Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Institute for Innovation

It has been nearly two weeks and I am still buzzing from the amazing 2-day workshop I attended at RAFT. Two full days of creativity and the wonderful ziggity zag that comes from playing in your "creative mind state."

It was a hands-on program with multiple instructors leading a variety of "experiences" to generate and harness creative energy. We brainstormed and scampered. We mastered Leonardo's bridge and the Nail Puzzle. We even talked our way through the various hues of a color. But most of all we spoke about the future and education and how we can make a difference.

We do not realize it, but hands on learning has lost its place in our education system. The days of auto shop, sewing and wood shop are long past and kids are stuck in lectures and textbooks to learn about all the wonders of the world. Through the Institute of Innovation, I was reminded that you learn what you love and most often you can't know if you love something until you have applied it... tried it on... taken it for a spin. Through creativity we can reach our kids on a personal level and spark their passion to learn.

The other participants of this workshop came from many backgrounds with varied experiences. Combined with the fantastic curriculum and the infectious enthusiasm of the instructors, I left with a greater understanding of how I want to affect others with my art. I have always known that through the process of artistic creation we can access the magical world of our imagination. For many however, imagination is an inaccessible oasis in the midst of turbulent schedules and overwhelming "to-do lists." Many people need a little help to enter this place of innovation and invention. I want to be the person that provides that help. The hostess that opens the door. I want to share the key with others so they can tap into their possibilities. And guess what? I get to.

This Fall, I will be teaching my summer art class as an enrichment program at St. Timothy's School. While I have been doing this for 4 years now, I have new clarity about my objectives. I have also applied for a Fellowship through the Institute of Innovation which would compliment my classes in the most incredible ways. Besides the increased access to programming and resources, the generous stipend would allow me to offer scholarships and subsidies to families on a tighter budget. There were a lot of amazing individuals interested in the opportunity. I will find out if I have been selected next week...(fingers and toes crossed.) Until then, I am busy putting together the curriculum and working through the logistics.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Loving camp in so many ways

If you have been reading my blog for a year or more than you know that I get crazy excited about teaching art at summer camp. I *LOVE* tapping into a child's creativity and allowing them to invent without inhibition. If you look back to my July entries from year's past you will see that art camp is the highlight of my summer.

This year I am teaching at St. Timothy's rather than Gen Israel where I have taught the last 3 years. The groups are about the same size but I have yet to "recycle" a class. I just love designing new projects and exercises that tickle the imagination and give a child a feeling of success.

The first week of camp was a hoot. I offered the kids a boatload of upcycled treasures from RAFT to use to make a small city. We had a city planning meeting each day before we got to the building and discussed scale, distribution of commercial versus residential real estate, infrastructure, mass transit, cooperative projects and even funding. Of course we used much more colorful terms like small, medium and big, houses versus stores, choo choo trains, building bucks and more.

I was absolutely blown away by the creativity and enthusiasm the kids showed. We worked on the project for 4 days - 2 hours a day, and I never heard "I'm done" or "I'm bored." They worked together, exchanged ideas and the older kids even helped the younger kids execute their vision. When the city was completely laid out, I honestly got a little choked up.

The following week, the preschoolers made dioramas out of RAFT materials. The boys in the group seemed even more enthusiastic than the girls as they flipped through the wallpaper sample books and decided on fabric for their bedding. These kids are 4 and 5 years old yet they remained focused on their projects for over an hour, two days in a row. They presented the finished projects to their parents with uninhibited pride.

The 1st through 6th graders had a much different theme for their classes. It was Spy week. We made passports and credentials, badges, TOP SECRET files with missions of our own creation. Then we made communicators, laser watches that cut through metal, portable listening devices, invisibility cream and spy gear fanny packs. It was a HIT! (and I was dog tired at the end of each day. )

This last week it was water week so by the time the kids came to me they had been in the sun all day and were in need of some quiet time. We made cards for our troops abroad, hovercrafts and puff rockets which was just the right pace in this heat.

We still have several more weeks before camp ends and I will blog more about the activities as we do them. My next post will be dedicated exclusively to the Innovation Institute. This was a two day journey into creativity and innovation. That is all I will say for now but be prepared to read an incredibly enthusiastic blog with lots of great projects!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

sun + mosaic = fun

I could write an entire blog entry on how relieved I am to be done with school but I don't even want to recall how burnt out I became those last couple weeks of the semester. Instead, I want to acknowledge how that burnout has stirred up some creative curiosity. I have a year's worth of art school to incorporate into my repertoire of hobbies and I have been thinking about playing around with some new mediums.

Today I decided to try my hand at mosaic. First, I went to a few websites with some good information about DIY mosaic to get a feeling for what I would need. I was thrilled that I already had everything on hand except the colored tiles. Instead of spending a small fortune on the pre-cut ones at Michael's, I went to a nearby thrift shop and bought some ceramic mugs in an assortment of colors.

One at a time, I put a cup in a zip lock bag, wrapped it with a towel and whacked the package with a hammer until the pieces were small enough for what I had in mind. It took about an hour, but I put together a nice palette for less than $5.00. If you decide to give this a try, I have a few tips to share:
  • You should place the ceramic cups on a solid, firm surface for the most uniformed piece sizes when you whack the mugs.
  • Double or triple bag your cups because in the process of breaking the ceramic, the edges cut up the bag and shards of glass spray out. These shards are sharp so wear safety glasses and make sure you sweep up well when you are done. I would avoid going barefoot in the immediate vicinity because there are bound to be really fine bits left behind.
  • Use an older towel to buffer between the hammer head and the bag. I used a nice bath towel and it is in pretty bad shape now.
Since this was my first project, I decided to put it together freestyle. I find an unplanned project is much more educational than the craziness of trying to do it "right." I really like how it turned out. Once the grout underneath dries, I'll put down another layer to fill in between the tiles. Fun, fun, fun.

The weather was perfect - 80 degrees with a gentle breeze. We barbecued salmon burgers for lunch and ate watermelon for the first time this year. While I was mosaic'ing the kids were close by painting on their easels, making mud pies and Tim tinkered in the garden. We listened to the black eyed peas, chit chatted and had a really peaceful day as a family. Love that. (Allergies. hate that. )

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

quiet changes

Geesh, I am so embarrassed that I have not blogged in so long. There are a number of reasons for this - the biggest being Facebook. It so much more convenient with it's post boxes and walls and when I write something, it speaks directly to the people I know. I also like that there is a conversation aspect to FB whereas with blogging, most people. skim and move on. Comments are not super common and you have to leave them to get them - which is another thing I have not done in a long time.

Another reason I have had Blog Silence is that I have been simplifying my life. Not as a New Years resolution or because a doctor said I would drop dead of a heart attack if I didn't make some changes, but because it felt good. One day I was playing with my kids and I thought "this is fun!" The next day I made a nice dinner and thought "how come I don't do this more often?" The following day I took a walk that turned into a jog and then I took a nap and I was delighted by the thrill of spontaneity and that I had prioritized self care over posting an item on Etsy, finishing my homework or putting in some billable hours.

These kinds of experiences came up day after day and I started to get greedy for the feeling that I was having. I could not quite put my finger on it...and then...Holy crap... I'm happy. I had let go of the guilt, anxiety and fear that had kept me going while I was sick and recovering. I did not need it anymore to accomplish the chores of my life. I was getting out of bed pain free most days and I wasn't worrying about when the next attack would be coming on. I never realized how much energy it took to be in pain.

I could have easily re-focused that energy by working harder in school, finally finishing the laundry, making more money and/or volunteering more at my kid's school but I decided to marinade in the free time a while. At first it was so uncomfortable that I thought I might have some kind of panic attack. I was overcome with unfocused anxiety but I went through it and things improved.

I started listening to music again...not in the background mind you, but sitting on the couch and listening to a CD. I stopped drinking so much caffeine and started drinking green food. It doesn't taste as good but I feel better. Most importantly, I experienced deep gratitude for the little things. A dollar in my pocket, the sound of the wind swishing through the trees, that my husband or I always say "I was just about to say that." whenever the other one makes a comment. I also realized that I do not have to continue participating in things that are uncomfortable, unsafe and/ or toxic. I am allowed to bend like a reed in the wind and remain where I stand whether it pleases others or not. I don't want to hurt anyone but I don't want to hurt me either so I'm stepping back from the nonsense that I have felt obligated to do and I now get to have Saturdays where we sit around the kitchen table and say "what do you want to do today."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Making Peace a Priority - a rant from an ordinary person

There is a lot going on the world and so much technology to shove it in our faces that it actually requires a conscious effort to remain calm. In my mind, it is healthy to feel incredible sadness over the devastation in Haiti; mind boggling fear over the health of our planet and the obvious symptoms that are appearing all over the world; uncomfortable shame for the way we turn our back on the less fortunate while we throw hundreds of dollars at designer "this and thats"; incredible anxiety over the state of our education system and the epidemic of special needs children that are without resources to assist them (and their parent's) in mainstreaming into society; and completely cluelessness as to why our jails and institutions are bulging at the seams with addicts and alcoholics yet addiction awareness and treatment are still unobtainable for so many.

Of course the list can go on and on but that is not the point of this blog entry. With all these extremes going on all around us, peace has to become a priority. Whether it is peace between foes or political parties or neighbors or siblings or husband and wife, it needs to be the obvious first option when there is strife.

I have lived much of my life ready to retaliate if injured. If you take something of mine or hurt me, I am gonna get ya' so I can save face and feel in control. Maybe not with an axe or slander, but you are on my list and when the time is right...I'll make my move. Most of the time, I have gotten annoyed with something else or realized that it was a mistake or just gotten bored and nothing much came from my impending wrath, but mending fences was never a part of my diabolical plan. Rather, knowledge that I could be poised to strike was my best coping mechanism.

Yes, instead I stored the hurt, disappointment, or embarrassment in my database to stew on whenever I was already mad or feeling alone in the world. "I showed you! " Wait, no I didn't...I'm the only one who lost in that battle because it compounded whatever bad feeling I was having by 10 fold. So the not-so-obvious conclusion is that before we can make peace in the world we have to make peace within ourselves. That's right friends, we've got to love ourselves first...even though we know all about everything we've been up to (or even thought about doing.) Oh dear, not an easy task indeed.

How many of us have not thought about yelling at an elderly person moving in slow motion when you are in a hurry or punching your partner in the nose after they said something rude to you? And all our nasty, dirty, mean thoughts are also kept in the database...thus it is inevitable that as you get older, that database becomes filled with darkness even if your life has been filled with light.

Somehow, someway, we have to find a means to brighten our inner world so that we can share that light with others. Peace has to be a priority. Yes, even more important than that promotion, relationship or weight loss program. If these things interfere with having peace..toss them!! When you set your goals, add peace to the equation. Take 10 seconds to ask yourself, "Will this task, commitment, person, choice add peace to my life or is the inevitable outcome more stress and negative talk?"

It's a dandy of a strategy and if you are able to incorporate it into your living you might actually be able to change the world for the better. I don't know about you, but just being happy isn't enough motivation to stop dipping into the darkness to cope with life. In theory, it sounds nice and juicy but actually applying it, well there would need to be a cash prize or at least public accolades. "Hmmmmmm.... changing the world...that sounds like an important job for my secret megalomaniac subconscious... I might be interested in filling that position. Sure why not...."

So now when my neighbor's dog barks all night or there is a person in the 10 or less line with 11 items, instead of pooling from my previous frustrations to armor my agitation, I'll focus on my gratitude and blessings and how I am going to change the world by letting go of the pettiness and embracing the greater good.
At some point, you might think, "I'm not sure I have time to save the world today...getting pissed is much more time efficient."

No, no no...this job cannot become a burden because that defeats the purpose... It has to start at the molecular level and that takes just a few seconds. "I am here in my body, feeling gratitude for the oxygen I breath and the sun in the sky" and oddly enough, one begins to experience peace.

"I fill my heart with light and let go of the junk, the toxic righteousness and anger."

Then I remove myself from the situation either physically or emotionally and connect with a higher purpose. "Oh...that's nice. i can feel it...I have peace" ...and no longer does the irritation that I was experiencing have power over my decisions and experiences in that moment. Next, the butterfly effect goes into motion and in your own small way, you made the world a better place.

I know, I know, it has been said before and I'm sure all of this will be said again, but if even one person reading this applies it to a situation sometime today and that situation has a positive outcome, that positiveness will spread to others and so on and so on. I guess this long winded rant is just my little way of saving the world today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Button Blooms Still Making People Smile

Last year my Etsy shop focus evolved from my own creations, kits and button blooms into the vintage market. My vintage business is doing great and it is so much fun going on treasure hunts to find new inventory as well as matching wonderful people with enchanting pieces. That said, I am so very glad that there is still interest in my hand made jewelry, upcycled purses and custom designed button blooms. Without them, I wouldn't feel like an artisan member of Etsy. I would feel more like a supplier managing spreadsheets which is not what I wanted to be when I grew up for sure!

I just assembled an order of button blooms for a wonderful woman who is decorating a room in her house for her grandchildren and her daughter's foster kids. She wants "everything bright and cheery." I make my blooms to order so she gave me an idea of what she wanted and I put them together but before I shipped them off I sent her photos of the blooms to get her feedback on the color scheme and design. I wanted to make sure that I brought her vision to life. This is the email she sent me upon seeing the photos:
"Jilliene, I absolutely adore the button blooms. Truly, I have never seen button flowers until I started shopping etsy and I looked at alot of button flowers before I chose yours. Yours are the brightest, cheerest and happiest on the etsy market. I have been sick these last few days, so flowers in my mailbox will be delightful and just the pick-me-up that I need.
Sincerely, Suzanne"
I can not tell you the joy that this email gave me today. It just feels so good to touch another person with your work. I am so blessed to have passion for a profession that is so rewarding. Truly blessed...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Settling in to 2010

I have been off the grid the last month with lots of family time and gearing up for an amazing new year. As 2009 came to a close I was confused about my focus and what I wanted from the new year. I decided to put it out in the universe and sure enough,clarity came. My focus in the next few months will be growing my Etsy shops, spending time with my family and healing my body. Art school is going to have to be a secondary priority. I am not sure if that means taking the semester off or taking a light load of core classes on line; fortunately, I have a few more weeks to flush that out.
What I know is that being present in my life is too hard when I am juggling so much. I want time to read to my kids, take walks with my husband, get back to yoga and focus on alternative medicine to resolve my chronic pain. My creativity will still be fed through my Etsy shops but my business is at a point where it needs more of my attention so it can continue to bloom. I am blessed with clients who have lots of work for me and two Etsy shops that have exploded into flourishing enterprises. Nurturing my business and enjoying the fruits of my labor is more than enough excitement for this busy lady..

2010 has been already been fruitful. I have been busy posting treasures in my shops and shipping out orders daily. I have been getting acupuncture, physical therapy and attending biofeedback training. I have been spending time with my family and getting out of the house regardless of my pain. I have been physically active and eating much more healthy. I have recommitted to my recovery and am making every effort to live in the solution rather than the problem. I keep reminding myself that even the smallest change in direction, eventually takes you to a totally different place. I lost too much of 2009 "enduring" the pain of my trigeminal neuralgia (type 2). I want to live not endure!

That said, I am super excited about the amazing estate lot I just recently acquired. Over 500 gorgeous vintage jewelry pieces in impeccable condition. This kind of find is rare and I am committed to sharing the values with my customers. I have already listed 100 new items at wholesale or lower prices. I have had several jewelry shops buying up items to resell in their shops and collectors who are ecstatic to find so many quality pieces at such reasonable prices. It is delightful to encounter happy customer on such a regular basis. I just recently sold an item to Dr. Robi Ludwig who I have seen on TV many times. What fun!

On another note, I am trying to do something for the Haiti Earthquake relief fund. I am donating the shipping fees from each sale to the Red Cross and I am covering the shipping costs to get those items to the buyer. I felt so helpless watching the story unfold on the television. This makes me feel like I am helping in my own small way while raising awareness of the need for assistance.

With all of that in mind, I selected my "one little word" to support my efforts. I chose "healing". Whether it is healing wounds, hearts or problems, I choose to seek a solution and support resolution. Cowering to obstacles and procrastination have not been successful approaches in my experience, so I am making conscious commitment to healing, allowing for both organic and personal growth.

So that is what life looks like in January 2010. I am excited to live the months ahead and watch life unfold. I intend to be more regular with my blogging and I'll be sending out a quarterly newsletter with project instructions, vintage information and resources and other tidbits of relevant news. Please become a blog follower (on the left) if you would like to receive these e-newsletters. Happy New Year Everyone!