Friday, October 10, 2008

Mad Science Meets Art



What happens when science and art collide, when that path of black and white empirical data has to make way for the intrusion of the other colors of the spectrum?

You get an artistic scientist…or a scientific artist…or Amanda Giesler, aka Ulixis.

At the ripe age of 21, she is a Master’s student in Physiology and Pharmacology, researching the link between obesity and asthma on a cellular level. Sometime in between working in the lab, doing literature searches, reading papers, authoring approval forms for research funding, and being a teaching assistant (whew!), she manages to find a little time for her art. And that is where the collision takes place, in all its wondrous colors and shapes. Be it jewelry, paper art, or just collecting fun beads and buttons, Amanda takes her inspiration from nature around her and her wonder at it all.

“I grew up in the middle of nowhere, the middle of Northern Ontario. My parents owned a tourist camp beside a river and 100 acres of land.”

This bucolic setting afforded hay in the autumn, a forest to get wood to heat the house in the winter and to gather the annual Christmas tree. And inspiration for Amanda. In school when all the other little girls were professing a desire to become teachers, Amanda wanted to be an artist.

“I grew up in a very picturesque place. I’m always more creative after a trip home.”

She now lives in Hamilton, about five hours away from her roots, on the seventh floor of an apartment building. Even so, she feels being there has helped her creativity. After putting aside her craft endeavors while concentrating on school, she rediscovered that side of herself after finding all the resources in a larger town.

“I see my artistic evolution as a revolving wheel of media. Just taking the past year into account, my work has improved a lot.”

Still, she feels she has a long way to go.

Her current family includes her boyfriend Pat, whom she met in high school over seven years ago and her pet finch, Michael.

“Pat has been pretty tolerant of my crafting. He helps me solder, comes with me to crafty stores and markets and puts up with the mess without complaining *too* much.”

Aside from her science and her crafting, she loves to cook.

“My science side is reflected in some of my work (the Mad Scientists of Etsy team challenges, mainly), as well as in my cooking. Once you know how to follow a protocol for an experiment, recipes are no problem. But I prefer cooking, because you can add your own twist to it without ruining anything!”

And how does Amanda define success as an artist/craftsperson?

“I don’t really consider success as an artist. I don’t create for success or money. It is a joy, a pastime, a stress-buster, a lifestyle. I get satisfaction from seeing what I have done with my two hands.” Validation is good, but the sheer joy of creating and sharing is what keeps her going.

And the future?

“Looking at my work, my style has matured… but I’m still young. My experimental years aren’t over.”

Ah, those experiments! Einstein, Hawking….Giesler?

One never knows!

Please visit Amanda’s shop at http://ulixis.etsy.com to see her fun (and experimental) items.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm Gonna Be Featured!

Yay! Thanks to The Bath, Body, Candle blog -- http://www.bathbodycandle.blogspot.com/-- for offering to highlight me on October 21. There will be a giveaway: my French Vanilla and Amber candle, just for logging on and leaving a comment.

I must say the blog is a fun shopping trip in the land of handmade bath and body products. Ever since Michael started making soaps six years ago, I haven't touched a bar of commercial soap unless I was forced by circumstance. This blog is like handmade soap HEAVEN! In scanning the older posts I found something that just tickled my fancy:Is this not the cutest little shop? Take a look: http://soapwerksinmidway.com/default.aspx. What a fun conspiracy of artisans! Okay, I'm putting this is my future "wants" file -- a little shop shared with fun artists! Anyone want to join me?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bandit, My Dear, Sweet Canine Friend...


...is home.

A little piece of him is missing, right below his right shoulder. It was an interloper, an unwelcome guest. It was cancer -- technically a mast cell tumor.

My old guy is back at his post, under my office chair. He's a little out of it. He has a Frankenstein scar the length of my hand to show for his long, hard day. But with the help of Fruit of the Loom, and some major painkillers, he is looking quite cozy.

I wish I could hold on to him forever, but I know I can't. It is part of life, this death thing. We all succumb and my dear canine is no exception. I am sure he has been around before, though, as he has been my angel for so long and will probably follow me elsewhere, in another form, as another being.

He looks up with his big brown eyes. He knows. We've saved him once again.

And he is grateful.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Debra Linker - An Artist's Way


Long ago and far away, there was a band of roving gypsies….

Uh, oh, there I go again listening to those voices in my head!

Thanks to Debra Linker, a dear Etsy friend, who has agreed to be my guinea pig for my first blog interview! Please visit her extraordinary shop at http://debralinker.etsy.com.

Debra grew up in Dallas, Texas and moved to Seattle about fourteen years ago, following a technical career path. Hers is a story of the left brain finally finding its right counterpart, a balance that was to change her direction in life toward a new identity: that of an artist.

“Growing up,” Debra says, “I was not even remotely interested in artistic endeavors.”

Then, one day, a good friend suggested she “should paint.” Out of the blue!

“I immediately disregarded it!”

But husband Bruce saw something in the possibilities. Curious to see what she was harboring, he took her shopping for art supplies.

Then, another friend recommended she read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Within days, she was attending a workshop based on the book. People were urging her to paint, cheering her along the way. She took lessons. She started exhibiting in a friend’s shop. A chain of events, a series of synchronicities….

Like Cinderella at the ball, she found that she had, indeed, been an artist all along.

Enter Etsy, a creative community where Debra could further foster her creative forces while being surrounded by like minds. And where she could actually SELL her works and be supported by others who were creating businesses out of their creations.

“I am daily inspired by the scenery, the nature, and the art community” in Seattle. “I live in a well-groomed evergreen forested area and there is no lack of subject matter for any of my art ‘phases.’”

“For the first time in my life, I am finding a desire to express social and political views that I have previously kept pretty much to myself. An example of this is the recent completion of ‘Viridis.’”


Her technique is as simple as it is difficult.

“I simply just start putting paint on the canvas – any paint, any color -- and, before long, I have the next stroke, and the next, and soon, I have another painting.”

And what does she see in her future? What defines success?

“Being able to paint another day; to have the materials, the time, and the ability to just paint another day…that would be my definition of success.”

To learn more about Debra and to see more of her beautiful work, please visit:
http://debralinker.com
http://debralinker.etsy.com
http://debralinker.blogspot.com

5:00 am. My favorite time of day. A soft glow emanates from the unit against the wall, the tiny lamp in the kitchen. A hush, heavy against my ears like a veil. The sharp edges of daylight are but a blur. The world around me sleeps, breathing heavy and rhythmic. The breath of life, in stillness, surrounds me. Peace. No screaming politicians, no whizzing traffic -- just me and my steaming mug of coffee and my God. We sit together each morning, no words needed. At precisely 5:30 the world will start to stir as my son gets up for school. I hear the squeak of his door, the sound of a CD, the water running in the shower. My peace is punctuated, as it always is, at this time. I put down my mug and wish my God a silent prayer of gratitude, for all that I am, for all that I have, for those two teenagers upstairs who will soon break open my veil of silence. I wonder what I have done to deserve this life of wonder. But it doesn't matter. I am blessed, for the moment, so I will savor it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yes, I must admit, when it comes to blogging, I am a deadbeat. I am a writer, so you would think it would be the simplest thing on earth. But I would much rather spin a web of fiction from my overactive imagination than blog about reality. Let's face it, my imagination is just so much more interesting.

So this is an experiment in self-control. Can I blog once a day? Up until this point, it hasn't even been once a week. I am willing to shed my deadbeat identity and step up to the plate. So, as the cliche goes, today is the first day of the rest of my life -- okay, I hear you groaning! Once a day, like my vitamin, I will faithfully sit here and write something of worth in my blog.

Oh, wait a minute. I haven't taken my vitamins for nearly a week.

So much for self-control!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Goodbye, Summer!


Summer is quickly coming to a close. Those long, lazy days of picnics at Bass Lake, puttering with the perennials, campfires and s'mores, seeing wonderful talent at the Hayes Center for the Performing Arts, eating at Knights on Main Street, browsing the quaint town of Blowing Rock...all these things will be part of summer gone by of 2008. I look forward to getting back to FL, getting some work done, but the thought of having to hide in a bubble of air conditioning makes me sad. I won't be able to sip my coffee on the deck overlooking the gorge, hear the tree frogs cacaphonous chorus at night, smell the fresh mountain air as it wafts through open windows. Another summer come and gone. Like life. Far too quickly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pottery as Spiritual Practice


With all the hype about the “new American spirituality,” a veritable smorgasbord of old and new, East and West, I would like to throw my hat into the ring.

pottery.

Yes, you heard me right. Pottery. It is my spiritual practice. It is my Zen, my meditation, my conversation with God. It is my personal gauge of my sense of balance and my comfort with the world at large.

I hesitate to call what I do art as my pottery itself is very simple in its construction. Any first year pottery student could do what I do. For me, the pottery’s purpose isn’t the product, but the process.

If you were to watch my process, you may question my sanity.

First of all, I know better than to turn on the television to CNN or some insipid talk show. I have made many a bad pot while I filled my eyes and ears with the junk of the world. I throw to classical music, preferably Mozart or Vivaldi.

I center my clay with my eyes closed. As I feel the wet clay slip through my fingers, it tells me when to push and when to yield. If only life were that simple. My pots are a metaphor for life. When you push too hard, when you constrict too much, you get a wobble. Sometimes you get an entire collapse. When you are feeling stressed, the clay knows. It tells you to relax. If you can’t relax, it is very certain to tell you to step away from the wheel. NOW!

But when everything is right, it is magical. It is smooth and soothing and cool. It moves in harmony with the fingers, not knowing where the clay ends and the fingers begin. For a short while, you become part of the piece. And then it tells you when it is done. Not one more movement lest you interrupt the beauty of what it is trying to say.

Okay, you probably prefer Eckhart Tolle, or yoga, or kabbalah. You might be Catholic or Jewish or Muslim and have your own well worn path to the divine. I understand completely. Playing in the mud may not be what most people would call spiritual. But for me, it is my most sacred moment, when all things become possible and life is at its most glorious.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It's All Going Too Fast


Can you believe that summer is half over? It has been a whirlwind so far, driving back and forth from Florida to North Carolina every two weeks. I feel as if I live in an alternate universe, the slow, comfortable pace of the woods and the hectic, populated world of my Florida existence. I prefer the woods, but I am ready to get back to work and start making pottery which I can't do without my Florida studio. Lovely Carlotta Poole purchased 20 of my candles -- half of my Etsy inventory -- so I had to dip into my Farmers Hardware inventory. It's a little more earthy, a little more hippy-ish as the population of the mountain town is, so I am curious to see how it fares on Etsy. This one is my throwback to the 70's patchouli candle. Ah, the 70's....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shoppes at Farmers Hardware - Boone, NC




Want to visit us in person? Just stop by any time at the historic Shoppes at Farmers Hardware in Boone, NC. A quaint relic of Boone's past, Farmers is the "it" emporium for tourists and collegiates alike. I thought I'd give Jason and Brandon a plug here but they certainly need no help from me! Here's an article that was printed in the High Country Press:

Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware—Four Floors, 100 Shops, 83 Years of History

Story by Sam Calhoun

Four generations of the Langdon and Greene family have witnessed 83 years of history from their perch at 611 West King Street. What was originally a hardware store from 1924 to 2004 is now a four-story emporium with 100 shops. Brothers Jason and Brandon Langdon now run the family operation. At least once every day, brothers Jason and Brandon Langdon—owners of the Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware, 611 West King Street in Boone—get to reminisce with a customer about the old days when their four-story, 100-shop emporium was the iconic Farmer’s Hardware—Boone’s most famous hardware store that closed in 2004.

Farmer’s Hardware occupied the space for 72 years. The hardware store opened in 1924 where Boone Bagelry is today and then moved to the current location of the Shoppes in 1932 when the Langdon family—then the Greene family—bought Boone Hardware.

Jason and Brandon are the fourth generation to operate a business at the location, and with two years of business under their belt and the fifth generation already alive and kicking, it looks like the corner of King and Depot Streets will continue to be dominated by the Langdon family.

With three employees—two of whom are cousins—Jason and Brandon’s business is to provide retail space for vendors, selling everything from jewelry to furniture, from home d├ęcor to clothes, from handbags to collectibles, from pottery to arts and crafts. When the Shoppes opened in 2005, many missed the hardware store that was a cornerstone of downtown Boone, but the family hardware store couldn’t compete with the prices at Lowe’s Home Improvement and Wal-Mart.

So, to survive in the 21st century business climate and to maintain the building that has been in their family since the 1930s, the Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware was born.

Jason, 34, and Brandon, 32, love the building and the business just as much as the three generations of family that passed before them. The brothers grew up in the store; both worked there throughout their time at Watauga High School and beyond.

“We can’t leave it—this is where we work,” said Brandon.

Both Brandon and Jason work at the emporium five days per week, helping customers navigate through the floors of specialty shops. Most of the vendors hail from the High Country, but a fair number are from Florida and southern North Carolina.

“Our selection is always changing—there’s always something new,” said Brandon. “We have excellent vendors.”

What many people in the High Country don’t know about the Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware, said Brandon, is that the emporium also offers a large selection of furniture. With brands such as Broyhill, Hooker and Kincaid, the Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware carries a wide selection of dinette sets, bedroom sets, sofas and accent tables at reasonable prices.

The majority of the emporium’s customers are from 100 miles away or more and are mostly women, said Brandon—noting the difference between the majority of men who shopped at Farmer’s Hardware. The brothers hope that the local clientele will start to frequent their business more in the days and years to come, taking advantage of the emporium’s many brand names and competitive pricing.

“And we have thousands of gifts for any occasion,” added Brandon.

When not working at the emporium, Brandon and Jason both enjoy playing golf and practicing guitar with each other. On Sundays, the Langdon family regularly gathers at Jason and Brandon’s parents’ pool for some rest and relaxation with the kids. Brandon and his wife Allison have one son, Harrison, 2, and Jason is the father of Case, 9, and Henry, 5.

Yes, the fifth generation is growing up in Boone, just as the four generations before them, and soon, they will be the faces behind the counter at 611 West King Street—whatever the business is then.

“Don’t worry; we plan on staying here,” Brandon said.

The Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware is located at 611 West King Street in downtown Boone. The emporium is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. For more information or to inquire about renting a space at the emporium, call 828-264-8801.

Friday, May 02, 2008

New Website!

I have put Michael (alias March Hare) to work on our website. He is a master! Although a wee bit OCD! It is coming together nicely. Please check us out as www.madhatterspottery.com!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Okay, okay, I know you want to see them....




My adorable children...no, not the furry one in the middle, although she thinks she is a child.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Joy of Throwing


Ah….

My studio. Quiet. No voices, no sound of the television, no telephone.

I take the cool clay in my hands, begin to wedge, that movement that women throughout the ages made every morning when they baked bread for their family. My mind wanders to what a simpler time might have been like.

I look outside at the mockingbird perched outside my window. It is a perfect seventy six degrees and the windows are open, breeze blowing in gently. He looks at me and gives me the greeting of a cheerful trill, then flies off.

I have six balls of clay ready. That should be enough.

I sit at the wheel, wet the bat, slap the ball of clay in the middle and begin to center. I am a wet thrower, so before I know it, I am up to my wrists in mud. Vivaldi is playing on the CD. I am in heaven.

Then I hear it. The sucking sound of the studio door opening.

I click off the CD and sit very still. Maybe….

“MOM!!!!”

I don’t say anything for a moment. If I just pretend I am invisible….

“MOM!!!! I know you’re up here.”

Crap.

“What?”

“I’m hungry.”

Okay, this is a fifteen year old boy, perfectly capable of foraging in the pantry for something to eat. Heck, if he lived in some other country across the world, he might be out HUNTING for something to eat. BAREFOOT!

“Chris, go look in the pantry.”

“I did. We don’t have anything.”

Of course, he’s right. I avoid the grocery store like the plague. Then it hits me -- his sixteen-year-old sister that drives.

“Ask Danielle to take you up to McDonald’s.”

“She’s PMS-ing. Mom, I’m really hungry.”

How did I get myself into this? Mother-as-savior-of-all-things-remotely-uncomfortable. Isn’t this one of the things that’s wrong with our youth? Perpetual childhood, a friend of mine calls it. He’ll want his wife to fix him food when he’s forty because I have ruined him.

Then I begin to think about what a good kid he is. How lucky I am that he’s not on the street dealing crack cocaine and piercing his nipples. How he brings home A’s and B’s and has a strong sense of helping those less fortunate. How, when he was little….

“Oh, okay. Give me a minute.”

I wipe the clay from my hands and throw a piece of plastic over my nicely centered little lump of clay. As I go to walk out of the room I look back at the window. The mockingbird is back. And I could be crazy but I think he is laughing at me. MOCKING me!

“Go to hell!” I yell at him.

I go downstairs and shut the door of the studio behind me, knowing I will get caught up in the day and that the little centered lump of clay will be there tomorrow, probably totally unusable.

I justify it. I only have a few more years of hearing my son ask me for something to eat. Only a few more years of my children living under my roof, giving me all the joy and pain that only children can do. Only a few more years….

The clay will wait.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Buyer's Etiquette


After an extremely frustrating morning at the local green market yesterday, I thought it might be nice to set out some guidelines for those of you who frequent such things and come upon people like me who happen to sit amid the produce and the bread with our handmade wares.

1. Please do not stick your nose right into my soy candles, leaving your indelible noseprint on the smooth surface. It is not nice.

2. Please do not pick up every item on my table, then reach for the smallest item, ask how much it is and when I tell you, grunt "huh" and put it back down with a look of disdain. This hurts my fragile little feelings.

3. Please do not tell me the lady at the end sells HER candles for $5. Yes, she does. And her candles are made of paraffin wax with strange synthetic smelling scents like "Oooh La La" poured into little tins. She can afford to sell hers for $5. I am an artist, I make my own pottery, use only soy wax and I don't have any candles scented with "Oooh La La." This insults me and makes me want to tell you that, by all means, go and buy HER candles, instead. And maybe wing something at your head as you leave.

4. Please do not waste my time asking a thousand questions about how I make my pottery, telling me how much you love my candles and think soy wax is a much better product for taking a step toward sustainability, THEN walk past my booth a half hour later with a bag from the $5 candle lady. That is just mean!

5. Please do not let your children grab my candles (pottery is BREAKABLE and not child-friendly) and stick their sweet little fingers into the wax and say "Wow, Mommy, I really like this one." If you must let your child do that, at least buy a candle. It would offset the price of my tranquilizers.

6. Please do not suggest I may wish to trade one of my $20 candles for a few tomatoes from your booth. Tomatoes give me hives.

7. If you are a guy wearing a Harley tee shirt and haven't shaved in a week, I don't believe you are interested in my candles but are trying to hit on me. Go away and hit on the tomato lady.

I'm sure there are more words of wisdom I could impart but I am having flashbacks and those people aren't going to be reading my blog anyway. Now, to get ready for today's greenmarket! (Just kidding!)

Visit my etsy.com site to learn more about soy candles
handcrafted soaps and pottery
.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The New Economy

The term “handmade” conjured up images of little crocheted doilies and baked goods that were sold at our local craft fair each summer. Sweet little old men fashioned quacking ducks out of wood on long dowels and the beer drinkers’ wives made whirlygigs out of the empty beer cans. We looked forward to the summer craft fair and I think we may have made one beer can purchase throughout the years. But did people really make major purchases here? “Handmade” was for hobbyists, right?

Wrong!

In a world of mass production and super Wal-Marts, we are yearning for the craftsmanship and human touch of “handmade.” In a world seeking to find sustainability after we have learned some very hard lessons about excess, we are tired of seeing the tags saying “Made in Sri Lanka” in our mass-produced, oh-so-expensive designer clothing, “Made in China” stamped on our toys, and tired of talking to “Tommy” in India about the charge on our credit card that isn’t ours.

There is a yearning, running quiet and deep in the American soul, for something we have lost. Our great-grandparents knew it, maybe even our grandparents. But somewhere along the way, industrialized economy became our battle cry and the lifeblood of our system. Bigger, better, more, faster. And now, if we haven’t succumbed to Prozac-ing ourselves into artifically induced happiness, we may feel something tugging at our sleeves.

Shhh! There is a movement out there and if you are very quiet, you may just begin to hear it on the wind behind the noise we’ve become anesthetized to. You may pick up a word here or there. “Handmade.” “Locally grown.” “Community.” Look closely. Greenmarkets, WholeFoods, craft fairs, artists’ co-ops. And, the Web. Yes, the big WWW has gotten in on it, too. Because “community” has gone global. Real, honest-to-goodness people creating a real honest-to-goodness economy of the new “handmade.”

Learn more about my handmade soaps, soy candles and pottery.