A Week of Hearts

heartsweek

If you’ve been following my work for a while then you know that I’m a sucker for hearts. So much so that I often have an internal dialogue with myself that goes something like this:

Internal voice: “Jen, you have got to find a new shape to work with.”

Me: “I know, I know. I’ve tried them all; circles, squares, triangles, shields, shrines, rectangles…”

Internal voice: “And…..”

Me: “I use them for a while and always come back to what I love. The simple heart says everything I need to say.”

Since the entire world is focused on Valentine’s Day, I decided to CELEBRATE in my own way. Starting tomorrow on my blog and my Instagram account, I’ll be showing 24/7 of my heART.

Because I adore words as much as I adore hearts, I’ll be sharing a daily poem as well. I hope you join me for a little daily inspiration.

JenSig

 

 

 

 

 

 

To bead..or not to bead

That is never the question. This little lead in is my way of telling you that I’m all packed and ready for the 2016 To Bead True Blue in Tucson. This is my sixth year attending/teaching this show and it’s one I definitely look forward to all year long.

I spent some time in my studio this week making some new art samples to show my students. Mostly ideas I had for new techniques and ways of showing some of the ideas I will be presenting.

Take a peek at the necklace I made using crushed quail’s egg shells. I kept it simple by using our brand new tints to color the background. Then I added the eggs in a layer and then the words from one of my favorite poetry books that I cut up often for mixed-media jewelry. I have all the materials on hand, so my fast-moving students are going to be able to work on the pendant after they finish their “fly” bracelet.

QuailEGGPoetryJenCushman3LR

This isn’t the first time I’ve used eggs in my work. I was with Susan in France the year in 2008 when she found some sweet little quails eggs at the weekly market. She bought a box for everyone and took them back to La Cascade so we could all make the most beautiful focal pendants. I loved the idea so much that when I returned home I tracked down some hollowed out quail’s eggs and started exploring other design possibilities. I made this bracelet for our first Explore, Create, Resinate book that came out in 2011. I’ve had a number of requests over the years to teach this bracelet, so I’m finally doing so this year.

FlyBraceletJenCushman3

By the way, did you know it is not easy to travel with fragile quails eggs for my students’ kits? Ahhhh, the things your instructors go through for you (grin!)

I’ll be teaching this bracelet class and two more at the To Bead True Blue Show at the Doubletree Hotel Sunday and Monday. There are some spots left and, as always, I made up the max kits so I’m prepared. The other classes focus on resin casting — an all time fav! Also wireworking and cold enameling. Click on Susan’s website to register.

I will be coming home Monday evening after teaching just in time to get my daughter into the doctor Tuesday morning to get the cast on her arm removed. Yes, for those of you who might not know, she broke her arm Christmas evening being stubborn thinking she’s big enough to ride her teenage brother’s hover board.

I’ll be back at the show and at the booth Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We have some meetings set, but I’m planning to spend a lot of time at the show demo-ing all the cool new products. If you are around Tucson next week, please come see me and say hello.

JenSig

 

Creative Genius

The last couple of years I’ve been listening to Ted Talks while I go about my creative studio time. There’s a part of me that feels a little guilty for not listening as intently as I should be, but truthfully, I feel like maybe some of the brilliance of the speakers may rub off on me even if it is background words.

I’m finding a curious thing happening. These Ted Talks engage my left brain, which is freeing my eyes, my heart and my hands to do what it instinctively wishes to do. I find that I make much more than I over think. My left brain is intellectually stimulated while my right brain is fully engaged in color, emotion and visual storytelling. I’ve read that it’s difficult to use both sides of your brain at the same time, but this is exactly what it feels like.

Elizabeth Gilbert Ted Talk screencapture

As I’ve worked my way through Ted Talks, I started searching for topics by typing in keywords. Recently, I typed in “creativity” and came across a talk writer Elizabeth Gilbert gave a long time ago in 2009 (it has over 10 million(!) views) proposing the idea that modern-day artists – as well as the rest of the human population that consumes creative work – revive a notion that all makers get divine help from something outside of ourselves. I’ve often talked in passing here about my muses. I reference them in my words, humbly seduce them into my studio by asking for their help…for their divinity in order to create words or art or thoughts that give me flashes of inspiration and moment of clarity. Even as a young child, I always had this sense that I’m never truly alone.

My hope is to then to absorb these thoughts that move me, heal me, entertain me, thrill me, saddened me, inspire me, change me… and transform them into something that adds to the collective creative consciousness of humanity. It doesn’t necessarily matter what I birth — painting/collage/jewelry/blog post/column etc. — as much as what I create adds value.

A curious thing happened when I listened to her talk. I had to stop three minutes into it and put down my art materials to give her my full attention. When she started to speak about how in our society we need to find a way for creative people to better manage the inherent emotional risks of creativity, I had my eyes glued to my monitor and ears perked. Here’s this important contemporary writer talking about the same things I’ve thought about many times — only much more eloquently and more fully developed than I’ve been able to grasp.

She talks about the delicate balance of wooing the creative genius while still showing up to do one’s own work. She even talks about the moments after a great performance when the artist is alone…just herself and how one navigates from being the center of the universe one moment to nobody’s universe the next. While this is not personally anything I deal with on any type of ongoing basis, it is something I’ve thought about often particularly following the deaths of sensitive celebrities like Phillip Seymore Hoffman and Robin Williams.

If you have 18 minutes of your life to think some of these same thoughts, take a peek at Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk. I’m hoping it will move you as it moved me. If you’re one of the 10 million folks who’ve already listened to it, think about giving it another try.  I believe there;s something new to hear and think about each time.

JenSig

 

A Profound Loss

It’s been difficult to pop onto my blog. By now, I should have written a happy after Craft and Hobby Association trade show post with lots of smiling selfies with my artsy/crafty peeps. For those of you looking for this, I’m very sorry I haven’t been able to get that up. The reason why is that 2016 CHA was unlike any other I’ve attended in the past 10 years I’ve been going.

I flew into Anaheim on Friday to the awesome newly-built ICE Resin booth by Ranger Ink. Susan and myself and our associates at Ranger quickly got to work hanging up the shelving and hooks for all the beautiful art samples. Then it was on to Susan’s class from 6-9 p.m., then dinner and then back at the hotel and in bed by 11:30 for the first day of the show. Opening day was amazing! A whirlwind filled with hours of doing ICE Resin demos and talking to buyers and distributors and designer friends. After the show was the official Ranger team dinner (oh my goodness, so much fun to be part of a new big family!) Sunday morning was another big day because it was the Ranger VIP event where 68 important industry peeps come by before the show floor opens for a tour of new product releases by Ranger’s Signature Designers. From that event, we went straight into doing demos at the booth.

Then at about 2 p.m. I received a text from my husband saying my elderly mother had a stroke and he had found her on the bathroom floor, where she had fallen. By God’s grace, he had stopped in to check on her within 30 minutes after the stroke. He called 911 and off to ICU she went. When I received the text, I walked off the show floor to call him and my sister. Both told me to stay put and do my job until they knew more. I had a sold-out class to teach Monday morning, so I was waiting to see if I needed to immediately hop on a plane home or if I could wait until I finished teaching. Turns out the emergency team was able to stabilize her and my family encouraged me to stay and teach. Susan and everyone at the Ranger team told me time and again to follow my heart and family first, above all else, which of course is true. I couldn’t have had any more support. They were wonderful.

I left Anaheim with my brain going in all directions. My husband picked me up and took me to the hospital to see mom. I sat with her until visiting hours were over. Over the next two days I learned the hemorrhagic stroke caused a massive brain bleed. Doctors had to take her off her Coumadin. She’s been living with AFib for a decade, but her weak heart needed a stint and her body was not strong enough to undergo surgery. Not to mention her heart doctor wouldn’t do the surgery with an active brain bleed. She couldn’t swallow and was on a feeding tube and IV for liquids. My sister and I didn’t wish for my mother’s life to end in ICU. The hospital’s hospice coordinator found us a beautiful 24/7 hospice facility. The hospice staff was wonderful. They made her comfortable with maximum oxygen and pain medicine, and she finally slept soundly and deeply.

Unable to process how quickly she left us (in comparison to my father), my sister was the first to post the news on her Facebook page. Later in the day, I finally wrote a long and flowery status update. I also found a memory necklace I had made using her high school photo and her favorite colors of red and purple. Here is what I wrote:

marjorienecklace

Posted January 14th, 2016 on my Facebook page-

Thank you for all the lovely condolences and heartfelt sentiments today. As many of you know from my sister Patti, our mother Marjorie passed away at 5 a.m. today. I’ve spent the morning doing everything I can to stay present. I have photographs from her as she’s aged and photos with her and my children, but I wanted to share a memory necklace I made in 2010. This photo is from 1947 when she was 17 years old and a senior at her all-girls high school. She loved this photo. Whenever she looked it at, she would say “Look at me, Jennifer, I was beautiful. I had a waist your dad could span with his fingers.” I would tell her “Yes, mama you ARE beautiful!”

My mother was all about children and babies. She raised two generations of her own children and then her twin grandbabies from my brother. When I was a kid, she worked the church nursery taking care of other people’s babies. When my son came along, she was 68 years old and my dad was 70. They took care of my son from six months to 4 years old while I worked three days a week. They were too old by the time my daughter came along to spend much time with her, but they loved her so much too,

We got her settled into a beautiful hospice facility yesterday. I was able to tell her it was OK for her to go be with my dad and my brother, her father and mother and best friend Dot. I thanked her for giving me and my siblings life so we could live these amazing lives of ours and I told her we would all be OK even though we would miss her. When I gave her a kiss goodbye on her forehead, she was sleeping peacefully because the hospice nurses had made her comfortable. She never woke up. I believe she literally just let go and let God.

My sister has spent many years caring for my parent’s physical needs, while I have done whatever I needed to do for paperwork, finances, etc. It is just the two of us left, and I’m so incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing/beautiful/talented big sister.

Thank you for the kindness you have all shown us these past few days. I know many, many of you have lost dear ones as well. How lucky are we to have loved them in the first place?! Let’s promise to keep faith, keep hope and always share the love. In the end, it’s really all about the love.

JenSig

Off to CHA 2016

As you know, we have a brand new partnership with Ranger Industries. Susan Lenart Kazmer is the Creative Director of ICE Resin and my new title is the Director of Education for ICE Resin. These last five months have been a whirlwind of constant activity, but it’s all been behind the scenes stuff as Susan, myself and every single one of the amazing people at Ranger have been working on the brand new 2016 Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin releases. The time is finally here!!! I’m heading to CHA — the Craft and Hobby Association megashow today (Friday, Jan 8th) to join up with everyone and see with my own eyes our brand new booth. I will also get to see all the new product packaged, displayed and ready to go. It’s an incredibly exciting time and, honestly, a dream come true.

Susan and I feel great about the new products and the entire SLK line. Her vision has never wavered, and she’s known from the get-go exactly what she wants to see on store shelves everywhere. Ranger’s commitment to quality has been outstanding. We’ve been testing the new products; coming up with brand new art techniques to show our students, friends and fans; working with their graphics team on all improved packaging and the branding expert and digital content manager and all the rest of the million and one little details that it takes to bring products to market.

Ranger did a sneak peek of the new products on Monday. If you missed it, here is the link to the press releases. Also, I did a series of beginning educational videos to be released this year. Here’s a link to the first one I did showing how to use the new 8oz kit. Others will be coming after CHA when everyone gets back to the office.

Susan is teaching an artisan class tonight at CHA. I’ll be teaching the ICE Resin Basics and Beyond class Monday morning. These classes are for the arts and crafts industry and taught to store owners so they can learn how to use the products and, hopefully, head home after the show to develop great classes for their people. You must be a CHA member to take these classes and gain entry to the show. Here is a peek at the necklace my students will be making. It uses the faux opal technique, collaging a bezel and also my absolute favorite thing to do with ICE Resin — casting!

JenCushmanICEBeyondCHA3LR

Remember though we will at the To Bead True Blue show is Tucson teaching with our new products and techniques and Ranger will also have an ICE Resin booth were it will be the first time where people can purchase the new stuff, along with all the other SLK products and lots of ICE Resin, of course. Interested in registering? Head on over to Susan’s website.

If you’re interested in CHA and want to watch some of the goings on from your home, be sure to check out Charity Wings. My friend Elena Lai Etcheverry is doing free livestreaming from the show floor Saturday and Sunday. She’ll be interviewing us noon PST Saturday at the booth. Here is a picture of a new ICE Resin necklace I made her to wear at the show. Her organization’s logo is a heart with wings, which is one of my favorite art symbols too. It’s about four layers of resin, vintage mother of pearl buttons and uses Tim Holtz’ Ideaology wings covered in Iced Enamels.

ElenaCharityWings2016CHALR

Also be sure to follow ICE Resin Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. To stay up on all the Ranger Signature Designers, be sure to follow their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts too. Lots to see!

After the show is over, I’m heading to the Charity Wings Art Center to spend some time  at the first ever after-CHA designer party. So many friends only see each other once a year and it’s always so crazy at the show that Elena organized a get together where we can all have some downtime and just chat and relax. I’ll be returning home next week, take a long weekend with my family and then gear up immediately for To Bead True Blue.

If you are looking for art retreats this year, please check out my website to see where I’m teaching. I’ll also be adding new ones as they come up. 2016 is off to a busy start! How lucky am I???

Here’s wishing you an incredibly ARTFUL 2016 for yourselves.

JenSig

Seats Limited for Tucson

Now that we’ve turned the corner on 2016, it’s time to start seriously thinking about Tucson. Hotel rooms are getting full, but there are still some houses to rent if you use an online rental service like Air BnB or Flipkey. Spaces for our Tucson workshops at To Bead True Blue are filling up quickly.

I’m teaching the first two days of the TBTB show: Jan 31st and Feb. 1. As I was thinking about my 2016 workshops in June and July (this is when teaching artists start making new work and contemplating next year’s classes), I realized that what I love to teach and make is a mixed-media combination of freeform wirework, cold attachment with fibers and eyelets, wire beading, collage, color and ICE Resin, of course. I always make and teach pieces that I like to wear myself. Since I have a busy lifestyle, I need my jewelry to be comfortable and long lasting so I can get through the 12-14 hour days on the road still wearing my pieces all the way back to my hotel room.

I teach process and technique classes while ensuring that my students leave the day with finished jewelry. There is nothing more frustrating to me than spending six hours making something beautiful but walking away with UFOs (unfinished objects). I think it’s because when I used to bring pieces and parts home to my studio from classes, it seemed to take me a long time to get them completed.

Take a peek below at the workshops I’m offering in Tucson. If you like what you see, head on over to Susan’s website at http://www.susanlenartkazmer.com/workshops and register. You will immediately pay for them via Paypal. I’ll be sending an email to my students before the show to talk about the tools and materials to bring with you, but I assure you I kept it to a minimum for 2016. Also, a little note on my art samples. I was going through a blue phase since we went to France last year and that gorgeous French Blue was dancing about my brain. I will have plenty of materials/imagery and color choices on hand for you to make these pieces any color combination that excites you!

TucsonCollage