Sunday, January 29, 2006

Altering a Community

I imagine most people think about the lottery and wonder, what if? It’s a fun game to play with endless possibilities based on which lottery of the week you envision winning or just dreaming about the ultimate lottery of mega millions.

My vision of that mega millions lottery would be to pay the taxes due, give my tithe to God, pay off our mortgage and any debts, help our children, and help our community.

My husband goes to work to earn a living and life goes on. We pay our taxes, make the monthly mortgage payment, tithe, do what we can to help the kids, and help our community all without winning that big one. We ride a Harley and as members of the Harley Owners Group, Mt. Baker Chapter, Bellingham WA, we have a great deal of fun riding and helping our community. We have an annual toy run each year to benefit the Blaine Chamber of Commerce Giving Tree. We have a benefit ride to raise money for our annual scholarship for a graduating senior in our county. We flipped hot dogs for Northwest Medical Teams to benefit Hurricane Katrina survivors. Our Ladies of Harley supports charities that assist women, children, and families in our county. We provide baby clothes, emergency food, diapers, and school and art supplies for The GRADS program allowing teenage mothers to complete their high school diplomas.

Larry and I also provide additional support to the GRADS program and I teach art classes to the girls and recruit other artists to teach. Larry is working with our church to write grants to help low income families in our county as well as helping other non profit organizations write grants.

When I started my blog there was a question you could answer or select another one. Well I kept clicking the button hoping the right question would pop up before it rotated and I had to start at the beginning, and there it was: Your hand has been replaced by a rubber stamp. What does it say? First thought in my head was, “In God We Trust.”

In church this weekend, Pastor Bob spoke about In God We Trust. What we have, what we own, everything is by God’s grace. We don’t own anything and we can’t take it with us. Everyone was given a sealed envelope and told not to open it. Across the front it read: In _________________ we Trust. We were asked to fill in our name in the blank spot. Then we were told that in the envelope was a $5.00 bill. We were not allowed to return it to the offering plate or buy a lottery ticket. Other than that we could do what we wanted with it. What Pastor Bob hoped is that we make an impact on our community. Individually, as a family, with friends, or with our small groups, Pastor Bob was giving each one of us what belongs to GOD and God trusted that we would use it wisely.

Pastor Bob encouraged us to email him on our decisions of how we used God’s money to help make an impact in our community to benefit those in need. We have almost 3,000 people who attended services each week on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. That is almost $15,000.00 that we as individuals and church members have been entrusted with.

My first reaction was to put it back in the offering plate because it was not my money. When finding out I couldn’t do that, I thought of Salt on the Street. This program provides a sack meal to the homeless and ministers to them every Saturday evening no matter what the weather conditions. So the challenge was to use wisely what we have and make an impact in our county. Our church small group agreed to purchase jeans and sweatshirts to help the Salt on the Street ministry.

I would image that most people given $5.00 to spend that doesn’t even belong to them will then put in a like donation. Imagine what $15,000.00 or $30,000.00 or $45,000.00 can do in a small county in one week.

I read about those who win millions and then within several years they are broke. They squandered their money on frivolous things with no thought to the future.

I’ve already won the biggest lottery anyone can win. I have accepted Jesus Christ as God’s son, and my reward is yet to come.

Stretch it
See how far it will go
What do you get for it?
Is what you get
What you really want
You can’t buy
Or peace of mind
Will it last?
Will you regret it?
Will you wish
Upon a star
Make a bet
Play the lottery
Hedge your bets
Make a difference
In someone’s life
Make a donation
Soup kitchens
Women’s shelters
Use it wisely
No apologies
No guilt
No distress
What can you do?
With God’s gifts

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Finding a little free time

Finding a little free time to write about what I am working on is easier said than done.

I am currently working on a red, white, and blue patriotic themed altered book with twenty eight spreads not including the inside front and back covers. It is an old garden book with leaflets attached to small plastic pins. After removing over half the pages and gluing the remaining pages together I was ready to begin. All was well until the pages on spread five and six split and pulled away from the pin holding it to the book. The good thing about an altered book is that you just add a little more glue, paper, and tape and it is as good as new, so to speak. My crisis was over and I could move onto the next page.

Finding the images for an altered book is sometimes the simple part. After I decide on a theme for my book based on images, paper, paint, and embellishments, I write original poetry to connect the pages and pictures together.

I don’t mass-produce my work for a quick dollar and my books are not simple glue books with random pictures. I don’t always choose easy books to work with either. My first book was one of those with little pull tabs that change pictures. So cute until I had to change that first picture and figure out how to do it. I am constantly searching for new techniques and materials that will enhance my art and make it enjoyable to those who view it. Sometimes taking a class and having an instructor show you how to do things is better than winging it on your own. Other times, it just seems that jumping in and doing it is the right way to go--and that is how I feel about altered books. There is no wrong way or right way, just your way or my way.

Monday, January 16, 2006

An Altered Life: Family, Collage Art, Paintings, Mosaics, and more

When my mother Clella was five years old she had rheumatic fever and spent her entire summer tucked up in a big feather bed. My grandmother, Maggie Miami Dye Melton, taught her to quilt and she has been doing it for eighty-three years. My mother taught me about color and texture but I didn’t seem to inherit her skills at quilting but did catch the gardening fever from her.

My father is a master carpenter and what is referred to as a “jack of all trades”. Before he retired he could frame the house, roof it, plumb it, wire it, and finish it off. My father shares his wisdom and skills as I play with my art and marry materials and ideas that Home Depot keeps telling me I can’t do. By the way I have switched to Lowes or my local old fashioned Hardware Sales.

I never played with my dad’s power tools when I was growing up. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t let me, but times were different. Now I have my own set of tools, glues, fasteners, and gadgets.

So what are my earliest memories of art in my life? I remember when a younger cousin received a Barbie but money was tight so she didn’t get the dream house. I cut and pasted using an old cardboard box and made her a complete kitchen. Sewing classes in junior high and high school (the required basic shirt, stuffed animal and later a dress) were reinforcement to what I learned at home on my mom’s Sears sewing machine. Painting began at a very early age when at about three or four, when living on a farm, I called the chickens by name and as they walked past me I gave each one a colorful stripe from a can of house paint I found. In a high school publication I wrote my first poem but was afraid to sign my name, so I added anonymous to the end. I kept my writings to myself and never shared what I wrote until I started making Altered Books.

I spent weeks making hundreds of items to sell at a school bazaar where children shopped for their family and everything was just $2.00. Then several years later my sister hosted a Christmas boutique in her home and again I mass produced items to sell that were different and unique from all the other boutiques. Because of these two adventures I realized that I hated to mass produce items.

The road of life came to an intersection and I got off the freeway and took a side street. After an ugly divorce I met a wonderful, caring, loving man named who is my knight in shinning armor. I have only seriously played with my art since I remarried and my husband Larry encouraged me with my own studio and shop. We have six children ages 20-47, one cat, one dog, a large garden, and a Harley. Larry loves me just the way I am and encourages me to do whatever makes me happy. He loves watching me work in my studio and is positive and supportive of everything I try. Because of his love and his faith in me I have all the time I want or need to play with my art.

I didn’t know how important that decoupage class I took in the 80’s would be until years later or how that two hour painting class sometime in the early 90’s from an artist whose name I have long forgotten would be the seed that grew. I still have the t-shirt I painted as a reminder of how primitive or childlike my first attempts at roses and leaves were. I have since taken a flower painting techniques class with Ronnie LaBree and a watercolor class with Jody Bergsma in her studio. These hands on classes supplemented my small library of art books. I keep looking for new things to play with and mosaic artist Ramona Abbot was teaching a local class and this looked like a lot of fun. Searching for a plate, tile, cup, or bowl in just the right color, taking it home and breaking it and then gluing it back together with all the other bits of colors and patterns was a whole new world.

I love working on one or two similar items and moving on to a new idea. I love taking apart old lamps, taking other found items and making chandeliers out of them. I made a curtain valance out of wood and copper tubing, shelves out of shutters, and a headboard out of an old bedroom mirror. Maybe my most unusual project was turning a late 19th century casket bier into a coffee table.

I’ve painted “shabby chic” roses on silver coffee pots, chairs, jewelry boxes, ornaments, fans, rocking horses, just about everything from A-Z. My daughter finally said “enough” so painting and selling roses took a back seat to paintings of dogs. The dogs just sort of came to me late a night when I couldn’t sleep. The dogs are a little bit abstract realistic to know what breed they are.

That 2000 yellow Softail Heritage classic Harley-Davidson named “Tweety” was my introduction to life on two wheels and my new family, Mt. Baker Chapter Bellingham WA Harley Owners Group. We switched bikes this year to a 2005 HD Ultra in black cherry with a better seat known to the Ladies as the “princess seat” that is named RD VXN (red vixen). The Ladies of Harley supports an annual baby shower for the GRADS teen parent program through the Bellingham School District. I started volunteering by providing art materials and teaching art classes and techniques to the girls. While searching for something new and different to teach the girls I discovered Altered Books and discovered a new part of me.

I have taught classes in paper-making, creating altered books, watercolors, and mosaic art. I have worked in painted glass, fabric dolls with custom clothes, built furniture for the garden and home, creating art with almost anything. But none of it compares to an Altered Book or a collaged art piece as a way to fully express myself.

In my altered books I emphasize themes and use my own original poems to set the mood and feeling in my art. I believe in learning from others in a sharing environment.
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