This past weekend I had my first beach day of the season. I burrowed my toes in the sand, soaked in the smell of the ocean, and immersed myself in my beach book (which was, incidentally, about the beach - but more on that later), all the while thinking how happy I was that summer had finally begun. Once home, I channelled that enthusiasm into three tropical felt creations. Of the three, The Fabulous Felt Happy Hour Necklace has won first place in my affections; you may recognize its design from the tote of the same name.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
I was reading Rena Klingenberg's always informative and interesting Home Jewelry Business Success Tips newsletter, http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com/, when an article called "Are You an Artist?" caught my eye. Written by April Schwaegerle of April Francene Designs, http://www.aprilfrancenedesigns.com/April_Francene_Designs/Welcome.html, it examined the age-old question that plagues so many creative people, namely, "Are you an artist?" For many reasons, labeling oneself as an artist is difficult. It's not like saying you're a doctor or lawyer or teacher or office worker or shopkeeper or even aspiring Olympian. Perhaps part of the reason is because the word artist sends many mixed messages. For some people, the word evokes an image of an unhinged and ear-less Van Gogh, while others think of the proverbial starving artist feverishly painting in a rat-infested attic. Still others think of someone who isn't serious, whose work is relegated to the realm of hobby and can be mimicked by third graders. Then again, there are those who think of artists as inhabiting the loftier end of the creative spectrum, excelling at oil paintings and large scale sculptures worthy of being displayed in museums. In each instance, the identity of the artist is fraught with flaws, whether they be flakiness, poverty, childishness, or an inflated sense of self-importance. With stereotypes like this floating around, it's no wonder that so many of us are hesitant to admit to the title. April's article forces each of us to redefine the way we think about ourselves and our art. Go ahead and give it a read:
Are You an Artist?
"I just attended an exhilarating conference in Detroit hosted by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, titled "Rust Belt to Artist Belt III". This conference originated in Cleveland, and we were fortunate to have it here in the Motor City this year.
I am not writing to tell you about the conference but about the attendees.
There were approximately 300 people in attendance representative of all mediums such as: graphic designers, landscape designers, architects, photographers, fashion designers, sculptors, painters and at least one jewelry designer . . . me!
I had the opportunity to mingle at the parties and during the breaks and I came up with an ice-breaking question, "Are you an artist?"
It was a simple enough inquiry, or so I thought, but it provoked an emotional response that I did not anticipate.
"Me? An artist?" most replied with a look of confusion and self-doubt. One woman in particular, who held a Masters Degree of Fine Art, could not answer yes to this question.
Wow! This made me realize that most artists lack confidence.
If I asked my seven-year old niece if she is an artist, then she would say yes. I think the difference is, in her mind, she believes she is an artist.
I am not sure if adult artists have lost that confidence along the way or if external forces like juries and judges have intimidated their beliefs. Or, are they comparing themselves to the esteemed and extolled?
I do not have the answer to why but I do know that if you want to succeed as a creative individual or own a creative business, then you must be shameless in announcing to the world that you are an artist!
My kindergarten teacher told my mother that I was going to be an artist when I grew up.
So I kept drawing. Then I painted. Then I was an advertising artist. Then I became a video producer.
Now I am a jewelry designer who primarily beads with a little wire wrapping thrown in for fun.
Maybe it just takes one person to believe in you even if that one person is yourself.
In my heart and soul... I have always been an artist. Are you?"
I immediately recognized the reluctance of the people April questioned. I've oftentimes been at the post office, mailing a package to a customer in an envelope covered with illustrations, when the clerk inevitably asks, "Did you draw this?" I say yes, and the next question is always, "Are you an artist?" I always feel embarrassed. Secretly, I think, "Well, yeah," but I don't want to say it out loud for fear of sounding pompous. Similarly, I'll be carrying a bag I painted or wearing a piece of jewelry I made, and someone will ask me if I made said piece. Again, I say, "Yes," and again, the person says, "Are you an artist?" Inevitably I find myself saying sort of, that I don't have a degree in it or anything, but that I took lessons and won art contests as a kid, and that of course I have a day job because if I didn't that would be just crazy, right? I babble on like this, as if by asking his or her simple question the poor person (who, let's be honest, is probably just making small talk) has hinted that I'm some kind of fraud that they'll expose. The funny thing is, I identify myself as "Artist" on my business cards. So I can put it into print but not conversation. Ridiculous, I know, but there you have it. Reading about other artists struggling with this sort of thing was oddly comforting. (Several readers commented on April's post, some of whom cited experiences similar to my own.) Even more importantly, it made me realize that I shouldn't be afraid of standing behind what I do.
So, what do you think? For those of you who "make stuff," have you ever had trouble telling someone that you're an artist? Or are you more inclined to proclaim it proudly from the (studio) rooftops? The Tote Trove wants to know.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Magenta Sequin Butterfly Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
Fabulous Felt Pink Bow Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Super Diva! That's what people will say when they spot you in these super girly, super glitzy Sequin Butterfly Necklaces!
That's the opener for my Sequin Butterfly Necklace item listings. I'm trying to jazz them up by getting away from the (self-written) boilerplate templates I've become too comfortable using.
Hey, you may be thinking, haven't I seen that light pink bow necklace before? Yep. But I gave away the first one I made and naturally felt the need to replace it. Then I made an inside out version too, with a hot pink background and light pink details. As for the sequin butterfly necklaces, they were inspired by some little girls' masks I'd bought at Target ages ago. Standing there in the party aisle I knew they were special, but I didn't know what to do with them. (I know we've all been there, be the object of desire an impractical, toe-murdering pair of shoes or a clearanced, particularly disarming jack-o-lantern in the middle of July.) I made their acquaintance again just yesterday while half-heartedly trying to organize my craft room, and thought, hmm, I could mount these suckers onto some black felt and add pretty ribbons fabulous felt necklace-style. And so I did.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Raspberry Snack Attack Corsage Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
Chocolate Snack Attack Corsage Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
And last but not least our old friend, the Apple Snack Attack Corsage Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
I got so excited about the Snack Attack Corsage Necklace (now the Apple Snack Attack Corsage Necklace) I made using a Jell-O Temptations package that I made a beeline for Acme for more of the mini desserts. I was slightly disappointed to find the only other offerings were Raspberry Cheesecake and (chocolate) French Silk (what, no colorful Luscious Lemon Meringue or Cool Key Lime?) but made do and then returned home to begin work.
As for the desserts themselves, they're pretty tasty despite the low calorie contents proudly emblazoned on the front of each package. The Raspberry Cheesecake was the tastiest.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, Marshalls
Bag: Burlington Coat Factory
Necklace: The Tote Trove
Leggings: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Barefeet Shoes
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Top: Wet Seal
Skirt: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Candie's, Kohl's
Wallet: Toddland, Fred Flare, http://www.fredflare.com/
There's something undeniably American about cheeseburgers and polka dots. (If you don't believe me about the polka dots, then look no further than Minnie Mouse.) That's why I paired some of my more grill-friendly creations with circle-speckled attire in honor of Memorial Day. If these necklaces look familiar, then it's because they're doubles of some I made and posted recently. I love to make a sale as much as the next Etsian, but there are also times when I feel a little bummed about having to say good-bye to a favorite piece. Because demanding visitation rights from my customers would be a little creepy (not to mention bad for business), I figured that busting out the scissors once again was the next best thing.
At any rate, I'll be rocking one of these outfits, complete with patriotic neckpiece, sometime somewhere this weekend. Hopefully while eating a cheeseburger.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Snack Attack Corsage Necklace,
Pizza Party Bracelet,
"Much of my work focuses on food and the complex ways people (especially in the wealthy parts of the world) view it (you know, as symbol, art, political, commercial, emotional, social, taboo...more than just sustenance)."
Monday, May 23, 2011
The funny thing was, Sarah Blake's book was about as far from a romance novel as you can get. It wasn't even one of those romanticized war novels about star-crossed lovers and battlefield heroics. No-nonsense, unsentimental, and jarring, it was, by its own description, a tale about "the story around the edges." Blake, who holds a PhD in Victorian literature, examines pre-Pearl Harbor America through the voices of three women: Iris James, a by-the-book New England postmistress, Frankie Bard, an intrepid war correspondent, and Emma Fitch, a vulnerable newlywed deserted by her husband. Locked in their small town world, Iris and Emma shut out the war and all its horrors, even as they listen to Frankie's stirring accounts over the airwaves. By contrast, Frankie throws herself into the fray, persuading her boss, the iconic Edward Murrow, to let her ride trains across Europe to record the voices of Jewish refugees. It's a time when few Americans know about the Holocaust, and Frankie is determined to tell them what's going on. But the things she sees shake even her conviction in the journalist's code: "Seek truth. Report it. And minimize harm," a doubt that is only deepened by her chance entanglement with the lives of Iris and Emma.
The Postmistress is a good book in the sense that it's well-written and descriptive and exposes war's gray areas. (Plus, it has discussion questions in the back, so you know it's legit.) But I didn't really enjoy reading it. It was hard to get into and, in the end, anti-climactic. While I admired Frankie's spirit and believed whole-heartedly in her cause, hers was not a journey I completely understood, perhaps because it was not one I could imagine taking. I identified more with Emma and her need to swaddle herself in safety. Which is to say that reading The Postmistress made me uneasy in the ghost of the way that listening to Frankie's broadcasts made Emma uneasy. I connected the least with Iris and was a bit puzzled that the novel was named after her. Although she does fail to deliver a letter, it's a less crucial letter than one is led to believe in that it does not definitively say anything. I know that's the point, that it is this very vagueness that helps Iris rationalize what she's doing. But as a dramatic moment or a central conflict, it fell a little flat for me, much like Iris herself.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Fabulous Felt French Fries Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
In the spirit of summer and all things delicious, I pointed my scissors toward this trio of junk food-themed neckpieces. Bold, colorful circles and polka dot ribbons evoke striped tents and popcorn machines, adding to their circus appeal. Of course, the circus has a dark side, as evidenced by countless artists, including our boy Jack Handey. Why, you may wonder, would I mention that in a post designed to sell something? Because it's interesting and it's what I automatically thought of when I started writing. Besides, it's a heck of a lot less creepy than making and posting a felt clown necklace. Or anything clown-related, for that matter. That's one theme I won't be exploring.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Recently, I thought, why not made "inside out" versions of some of them? So, I took the green, yellow, and purple bows and switched the backdrops with the interior details to make these:
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
But anyway. This recipe is super easy. The first time I made it, I didn't think so. I was confused by the timing or something. But when I made it last week I thought, how can anyone possibly be confused by a dish this simple? That gives you an idea of how far I've come in the kitchen! So, without further ado, here's the how-to:
4 boneless chicken breasts (I used those pre-pounded thin ones, which feel like less of a lead weight in your stomach and - bonus! - make for quicker cooking)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste (Whatever that means. I just used two shakes of Jane's Crazy Salt.)
1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
For the dumplings:
2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cups milk
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake chicken breasts for 35 minutes (I changed it to 25 on account of the less substantial chicken). Meanwhile, combine the chicken soup, sour cream, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over chicken once the 35 or 25 minutes are up. Sprinkle with cheese. Put back in the oven. Mix the Bisquick with the 2/3 cup of milk until soft dough forms (this part always reminds me of a science experiment. Well, a science experiment that smells like a bakery). Once the chicken is bubbling, drop the dough on top by spoonfuls. Continue to bake for ten minutes. Then cover and bake for ten more minutes.
It turned out really well. The sour cream gives the sauce a subtle tanginess, and you can never go wrong with gooey cheddar. The bf and I ate it with a crisp green salad, which was a nice light complement that also added some color. I probably should've taken a picture of it, too. Oh well. Next time.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Pink pumps: Material Girl, Macy's
Green thongs: Go Max, Marshalls
Black flip flops: So, Kohl's
Pink polka dot heels: Coup d'Etat, MetroStyle
Silver flip flops: So, Kohl's
Yellow flats: Chinese Laundry, Marshalls
Green polka dot heels: Coup d'Etat, MetroStyle
Turquoise flip flops: So, Kohl's
Floral slides: Ann Marino, Marshalls
Floral wedges: So, Kohl's
Here's a fresh crop of shoes I ferreted out from my collection. Flip flops, flats, and low heels dominate, just the thing for blister-free summer adventures. (Of course, I threw in a few heels for good measure - what kind of collection would it be without them?) I love them all but am especially partial to the yellow jelly Chinese Laundry flats and the floral Ann Marino slides. Yellow and flowers always scream summer :)
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
I've never been a fan of the home wrecker romance. Most of us have shoulda woulda coulda moments, but trying to rewrite them doesn't make destroying other people's lives okay. And Something Borrowed is about just that. The main character is Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a lawyer and your typical buttoned-up, hard-working good girl. Her best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson [can't help but think of Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy every time I hear that name]), is your typical self-absorbed, manipulative party girl. Darcy is engaged to Rachel's law school friend, Dex (Colin Egglesfield), aka Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome but Jerky. The problem? Rachel's always had a crush on Dex and still does.
You see where this is going, right?
Yes, Darcy is awful. Shallow and over-the-top, she's the embodiment of every high school mean girl all grown up. But I couldn't help but feel that she's painted that way so viewers don't feel guilty about rooting for Rachel. As for Dex, he masquerades as a sensitive guy who's just doing what his parents want. But he's really a coward who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Although put-upon, Rachel is only marginally sympathetic as the other woman. Not only does she poach her best friend's fiance, but she allows herself to be treated badly, fulfilling the tired old mistress cliche.
From this mess, only Rachel and Darcy's childhood friend Ethan (the ever-affable John Krasinski) emerges as likable and funny, offering up witty observations from the sidelines during the crew's seemingly endless Hamptons weekends. Sure, he spends most of the movie dodging a woman he slept with and then dumped. But next to Dex and their mutual sleazy slacker friend Marcus, he still manages to channel the nice guy vibe of his "Office" character, Jim. (Who says there's no such thing as type casting?)
At one point, I thought the plot was going to wrap up in a predictable but still feel-good-sort-of-way that would have saved things. (Good little blogger that I am, I won't spill any more, should you decide to see the movie despite this uncharitable review.) But it didn't. It ended in a crescendo of insultingly cheesy soap opera incidents and a finale that could be described as only - you guessed it - icky.
If I have such an aversion to cheating hearts, then why did I see this movie? Because it's a romantic comedy, and I feel compelled to see all romantic comedies, no matter how seemingly stupid.
Next stop, Bridesmaids. I know the fuchsia taffeta won't disappoint.
Friday, May 13, 2011
It was a brilliant Sunday. Lucy navigated her old blue station wagon through the thick traffic, humming along to her big band CD as she turned off into the shopping center that housed the PetSmart. After negotiating a parking spot, an act that involved hanging out her window and screeching, "Move it or lose it!" to a meandering senior citizen, Lucy checked her appearance in the rearview mirror. She'd worn her painted wooden parrot earrings for the occasion. They'd been purchased for a birdsong - ha ha ha - as she liked to think, from one of her favorite eBay sellers. Now she watched them dangle merrily over the luxe fabric of her caftan, also purchased on eBay, as she freshened her coppery lipstick. Once satisfied, she got out, locked her doors, and headed toward the entrance.
As soon as she crossed the threshold of the automatic doorway, she breathed in the heady scent of pet food and supplies and pets themselves that always filled her with anticipation. She picked up a basket (she always needed a basket, if not a cart) and trotted off to the exotic bird section. There a tantalizing array of honey sticks, seed mixes, and fruit wheels competed for attention next to colorful plastic swings, ladders, and imitation birds meant to serve as companions for those unfortunate enough to be without playmates. Lucy panned the offerings, eagerly snatching up anything that she was running out of or didn't already own. Her basket was becoming precariously heavy when a salesperson emerged and proffered a cart. It was Molly, a part-timer and college sophomore whom Lucy had grown to know well.
"I saw you over here and thought you might need this."
"How thoughtful!" Lucy dumped her basket into the cart, then waved her arms around as if to celebrate their newfound freedom. "And how are you, my dear? Still knocking 'em dead in early childhood education?"
Molly nodded vigorously, her bobbed red hair swinging. "This semester's already a killer, but really interesting. How are you?"
That was Molly all over, never rambling on about herself, always asking about the other person. She'd make a superb little kindergarten teacher.
"Great!" Lucy dug into her enormous handbag and produced a photograph. "Here's a picture of Finchy's birthday party!"
Molly accepted the picture, her mouth instantly splitting into a smile of delight. At least, Lucy thought it was of delight. But then, who wouldn't love such a picture? It showcased Finchy, Swan, and Wren in all of their glory, each wearing a tiny birthday hat (she'd made them herself) and perched above a sea of colorful (hypoallergenic) confetti in his or respective cage. Lucy had pushed the cages together just for the photo.
"Wow," Molly finally said. "That must have been some party." When she tried to return the picture Lucy stopped her. "Oh no, dear! That one's for you. I had several copies made."
"Oh. Thanks." Molly slipped the photo into her pocket, the ghost of a smile doing strange things to her mouth. "I should get back to work. Happy shopping!"
Artists as Thieves: Some Thoughts on the Creative Process That I Stole from Some Other Creative People
Cheeseburger Print, Homemade Pop, http://www.homemadepop.etsy.com/
Burger and Fries Apron, Snappy Shop, http://www.snappyshop.etsy.com/
I also discovered that my car CD player was broken today. This after I'd purchased three new CDs. But if that's the worst thing that happened on Friday the 13th, then I guess I got off lucky.