Tag Archives: carroll concertinas

Flying

In a mere week’s time I fly west once more for my annual trip to Taos NM.  Much of the rhythm of things here at home just now is akin to years past.  I work diligently at Day Job to get my little to do list settled.  No one wants to be the bottleneck there.  I stack the specially made instrument cases, one by one, and polish ever so many little silver and brass buttons and other necessary miniscule sundries for these lovely instruments we craft day to day.  It’s great fun, actually.  I am deeply grateful for a “job” which affords me the temporal freedom to make my own hours and simply do the work on my list, which in turn affords me artistic freedom to run my workshops and when possible, make some art as well.

As is often the case when I am up to my gills in to-do lists and packing lists and my mind is aflutter with all the earthly materialistic concerns in preparation for a lengthy journey, I feel called to crawl into a box of paints and swim amidst the colors there, creating my own less complicated world on canvas.

This is my brain on overwhelm.

A dear friend who knows me well sends along a timely NYT article about some less well-known art work on display just now by Georgia O’Keeffe.  I lose myself in the world of her paintings.  Perhaps I can find the time to bust out some oil paints to settle my soul before leaving.

Are we having the time of our life?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we part of the plan here?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we part of the plan here?
We have the driver and time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up, frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly, perfect weather to fly
Pounding the streets where my father’s feet still
Ring from the walls, we’d sing in the doorways or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly
So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try? Perfect weather to fly
We have the driver and time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up, frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly, perfect weather to fly
Pounding the streets where my father’s feet still
Ring from the walls, we’d sing in the doorways, or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly
So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try? Perfect weather to fly
                                                        ~Elbow
All work and no play makes us dull does it not?  And so on a stunningly gorgeous Ohio afternoon in May, a few of us from the shop take advantage of the perfect weather and head into the skies with our employer Wally, who also happens to be an airplane pilot.
We call this “team-building.”
Wally gets me all strapped into the plane. This is my “I am quite nervous about this but want to put on a brave face.” face.

Soon, we are in the air.  For a brief moment, I hold onto the throttle as Wally captures a most awesome snapshot.
In which I channel Aloha Wanderwell, fearless and free.

Perhaps next time up I will brave the loop-the-loop style acrobatics, but for me, for now,  merely being aloft is enough adventure this first time flying in the open air.

Justin on the other hand is built of more courageous stock and eventually opts for all the tricks.  Bravo Justin!

It is a fine day indeed and we all feel settled, calm and above the fray after flying.  Much like I do after a successful day swimming in the paint box or following a drawing to see where it leads.
One day, I follow a raven on the page…..
Which turns into a little carving with a message….
Having flown, I feel bird like and am reminded that each bird offers something different in the way of inspiration.  If one listens carefully, one might pick up a bit of the conversation….
“Draw, draw.
Draw. “
                  ~Raven
“sketch, sketch, sketch.”
                  ~Magpie
I attempt to translate a bit of what I hear in their chatter, and eventually make a little poem of sorts.
Oops! a typo! Typical for my little letter-shifting self. I opt to leave it. Perfect in its imperfection. Like me.
Pencil bags result and I am happy with them.  I am thankful to speak a bit of Raven.
As time marches on, the stuff of life seems to have no regard for things on my to-do list.  And so we attend an opera our son Jack plays in at Queen City Opera House.  It is entitled Iolanta and the music is by Tchaikovsky.  We enjoy it immensely.
We also journey into nameless far-flung corn-fields toward mid-ohio to visit a newly arrived niece called Flossie.
She is still quite small and ever so lovely.
Her parents are mushroom enthusiasts and so we wander into their woodland for a peek at what might be afoot on the forest floor….
Something about this day away from the city hits a bit of a reset button for us.  Everything slows into stillness and quietude.  We deeply appreciate our niece and her growing family.  Their approach to life in general and enthusiasm for the natural world is infectious and we find ourselves hopeful for the world at large for a change.  News headlines be damned for a day.
Like a slingshot or bow and arrow, I pull back, near ready to launch into summer’s travels.  Yet, at the same time, sink my toes into this fertile valley here so as not to forget what treasures lie here at home.  I’ll be writing from the road whenever possible, opting for merely the i-phone camera and tablet device as blogging tools.  We shall see how it goes.  In between times though, you can usually reach me over on Instagram or Twitter.  Do stay in touch.  I’d love to know what magic is shaping up in your summer.  Whether far afield, or closer to home.  Safe travels!

In Praise of the Day Job

Carroll Concertinas from Soapboxmedia.com on Vimeo.

It’s a rich and full existence I inhabit.  Here on this long-running and still lowly little blog of mine, I often highlight the adventures of my home life via kids, dogs, and tales of travel to other lands.  More often, I share what’s what in the realm of art-work and life imagined by my mind’s eye.  Only occasionally do I make mention of The Day Job, my part time employment at Carroll Concertinas where I have the gift of being a small part of a team of talented folks who craft gorgeous musical instruments.

Recently, a friend of one of my co-workers came for a visit to the shop to document some of our process for Soapbox Media . He has created a beautiful video that gives a small peek into the world of wonder in which we have the great honor to work.  It is said that artists who’s work comes along in feast-or-famine style must attempt to maintain some sort of Day Job for the leaner times.  In our world, where clock, calendar and contract rule the day, this is a difficult task.  I am incredibly fortunate to set my own schedule to do the work I need to do, in the studio, for my travel workshops and at the concertina shop.  I am also even more fortunate to work with fellow artisans and musicians who love what they do as much, if not more so, than I do.

So here is a peek into my ‘Other’ work; work I love as much as the artwork and teaching I do.  Do you work as a creative? I’d love to know what other wonderful ‘day jobs’ are out there that enable us to cobble this creative life together in a world that often seems hardwired in the linear.

the music in the video is by fabulous concertina player edel fox.

Learning opportunities

skull study

It is a deliciously delectable day here in the Ohio River Valley.  We have the gift of mild weather recently making being here this season a rather pleasant thing, which for this time of year, isn’t normal.  I am so grateful for this.  My musician son and I pack off tomorrow for a week of music camp in the mountains of North Carolina, while my dancer daughter sets off for her final week at Irish Dance camp to learn her new sets of steps for the coming year.  (a special shout out to my Hub for keeping all the animals fed and watered while we are away!!)

Once upon a time, when this whole ‘kid-at-camp’ era of our lives began, I was merely an observer; a parent along to chaperone the latest in whatever phase the kids were going through.  But over the years, I picked up a few tunes, learned a little bit about playing an instrument or so and eventually had the courage to sit with strangers and have a tune or two.  These strangers have become my friends, my son has grown to adulthood (and yet manages to have a tune with his intermediate level mama here and there) and I find this camp-thing has become my thing as well.  Something I deeply look forward to the rest of the year.

I believe that a practice of life-long learning is crucial to staying young at heart, tapped into the world and into one’s self.  This year I am taking a class in concertina, a big step as I only know a couple of tunes on this complicated instrument and I will likely be hiding in the back of class with my recording device, trying not to hold other students behind!  But since I help make these beautiful instruments at work, it’s worth learning to play one, as there is always a new instrument there needing to be broken in and scanned for needed tweaks and tuning.

Besides music, another pursuit I’ve taken on in recent years is that of painting.  I took a few classes in drawing and print making while in art school, but my focus there was sculpture.  I am, at heart, a maker of things.  I love tools and supplies and materials.  And my Day Job feeds this side of me.  But painting has been tugging at my soul more and more, especially with trips in recent years to places like Taos, NM and Monhegan Island, Maine; places where the dogma and history of painting is rich and full of history.  While in Taos a few weeks ago (has it only been a few weeks??) my friend Harold over at the Pueblo took a few of us out to visit his herd of buffalo.  At the end of one of our visits, he gave to me a buffalo skull to take home.  I was taken aback by this beautiful gift and have been somewhat obsessively sketching and painting it since it’s arrival here from Taos.

skull study color

skull study oil 1

 

Hopefully these will be dry when I get home from traveling so I can send one back to Harold as a thank you gift!

 

unnamed

 

Each painting I make I learn something, and this goes for every sketch I make in my journal, and every tune I hack away at in an Irish music session.  All of it is learning.  There is no true mastery of anything, really.  Just a place on an endless spectrum of skill.  Sometimes I look back at all the years of this blog and it’s amazing to see the learning I have accomplished and how so much of it is cataloged here.  I am grateful for your readership over the years!

Likely I won’t get to blogging again here until the summer is near through as our annual family trip back home to Maine comes directly on the heels of camp week.  It is not lost on me that this ability to spend most of the summer on the road is a huge gift.  Sure, the Taos trip in June is work related, and technically summer camp is sort of a parenting gig…. but I know that I am truly fortunate to have these opportunities. While I may not do so much sketching in NC (seems the more music I learn, the less I draw while at music camp!) I will be sure to share some drawings and paintings from our time in Maine.  Maine is a perennial soul home of mine and it fills my proverbial well of inspiration much in the same way Taos has come to do.  If you want to contact me, you know how to find me.

a gift from the faeries

forever looking west

Simply send a message on the wings of a bird, preferably a raven if you can find one, and send it my way.  Or, if it’s more convenient, I’ll try to check in online now and then as well.

Happy summer to you.  May it be filled with learning opportunities, chances for true joy, rest and communion with those you love who might be far away the rest of the year.

Juicy

IMG_2419

It’s a juicy drippy dribbly sort of day here in the 1 acre wood.  I love it.  It’s my favorite kind of weather actually, this cool, misted rain.  (Reminds me of Ireland.)  And it’s the perfect Ohio Valley send off for this girl about to spend 2 weeks in the desert.  I’ve been spending time in the last couple of days hunkered down here, deeply aware that I will miss the creatures that share this place I call home.  My Hub, the Smalls, the Dogs and Chickens, Cat and Fish too.

IMG_2416

I’m soaking up the green.  Memorizing it, knowing it will come as a shock to the system upon my return.

IMG_2415

I’ve managed to spin up the roving I wrote about last week or so into a clumsy but luscious few skeins of yarn and so will toss them into the back pack along with a crochet hook.  Good to keep the hands moving while traveling, yes?

photo 2-3

But of course, this trip to Taos, NM is all about keeping a travel journal.  As I am down to the final few pages in my last book, I have outfitted a new one…

I call it the Travelogue of Curiosities.

photo 1-3

I love to think of all of the summer adventures that will fill it in the coming months.

photo 3-1

Adventures both along my travels, and of course, in the world of my imagination.

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

(I recently listened to Anne of Green Gables on archive.org.  Highly recommend!)

photo-2

I’m rather excited about the travel season officially beginning for me.  I’m fortunate to have crafted a summer filled with comings and goings, some work, some play.  As much of a homebody as I like to be with my creature comforts and comforting creatures, I do feel the gypsy pull of the road when I am too long at home.  I suppose beginning my life moving around much and traveling even more as a child set me on a path that necessitates a regular dose of new sights and sounds, new impressions of familiar places, and a chance for deep quiet.  I am deeply grateful for work that allows me to follow this path.  And for the best Day Job ever that gives room for this work (and later in the summer, play!) to happen at all.

And so, I’m feeling the pull.  If possible, I will use the fancy new tablet to post some picture laden blog posts and share with you here what’s happening on the road.  This latest group of Illuminated Journalers seem like a lovely group of artists.  I can’t wait to share Taos and surrounds with them.

A lacy November dusting

fairyland dusting

We awoke this morning to the gift of a magical dusting of snow, courtesy of a storm system nearby that will likely reek havoc elsewhere.  But for us, it transformed and beautified our little acre of land, muffling out the  sounds of the rest of the world and creating a bit of an other-world for just us.

fairyland dusting 2

Being on the protected side of the house and under a stately pine tree, The Girls didn’t get quite as much snow in their yard, but enough to make them wonder at the sight of it all.

the girls

Wise ones seemed to enjoy peeking out from their hidden places and I spent a good deal of time outside listening to the hush of the atmosphere holding its breath.

snow goddess

wise one peeking

Not all of the wise ones were out of doors.

ian

 

I am in a place of being quite caught up in day-job tasks at the Concertina Shop but a bit behind in studio related tasks this week.  This, along with it being a week holiday here in the States, I have opted to hover nearer to home in order to feed and water my more artful work. Of course, I have a few things to share with you!

First off, my tiny world-wandering hamster friend, Ginger Small has been collecting the small bits of work I’ve made lately, mostly experiments from my perspective, but to her, these are praise deserving works which might stand a chance at the market.  And so she has convinced me to throw my hat back into the etsy ring and sell a few of these tiny works.  In the coming weeks, Ginger and I will be building a little page on the blog just for this endeavor and she will be sharing her offerings both here and in her own virtual spaces as well.  It is her hope that these Tiny Art Works for Tiny Spaces will appeal to those like her who prefer tiny spaces in which to live.  Do stay tuned!!  As I learn more about Ginger’s character, and the story she may want to tell the world, I am learning that she is artful, and worldly, and yet a little shy.  So with baby steps, (micromovements, if you will!) Ginger and I are nudging each other to get more out into the world with our offerings.  This seems doable with the right smock and a palette of colors at hand.

Ginger curates

 

The works below are unavailable online, as one has already sold and the other is up for grabs at the gift shop of the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, where I am a member of the Artist’s Collective.  If you are local to this river valley of ours, stop into this lovely shop and see the artful wares peddled there by many talented artists! If you are not local but interested in a Tiny Painting, offerings will be posted soon, in plenty of time for Yule-time gift giving.  But I did want to give you a whiff of what you will be seeing in Ginger’s little gallery very, very soon.

*(also, quick side note, I have a Selkie Series painting in the current winter show at KHAC called All Things Unexplained, which features many works of art about the hidden world of urban myth, fairytale and folklore. Stop in if you can!)

Northern Lights Northern SeaIMG_5775

In the spirit of ‘getting things out into the world’, I have been sharing the Taos trip opportunity with everyone I can! I even created a little video about the art of Illuminated Journaling which includes some Taos trip imagery.  Registrations have begun to come in, just in time for the Dec 15th early-bird discount which can save you $200 on the retreat.  I don’t want to share too much just yet, but there will also be a Go Forth and Doodle give-away to celebrate the last two weeks of the early-bird opportunity.  So stop by later this week for details about that!

Now, all work and no play makes for a dull week, even if it is studio centered, so when my mom asked me yesterday to join her to visit some puppies she wants to adopt, I jumped at the chance.  And so we drove through a brisk Indiana countryside to see these little youngsters to begin paring down her choices.  She recently lost her old rescued golden retriever who was truly one of the kindest creatures I have ever known.  These new pups have some golden in them but also a bit of poodle, which will make for a smaller bodied dog, the better for someone a little older to deal with as the pup grows.

puppies 2

I am not at all sure how she will make her eventual choice…

puppies 1

…as they are all pretty darn cute, and full of puppy curiosity and zip.

 

puppies 3

But I have a sense I know which one it could be. It will be good to have a puppy around once again.  All of our dogs, collectively speaking, are getting on in years and have settled into life as Older Dogs With Mellow Temperaments.  I love this.  But I also pine for an addition to our pack, a lap sized one like I had when I was a girl.  Perhaps this is a sign of old age, but I welcome it, as I might a new pup of my own.  For now though, I will play with this one upon her arrival to her new home in the coming weeks and probably get a few sketches made of her as well, as puppies are fun to doodle.

potential chosen one

 

 

 

Taking stock and shifting gears

My work life has always had plenty of branches, and lately those branches have reached beyond the scope of our nest and into the world a bit more.  I’ve not been so studio centered so there is not as much solo art being made, and this blog practice continues to shift into the land of longer, more convoluted stories of What’s Happening Here.  All of this being so, it’s an exciting time in the work sphere, and beyond so I’ll catch you up to speed on where things are.

As you may know, I juggle many jobs.  The most important one being that of Parent.  With my teens not quite driving but still busier and busier by the day, we spend a lot of time running around to various school, music and dance related activities.  Jack is branching in his work as much as I am in mine.  Between his classical and Jazz studies at school and his Jazz and Irish music duties outside of school, he is constantly playing music.  This past weekend we both played at the Museum Center’s Celtic Lands Festival.

First with the Riley School as a group.  And later, with Jack in the lead of the kids band in a kid centered concert in the Children’s Museum theater.  Seems like only yesterday, he was one of the little kids.  And being a Celtic festival, Maddie had a dance gig as well that day.  Good thing there is overlap in their cultural activities, or I’d be in the car even more!

Later that day, Jack moved on to his Jazz activities which these days includes a local gig at a place called the Blue Wisp.  He and some of his fellow musicians, the Young Lions, play there most saturday evenings for tips.  It’s great practice for all of them, and has led to some other gigs here and there for them as well.  They are a joy to watch and are consummate professionals, even at this young an age.

In spite of all of this, I was able to steal away a few hours over the weekend and attend an Owl Prowl at Spring Grove Cemetery.  I love Spring Grove.  It’s a place to sit with the spirits of those we’ve lost as well as a place to sink into the beauty of nature.  Just last week we marked the third anniversary of Esme‘s passing with a gathering at her weeping cherry tree.

I still can’t fathom that it’s been that long ago, and yet feels like just yesterday…

And so, the time spent at the Owl Prowl was pleasant, yet pensive.  The presentation portion was in the Norman Chapel of the cemetery.  I had never been inside this lovely building and felt a world away….

We did hear an owl call later, just as we caught up to the crowd where the guide was calling them with a recording.  I really enjoy owl calls.  Both those of the local varieties to be found right outside our door, like the Barred Owl, the Screech Owl and the Great Horned Owl, as well as those from farther afield…. like this guy at the zoo, a Eurasian Eagle Owl I spent some time sketching last week….

It felt really great to sit down with my sketchbook and my watercolor set and get lost in the drawing process for a couple of hours.  As you may know, I am gearing up for another visit to Taos in June with a group of students interested in keeping an illuminated travel journal.  I am looking forward to getting back to teaching this magical process, as it inspires me to capture my own life and travel adventures in my sketchbook.  Taos has a magnetic pull and a way of making connections between people that is, in my experience, rivaled only by Ireland.  A number of weeks ago I was approached by a film-maker, based in Taos, about the potential of being a part of a very unique film project…..

And so, let me introduce you to Jody McNicholas, of Walk-In Productions.  Jody is putting together a project called the Eco-Chic Retreat which you can read all about at the website.  As much as I love the idea of a retreat to Taos, or Ireland or wherever the wind blows me with my work, I know that a travel centered retreat is not always a possibility at all times for all people.  And yet, the need to back off of the daily grind, to dig down deeply inward and take stock of things is a crucial practice in this wild and wooly world of ours. Jody, and I, along with a whole basket full of talented artists, healers and makers are in the process of crafting a container for the at-home retreat experience.  The Eco-Chic Retreat will provide viewers with mini-classes in all of our various fields of self-work and exploration, such as yoga, nutrition, painting, journaling, meditation…..  It is something you can take a weekend to commit to, or simply apply a bit to your daily life.  The film will be the type of thing you get together with your girl-friends, your partner, your sisters, to encourage the self-care so many of us lack in our lives.  In so doing, we will be that much more outfitted to care for our loved ones, and our communities.  Each bit of the film will be a little bit different, owing to the differences in all of us participating in the project.  Each of us will provide a bit of what it is we teach in our classes and place-centered retreats so that you get an over-arching spectrum of skills and ideas to apply to your own life.

Jody found me and my work through the magic of google.  The convenient timing of my time in Taos for the Mabel Dodge trip is nothing short of serendipitous and I’ll be able to film my part of Eco-Chic while there.  I am honored to be a part of this amazing project and will of course keep you updated here as things progress with the film.  At this time, it looks like it will be released in the fall time frame, allowing for it to be on everyone’s holiday gift giving lists!!  I’ll keep you posted….

So yes, another spoke in my Wheel of Work.  Puppetry is shaping up.  I have learned 2 shows and have a third one to get under my belt in June.  The weeks of rehearsals are exhausting, but the performance schedule is composed of feasts and famine, which suits me just fine as it enables me to keep up with part time work at Carroll Concertinas.  And still, as if it all weren’t enough, we are in the process of renovating another area of this old house of ours.  To keep the budget in scope, we are doing a lot of the work ourselves, which is fun, but time consuming.  This house sits on an amazing bit of land, but was poorly built (as so many things were in the 50’s) and so we have been systematically rehabbing it.  In our lower level there was no insulation whatsoever which kept it cold and dank much of the year.  We’ve torn all of that dankness out and have framed in some new storage and insulation.  It’s already more pleasant to be in.  As this area continues to shape up, I can see what I want in there.  One half of the room opens out to our yard and so it is light filled and wonderful during the day.  It has a fire place too, for wintery days.  My plan is to put one of my drawing tables near the hearth so that I have a place to paint and draw, even when the weather is too cold or too hot to be in the studio….

And what of the studio?  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of a studio.  Especially my studio space, which is lovely to be in, about half of the year.  The room goes unused a lot with all of the work I am doing outside of the house and due to weather extremes.  It also has some serious issues which we will need to deal with sooner than later.  A leaky roof, birds in the rafters…. you get the picture.  Part of this shift in my work is the idea that I don’t really need a dedicated space that much anymore.  If I can carve out a drawing/ painting station in our new family room, and have an embroidery/knitting nest on the couch, I am left with needing just a small wax table set up in the studio space.  I’m looking to tidy it all up a bit.  Organize my books onto our new shelves downstairs, make the studio more of a breezy sunroom to be used when weather permits.  After all, that’s what it was built for.  It’s time to get rid of the fireplace out there that is the cause of the roof leaking and part of the reason it gets so very cold/hot depending on the season.  The room has served me well over the years, but I can see it now as needing a little day bed for napping, should the opportunity present itself.  My work is happening in all kinds of arenas right now and that doesn’t seem about to change.  And I don’t think I want it to.  As exhausting as it all is, it’s exciting and I love every bit of it.  Though I am trying to carve a little more time out for painting and drawing.  That’s where my heart is…..

shelled

Today my boy Jack (who is a fabulous musician) and I (who am hack musician) are heading to Chicago for the annual fleadh cheoil.  This is a big competition for those of us who play traditional Irish Music.  Jack will compete solo in fiddle and mandolin and then later in the day, we will both compete in the group competition.  It is a wonder to watch Jack play in the solo competition.  Fiddle especially is a huge field of really great musicians and each one plays independently in front of the judge while everyone else looks on.  This gives me a nauseous and shaky feeling just writing about it.  He is simply grace under pressure.

I have been thinking a good bit about risk lately.  The things that we do in life to keep ourselves challenged, to get us out of our shells in order to grow.  For me, music ranks highly in this department because until a few years ago, I was not a musician.  Now I can play with my friends and we can sound pretty good.  The difficulty comes with the notion of being on stage.  You cannot imagine (well, perhaps you can) the level of terror on a truly gut level that I get when it comes time to play for the judges.  Intellectually I know its silly.  We are not really playing to win.  We just love to play.  We love the preparation and the creativity that goes into arranging some trad tunes into a playable/ listenable  7 or 8 minutes.  The first time I played at the fleadh I was literally so scared stiff that I don’t think I was able to play 3/4 of the notes required.  I have come a long way to where I no longer feel total faint but still have to struggle to keep my nerves under control.  It used to be a struggle for me to get the guts up to play at a session and now I play at least one a week with my fellow musicians.  I get such joy from this that I think sometimes ‘somebody just pinch me,  I can’t believe I am actually doing this!’.  I am so grateful for this gift of music and for what it has done for my over all self-confidence.

But why do I push to get over stage fright and my shyness around people I do not know?  Because this is what being alive feels like.  Because in the long run, I crave to be a part of things, even though it took me years – literally years – to get up the guts to even say so.  Pushing the boundaries of my own creativity also keeps me honest about what I expect from students.  In 6 weeks I will be shuffling 13 intrepid fellow travelers to Taos, New Mexico to learn the art of traveling with an active sketchbook.  I will be asking them to draw.  A lot.  This is terrifying for many people. Similar to my fear of playing music where anyone can hear me, putting an artful line on paper stimulates a fear of failure so strong that most people will not do it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I can’t draw” from someone who hears what I do for a living.  It is my belief that if you can write your name, then you can draw.  But unless I understand this fear, I cannot help students to overcome it.  And so I push and I risk in order to move beyond the pounding heart and adrenalin headache that comes with stage fright.

Writer Peter Levitt writes:

“We are not only born to create, we are also born to risk.  These are actually the same.  Taking a creative risk is not only essential and freeing, it is also the least risky  thing you can do.  Any attempt to stay safe will never get you where you want to go.”

Meanwhile….

you may have noticed a lull in my blog posts.  The reason is, I got a job!!!  I am now a proud member of the concertina making team at Carroll Concertinas.  I am slowly learning the many different steps involved in building one of these amazing instruments.  The tasks are endless and require lots of interesting materials, tools and processes.  It is the perfect job for me.  I am able to work with my hands on a variety of things.  There is no pressure to be in a hurry in any way because quality and safety are the top priorities.  Every day involves problem solving and design challenges and the utilization of multiple hand and power tools.  In a word, it’s bliss.  I have had many folks ask ‘what is a concertina?’.  Basically it is like an accordion, sometimes you see pirates playing them in movies.  Here is a pro jamming out some reels.  Her name is Edel Fox and we will be building a Carroll Concertina for her very soon….

And so that is the news from Chez Bogard.  As I come to balance with the new job hours, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how the Mammoth Cave quilt is coming along and keep y’all up to date on Taos trip news as that draws ever closer.

season of green

Recent weeks have seen a distinct greening on many levels.  There are signs of spring in the warmer nooks of the city, indicated with a few daffodils sprinkled about and some trees gingerly allowing their buds out to play in the warm breezes.  However….

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” –  Charles Dickens   (I came across this quote on this lovely blog!)

Yes, we have been fortunate to have some mild days, but in true Cincinnati style, I hear snow is forecast for tomorrow.  sigh.  It will be in the 90’s and humid in no time, so I’ll settle into what this wild season has to offer which is a see-saw of unpredictability.

Grass is not the only green showcased this time of year.  March also brings us the ‘High Holy Season of Irish Music’, the days and weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s day.  Suddenly, if one can play a few jigs and reels, one is pressed into service to play the many gigs around town, serving up the annual dose of Irish music to folks who normally don’t pay it a whole lot of mind.  As musicians of varying levels of skills and reputations, we split ourselves up into groups and hit the town to play and play and play, which is what we do any way!  St. Patrick’s Day itself was a whirlwind of venues and friends and tunes…. Here are some of the highlights:

Gig 1:

A few of us from our beloved Riley School of Irish Music gathered to ring in the day at the Claddagh Pub in Mason. Ohio with a few tunes together.  We played for about 2 hours.

Gig 2:

The next place I headed to that day was a little bar called the B-list, located in Bellevue, Kentucky.  Of all the places to play, the B-list ranks as a favorite among those of us fortunate enough to play there.  The owner of the bar is an old friend of my harp-goddess friend Jeni and we are warmly welcomed as family.  I love it there.  But alas, the show must go on….

Gig 3:

My friend Patrick organized a little gig at the Claddagh in Newport, which is where we like to have our weekly evening sessions.  They too treat us kindly with an occasional pint and access to our favorite corner in which to play.  We were joined here by young James who is turning into quite a fiddle player!!

As the day wore on, things got more chaotic.

The more recognized bands were brought into play at this time with large sound systems (when they could get them to work!) and it was time for the rest of us to go and watch the pros at work….

I doubt the drunken masses had any idea the level of musicianship they were witnessing.  They didn’t seem to care.  But the musicians in the audience did.  The flute player here is John Skelton with whom I am fortunate to study each week.  He is a world class Irish Flute player among many other things.  Dan and Bev of Liam’s Fancy are used to dealing with the chaotic late night bar scene, so they had this wild St. Pat’s crown under their spell in no time.  I simply don’t know how they do it.  In spite of the green-clad crazies, a good day was had by me and all of my fellow Irish music admirers.  My husband asked me at one point if there is such a thing as total saturation of Irish Music (read: “Don’t you ever get tired of playing tunes?”).  The answer is, of course, no!  Never!  Sure we might get physically exhausted by the rigors of pressing and plucking strings, creating a (somewhat) tuned in embouchure, keeping a proper beat, but our souls never really tire of the feeling that a well played tune can bring.  For a good bit of the time on St. Pat’s, I was able to transcend any fear of playing in public, making mistakes, etc and simply play, with my flute or whistle as an extension of myself.  This, I have to tell you, is bliss.  As good as it gets.

And so we have been steeped in green.  Interestingly enough, the green does not stop there.  I have also been getting paychecks (two in one week after months without one!!) and have begun work at my new ‘day job’ at Carroll Concertinas.  For now I am outfitting concertina cases with velvet encased foam which involves a bit of precision and lots of spray adhesive.  It’s fun and I am already learning a lot.  You simply cannot imagine all that goes into creating a well made concertina.  For me, this allows me to breathe a little easier as I go about my fine art work and the work I am doing with the study of creativity and arts-based learning in business.  Someday, sooner than later I think, these pursuits will begin to pay in the form of actual paychecks that can be relied upon to feed us and help with college costs (this notion is bearing down upon is rather quickly I am afraid).  But until they do, it is wonderful to have the structure of a day job.  Especially one where there is creativity and ingenuity bouncing off the walls every day.  Maybe I will even learn a tune or two on the concertina.  I have heard this is something that is expected over time and it makes me happy.  One can never learn enough new things.

One last note before I sign off here.  I have timidly put my foot into the strange pool that is Twitter in recent weeks and have begun ‘following’ folks who are doing similar work to mine or whom I find interesting.  This has paid off with connections and opportunities that I couldn’t have seen coming.  Mary Gordon at Creative Voyage has a brilliant blog about the ins and outs of living and working creatively.  She does not shy away about the green elephant in every artist’s room – money – and her blog has plenty of uplifting and useful advice for anyone pursuing an artful life, part time or full time.  I had the opportunity to be a part of her ongoing series of interviews with artists who have had experience with the series of books called the Artist’s Way. You can read my interview here.  It was great to ponder these questions about my own creative journey which has been so rich and relatively quick in coming forth.

Although I do not spend too much time online with everything I have going on, I do attempt to keep up with artists and writers I find inspiring.  I also try to stumble upon a new one or two each week.  Discovering these fellow artistic spirits in the virtual-ether-inter-world is enriching and creates a feeling of community in a sometimes lonely profession.  For this I am grateful.  I encourage you to seek out other artists who inspire you.  But don’t forget to spend some time with the one most worth getting to know….. you.

*a note about the pictures.  I have been playing around with filters and actions and such in photoshop.  the current craze in i-phone hipstamatic options inspired me to find some ways to do this on the computer.  I love how the photos look a bit like my dads old photographs looked when I was  just a little gypsy child in the jungles of Guatemala…..