Monday, June 22, 2009

~*~ Meet Chandra and Roman~*~

There is a saying that goes
"You can take the girl out of the country, but can't take the country out of the girl."
This would be very true for a friend of mine living in the sprawling metropolis of L.A. but stays true to her roots of the beautiful California rural areas through her work.

Growing up on the central coast of California in the middle of vast expanses of woods, hills, ranches and vineyards you found things to do to keep yourself occupied. When not trying to stay occupied, many children and teens in the area would pass time with 4-H projects, fairs and shows. This is where I initially met my friend Chandra. We were in the same 4-H club in Lockwood. We then later went to High School together in King City. Chandra always had a love for animals and she always had incredible patience. She and I lost touch for many years and have finally reconnected through facebook where she sent me a link to a YouTube video she compiled and I was amazed and tears were brought to my eyes.

Over the last several years Chandra has been training her Dogs not only to be her own service dog for her disability, but also for therapy for elderly, ill and others to enjoy the company of sweet animals. Plus, to top it off they are actors for Movies and Television!

I wanted to write this and bring attention to Chandra and her dogs because of the amazing perseverance, dedication, talent, and caring that has been exercised and offered to the world because of this wonderful lady and her pets. Please, take a look at her website to see clips of their performances and their abilities, I am sure you will be just as amazed as I am!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

*Artisan Antics - AmongTheRuins*

There is a wonderful lady on Etsy I had the pleasure of meeting, named Kim of AmongTheRuins!! Kim is a super sweet, encouraging, and a fabulous Steampunk artisan! So please read on about this lovely lady and visit her shop for your very own AmongTheRuins Jewelry!

Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.

My name is Kim. I live in Gurnee, Illinois. I am happily married to a wonderful man, for 33 years. We have one incredible daughter who is 22 years old. We have lived in the same house for 31 years. I have only lived in 4 different houses in my life and all of them are in the same county. I like to stay put! I deeply value a sense of belonging, of family, of home. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and get married and have a baby and run a household. It may seem old fashioned to some, but my heart's desire has always been to be a homemaker. I am a very happy woman because I have my heart's desire!

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

I am a violinist and pianist. I am semi-professional since I get paid to play for "gigs", but I do not make a living playing music, and I also play in a lot of non-paying venues. I love music. It is a true passion of mine. I have been playing both violin and piano for over 40 years. I went to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, but I got married before I finished my degree. My heart was not really in school, it was in my new home, so I quit school to devote myself fully to my husband and our life together. My husband is also a musician, and our daughter is a very talented pianist and artist.

I love all things that have to do with homemaking, especially vintage homemaking. I have a collection of vintage and antique cookbooks and housekeeping books that I read and enjoy, and yes, I do make the recipes in them! When I buy old things, I try to buy things that I will actually use in the course of my daily life. There are not too many items in my house that are not in use!

We love animals. There are many in our house. In fact I say we have the entire food chain living under our roof, and it's almost true! We have 1 dog, 2 cats, 6 little birds, 1 pet rat, many breeder rats, and my daughter has over 40 snakes. She is passionate about her snakes and would like to be a breeder. It is a very challenging quest she is on, but we support her 100%. And believe me, I did NOT always love snakes!! That took me a few years to warm up to, but now I really do appreciate their beauty very much. We also have 1 horse that we board at a stable. I grew up on a small farm with horses and chickens and all the rest, but now I live in a suburb, so we have to keep the horse elsewhere.

What first made you want to become an artist?

I have always wanted to be an artist in one form or another. My mother is a talented artist who majored in art in college. She does watercolors and oil paintings and she sketches. Both of my sisters are also very artistic, one of them doing more drawing, the other does lots of crafts and also makes jewelry as a hobby. I've always been surrounded by lots and lots of arts and crafts my whole life! I was always more focused on music and only dabbled in the art once in awhile. I never felt I had any talent in art so I never caught the passion for it. That all changed quite recently though. My sister introduced me one day to something called "altered art". I had never heard of it and was curious. I went on the internet and found all kinds of fabulous altered books and altered bottles and collages and mixed media in every shape and form you can imagine! I was immediately hooked! I had a friend who was leaving to go serve our country with the Navy and she was going to sea for several months. I wanted to make her something to take with her, to bring her a little comfort from home, so I made her an altered book. I had such an incredible and fulfilling time making that book and it touched her so much, I wanted to do MORE!!
Then my sister told me about this really wild thing called "steampunk". I went and found that on the internet and once I discovered that, it was all over for me!!!! I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up!!!! A jewelry artist!!!!!
I owe my sister a great gratitude for showing me all these wonderful things. She's also the one who told me about Etsy. I joined up and now I have my little Etsy shop and I am loving every minute of it!! The people on Etsy are so generous with their knowledge and with their hearts. I have met some truly amazing people here and I look forward to meeting many more!

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc

My creative process is a bit scattered, like me. I don't have a "day job" so I work at all hours. I spend many hours organizing my supplies. The mess can drive me a little nuts. But a couple days ago I actually got everything put away and I cleaned my desk, polished it, and sat down to create...I had no idea what to do! I felt so lost and disconnected! So I slowly started to bring stuff out of their little drawers again, and by the time things were a mess again I had a new piece made! So I guess I work well amidst chaos!

Sometimes I can see an idea for a piece in my head first, then I go about creating it. But that is rare for me. Most of the time, I work by putting something together, seeing if it looks good to me, taking it apart, and trying again until I'm happy with it. Often, halfway through a piece, I'll suddenly realize what it is supposed to be and then I finish it and those are some of my best pieces.

I use as many vintage and antique elements as I possibly can. That means that I have to spend considerable time shopping in thrift stores and antique shops. Poor me!! Antiquing and thrifting are my husband's and my favorite activities. We spend as many weekends as we can doing that! I love to find something that has come to the end of its usefulness and find a whole new purpose for it in a brand new way. That is why I call my shop AmongTheRuins.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

I made a necklace that represents the Holy Trinity. It is my most cherished piece. The center of the piece is a beautiful old key with a lion, that says "The Master" (Father); I wire wrapped a cross to the key, then added red beads representing the sacrificial blood of Jesus (Son); then I put a flying dove on the chain (Holy Spirit); and finally I hung a silver bunch of grapes from the end to represent the fruit of the vine.

Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.

My top five books: The Bible; The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker; Fanny Farmer Cookbook; All books by Diana Gabaldon; Season of Ponies by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

My top five movies: Fearless; Young Frankenstein; Dracula (1931); Falling Down; Crash

My top five musical groups:
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti
Academy of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Sir Neville Mariner
Musica Antiqua Köln - the fastest Brandenburg Concertos you'll ever hear!
Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli - old time jazz violin and guitar duo - Fabulous!
Berlin Philharmonic - Herbert Von Karajan - the BEST Beethoven Symphonies

What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?

I would say to people new to Etsy, spend a lot of time getting to know other artists on Etsy. It is the greatest resource and the greatest pleasure, all wrapped up in one. Whether you go to the forums, or the chat rooms, or to the virtual labs, you will meet some of the most dynamic and generous people who are more than willing to share what they know, and to help you in your artistic quests!

How do you promote your work?

I network to promote my work. I have not done any formal advertising yet. I use Twitter and Facebook, and I belong to a couple of terrific forums. It is a matter of getting your name out there in any way that you can, getting your work seen by as many people as you can. I just keep making my jewelry and bottles, and keep putting it out there, and keep networking, and hope that it will eventually become a viable business!

In ten years I'd like to be...

I don't want to think that far ahead!! Today has enough to deal with!