April 9, 2011 from 7 to 9 PM
Enjoy a relaxed evening at the Fair Oaks Village Second Saturday Art Walk. I’ll be a Bella Fiore Florist from 7 to 9 PM answering questions about these eggs.
In addition this Saturday evening will be a time to say farewell to current owners, Bill and Deborah Brown, and say hello to new owners, Dawn and Chris Conyers. See their blog for more details.
From now until April 30 you can see a wide assortment of my pysanky eggs at the Kennedy Gallery, 1114 20th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811.
St. John’s Art Festival opens with a reception Saturday, March 12, 2011, from 5 to 9 PM at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1701 L Street, Sacramento. This collection of religious and spiritual works runs through Saturday, March 19.
One of my pieces was accepted to this show, and submitting a piece to a juried art show is scary, there is just no way around that. Fear can keep an artist from sharing and sometimes even creating work. I know because I’m all too familiar with the self-talk that tells me my pysanky eggs are just a “little thing I do” and not really art.
When I stopped to think about my art-related fears, I realized they mirror my personal fears. “Will-anyone-else-like-my-eggs” is really just me saying “will-anyone-else-like-me?” “My-art-is-no-good” becomes “I-am-no-good,” and on and on.
I know to survive as an artist I must learn to separate my art from own self-worth. And to grow and thrive as a person I need to embrace this separation. The tricky part is putting this simple truth into practice. But practice takes…well, practice, so one step at a time I’m working on this personal spiritual discipline by putting my art out into the “real world” beyond my comfort zone. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Creating these eggs is a never-ending adventure in experimentation and I’ve made my share of poor color and design choices over the years. It took me quite a while to realize it is okay to dislike a piece enough to destroy it and try again. Now I give myself permission to cut my losses and move on sometimes. It hasn’t always been this way, though.
Let me tell you the story of what we refer to in my family as “The Ugly Cake.” Years ago when my oldest son, Ryan, turned 14 I decided to try making an ice cream roll birthday cake like the ones at Baskin-Robbins. The yellow cake part baked without incident and I dutifully rolled it up in a towel when it came out of the oven just like the cookbook said. As I finished rolling it, I noticed a wrinkle in the towel so without thinking, I stretched the two side edges to get rid of the wrinkle. Unfortunately the hot cake was firmly attached to the towel at this point and it split crosswise into two rolls. Oh well, I thought to myself. I can glue it together with the ice cream filling. No one will ever know.
Once cooled, I gently unrolled the cake to find that not only had it split into two rolls, it unrolled with a series of cracks so deep that I could see the towel below. Still believing I had a chance, I dutifully spread softened chocolate ice cream over the pieces of cake and rolled it back up as I went. I could tell it looked pretty pitiful at this point, but hoping for the best, I stuck it in the freezer.
When I checked later, I realized the ice cream must have been too soft because the weight of the cake caused it to ooze out of all the edges of the cake. Alarmed, I yanked it out of the freezer with perhaps a little too much vigor. Because the ice cream wasn’t hard all the way through the cake, the top half slid right over the edge of the pan and onto my arm.
Ever the optimist, I scooted the pieces back together and decided I could still save it if I just made a chocolate glaze and covered up what I now referred to as the “Ugly Cake.” I quickly threw together a decadent shiny chocolate glaze to try to hide the many mounting flaws. However, I forgot the cake was cold and instead of flowing gracefully over its sides, the warm glaze just sat in a lump on the top of the mess.
Desperate now, I spread the glaze as far as it would go, shoved the cake back in the freezer, and drove with Ryan to Baskin-Robbins where we chose a cake from the many beauties in their freezer. I did finally show the “Ugly Cake” to the rest of the family and we had a good laugh at my adventure.
The lesson here? There are definitely times to admit your mistakes, give up, and move on. You might even laugh about them someday.
…or Making the Leap from “I Do This Art” to “I am an Artist”
It’s taken me years to actually refer to myself an artist. And I think I’m not alone in my reluctance to claim the label. There is something mysterious and wonderful and scary about that term. If I call myself an artist, then I have to produce art, and be good at art and sell art, and make money selling art, or so we think.
Truthfully the title “artist” is helpful because it describes a way people look at the world…not simply as things you can see and touch and define, but in a way that pierces the thin veil between our finite world and God-breathed eternity. And whether I call myself an artist or not doesn’t change the fact that I am an artist. Simple, huh? Well, not really.
Let me take you layer by layer through my own gradual journey to claiming the title artist.
Layer 1—I Can Create. As did many others, I began exploring creative avenues early in life. For most of us it starts with school projects. Those simple drawings led me to creative writing to playing at miniatures to quilting to cross-stitch to clothespin people and eventually to discovering the fascinating world of pysanky. And now looking back I can follow the thread of creativity through the years.
Layer 2—I Can Do This Egg Thing. Pysanky, the layering of wax and dyes on eggshells, is a simple art yet it holds endless possibilities in terms of color and design. I taught myself the basics from a book and found I loved the challenge presented by each new egg. Even the failures provided valuable lessons as I honed my craft.
Layer 3—I’m Improving. The finished egg was never the goal for me but the process of creating was. I treasured my quiet time creating, leaving the rest of the world behind. My family got to see those works but rarely did anyone else so years of finished eggs lay hidden away in a closet.
Layer 4:—Am I an Artist? Eventually I began to give away some of these treasured creations to family and close friends. I was so used to seeing these eggs and thinking them commonplace, that the response they evoked surprised me. It made me realize that in sharing my work, I not only gave pleasure to others, I felt incredibly blessed as well. Gradually I let others into the private world of my art, and with much prodding from other artist friends, I “went public” with a solo show at the Art & Soul Gallery in 2006. Developing a website seemed like a reasonable next step but it took years and much hand-holding. Making the eggs is easy, marketing myself and my work is not.
Layer 5—I Am an Artist…I Think. By releasing my work to the world at large, I opened myself to praise and to criticism. This is where real and imagined fears come to the surface and they can paralyze an artist. I know, I’ve been there. And sometimes I’m still there. Thoughts like these race through my head. What will they think or worse, what will they say? What if they don’t like my work, and by extension me? What if my work really isn’t good and no one told me? What if…? I have to remind myself continually that what people think of my art, doesn’t change my work or my passion for it.
Layer 6—I Am an Artist…and So Are You. Having come this far, I sometimes have the privilege of seeing and encouraging other fledgling artists in their own journeys. Being an artist is mostly a solo gig. There’s no getting around the hard, often solitary work it takes to produce art. But because of that, there is great need for community among artists, for standing shoulder to shoulder, for walking together, for helping others to see themselves as God-created artists. Whether we practice our art or not, each of us is an artist and fellow traveler in life’s journey. How much sweeter is the trip when we link arms and help each other along the way.
Truth be told, I love stealing away to my workspace alone, leaving the rest of the world behind as I immerse myself in the work and play of wax and dyes and eggs. There is something healing and soul restoring about the quiet, repetitive actions these eggs require. I can’t seem to get enough time alone like this so when I do, I enjoy it thoroughly.
Interacting with other artists is just as valuable to my soul, yet I don’t make nearly enough time for it in my life. Why is it so hard for me? I understand the value of community, I enjoy learning about the art and soul journeys of others, and I get inspired when I hear other artists speak with passion about their art.
I realize I love my comfortable “alone” zone so to push against these introverted leanings, I meet monthly with other artists. In the Sacramento area, the Covenant Artists meet on the third Thursday of each month and artists of all media and skill levels are welcome. This group exists to share, discover, and learn about ourselves, our art and our God.
If you would like to stretch your artistic side, I highly recommend connecting with other artists. Isn’t it time for you to step out of your comfort zone too?
Saturday August 14 from 5 to 9 PM— Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the Second Saturday experience in Fair Oaks Village and be sure to stop by Bella Fiore Florist to see firsthand the painstaking work that goes into creating these eggs.
Personally, I really enjoy the opportunity to explain how I make pysanky (Ukrainian eggs). Most people are unfamiliar with the wax-resist process and find it hard at first to envision the steps it takes, layering wax on the eggshell as it is dyed color after color. The fun part for me at these demonstrations comes when that light bulb of understanding dawns and the onlookers grasp the whole concept.
Bella Fiore’s owners, Bill and Debbie, have transformed part of their shop into an art gallery where you can see some of my pysanky as well as works by other local artists. Take some time on this Second Saturday to explore and enjoy this wonderful venue.
Here’s a simple truth. Life doesn’t always go as planned…and the same thing applies in creating these eggs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started with an idea in my head and then proceeded to do it differently on the egg. Perhaps more often I forget to cover an area with wax and don’t discover it until after the egg comes out of the next darker dye when it’s too late to change anything. That’s what happened on this cross in the photo to the right.
Sometimes I desire a specific color and the egg just won’t take the dye properly so the color scheme changes completely. The egg to the left was supposed to have brilliant clear colors, but instead looks like an ancient, well-loved quilt which I liked even better. In my family we call that experience an “unexpected extra.”
I admit it irritates me at times, but that’s part of the beauty of this art. It can be wonderfully unpredictable which means sometimes the results are more surprising and spectacular than if it had turned out the way I planned. A kindergarten teacher my boys had would always say, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” As I think about it, that applies to creating these eggs but it’s also a pretty good philosophy for life as well.
I recently had my son and resident photographer, Ryan, take some egg photos for me. As he set up his camera, I collected eggs from their various resting spots around the house and together we staged shots that filled the photos with masses of eggs. Looking at the end result now I marvel at how many finished pysanky there are.
People often ask me how much time it takes to make one of these eggs. It’s hard for me to estimate because I enjoy it so much, but it can range from two hours for a very simple chicken egg to nearly forty hours for a large, multi-colored ostrich egg. And that’s just actual time working on the eggs. It doesn’t include the hours spent daydreaming about the next egg or figuring out a design problem in my head or sketching ideas into my notebook. All I can say is that individually they take a lot of time, but collectively it’s astronomical.
I’m amazed at the amount of time those eggs represent over these last fifteen years. And grateful for the life I have—a husband who supports me in my art and doesn’t mind eating Cheerios for dinner when I’m madly at work in my studio, three nearly grown boys who can operate pretty independently most of the time, a church that fully embraces the arts and the artists within, and a God who gave me this passion for creating beauty in small spaces. Life is good indeed…and it’s about time I stop and remember that.