it.  Every year they put up the booths and most of the lights, help unload and unpack, host an artists dinner, feed us lunch, host an opening night event that brings in hundreds if not thousands of prospective buyers.  There is a hospitality suite, an artists breakfast, and every year, a gift of some kind to say thank you to the artists for participating in the show.  A few years ago, it was a directors chair with our names on them.  This year it was a cooler.  Sometimes its a handmade pencil box, or a thermos.  The point is, the people who run the show treat us like they think we are worth something, and while that may sound like a no brainer on one hand, you’d be surprised by the number of art shows and promoters who feel artists are a dime a dozen.  I’ve been kicked out of shows for something as simple as telling one show promoter that I didn’t want to be across from a particularly disruptive artist because his constant, unpredictable and explosive outbursts were unprofessional and severely impacting my sales (and, consequently their percentage of my sales) and he got invited back the next year while I didn’t.  So being at a show where the promoters treat you well is truly an added benefit.

I didn’t make a tremendous number of sales at this years event, but I came away from the show with some fantastic trades, some wonderful memories, and the feeling that I am loved and appreciated by people I truly admire and trust. So thank you Ray and Linda Goldsmith, Lon and Bonnie Canada, Tiny and Barbara Thompson, Doug Collins, Steve and Mary Ann Iverson, Treak Trasker, Sue Gideon, Chelley Wallack, Glenn and Judy Wright and Jon and Leigh  Reaves, among DOZENS of others.  You guys are the absolute BEST!

I am back in the studio again and working on all kinds of ideas for upcoming events.  I have started doing decorative boxes and hope to branch out into wine boxes, jewelry boxes and trinket boxes, plus I also started doing gourds and paintings again, so I am also going to be updating my website to reflect the new works I am adding to my product line.  I am not sure where all of this will lead, but I am finally at the point in my life where I truly believe that every day is the best day of my life because its the only day I have.  And I intend to make the most of each one.

 

When I was twenty I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my life, and I often felt that if I could have barreled ahead without restraint, I would have been where I THOUGHT I wanted to be a long, LONG time ago.  But I am also reminded of two quotes that have defined my life, and how grateful I am at this particular point in time that I didn’t get where I wanted to be thanks to the lessons I learned along the way.

Patience is NOT one of my virtues, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, and yet, when it comes to my art career, I will take all the time I need to get things just right. I had no idea how to make a purse, or where to market one, where to find the hardware…I used to carry a BACKPACK, if I carried anything at ALL, and, anyway,  I’d invested fifteen years of my life in a career as the top gourd artist in the nation. I’d been on HGTV, had articles written on my work in the Wall Street Journal, Southwest Art Magazine and Wildlife Art news, participated in group exhibits, had one woman shows, gave demonstrations at gourd festivals and gallery shows all over the country and even presented a gourd commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Gombe Research Center to  my hero, Jane Goodall.  I  sold a gourd to golf legend Hale Irwin, was commissioned by the executive producer of the Lord of the Rings to create a piece for the Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers with Golum, Frodo and Sam Gangee, and I still hold the record for the most expensive gourd ever sold at $22,500.

It always bothered me that people spent HUGE sums of money on artwork they left at home.  No one buys Christian Louboutin shoes, a Rolex, a Prada bag, or a Christian Dior dress JUST to leave it in the closet, so why do people buy gorgeous works of art to leave them at home?  It seemed to me you could have an AMAZING accessory that was ALSO an incredible addition to your art collection.

And so, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime when I decided to combine art with function in one of a kind and limited edition handbags…I wasn’t going to line the purses at first, until one very wise woman  pointed out that without a lining, you would hear everything you carried rattling around inside it.  I knew I wanted to work with wood but I didn’t know how to protect the purses against water damage. I knew I wanted to hand bead some of the handles, but the last time I tackled a bead work project with any great enthusiasm,  I wound up with a pile of very expensive seed beads and a loom that gathered dust for years until I finally gave it to the Goodwill.

As the saying goes, “If you want to hear the sound of God’s laughter, tell him your plans” and I am convinced I have had God in stitches most of my life.  I spent HOURS on the internet trying to find fabric and handles and beads and varnishes, craft shows, art shows, wholesale shows and boutiques, and just when I thought I had one aspect of the design process worked out, something else came along to challenge my approach; how do you secure all the things on a travel trailer handbag that make the handbag so fun to carry without sacrificing its function; how do you finish the back of a leopard handbag when the front and the insides are so captivating; how do you wrap images around handbag when it has irregular sides, and THEN finish the entire thing in gold leaf?

Its been an interesting process but, as the other saying I define my life by so eloquently states, “Its the journey, its not the destination”.  I have had some amazing support this past year from some truly remarkable women, and I thank you all for believing in me when I’d started to think this might have just been the dumbest idea I’d ever come up with….

I can hardly believe that 2011 is right around the corner, but I already have two very exciting shows lined up in February and March (The American Crafts Council Show in Baltimore, MD and Natureworks in Tulsa, OK) that are inspiring me to hit the studio with great passion and determination.  I have so much I want to do and such great opportunities ahead of me that the sky is the limit.

There will be more insights in the days to come, but for the moment I just wanted to say to all of you who have been on this journey with me, whether you know it or not, your faith in my work has been the fire that has helped light my way.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart….

Much has happened in the last week or two; most of it has been really great, but some of it feels like I am in slogging my way through quicksand.  Despite appearances to the contrary where the bags are concerned, patience is not my strong suit.  I am ready to be the next Judith Leiber NOW….but, the universe evidently has other plans, because for every step forward I take, I seem to take two steps back.  Or as a friend of mine so aptly puts it “if you want to hear the sound of God’s laughter, tell him your plans”.

The good news is that several of my bags have been accepted into Julie’s Art to Wear in New York.  One of my best collectors brought this amazing boutique to my attention, having been a patron of the store for many years.  Julie Schafler Dale practically created the art to wear movement, and her store, on Madison Avenue, is an institution.  And no, NOT the kind you would expect me to be locked away in, thank you very much!

I also finished my first jaguar bag.  I have done jaguar evening bags before, but nothing this elaborate.  It has 23 carat gold leaf on the front and back of the bag, which is also lined with a matching print. It comes with a  jaguar print hand made clutch as well.

I finished my first Mah Jongg bag…this one is a tote, and I am already in discussions with the head of the American Mah Jongg League to take samples to their next competition for the purposes of selling these new beauties to a captive audience.  The image on the front of the bag features the flower suite, and the handpainted symbols on the bottom are Chinese for…what else? Mah Jongg!!!!!

I have been wait listed for two shows; the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, and the Palm Beach Craft Show in Palm Beach Florida.  That’s not so good, but its better than being told they don’t want you at all, right?

The trade show in Florida didn’t go as well as anyone would have liked.  But on the other hand, I am in discussions with a boutique in Maryland that looks promising.

I was named the Handbag Designer of the Day by handbagdesigner101.com

http://www.handbagdesigner101.com/designer/669/dcm_(squared)_condit_denise

And finally, I made my You Tube debut as promised.   I’ve gotten 336 hits so far in the first week alone, and a spam email from someone trying to sell me on signing up with their service to help promote the segment.  How did I know it was a spam email? Because whoever wrote it told me I had “an amazing voice”.  I would have clicked on the link if he would have said I had an adequate voice.  After all, there IS still such a thing as truth in advertising, isn’t there????

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqCSx76wQFQ

Don’t forget that I am offering 20 percent off any handbag on my site until December 1 along with free shipping.  So let me know what you want for Christmas and I will have my elves get right on it.  But first, I probably need to find some elves…..

www.denisemeyers.com