Viva La France

I’m so excited! The time has come for our workshop in France. I’m heading out Thursday and come this weekend, I’ll be wandering through all the amazing Paris flea markets with Susan and our students looking for centuries-old treasures to not only inspire me, but also to re-purpose into mixed-media art! After five days in Paris, we’re heading by high-speed train to the South of France for our retreat.

Since there’s still a million and one things I need to do before I leave, I thought I’d give you all a quick photo collage of some of the past pictures from our Relics, Ruins and Resin Alchemy workshop.

Ruins Relics and Resin with Susan Lenart Kazmer and Jen Cushman

This workshop is a big undertaking with lots of logistics and a small, intimate group of people. Our students are not only looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience but are dedicated to digging deeper into their work and getting a full immersion experience in the best techniques Susan Lenart Kazmer‘s developed throughout her 25-plus art career. I’m really looking forward to teaching the ICE Resin and casting part of this workshop. Susan, of course, is going to be teaching her amazing soldering and caging, forging, brazing and wireworking techniques. I’ll be listening and soaking it all up, not to mention I plan to come home with some amazing new jewelry of my own.

Interested in learning more about our trip, jump over to the ICE Resin website workshops page. Want to see more on this magical retreat known as La Cascade, be sure to click the link.

france workshop logo

Once I return in two weeks, I’m planning to do a series of blog posts on the trip. I plan to share some video, lots of pics and more information about La Cascade and what it, and France in general, means for me personally and for my soul’s growth.

Bon Voyage everyone. Stay well, happy and creative.

JenSig

Happy Father’s Day

Wanted to share a beautiful video with you today.

It’s amazing how powerful love is when you look it straight in the eyes without flinching.

This was created by Echo Storytelling Agency as part of their #TellThemNow campaign. You can check out Echo Storytelling Blog here.

 

Edging toward the final transition

 

Clouds Photo by Jen Cushman

One of the hardest things to do as an adult is to watch your parents age. My parents are 85 and 87 and in poor health. Watching them grow older is similar to watching the light in a light bulb dim a little, then a little more, then a little more.

Each day has become a struggle to care for themselves and each other. My mother tells me that her life, with its almost 65 years of marriage to my father, three adult children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren “went like that” — she says as she snaps her fingers.

“Honey, it all goes by in a blur. Those years of working, raising kids, making a mortgage and monthly bills, changing diapers, family vacations, summers, laundry, cooking, hugs and kisses, bedtime stories, keeping up with the dailies…you look back and realize it was your life,” she says. “And then you get old and wonder where did the time go?  I can hardly remember your childhood, much less your brother and sister’s. I can barely remember last week. When did my brain get so foggy?”

The past three months have been especially hard as my father’s health declines. Two weeks ago, I was able to call in Hospice. Each day, he gets a little bit weaker. Each morning my mother calls me asking me if today is the day. I have no answers. I barely have words.

One thing I do have is commitments, and I take them very seriously. My teaching gigs are usually set a year in advance. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep one teaching commitment this year at Adorn Me because I simply could not leave home at the time. I look back at that week now and realize it was the beginning of the end.

Things got managed and more stable so I went to Bead and Button in Milwaukee last week, and in less than two weeks, I’m off to France for the workshop Susan and I have been planning and organizing for the past 16 months. Our students have put a lot of faith in me…in both of us…to travel overseas for an adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m excited and honored and blessed to ensure they (and we) get it. I know being transparent about my dad’s upcoming transition coupled with the fact that I plan honor my work commitments leaves me vulnerable to criticism, but my only response will be that until you truly walk in someone else’s shoes you have no idea how she feels.

I have been doing everything in my power to juggle my parent’s financial and medical needs these past three months along with my normal life of being a mommy and wife and business partner and artist. It’s been really hard, but I’m proud of myself for doing it. To anyone whose ever gone through this, you know the hardest thing to do is to stay as strong as you can, advocate for your loved ones, and get shit done. Particularly when the thing you really want to do is stay in your bed and cry and wonder why. Or maybe just sleep your way through the pain and hope someone else steps up to the plate so you don’t have to. That’s not who I am, but I will admit I thought about it.

My innermost circle of family and friends have circled the wagons, so to speak, and offer me constant support though love texts, emails, phone calls that I let go to voice mail and even private Facebook messages. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for their love.

Each time I think of my blog and that I haven’t posted much, I feel badly. I wasn’t sure how to put this out there in the world. I have shared a small bit on my Facebook page, but even that’s been uncomfortable. I feel like this is my business and nobody else’s. But then I also feel strongly that if a person is going to use social media as a window into his or her world, it’s not fair/right/reasonable to only share the best and brightest. It sends an unbalanced message of what life is really about.

One of the most important aspects for me of truly living the artist’s life is to share what it looks like. To be authentic. To tell the truth. To be real. To put work into the world and let others judge it, and you, and yet still do it because you know it’s your life’s path and what’s required of you. To stay strong and make, even when all you want to do is laze about in bed to ward off any sorrows/monsters/egos/demons/drama that may be chasing you — real or imagined.

Today I breathe. Tomorrow, God willing, I breathe. And the next day and the next day and so on until one day I can try to explain to my beautiful then-grown son and daughter that life went by in a snap of my fingers.

JenSig

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I took this photo at dusk in the plane on the way home from Milwaukee. I added the filter “blue haze” to it and a sun flare, but I just love it. I think it sums up how I felt when I was heading home to my family after another successful show. Despite how difficult it’s been and how hard it’s yet to be, I believe our world is filled with wonder, awe and opportunity.

 

Good luck and my little one

Jen Cushman Bracelet Lucky Charm

 

My daughter is pretty darn cute. I know every mother says that about her kid…and every grandma and grandpa and daddy too. But, really, she’s adorbs. Here’s a little known fact about me. I’m not really a baby person. Yeah, they’re cute and all, but I’d much rather hold a puppy or kitten truth be told. I completely loved my own children when they were babies. I think back to how quickly those days sped by even though when I was in the middle of them, I felt like I was living in the movie Groundhog Day. However, I’m really enjoying the age she is now. The 5-7 year old time frame is so much fun because she’s still excited about life and hasn’t yet learned how to roll her eyes at me.

Lately she’s been on this kick where things are Good Luck. Examples:

  • Last Saturday she was eating her Cheerios on the couch watching cartoons. It’s a comfy older sofa so I don’t care if the dogs sleep on it or the kids eat while watching TV. She spilled a little bit of milk and said, “Mama, good luck I was almost done.”
  • We were running late for school and I was hurrying her along to class. We swooped in just in the nick of time and she says “Good luck we made it before they closed the gates.”
  • I was running to the post office to collect a package that I had to sign for and on the way home she wanted an ice cream cone from McDonalds. I pulled though the drive thru and realized I didn’t have my wallet. I dug around in my console and pulled out some change. “Good luck you have a secret hiding spot in your car, mommy.”
  • She dropped one of her My Little Pony dolls and the wing broke off. “Good luck daddy can fix anything!”

I know she really means to use the word lucky rather than good luck, but I’ve never stopped to correct her. I want her to continue believing that good luck is everywhere. I want her to see possibility and fortune whenever she can. In practicing conscious parenting, I’m choosing to teach my kids that the glass really is half full. That optimism is a learned skill they can cultivate to help them roll with the punches of life.

I hope this little tale brightens your day. Also that you might think of it when something unfortunate happens to you. Lose your car keys? Good luck you have a spare! Spill some paint right on the focal when you’re painting in your art journal? Good luck you have an old credit card handy to scrape away that paint blob to create more texture!

Please remember, you are a magnificent being. The Universe wants you to shine and thrive and be happy. Do your part to make it happen.

Good luck in all that you attempt this week!

JenSig

 

Inspired by shadows

Every weekday morning I set my alarm for 6 a.m. I get up, make myself a cup of coffee, grab my phone and snuggle into my favorite corner of my leather sofa for 30 minutes of quiet time before I have to wake my kids for school. The early morning light streams through my picture window and the plants outside cast shadows that dance across my living room wall.

Every morning without fail, I take a few moments to watch the graceful movement where the leaves form positive space shapes on the negative space filtered sunlight. I breathe in a few deep breaths and exhale. Without fail, I’m inspired by the shadows and the interplay of form, light and movement.

shadows no filer

I’ve sketched this scene in an art journal. I’ve painted a canvas of it more than a few times. I’ve taken photographs and played around with various filers in Photoshop. Despite the fact I see the same scene every morning, my response to it varies according to my mood. Some days I feel reflective. Other days I take it as a good omen for creativity in my studio. On rainy days, I miss nature’s shadow puppets on my wall and silently will the sun to peek from the clouds so I can feel the comfort of my morning routine.

As I was looking at the photographs the other day I realized these images are a good teaching tool for seeing in a new way. Take a look at the top photo. This is exactly what my eyes see each morning. Soft beautiful light intermingled with the repetitive pattern of the leaves. The pop of blue chair next to a cluster of dark objects – wood chair, vintage shoe forms and woven wire basket.  Pretty scene, but you have to really focus to notice positive and negative form.

Take a look at the next photo using the Photoshop Express app’s vibrant filter. The positive shapes of the leaves are starting to become much more prominent, as is the shadow behind the blue chair. I also love the way this warm filer makes the image appear as if I were looking though an old Edison bulb.

Shadows Filter Vibrant

Now take a look at the third pic using the invert filter. Wow, this one is an amazing transformation. All of a sudden you can “read” the light in a way your eyes and brain cannot. Take a look at how the blue chair and the wooden one are now reversed color wise. Notice how strong the shadow of the light is behind the chair. See the double imagery of the wire bag, and like an X-ray machine you can magically see the cloth bag inside the wire one. The lovely play of shadows from the leaves is now a long vertical strip of black. It’s fascinating the information one can get changing focus.

Shadows Invert Filter

Teaching your brain the look differently as an artist is important. It’s tantamount in what Marcel Proust meant when he said:

MarcelProustquote

How about you? Is there anything in your home that inspires you every day and causes you to simply stop and be present?

JenSig

 

In between space

 no longer quite

 

There are changes coming in my life. While I’m beyond excited for them to begin — for new beginnings, it’s also been months and months in the making. There have been days… weeks… that I fret about all the “what ifs” and “how tos”.  I’ve had many nights when I wake up at 2 a.m. and cannot get back to sleep because my mind is racing.

As all the machinations continue to move at this slower pace than I’m accustomed to, I’ve turned my working hours into pages of new ideas that I cannot wait to get started on. I’ve read books on marketing and the new economy. I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts with some of the world’s best business leaders and innovators. I’ve made a little bit of art, but honestly my heart is driving me in the direction of information consumption rather than reflection and introspection. I feel my muses happily taking a nap rather than indulging my creativity. They’re a million years old — infinitely wise — so they’ve already got this thing figured out.

I’ve visualized where I’m headed and already felt the changes deep in my heart.

The problem is this damn in between. The waiting. It goes against everything I am. Action-oriented, results-driven, always moving in the direction of my dreams. Type A, for shizzle.

So I take my work days a littler easier than I’m used to. And I remind myself to honor this space. While it’s difficult, it’s here to teach me an important life lesson about patience.

Have you ever found yourself between the no longer and not yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

JenSig

Enjoy Easter

Today marks Easter weekend and the renewal of Spring each year. Like many folks, I adore this time when the weather is beautiful and the outdoor weekend fairs and festivals are in full swing. I’ve been spending lots of quality time with my family and friends. Each Wednesday, we look through the events calendar and decide when and where we’re meeting up on Saturday. This weekend, of course, I’ll be taking my daughter to an egg hunt. We’ve already purchased her frilly pink and blue tulle dress and new sandals that she picked out. The thought of a party has had her bubbling with excitement since Tuesday.

Spring Quote - Jen Cushman Studio

Since I know this is a busy weekend for most folks, I just wanted to give you a little inspirational image of a Spring vignette pic I took at Sweet Salvage and then turned into a visual quote. I’m having fun creating these little digital graphics. If you have a Pinterest board this would look good on, please feel free to Pin away.

The soft color palette makes me want to get out some of my pastel beads and build a new necklace. The eggs inspire me to get out my resin clay and paints and see if I can make some speckled beads first. Maybe late Sunday afternoon after Easter brunch I’ll get some down time to simply play in my studio while my daughter colors beside me.

Tell me, what does this image evoke for you? 

JenSig