One of the many hats I wear is the person who gets to be in front of a camera here and there. While I am working behind the scenes to procure the remaining funding needed to host a show for PBS, it is things like this that get me excited about the idea that in not much longer, kids will be standing side by side with the experts learning in a hands on way how to be part of a production here in Detroit. A huge thank you to Lisa Quinn for letting be on her set to goof around and film a segment next to Natalie (CRAFT magazine online) about faux etching glass and Maker Faire goodness.
I am on my way to Maker Faire in San Francisco and will fill you in from the road a bit about my journey. There are few shows or conventions that truly inspire me the way Maker Faire does. I suppose the reason is that if you ask any of the folks wandering around what the most impossible thing they thought about that day, they'd provide you with a laundry list. They are cut from the cloth that all great thinkers are made from. It is truly like walking the streets of Renaissance Italy and the free exchange of ideas and thought coupled with people who enjoy making things with their hands is something truly unique and special. I have always been a believer in surrounding yourself with people smarter and better equipped than yourself- this would be the place to feel completely inadequate and inferior... I say that in a good way because it spurs you on to be better, not only for your own personal journey but, for the things that you are created to do for the world. I can't wait to connect with old friends and make new ones.
I am constantly humbled by nature. I look around and have my faith affirmed daily in the oddest ways I think, today it was by staring at a plastic cup filled with cocoons and a caterpillar (courtesy of the budding Naturalists wandering around my yard)
This past week has been a wonky one for me in that life in general has thrown me some interesting curve balls and has had me wanting to hide under my desk rather than facing the world. I think those times of introspection and holing up can be very beneficial for the creative in that it forces us to look deep and ask ourselves why it is we do what we do. It is a gut check moment. The times where we are the most vulnerable and weak are the ones where we question everything it seems. In nature, when a living thing, like a caterpillar for example, is under stress, it can force itself into an early cocoon...fascinating. This protection system forces a conservation of energy and even though on the outside nothing seems to be happening, on the inside major changes are underway- changes designed to deal with the environment and perpetuate the life cycle.
Life is a series of cycles, a series of stages, each one preparing us for the next one. The cocoons reminded me of something I learned from my Grandfather about business. In order to have a dream come to fruition, it too has cycles.... The first stage you devour all the information you can (caterpillar), then, you marinate, that is you think it all through, create your plan, stop and figure it all out (the cocoon), and finally, when all is ready, it is ready to take flight (butterfly). The true test is how you will live your life with wings and whether or not you've laid the correct foundation to make sure that the cycle continues once your time is done.
I find my children absolutely fascinating. They ask the most random questions and then, like seasoned old people wise beyond their years they discuss the complexities of the world in the simplest of terms which really, are the most distilled ways of looking at things and therefore, the most interesting ways to dialog I think. There is a game called "Would You Rather" that we like to play while we are in the car. Today, was one of the most profound discussions. The question was, "Would you rather never see your reflection or never have your image in a picture?" On the surface this seems to be a simple straight forward question, or in the company of a 8,7 and 5 year old, a rather simple one right?
My 5 year old said, "Well, I don't care what I look like just as long as I am there." Both boys agreed with her and then talked about why that was the case. My son said something like well, if we were in the rainforest your face would be all sweaty and dirty and that means you had fun. When we have school pictures, they make you comb your hair and look nice and that's not fun... I told you, interesting.
As I thought on that today, I thought about business in general and how companies are so worried about their reflection that they forget that it is more important to be in the picture... being relevant, being a part of the idea- that light bulb moment, and a part of the story. Image is important yes but, truly, there is more to be said about actually showing up and being there, getting dirty and working in the trenches with the end consumer. I know personally that the retreats, the classes, the boots on the ground activities with fellow students are the ones that end up on my wall of fame in my studio. There is where the good stuff comes from, the stories, the bonding, the memories, the interaction, the interplay of ideas; the stuff that life is made up of. It's not the slick ad with smiling faces or a reflection in the mirror that folks connect with. And quite frankly, showing up to a crop at midnight in my PJ's and fuzzy slippers donning a baseball hat never offended any of my students why, because it is about the art, the activity, the doing, not the way we look.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April's breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept; Alike the conqueror silent sleeps; And Time the ruined bridge has swept Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream, We set today a votive stone; That memory may their dead redeem, When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those spirits dare To die, and leave their children free, Bid Time and Nature gently spare The shaft we raise to them and thee.
How do you say thank you to those who gave all, who sacrificed the very life they had and with that, all their own personal dreams and hopes expiring the moment they had their final exhale? How do you say thank you to someone you'll never be able to look in the eye and with tears streaming tell them what their sacrifice means to you and your family in this great Nation. I will tell you how. You will lift the flag and with precious care, raise it and display with pride. As you look at the stars you think about how each of their lives mattered and that they are now there among the stars in the sky shining down on a Nation that is still free. You will look at the white and think of the honesty in their sacrifice and the red of the blood they shed in your service. You will honor the men and women in uniform right now who believe with every ounce of their being that the Constitution is more than a piece of paper full of words, it is the very fiber of a Constitutional Republic where people are entitled to a life of liberty and justice under the rule of a Democratic Government of the people and by the people. You will stand up against any person, State or Government that seeks to infringe on our inalienable rights. I say, this weekend should be sacred and hallow as the grounds our Veterans are buried in. As we sit and relax and have our extra long weekend, remember why it is that we have the freedom to do so. May God continue to Bless this Nation and the Patriots who died defending it.
There is more to life than just sitting back and wishing for something to happen. We can think positively and even dream grand ideas with thought provoking solutions however, unless we actually initiate and proactively do something about them, nothing happens. For the sake of an interesting random analogy, let's take a clean house and use it as a case study to illustrate a point shall we? I only use this because I am staring at a sink full of dishes and fervently wishing that my Jedi mind tricks would just kick in and have them done for me already... they must be immune because I am really concentrating...
My Mother always said, "Honey, don't you dare get upset if a visitor comes unexpected and sees your home as it normally is..." I can wish for a clean house and dust bunnies without fangs but, the truth is, unless I am willing to pay someone to come in and take care of my mess (which, let me remind you, still takes work in order to earn the money to pay for someone else to do it...), some kind of effort will have to be exerted in order to achieve that. From my own personal experience, I can assure you Jedi mind tricks do not work on the vacuum apparently either so, that too is something that will have to be done. The point is, if I want a home that is presentable and ready for unexpected guests and all the good and wonderful new opportunities they bring with them, I have to be ready ahead of time. Housekeeping isn't something we necessarily enjoy but, it needs to be done in order for our wish of a clean home to come true.
Life is a verb folks, it isn't some 'thing' we think about and leave there noodling around in the gray matter until it decides to all of the sudden and of it's own accord, to just pop into existence via a puff of smoke from our ear. Just like the house that does not clean itself, it becomes what it is through diligence, perseverance and good old fashioned hard work. Furthermore, we reap the benefits of hard work in unexpected ways and end up living a life we could only dream of.... I say rather than throwing the quarter into the well and waiting for your wish to be granted, you roll up your sleeves, get to work and invest the quarters that represent those thoughts, ideas and dreams. Your hard work will pay off and you'll be able to use the interest to pay someone to eventually clean the house while you are out living.
You know, metal work is an interesting thing. To emboss it, one uses friction to stretch the metal, and work is done both on the negative (back) and positive (front) sides in order to get the picture to emerge. I think for me, working in metal, particularly the kind where fire and heat is involved, there is a refining process that tests the metal removes the impurities that will weaken the structure. As a child, I lived down the road from a Blacksmith. My brother and I would wander down there and sit and watch him as he turned a lump of metal into a flaming orange moldable piece. He would hit the metal with such force; his arms were strong and his hands reflected those of one who worked with them... calloused, scarred and rough. He would explain to us how it took many times of heating and reheating, pounding, and more pounding to "find the art" in the metal. My face glowed after leaving his studio, not only because of the heat that the fire threw off but, because I knew that people had the ability to make the hardest something I could think of at the time into something beautiful. It gave me hope that if something was hard, not all was lost.
I believe that each and every one of us has something deep within us that needs a refining process to reveal. This process isn't always an easy one. Thinking about the metal, it is a painful thing to be constantly beaten down, burned to your core, and repeated continuously. The truth is, this process breaks many, makes them brittle, and cast off in the slag. I volunteer some of my time to work with troubled youth. These kids are some of the most hardened and truly damaged people but, they have something in them waiting to be revealed if only other's would see them more than what is on the surface. There are two sides, a negative and a positive and both need to be worked on in order for that masterpiece to shine. I received word that one of the kids I worked with chose to end her life rather than go through the fire again. It was a devastating blow. I think any person who listens to the news or reads a paper or online news feeder and hears a story of a youth dying too early it is our reaction to shake our heads. My question is, how many dig deeper and ask why it is that these kids have lost hope in the first place. How did they fall through the cracks? The interesting thing is that, these folks mature and once they are adults, they are no longer as malleable, they are hardened and set in their ways. I am very grateful to the girl I had the honor to work with, it was she that was a tool in the Blacksmith's hand, it was she that was used to refine me and reveal a side of myself I dared not dream possible. I miss her deeply and know that when I am finished, her imprint will be there somewhere in the final project. Peace my dear sweet E this is for you.
I had a rude awakening the other day when one of my kids came in and announced that she was going to be an actress ( *wink* to all those who know my daughter). Of course I asked her why it was that she thought this was the discipline in which she should go. Without hesitation she said, "Well, not only do I not get to wear costumes everyday but guess what, I get a ton of money to pretend to be someone else all the time." Huh? Interesting that a 5 year old in the simplicity and brash truth that only a child can get away with, she pegged it right on the head as to why so many of our youth aspire to be "famous" rather than a person of substance remembered for their contribution. Now, I do not want hate mail about me bashing actors and actresses lest you all forget that I spend time in front of cameras too... I am trying to point out something a bit deeper than simply vocation, I am thinking more about motivation. Me being in front of a camera is a necessary end to a mean just like paperwork is to good bookkeeping I suppose, it comes with the territory. My daughter wants fame and, not only an excuse to lie without not getting punished but, to also be heavily rewarded for her fabrications in the process... don't let her fool you folks, she is a master of 1-800-justify thinking.
So, back on topic. What motivates you to do what you do? Perhaps a better question is, what do you want your career to provide you with? Now, I will say this point blank and up front, I am a capitalist and if money is your motivator, more power to you. I believe that a person is happiest being self-sufficient and working hard and being rewarded for those efforts (rewarded in ways you feel are fair and just be that monetarily, awards or otherwise). I think there are selfish and greedy folks in the world yes but, it's not my job to punish them for their character flaws nor be jealous of their ill-gotten means and lavish lifestyles. We're on different ladders. Back on track here. When you decided to earn a living from what you create, what were the reasons why you thought this was a good idea and what did you want to accomplish? I'll give you a thought to ponder for a minute while you marinate on those questions... I asked a woman I mentor once, how much money do you want to make? She said, "Oh, not much, I just want to live comfortable..." Don't we all however, what is your comfortable, what is mine? The same question could apply to success, what defines that for you? Being on the cover of some magazine or having an exhibit at the MET? My daughter wants fame and fortune and to be the center of attention at the tender age of 5. Me, well, my idea of successful is a bit different I suppose ;) The gist of it is, without really knowing, how can you achieve it? If you want to be the next American idol, what would you have to do to be that? You'd need singing lessons, an image consultant, adoring fans and lots of folks willing to text in their vote right? What if a smokin' bikini wearing beach ready body is your motivation? I suppose a personal trainer, a diet plan, and for me a good plastic surgeon would get that done right? So, you're a creative trying to earn a living and accomplish __________ (fill in the blank)- what do you have to do to get there?
In precarious situations many things can sway our decision as to whether or not the risk is truly worth it. I know that in different times of my life I was more willing to not think about the consequences of an action or consider them in some sort of "deal breaker" scenario. Cliff diving (before it was banned ;)) in Tobermory, rock climbing and repelling, white river rafting, trampolines and random dares, and even goofing off on 4 wheelers all seemed like incredible fun and a "good" idea when I was younger yet, now with three small children, I think on my follies as a bit reckless. Do not get me wrong, I do not in the least regret doing any of those things it is just, now, I would have to really think about it before I did something so impulsive. I have a different filter in which my activities must be seen through- one that includes three very young dependents that would be affected directly should something not end well.
So where am I going with this. Today I saw a turtle crossing the road. We all are aware that turtles do not move very fast and this was a back country dirt road where, let's call a spade a spade, folks like to take the curve fast. Now, I would have normally stopped, picked it up and taken it to safer surroundings however, this was a snapping turtle of good size and well, let's just say I have no love lost for big snapping turtles (remind me to tell you about the hot tub fiasco... yes, children and husband were involved while I was out of town and no, it did not end well) My thought was, something must be really important for that turtle to risk impending squishdom to get to the other side. Here in Michigan many folks are in the same position as this turtle. They are looking at the road ahead and thinking well, I have no other choice and I am going to risk it. The interesting thing is, like the turtle, they are focused on the end goal and will not be deterred. I mentioned to my daughter in the car that this was the reason the Turtle beat the Hare in Aesop's tale. There is no alternative for perseverance, diligence and courage.
It is interesting to me to see ordinary folks live and breath their passion. It is such an inspiration to meet people who's bliss seems to permeate throughout every aspect of their lives. I was thinking recently about spaces in general and how many folks go through their lives decorating their homes, picking out clothing, and buying this or that that reflect societal trends rather than their individual tastes. I wonder how many people think to themselves, if I applied who I am on the inside to my surroundings would my friends still want to come over to visit or be seen with me in public? There seems to be a fear to express ourselves as we really are.... either that or folks *really* are concerned with resale value and not willing to go the technicolor route in bathroom tile. My thought here is, why would you choose not to be who you are?
Okay, I will admit it, I am a complete pyromaniac... any of my students can attest to this. There is just something just "cool" about fire, how it can be the source of warmth and thus life in hostile climates yet, the Harbinger of Death that devours cities and homes rendering them to ashes. It can be chaotic yet, utterly predictable. The interesting thing is that it's mere existence means that it consumes itself out of existence once it source of "fuel" has been depleted.
Each of us has the ability to share our talents and our unique voices with the world. Our heat and light are gifts we can give to others much like a lit candle. The point is, just as a candle, in our mere "being" what we were created to be, we consume ourselves unless more fuel is added. The hotter and more aggressively we live our lives by proxy means we expend who were are more quickly. As creatives, we tend to be more passionate about those things we want to share and less in tune to refilling the fuel source. As a result, burn-out and creative blocks hinder our progress and eventually, if not taken care of, can extinguish us completely. Rather than being a wildfire haphazardly consuming everything in site, choose to be more like a controlled burn where fuel is added here and there as needed and a specific path has been thought about in advance (through pre-planning and business plans) to follow.
I wish I could say the word "Poppies" like the Wicked Witch of the West did in the Wizard of Oz... seriously folks, as a child that voice and the thought of flying monkeys kept me up at night. How ironic that in the movie, the poppies were meant to lull Dorothy and her band of folks missing things (brain, heart, courage, home...) into a peaceful, all forgetting slumber.
I think that during recessions and hard times there are folks who truly are just tired and want to just stop and rest a bit. Going on the Wizard of Oz analogy, the crew just walked along the brick road without the benefit of GPS, appropriate footware, or mechanical transportation (even though the emerald city seemed decked out with all sorts of cool mechanical gadgetry)- they were tired folks. They were worn down AND because of this, susceptible to the trappings of a wicked voice and poison pollinated pretties. When we are at our weakest, we are also at our most vulnerable. It is at this moment that having friends to hold us accountable and keep us going is important. The natural tendency is for folks to shy away and try to get through tough times alone. They let their fear and pride prevent them from being honest about exactly how tired they are and what struggles are draining them and their business. There is no shame in admitting that you are struggling but, there is when you never reached out to grab the hands that were all around you wanting to help. Think about it, there you fell asleep in some field as the world passed you by and the flying monkeys made fun of you by drawing all over your face with a Sharpie Marker as you slept.
Today is a majority of the world's Un-Birthday... there are a few who have birthdays today and to them, I wish a sincere Happy Birthday, the world is a better place with you in it and the day you were born, a new light was added to the timeline of history; may you use that light to illuminate the world and do something amazing to leave a mark that inspires the best in others.
So, this post is actually for all of us who will live vicariously through those fortunate enough to have a cake and candles to celebrate their day- to all of us who will sing a "Happy Birthday" to someone who may or may not like being the center of attention but will endure the clapping and out of tune kind gesture because it is polite. It seems we as humans tend to live vicariously through a lot of people just as a course of everyday living, birthdays or not. It seems we often play a part and act a role more out of obligation, etiquette, or fear rather than being honest and genuine. I read a very thoughtful and well written blog post today. What struck me about this post is how it applies to each and every person, each and every day. We think celebrities are the folks in front of the camera when really, the whole world is a stage and you friend, are an actor as well and famous to someone somewhere (be it a child, a co-worker, or some random passerby on the street). Whether it's make-up or frosting, we all hide behind something.
I had a wonderful opportunity to share this with some highschoolers when we celebrated a famous celebrity's birthday at an impromptu party (last remaining obligation from a lost bet...). These girls are homeless, they have nothing but a whole lot of scars and this one celebrity brings them hope and allows them some escape from their reality. They dream of being rescued and loved in spite of who they are- broken little girls with more baggage than any person should be allowed to carry. They did not ask for these circumstances yet, here they are... kinda like a Vampire who had no choice to be what they were to become once bitten ;) We made a cake and I shared with them this analogy afterward.
"Ladies, here are the ingredients of this cake (we took them from a box... I explained that I would have liked to have flour I ground myself, raw sugar, and the real chocolate from Europe but, that having the eggs from my chickens would have to do in terms of "real" ingredients). We mixed them together and followed the instructions on the box, made sure the temperature was just right and that we had it baking for exactly 29 minutes. We had layers and stacked them carefully. The girls worried when part of the layer stuck to the pan. I told them not to worry, frosting (like make-up) covers a multitude of flaws. Then we frosted the cake with premade frosting (most of which they had spooned directly from the container into their mouths... we opened another container and "spackled" our layers together). We wrote a sweet sentiment to someone we do not know and blew out the candles making a wish on their behalf... My question is, how much of this cake and this celebration is real? The cake turned out the way it did because we followed the directions and now, it looks like the image here on the box exactly like we figured it would. The only thing we actually knew where it came from and had any connection to, was from the chicken... everything else came from a box. In life, how much "real" do we actually get AND, once it's covered with a lovely frosting, how much do we get to see? I explained that my job seems very glamorous on the outside but that there is very little "real" in my work. I create for clients according to their needs and follow the directions I am given to make it turn out like the image they see in their heads... There is a huge difference between a boxed cake and a real, made from scratch cake. I will tell you, the "scratch" cake is called that because there are many false starts and mistakes but, in that refining process, the recipe emerges. I explained to these girls that they were made up of the finest ingredients and that great care was taken when they were chosen. That they were not some boxed mix,that baking them would take some time, some false starts, some fallen cakes, some cakes that crumble and stick to the pan, and, that when all was said and done, they would be the best darn cakes ever. And, I explained to them that this celebrity that they had taken a shine to was not a boxed variety either but that the version they were swallowing most likely was... it was the image of the guy on the DVD box or the one they had contrived in their heads between the covers of their dog-eared paperback, not the "scratch" version. Furthermore, that the "scratch" version of him is someone none of us would most likely ever know sans a select few (afterall, every cake only feeds a certain number right...) but that we could still be inspired by his work just like anything or anyone else we see or meet in this world. It takes a special person to get beyond the frosting and a wise one to be able to discern real ingredients from the fake stuff but, doing so is where the proof in the proverbial pudding lies. " I guess at the end of the day, my wish when we blew out the candles was that we as a culture would take the time to feed kids the good stuff from the beginning so that they would have a taste and appreciation for the real rather than the artificial, that they would see past the surface and seek substance first in themselves and then in others.
Happy Un-Birthday girls, may the wishes you wished as you blew out the candle come true. Here is the cool cake I told you about, this one took time and was crafted by hand... XOXO
I love old buildings. Traveling throughout Europe I noticed that buildings were built not separate from but on top of previous buildings. I loved staying in the Buda part of Budapest and seeing the old buildings and walking literally through history as we entered the front door and worked our way back into the home. You could actually see the seams where the old was fused to the newer and what was the most intriguing was that the home's owner took great pride in knowing the history. Some folks would call that old world charm, I would rather think of it as a solid foundation and connection.
In business, having a solid business plan in which to build from is usually a high indicator of success. I say usually because, having a nifty piece of paper full of "gonna-do's" does not always fall in line with "get 'er done, got it did" follow through. I was intrigued by a Twitter post I received that promised a bazillion followers in 30 days and money by the fistful for the taking...It made me wonder how many folks buy into this shifting sand kind of thing. Social networks are an important part of the new business paradigm yes, however, they only work if it's about your customer rather than instant enrichment to you personally. Social means just that, you need to actually care, be engaged, and interact person to person. You need to build the foundations first, that is a strong relationship created from mutual interests and mortared together with a trust that is built over time- a trust based on consistency and genuine communication. The second part is about connection. If you have built a strong foundation, you not only know your network and their stories, you know them so well that you can share that history with others when they come to visit... just like that home owner in Budapest. When I left that home, I felt as if I was not only privy to the history but, part of the future as well. That my friends is an amazing foundation.