Monday, May 19, 2008

The truest treasure

I was sitting at a traffic light tonight - tired after a twelve hour day at work. As I waited for the light to change, I noticed a homeless woman carrying a bag and a suitcase as she crossed the road in front of me. She looked old and worn, her shoulders slumped, her face sad and defeated. Yet, just as she reached the other side of the street, she was met by a homeless man coming from a different direction whom she appeared to recognize. I watched as her face lit up with joy and recognition. The man dropped his bags and reached forward to gave her a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. She, too, dropped her belongings to hug and kiss him back - and the burdens of life visibly fell away from her and she was beautiful - her smile beamed the light in her heart for everyone to see. At that moment, she was on top of the world. And I realized as I watched them that the true treasure in this world is not what we own or achieve or our names or our looks. It is the happiness we bring to one another. Even in the worst of times, a friend makes all the difference in the world - if only for one magical moment such as this one.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Ah, Virginia! I love this state and what a good time I had in Hampton! Being here reminds of my childhood in the midwest - people are so friendly and things are more laid back than here on the West Coast. Traveling to Hampton is a long, all-day affair from Portland and the plane was late into Atlanta, causing the baggage to be left behind there. The last leg of the flight to Newport News was pretty scary at times, with major turbulence in one of those small puddlejumper kind of planes flying through the thunderstorm that had spawned the Suffolk tornado earlier. I was so happy to get to my room at the Embassy and fall to sleep after saying hello to my roommate, Maria. She owns Collage, a wonderful mixed media store in Portland, Oregon and brought her store to Virginia for the Art and Soul attendees.

The next day was spent getting the welcome bags ready and setting up the store and getting ready to welcome everyone. We had great food and fun at the opening night party and then sat down to be creative with the Ranger staff, who led us in making a beach-themed project. I sat next to Cyl, a gifted flamework and fused glass artist, who made the greatest frog glass beads for trades and later shared her beautiful fused glass cabachons with me. She has inspired me to learn how to flamework my own beads.

The week flew by quickly, meeting wonderful artists and getting to know the area. I ventured out to Norfolk to the Tidewater Lapidary Supply who has the most amazing collection of jewelry making tools and at a good price. While I only stopped by for saw blades, I left with new files and a new source of Grobet tools. Glenny loaned Keeley Barham, her mother and I the rental car and we drove to the local beach to put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. The water was so warm, compared to the Pacific Ocean, but absolutely full of jellyfish. Several people were catching them in buckets and they were beautiful to watch as they pulsated in the water, but several of the kids on the beach already had welts from being stung.

After gathering a few shells, we went to Suffolk to visit the Shooting Star gallery and the Suffolk Art Museum. Both locations were having shows relating to words in art and handmade and altered books. It was an incredible display of books, including three by Lesley Riley. The currator in the museum donned her gloves and paged through Lesley's bird themed fabric book so we could ooh and aah over her pages. Inside the museum was an old cigarette machine that had been made to dispense small works of art called an Artomat. Apparently artists across the country populate these machines with art the size of a cigarette package and you put in your token and pull the knob of your choice to vend art - how cool is that? On the way back to the hotel, we saw one of the buildings badly damaged in the Suffolk tornado. How amazing and sad that the wind, which we long for as a breeze on a hot summer's day, could turn so violent and do so much damage. My heart went out to the victims and kudos to Glenny for donating the vendor night and silent auction proceeds to these devastated folks.

Vendor night was frenetic and wonderful, as always. And as always, there was so much more that I wanted to buy than I had money on hand. I was happy to see the Huskamps, Marylin and Tracie, again. And Tracie had made me the most wonderful necklace. I have loved birds since I was a small kid in the woods of Oklahoma and Missouri and Tracie presented me with a lovely handpainted bird pendant graced with an old vintage pin. And Marylin brought me dried flowers from Missouri, a state that is near and dear to my heart. Thank you both so much. I peeked in on their journal class the next day and was in awe of the work the students did in the class. The journals were beautiful. I later got to have dinner with the Huskamps and Lisa Englebrecht, whose calligraphy and artwork I have always admired, but have been too intimidated to try- my fifth grade teacher went gray trying to improve my cramped writing style!

On Sunday night I taught my class and could not have asked for a greater group of students. We had fun as learned how to drill rocks and shells and glass, etch copper, resin coat the copper charms and make a beaded bracelet to bring them all together. Here is a photo of student Christy Grant's beautiful bracelet. I had so much fun spending the evening with these talented ladies. But all too soon, it was time to pack up and leave. I hope to come back again and get more of a chance to explore the state almost all of my ancestor originated from in the 1600's and 1700's in hopes of finding some of the ancestoral sites mentioned in the genealogy research my sister has put together. Thank you all for your warm welcome and hospitality.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Asilomar and Monterey

Asilomar - the name is as beautiful as the setting. A collection of Art and Crafts age building of wood and glass set against the wild beaches on the south side of Monterey Bay. While I am here to take classes at Art and Soul, I am conscious of my need for the healing sounds of the ocean surf. The sun is out and the day warm when I arrive. The view from my room overlooks the sand dunes and sea, punctuated by the wind-tortured Monterey pines. In the coming days, I find deer freely grazing on the grounds - not the least concerned with the human beings walking the grounds. The beach is of large grained sand, eroded from the granite boulders that line the waves. Numerous tidepools contain sea anemones, small rockfish and little hermit crabs scurrying through the sand and water in their borrowed shell homes. There are small olive shells in shades of brown, white and purple littering the beach, as well as small bits of driftwood and beach glass. You are not allowed to collect here, but it was hard not to reach for the many treasures that could be located in every nook and cranny.

The first day of classes, I took the cross structure book from Albie Smith. What a fantastic instructor! Organized and knowledgeable, and so generous with her supplies. We used colored gesso and printing paper to complete a beautiful book with a beaded spine by the end of class. Each book was a work of art and very different from each other. I can't wait to fill my book with art.

The second and third day of classes I took the tree book and the windows and closures classes from Dan Essig. Another great instructor and again, organized and knowledgeable and very patient with those that struggled in class. The tree book was made of one sheet of paper that, when properly folded, made a tree shape, but could then be expanded out again - the cover was mica and paper and was fastened with a small seed. The windows and closures class taught Dan's signature window construction for books. But when it came to putting in those little brass nails, well.....there were some colorful words being bandied about and more than one little nail went flying through the air, never to be seen again!
Vendor night was small and cozy as the instructors and some local businesses and students shared their wares for sale. And on the last day, everyone shared their wonderful works of art before packing up to leave.

I was sorry to go, but excited to meet up with my sister, who was driving up from Los Angeles to meet me in Monterey. While waiting for her to arrive, I took a drive down Highway 1 through Big Sur down to Cambria, California. It is a breathtaking drive, with sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean and the many sea stacks on the coast with immense waves breaking up against them. The road is very windy and there are sheer drops off the side of the road - not for those afraid of heights! I came around the bend just before reaching Cambria and saw hundreds of elephant seals basking on the beach. They make the rudest noises as they roll around in the sand and flip sand on themselves. The poor babies have to be careful not to get too close to an adult rolling over, for fear they will be flattened as these animals are huge.
I arrived in Cambria, and stopped first in old town, where I visited a local bead store and bought several milagros I had not seen before. These small pewter charms are used in Mexico to send special prayers for various body parts, personal items and livestock and I love to use them in my jewelry. I then headed for one of my favorite stores, Heart's Ease, a small herb nursery with a story full of botanicals. It had not changed much in the 8 years since I was last there and I had a good time remembering previous visits over the years. Before leaving town, I stopped at the Paper Omelette, a small store with a delicious selection of stationary and paper and bought a small cut book and sheets of paper to make more tree books.

When I arrived in Monterey, I took a walk on their seabelt walkway, enjoying the sights of old Fishermans Wharf and Cannery Row. I saw sea otters floating their babies on their bellies while they ate their supper and watched the sun set on the ocean. I took a moment to acknowledge the loss of my uncle, who was killed in a plane crash in this bay and who was never recovered. I hope he is at peace in this beautiful bay, but regret that I never had a chance to know him.

My sister and my niece arrived and I was so glad for the opportunity to visit with them. We spent the weekend catching up and enjoying each others' company while visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea (where there are no numerical addresses - just the business name and street) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We finished our visit with dinner at the Fishwive - the food was excellent but it was sad our visit was coming to an end. I wished them goodbye in the morning and headed home, making it back to Washington in a record 12 hours. I knew I was close to home when I crossed the Oregon border and began driving through snow in the Siskiyous - sure wish I could have brought the sun and the heat home with me! It was a wonderful vacation - I could not have asked for more.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I woke up in Eureka, California, one of my favorite cities to shop. The downtown area is a collection of stores selling an eclectic mix of kitsch, art and antiques. The buildings are old and beautiful and Victorian mansions abound. There is a strong art community here as evidenced by the wide range of art available - from traditional to indy. I was able to visit one of my favorite bead stores, Talisman Beads, whose doors and furniture are painted wild and funky colors. And after buying a few beads (okay, a little more than a few), I went on down the street to the town square where you can buy food to feed the pigeons and browse the booths that are set up to sell. The sun was warm and a gentle breeze blew the clean smell of the ocean through town. I had breakfast at a bagel store that specialized in jalepeno bagels and jellies and ordered my first peanut butter and jelly bagel - I was just not ready for jalepenos and garlic that early in the morning! I headed back to the car and passed a store I had not seen on my last trip - the Nesting Place - the old pink and aqua refrigerators and bird ephemera pulled me inside. Lots of eye candy here - odd bits and pieces of old crochet and embroidered pieces competed with metal garden kitsch. I picked a few things to share with friends and was about to get in the car when the antique store next to my parking space caught my eye and I browsed it as well. They had a sizeable collection of antique glass bottles in all colors and sizes and I hope to return next year and purchase a few to use in my jewelry. But the hour was late and it was time to head for my final destination - Asilomar.