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I have set up a new blog on blogger. It replaces my old business blog, but will probably end up being a hybrid of this blog and my business one. I have been finding it harder and harder to keep up to date with two blogs, and I think I'll have better readership if I focus on just one blog--one that is also tied into my website.

Also, I like blogger's integration with widgets/gadgets, as well as the lack of advertising for free accounts. (Not as pleased with its comment tracking though, so we'll see how that goes).

Hope to see some of you over there!
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It is very odd not having my pieces in the studio tonight. I dropped all three off at the gallery earlier today for the art show.



I have been working on them in my very few spare moments (as well as in some stolen moments!) for almost seven months now, so I guess it is not surprising I am feeling a little of the empty nest syndrome--seven months is definitely a gestational time period.



While the mask forms themselves are one of my existing designs, I went somewhere very different with them. Not just because they are not wearable in this form, but because I was able to play with a range of techniques, materials, and stylistic elements that I have been eager to try for sometime.



Now I am looking forward to bringing some of this style and creative energy into my wearable masks.

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Summer Sorting, Scallywag mice, Slow Soap, and Somewhat Stalled art.

August is the month where the days are long and sunny, but business gets a bit slow and our wallets tend to be a little tighter than usual. This does however allow us some time to attend to the tasks that have spent the rest of the year just out of reach.

Cleaning the pantry cupboard and the garage has occupied much of our attention the past couple of days, along with the banishment of mice who had suddenly moved inside to put their greedy attentions towards several packages of pasta, popcorn, and chocolate brownie mixture! Our cleaning intervention was just in the nick of time to save the chocolate macadamia nut stash, but oddly, not soon enough to save several reams of printed paperwork (non-essential thankfully!) in the studio supply cupboard.

It was also the opportunity to get rid of several boxes worth of kitchen implements we never use, including some things I have been dragging around with me for over 10 years now. What a wonderful feeling of freedom to finally part ways with such unneeded brick-a-brak! I'm looking forward to applying the same treatment to some of my other assortments of unnecessary things, and I might even set up a small stand at the Last Thursday art walk this month to try and sell some of the more interesting and unusual curios and clothings I am planning to part ways with.

Today was also soap-making day! We went with a very basic cold process recipe, which just combines lye and vegetable oils. Once it has cured we can then "rebatch" or "hand mill" it to make fancier varieties full of scented oils and lovely things such as (if all goes well) dried lavender and rose petals from our garden. Now normally, cold process soap is supposed to start setting up after 40 to 90 minutes, but for some reason it took over 5 hours today! We'll know after 24 hours has passed if this batch is actually going to become soap or not, and if we should go ahead and let it continue curing (or if we need to start over from scratch).

Now lest you think I have must have all the free time in the world available to tend to such projects, I must explain the difference between "Piecemeal Time" and "Focused Time" in my schedule. All of the above has been occurring within "Piecemeal Time". That means tiny snippets of usable time punctuated with my many motherly duties, where under ideal circumstances R is around to step in and keep a project going (or actually started, or finally completed) every time I have to rush away to see to our little guy's many needs.

"Focused Time", without any interruptions, is what I am short on right now. Studio time ideally falls into Focused Time, especially when I am exploring new artistic territory. But over the last five months I have still managed to scrape away at an interesting trio of pieces for a show called "The Altered Book Project", showing in North Portland in September and October. My pieces do include masks, (although unwearable), text excepts from the Walt Whitman poem Eidólons, and they are a complete departure technique-wise from anything I have ever made before. But I have been having lots of fun with smashed and reconstructed materials, acrylic medium toner transferring, and mixed media and found object collage. The only problem is that my lack of "Focused Time" did not allow me to make the project's July 15th deadline. The organizers are very kind though, and it sounds like I may be able to exhibit the pieces inside the local bookstore who is the sponsor of the event (rather than having them in the official gallery for the show). We shall see though, the pieces still require a little more Focused Time to throughly assemble them, but I'm getting closer. Will post some pictures of them soon!

And here is a taste of Eidólons to leave you with in the meantime:

Ever the dim beginning,
Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
Eidolons! eidolons!

Ever the mutable,
Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,
Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,
Issuing eidolons.

Lo, I or you,
Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,
We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
But really build eidolons.
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From now on: Whatever I feel like posting about!

So I've been thinking about this blog, and what I post in it, and what I don't post in it. Very frequently, when that bloggish urge comes upon me, I don't follow up on it. Perhaps the subject of the un-post is not sufficiently art-related, or it concerns a topic that I doubt the few folks who actual read this would care about. Well, I have decided I don't care, and I'm going to post whatever I feel like! I have my business blog anyway, for posts that are solely mask and art related. This is my blog, for me, so it should be my playground for any of the thoughts, issues, and obsessions that I chose to share with the world! So if you're just interested in me for artsy-fartsy reasons, then you should unfriend this blog right now, and just stick with reading the business one. Now, on to the fun stuff...

We're making beer! Just a simple ale to start with, and from a kit. But we're still very excited about it! Hoping it will turn out OK, and be ready to share and enjoy just in time for R's birthday! Real beer brewing fanatics will likely turn their nose up at the kit approach to beer brewing, but it was an easy way, and cheaper (initially) way for us to try it out. We can always get fancy later, when we're more familiar with the process.

This is the latest thing in the home-grown, homestead-y, do-it-yourself kick that R and I have been getting into for awhile now. We're putting much more energy into our veggie garden this year, even talking about canning the extra beans and tomatoes at the end of the season. An ever improving series of delicious artisan-type loaves have been coming out of our oven! (We've hardly used the breadmachine the last couple of months, ever since we discovered the NYT "No kneed Dutch Oven Bread" recipe). And right now, I am reading up on making soap--from scratch, not from a melt and pour kit! On the parenting frontier, we've been making our own babyfood, and I've even ditched the diaper service and I'm now laundering our own cloth diapers.

Sure, some of this frenzy has been motivated by the rising costs of buying things other people produced faceless supermarkets sell and big-business factories make. But I have also had a long term interest in how people survived before supermarkets and factories, when they had to be much more self-sufficient. Sure, there are plenty of modern conveniences I like to have around, but I like the idea of finding a balance between modern and old-timey/self-sufficient ways of living. Especially if it helps us save money, gives more satisfying results, and reduces the amount of garbage (excess packaging etc) we generate.

A cool blog on this topic: http://www.homegrownevolution.com . I still need to pick up their book "Urban Homesteading".
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On the Balance Between Being a Mother and an Artist, Part II

Four things I did not anticipate about being an artist becoming a mother:

1. Loss of artistic identity.
2. Change of roles in my husband's and my relationship--Is my art just a hobby now?
3. Isolation, (both social and creative)
4. The amount of time it takes to get things back on track with an art career after having a baby.

1. Loss of artistic identity.

This is a big one, and it has many levels. The most basic level is if I don't have time to make art, am I still an artist?

I am surprised that once the word was out that I was expecting, nobody mentioned that I wouldn't get to be "Me plus a baby" for quite some time. Babies are all-encompassing, especially during the first three months. I think that all new mothers (at least those who do not have any extended family nearby) must get to experience the "Zombie Mom" phase, where every nuance and distinction of one's personality gets consumed by the unending cycle of feedings, diaper changes, laundry, soothing the screaming (the baby's mostly), and the challenge of finding time to eat or sleep oneself.

Happily, as we reached the six-month mark, I found it possible to awaken from Zombie-survival-mode, and start to remember a few details of my previous identity. And while I am still going day to day in dingy, spit-up stained clothes now, I can at least start to imagine getting dressed in the morning (yes, actually in the morning now!) without having to change my shirt an hour later. But I'm still saving my nice, artsy attire for later on--the baby and I have ruined enough of my clothing already!

By the way, if you thought you didn't want all that "unnecessary plastic baby junk" like exersaucers and baby swings, better brace yourself ahead of time--you will want it, and you will use it, and it will take over the house. Forget about your vision of your house as a private gallery or an artistic retreat, it's the baby's house now!

I'll cover points 2, 3 and 4 next..
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On the Balance Between Being a Mother and an Artist, Part 1

It has been six and a half months now, since my life completely changed.

My life has changed many times before, as I have often had a habit of trading out my "hat" every couple of years. My interests, my style, and my career goals have been in a state of flux from the time I was 12 years old until I reached 25. When my mask business became a serious venture in 2000, the years that followed have actually been my most consistent phase. Something must have changed in the alignment of the planets at that time, for I found a wonderful and stable relationship at that time as well! But perhaps it was several years of stability that finally allowed me (us) to make the big decision that has transformed my life (our lives) into something more different than ever before.

Everything I have ever done pales beside becoming a parent. It is the most enormous and exhausting project I have ever tackled, and at the beginning I had no idea of the sacrifices it would entail. Only 6 months into the process am I even able to think about getting one or two fragmented hours in the studio each week--assuming I can find any remaining energy to be creative with. But even an hour here and there can gradually allow a new piece of art to come together.

"The Nursery Years" as a friend calls them, are fleeting. And many of the lessons learned now will only help my art career later on. Patience, time-management, flexibility and routine have never been talents of mine, but learning to manage them has now become a matter of survival.

Patience is an especially big lesson.

But each day brings something wonderful, and there are so many moments to delight in. They are just a very different variety of delightful moments than my life revolved around a year ago. But at 28 weeks old now, my son is so alert and fascinated in everything that it is hard to resist dreaming of the day when we can go to the studio to do something creative together.

Patience...