Posted on 1 Comment

58

What brought me here today:

My husband Berin’s birthday is tomorrow. He turns 58 (my two favorite numbers). I don’t talk a lot about my husband here. This is done purposefully by me. I’m not the kind of person to write about someone without their knowledge of my doing so. I know that Berin likes to keep certain aspects of his life, and our life together as a married couple, to himself. However, I’ve decided that I need to write a blog post about him. It’s the day before his birthday after all!

Berin is a stone-cold amazing man who shoulders so much responsibility. I will never be able to adequately thank him for the never-ending love and support he gives to me in all aspects of my personal and creative life. Yes. He is my best friend.  And partner in crime. There has never been another person in my life who understands me the way that Berin does. Even when I’m at my complete weirdest, he gets me. And strangely, likes me when I’m at my weirdest.

So, in honor of Berin’s birthday, I thought I’d share a little about him (and us). Just for funsies.

How we met:

We met through a mutual friend. Berin had recently moved back to Albuquerque after living in Arizona for too long. Many of his close friends still lived in Albuquerque. Cinamon and her husband, John, hosted a weekly D&D game for several friends back then. I had been brought into the group through my friendship with Cinamon. Originally, she had hoped that I could be a possible girlfriend candidate for another D&D player. This player had no interest in dating me though.

The first time Berin and I met was at a movie. Our D&D group met to see Avatar at one of those mega-google-plex movie theatres. I drove myself. There was a short introduction by Cinamon I think. I don’t remember Berin saying anything other than, “Hi” to me. He was more involved in texting. Or at least I thought so. In an interesting twist, that player who was not interested in dating me was also a good friend of my future husband. They had even come to the movie together.

I thought he hated me:

Berin quickly joined the weekly D&D game at Cinamon and John’s house. There were a couple of games in which I felt as though Berin was mercilessly teasing me. You know the kind of teasing where a guy and another guy start teasing a girl and they’re just being kind of stupid and making references the girl doesn’t know. Then the guys laugh and point, and make more jokes she doesn’t get? Yeah. That’s what my future husband and another player were doing to me.

I just tried to ignore them as best I could. They were just being dorks. But something changed durig the next game night. Berin wasn’t being such a jerk to me. He started being nicer. Long story somewhat shorter, I knew I could possibly “like” him when his character saved mine from a witch by pushing a potbelly stove on top of her from a great height.

You know what I mean by “like” right? It’s the thing where a person kind of starts to think that another person is someone they want to spend more time with to see if maybe they could get to the “like-like” stage of emotional attachment? The precursor to maybe, someday, kind of falling in love with a person stage.

Accidentally dating:

Berin and I started dating by accident. We would make plans with our group of friends. Then one by one, they would cancel. This would mean it was just me and Berin going to a movie. Or a local event. This gave us both a lot of time to get to know each other a lot better.

I honestly do not remember a single thing I said during our first “official” date. He took me to a Thai restaurant we both loved. We only left because they had to close. After that, we were officially dating each other.

He moved to Finland for me:

We hadn’t been married long when we started making plans to move to Finland so that I could study for my master’s in education. I was still working as an elementary school art teacher and wanted to get my master’s. The cost of getting the degree in the US was cost prohibitive though. There was also no guarantee that I would ever be able to make enough money as a public school teacher to justify the expense either.

Berin and I had the same idea on the same day one summer. I was working during the summer, teaching art during summer school sessions. While coming in through the back gate, I heard Berin in the kitchen and said, “I have an idea about school and travel”. When I told him my idea about studying abroad, he took me into our studio and pointed to his whiteboard. This is where he had written, “study abroad”.

With not quite three years of marriage under our collective belts, we sold and gave away almost everything we owned and moved to Finland. Where we lived for seven years. The two of us have more experience as a married couple in a foreign country than in the US!

Goodness of fit:

We both maintain that we met at the right time for each of us. I had arrived at a point of contentment with myself and the life I was living. In other words, being single and never getting married wasn’t going to bother me. Seriously. Three months after I came to this conclusion, I met Berin. And yes. I knew by the third date I wanted to marry him. Which still somehow just pisses me off. Mostly because of all of the smug married couples who said, “Oh. You’ll know if you want to marry him right at the beginning.” GAH!

Basically, each of our individual weird personality bits and pieces compliments the other’s weird personality bits and pieces. Things that I do that have bugged the crap out of friends and family members, he thinks are cute. And vice versa. This means that we just function well together as a married couple. Honestly, being married to Berin is the easiest relationship I have ever been part of in my entire life.

Stereotypes and gender-conforming roles:

Yeah. That’s not how our marriage works. Berin loves meal planning and cooking for us. I cannot remember the last meal I cooked. Much less planned! I do enjoy baking though. So I stick to cookies and cakes. Honestly, it’s a relief. If I did all the cooking, we’d eat nothing but tortillas and cheese and coffee. Oh. And maybe cookies and the occasional cake.

If social media is any measure, apparently Berin and I don’t have enough fights. The kind where the wife gets mad because the husband leaves his crap everywhere. He never cleans. Or takes care of the kids. Husbands who get mad that their wife doesn’t know where to she wants to eat dinner. Or that she takes too long to get ready to go out. That kind of stuff. Berin and I disagree plenty. But the aforementioned types of disagreements? Nope.

Our most recent argument:

We’re both AEW fans. One of the newer wrestlers on the roster is Jamie Hayter. She’s got this mane of hair that was just defying all the laws of physics for me. It was reminiscent of Natasha Lyonne’s locks in Orange Is the New Black. ANYWAY. Berin and I kept going ’round and ’round about her hair. Was it real or a weave? Maybe she had extentions? Perhaps her hair just took curl and product well?

I maintained that it was her real hair. Berin didn’t. He looked at her Instagram and showed me this picture. She’s a brunette instead of blonde, like she had been since she joined AEW. I had to admit. The brunette looked more like her real hair instead of the lion’s mane of blonde hair she’d been sporting. Berin said the picture he found was proof that the blonde hair had not been her real hair.

Yeah. This is the kind of argument we have.

So what does this all mean?

It means I married the right person. During the time we’ve been married, we’ve grown and changed together in a direction that we’ve chosen together. I’m not extremely good at expressing lovey-dovey kinds of emotions. It’s not that I don’t feel them intensely. I’m just clumsy attempting to express them in words.

Perhaps it’s because some of the things people say about their partner or spouse all tend to sound the same. “He’s so smart and talented! And kind! He’s so handsome! Oh! And so, so, so funny! He loves babies and animals too!” It begins to sound incredibly fake after a while, doesn’t it? Berin is all of those things, but a lot of not so great stuff too. Just like me. All of our good and not-so-good stuff all matches up in the best possible way to make us compatible in marriage.

I have my own train car full of emotional baggage that manifests in all manner of weirdness. But Berin’s chosen to stick around and keep me company until I invariably get squished by a car because I’m looking at squirrels instead of on-coming traffic. I love him completely and unconditionally.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

Posted on

Names

What brought me here today:

Names have always been important to me. My first name is Katherine and my nickname is Katie. Beyond a brief flirtation with the name Kate in around the fourth grade, I’ve always felt as though my name(s) all fit me rather well. I like my names quite a bit.  As a freshman in art school, I decided to go by Katherine. Not because I wanted to be a different person. But because when my instructors saw the name Katherine on their class roster, they assumed that I probably was called Kathy.

I’ve never hated the name Kathy. In fact, I had quite a classmates in school named Kathy. However I was most assuredly not a Kathy. Nope. Wrong. Does not fit me at all. It occured to me in my freshman painting class to just tell the instructor, Dick Nicholson, that I preferred to be called Katherine. I knew I could wear the name Katherine. It fit. And it was just easier than reminding instructors over and over to call me Katie.

I still have friends from my art school days who call me Katherine. They’re an extremely small group.

Important:

When I was a little girl, I took great delight in naming the litters of kittens and puppies of our family pets. I was the same when it came to naming my dolls and toys as well. Even at a young age names held some kind of enigmatic power for me. There is a power to looking at a thing and then to give it a name. Not just any name; the right name. Most important, that it was the name it was meant to have. It was almost as if I were attempting to pull the name from some hidden other world. No small feat for a little kid.

Like any other family, we all had nicknames for one another. Some were liked. There were those that were horrifically embarrassing as well. The types of names that you don’t accidentally blurt out in front of non-family members. Family nicknames can invoke all kinds of complicated emotions. Reminding you of who you were long ago. Perhaps even solidifying how far you have traveled since the point you were given that nickname.

And no. I won’t tell you any of mine, or any that I gave my siblings. That would just be rude.

Power:

I think what I was not understanding as a little girl carefully naming a litter of kittens, is that names hold power. A sibling accidentally calling me a pet name he had for me as a little kid in front of my new adult friends sliced me in two with white hot embarrassment. In a single utternence I wasn’t a twenty-something art student. I’d turned into a babbling, soggy-diapered toddler with a sticky face. That was not the me who I wanted people around me to see.

Many of us can remember calculating exactly how much potential trouble we were about to be in by how our parental figure said our name. Was it your nickname? First name only? First and middle names? Your entire name, spewed in staccato with each silable getting louder than the previous? Yeah. Your name was being weilded against you like a hammer, so that you knew exactly how much trouble you were actually going to be in by the time that parental unit was standing in front of you.

Difficulties arise:

As an artist, it’s important to assign names to the individual pieces of artwork I create. Yet I always have difficulty doing so. Probably because the idea of getting the correct name is so important to me. I worry that the names I might choose are either too cheeky, common, or absurdly artistic. When I find myself getting mentally axel-wrapped about it, my husband is a great help to get me focused and back in the right direction.

Naming the individual dolls that I create is a much easier task for me. Remember, I’ve been doing this since I was at least four years old. Early on, the names of the dolls would just come to me while working on them. Then I began to jot down names that I heard and liked. Mostly on post it notes. Then the post its would be added to a small notebook of names. When I need a name, I just browse the notebook. Once a name is chosen, I cross it off the list. My goal is to never use the exact same name twice.

This method is more or less what I continue using. I have a post it note on the right hand corner of my desktop. While I work, I have something playing on my laptop, mostly for background noise. When I hear a name I like I write it down. Sometimes, especially when I’m listening to certain genres of television or movies, I simply write down every single name I hear. It’s a bit of a game for me.

Interesting occurence:

Last week, I found myself mulling over names that had a male and female version. Like Nicolas and Nicole, or Daniel and Daniella. I began to have some fun coming up with as many of these types of names as I could recall. Oliver and Olivia. Leon and Leona. Gabriel and Gabriella. Justin and Justine. Joseph and Josephina. Ernest. Ernestine. You get the picture.

Then I started looking at names like Kevin, Derrick, Bernard, Stanley, and Matthew. I started adding female sounding endings to the names. Kevinetta, Derrika, Bernarditha, Stanella, and Matthewsia. I might have just left it all at that. Having some fun with names. Then I started listening to one of the many “murder shows” that are in my rotation for background noise and this whole exercise took on a completely different light.

Exit, stage left:

I was jotting down every female name that I heard while I was working. I wrote down the name Derika. I know that this young woman’s name was spelled this way because I actually put own what I was embroidering, and looked at the screen of my computer. I had one of my ‘murder shows” on and Derika was a young woman who had been murdered. She was an African American woman who was a photographer and university student. She wanted to go into journalism and use her photography skills.

I suddenly got incredibly uncomfortable with my little game of making male names into female names. My feelings of unease were due to a huge blind spot that I hadn’t known existed. Or perhaps, it was due to not exercising some of my public school teaching brain muscles for quite a while. I was stinging from what I could only think of as white privilage adjacent biases towards names.

I should confess that it I began to become a bit emotionally axel-wrapped while I attempted to make sense of my thoughts regarding this occurrence. There was a little more for me to unpack before I was done thinking this all over.

Small boy; big name:

As a public school art teacher, I’m familiar with lots of different types of names. Sometimes there were students in my art classes who had names that I had never heard before. Cuautéhmoc was one of the most unique. His parents gave him this name because they were proud of their heritage. I remember that Cuautéhmoc’s siblings all had names that were similar, in that they were culturally significant to Central American indigenous peoples.

Cuautéhmoc was an incredibly kind, sweet, and smart young man. He helped me practice how to say his name correctly, because he did not have any nickname. I needed to say his name correctly, because he mattered to me. As the teacher in a classroom, I had far more power over the child. I could have said, “No. I’m going to call you Moc. It’s easier for me.” But I didn’t. This was his name. Part of who is, and representative of where he came from. I could not deny Cuautéhmoc his name. I learned it, and called him by it. This added to the power of Cuautéhmoc’s name.

Sifting through:

Perhaps I’m over thinking all of this. It wouldn’t be the first time, I assure you. It may be that my fascination with names has gone on so long that I just couldn’t quite see the entirety of the importance of a name from the stance of anyone except myself. It could also be because I’ve recently moved to a city in the United States in which African Americans are the majority. These facts might make me feel a bit more sensitively regarding the importance of names.

As I continued my attempts at creating female names out of ones that have always traditionally been a ‘male only’ type of name, I kept hitting on names that I knew could be a person’s real name. Specifically, an African American name that I might someday encounter. Jamessa, Marshalla, Jasonia, Johnissa, and Timothesella. These might be names that I would never have imagined had I not been jotting down names and playing around with them.

This made me feel so incredibly rotten. My little personal lark of playing around with names left me feeling as though I was making fun of the person I may someday meet named Jamessa.  It’s precisely because I feel that names are so important that I was angry at myself.

Required reading:

I deciding to put away the names for a while and do some reading. There had been articles written about companies that routinely circular file (i.e., trash) CV’s of job seekers with names that sound “ethnic”. Researchers have created CV’s with almost identical experience and education, and only changed the names. Then these CV’s were sent to the company. Names like Marquis, De’Shaun, Shanell and Daneeka got far fewer call backs than names like Matthew, Brian, Michelle or Emma.

Sometimes just removing a letter from a name will get your CV more call backs. There were some interesting articles to read about the importance of names. This article was interesting. I had never heard of the implicit egotism-effect. In retrospect, implicit-egotism effect may explain a lot of the names I’ve chosen for the many dolls I’ve created.

So, now what?

There’s still a lot more for me to think and read about concerning my understanding of names. Not to mention my own bias regarding them. Finding something like this hiding under a rock in my head is not something I like very much. This doesn’t seem like a subject that I’m going to let go of anytime soon either. Because art is my therapy, I may need to create some pieces so that I can find a place inside my brain for my new understandings to live.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday,

Posted on 1 Comment

Where We Landed

What brought me here today:

This post is meant mostly to reveal where my husband and I have settled after leaving Finland. I know that it might have seemed a little strange that we didn’t say anything about where we were going prior to moving. Part of that has to do with wanting to have a certain amount of anonymity during the planning of, and actual physical move to the new residence.

When making a large decision, I’ve learned to keep most of the details to myself until I’m committed enough that no amount of criticism or cajoling can make me change my mind. My husband has a similar type of mind set regarding big, life-altering decisions. In reality, the only two people who really needed to know about when and where we were moving to were myself and my husband.

That’s not to say that we told absolutely no one where we were moving to. We told a small group of people, when we thought they needed to know. To be completely honest, I accidentally told a friend of mine in a DM chat on Instagram over a month ago. Then I promptly swore her to secrecy. She’s a busy woman and has little time to bother blabbing about me!

Is a drumroll needed?

My husband and I have moved to Delaware. I must admit, it was not a state that I thought I would ever live. But here I am, sitting on the floor of what will become my studio, typing the words, “…I have moved to Delaware…“.  My husband is two rooms away, working away in his new work space too.

The question you may be asking yourself is, “So….why Delaware?” We wanted to move to a place where neither one of us had ever lived. My husband was raised in a small town near Philadelphia. So, he has a degree of regional understanding and comfort here that it’s been interesting for me to observe.

Yeah, but why Delaware?

Yeah.I can understand why there may be people who will still not understand why we didn’t return to the southwest. Or why we didn’t move closer to family. Well, on the first count, it’s just too bloody hot! I lived in New Mexico for 19 years. And while I miss the friends I made there, I was not moving back to that kind of heat on purpose, ever.  As for moving closer to family, that would no be a good idea for many reasons.

When we were deciding on where we wanted to move to, we had a lot of things to take into consideration. Most of my sales are made in North America. The shipping will be less expensive for my customers too. We’ve positioned ourselves close to several large, cosmopolitan cities. The hope is that I will have more opportunities to show and sell my artwork too.

While I’m loathe to admit it, there are some art supplies and materials that I can locate and purchase more easily within the US. .62¢ for DMC embroidery floss! SWOON! There are other supplies and materials that I may have to do a little more digging around for. We haven’t found a second hand shop where I can purchase materials for my artwork like the ones I grew to adore in Jyväskylä.

But, seriously…Delaware?

Okay. I know. Delaware isn’t exactly flashy or trendy. But then again, do I strike you as a person who wants to live in a flashy, or trendy manner? That ship sailed for me in 8th grade, with parachute pants used as the main sail. No city, state or country is ever going to be a perfect for us. We chose where we’re living carefully and purposefully. This particular place is where we want to be right now.

The people in the city we’re in are friendly. There’s decent public transit, as we’re still don’t want a car. It’s an easy city to walk in. And it has some beautiful public parks that we’ve been enjoying quite a bit. I’m pleased to see so many homes in our neighborhood have small front porches and plots that are loaded with flowers and interesting plantings. I’m adjusting slowly to our new home, and hope that when I begin to create artwork my adjustment will solidify.

So, now what?

There is still so much to do. We’re still recovering from the move. The whole moving experience seems to have taken place three months ago as well as two days ago, simultaneously. We moved during a heat wave in Finland, and moved right into another heat wave on the east coast. 35 degrees with 80% humidity is just miserable no matter how you slice it.

Hopefully we will have furniture soon. Fingers crossed that it’s at least ordered by next Friday’s blog post. As much as I love my new little studio room, my backside is not happy about having to sit on the floor to work!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

Posted on 1 Comment

Relocation Update

What brought me here today:

The move has been completed! Well, okay, wait a minute. At least the hardest parts of the move have been completed. No more strangers riffling through my artwork, art supplies, and clothing. No luggage was lost. The flights have all been completed. There will be no more asking about my current vaccine status by said total strangers. Which is nice because I’m kind of done with people for at least a little while.

It feels as though I’ve been away from everything that was my personal routine for either a split second or ten years. Traveling huge distances can do that to a person I suppose. Everything just feels all wibbly-wobbly-timey-whimey right now.

Flights:

Two thirds of our flights went well. One that I was dreading, was actually quite pleasant and comfortable. One flight was delayed three times. That sucked big time. But it was the shortest leg of the journey. So, I don’t think it was that horrible. I have way, way more to say about the flights and some of the experiences we had in airports. But that’s a post for a later date.

Apartment:

Everything is good with the new apartment. Well, there was one tiny over-flowing toilet mishap. But it’s all fixed now. The toilet is now working like a champ. 10 out of 10. Would recommend.

Currently, I’m in what is going to be my tiny studio. I’m sitting on the floor with my computer balanced on four clear, plastic, art-packed, bulk candy boxes from Prisma as I write this short update. It’s around 2 x 3 meters-ish by (7 by 10 ft-ish). There are shelves on one wall and space for a work table, as well as my tools, materials and supplies. Right now, it looks like a rummage sale.

New everything:

Currently, we’re doing what people do when they move to a new place. Setting up all the things that need setting up. Learning the new, and to me juuuust slightly confusing bus system. Getting used to things that are so incredibly different than what we’ve ever experienced. Which is cool and somehow annoying at once.

Berin seems to be adjusting a bit better than I am, but part of that could be due to the fact that I’m a huge, whiny house cat who does not like her routines changed. It will take another two weeks or so before my mind and body are over the stress of travel and moving. By then I will remain a huge house cat, just slightly less whiny one.

Now what?

There is still so much to do! Like I said, I’m sitting on the floor of what will be my studio. We need to order some furniture and start fluffing-out this new nest a bit. And I still have so much more website and shop stuff to do before 19 July! I think by then I will be champing at the bit to actually create some artwork too!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again sometime soon!

 

Posted on 6 Comments

Depression

What brought me here today:

To be honest, the past two weeks have not been spectacularly great for me from a mental health standpoint. I’m struggling with some depression right now. My business is not doing as well as I want or need it to. Recent sales (free shipping, discounted prices) that I have promoted for my artwork have been dismal failures. And any attempts to get people to read my blog and/or purchase my artwork from my shop are making exactly zero impact.

Extremely negative thoughts about destroying everything I’ve worked so hard to build over the past three years have been obsessively running through my head every day. Shutting down my website and destroying my artwork being chief among those intrusive thoughts.

So, yeah. Clinical depression is more or less kicking my butt right now. And before I can even hope to move forward, I need to work through (gestures with arms at everything) that I’m presently mired in, mentally and emotionally speaking.

If wishes were horses:

This post is an extremely short one. Mostly because I’m just so not in the mood to talk about how I’m structuring and operating my small business. It’s glaringly apparent to me that whatever I’m doing, it’s all kinds of wrong. I have made a few sales. But they haven’t generated enough for my business to continue moving forward.

I have received many messages of encouragement from people online regarding my artwork. That has been of great help to me. It’s nice to know that there are people who like my artwork. But as all artists know, compliments and likes online don’t help pay the bills. And that’s just a hard fact of life.

So, now what?

Well, I’m going to go work on some artwork. While doing so, I need to have some hard conversations with myself about what I want to do, and where I want my business to go heading into the future.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again here next Tuesday,

Posted on 2 Comments

New Daily Journal

In the first blog post of this series detailing how I organize my time, materials and ideas for art making, I wrote about the daily journal that I maintain. Having my daily journal keeps me mentally focused and moving in one direction. At a glance, I can easily see what I’ve gotten done, and where I need to apply more of my time and energies.

My daily journal is last thing that I touch on my desk at night, and the first thing I touch in the morning. It’s important that it be at my right hand when I sit down to work in the morning. This morning, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my current daily journal will ‘run out’ as of the 31st of March. My new daily journal would have to be put together. The sooner the better!

New daily journal:

A few weeks ago, I picked up a new blank journal at Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. It’s a little different from my current daily journal. The book itself is a little larger. The paper is thicker, nicer paper too. There’s also a dot graph, instead of a grid on the pages.

The covers are hard book board, with a large wire spiral as a binding. The spiral is large enough for a pen to fit into, which I like. There are red roses illustrated in red ink on the covers, which I’m not fond of. But, it’s not a big deal, because I can just cover it with something I like better.

Large wire spiral bindings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. My husband detests all spiral bindings. He’s left-handed, so they can be terrifically frustrating for him to write in. I like how the spiral binding allows the book to lay completely flat. I just can’t seem to trust the bullet journals bindings. There’s a part of me that feels as though it’s going to snap shut while I’m writing in it.

Additional parts:

This particular blank journal holds only four months of the year. Believe it or not, this was a point in the books favour. I knew that I would be adding a few new features within my daily journal. These four months give me some time to see if I like the new categories and slightly altered layouts without committing to an entire year.

I’ve added a page at the beginning of each month that is simply a list of the days of the month. There’s also a sticker with the month for 2021 for reference as well. One of the things that I wanted to become better at was long-term planning for the different projects that I work on. This page will let me know (again, at a glance) when I need to post the twice weekly blogs, Go Marielle, a new monthly newsletter as well as other yet to be revealed projects.

The layout for each individual day has also been altered. I’ve added new, separate sections for Go Marielle and the monthly newsletter. And I’ve changed around some headings for each of the different sections so that they better reflect what they actually are about. “Computer Work” was too broad a term. It’s now “Social Media and Marketing”. This just makes more sense.

Colour coding:

Colour coding has always been something that I delight in creating. My favourite element of art is colour. I know when I see green in my daily journal, it has to do with art production. I’ve made yellow the colour for the blog entry category. There are a few new colours have been added for the new categories too.

When putting together my new daily journal, one thing that I wanted to make neater was the colour coding for my categories. My previous daily journal was a little scribbly and less precise than I wanted it to be. I use Stabilo highlighters to colour code my daily journal. Sometimes the highlighters smear the ink if I write first, then highlight.

The solution was to create a template that I would use to add the coloured highlights to each individual page first. Creating the template wasn’t difficult. A page from the back of the new journal was removed. The grid on the page allowed me to easily see where I wanted to create the rectangular holes in the template. The paper template was transferred to a heavier piece of paper and was ready to use.

Blue, green, purple, pink, yellow, yellow, repeat:

The template came together quickly. It took much longer to add each colour to four months of pages. The template was cut so that I just had to align the bottom edge and the first vertical row of dots. Then I added the highlighter colours. While the colours are applied in a much neater manner than my current daily journal, it doesn’t bother me that they aren’t perfect.

The paper is thicker in this new daily journal, so the highlighter doesn’t show through. This made me happier than I thought it would. I use the bright shades of Stabilo highlighters. Sometimes the ink can pop-through the paper a little, especially when you go over something twice or more.

Writing in everything:

By the time I had finished using the template to add in my colours for different sections, they were dry enough to write on. Here again, I decided to make some changes. Stabilo Point 88 Fine Line pens in colour are being used to write over top of the highlighter in each section.

I’ve written each individual day of the month at the top of each page in black permanent fine line pen. I’m also using this same pen to write the list of days as well. I need to add the numbers of the week on the individual pages. As of the time that I’m writing this blog post, I have a lot to write into my new daily journal still!

So, now what?

Well, I need to finish all of the writing for starters! There are also some additional design elements that I want to add, like divider lines between different categories for one. I’m confident that I’ll be ready to use my new daily journal on 1 April 2021!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

Posted on

Time and Meaning

There never seems to be enough time to get the amount of work completed that I want. Even when working every day of the week, there is always something that isn’t as far along as I would like. Or feels stuck in one specific stage of creation. Having more ideas than time in which to create them is better than having all the time in the world and no ideas at all.

Four bottle dolls:

These four dolls epitomize my feelings of being stuck in one specific stage of creation. Application of the sealant to all of the paper mâché surfaces takes such a long time to complete. Just last night I finished the arms and legs. Once they were completed, I decided that the bottle-shaped torsos required additional coats of sealant to better match the surfaces of the arms, legs and heads.

I use a mixture of water and Eri-Keeper glue as a sealant for my paper mâché pieces. It protects the painted surfaces extremely well. The difficult part of using this mixture is that it takes multiple layers to achieve the surface look that I’m after artistically. Eri-Keeper isn’t as shiny as acrylic semi-gloss or gloss that I’ve used in the past.

When multiple layers of the Eri-Keeper sealant are dry, they take on a sheen like an M&M candy. Incidentally, it’s when I want to actually take a bite out of my artwork that I know I have enough layers of sealant applied. For some pieces, especially small pieces, anywhere between six and eight coats is sometimes enough to achieve this effect. I’ve applied about two dozen coats to all of the pieces of the bottle dolls.

Button components:

The button components were made earlier in the week. Making them didn’t take very long. I think I completed them in around four hours. The most difficult part was creating shapes for the button components, then bending and shaping them over and around the different forms. Then they were left to dry over night. After drying thoroughly, they needed sanding, painting and sealant.

I’m still using the air dry clay from Flying Tiger. It’s the best air dry clay I’ve ever worked with. Many air dry clays I tried to use with students in my art classroom have been total rubbish. They crumbled, dried out and seemed to break with the least amount of handling.

By contrast, the Flying Tiger air dry clay stands-up to some rough handling. Including a tremendous amount of shaping, via sanding. Strange as it may seem, it actually took several hours longer to sand and shape the button components than to actually make them!

Doll stands:

The idea finally came together for the doll stands a few nights ago. Once I started cutting patterns and working with the cardboard, all four came together incredibly quickly. These stands will not be covered with paper mâché. Fabric will be used to cover the surfaces of the stands.

I learned a lot about using fabric as a covering for some of the pieces that I showed at Matara earlier in the year. Hopefully, those lessons will serve me well when I begin the fabric work on the stands.

New meanings:

Part of the learning for me as an artist is in how the artwork begins to become its own ‘thing’ as it’s created. This applies to how the physical artwork is created, as well as the thoughts, meditations and ideas that come about as a result of the act of creation. It sounds strange, but that’s how a large part of my personal creative process works more often than not.

I saw the influence of kachina in the ways I had formed the heads, arms and legs of these four dolls. I say ‘influence’ in the design of some of the parts of the dolls. The meaning behind the kachina that the indigenous people of the southwestern United States create is NOT something that I would ever attempt to copy or emulate. I would never use a culture and a history that is not mine as a stylistic choice.

What I did begin to think about was how I as the artist imbue my artistic creations with an element of my own identity. That part of my identity that I do feel is connected to the divine. These four dolls are specific to me. They’re like my own personal guardians. This got me thinking…

Lares:

I remembered reading about how the Romans had a classification (?) of guardian deities or spirits that were called Lares. These lares didn’t have specific names, but they were associated with ancestor worship, hero worship and protection. You can read more about them here.

The concept of the lares gives me latitude to decide what exactly I would like my four bottle dolls to be. If these four are to be akin to lares, then what or whom will they protect? And how can I show that in the artistic representation? There are so many possibilities swirling around in my mind. I’m sure that the four bottle dolls will help me along.

Well, crud:

Today I learned that an art workshop that I was to teach this upcoming Tuesday has had to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions. I cannot say that I’m not disappointed. Teaching art is my second favourite thing to do besides creating art! The person who contracted me to teach a Worry Doll Workshop has rescheduled the workshop for early May. So, I’ll still get to teach! And it’ll be so much easier to wheel my suitcase full of supplies to the venue! Right now everything is sloppy-squishy-slush!

Now what?

Well, for one thing. I’m going to add the last half dozen coats of sealant to the torsos of the four bottle dolls. Then I’m going to start planning the colours for the insides of the torsos. Oh! And I need to make a pattern for the clear plastic windows too! Well, you all know what happens after, ‘now what?’ I get back to making art!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

Posted on

Wanted: Art Criticism

Last night, my husband and I were talking about artistic criticism. Specifically, the types of criticisms that come from outside the sphere of creative peers. During my time as a graphic design student, I learned how to critique my classmates work, and in turn how to receive artistic criticisms myself. Even when feelings were bruised, I knew that the critiques were coming from an informed, experienced argument of a peer.

In time, my graphic design work became a means to an end. A designed grocery ad meant that I would get paid. The design work that I was creating wasn’t meant for any greater purpose than conveying pertinent information as to what items were on sale at a specific place and time. After that, it was chucked into the recycling bin, or used to line a bird cage. I exchanged a service for monetary gain.

Simple truth:

There is some great graphic design work done by some fabulous graphic artists out there. But mine was not, and would never be that. Time and experience taught me that. Over the last twenty years, whatever graphic design or illustration work that I created was simply an exchange of goods and services for me. While I might derive a degree of enjoyment in the creation of the occasional graphic design freelance work. It’s not my only creative art outlet.

My creative ego is now not dependent upon it being a spectacular success as a graphic designer. Having it bring me loads of money or heaps of praise for my unique and innovative work. No. I’m no Neville Brody. And that’s a good thing. Because we already have one of those, and he’s pretty good at Neville-Brody-ing.

The struggle is real:

The difference between my graphic design work and my personal artwork, is that I’m extremely emotionally invested in my personal artwork. My personal artwork is part of my identity. Receiving positive feedback regarding my personal artwork is great, but doesn’t always translate directly into increased sales. I wrote about this almost a year ago in this post.

Personally, I felt as though I was just being a big, fat, whiny baby because the thumbs up, or hearts or nice words were not being reflected in the sales of my artwork. This is something that I am in some way, shape or form always struggling with right beneath the surface.

Sometimes, I think that if I were an artist fifty or seventy years ago, when there was no computers, internet or social media like we have today. I would have been one of those women labeled a spinster. Who worked some day job, and made a lot of personal artwork in her off hours. Only to have a horder-like apartment full of my artwork discovered by my nieces after I keeled over and my cats ate my face.

What?!

There is a point to all of the above backstory. Recently, I decided to step outside of my (somewhat) predictable positive artistic criticism chamber to post my artwork in a completely different environment. I wanted to see what people who don’t know me, or perhaps who are not creators would say about my artwork.

Let’s say, I don’t think I’ve handled it well. I don’t think I approached the posts and my comments correctly at all. In the echo-chamber of positivity mentioned above I think the only weird critique I’ve ever received was that some high school kid thought that the arms and legs I made for some dolls looked like cat poops.

Over the past few months, I’d begun posting more of my artwork on a platform. There wasn’t a lot of feedback being generated. Sometimes I would get some nice bits of feedback. But nothing specific. Then today, I just totally stuck my whole foot squarely in my mouth.

Digging for a compliment much?!

For whatever insecure reason I attached some rather sad-sack paragraph of whiny-ass-ness to a set of pictures I posted. And someone, quite rightly, jerked a knot in my tail about it. Suggesting that I was just digging for a compliment. I had mentioned that some of my previous posts had been down voted. Apparently, my posts were not as down voted as I had thought. Or, they had been up voted since the last time I looked.

Regardless, I feel like a colossal boob for the post and my poor-pitiful-me up-vote-grubbing ramblings. I’ve resolved to edit the post. And make clear what I’m really looking for: critiques of my artwork from people outside my peers and affiliated groups.

My husband isn’t quite sure why this matters to me. There’s some logic to his argument. Someone who is not an artist, or even interested in art probably isn’t going to give me any kind of critical feedback that I would necessarily take to heart. However,  it might possibly help me in discussing (explaining?) my artwork to all kinds of different people.

Now what?

Well, I’m going to do some more thinking about what I will post next. It needs to be clear and to the point. No Uriah-Heep hand-wringing and aw-shucks-ing about it.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

Posted on

Computer Filing

Keeping my tools, materials and supplies relatively organized is easy for me to accomplish. The deluge of photographs and graphics I create is another matter entirely. While the aforementioned tools, materials and supplies are three-dimensional and more or less, in my face all the time. Computer files are formless little strings of numbers that I only see when working on my laptop.

I freely acknowledge that I need a better ways of organizing myself in the digital realm. For heaven’s sake! I’m still working on an old MacBook Pro I purchased used seven years ago! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not belly-aching about wanting/needing a new laptop. My laptop has done yeoman’s duty for me. And I’m very thankful for Omena (Her hard drive name).

For me, it’s not necessarily about the computer I have to work with, but what I can accomplish with said computer. The big question is, how can I do what I want to do right now, with the equipment that I have. Not the equipment I ‘wish’ I had. So, here’s how I do what I do.

Laptop:

From the ‘About this Mac’ window, my computer is a MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2010), with a 2,4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It has a 4GB 1067 MHz DDR3 of memory. And  NVIDIA GeForce 320M 256 MB graphics. I’m still working with OS X 10.10.5 Yosemite.

To be totally honest, a lot of the above just looks like gibberish to me. As a trained graphic designer I feel as though it should mean something to me. The memory bits do…to some extent. And again, being as honest as I can be, as an artist, not being able to touch or feel the aforementioned computer ‘stuff’ means that it’s completely abstracted to me.

Fortunately, I have a husband who does understand all of this stuff. And he guides me when I require assistance or explanations. It’s his jam. And I’d rather be sewing or painting anyway.

Files:

To say that I have a lot of photographs could potentially be the understatement of the century on my part. Between the photos that I take of my artwork (finished and in process), items that I have for sale in my shop, and Go Marielle, I have a lot of photos to organize and store.

To keep myself as organized as possible, I try and harness my love of filing and the contentment I feel when I put things ‘where they live’. There are two main file folders; Website and Go Marielle. Within each of those files are subfiles.

Website files:

I keep anything that I use for my website, including my online shop, in this file. Files for my inventory, pieces listed in the shop, photographic elements used in the design of my site, coupons, and miscellaneous items. Finding these files is easy. I prefer to use the icons instead of the list to find my files. I’ve also made the icons a bit larger, as my eyesight is getting a little wibbly.

When it comes to the items I have listed in the shop. Each of them belongs in a separate sup-category. Little Ladies, Creative Experiment Dolls, Tiny Animals, etc. Because each of the dolls I create has their own individual name. Their photographs are filed in a folder with their name on it. If I need to find Beanstalk, or Alice or Bernard T. Honkstorker, I just look for the name.

My inventories are maintained in a computer file (Excel) and in paper form. Changes are made to the paper version, then updated in the Excel file. I keep backups of this file in a separate hard drive used only for file storage.

Go Marielle:

The files for Go Marielle get a little more complicated. If you have read the stories that I post on Instagram, you know that I post a daily single panel, and a weekly 10+ panel story every week. There are an average of 80 to 100 photos taken for one 10+ panel weekly Go Marielle story. Each single panel daily post takes 3 to 10 photos.

So, how do I organize and store it all? Well, the first division is between the daily posts (I call them singles) and the weekly story posts (I call them long posts). Each of these categories has their own file folder. The subfiles within them are each named according to what they are. So, within the daily posts file, there are files named Marielle and the Frost or Marielle at the Bus Stop, etc. The same goes for the once weekly longer stories.

In addition to having separate files for these two types of posts for Go Marielle. I also attach a color tag to each file. Red for ‘posted’ and green for ‘not posted’. My rationale is red is for stop and green is for go.

Go Marielle complications:

Go Marielle is much more complicated than a single photograph of my finished artwork, or for an item in my shop.Each of the photos has to be processed. This entails choosing the photo to be used, cropping and color correcting it (GIMP and a Preview). Then story boarding the photos. Sometimes I need to add or remove a photograph to make the story flow better.

My rule is that if a photo is removed from the original story boarding session (meaning, it’s been cropped and color corrected), it goes into a file called ‘Photos not used’. I do this just in case I change my mind. No one wants to do a job twice. Any photos not selected for cropping and color correction go directly into the trash and are deleted.

So at this point, I have between 5 and perhaps 20 photos depending on whether it’s intended for a single panel post or a long panel post. Now it gets even more complicated.

More complicated:

The photos are run through GIMP and the faces are removed from the dolls used in the photos. Sometimes there are other bits of correction I need to do as well. It’s a lot of clone stamping and magic wand kinds of work. I also do any additional color correction work as well. At the conclusion of this, I now have two versions of the same photos. One with faces and one without faces.

I separate these photos within the file. With Faces, and Without Faces. Now, the without faces are ready to upload to another platform, Canva. One of the reasons I use Canva is because it’s cheaper than Photoshop or Illustrator. I don’t have to think about the dimensions of the pieces I’m creating either. It’s also off my computer, so it’s not a program taking up space on my hard drive.

Once is Canva, I use a palette of facial features that I drew myself. And processed through GIMP. I lay in the story as well. Sometimes I do the faces first, then the story. Other times it’s the other way ’round. Once the panels are finished, I download them to my desktop. I run them through Preview again, and make them a little smaller. This makes it easier to send them to myself via Gmail.

EVEN MORE COMPLICATIONS:

The finished Canva files. These are the ones that I will post in Go Marielle. They are the third set of photos that need to be placed in a file. They are kept in a separate file. Labeled with the story or post name. At the completion of any Go Marielle single or long post, there is a veritable set of Russian nested doll of files.

The individual panels for Go Marielle also hang around in my Gmail account for a week or so after posting as well. I do this in case something goes wrong with initial posting. And I need to do it again. They are eventually deleted. Usually two weeks after the initial posting.

Back-ups:

I have an external drive that I back everything up to. I tend to have a lot of copies of files in different places. Most of the reason for this can be traced back to my time in art school when I lost a ton of work and had no back ups at all. I had to build the entire project almost from zero.

Because of my Canva account, I can leave a lot of graphics there. Most of the announcements for Instagram Stories are created in Canva. I still back them up to my external drive. Always as a ‘just in case’.

So, now what?

The ways in which I work on computer isn’t by any means meant to work for anyone but me. I suppose that I wanted to show those who are reading this post that you don’t have to have all of the expensive computers or programs to get started on your own personal creative journey. Decide what you want to create, then figure out how to do it with what you have right now.

There are computer and periphery equipment that will at some point in the future will be purchased. Again, I’m very glad to have my husband’s guidance on the subject. But until then, I will continue as I have, with what I’ve got. It’s better in the long-run I think.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!

 

 

Posted on

In Between

My artwork never travels in a straight line. The way in which I’ve been creating since the completion of the Creative Experiment has been the greatest influence upon that. I would also add that I’m a fairly impatient artist. Wanting my artwork to ‘get done faster‘! This is especially difficult when working with glue and gesso.

Half of the artwork that I’m currently working on seems to fall rather neatly into the above description. At times, I need to remind myself that completing my artwork quickly isn’t the main goal. My artwork needs to take the time it needs to help me create it and myself.

Bottles:

My fascination with Erittäin Heino Suomalainen bottles has been documented several times in my blog. They were used for the legs of Blue Doll #10. There is just something about them that speaks to me on a creative level.  Perhaps it’s because they are so distinctively shaped?

About a week ago, I decided to cut one of the bottles I had on hand in half. Then add paper mâché and gesso to the surface. One bottle, cut in two, became two bottles cut in two. Part of the reason for my doing that is because I wanted to have options for the artistic ideas I wanted to use.

Here’s the interesting thing; what these pieces are becoming is not exactly what I initially had in mind for them.

Between:

Just as it’s difficult to satisfactorily describe how I “just know” what do create as an artist. It’s equally as difficult to explain how I change the direction of a piece of artwork mid-creation. Again, it comes down to something similar to “I just know“. Which, even as I type it seems as if I’m not being truthful. Because I don’t always know.

Between the “I know” and “I don’t know” for myself as an artist is the place in where the creative decisions are made. My knowing and not knowing exist simultaneously. With a lot of space between the two, linking them. This in between space is where every artistic outcome is completely possible. Being ability to navigate this strange space is where the artwork is created over and over and over again. Each time with a different end product. My job as the artist is to choose one final shape and bring it in the physical world.

For anyone looking at the final, physical artistic creation, this is what the artist wanted to make. For me, it is only one of infinitely different outcomes. Knowing this propels me as an artist to go back to that in between space to explore more options for the artwork that I create.

Evolution:

The original idea I had for these bottles didn’t seem like it was ‘enough’. The imagined finished piece wasn’t what I felt it needed to be. Within that in between space, is so much stuff. By ‘stuff’ I mean basically everything. There are portions of this space that I actively attempt to bypass too.

There are hard and fast reasons for bypassing some of these places within the in between space. Some of it has to do with styles, some with design. And there are some things that are too emotional. So I just bypass them. They aren’t locked away. I see them. They are acknowledged. I just choose to leave them floating around.

One of the designs that I had been bypassing were fixed, rigid legs. From what I can understand about myself creatively, this comes from a deep childhood desire to have some of my own toys have articulated heads and limbs. These design elements are ones I find so satisfying to look at and manipulate that they have become fairly standard in my doll design.

What’s in that bypass?

The fixed, rigid leg construction for the four bottle dolls just would not let me go. No matter how much I thought about it. This type of leg was the answer. I let go of my fear and just decided to go with it. Then, I started looking at how I would design and create the heads for the dolls.

The “I know” part took over. Each of these dolls would have geometric forms for heads. Period. No more thinking about it. It’s just how they much be created. I made a few sketches to see if I really, really wanted to make heads like this. And the answer was yes.

As I began creating the arms and legs. Then the heads. Some of the bypassed places in that in between space began to come to the surface of my thoughts. That’s when it hit me. What I was beginning to create was similar to the memory of a doll-like toy I’d had when I was very young. The toy kind of freaked me out a little bit. But I liked it a great deal. I was cheap and plastic. More than likely, it was tossed out before I was 10 years old.

Sticky thoughts:

I knew this had to be true, because I had the “I know” feeling. Again. I cannot explain it well. It’s a physical sensation. It’s mental too. Ha! While writing this, I gave it all a test. I thought about the pieces I’m working on. Pulled in the bypassed plastic doll memory, as well as the bypassed rigid, fixed legs. And yep. Totally got the “I know” feeling.

For quite some time, I have believed that the reason I make the artwork that I make, specifically dolls and toy-themed artwork, was because I was making them for the child I was. That somehow, I would have chosen them as my toys instead of mass-produced dolls and toys. But I think it may go a bit deeper than that.

Why specifically would I spend so much time in an extremely specific and short period of my childhood? While the above reasons are true. I think that a greater portion of my rationale may have to do with control. Control of who and what I am. How I think. Where I go. Who I interact with. Perhaps control is too limiting a concept. Perhaps autonomy is a better descriptor.

New meaning:

All of the above being said, and to make a long story just a little longer, I feel as though I’m working in the correct direction with regard to the four bottle dolls (as I’m calling them right now). Working on them is helping me to create myself. Or perhaps know myself in a greater sense. Man. That in between space is wild. I never know quite what I’ll find in there!

Abrupt change of topic:

Gesso. While I’ve been working on the four bottle dolls, changes have been made to my homemade gesso recipe. I decided to try using chalk instead of plaster in my mixture. I’m quite pleased with the results so far. It’s far easier to sand than the plaster based gesso. There are still places in which the paint surface is bumpy. But I’ve found some solutions to this problem that I will be trying in an upcoming batch of gesso.

I’ve also added some talc to the mixture. I like how it gives the gesso added body. And it makes the gesso smoother to paint onto the surfaces worked on. I’ve also finally realized that I need to actually create a recipe for my gesso that can be replicated. Presently, I’ve just been creating the gesso from ‘feel’. As in, it needs more water, it’s too thick. Or I need to grind the chalk a little more, it feels to lumpy.

So…now what?

The concepts and designs of the bottle dolls are working well. And in a direction that I find extremely satisfying. I’m getting my gesso recipe closer and closer to what I want and need it to be for my artwork. OH! And of the four boxes for 12 cm dolls and the 10 tiny doll brooches have been painted! I’ve set them aside so that they can dry completely (five to seven days) and then I can add more paint and drawing to the surfaces of them.

So…yeah. My work is progressing. In the physical world and the emotional world.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.