Monday, June 30, 2008

Ze-Ri and Collecting Space

What's this?
It's behind the scenes of a sweet sculpture photo shoot.  
I use anything from our shed as a tripod. 
We actually finally bought a little tripod last week so this will be my last "yard sale shoot."  Behind it you can see four long pots of plants.  That is where I accidentally grew lettuce this spring.  All of the plants I tried to grow died, like the time Mikel and I tried to plant a mini garden in downtown Buffalo but only ended up with wild blackberries (a nice trade, honestly)

Today I ate strange cubes of white-ish jelly (pronounced as "zeri" after translation by katakana).  I am not sure what flavor they were, but they weren't anything easily recognizable.  Although I now bring my own lunch to school (I couldn't handle eating any more strange greenish brown curry with meat bits or tiny white fish) I apparently still can't avoid eating some school lunch.   Although I said no, I still ended up eating a strange bowl of fruit juice with canned fruit, bananas and "zeri."  Another magical Japanese creation.  The magic is what I came here for and there is no telling where it will show up.

Last night, while working on some residency applications, I had a mini break-through.  Suddenly my artist statement went from focusing on color and objects to collecting space.  This new perspective has exploded into a whole new way of looking at things around me.  For example, how many kinds of space are there?  What's the difference between space and object?  How does mental space compare to audio space and visual space?  How can I collect space?  I can't wait to go to Nagano City tomorrow and add to my collection of space.  

A poem for you:
The green computer folder is still sitting on my desk.
My liter of water looks like a liter of Sake.
It's hot and sunny for now.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Snot-tites and Practicalities

(One more sculpture down the editing shoot)

Happy Monday!   
I finally feel like my old self again after about 10 days of low energy and a head full of snot.
Which reminds me of something Mikel and I saw on the show Planet Earth that we have been watching off the Internet lately:  In caves where the water is highly acidic with sulfuric acid, there is a certain kind of bacteria that makes "Snottites" like stalactites but snot-like.  I'm serious.
That show really makes me realize how amazing the earth is and has rekindled an old desire once again: the desire to bike across the sweet land of my birth, the USA.  With my health recovered I feel a little like a super-hero.  I have been using my manic super powers to finish my beading workshop preparations (except for the final touches on my power point), started to apply to art residencies, and packed my head full of future projects (installations, sculptures, black and white drawings, bike trips and traveling).  
All of this new activity manifested as a weird dream last night:  I gave birth to a fat cat but Mikel and I decided we didn't really want a "baby" yet.   I was full of regret.  
I take it as a sign that we should wait for babies and go full steam ahead with arty-farty stuff.
As my head gets wrapped around thoughts on art, I realize that making my painting and sculpture is the most rewarding experience for me.  I love crafting and jewelry, but "Craft Land" I realize is a different place than my studio.  They are connected and influence each other, but not the same.  Usually I notice how my painting influences my jewelry, but only recently did I realize the way Beaded Weeds influences my art practice.  I have become a much more disciplined business woman.  I realize that if I treat things like applications and deadlines as strict with my painting/sculpture as with my jewelry, I get the same results.  The abundance flows just as easily and makes an organic, intangible studio experience feel more concrete and practical.
Practical parts of life (like paying bills, sleeping, eating healthy, getting a reentry permit to Japan, etc.) can be quite a nusance, but also mindless relief from thinking about art all the time.  Sometimes it is much needed perspective.
Time to pay my car lease bill!  

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Website in Action

Here is a new sculpture. It will soon be added to the lovely website Mikel made for me. He launched the "real" version this week and I think it looks fantastic!
Check it out at:

Time to go home, drink a little coffee and get started on editing the rest of my sculpture images. It is really amazing how finished images allow for an objective perspective on my work. Not only does it make me realize how much I have already finished, it also makes me realize what I want to change, inspiring me to keep making more.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Sponge In The River

Mikel and I have been totally leveled by colds this week. Usually a cold only sets us back a day or two but this time we have been out of commission for a week each. I am starting to feel better but I sound like a frog (which is a problem for my students who, if they really cared, would depend on me for correct English pronunciation.)
In two weeks I will teach my beading workshop. Yay! I am getting really excited and thinking a lot about how to talk about color choice and forming ideas for projects. I love art! I will also give everyone a workbook I am making with lots of good information and extra space for their own ideas and inspirations. So far I have eleven people signed up. I think Mikel is a little nervous for me since it is my first time, but I have a new confidence. I think teaching English to students from the age of 2-80 has given me a really concrete feel for planning lessons and being flexible with my plan in the moment. Teaching feels a lot like being a net, or a sponge in a river. When I am teaching, or overwhelmed at all, I just sit and let the water run through me. While it does this, I can watch it and understand what is going on in a bigger sense (ie. are my students clueless? tired? frustrated? bored? interested?) Then I know what to do, despite my plan. The more I do this, the better my planning becomes.
My count-down before I go "home" is less than three weeks. Before that I hope Mikel and I will get my website finished and have a successful workshop. Once I am home, I want to paint and relax. Drink coffee, do yoga, hang with my family and think about how almost a year in Japan has changed my perspective. I can`t wait!
Sorry no photos today. I am on the school`s computer and thus don`t have my photo folder at hand. Have a good week!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Toothpaste and Armed Robbery

Another new painting that I recently finished documenting.  It is my favorite of all of my paper pieces.  I call it "Poles" because the poles in the painting help it have more space.  Making space in my painting is what I am working on the most lately.  It is very hard for me because I get really carried away with the detail and colors in those details that I can't often see the big picture until I put it away for a while and look at it with fresh eyes.  Documenting paintings also give me a fresh view.  The importance of having a "fresh eye" makes it also important to have critiques with other people (who inevitably have a different perspective.)

I am looking at artist residencies.  I haven't been to one yet, but after these crazy Japanese shenanigans are over, I will apply to a TON so that I will hopefully get into one or two.  This week I found this website  Trans Artists.  It seems to be a good reference for artist residencies.  I haven't done must research to know of any better but I will keep my feelers out!  It is important to remember that artists get rejected from residencies more than they get accepted.  The more we apply, the more chance we have of going!

Last weekend I told you that I bought earrings from a cool artist.  Her shop is called Tantaka.  Click here to see some cool earrings.  The ones I bought are not on the website, but that link will take you to earrings I would like to own.  I know the website is all in Japanese but there is enough English to navigate it I think.  It does make me wish I could read Japanese!  When I bought the earrings she asked me if I could read Japanese.  I said, "only a little," so she told me that in my bag were directions for cleaning my earrings by using baking soda.  I have been cleaning my wedding ring with toothpaste for years with super results so I was not surprised to learn a similar DIY method.  Baking soda really is magic.  You can do ANYTHING with it.  Clean anything, de-stink your fridge, make homemade toothpaste (<------click for a link to a cool blog about sustainable living.  This particular link has cool recipes for toothpaste and dish washing liquid!)

Onto some thoughts lately about Japan.  I have lost enthusiasm for learning Japanese.  It is very frustrating.  The more I learn, the less I know.  Why can't they speak Italian in Japan?  Or Spanish?  My countdown for my US visit is at a month and four days.  Yay!  All English for three weeks and lots of fun and art!  Both Mikel and I are keeping each other going, venting once in a while about how difficult it is to be illiterate and from a totally different culture, but also having good humor about it.  Usually it is easy to have good humor.

For example, this morning a man robbed a bank at knife point (guns are illegal here except for hunting) in a near-by city.  By "near-by" I mean an hour away.  No one was hurt.  The man got away with lots of money.  Of course this is serious, but here it is SERIOUSLY breaking news.  We had an official meeting about it today with the teachers and watched some of the news at lunch.  The robber was apparently a "foreigner" (probably a local Brazilian man, they think-- there is a large population in that city) with "big eyes" (as all of us foreigners have).  In the US, if someone was robbed at knife-point it might make the evening news and it would never disrupt a school day unless someone was very near by (like around the corner) or someone was injured.  This is a VERY safe country so if something like this happens, everyone, for lack of a more fun word, spazzes out.

Whew!  It feels good to get a long blog out there.   Time for to make some worksheets, look for residencies to apply to and, <> a little Japanese study?   

Monday, June 9, 2008

Komagane Craft Festival

Mikel and I went to Komagane on Sunday with our buddies Eric and Mai.  Every year there is an excellent craft festival by this beautiful river.  The crafts were so amazing!  Very chi-chi!  There were some things I had never seen before, like instruments made out of beautiful wood and paint cans, wool felted into silk fabric, kimono fabric scraps used for beading, etc!  I bought a pair of earrings.  They are large loops made of hammered sterling.  I will post the artists name later this week.  I left the info at home today.   
I also bought beautiful silk yarn made of many tiny strands of multi-colored thread.  I think I will do some embellishing with it.

Here I am by the pond, around which were many booths filled with fantastic crafts like crazy rainbow colored hats to elegant furniture made from wood and cement, toys, and a bird constructed out of old machine parts that really moved!  Why didn't we get a photo of that?

This is a dress made out of the fish windsocks for children's day in May.  I posted a picture in one of my May blogs of these fish hanging over the pond by our house (in case you forget what they look like in normal form.)  I love this dress!  Thanks to Mikel for helping me take the stealthy photo.  The dress was about $300, as was the reast of this artist's clothing.  The price was totally worth it!  Her craft and creativity is how she reconstructed different fabrics together was really genius.

On the way home, we stopped at a used kimono and antique shop.  I bought scraps of fabric from old kimonos.  It was fabric heaven.  My Grammy would love it there!  I'll post images of the fabric soon as well.

The weekend was punctuated by a major discussion that started yesterday after the mailman dropped off a packet of information about a graduate school in Vermont.  It started a train of thought about my life after Japan.  Should I concentrate more on painting and go to graduate school right away?  Should Beaded Weeds be a post-grad school plan?  Should I try for a fancy school like Columbia?  So many HUGE questions.  They may not seem like huge questions, but to me, they determine what I spend my time on here.  Lately I have been spending most of my art time working on Beaded Weeds.  I love it, but I feel a deeper love for my painting.  Beaded Weeds was originally started as a way for me to be self-employed, making money with my hands and allowing me lots of time to paint.  I am trying not to think in a polar way about this.  Nothing is ever all or none.  I will continue to do both.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Photo Free

Sorry, no photos today.  
I am trying to get a fun package of "Pen Friend" letters out from my students to some kids in Stowe, Vermont.  It is like pulling teeth to get some teenagers to care about communicating with people they have never met and therefore don't fully believe they could be interesting at all.  Oh well!  It is good Japanese practice for me (since many students turned in letters all in Japanese!) and could be a great cultural exchange.  Some students are really excited about it!
I found a great website for collecting fun blogs. allows you to keep track of blogs that you like AND it tells you when the blogger has added a new post.  You can also find other cool blogs by looking at what other bloggers like to read.  I LOVE it.
Happy crafting!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beading Workshop

My beading workshop in Matsumoto is a total GO!  I already have four people signed up and three who "may be attending"  yay!!!  Tonight I will put together a more interesting powerpoint for inspiring my workshoppers, and work on the pamphlet!  I am really excited!!  Above is a necklace I made for a commission a while on ETSY.  Funky, huh?  

Also, today is Mikel and my 3.5 year anniversary (3 years since our summer wedding)!!  I think we will go eat Japanized Italian food tonight in Iida and pick up some more art supplies for my grab bags!  

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dress, Oink, Paint, Toys

I posted an image of this before (I think) but this is the new and more accurately corrected image.  This piece is on paper.  I am too excited about my documented work to not post it!

This is called, "Winter Landscape."  It's painted on wood.

A not-so-serious attempt at documenting my wrist cuff that I posted yesterday.  Mikel pointed out the fact that it is easier to understand what jewelry really looks like when it is photographed on someone.  Good point.

The power went out right before I took this photo.  These are fun toys and a mini sewing machine that we bought at the beloved Recycle Shop last week.  The little pots and pans came out of a box from the line of "Rainbow Deli" mini food that I am in love with (part of the mushroom-theme line).  The tiny non-alien animals are from my parents for my birthday.  Cute cute!  They all play so nicely.

I took this photo to show Ashley how long the earrings are that I made for her but I realize it also shows the top of my new dress I bought on my birthday in Matsumoto at the flea market.  It is hard to get a full feel for the dress from the photo, but I do really like the weird strappy top.  It inspires me to re-construct some of my clothing and not to shy away from super nerdy fabric (the bottom of the dress has a dramatic drawing of a tigers head on black fabric).

I sent out an ad for my Beading and Embellishment workshop that I want to teach in Matsumoto.  I really hope people sign up because I think it will be REALLY fun.  
****If you are in Japan and interested in this workshop, it's on July 6, from 1-5pm.  We will make beaded cuffs like the one in my nerdy image above. ***** 

Cleaning time at school (every day at 3:30.)  Time to put on my mandatory head scarf and get a ridiculously short broom (about three feet long.  Why?  I don't really know.  Most of the brooms are like that in Japan and it kills my back).  

Tonight I think I will start on a new beading commission and maybe a little painting!  I am also putting together fun "goodie bags" full of crafting treasures and "how-to" directions for specific projects to sell on ETSY.  I think it should be fun and a nice gift for people!!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lots of Goodies

I did it!  After wishing for so long that I would take images of my paintings, I spent long-awaited studio time this weekend taking images and correcting them on Photoshop, which, both Mikel and I believe, sucks out our souls.  The good thing is, my soul is replenished when I look at my images so it's really no problem!
Here is a much better image of one of my paper pieces that I have been showing you glances of in the background of some photos I have posted.  It looks so much better like this!!
This is an earring I made for my friend Ashley.  I hope she likes it!  (if not, no prob, Ash!  We can work from here so you get exactly what you commissioned!)  Ashley went to my ETSY site and pressed "custom order" where we have been communicating about what she wants and how much she is willing to spend.  She sent in a bid and then I responded.  It is a really great system!

This is a bracelet cuff that my friend Charlie commissioned (not through ETSY because she lives near me in Japan so we have been working face-to-face.  I wish I could work with Ash face-to-face!  I miss her.)  Anyway, I hope Charlie likes this as well.  I will be sending her images today so she can decide. 
This is the cuff bracelet that Charlie first saw which lead to her commission.  This was my second beading project that I made when I was going to have a workshop in Florida.  I am planning to teach one in Matsumoto within the next month or so.  It should be fun and a good test for me to see what works and what doesn't for teaching workshops.  I love teaching and I love art so the combination is fantastic!

Today is a rainy day in Anan-cho.  I have already taught five classes (three in Junior High and two in Elementary) so I am beat to a pulp.  I am getting really out of shape, though, so I think I will drag my butt home and do some yoga before starting on my next studio endeavor (which might end up being me sitting in my studio corner, staring at my pile of craft explosion and then turning on the rest of the Harry Potter movie I started last night.  How much can one girl do in a day anyway?

I just finished a really great book too!  It is called Winterdance by Gary Paulsen.  Did you know that he ran dogs in the Alaskan race called the Iditerod?  Wow!  Even if you don't like dogs or snow, this is a fabulous book about the relationships between humans and dogs and nature.   I belong to an online book club called Shelfari.  It is really fun to be able to communicate with lots of people about books; to get ideas about what I want to read next.

Time to get to a little bit 'o work before heading home.