Just keep going…

Copyright Jen Cushman

I returned home from teaching last week at the CREATE Art Retreat sponsored and organized by Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine in Costa Mesa, California. I taught two classes and did some filming on techniques using ICE Resin for short 3 to 5-minute how-to videos for the magazine’s website.

The filming was fun and also amusing. I know the editors will edit out the blunders, but I actually think they are hilarious because it just goes to show that no matter how perfect I try to make things, something always happens, like my phone ringing while I’m in the middle of mixing resin and my son asking me if I would come to school to pick him up rather than having to ride the bus home. Or having the mic fall to the floor with a major “thwack” because there was no place for me to clip it onto my shirt. 

The boo-boos I really loved were when I realized I needed to grab something that was just out of reach of the camera, so you will see my hands reaching into goodness knows where and somehow returning with a pair of scissors. The thing is that no matter what happened, I just kept talking my way through it. It’s kind of like when a singer is on stage in front of a huge audience and she trips. The thing to do is just keep going and never let anyone see you sweat.

As I continue to juggle my schedule of finding studio time to make art, keeping up with my publishing schedule and deadlines, teaching at art retreats and also doing my job with Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin and raising a family, I’ve had lots of people ask me, “How do you do it?”

I always smile at the question because the answer is actually very simple. I just do it. I just keep going no matter what. Sure, I get overwhelmed sometimes (like now) when I look at my calendar and there are literally back-to-back deadlines as well as the Bead and Button Show coming up next week in Milwaukee.

The thing is that I’m not alone. All the women I work alongside juggle a busy schedule of art, teaching, family, company responsibilities. The friends I made this past week at CREATE — Pam Carriker and Kari McKnight Holbrook — juggle a crazy schedule too. As a matter of fact, it was a large topic of discussion for us as we talked about trying to find balance. (By the way, Pam’s wonderful new book, Art at the Speed of Life is all about this.)

Each of us get the same question: How do you do it? And we all answer along the same lines. We just keep going. We do it because we love it, because we are so grateful and humble for the art experiences we are having, because we are learning things about ourselves in the process that brings a fullness – no a juiciness – to our lives that would pale by comparison had we not walked down the road we’re on.

It takes stamina and focus to be a working artist. It takes some talent, a good support system of loved ones to help us navigate the path to our dreams and it takes a passion and dedication to the craft. When a student asked me in earnest how she, too, could start this journey, these are the things I told her.

Her eyes lit up as though I let her in on a secret society. I smiled because I used to think there was one too. I decided to write this blog post to let others know there is no secret. Just this: Follow your passion, hone your skills and keep moving forward.

Yippie for IPPY, I won a national book award!


Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I am so excited (can you tell) to announce the results are in for the Independent Book Publishers national book awards and I won a bronze metal for my first book, Explore, Create, Resinate; Mixed Media Techniques Using ICE Resin. (click the link above and scroll down to #50 of the How-to, Crafts/Hobby category to see the metalists). The regional awards are still out, so keeping my fingers crossed for a metal there as well.

Ever since my book debuted Jan. 28th at the Winter CHA (Craft and Hobby Association trade show and convention), I’ve had so many people ask me about self-publishing. It seems to be a topic lots of people find interesting. There is a lot of mystique about book publishing, and even more about doing it on your own.

After going through the process, I feel independent publishing is similar to when many pioneering Americans made the decision to “Go West, young man.” It’s a new frontier, even for people like myself with a background in newspaper and magazine publishing. It begins with a good idea (like everything) and then it takes focus and a lot of work and time. It also takes making a brave decision to put your own hard-earned money into something you’re passionate about and believe in.

One of the best decisions I made was to hire Dawn DeVris Sokol to do the graphic design of the book. Her newspaper and magazine background fit mine so perfectly that we were two peas in a pod working on the project together. She’s a wonderful mixed-media artist, author and teacher, so she knows her stuff. If you’re thinking of publishing your own book, hire Dawn. She’s the best.  

Of course, I didn’t have to do the book alone. I had amazing art samples and photos from Susan and my sisters from the SLK Creative Team. Barbe Saint John, Kristen Robinson, Deryn Mentock, Jane Salley and Kecia Deveney are authentic artists with their own unique voices in mixed-media art jewelry. Their work is so gorgeous, there is no way the book could fail.

I also feel so blessed that Explore, Create, Resinate is also a portfolio of my work. I am ICE Resin obsessed. I adore this product so much and I love the constant discovery of all the things I can do with it. Whatever my mind can dream up and my hands and heart can create, ICE Resin can become. A book editor friend of mine nicknamed it “the tofu of the crafts industry.” Love that!

One of the downsides of self-publishing is distribution. You must find the places to sell your book on your own. There are some large book wholesellers, but it can be very difficult as a small press or independent publisher to get their attention. Thank goodness for Amazon. That is the next step in my process, to fill out all the necessary paperwork to get it online.

Luckily, you can buy Explore, Create, Resinate on the company’s website at www.ICEResin.com. It’s also in all the Hobby Lobby stores, some Ben Franklin crafts, The Shoppe at Somerset, and independent scrapbooking and stamp stores. By summer, there will be many more places to buy the book. We’ll be adding a list to the website soon.

Words cannot express how I feel about this book and the joy factor of it being recognized for a national award. I sincerely hope this is the first of many more how-to books I get the honor of authoring. I love doing this. It feels so right, like a niche I’ve been waiting years to settle into.

The support Susan, my co-workers Karen Michel, Cheri Lenart, my design sisters, Kim who handles our shipping and everyone who loves this incredible product has given me in the past few months is amazing, not to mention the support of the mixed-media community and all my Facebook friends who are there each day to provide some great “atta-girl” comments.

Here’s wishing each of you a truly Artful day!