My blog has a new home

Hello lovely friends,

As of today, I will no longer be updating here. I’m in the process of creating a brand new website – the basics are there but adjustments and customization are still ongoing – where my website and my blog are all found in one location. No you can find everything at one spot: jencushman.com 

newhome

This change has been a long time coming, but I’ve been afraid to tackle the task because I had to teach myself how to build my own website on WordPress.org. I’ve built every website I’ve ever had as an independent artist and writer, but I’ve always used templates and muddled through with my drag-and-drop design skills that I learned ages ago. I’ve rolled with the changes from traditional print to digital media fairly well, but I stayed behind the 8-ball when I didn’t jump on the bandwagon to combine my website and blog.

I’ve pulled in my past posts to the new website. Because of that things are still a little wonky. I’m leaving for Bali, Indonesia in 4 days so this next round of customization (read TIME) is going to have to wait until December.

For those of you who’ve subscribed to my blog and been following me for a while, you know this has been a year of massive changes in my life. I’ve taken time the past four months to re-evaluate where I’m spending my time and what I want my life to look like. I’ve rested, grieved for the loss of my parents, reconnected big time with my family and friends and am in such a great place! I’ve also made a new business plan for myself for 2017 and am going to tackle many of those in-the-works ideas that I’ve been wanting to implement. I would be so very honored if you continued to join me on my journey as an artist, writer, instructor, blogger, mother, wife, friend and sister. Thank you for the time you’ve spent with me so far. I appreciate all of you more than you will ever know.

Artfully and respectfully yours,

jenblogsigredheartweb1

 

Sharing morning pages

For the past few months, I’ve been back to doing my morning pages. For those of you familiar with Julia Cameron’s incredible book The Artist’s Way, you’re already familiar with the concept. You might also use it as part of your creativity toolbox. [Here’s an interview she did where she spoke about morning pages and creativity]

For those of you who don’t know the concept, it’s simple. When you get up in the morning, before starting your day, grab a notebook and begin free writing. Don’t edit your thoughts. Do not try to make sense of the words. Just get it out. Anything and everything that is in your head..spill it onto the page and release it. As crazy as it sounds, it is amazing how productive your days can be when you get into the practice of dumping all the monkey mind stuff rattling around in your head.

tips-for-morning-pages

The first week of practice this my journal entries looked like this:

“I have no idea what to write and this feels so stupid and not worth my time and effort however I’ve read Julia Cameron’s book and I know it is fabulous and was so very helpful to me when I first did the program in 2000. It helped me define myself as an artist and it gave me so many personal insights. Oh, damn today is the day I have to get my car into the shop. I hate that. Damn fuel pump recall, why did that have to happen? I need my car to run about a million errands today. This means that I won’t be able to finish the canvas I’m working on. Just about done…”

I will NOT bore you with any more details, but I want to share exactly what I’m talking about. Monkey Mind — rambling thoughts that take up space and effort with no real purpose. We all have it, some more than others depending on the length of our to-do list.

However, like any good practice, morning pages can also offer some incredible insight and lead to artistic ah-ha moments! Also, as I’ve found myself doing this, my mind rambles much less throughout my day. It’s easier to get into my studio and get to work, and it’s easier to break away for my domestic responsibilities.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling melancholy and having a few introspective days. Here’s a morning pages entry. Mind you, it still took a few paragraphs of rambling to finally hit upon this:

I find it fascinating the way the Universe works. 2016 is a year of changes. Endings of many things both career and personal. With endings, though, comes New Beginnings. The space between the ending and the new beginning is the Void. The Void feels a little shaky, like walking on cobble stones created by masons centuries ago where you’re not completely certain how to place your feet so the ground won’t shift. But it is also a primordial soup of creativity and possibility. It’s a time when you can intentionally make every single choice of what to add to this next pot of soup. It’s a time to look at life and tell yourself…hmmmm I’m DONE with that, but I want MORE of this. It’s not about reaching for anything in particular. It’s about getting clarity on the essence of who you are and how you wish to spend your days.

I’m not sure what I will do with this paragraph yet, or even if I will do anything with it. For now I circled it a dozen times with a fine point Sharpie marker with a note to revisit at a later date. My journalism mentor, an incredible editor who won a Pulitzer for her reporting on the early days of AIDs, calls this “gathering string.” It’s a concept she introduced to me in my 20s that I took to heart and have been doing ever since in my creative work.

No great wrap up of this post. Just wanted to share with you a snippet of my life. I’m curious though, have you ever done morning pages? What are your thoughts on making this a practice?

Artfully yours…

JenSig

 

 

Queen’s Ink wrap up

Patti Euler in front of her incredible store The Queen's Ink in the historic Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland.

Patti Euler in front of her incredible store The Queen’s Ink in the historic Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland.

Here’s an interesting-to-me fact about my life: Sometimes I cannot believe I get to live the life where I travel the country teaching mixed-media art techniques to the most amazing, creative group of women (well, mostly women. Sometimes men, too!) I clearly remember when I set this intention. It was 2001 and I had started scrapbooking in 1999 when my son was born. I didn’t stay too long in that world, and quickly found “altered art.” A friend of mine owned an amazing paper arts store in Payson, Arizona called Paper and Metal Scrappers. I was such a regular at that store that they left a seat open for me. When I walked in, it was just like the television show Cheers where everyone knows your name and calls out “Norm!” One day Brenda said to me, “Jen, your work is good. Get me a sample. Let’s have you start teaching.” I was over-the-moon excited and scared. My passion as a regular customer and instructor of this store set me on a path that has become one of my work accomplishments that I’m most proud of in my life.

Ok…..fast forward to two weekends ago when I hopped on a plane to visit Patti Euler, mixed-media artist extraordinaire/instructor and owner of The Queen’s Ink in Savage, Maryland. Patti opened her incredible paper arts/rubber stamping/mixed media store 16 years ago and has never looked back. The second I walked in her store, memories of Paper and Metal washed over me and I fully expected the gals who work for her to call out “Norm!” I was home. I was back to teaching at an amazing store and I felt a tingling of excitement rush through my body.

Here we are sporting big smiles just before the weekend began

Here we are sporting big smiles just before the weekend began

Thus began a whirlwind of three days of teaching, learning, sharing, engaging, inspiring, being inspired by and pure joy of being with a tribe of creative women once again. I taught three days of resin, with Friday night’s journal class starting at Square 1 of working with resin to Saturday’s mixed-media jewelry class to Sunday’s bring-it-all-together resin casting/assemblage class. Here’s some fun numbers:

  • 3 days of instruction/creative play
  • 4 Ranger Signature Designer product lines were used: Susan Lenart Kazmer, Dina Wakley, Dyan Reevely and Tim Holtz
  • 26 unique mixed media techniques taught/used to create the three distinct projects
  • 56 students
  • Consumed 86 ounces of ICE Resin. The last student was scraping the bottom of the bottles to fill her assemblage because we used up every drop of resin I brought for the weekend

Here’s a little photo album of the weekend. It was such a whirlwind of creativity that I didn’t get a chance on Saturday to stop even once to take pics.

Ladies working on their art journal covers in Friday night's class

Ladies working on their art journal covers in Friday night’s class

Applying ICE Resin to the covers as the final step

Applying ICE Resin to the covers as the final step

 

queemsinkirisselfie

Iris Rodriguez working on her collage

 

Candi Harris working on her collage cover of her journal

Candi Harris working on her collage cover of her journal

 

Elizabeth Taylor's completed art journal cover including the freeform sculpture teachnique. You can read what Elizabeth had to say about the weekend on her blog.

Elizabeth Taylor’s completed art journal cover including the freeform wire sculpture technique. You can read what Elizabeth had to say about the weekend on her blog.

 

A little selfie fun with a Patti photobomb on Sunday as the ladies were working on their resin castings

A little selfie fun with a Patti photobomb on Sunday as the ladies were working on their resin castings

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Candi Harris’ amazing finished assemblage. She was so inspired when she left that she added even more to it in her home studio. Love the Dresden trim and the sticks and resin-coated flowers

 

Iris' completed assemblage. I love how completely different it looks from Candi's...almost as if they were not in the same class. This is what I love the most about teaching. Giving students a sample for an idea and then watching them take off with it to create work of art that is uniquely theirs

Iris’ completed assemblage. I love how completely different it looks from Candi’s…almost as if they were not in the same class. This is what I love the most about teaching. Giving students a sample for an idea and then watching them take off with it to create work of art that is uniquely theirs

 

Elizabeth's completed assemblage. How cute is the kitty cat chasing the butterfly?

Elizabeth’s completed assemblage. How cute is the kitty cat chasing the butterfly?

 

queensinkjenteaching

Here’s a pic of me I rarely get…me teaching. A sweet student took some pics and graciously shared them with me.

I cannot say enough about Patti and her amazing store The Queen’s Ink. If you live in or near Maryland, Virginia or Washington DC, it is well worth the trip to visit her store. Not only that, but Patti has made it a point from the very beginning to bring in country’s best mixed-media instructors so her class offerings are the bomb diggity. Talks are already in the works for me to return Spring of next year. If you’re an East Coaster, please join her mailing list and keep an eye on my blog to see what we’re cooking up for you.

Artfully yours,

JenSig

Queen’s Ink this weekend

I am off to my last teaching gig of the year. Sooooooo excited about this one, as it’s a brand new venue for me. I’ll be at The Queen’s Ink in Savage, Maryland teaching assemblage, collage and jewelry — my favorite things in the entire world!

Patti Euler, the owner of Queen’s Ink and I have been chatting for years now every CHA (Craft and Hobby Association trade show) about me making a trip to her fabulous mixed-media art supply store. Well, we finally said to each other, “No more talking about it; let’s do this!” And so we shall. Just so you know a bit about Patti. Not only is she a smart businesswoman and store owner, she is an incredible mixed-media artist in her own right. She’s also an art educator too. Can’t wait for dinners. We have so much to talk about. (grin)

Classes are full, so this post is more an update to let you all know what I’m up to and where I will be this weekend. Here’s a look at the projects and techniques my folks will be learning and making Sept. 16, 17 and 18th.

Juxtaposition Assemblage: Found Objects and Resin Casting

juxtoposition1jencushmandetail2lr

 

Fun, Funky and Functional Art Journal 

iceresinjournaljencushmanlr

Gypsy Heart Necklace 

Gypsyhearts2webJenCushman

 

Be sure to check out The Queen’s Ink website and if you are ever in the area, please visit Patti’s store. Honestly, for an artsy person such as myself, it doesn’t get much better than this! JenSig

Love, Gratitude and Labor Day

This long holiday weekend was filled with family, friends and FUN. Many moments have taken root in my mind and will be known from here on out as simply “good times”. As I go about my work today, one memory keeps coming to the forefront. To tell it though, is to tell a little story.

I have two generations in my children; an almost 17-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. It’s challenging when your children’s ages are a wide gap. The teenager is into his electronics and wants to stay up all night. He doesn’t care too much to talk, but when he does have something important on his mind, you bet he wants to talk about it at midnight. The little one wants to play make believe, Minecraft and art and gets tired by 9 p.m. (thank goodness, as does mommy). They rarely play together because their interests are too varied. Sure, they love each other. My son is a caring big brother and watches over his sister who absolutely adores him. But my time as a mother is split between two distinct generations with different levels of needs and wants.

The one common denominator my kids share is that they are home bodies. They love being with their friends, but they both believe every play date (for the littles) and general hang out time (for the teens) should be at our house. This is something my husband and I enjoy. Sure it costs more in food and mess and pure parenting energy, but I know where my kids are, what they’re talking about and what interests them. When they get with their friends having fun, they forget mom and dad are within earshot and we get a glimpse into their world from a different vantage point.

Even the bigs still act like the littles sometimes at the family cabin.

Even the bigs still act like the littles sometimes at the family cabin.

Such was the case this Labor Day weekend at our cabin. We have a separate little mother-in-law house complete with bathroom that we’ve essentially handed over to the teenagers. The littles take over the living room. If the weather is nice, like this last weekend, the grownups get to enjoy the deck all to ourselves. Well, until the littles come looking for a snack, a drink or a hug.

My son has two best buddies who’ve been like my own “spare set” of kids since kindergarten and first grade. I love these boys and have done my fair share of play dates, camping trips and sleepovers. These boys came to the house Friday about noon and didn’t leave until Monday at 4 p.m. Other teenagers came and went in those three days. At one time on Saturday I looked up and there were 10 kids milling between the hang out house and the pool table in my husband’s garage. I made tacos for them and they scarfed the food like a plague of locusts, leaving no crumbs behind.

At the same time the teens were hanging out, my daughter’s best friends — my second set of “spare kids” also spent the long weekend with us and my daughter was beyond happy to have the company.

Feeding our friend's horses is always a fun family activity when at the woods.

Feeding our friend’s horses is always a fun family activity when at the woods.

Sunday evening, my husband and I took a walk around the neighborhood. I put the big kids (son and spares) in charge of the little kids (daughter and spares) and told them to all play tag in the yard. We heard laughter and yelling from children as we were walking up the hill a few streets over. My husband dropped my hand and put it to his ear.

“Is that our kids?”

I cocked my head sideways to listen closely. “Yes,” I said with a big, happy smile. “All six of them.”

I was quiet the rest of the walk, my heart filled with gratitude for my children, my friends’ children who entrust them to our care, our family cabin and holidays in the woods where we gather. There’s no place on earth where I’m more at home or more at peace.

I've loved this little face since he was just a few days old. One of my "spare kids" whom I love as though he's my own.

I’ve loved this little face since he was just a few days old. One of my “spare littles”

Here’s wishing you a week filled with love and gratitude.

JenSig

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:

CharityWingsJournalClass

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.

JenDeepOceanJournal2webtm

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

FarmersmarketSummer

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.🙂

famersmarket4

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

JenSig