Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Myth Grows in Brooklyn...

In a previous post, I mentioned that Grammy Mac had a funny "Brooklyn Story." Fellow blogger Gabi inquired, so here it is...

Grammy Mac passed away in 1989, and Grandpa Mac passed away several years earlier, in NYC, where he had returned after they had split up, sometime in the early 70s. I think he returned to the general area of their original apartment in New York, which I'm not sure was ever in Brooklyn - one of my aunts or my mom could confirm this.

When my dad retired, about 6 years ago, his party included a number of people who had not seen our family in years, including Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Mr. Brown had worked with my dad early in his career, and the Browns' had been my grandparents' neighbors when we were young children. The Browns' had four daughters around the same age as me and my two sisters. One daughter, Marybeth, (Beth) accompanied her parents to my dad's party.

During the cocktail hour, Beth spilled a glass of Cabernet down the front of her ivory suit, so my sister Cheryl offered her hotel room for Beth to clean up. She accompanied Beth to her room, and Mrs. Brown joined them, seeing a good opportunity to catch up with our family. Shortly into their conversation, Mrs. Brown asked, "And how are your grandparents doing?"

My sister was taken completely off guard that the Browns', having moved so far away so long ago, did not know that my grandparents were long dead -- and in a split-second, she decided that she could not deliver this news to Mrs. Brown in the middle of my dad's retirement party. So instead, my sister said the first thing that popped into her head, which was "They're great!" And Mrs. Brown said, "Oh, wonderful. Where are they living now?" And my sister said, "Brooklyn!"

Of course, my sister immediately regretted what she'd said, but it was too late to take it back. So she fled from their company before Mrs. Brown had a chance to ask her any more questions and she was forced to concoct an entire life in Brooklyn for our long-deceased grandparents.

When Cheryl returned to our table and told us what she'd done, we got a great chuckle out of it, and I spent the night avoiding the Browns' as well, afraid that I'd be obligated to perpetuate my sister's story. As far as we know, the Browns' still think my grandparents are happily retired in Brooklyn, so Brooklyn has become the metaphorical heavenly resting place of Grammy & Grandpa McElroy.

And there are two funny sidebars to this story -- The first is that my Aunt Mary (one of Grammy's daughters) had not heard the Brooklyn story, and months after it had happened, we were at a family gathering where we were jokingly wondering what Grammy was doing in Brooklyn, and my Aunt choked on a glass of wine and nearly fell off the sofa since this was the first she had heard that Grammy was "alive." (You might also notice that glasses of wine are a recurring theme in my family stories.)

The second is that the Browns,' were known for one eccentricity -- Mrs. Brown's given name is Mary Lee, and they named their daughters Mary Beth, Mary Ann, Mary Lynn, and Mary Kristen. (Their father's name was Jerry, and at work they used to call him Mary Jerry, according to my dad.) - Tell that to George Foreman!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Studio Friday - Collections...

Ooh, collections!! I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention my accumulation of rubber stamps, which certainly qualifies as a collection due to its sheer size -but as much as I love them, today I prefer to highlight my collection of CHOPSTICKS!
My love affair began as a young adult, when I decided that I would learn to eat with chopsticks as a method of weight control. My logic was that I would eat slower and feel full sooner. Instead, I just became very adept at eating with chopsticks. I love Asian influences in design, and I love Chinese food, and I can speak fluently with a fake-Chinese accent. (My famiry insists that I ras Chinese in anover rife.) I love both the simplicity and decoration of chopsticks, and my collection includes inexpensive but colorful plastic chopsticks, handcrafted and inlaid wood versions, and even a set made of china!

And speaking of collections, today my husband Scott and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary, so in keeping with the Studio Friday theme, it's the perfect time to think of all the memories we've collected in 17 years. Like many collections, my collection of memories includes ones that I take out and admire; some memories that I use more than others; some that would be better given away; some that make me laugh out loud, and some that I keep to myself and don't show others. In all, it's a cherished collection like no other. Happy Anniversary, bsm!! Thank you for the priceless collection of memories. Love.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Remembering Grammy Mac - 1922-1989

Several of my previous blog posts have included tributes to my paternal grandmother, "Dambi," and it occurred to me that I had yet to mention that I was fortunate to have two wonderful grandmothers for most of my life. My maternal grandmother, Velma Josephine (DeWitt) McElroy or "Grammy Mac," could not have been more different from Dambi, but she taught me just as much, in entirely different ways. And today would have been her 84th birthday, had we not lost her in 1989 to a heart attack at the age of 66, so I thought I'd remember Grammy today, in this post.

I was her first grandchild, just as I was Dambi's, a position which brought with it certain privileges, not the least of which was her undivided attention until my sisters arrived on the scene, as well as an (inaccurate) assumption on her part that I was more mature than I actually was, so that I was always given more freedom (a.k.a. lack of supervision) during frequent overnights at Grammy's when I was a child. My mom's youngest sister (Roberta) was only 4 when I was born, which may have accounted for my grandmother's lack of keen attention to my behavior. I was treated more like her fifth child when I was around, rather than her first grandchild. And those late life kids always get by on benign neglect, which suited me fine, because as the first child of very young parents, I was smothered with attention and overprotection at home. On a typical sleepover when I was about 7 or 8, "Aunt" Roberta (I called her Bert as we were so close in age) would go roller skating in the evening, so I was left to my own devices. Grammy would pull out the sofa bed, and I'd stay up late (anytime past 8 pm when I was a kid) and watch M.A.S.H., Bob Newhart, and the Mary Tyler Moore show. I felt totally grown up watching these shows by myself. When Roberta returned home, we'd burn a batch of Jiffy Pop on the gas stove, and then go to bed. On Saturday morning, Grammy would let me bake my own cheese on toast in the toaster oven, while she fried up an entire pound of bacon.

In addition to giving me my first taste of independence, Grammy taught me how to dress stylishly (albeit, it took me many years to catch on - we won't talk about the 80s). In spite of her humble beginnings -- she was born to a very poor family in Augusta, Georgia -- and struggled financially most of her life, she was a brilliant bargain shopper and could look gorgeous on a shoestring budget. I accompanied her on countless shopping trips before it became un-cool for me to hang out with her, and then my sister Jennifer stepped in where I left off. She bought me my first grown-up trench coat, and my first pair of lined trousers - both inexpensive but classic, so that I owned them for more than a dozen years before I finally stopped wearing them. I am the only person in my family who can find a decent shirt or dress at the likes of WalMart or JC Penney, thanks to Grammy.

This photo of Grammy was taken in 1963, at my parents' wedding. Incidentally, I cropped my grandfather out of this photo, as I'm sure Grammy would have wanted me to - but that's a story for another time.

I have a million more memories of Grammy that all came flooding back as I began writing this, but I will save them to post from time to time on days when Grammy Mac is foremost on my mind - there's a turkey story that begs telling, so perhaps I'll post another Grammy Mac story on Thanksgiving.

Happy Birthday Grammy!
Hope you're enjoying Brooklyn!! (this is a family joke - a whole blog post for another day)

Note: I actually made a collage on canvas with this photo, but I my digital camera hub is at work so I can't post the collage until Monday.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Studio Friday - Autumn Inspiration

"Autumn inspiration - According to my calendar, today (Sept 22) is the "Autumnal Equinox," and it's my favorite season, so show me what you love about the fall - the colors?... the leaves?...etc." - ME
When I suggested this topic a few weeks ago, I thought this would be an easy one for most, because I love the fall and its many inspirations are so obvious to me, but since then, I've heard from lots of people in my day to day travels who (gasp) "hate the fall," so I will be interested to see what everyone has to say on this topic. (Incidentally, those who told me they hate it usually cite that it's because winter is not far behind, but I refuse to blame the autumn for the winter.)

My love of autumn engages all of the senses...
I love to watch the leaves change from green to shades of yellow and red and rust and brown. I love to watch them tossed about by the wind and collected in piles along the edges of my garden. I love the sound and feel as they crunch beneath my feet. I love to see wagon loads of pumpkins, fat and orange, round and oblong, big and small, at farms and roadside stands. I love to see them adorning the porches and stairways of the homes in my neighborhood. I love to see them carved into jack-o-lanterns, grinning wildly at me as I walk my dog. I love their heft, and their smooth surface and prickly stems, as I choose the ones that will sit on my porch. I love that I am not sweating bullets, as I walk my dog. I love the smell of autumn, sometimes crisp, sometimes loamy, as the leaves begin to mulch. I love to feel the cool air on my face. I love a cozy fall sweater, a hot cup of apple cider. I love to pick apples at an orchard with my husband and maybe stumble upon an antique store or junk shop on our trip down a winding road on a cool fall day. I love our wedding anniversary - October 27 - a wonderful fall day 17 years ago. I love to see pots of mums in yellow and rust and burgandy, lined up in rows at the farm market, waiting to be sold. I love gourds in all their odd shapes and colors. I love my mom's recipe for acorn squash, baked in halves with butter and brown sugar. I love warm soup on a cool autumn day. I love the last burst of warmth and color before the winter comes.

A few weeks ago, when the inspiration hit me, I designed this scrapbook paper to give to the students in my fall faeries class...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Studio Friday - FEAR!!!

This week's topic for Friday October 13th suggested by Casey: FEAR!
"I have been away from Studio Friday for a while, and I really struggled with the toot your own horn topic. It actually made me do some free-writing and I thought of another topic that might be helpful for some of the studio friday artists: Fear.

On the lighter side, I am afraid that my studio will never be big enough, and I fear I will eventually run out of paper or gel medium or glue dots, which is totally unrealistic given all the stuff in my crowded room.

I could also talk about fear of the blank page or artist's block but right now, it's about so much more than that for me. It's a topic I am grappling with all the time these days. Being in my 40s has been a real turning point in how I spend my time - an awakening of sorts, to how fast life is flying by. I truly can't believe I'm in my 40s. Just yesterday, I was in my 20s with time to waste, and then, where did my 30s go? In my 40s, I am impatient. I am much less tolerant of chores and things and people who waste my time. This may sound cruel, but it's not meant to be. It's really just prioritizing.
I just finished a book entitled "The Moth Diaries" by Rachel Klein. It's the story of a diary kept by a teenage girl at boarding school, and in one passage a character says "You wake up one day and you're just like them -- amazed not to have lived the life you imagined you would. Do you think anyone is satisfied at the end?"
...and that is my biggest fear... that I will wake up one day, much older, having spent 21,900 hours doing laundry, and 6,240 hours cleaning house, and 63,000 hours at the wrong job, and I will regret that I didn't spend all those hours more meaningfully, .. and that's assuming I am lucky enough to grow old....
And then I iimmediately feel miserably ungrateful, because I really do have a great life - a wonderful husband, a beautiful little home, a great job, good friends and family, my health. But still, I fear not spending the time I have from this point forward on the really important things - my family, friends, creativity, health, community.
For those of you with children, you may feel differently. Raising a child, putting another human being on this planet, is to me the ultimate sacrifice and also the ultimate gift to humanity (well, sometimes.) But I chose not to take that path, and while I don't regret it, I wonder, then -- what is my purpose, and is what I do ever enough?
...Incidentally, I didn't really have any artwork in my studio that illustrates this theme, so I am posting a note that a friend slipped under my door at work one day when I was talking to my creative coach on the phone. She's really a very supportive friend with a scathing wit.

I also love the website www.despair.com, which plays fun at those motivational posters with de-motivational products. I love this kind of humor and these things never cease to amuse me... I tried to post a few of my favorite posters, but they must have it blocked, or I am an idiot... (entirely possible, and I'm sure they have a poster for it!)... so here are the links to my favorites, related to this theme...




Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ATC Exchange #3 - Fall Colors

Fall colors - reds, golds, greens & browns, are by far my favorie and most familiar palette as an artist, so the hardest part of this artist-trading-card swap was deciding on the subject matter. I didn't want to do a traditional fall subject with the fall colors, but I wanted it to be fall-like, which was a challenge.
After the disappointing turnout at my seniors class, I had lots of pre-conditioned polymer clay left over, so I began by tinting and stamping clay tiles, which I cut into little house pieces. Using mat board, I painted a fall colored background with twinkling H20s and added the clay houses with a swirly stamp that looks like smoke coming from a chimney on a blustery fall day. I had lots of tiles, so I made six of the same card this time, with minor variations. I almost never make two of the same, but I really loved this design. It's a bit dimensional, with the clay tiles, and the colors are rich and warm. And the house shape is such a warm and inviting icon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Studio Friday... Stick it...


" It would be interesting to see the variety of bulletin/memory boards in our studios. What is pinned to them? Photos? Notes? Reminders? Ideas for future projects?"

Well, here's my bulletin board, which, like just about every other square inch of my studio, is used for the storage of "stuff" rather than a place to tack memories and ideas. Although I do have lots of storage bins and drawers, I like some of my materials to remain in plain view -- to spark ideas and to remind me of what I have. If this looks too neat and organized to be believable, it's because I spent last weekend cleaning up my studio, as is necessary every few months so that the clutter doesn't swallow me!!! But never fear, I'll mess this up in no time! I also attach more memories and photos and chatchkas to my lamp, with magnets. Essentially, any surface is game!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

autumn inspiration...

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am teaching a class on Saturday at Art Connection called Fall Faeries. As a gift to everyone who takes the class, I have designed this fall-inspired decorative paper sheet. I am a graphic designer by trade, and though I prefer the tactile arts, I do love to design computer generated art like this... and it usually begins with tactile art, as this one did ... I've created a digital library of found objects that I scan and turn to line art... like the torn edge paper & the leaf that appear in this sheet. I've been known to scan acorns, milkweed, buttons, bobbins, thread spools, my hand (I had to do that one one-handed!), etc... I then work in Photoshop to turn them into black & white line art and adjust the brightness/contrast until it highlights the best silhouette of an image. Then when I want to create a collage, I use either Photoshop or Pagemaker to colorize, layer and collage the pieces. I am interested in feedback on this design - are you a scrapbooker, stamper, mixed media artist - non-artist? - and would you/could you use such a sheet? or not? All constructive comments - or outright flattery welcome!