Intersecting Life with Art

Like many youngish Americans, we have a noose made out of student loans hanging around our neck.

How does that involve art? It does, I promise, and I’ll get to that bit. I have a horrible backstory compulsion thing going on that must be satisfied first.

So we made the decision in our mid-twenties to go back to school. Mr. Wordsremember (I’m adopting this conceit as of now;) had a good job, but we were drifting, I was in the midst of PPD, and we had to do something different. That something different involved knowingly acquiring debt. Looking back I can see how we could’ve acquired less, but at the time we made the decision that seemed best.

We graduated (meaning Mr. Wordsremember, but I supported him financially those last few years so I think if it as “we”) in late 2013, with an engineering degree and lots and lots of debt. We got a good job, enough to purchase a house and pay the minimums on our student loans.

It wasn’t enough.

And thus Mr. Wordsremember started looking for a more interesting job. And he found one. So we moved (again), sold that other house, bought a new one, and in the middle managed to pay off 1/3 of our student debt (go us!). And that’s where we are right now … amazing job, amazing house, in an amazing school district … and it isn’t enough.

So as we do, we went for a drive (a drive means the kids are contained;). And we discussed what we really wanted to do when we grew up. We’ve had this discussion before, we’ll have it again … but this time I think we finally stumbled upon the solution that we’ve been chasing for quite some time. You see, when I first met Mr. Wordsremember, he wanted to be a writer. I didn’t have many dreams, he’s my dreamer, but I wanted to own my own business and escape the 9-5. Those dreams seemed a mere pipe dream at the time, so we made no plans to truly pursue them. And then we stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache and something clicked; there are so many good financial gurus out there but sometimes one of them speaks a language that resonates, and this blog did that for us. And on that discussion in the car we decided that we want Mr. Wordsremember to retire early, with enough money to fully fund our writing and artistic business ventures (there! I brought art into it;).

He ran the numbers and it’s doable, so doable, but only if we cut our yearly budget back. A lot. We’re making steps that seem crazy (to me, anyway, good little middle-classer that I am): he’s giving up his cell phone, I’m keeping mine but when I’m able I’ll be leaving our major carrier for one of the cheaper options because I really only need it for a few things. I got rid of Netflix, he’s getting rid of some of the subscriptions that we got because we had a good job and had “arrived”. We’re already down to one car (note: we have a public transportation system here that enables us to do that), we’re taking measures to cut our utility bill, and we’re also slashing, and I mean slashing, our food/entertainment budget.

And I’ve rarely been so happy. Because although I don’t enjoy cooking, don’t enjoy doing many of the home improvement projects that are now on the docket … what I’m doing counts. I’ve wavered about whether or not I should get a “real” job; I love running Wordsremember, that’s what I want to do, but I’m not making as much as I would if I dusted off my resume. And now I’m seeing that it might be possible, in conjunction with my efforts, to achieve an artistic lifestyle I didn’t think would be attainable.

So I’ll be writing about some of my efforts to cut back on spending and make more of the everyday things that we use. Specifically the beauty products that I usually buy and now am thinking about making, and also the gifts that I plan on creating (rather than buying). I’m not sure whether or not these things will make it into the shop, but they might, and it’ll be both useful and fun (something that’s important to me).

And Art On, my friends. Never give up those dreams … it’s never too late to finally figure out what it is you want to do when you grow up;)

I did not “Art On” this week.

I hesitate to proclaim on social media that we’re sick, because that could put off potential buyers -but- the simple truth is we have been sick for over two weeks now. I succumbed last Friday with an awful, head-in-the-vise sinus something that also felt like flu and I’m still weak and prone to lying on the couch. I can assure my customers that I did not handle anything without copious amounts of hand-washing and glove-putting-on, and actually my orders timed themselves well-I had nothing on the worst days (it did not occur to me to put my shop in vacation mode).

I had no desire to create anything. I wanted to be on the couch with my warm drinks, ibuprofen, blankets, and a book. I managed to re-read the entire Amelia Peabody series (I read fast: there are around 22 volumes in that series I think) and am left with the feeling that we should leave everything behind, buy an RV, and start exploring/solving mysteries (Amelia Peabody is, along with her husband Emerson, an Egyptologist who manages to stumble on dead bodies every year). I don’t actually want to do that, but 22 volumes does a number on one.

Yesterday I did make it back into my studio and I set up another shelving unit for my copious amounts of leather. I finished two journals that had been languishing, and I listed one. I will list the other today (it had to dry). After those efforts I once again collapsed on the couch in the warm sunshine and thought of Egypt (which led to a wikipedia smorgasbord) and sipped my Throat Coat tea (the best thing ever, look in the herbal aisle at your local supermarket).

Today I am back in the studio, typing this up (obviously;), taking listing photos, and pondering what I “feel” like making. I might not make anything, since I’m not getting any “sparks”, if you will, and my workout this morning left me exhausted. But I’m well enough that the thought of spending the day reading does not bring warm fuzzies … I want to be doing something. But I don’t wanna. But I really do. So maybe I’ll go out into the sunshine and fend off the deer that want to eat all of the green things in my front yard and seek inspiration from nature. I hope that come Monday we’ll all be feeling well and that the creative spark comes back and that I’ll have pretties to show you.

In the meantime, I will still say “Art On”, unless you really need to be on the couch lazing in the warm sunshine.

On The Oscars and Viola Davis

“I became an artist and thank God I did … because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” -Viola Davis

While I think she may have gotten swept up in the moment when she made this statement (you could make a strong case for other professions celebrating what it means to live a life), she makes a fair point: artists across the spectrum do bring things to life. Sometimes it’s making colors dance, others it’s a humorous little vignette, others just celebrate beauty in all manifestations; and then you get the whoppers: the deep stories, the political commentary, the ones that make us squirm. I believe all are necessary, especially when all seems dark (which is pretty much all the time if you pay attention to world events).

I was thinking about this because my work isn’t deep. It isn’t political. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make you squirm. I make pretty things, things that catch the eye and make it linger for a moment, but there’s no deeper meaning, really. And that can be discouraging, in an age that values the drama over prettiness and light (although apparently La La Land was pretty … I don’t like musicals so I didn’t watch it). It’s the movies that wreck you that are called “great”, Oprah’s Book Club usually spotlighted an incredibly depressing story … and so on and so forth.

But then you have cathedrals.

A cathedral is a massive undertaking. It could easily take decades to complete one, gobs of money, and those who started or envisioned the project would not necessarily see the end of it, but still they were built. They were built for various reasons; you could say they were built to glorify God, and that is true, but there were also political motivations … and then there was the motivation of simply making something beautiful in the midst of the darkness. A cathedral rose above all other buildings, it could be seen from afar, and both the outside and inside were master accomplishments, drawing the eye with every aspect. I think they were on to something … beauty lifts the soul, delights the senses, encourages and inspires us. It reminds you that there is something to hope for, something to strive for, a reason to lift our eyes from the everyday and the muck.

And that is why those of us who make the pretty things, the beautiful things, the things that don’t really touch upon the drama of life, must continue. We serve our purpose, just like those who delve into the darkness also serve their purpose. Combined we remind humanity of their darkest secrets, the painful truths, and also give them a reason to journey onwards, a reason to get up in the mornings.

And I will now ruin what was a lovely thought-stream by confessing I don’t know how to end it. I stayed up far too late watching the Best Movie (Best Picture? I actually don’t pay much attention, I watch because my brothers both enjoy the film industry and I like to have talking points) debacle and then reading what other people thought of it so the brain is not firing as quickly as it usually does and I have had far too many cups of coffee this morning so I’m at that stage of not caffeinated enough but a bit shaky so I really should not have any more but I really really want more bah humbug run-on sentence.

So Art On, my friends. We need all the beauty we can get.

I fixed a problem and created a new one.

This is very teas-ish of me but I don’t have pictures of the problem I created because I was almost too exhausted to stand by the time we were at a stopping point. But that’s the middle of the story …

So I fixed the problem of the hinge. I love stab-bound books, I love the way they look, but I HATED the way the cover would curl back once you used it if you used paper, and the first hardcover version had what I call a “hinge problem”-the stress on the paper when you bent the cover back was fairly extreme, and I was worried that eventually it would tear. So I sat on the problem for a bit and thought “Duh! Leather!” And so I constructed this beautiful baby.

Tada! Hinge problem solved, I’ve got more styles on the docket, yay for Becca!

And then, as I do, I talked to Kerry about my plans and vision for Wordsremember and lamented my lack of space. At the same time I proposed a few changes that could be made, if he wanted, to his “man cave” area that is not mine to touch or do anything with. This weekend he decided to act on my words and we rearranged half the house.

I now have a huuuuuuuuuuuge room that is mine to do with as I please. And that’s the part I don’t have pictures of. Yet. Mebbe Wednesday.

I’m happy about this space, but I’m also terrified: what if my business flops? What will I DOOOOOOOOO? What did I get myself into? Do I actually have the skill to put all my plans into motion? Self-doubt self-doubt yadda yadda yadda. You artistic/creative types know the drill. In true common-sense fashion Kerry said “we could just make it our craft room if we have to” and that was that, my freak-out was over, now to organize and implement all the shenanigans I have in my head. It is also time to start keeping a business planner …. I waste a lot of time because I don’t -have- to keep to a schedule, I’m technically only supposed to be doing this part-time since I still have a toddler with me. But to launch my own website (again, I’ve actually tried it twice, third time is the charm!), apply to wholesale, design new lines … I need to manage my time better.

And that is my Monday: cleaning, organizing, planning. What are you up to today? Remember to always Art On:)

When your glasses get scratched you plan for the apocalypse.

A month ago I noticed that the right side of my glasses was scratched. Since the left side was clear and eyes are wonderful and compensated, I ignored the scratch (because of my deep dislike of calling people and making appointments) until the left side started showing problems and now IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD.

To make matters worse, nope, I don’t have backup. I lost my backup glasses in the move, and I don’t have contacts because until fairly recently we didn’t have vision insurance and contacts were just out of reach for us. Believe you me, I am now taking advantage of having vision insurance and getting backup. I’m going in today to see if I can just reorder my old prescription and get the ball rolling (it takes up to TWO WEEKS …. why can’t I just throw money at people and make it come faster? Yes I know how privileged I sound, I am not proud) and will see if I can go in Friday and have my eyes fitted for contacts, so I’ve done what I can to make sure I can see my kids’ faces.

But as anyone who depends on vision correction knows, suddenly not having clear vision is an anxiety-producing event. I once lost my glasses at sailing camp (and now that I think about it I think I had angels there, making sure I didn’t lose consciousness and fall into the water … I’m glad I didn’t think about that as a kid) and due to familial circumstances I went three days (it may have been shorter but my young brain imprinted THREE WHOLE DAYS) without glasses, really not being able to see a thing. It was awful, and I’m not taking the current situation all that well because of that memory.

And it got me thinking … what would I do if we had a cataclysmic event and I no longer had access to glasses? How would that affect my art (let’s forget that in a cataclysmic event art probably won’t be a priority and I won’t have access to materials)? My first thought was to go completely abstract-big, bold paints on huge canvases-but I also could still arm knit, I could draw with the help of a magnifying glass of some sort, and the same goes for bookbinding. So all would not be lost, and that, funnily enough, was a comforting thought. Along with the remembering that my Nook can increase the letters to a size I can read without glasses …. I am finally calming down a bit.

So! After I go in to the office I start my countdown to new glasses, and I get back to work because even in a post-apocalyptic world with no access to glasses Art goes On.