Archives for posts with tag: purses

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…..

elephantsWith the American Crafts Council show behind me and a world of opportunities ahead, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the process of creating, whether its handbags, art, writing, or promoting a worthy cause.   Art is a difficult business, which is not something I think anyone who attends an art show ever thinks about.  And why would they?  As you walk through the aisles of an art show, indoor or out, it can seem as if the artists have always been there, creating beautiful things for you to admire, and when you leave, and the convention center, or the street that just days before was filled with white tents and throngs of people is now home to parked cars and delivery trucks, it’s hard to imagine what went into making that event happen.

work1I start months in advance to prepare for an art show, primarily because I am the slowest painter on the planet, and if I don’t have a dozen or more handbags woodburned and in the “painting pipeline” I would show up at most events with works in progress and an interpretive dance entitled, “What I Would have Brought to this Show If Could Paint Faster”.  I am in the studio 12 hours a day, seven days a week, in the months before an art show, with piles of work I am in the process of finishing, in the process of starting, and would really love to do if time allows.  As the time draws near for the show, the categories become what I have actually finished, what needs to be finished, and there is no WAY I am EVER going to finish this.  The studio is filled with handbags that are drying, with storage bins full of fabric that need to be cut and assembled for the linings, jars of paint and brushes that somehow seem to migrate across the enormous table I use to work on, despite my best efforts to contain them, until I can’t find anything I need because now the table is also stacked with bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue, and empty glasses of wine.

work2Two weeks before the show, I fill a cardboard box with bags that are dry and need to be assembled, bags that are assembled but need to be lined, bags that are lined but need a handbeaded handle, and drag the whole thing upstairs. The kitchen table is filled with hardware parts and beads, and a card table is set up beside the ironing board for the linings and handmade clutches.  There are purses drying in the bathroom because its cold in North Carolina even with a wood furnace blasting 24 hours a day, and because I use a polyurethane varnish to protect the bags against water damage, they dry slowly.  Because the show is less than ten days away, I don’t have the time to spend letting them dry naturally, and anyway the polyurethane stinks up the house so the faster it dries the better.  It’s time to pack for the show too, which means all my panels have to have a coat of paint, I need to rent a trailer, and a hotel room, and take pictures of what is finished and update my website and send out an email blast to my collectors to encourage them to come to the show, and make arrangements for the dogs, plus I also need to pack my show clothes, and all my equipment, and then, its time to leave.

booth1aMove in is the day before the show, which means checking in, finding your assigned space, unloading the truck and trailer, hauling everything to your booth space, assembling everything and (in my case anyway)  repainting half the panels we brought with us because somehow, despite my best efforts, they are scuffed all to hell and look like I found them in landfill.   Faster than you can say, “its showtime” the hall begins to fill, and you keep your fingers crossed that you will at least make your expenses, which can run in the thousands of dollars once you factor in everything from booth fees to supplies. You get to know your neighbors better than members of your own family when a show is bad, or slow, and in the lull you  trade horror stories with one another about rude customers and greedy show promoters.  My favorite this time was the man who sailed into my booth with his camera out and pointed at a handbag.  I asked him, politely, not to photograph the work, and he looked straight at me and said “you can’t stop me from taking a picture of anything I want”.  I raised my hand in front of the camera as he started to take the picture anyway, and said, “actually, I can”.  He stepped back and told me if I touched him, he was going to deck me.

work3It’s a hell of a way to make a living, and while I realize the economy is still bad and there is so much uncertainty right now, its an incredibly poor business model even under the best of circumstances.  There is little or no job security either.  I used to do an art show I loved more than words can say, as much for the people who put the show on as for the fact that they have insisted on keeping the event small, so everyone can make money. A majority of the shows revenues are reinvested in the community as well, and the show promoters  encourage high school art students to pursue careers in art with scholarships to support their artistic endeavors.

bluebirdebTwo years ago a fellow artist accused me of “violently attacking” her at the show, which, as anyone who knows me well knows couldn’t be further from the truth. I was put on “probation” for a year, then never invited back to the show, which I am the first to admit still hurts to this day.   You can get accepted to a major show one year and start to develop an impressive and devoted client list, and not get in the next year for reasons that are never explained and watch those connections slip through your fingers, or watch your booth and everything in it blow away at an outdoor art show when the winds kick up and in spite of the fact that there are four hundred pounds of weights attached to it, or fight a chargeback that winds up costing you more than the art you sold in the first place,  because someone forgot they bought something from you, and when you provide proof of the sale you don’t get the chargeback fees returned to your account.

dodwedding1I love art.  I really do.  But its incredibly hard work, and its both heartbreaking and terrifying when you get into a show and you don’t sell anything, or you don’t get into a show and have no way of selling the inventory you slaved over for months and invested your heart and soul in.  I get that there are no guarantees in life, and that just because I am exceptional at what I do, doesn’t mean I am entitled to make a living at it.

scrabbleassAnd the worst of it is, I can’t stop.  I want to make beautiful things, and write screenplays about people and  stories that inspire me, like the Women’s Air Service Pilots script I just finished, or short stories about where I live and the cast of characters who inhabit this place, or blogs, like this one, about what motivates me, inspires me, frustrates me and makes me glad I possess both the talent and the drive to create even though I often wonder what the point is of having these skills if having them causes the kind of self doubt and fear  I wrestle with sometimes.

Even so, creating gives me a platform to celebrate causes that matter very much to me, like the drive to raise money for a Rose Parade float commemorating the Women’s Air Service Pilots this New Years Day.  The Women’s Air Service Pilots were a remarkable group of women who flew military aircraft in World War Two, and who are the subject of a screenplay I finished this past January entitled LUCKY 13, about 13 women pilots who completed bomber training at the Lockbourne Army Airbase in 1943. By 1945, the entire WASP program was unceremoniously disbanded despite their enormous success, to make way for male civilian pilots hoping to avoid being drafted into combat duty overseas.  It’s an incredible story and the dream of my lifetime to see it made into a movie.  In the meantime, I am pleased to be part of a fundraising effort to make the float a reality, so please visit http://www.fifinella.com/rosedonate.htm for more information on how to contribute to this hugely worthy cause.

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!

I was about to give up.  Those aren’t words I say lightly.  I never given up on anything without a fight, even when giving up may have been the wisest course of action.

But two events happened recently to remind me that what I know about my next step, and what the universe has planned for me, are two entirely different things.

I got an email recently from one of the editors at Workman Publishing.  He wanted me to send images of my handbags for inclusion in the 2014 Handbags Page-a-Day  Calendar.   The 2013 Calendar features everyone from Judith Leiber to Muiccia Prada, and to say that I was overwhelmed by the honor is putting it lightly.

I sent five images, and was told there is a good likelihood they will all be included, including the tiger eye handbag I sent to Aretha Franklin a few months ago.  When I posted about the email on my facebook page, I had another surprise coming; a major handbag “player” (she was a judge on the now defunct Project Accessory) wrote back to say she had  a meeting with Workman  Publishing  about getting unknown handbag designers in the calendar, and that she was impressed that  they had approached me instead….

I also had a pair of experiences recently that are hard to describe, not because of the incredible generosity of the gestures involved, but because its the sort of thing I do for people; not the sort of thing that is done for me.  My friend, Randi Leader Oakes, sent me a handbook on the fashion business (a book that I had been coveting for quite a while.  She didn’t know I wanted it, but somehow this incredible woman always seems to get what I need and then, just as magically, makes it happen for me), while Whitney Peckman sent me one of the best books on writing I have ever read.

I have been told all my life I should be a writer, but since I don’t write like Vladimir Nabokov, and I don’t have a personal story to tell that involves divorce, a lucrative book deal, and travel to exotic lands to eat and pray my way through life, I never bothered to try.

But Whitney was right.  She usually always is.  So I am putting an application in the mail today for the Great Smokies Writing Program.

Thank you Randi, Whitney, and Aaron…for encouraging, supporting and celebrating the me that has yet to be revealed!  Because I can see it now…a wildly beautiful handbag designer who moonlights as a crime solving detective….

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.

I haven’t written anything in the last few months, because quite frankly, I have been embarrassed beyond belief to admit just how hard this economy has hit me.

Then a few months ago, I met a pair of business partners who book celebrity guest speakers, clergy and artists for luxury cruise liners, and within seconds the entrepreneur in me was reborn.   I headed straight into the studio that afternoon to design a handbag that not only highlights their company spirit, I also found a way to print fabric from that image that allowed me to line the bag with their company logo and create a handmade clutch to match!

I am working hard to launch a new corporate gifts link on my website, with humidors, jewelry boxes, decorative boxes – just about anything and everything  made from wood – because corporations will always exist and so will holidays and special occasions.

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I rarely let an opportunity to put my bags in front of anyone I think can help make them the international sensation I would love for them to be.

My timing isn’t always great;

I sent a canvas tote to Sandra Bullock just DAYS before the Jesse James scandal broke….

You can clearly see why this was a mistake…

I also sent a handbag to Kyra Sedgwick, even though I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s no great fan of the “Six Degrees”game…

I sent a Scrabble Handbag to Oprah Winfrey after I heard she was a fan.  Apparently she’s not a fan of responding to her mail, although to be fair, I’m sure she probably gets a lot of it….

I sent a bag to Drew Barrymore, along with a script I wrote many years ago about the only known female stagecoach robber in America…

I’m still waiting to hear on that one….

Then, last year, when I heard that the Obamas were going to vacation in Asheville, I made a leopard evening bag for Michelle, a tiger tote for Sacha, and a cheetah tote for Malia.  I tried to deliver them to the Grove Park Inn where they were staying.

Funny, but they don’t allow packages to be delivered to a President and his wife at a hotel…..go figure….

Well a few days ago, and almost eleven months later….

I was so inspired to finally get a response from someone, that I went hog wild this morning and updated my website. I’ve added pictures of some of the new decorative boxes I have been doing, as well as some paintings, and my first love, gourd art…..

I was SO inspired, as a matter of fact, that I have decided to have a half off sale on all evening bags. The sale ends this Sunday, so act now! Because if it takes as long to get a thank you note these days as it does to update my website or have a sale, it could be a LONG time before I am THIS inspired again!

 

A few weeks ago when I was in the studio finishing work on the big cats handbag, I was listening to part two of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” to help pass the time.  When I heard Oprah say that she is a huge Scrabble fan, I looked up with great interest, since Scrabble handbags are not only fun for me to make, they are also one of my most popular accessories.

By the following afternoon, I had a custom made  Scrabble handbag and a handmade clutch ready to go in the mail along with one of my new 2011 calendars, a brochure, biography and letter of introduction.  I decided to send the bag to “O Magazine” because I have seen video of the piles upon countless piles of mail she gets at Harpo Studios in Chicago every week.  And, anyway, I’d sent a pair of gourd masks to one of her producers about ten years ago and never heard anything back.

 

Last April when I found out that Sascha Obama had decided to make saving the tigers a priority in her young life, AND that the Obamas were set to visit the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, and I dropped everything I was doing to create a leopard evening bag for Michelle, a tiger tote for Sacha, and a cheetah tote for Malia.  After packaging the bags in boxes lined with matching prints, I drove up to the The Grove Park Inn to deliver them, but alas, they wouldn’t let me leave the gifts, so I mailed them off to the White House that same day.

 

My  point is this.  I have never been one to let an opportunity pass to promote myself or my work, because I have to believe that somewhere along the line something amazing will happen, that the right person will come along to propel my career into the stratosphere, that whoever I have been waiting on, or whatever I have dreamed will unfold, whatever chance encounter, or opportunity I once acted on that “never went anywhere” (at least not in my time frame) is all part of a larger plan that I have no control over, but which I chose to continue to believe will happen, even when it seems as though I have run up against a brick wall.

I believe in serendipity and in the idea that even though I might be ready for the next phase of my career, the people and events that will carry me to the next level, might not be in place yet.  I haven’t heard back from either Oprah Winfrey OR Michelle Obama, but you never know when the phone might ring, or who might be reading this blog and think, I can do something to help this along.

I know Malcolm Gladwell thinks that there is no such thing as luck, that people only get to where they want to be based on where they were born and what family they were born into, but I believe that while family dynamics play a role in how we start life, the choices we make about what to do with the talents we’ve been given as we grow up, can take us where we want to be, even if the journey takes longer than we would like.  Or to be more accurate, where I would like because, as I have said before, I was ready to “be somebody” when I was twenty.  Thirty years later, I am STILL ready to be the next Prada, or Gucci, or Balenciaga.  And while I don’t have the money or the prestige, I have the drive, the goal, and the desire coupled with the steadfast belief that I didn’t get the talent I have by accident…there has to be a reason why things haven’t happened the way I have wanted…..

 

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