Back to Charity Wings Art Center

It’s August in Phoenix. You know what that means? Yep, this Zonie is heading to San Diego to get out of the heat and dip my toes (whole body!) into the cool Pacific ocean. And if I’m going to San Diego, you also know what that means. Yep, an art class at Charity Wings Art Center. In case you’re not on their newsletter list, here is the info. Elena and her volunteers put out today about my Deep Dive Journal Class:

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I recently decided to take a Work in Progress Journal – it had been a WIP for over a year — and get re-inspired. I found some amazing Octopus paper napkins on clearance at Pier 1 and viola! brand new imagery. That lead me to faux finishing up some resin castings and a brand new deep sea theme was born. Here’s a peek at what we’ll be making. Lots of yummy techniques here in order to achieve all that texture.

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To learn more, head on over to Charity Wings website and register. Hurry spaces are limited and my classes in San Marcos almost always sell out.

 

Summer veggies, yum

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This past Saturday, hubby and I spent the morning doing one of our favorite summer activities. We spent some time at the local farmer’s market picking out organic vegetables. The little market in Pine, AZ is small but mighty. It’s run by one of my best friend’s partners, and let me tell you this man’s garden is his one true passion. Bill is able to grow vegetables here that, frankly, provoke envy from others in town who’re also into their summer gardens. Diane is an artist and she created all the ambiance to showcase the veggies. Check out her cute chalkboard signs and red bins for color. She’s also hand carved a cute linocut logo and screen printed cotton bags and aprons.

We’ve had Diane and Bill for dinner at our family cabin many times and I’ve learned a lot about the subject, including all the little nuances people love to tell when they have a passion. For me, buying the fruits of Bill’s labor is a little like buying a piece of art from someone who I really like. Whenever we bring them home, I immediately jump onto the internet to look up a fabulous new recipe to experiment with. It’s really fun to know we’re immediately going from garden to table.

This week, we bought sweet little potatoes, leeks, zucchini, carrots and a mix of salad greens. I had pulled out a ham bone from the freezer the night before and decided to cook it down. I had planned to make some lentil soup and use the ham leftovers, but after visiting the farmer’s market, I decided to make potato, leak and ham soup. My family always gobbles this up, so I make it quite often during winter months. This is a recipe I know like the back of my hand. Hubby was so excited about fresh zucchini that he asked me to saute them up immediately for a snack while I was getting the soup ready. You can see them in the photo above.

Since I’m on summer break with my kids right now and not spending much time in my studio, I decided to share some creative cooking. Here’s my own recipe for this yummy soup.

potatosoup

4 cups of diced potatoes

3 leeks, white and bright green parts of the stem

3 carrots (four if they are smaller from the garden like mine were)

1 1/2 cups diced ham

2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons Avocado oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence (if you don’t have it, use dried Italian seasoning spices)

salt to taste

4 cups water

1 cup half and half

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 stick butter

Directions:

Put diced carrots into pot with 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon of chicken Better and Bouillon and bring to boil. Cook carrots until they are soft.

Caramelize leeks in a skillet with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil (I’ve been buying avocado oil at Costco and using more than my EVOO)

Add diced carrots to caramelized leeks and cook until soft

Add cooked carrots and leeks to pot with cooked potatoes

Add diced ham

Make a roux —

place 1/2 stick of butter in a skillet and melt

Add 2 tablespoons of flour to butter and 1 tablespoon of chicken Better and Bouillon and stir until its a thick paste

Add 1 cup half and half to the mixture and stir until its creamy and smooth with no lumps

Add the roux to the potato soup

Add salt to taste

Cover pot and turn to simmer

And just for a little fun, I wanted to share this Ryan Gosling meme that I found on the Internet that relates to my theme. Um, yeah, he can cook for me any time.:-)

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I hope you’re enjoying your summer and getting time to be creative in whatever way your muse inspires.

JenSig

Feeling beachy…

It’s hot hot hot and dry as a bone in Phoenix right now. As I run errands, I’m like most Phoenicians where I can’t get the air conditioner in my car to cool down quick enough. Yes, it’s fun to post 70-degree weather photos on Facebook during the winter months when it’s blizzard conditions in the Midwest and East Coast, but I can tell you we Zonies pay for our sunshine smugness every single summer.

Since I’ve been dreaming about my favorite summer getaway – San Diego and it’s gorgeous beaches – with no opportunity of leaving town for a visit, I decided to spend the morning in my studio making some dreamy, beach-inspired jewelry. Here’s a simple cast resin focal and seashell bead bracelet design that I whipped up. If I can’t be cool, at least I can look cool, right???

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Thinking it’s time to put on a cotton summer dress, my new bracelet, some strappy sandals and get hubby to take me for sushi. When life gives you hot lemons, it’s time to make some toddies! Forget that crap…I’ll take all of the above and a icy cold margarita. Now we’re talking!

I hope you are enjoying your summer and getting in some much needed maker time.

JenSig

A new painting

I’ve been in my studio with nothing but canvas and paints and my imagination. In my last blog post, I wrote that I had planned to do a little intuitive painting session. I wanted to show the results of this. It felt so good to turn on the music and feel the journey color and form wanted to take. With this piece, I literally just went with the flow.

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When I wrote the words free twice, I was thinking of my folks. The four feathers are myself, my husband and my kids. The three flowers are my three animals – two dogs and a cat and the three stepping stones are the spiritual path I walk leading to my little heart studio. This painting makes me happy. Feels like healing is beginning…

Miss you!

Today is the one year anniversary of my beloved father’s passing. From the moment I woke this morning, I’ve felt him with me. Hanging out just over my shoulder. Teasing me softly like he did when I was a child. Poking me ever so gently in the ribs so I will notice him and come in for a cuddle. My dad wasn’t one to just come out and say, “hey, give me a hug” when he needed one. He was more likely to find a joke or a pun or a silly way to make me stop in my tracks and look at him. Almost like a little boy who pulls the little girl’s ponytail to get her attention.

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My father was witty and clever, so much so that he always managed to break the shell of this very serious little girl and make her burst into full belly laughter. My husband has a very similar humor, and while he’s very different from my father in a myriad of ways, I think the fact that he can always make me laugh is one of his most endearing qualities.

My father and my husband were/are fun people. While I can definitely have fun, I have to work a little harder at it. I’d rather spend my time getting to know someone for who they are. Their hopes and fears. What do they love? What do they need? These men – these beautiful men — are more likely to make you feel so safe and secure in their presence that you just melt into a naturally relaxed state where fun is simply the best option.

When I jumped onto Facebook this morning, it wanted to show me memories of one year ago today. What I saw were the photos of us in France with our students. While they were truly happy memories, I decided not to re-post them again to my wall today. When my dad passed last year, I wasn’t able to fully take it in because there were some big responsibilities on my shoulders; A dozen women whose dreams were to visit Paris and La Cascade and learn jewelry from Susan. It was an incredible trip, and the distraction of it was divine.

My dad was in hospice for three months before his passing. Even as he grew weak and ready to return home, he knew what he was doing. He made me promise to continue my trip. He and my mother never traveled outside the US in their entire lives, and he was extremely proud that both his daughters have traveled many parts of the world.

What a difference a year makes. Today I am home in my studio. I have the air conditioning turned down low and my studio is spotlessly clean and ready for me to work. As soon as I finish a few things on my computer, I’m planning to put some singer/songwriter music on Spotify and pull out my paints and canvases. My soul wants to do some intuitive abstract painting today and I’m going to listen.

My daughter is at art camp, hubby at work and son at his summer college classes. The house is quiet and my dad is with me. Time to see what my inner creativity wants to do.

JenSig

 

Embracing change

Embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life.

— Emilie Wapnick

I saw this quote on a friend’s Facebook wall recently and had to save it. Little did I know that it would serve as a guidepost for me as I’ve been contemplating a big decision.

For the past seven years, I’ve been working alongside my sister/friend, jewelry mentor and muse Susan Lenart Kazmer with her incredible signature product called ICE Resin. Last year, Susan joined Ranger Ink as a Signature Designer and Creative Director of ICE Resin. I’ve been having an amazing time working as the Director of Education for ICE. The partnership with Ranger has been fantastic because the people who work there are truly some of the most creative, talented and dedicated people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

One would think with all this fantabulousness (yeah, it’s a made up word but it totally works) that I’d be skipping a happy tune. For the most part, I have. But there’s also been this part of me that’s like the squirmy kid in the classroom who’s having a hard time concentrating because she’s daydreaming. I’ve seriously had so many “Squirrel! moments this year that I began to question myself.

As you might know, I’ve had a challenging personal year filled with loss. First my father passed, then my sweet old dog and then my mother in January. I honestly had no idea how much these back-to-back deaths would affect me. They caused a fissure in my foundation that made the ground beneath my feet feel soft and squishy. Add to that career changes (even fantastic ones), along with watching my kids grow in a blink of an eye and normal mid-life questions, I’ve been doing some very deep thinking.

When I was doing my studio purge I found an old writing journal. I saw an entry from 2008 where I had listed my Top 12 career goals. As I was reading over them I realized that in 9 short years I had accomplished every goal I had set for myself and a few more I hadn’t even dreamt of at the time. I felt a sense of satisfaction as I closed the book. A little while later I found a journal page where, just for fun, I wrote down every single thing that interested me that I wanted to explore “one day”. I read the list and laughed out loud. I need three lifetimes and at least 12 more careers. Life is just so interesting! My mother used to tell me that as a child I had two speeds – going like a whirlwind learning, discovering and doing or taking a nap. In this regard, I haven’t changed much.

It took me a few more months to draw lines between all these seemingly random thoughts. I finally quieted myself down enough to get clarity. I realized that even though all indications remain go for the path I’m on, there’s some thing tugging me to make a change. The words rest, refocus and renew keep coming up, not just inside my own head but literally everywhere I look. The other day a mattress truck was in front of me as I drove to buy take out for my family’s dinner. The words REST were six feet tall. It was like the universe gave me a face palm.

I believe that as artists we are the canaries of this world. We are the ones to see the ordinary in extraordinary ways. We can feel and see shifts and changes. If we can din the noise and listen to our own hearts, we know how to keep ourselves artistically fed and happy and, in turn, we can feed a hungry world. We absolutely understand passion; we yearn for it.

So it is that I’m taking a leap of faith. Everything is exactly as it should be. I’m leaving ICE Resin with a truly happy heart and taking a six month sabbatical. My kids’ summer break is now also my summer break. With a grateful heart, I’ll teach my remaining commitments for the year and the awesome ones I’ve been invited to teach in 2017. I’m blessed that I’ll be joining Susan this November as the organizer of her Stones, Bones and Talisman Jewelry retreat in gorgeous Bali. Beyond this near future, I have no idea what’s next. I’m sure it will be an intersection — though, truthfully, I see it in my mind’s eye as more like a roundabout. The question is simply what exit do I choose?

Words cannot express how much I’ve enjoyed, learned and grown from the journey that’s been ICE Resin. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more talented person to work with than Susan. She’s taught me more than I can express and has always supported me even though she’s the true rockstar. I’ve found my tribe in the mixed-media art community, and I’m not letting it go. I may get a little quite for a while as I focus on the three R’s, but this is still my artist life.

Artfully yours,

JenSig

A glimpse into teaching

I’m off to the Bead and Button show for six days. It’s always wonderful to leave the Phoenix heat and land in Milwaukee where I have to make a conscious effort to remember to pack my umbrella and I can still wear closed-toe shoes. (grin)

Since I get questions almost every show from folks wanting to learn more about the nitty gritty of teaching, I thought maybe this is a good time for a little history and a glimpse into the process. Hang on, folks, this is a long post!

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First, history. I’ve been teaching a while now. This important piece of my career began when I was doing mixed-media paper arts. Even though nobody called it “mixed-media” then, I was fortunate that what I loved to do was popular with the “chunky book, mini book” trend in scrapbooking. I took blank canvases — mostly chipboard or acrylic albums — and then loaded them up with family photos, paint, inks, stamps and just about anything I could glue on to a substrate. By 2001, I was teaching chunky book techniques at paper arts stores in Arizona and California. This was a hobby, since I was still working as a part-time magazine editor.

Teaching took a back seat to learning when I decided I wanted to make jewelry. I continued to write, but spent my free time taking metalsmithing classes at my community collage and obsessively adsorbing what I could from books and also through osmosis when Susan let me assist in her workshops. By 2009, I felt the calling again and returned to teaching, only this time at national retreats. Oh my goodness, I had so much to learn in the beginning! Fortunately, I’m a believer in lifelong learning so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I truly believe that to be a good instructor, one must continue to tweak, adjust and attempt to innovate.

Ok, with all that said, here’s a little peek into the process in case you’re interested in teaching at national shows. Believe me, there’s definitely a process and know that it can be time consuming!

Every event organizer has a mailing list of potential instructors. If you want to teach for their event, you ask the person in charge to add you to their call for proposals list. The organizers work hard behind the scenes doing what it takes to host an event. This includes every event-planing skill imaginable, from finding a good hotel or place to hold the event on the dates and times they want to negotiating contracts (not easy!) to figuring out food, lodging, transportation, budgets, contingency plans, refund policies and more. Fortunately, as an instructor none of this is your job. Your job is to answer the call professionally and before deadline. A little note here. Some retreats are by personal invite. How do you know which ones? If you ask to be added to a call for proposal list and the organizers say they don’t have one, then it’s invite-only.

Once the call for proposals comes in, I start making brand new work and art samples. A lot of the time, I’ve already built work that I know I’d like to teach. I use these pieces as inspiration or a starting point to still create work exploring a new idea or technique or a new twist.

After building the art, comes photographing the work, sizing and scaling it in Photoshop to the organizer’s specifications (each one is slightly different). I always save my images in high resolution and then also in low resolution 72 dpi so that I have them print-quality ready and also web ready. This little tip took me a while to learn. Now it’s just part of my process, and that makes it much easier throughout the year to quickly respond to emails I get from people requesting images for various opportunities. Here is another tip: Photos are key! The most well-written description will not make up for a low light, out of focus photo. When it comes to photographing your work: practice, practice, practice (or hire a professional).

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The next step is to write concise and (hopefully) exciting descriptions. As I’m doing this, I’m thinking about every single detail of my workshop. This is important because in addition to the descriptions, the instructor has to decide what’s included in the kit and what students must bring to class. With airlines making it expensive for luggage, the tools and materials list has become an even more important detail. Students often tell me they don’t like to bring too many supplies. If you, as the instructor, supply them then its an added expense to your personal budget. Shipping costs are expensive. Many of my fellow instructors drive to every event they teach in order to make their workshops as seamless as possible for their people. This is a time vs cost factor. Shipping is expensive and you’re in hot water if your stuff gets waylaid, but driving across country is not always a viable option.

Writing descriptions is definitely a learn-by-doing process. It can take some a long time to get this down, while for others it’s a breeze. I put a lot of time and editing into it, always trying to find the balance of being inspiring, yet detailed enough that my students know what they’re getting when they sign up.

Next it’s time to send your proposals off to the organizer/decision maker. Then comes the fun part, waiting to see how your proposals are received. Nothing is guaranteed for the national retreats. You turn in your best work and hope that your ideas are interesting enough and that your classes fit the organizer’s vision for the retreat.

Here’s another important teaching tip: You may get rejected. It stings. It puts you in a bad mood for a day or two, but it happens. Dust yourself off and try again. You have no idea why your work wasn’t accepted. Maybe someone else turned in something similar. Maybe that year too many people decided to follow a trend and that left the organizer top heavy with those techniques. Very rarely is is because someone doesn’t like you. I’ve been turned down for teaching gigs and have never known why. Other times, I’ve been told its because I used butterflies or that the retreat had too much jewelry or that they want to follow the trend of soldering and I did wireworking. No worries. You know the saying, “There’s always next time.” When it comes to national art retreats there’s always next year.

Wait, it doesn’t end once you’re accepted. You need to do you part to tell people about your classes and the retreat. These days this means social media. Hopefully you have some really good friends and they will help share the word for you. Also it helps if these people have taken your classes and have had positive experiences and they tell others. Nothing builds your reputation like authentic word-of-mouth advertising. It’s invaluable, and also why I’m grateful when people share my info.

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The last little tidbit is this: There are great artists and great teachers. The two do not always go hand in hand, so if you’ve had a less-than-stellar experience as a student remember it could be just as simple as this. Fortunately for most of the well-known people teaching the retreats today I can tell you they are in sync. I have truly met an amazing tribe of artists who’re called to share their knowledge.

I realize that sometimes I can seem daunting to break into the industry. But remember this as well; There is always room for new talent and expertise to enter any field. Your voice, your skills, your passion is needed in this world. So is your commitment and hard work. Teaching is wonderful, exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes drudgery (prep work and clean up), sometimes hard but always humbling.

Thanks to all of you who read to the end. This is a long post, and if you’re interested enough to read this much on a blog when photo stories and 140 character Tweets are the norm, then I believe you might just have all the patience inside of you to be a great instructor.

JenSig