Dealing with grief

I feels like it’s time to reach out on my blog to let those of you who may not follow my social media a little closer into my life. I feel ready, well, truthfully not really. But after having lunch with a friend yesterday, I realized nothing is gained through silence.

Grief is such a difficult process. I’m learning it takes many forms, and each person handles death of a loved one in his or her own way. Some people “white knuckle” through it. Others reach out for support and counseling. Artists friends I’ve talked to over the past couple of months have shared their personal stories with me, and each of these treasured…private…intimate conversations has filled my heart with even more respect and tenderness for them and for the things they, too, are dealing with as they attempt to balance their careers.

My father passed away June 28th. I was in Paris at the time on our private art retreat. Of course, Susan, as well as the lovely ladies on our adventure knew of my situation and were incredibly kind and supportive. My father, a 20+ year diabetic, went into congestive heart failure in March, right before Adorn Me in Houston, Texas. As much as I hated doing it. I called the organizer and, together, we found replacement instructors for my classes. I was grateful to my friends Rikki Schumaker and Kim St. Jean for adding to their already full schedules to teach my classes. This new reality of my father’s declining health caused a chain of events that was like a snowball starting slowly and picking up more and more snow as the days ticked by.

I tried to teach my dad about selfies to pass the time in the hospital one afternoon in May. It took about 13 tries to get a decent shot. He said to me "honeychild, what are you doing?" I said "I'm taking a selfie pop." He responds: "What the heck is a selfie? All these people putting their phones out in front of them. What had the world come to?"

I tried to teach my dad about selfies to pass the time in the hospital one afternoon in May. It took about 13 tries to get a decent shot. He said to me “honeychild, what are you doing?” I said “I’m taking a selfie pop.” He responds: “What the heck is a selfie? All these people putting their phones out in front of them. What had the world come to?”

I immediately started paperwork to apply for ALTCS (Arizona Long Terms Care System), a state program designed to pay for care. ALTCS eligibility is determined by a financial and medical assessment. The system is convoluted and complicated, and I was told on a number of occasions to hire an elder care attorney to handle the paperwork/process. The idea was crazy to me to hire an attorney my parents can’t afford to help them get into a system designed for people financially unable to pursue private-pay options. I did exactly what I do when presented with a problem. I put on my big girl panties and tackled it, and thus started what amounted to an additional part time job on top of my normal schedule.

The end of May, my father called me one night and said he was ready to transition. He asked me to call Hospice and get him and my mother help. I made a phone call to a friend in the medical field and he gave me the info to SAGE Hospice. Thus began a new round of paperwork and more caseworkers. SAGE moved quickly and my father qualified immediately. He thought he would go quickly. It took a full, seemingly-long-but-blessedly-short five weeks for his body to shut down. We had time to say goodbye. Nothing was left unsaid. My father received and gave love all the way to last breath.

I spent hours with him and my mother the last two days before I left for France. All affairs were in order. When I gave him that last kiss and hug goodbye knowing I was getting on a plane the next day, I knew it was the last time I would see him. He wouldn’t let me cancel the trip. Houston was bad enough for him. Paris was unacceptable. He died four days before my parent’s 65th wedding anniversary and two weeks before his 87th birthday.


My mother has never lived alone. She is grief-stricken and complains of heart pain, among many other things. I’m still going through the ALTCS eligibility process for her and it continues to demand my time. We will know the outcome within the next few weeks and I pray my mother gets what she needs.

All of this, of course, was going on while Susan and I were also working behind the scenes on our exciting new ventures with Ranger Industries. Talk about the best of times, the worst of times. While I’m so incredibly excited for the future and grateful for the multitude of tasks (also behind the scenes) that we must accomplish before CHA, I find that there are days when I just don’t feel like myself. There are moments when I wonder if my creativity has blown away in the wind because it’s so difficult to wrap my arms around that which is most familiar to me.

On those kind of days, thankfully, someone in my inner circle reaches out to me. Like yesterday, when my wise friend took me to lunch and shared her own grieving process of her father’s death. And last night when a friend/fellow instructor acted as a sounding board to my work ideas and guided me as I refocused.

I’m doing my best to stay grounded in my life. I can’t wait for 2016 to get here because there’s lots of new opportunities to touch even more people with art.  Since my teaching is over for the rest of the year, I have time this fall and winter for some much-needed exploitative time in my studio. I will share visuals on Instagram as I can. For now, today’s share is enough.

Artfully yours,



A new direction

Susan Lenart Kazmer and Jen Cushman

Susan and me in Madrid, Spain on our unintended day trip after our flight home from France was cancelled. Here we are doing one of the things we like to do — turning lemons into champagne by creating new experiences.

Have you seen the news on the ICE Resin blog?

We’ve entered an exclusive manufacturing and distribution agreement with Ranger Industries for Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin products. Susan and I are staying on to continue working this beautiful ship we’ve built and help steer it in exciting new directions. I cannot tell you how happy we are to have found the perfect partnership to make ICE Resin grow and bloom into everything Susan wanted it to be when she founded it eight years ago. This change is going allow us to focus on our core competencies. I do want to take a moment to acknowledge what an incredible business woman Susan is. Most people see this amazing artist, but they have no idea how much smarts, grace, strategic thinking and hard work she put into her position as President and Founder.  It’s been an honor to work with her.

ranger ink logo

Susan is now Creative Director of ICE Resin. She gets to do what she does best and loves the most: think, dream, build, invent and inspire all amazing things jewelry and mixed-media related. Watch out world, and unfettered Susan Lenart Kazmer is a beautiful thing to watch indeed. Stay tuned! I’ve seen a little bit of what’s to come and I’m blown away. As Education Director, I’ll focus on what I love — being an art educator and creating DIY programs to showcase all the the amazing techniques Susan’s developed over the years so others can continue to learn how to use resin and SLK products in their own art making. We will continue to teach workshops, create videos, do online education, write books and articles and pursue new opportunities. We’ll continue to do new product development for ICE Resin hand-in-hand with Ranger. This is the big time, folks.

One of the biggest challenges of being an artist-based company is that we’ve had to take on all the company responsibilities as we were growing. Finances, sales, manufacturing, trade show logistics, vendor relations, customer service and a host of other tasks that are absolutely essential to running a successful business. We’ve stuck together and done it, even though we’ve had some rough patches where we’ve looked at each other and said “What are we doing? We’re artists”!!!

We woke up every day and put one foot in front of another and grew the company. We “made the donuts” (remember that old Dunkin Donuts commercial?) because we have responsibilities that we’ve always taken very seriously to our customers, employees and creative team of artists. Last year, it became clear to us that in order to up level ICE Resin to the next big rung of success, we needed to find the right partners who shared our vision and also our deep commitment to our creative tribe and industry. This process was a long one that developed after many months and meetings. It was a literal meeting of the minds with every conceivable detail being worked out.

So begins a new chapter, more like a new book; a sequel. The characters are in place, the journey continues, the plot thickens. Keep reading. Hopefully we can make this next book a page-turner. I can promise you that we will never be out of ideas. With Ranger’s support, now is the time to fly.

Susan Lenart Kazmer and Jen Cushman Boat in Paris


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.


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.








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!



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:


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