Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Art Show Time!

Once every two years, our art studio has a Student Art Show - and this is the weekend! The studio holds us to "real" art show rules, brings in an outside judge, and basically helps prepare us for showing our work in the wide world. There is champagne for all, and tables full of appetizer and dessert-type nibbles brought by the students. (There's a competition for best in each category for the food - so we bring out our best!) We all pitch in to clean the studio, accept the entries, hang the show, and play host/hostess during the event. After the show we all head to a restaurant for the Awards Dinner, where the ribbon winners receive praise, adulation, and prizes.

So, today the studio was busy and buzzing, with everyone talking about final preparations. We're each allowed to enter two canvases, designated either "original" or "copy". Since I paint so slowly, I have only one entry this year - the goldfinch that I've previously posted in this blog.

To keep our "in-progress" canvases safe, the studio requires us to bring them home till after the show. So, I thought I'd post a pic of the progress on the daggone Blue Eggs In A Nest that I've been living with every Wednesday for a year and a half...

GETTING THERE... one stick at a time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's all an Illusion!

Some time ago, a good friend asked me to make her an Illusion necklace... I'd never tried one before, so I agreed to see what I could do. After a few starts-and-stops and much head scratching, here's what I came up with:
Five strands of freshwater pearls in various sizes, with sterling silver crimps and findings. The ends are finished with 1/2" sterling bead cones, a lobster-claw style clasp on one side and a short length of chain on the other to allow for a little adjustment in size.

All in all, I'm very pleased with how it's turned out. I've learned a few things that I'll carry over to the next one!

Okay... pictures done, and blog post made. Time to ship it! :D

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gearing Up - here we go...

Craft Show Season is just around the corner... less than a month to go! I've got myself a brutal November shaping up this year, with a bunch of two- and three-day shows booked already.

SO! It's past time to get crackin - got the first batch of Cinnamon Ornaments in the oven this very moment.

Raw materials and equipment - ready, set, GO!!
One pound of cinnamon, one 25-ounce jar of applesauce... some extra cinnamon for dusting the countertop...

Concentrating on gingerbread boy and girl shapes today... these little ones will eventually get pin backs and be pins.

annnnnnnnd.... Ready for the oven! After they dry in there for several hours (turning over twice), I'll let them air dry for a day or so, then smooth the edges with a pocketknife. After that, I'll paint them to look as though they've been iced, and add a ribbon and jingle bells.

But for now.... WOW does the house smell GOOD! All spicy and warm and cinnamon-y, with rain coming down outside. It may still be hot out, but this is the first of that autumn "Snug" feeling for me. Time for a cup of tea and a curlup on the sofa. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This is the art studio where I spend my Wednesday mornings... It's a bright, lovely place with about 25 other painters. Music on the boom box, coffee ready in the snack room, and always some yummy Bath and Body Works soap in the bathroom. We paint and chat about family, friends, and events in our lives - or concentrate quietly and let the rest of the world just fade into the background.
My easel is the one up against the window, with the small canvas on it.

I started painting in January of 2007, after my sister talked me into taking classes with her. She's a brilliant painter and actually teaches at the studio now, one day a week.

Current work-in-progress, but progressing at the speed of the average glacier... this is my fourth canvas, begun in March 2009. I took this picture in January 2010, and I've come only a little further since then. I've enjoyed it, but am beginning to get frustrated. Ready to do SOMETHING ELSE.




My third canvas, painted from a photograph taken by Nashville resident Donnie Beauchamp...
Finished in March 2009, and the original lives at my Dad's house.

This October, the studio will be hosting its semi-annual Student Art Show. I've participated in two so far, and it's an incredible amount of fun! The goldfinch will be this year's entry - I've tentatively entered the Nest With Blue Eggs, but really don't think I'll have it finished/varnished/framed in time. We'll see!

Fresh start.

I've spent over a year at home now, mostly working around the house and going to art classes and church. The first part of that year was spent in a state of being somewhat numb, mourning the loss of our little Mom and just sort of floating through the days.

Then, in December, a bolt of lightning struck -, the home organizational website I subscribe to, instituted a chatroom. Having never experienced a chatroom before, I thought "what the heck!" and clicked right on in.

Long story short: Wonderful women from all around the globe also found their way into the room, and all of a sudden I was in the middle of a group of caring friends. They helped me make it through Christmas without Mom... and six months ago today, the Moderator asked me and another good friend if we would consider being volunteer Moderators ourselves. We both agreed, and spent six months of the most intense emotional work I've ever experienced. Rewarding, absolutely. Frustrating, depressing, stressful, addictive - all of those, too. Gone was the solitude I'd been craving - and gone also was any thought of creating ANYthing. Instead, I spent long, long hours at the screen with my co-Moderators, trying to motivate, energize, run interference, enforce rules, calm ruffled feelings, and eject troublemakers. Looking at the past six months, I can count on one hand the number of days I haven't been in that room.

Not. Healthy. I hit burnout Big Time, and knew I needed a solution.

Several days ago, I picked up my copy of The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart by Julia Cameron. I had found the book years ago on a bargain table somewhere, and thought it would be a neat thing to read. Never did - until now. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I read one paragraph and realized that this was exactly what I need at this point in my world.

Three days ago I made the "official" start - writing three "Morning Pages" each day when I got up. Yesterday I began consciously making time for Work during the day. It's amazing the difference in how I feel . Instead of feeling sucked dry, I already feel alive, excited, open-eyed, and ready to step out and grab something new.

I left my old job because I need to work for myself, and WITH myself. Negativity, gossip, critical thinking, complaining and whining are poisons that I seem to be increasingly sensitive to - and those things seem to multiply with the number of human beings in a workplace - or a chatroom. Positivity Promotes Productivity. And I intend to be just as Productive - by MY definition of the word - as I humanly can.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Making jewelry has always been a sideline business for me... more for fun than for any profit. Usually I work in sterling silver, gemstones, and Swarovski crystal, making simple earrings and maybe a few strung bracelets.
Recently, a picture of a piece similar to this one caught my eye in a catalog. I used 14k gold-filled chain and findings, with Swarovski Crystal Pearls and crystals. All the beads are attached by wrapping the headpins - a lot of work, but they won't be coming loose! The bracelet weighs in at a hefty 1.9 oz.

I made this one for my sister's birthday, but you can bet there's a second one in the works for ME... and maybe some earrings for both of us! The photo makes the colors a little darker than in real life - it's shades of cream, gold, taupe, and copper, with "Vintage Rose" crystals to accent. I'm still deciding whether to make any for sale, since it's a higher-ticket item than my usual. But the process in making it was so satisfying... and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Herbal Crafts, overview.

I'm starting with Lavender, to talk about herbal crafts. It's an all-round favorite, and so lovely in the garden... this picture shows two very different varieties:
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Blue' (on the left), one of the first plants I put into the yard when we bought our house in 1992. This particular plant is still going as of summer 2010, which is a REALLY long life for a Lavender in this area. It was waning bigtime in summer 2009, so I broke the rules and cut it back severely. Lavender can't read the rules, evidently, because in 2010 it's lush and gorgeous and blooming like crazy! I cut the stems when in bud, dry them, and sell them at craft shows - this plant has paid for itself many, many times over.
Lavandula 'Grosso' is on the right - what a behemoth! This plant is no longer with me, but measured 4 feet by 4 feet at its peak. I used the buds, removed from the stems, in bath herb blends and other potpourri.
This is an OLD picture of products I've made and
sold in the past. Clockwise from the "Finch House Herbals" sign:
* Weary Muscles Bath Salts (turqoise jar)
* Relaxation Bath Herbs - loose (standing up) and in sachets (lying on the table)
* Lavender Bath Salts (purple jar)
* Flaxseed Eye Pillows ( blue/green/pink)
* Bags of organic Catnip and Lavender
* Velvet Lavender Bunnies (stuffed with lavender buds)
I've discontinued the bunnies and the eye pillows, but may pick them back up at some point. The velvet for the bunnies is hand-embossed with different designs. I've also added Catnip Pillows, which are made from kitty-print fabric with a layer of denim underneath, and filled with organic, people-grade catnip.
Spicy stuff... another older photo.
Clockwise from the sign:
* Cinnamon Spice Simmering Potpourri
* Cinnamon pin and Christmas ornaments
* Spice mug mats, with a cinnamon/allspice/cloves/orange potpourri
* Spice trivets, ditto the potpourri filling!
Since these photos were taken, I've added several different potpourri types, including a Scented Pine Cone mix with a spicy essential oil blend for scent, and Little Balsam Bags, which are stamped muslin bags full of balsam needles and evergreen scented oil - to hang from an artificial Christmas tree for a "real" tree scent.

For most craft shows, I usually bring a selection of live herb plants from Thieneman's. I'm not sure I can get away with that any more for some of my "handmade only" shows, since I no longer have a hand in raising the plants - we'll see!

At the time of writing, craft show applications for fall are starting to roll in - I'll be posting a list to Facebook at some point for my local "peeps"!


Monday, April 12, 2010


Somehow today, I find myself needing to think about History. One of the reasons I started this particular blog was to continue the search for a new creative spark... mine has been seriously sputtering the past few years, and maybe if I use this as an outlet, I can fan the flames a little and find a fresh direction.

When I started playing with herbal crafts in the 1990's, it was purely out of self-defense. I was working in a corporate atmosphere, in software support and training for large advertising agencies. I was stressed at my support post, stressed with travel, and bored mindless with the rounds of software testing and documentation editing in between. I loved training, but usually had to travel to do it. I was more than good at most parts of my job - but to be honest, my negative attitude just trashed all the good things I was doing. The physical surroundings of the job were not helping either – a move from a historic old building and an office with windows to a tiny cubicle in a noisy, modern, dark-purple warehouse/office just simply wasn’t working for me.

So, I started looking to the garden and the herbs for natural ways to combat the stress. Aromatherapy, flaxseed eye pillows, herbs for relaxation in the bath, LOTS of chamomile tea. I started sharing these things with my stressed-out coworkers, then started having little classes for them in my dining room. It was a blast. I found that local ministry groups and craft shops were hosting classes, and taught a few around town.

In the fall of 1995 I did my first craft show - and I was hooked! I started making more items, and finally resigned my software job (with Tom's absolute blessing) in 1996. I followed that with a short stint at a sewing machine shop, then back to the software job on a contract basis for six more months, and finally I had REALLY had enough. I registered The Finch House as a business in 1997, and quit Corporate America for good.

One Saturday in April of 97, the Kentucky Derby Festival Balloon Race floated over our house. While Tom and I stood on the front lawn and watched, a woman came by, walking her little pug. She stopped, and we started talking as though we had known each other for years.

She finally looked at me and said, “My friend Kevin Thieneman has a part-time retail opening at his nursery.”

“Wait,” says I. “Thieneman’s? THE Thieneman’s? My Favorite-Place-In-The-WORLD kind of Thieneman’s?”

“Yes,” she answered. “And I think you should apply. And I think I’m going to bug you till you DO.”

Nuff said. I applied Monday, started work on Wednesday. Stayed there 12 years, even opening a garden shop there in 2000. I closed the shop and resigned my job in July of 2009, but my relationship with them remains good and, to be honest, a big part of my heart still lives there.

So now, the question is… What next?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Symphony

(William Henry Channing, 1810-1884)

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable
and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages,
with an open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasions, hurry never.

In a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden, and unconscious
grow up through the commonplace.

This is to be
my symphony.
(Kind of says it all. - J.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


(I seem to be collecting blogs faster than my piano collects dust...)

For a number of years now, I have been following the idea of a "Seamless Life", where work flows into home flows into fun. It's been partially successful. Now, I have ended the part that had me working for someone else - and it's up to me to make my own paycheck.

So, the purpose of this blog is to explore creativity in general, with emphasis on the different things I'm making by hand for The Finch House. I plan to post pictures and musings about herbal and other crafts, jewelry, oil painting... and whatever else gets thrown into the mix. As with my other blogs, I don't plan on many folks actually visiting regularly - so pardon me while I talk to myself a lot!!

Let's just see where it goes...