Life’s journey is full of strange twists and turns. One of the most unusual turns for me will occur next Saturday when some of my work will be on display at an art gallery. Me—who never had an art class in my life! I will have my work at Sunbear Studios and Gallery, May 19 and 20 in Alexandria, Ohio.
Some of my loyal followers of this blog may be thinking that I will have my photographs but, no, I will be featuring actual art work from my children’s books. I have three self-published children’s books titled The Sad Seedling, The Beautiful Bird from Birdburgville, and Robert Robin’s First Flight. When I wrote the books I had a very definite picture in mind and, although I worked with several artists to illustrate the books, they never captured the mood and personalities I wanted. Finally, in desperation I tried illustrating them myself and the final product wasn’t too bad. Art critics would probably find plenty to criticize but I drew my characters the way I saw them and what I liked as a child.
I need a “hook”
I took my books to a few book signings and craft shows but I felt I needed something more to draw attention to my product. Children being dragged to these events are bored beyond belief. I then decided I needed to make these characters come alive for them so I created soft sculptures of the main characters.
Making the critters
This was another challenge because not only am I not an artist but I have limited sewing experience. I found a pattern with basic bird shapes and then modified the patterns to look more like my characters. Here enters challenge number three—how to make the modifications work.
Once I had an object that closely resembled the characters in the books I then needed to make a few more adjustments so I could reproduce a number of them in as short amount of time as possible. Because the characters are so small, it is difficult scrunching all the material around the BIG sewing machine. It would have been much easier to make the characters larger but then they would be out of proportion to the ones in the books.
Finally, once the “critters” are complete then the hand work for the finishing touches comes into the picture. This involves sewing on the heads, closing the bottoms, adding buttons for eyes; and hot gluing “googly” eyes on the robins, beaks, wings, etc.
The big reveal
In March I talked with the owner of Sunbear Studios and Gallery about including my books in her shop and mentioned I was thinking of creating soft sculptures to go with them. She then told me about her art show coming up in May and to come back with them and she would decide. Today was the big reveal. I took my creations back to Meridith, the owner, and she loved them. In her words, “They are so cute.”
Art is fun May 19 & 20
So please come see me next Saturday, May 19 and 20 at Sunbear Studios and Gallery, 3 W. Main St., Alexandria, Ohio 43001—740/924-2656 (between Johnstown and Granville, Ohio on OH Rt. 37). They are planning a great art festival with live music, artist demos, door prizes, art auction of children’s art work, container gardens by Baker’s Acres, snacks, and LOTS OF FUN!
So, here I am, participating in an art show with no formal training—but that has allowed me to think outside the box. Maybe I’ll be an overnight sensation, the Grandma Moses of our time—who’d a thought it?!
NOTE—below is a copy of the flyer. I will add pictures of my “critters” later.
Our heatwave is a mixed blessing for owners of garden centers as reported in the Columbus Dispatch. Their business is picking up earlier than usual but many of their plants are blooming prematurely. This is a problem for the flowers intended for Easter. DeMonya Nursery’s answer is to place them on skids next to the door and sell them at reduced prices–a bargain for the shopper but a bust for the owners.
The above picture is taken from the Columbus Dispatch multimedia site showing how Columbus citizens coped with the recent snow storm. It is filled with people bundled up, cars and snow plows on the highway, and even a cute squirrel in his cozy tree nest.
Then there is this picture of middle school students being released from school early so they can get home before the big storm hits. Look at the picture closely. If it weren’t for the dusting of snow on the ground one might think it is a fall or spring shot. No one is wearing a heavy coat, boots, hat, or gloves. In fact, one kid is wearing shorts and another is wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt.
I don’t understand the trend of young people wearing light clothing and no coats in winter and Ugg boots and knit stocking caps in summer. This fall I attended my grandson’s football game where the temperature was probably 110 degrees (actual—no exaggeration) in the stadium. In front of us were two middle school girls wearing heavy hoodie sweatshirts and jeans; however, one girl was smart enough to opt for shorts.
Some people have tried to explain to me that young people don’t feel the cold and heat the same way as us old folks. I can assure you I was not one of them. I don’t like to be cold so I bundled up in the winter. We weren’t allowed to wear pants to school therefore I wore hose and knee socks and I still froze. Unfortunately, I did not have a good pair of snow boots until college when I was working. I remember saving to buy a good pair of fur-lined boots, the forerunner of Uggs.
So why aren’t the kids in this picture dressed for cold weather? Are they products of car pool nation and think they won’t be exposed to the cold any length of time? Are their parents working and don’t see what they are wearing before they go out the door? Or, are they trying to get pneumonia so they will miss days of school?
After pondering this question I think I finally have the answer. The mother to every under dressed kid is the woman I saw in the grocery store on a cold December night wearing flip-flops! (See “Why Do Women Wear What They Wear?”—December)
It is 8:45 on a Saturday night. I rush into the grocery store when I see her—a tall, lean, beautiful blond.
This is my second trip to the store for the day. I forgot a few necessities such as cereal and milk for tomorrow morning and a jug of my favorite red wine for a nightcap. I round the corner and nearly flatten her with my cart. She is standing in the middle of the wine/gift and card section. We give each other “the eye” and then a nod and weak smile. Not the big toothy kind reserved for your long-lost BFF but one with a slight upturn at the corners of the mouth. The kind that says, “Hello stranger. I come in peace.”
She is a tall, willowy, middle-aged blond (cue the harp music and wind machine).The first thing I notice is that she is severely under-dressed for the weather. She is wearing a fashionable lime green puffy vest with a complimentary lime green sweater and skinny jeans—or they might have been the new, trendy jeggings. Whatever they were, they were the tight, show off a killer figure kind of jeans. While I stand there in my ¾ length Lands End coat with the detachable hood and rated to -15 degrees, I think she looks cold. I am warm and self-assured in my stretch mom jeans, green coat accented with a festive red scarf and my gray hair tucked under my charcoal gray corduroy news-boy cap with a green felt wreath jauntily pinned to the side.
She takes a step toward the card display and that is when I see a flash of red. Wait! Did I really see what I think I saw? Toe-nail polish! Yes, she has naked toes! Did I mention it is COLD outside? Like about 15 degrees cold. She is wearing flip-flops (as contrasted to my toes encased in wool sox and fur-lined boots). What is she thinking? Not only is it cold but we have a coating of about 4 inches of snow on the ground. Even if she is so hot she thinks she is immune to the cold, she is risking frost bite just crossing the slushy parking lot.
I don’t understand women who are a slave to fashion. Before you judge me for being old-fashioned and out of step with fashion, let me fill in a part of my resume. (OK, I confess about the mom jeans but they are comfortable and topped with a sweater or sweatshirt no one knows the difference.) I used to own a shop and took frequent buying trips to Chicago to the Merchandise Mart. I believe in looking nice at all times but also being dressed appropriately for the occasion and the season. You don’t wear swimwear in the snow nor snowsuits at the beach. I had a business partner during my boutique days and she was such a slave to fashion that my father once said that if it became the fashion to wear sh-t on your head, she would be the first one to try it.
What was this beautiful but under-dressed woman doing at the grocery store at 8:45 on a Saturday night? I hate to bring up dumb blond jokes but she couldn’t be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Why was she wearing flip-flops in the snow? I don’t have the answers to these questions but I hope she was not headed to the annual Wildlights at the Zoo exhibit. She might have a few less toes in the morning. As for me, I settled in by the fireplace wrapped in a big, fluffy blanket with my toes covered and my glass of red wine to warm my soul. I wouldn’t trade places with her for any amount of money.
My niece called last night very upset. She had taken a break in her hectic holiday preparations to spend the day devoted to her neighbors. Her thanks for all her efforts was a simple “thank you” and the door slammed in her face.
Neighbors on both sides of her had had babies within the last several weeks. Wanting to be a good neighbor, she went shopping for appropriate baby gifts and a package of diapers and then made a pan of her special home-made lasagna for each neighbor. She even included baking directions and the recipe in case anyone had food allergies. Arms full of goodies, she and her three-year old son went next door to make her first delivery. The husband/new father met her at the first home, took the offerings, said “thank you” and closed the door. Ditto for the second delivery however he included a “God bless you”. There was no offer to come in and see the baby or even a friendly “how ya doin’”. Even her young son observed the cold reception.
In trying to analyze what happened we looked at several possibilities. In both cases it was the husband/father who answered the door so was it just a guy thing? Also, in both cases they were of different races so was it a racial or cultural thing? Were they so shocked that someone was actually reaching out and trying to be a good neighbor they didn’t know how to react?
During our discussion she made a comment that really made me think. She said she was used to sitting on the front porch and waving and saying “hi” to everyone who passed by that she thought everyone did the same. Yes, we were raised in a front porch community. We knew all of our neighbors and spoke to people walking down the street. Even if we did not know the people we would smile and nod.
Front porch communities are now a thing of the past. Most new homes haven’t had front porches for many years. We retreat into our environmentally controlled homes and many times don’t even know our next door neighbors. Gone is the Norman Rockwell world where children can play freely. Today we are afraid of molesters and drug addicts roaming the neighborhoods. We are caught up in our own busy lives and fail to think about those around us. But what kind of community do we have when neighbors don’t know neighbors? What kind of world are we creating? This isolationism only opens us up to more crime. If no one is looking after us we are vulnerable to those of bad intentions.
My disappointed niece said, “I don’t get it, I was just trying to be a good neighbor.” In this holiday season let us all try to take time to be a good neighbor. Smile and say, “hi”. Offer to look after their place while they are gone for the holidays, offer to take in their mail and newspapers. Take them a batch of homemade cookies. We will be much safer if we take time to look after each other.
It seems we are light years away from Norman Rockwell’s ideallic world but bring back the front porches and perhaps we can recapture a portion of that world. A simple smile and, “Hi neighbor” can do wonders. The next time someone brings a batch of cookies or pan of lasagna to your door at least invite her in. It could be the beginning of a great friendship. As the Good Book says, “Love thy neighbor.”