Thursday, December 30, 2010

Prey or Play

I looked up the definitions of "stalking " and "predator" today before writing this post, as the words were on my mind and I wanted to make sure I was using them correctly.

Predator refers to an animal which survives/exists by killing and eating other animals. It has become common language to talk about sexual predators, those people who seek out vulnerable unknowing others for their sexual use, perhaps not for their actual existence, but certainly to fulfill some sick need. It is unfortunately easy to think about the most extreme examples that we read about in the news, but the everyday predators are who are on my mind today.

I just learned about an instance of sexual abuse by a parent i knew. Horrified, I began to investigate, and learned that it is common when a marriage is going sour for children to be at risk for inappropriate sexual behavior from the parents. Asking or demanding sexual favors from a vulnerable child in the course of a game seems to me like predatory behavior in the guise of play. Maybe that's too strong a word, but inexcusable and tragic nonetheless when a parent crosses the line into abuse. How do we protect our children, those who trust their parents to be their safe place? Is there really anything we can teach our sons and daughters to armor them?

In addition, I recently learned about the online stalking behavior of someone I know, behavior which this person sees as playful, social, and flirtatious, but which I am beginning to think of as predatory. The dictionary defines stalking as steadfast and stealth watching of an intended prey or victim. Today we talk about online stalking more casually, using the word to mean the following of our posts, thoughts, and whereabouts, whether on an online dating site or Facebook, by reading blogs or tracking public online interactions with others. But more sinister, I believe, is the stalking to harass and coerce, often in the guise of play, stalking when someone does not wish to be in communication, when someone is unaware of being observed. And this really bothers me. It bothers me when it is done selfishly and with the intent to harass or inflict harm in the name of flirting or friendship.

Privacy issues abound today, but I am beginning to think that the real moral issue to be confronted in personal privacy is understanding and respecting lines which should not be crossed. A child opens up a door to her heart through play with a parent she trusts, not expecting that trust to be abused. A person crowdsources for advice on Facebook, hoping for help from his friends, not expecting to be harassed. I open up my thinking through this writing hoping to share the human experience, not expecting to be publicly humiliated.

Humans are not supposed to be predatory animals, yet stalking, bullying, abusing and harassing are far too common, often done under the pretense of play, and I just can't stand it. My hope is that by talking about it, we can name it, shame it, and grow less and less tolerant of every example of treating others like prey. We are humans. We know better.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Designing Women


Although I tired of fashion trendwatching a while ago, I love clothes and have always enjoyed expressing a part of myself through what I wear. It has been a personal and professional mission for me for some time to find interesting clothing for mature women, clothing which allows a woman to express her femininity and individuality, make her feel comfortable and pretty, and act as that punctuation point to a wardrobe of go-to staples. How lucky I am, then, to now be able to do this as part of the Artful Home business.

I am currently enamored with the clothes of Cynthia Ashby. Working out of Chicago, Cynthia has been marching to her own drumbeat for more than a decade, applying an artist’s hand – a woman artist’s hand – to the design of her clothing. Clearly she is a master of the cleverly cut seam, and she manages to create designs which flatter and forgive, are attention getters but feel right at home.

I wore one of Cynthia’s pieces at TEDWomen a few weeks ago, and was stopped often by women, wondering where I had found such an interesting piece which transformed my basic black into something outstanding. This is what women want and need and deserve: clothes to feel fabulous in, clothes which recognize their curves and allow their flaws, clothes which celebrate the fun of getting dressed.

This was the original concept for my business, Fifty/Fifty, and I am thrilled to see it coming to light under the auspices of artfulhome.com.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Complicated

You know that part of your profile on Facebook where it is possible to designate the status of one's romantic relationship as "It's Complicated" as an alternative to single, married, divorced, in a relationship, etc.? I have never really understood that, thought it somewhat vague and bothersome, and now find myself irked by Facebook's commandeering of yet another word in the English language having to do with relationships.

Earlier this year I liked to joke that my life could have been called "It's complicated up in the air", based on some of the uncomfortable similarities between my life and the lives portrayed in the films "It's Complicated" and "Up in the Air". The challenges of navigating through a world of frequent travel and newly unmarried status in mid-life, the complexities of maintaining a relationship with my ex and engaging in a few with bad -boy types, the discovering of self and continued attempts to strike a work/ life balance all combined into an admittedly complicated state.

My emotional roller coaster put a strain on my closest friendships as i forced my friends - and me - to see parts of me i was not so proud of. We had to examine our boundaries and assumptions, our willingness to be honest even when honesty was really hard. It was complicated, indeed, and testament to the strength of our relationships that we could and still do work our way through the ins and outs of our needs and wants, our ups and downs, our abilities to give and our needs to protect ourselves.

Having recently been accused by someone with whom I have a rocky past and a very different communication style that I was making a friendship too complicated, I had to pause. Too difficult and without enough benefit may be an accurate assessment, but too complicated? Life is complicated, relationships - real, meaningful friendships - are complicated, and the only way I know to grow them is to deal with the full range of a person honestly and directly. None of us come a la carte with our qualities to be picked and chosen from.

It's complicated? You bet!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Goodnight, Arianna


When Arianna Huffington gave a short TED Talk at last week's conference about the need for sleep, my first thought was that she was wasting a valuable bit of everyone's time, that a woman as influential as she is should really be talking about something more weighty. The more I have thought about it, though, the more I really appreciate her statements and mission.

It really is pretty simple: Arianna is out to promote the fact that a good night's sleep helps life, helps critical thinking, helps attitude, helps energy. Why would she promote this? Because she thinks - and knows- that one of the ways that Type A's get all that we get done is by sleeping less, and that it has become quite a badge of honor to announce that one can manage with few hours of sleep every night. In integrating into a men's world of business, women often try to prove that we can be as good, as strong, as whatever as men, and the sleeping thing is part of that measuring up.

I used to know that I needed at least 8 hours of sleep a night. With motherhood and successively more executive responsibility in my career, I learned to live with far less. With menopause I learned to cope with interrupted sleep. Since the night my ex-husband nearly died and suffered his permanent brain injury, I have never again been able to sleep without medication, try as I might. Throughout an obsessive affair, I rarely slept well for months, whether I was sleeping alone or accompanied, and wondered how much of my loss of focus about the affair had to do with my constant sleep deprivation.

Listening to what our bodies are telling us grows ever harder in a competitive world. Our ability to communicate 24/7 makes it so hard to turn off. But I think Arianna is on to something, and perhaps I shall try her sleeping challenge for the first months of the new year, as she did at the beginning of 2010. It is a simple challenge: commit to 8 hours of sleep a night, take more time to recharge and say no to obstacles to sleep. It's not an extraordinary act, but I am hoping that it will help restore and revive me in ways so that I can, truly, do more.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pillow Talk


Yesterday I was listening to a friend as he talked about what he missed the most from not being in an intimate relationship. As he talked about missing the physical contact, it made me think about what I miss.

It is an interesting time for me to think about this, as I have only recently reached a place where I am comfortable, even happy, being alone. While I had been feeling desperate to be part of something, that desperate feeling is gone, replaced with a peace and comfort in my own company, on my own as a whole someone rather than as a half of something.

In fact, yesterday I prepared a big dinner party completely on my own. While cooking extravaganzas are nothing new for me, doing absolutely every step, from planning to prepping to decorating to cooking to last-minute fixing to cleaning up was all mine to do. Thankfully my wonderful friends at the party stepped in and lent some helping hands, because while I do love every single step of entertaining, it was a big task.

And what I realized was that what I miss is the pillow-talk, sharing the after-party clean-up and recollecting, the banter after all the guests have left, the partner to collapse with and whose hair also holds aromas of the dinner we've shared with guests, the you-wash-I'll-dry person to linger with and extend the joy of welcoming people just a little longer into an intimate conversation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Second Acts

At TEDWomen, one of the overarching concept was second acts. At my lifestage, I am particularly interested in second acts, as I feel like I am in one myself. Post corporate world, post marriage, post childrearing, I see this time in my life as a time to live differently than before. While my introspective self-journey pales in comparison to some of those I heard about, I was excited and motivated by the examples around me, both in the speakers and in the attendees.

Again and again there were people who chose to do something different, who acted to change the world they were in. Sometimes the changes were from adversity, sometimes from horrendous circumstances, sometimes because of the ability to make a difference and the overwhelming desire to do so.

Take 18 year old Sejal Hathi, a young woman who, out of her battle with anorexia, went on to found the non profit organization Girls Helping Girls, already mentoring 30,000 girls globally. At age 18, she is well into her second act, and I imagine the world will be treated to acts 3, 4, 5 and more from this remarkable young woman.

Or Tony Porter, who recognized that his own socialization, and that of so many men, was such a profound reason for violence against women, that he founded A Call to Men, an organization dedicated to putting together high-profile male dominated organizations such as the NBA with programs dealing with domestic violence to try to change socialization practices, to try to change the components of what he calls "the Man Box".

And then there is wonderful Deborah Rhodes. Deborah is an internist who was frustrated that she could not provide a better answer to a patient about the accuracy of her mammogram. After a chance meeting with a scientist in a field she knew little about, Deborah went on to co-develop a new gamma Ray screening technology which is 3x more effective in screening women with dense breast tissue than mammograms, 100's of times cheaper than an MRI, and pain free. Getting the funding and approval has been another story, though, and it is shocking to know this is out there and cannot be implemented - yet!

The designers Donna Karan and Eileen Fisher, both pioneers as clothing designers with eponymous companies that truly recognized and satisfied the needs of working women, are now heading philanthropic programs, anxious to,as Donna says, "address the needs of women, not just dress them". As I engaged in brief individual conversations with each of them, it was obvious that this second act of their professional lives had lit a fire within them and that equally and in personal styles as different as their clothing styles, they were changing the world.

We all get into routines and ruts, and sometimes it takes a cataclysmic change or catastrophe to force us to behave differently, chart a new course, take action, and enter our own second acts.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some Learnings from TEDWomen

How to begin collecting thoughts from TEDWomen?

I walk away with the overwhelming, overpowering impression of women who all want to do more, know they can do more, are committed to doing more. This was apparent in the presenters and attendees alike. Whether celebrity or soccer mom, accomplished business woman or artist, world leader or blogger, the people at TEDWomen were ALL hellbent about the possibility of more, the requirement of more, the relentless need for more. Some of us have to figure out what that more is, some have launched.

For my own purposes, I am trying to break my memories into a few of the most overarching concepts which emerged. I am not sure what I will do with them, but I know I must do something. Now.

The Other

Elizabeth Lesser introduced the concept of "otherizing" as a dominant negative force in our world, blue and red, feminist and tea party, Muslim and Christian, men and women, . She spoke of a simple concept for trying to bridge and overcome this force. "take the other to lunch" literally. As she described going to lunch with an outspoken female Tea Party activist, she suggested creating ground rules so that you could have the opportunity to ask the questions of someone from the other side, questions you have always wanted to ask. Ground rules: 1. don't try to persuade, defend or interrupt. 2. Be curious, conversational.

The concept of getting to know "the other" permeated the conference, whether accidentally or on purpose.

One of the most moving moments of the conference for me, and the greatest example I can possibly imagine of getting to know the other was a presentation made by two mothers: Phyllis Rodriguez, mother of a victim of the 9/11 attacks on the world Trade Center and Aicha El-Wafi, mother of Zacarias Masaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. These women spoke of reconciliation and compassion, forgiveness and activism. Imagine the sight of them, holding hands, shedding tears, both mothers having lost sons, both women refusing to cave to hatred of "the other", both committed to ending terrorism and social injustice.

But then there was the amazing Caroline Casey who has dedicated the past 10 years of her relatively short life changing how global society views people with disabilities. Why is Caroline amazing? Is it the fact that she is legally blind and did not even know it until she was 17? Or the fact that she refuses to let it limit what she sees and does in the world? She talks of looking at people with disabilities not as "others", but simply as people with a defective part who perhaps have so much more to offer, a different perspective, not to be avoided but to be included.

And then there was Mona Eltahawy - busting through stereotypes that Muslim women are "only about headscarves and hymens". How many Muslim women do I know? And have I asked them anything about their lives and beliefs? What about you?

I am interested in watching how much I will now not only try to recognize "others" in my life, but attempt to know them. I don't have to like them all, nor them me, but ignorance is no way to bridge differences, difference which I am frequently too happy to rant about.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TEDWomen Part 1

The sessions have yet to begin, yet I have already gained knowledge, met amazing women and have had my brain stretched. Where else can you have lunch with a National Geographic journalist, the founders of Women Move Millions, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a star of Greys Anatomy, a major art collector, a self described "just a mom", and a discoverer of a plant which could help solve world hunger? What do all these women have in common? The desire to leave the world a better place for girls and women than the one they were born into. Simple. Strong. Committed. What a gathering!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Wake-up Call: Risk and Reality


If we are lucky in life, we get wake-up calls, experiences which indicate that we have been playing with fire or ignoring signs, experiences which force us to stop and notice some parts of our lives which we have been trying to stuff under a rug and pretend are not there. I am afraid that I have gotten a few over the past month, the most recent being Friday night.

As I was driving on the freeway on my way to an anticipated weekend with my son, I got stuck in stop and go traffic, a common situation and one which always begs me to entertain myself with anything - anything! - but driving. My radio, my phone, my email all called out to me like sirens, and I, a master multi-tasker, was sure that, as always, I could beat all the statistics about multi-tasking while driving. Not so this time; the photo of my beloved car depicts the results of my distraction when I became yet another statistic and slammed into the stopped car in front of me on the freeway.

While embarrassed, shaken up and annoyed by the situation, it made me look long and hard at how much I indulge in the behavior of assuming "it can't happen to me". And this is my wake-up call - that it can and it did, that as much as I thought that somehow I was superior in some way that should make me be able to get away with dangerous behavior, I am not. And I need to stop.

I once dated a man who could - and did - text and drive, googling and looking up directions while driving, sometimes on two devices, and it both terrified me and thrilled me, thrilled me to watch someone else defy the odds and terrified me knowing that he was putting us both at risk, to say nothing of the risk he posed to other drivers on the road. I didn't ask or demand that he stop his behavior nor did I absent myself from it, and I realize now that while partially I was afraid of being seen as a wimp, I was also motivated by the thrill of the bravado of the risk and beating the odds. Macho behavior can be attractive and seductive; if it wasn't, we all would have stopped engaging in it or responding to it long ago.

My injured little car is proof that I am not somehow magically exempt from the risk. My bruised ego is proof that I was just fooling myself. I am grateful that this was only a wake-up call, and feel fortunate that I caused no greater harm. As I drove on the freeway today, I could feel those impulses calling out to me to glance off to my phone, to see if something important was happening outside my car. It was then I realized that learning to wait was something I badly needed a crash course in.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It Could Happen To You


I read today of the firing of the two top women's fashion executives at Barneys NY, a firing that seemed inconceivable based on how closely linked to the Barneys brand these two women were.(Article at http://runway.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/will-top-firings-change-barneys-cool/?hp) When you live and work in as public an arena as high-end fashion, hirings and firings are there for all to see and read about. But I couldn't help but wonder how these two women were feeling today.

Have you ever been fired? I have. It's awful. It's awful like being raped is awful. Like being dumped unexpectedly is awful. When someone else can suddenly alter one's fate and one's future through his actions, it can take the most confident and accomplished of us and make us immediately feel incompetent and lacking. I can't even begin to imagine how much worse it feels to then have the news amplified in the public arena, but I feel for these women. I don't know them; I might not even like them if I met them. They could be the biggest snobs in the world or they could be people who yell at their assistants in public. But regardless, dragging their names through the mud is the last thing they need right now, and I wish them well as they recover from being summarily let go.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friends and Family


As someone who works in retail, I know well that the phrase “friends and family” has come to mean a discount, a coveted once-a-year discount originally reserved for true friends and family members of employees and now offered far and wide to anyone. I hate that that’s what the term has come to represent, just as I hate the term “friending” on Facebook, because both devalue the meaning of true friendship.

I am currently staying with a close friend who happens also to be my aunt, the person who is closest to a mother figure in my life, a person for whom I would crawl across cut glass, a person with whom I laugh and cry and relax as with no one else. My aunt is 83 and in frail health. Feisty and sharp as a tack, she is also tiny as a little bird, recovering from major surgery, and worrying the pants off all who care for her. We speak absolutely every day, not out of obligation as much as out of our days being incomplete without this connection, and the treat of having a few precious days together in person during which we can share our coffees is my idea of heaven. This is friend and family.

Since it was getting close to the holidays, this week I saw an old friend who is like family, like a brother. He is to whom I turned for comfort and shelter after I was brutally attacked many years ago, and I was one of the old friends who he invited this week to share the first unveiling of his new puppy. We don't speak often, nor do we engage in Facebook chatter, but I know he has my back, that we have give and take, lightness and protection, puppy hugs and bear hugs through birth,marriage, illness and rape; these are the moments that reveal friends and family.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It Should Have Been the First Sign


“So what is it about the Farmer’s Market that you like so much?”, he asked when we first met. That should have been my first clue that I would find it difficult to find a common ground with this person. As I went on and on, trying to describe the pure joy I get when I see a pile of just-pulled-from-the-ground rainbow carrots, or the inspiration I am suddenly struck with upon encountering curly kale, or the impossible-to-resist urge to try a white pomegranate, I was greeted with an interested but blank response. “Tell me more. Take me there. Introduce me.” Several dates later when I served a meal, an act which I think of as a gift I love to share, there was no squealing with delight over the golden beets or noticing the way the pomegranate juice was coloring the leaves in the salad. And the conversation returned to something far less textured than the meal before us.

It was at that moment that I had an aha moment about relationships, about the give and take, the learning and teaching, and just how much of that I want and am willing to provide in a relationship. I love learning about new things, and am a willing student. I love sharing what I know, and am a willing teacher. But it was at that moment that I knew I was trying to create a bridge across a chasm to a place I did not want to go.

Sometimes this happens in the workplace. Long ago I learned that I wanted to be surrounded by people who give as much as they take, by people who bring thoughts, suggestions and action rather than by people who want me to do all the leading. For a few moments it can feel good to be the exalted leader, but really it is the reciprocal engagement that makes successful teamwork, even and often when that engagement is with people of wildly differing opinions or approaches. And that when I am having to work too hard to find a meeting place, chances are the work relationship and true teamwork is never going to click.

Obviously this is true in personal relationships, including the one I was most recently exploring with a man who, although charming, was not a good fit for me as a partner. While I don’t have a requirement that a partner be a fellow “foodie”, I realize how incredibly important it is to be able to share my own passions and have a partner tune into them, even if it’s an experience we've not yet shared. Chalk another one up to experience, and pardon me while I go back to the market!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

He's Leaving Home, Bye Bye


Today is the day my son, my wonderful, interesting, sometimes maddening, I'd-do-anything-in-the-world-for him, first-born child is moving out on his own. Nick is moving across the country, having reached his goal of saving enough money to give himself the cushion he thinks he needs to launch his adult life on his own terms. I am so proud of him, so happy for him, so sad to know that his presence will no longer be in my home or my city.

Nick's launch is so different from my own, so much better planned than my impetuous hitchhiking across the country to a Berkeley that sounded cool to my 19 year old self and offered a possibility of a new beginning for me. And yet, with all his planning, I suppose the thing that I am most excited about for Nick is the fact that really, he has no idea what is in store for him. As he pursues his difficult career choice as an actor, as he dives into a city which he has not yet even visited but has elected to try out as home, as he lives without the shelter of parents to cushion some of the everyday blows, Nick is bound to hit bumps and walls, serendipitous delights and moments of fear and despair. And he is ready for it, or at least as ready as any of us are for living life on our own two feet.

Bravo Nick. Safe launch. Oh, how I'll miss you here in San Francisco and oh, how proud this mother is. I'm just wondering how I'll get through this day...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Life Lived in Exclamation Points


While some artists seduce you quietly with their work, drawing you in to their private world, others come at you full force, pronouncing and exclaiming with an approach and vision so bold and unique it stops you in your tracks. Welcome to the world of Harriete Estel Berman.

Harriete’s studio is filled floor to ceiling with her raw materials: tin cans, tin doll houses, vintage cans, tins collected by others and sent to her, flattened sheets of printed metal sorted by size, shape, and color – everywhere. Often it feels like you are falling down Alice’s rabbit hole with the visual stimulus of bright shiny materials wherever your eye turns. In sharp contrast (no pun intended, though there are sharp edges everywhere), Harriete’s attention to the tiniest details is evident, and the laborious nature of her work requires her jeweler’s focus precision.


Harriete is a jeweler and metalsmith who long ago traded working in fine metals for recycled materials, particularly printed and patterned tin cans. Having learned about Harriete’s work over a year ago and then meeting her, I knew I had to visit her studio and get a better sense of what makes her tick. Oh. My. God. In spite of having seen Harriete’s exuberant work, nothing – NOTHING! – had prepared me for her studio, her energy, her wonderfully obsessive commitment, and the social commentary in her work.

What first drew me to Harriete’s work was her teacups, masterfully created from cans flattened, meticulously sliced, re-formed, precariously stacked. Harriete does nothing on a small scale, and the teacups are no exception; once part of a series of 200, only a few remain in her possession now.

Large scale, multi-year projects do not daunt Harriete. Her grass project used 32,000 separate blades of tin grass, and it was her commitment to the social commentary on American’s obsession with their lawns and the environmental impact of maintaining green lawns that drove Harriete to create this project over several years. For the past four years she has been working on a piece which uses thousands and thousands of used No. 2 pencils, a piece which comments on the role of standardized testing in the weakening of the American education system. http://www.harriete-estel-berman.info/sculpt/pencilPage.html.

It is extraordinary to have this kind of zeal and passion, and to be able to take an issue which concerns so many of us and turn it into provocative work which is bound to have a social impact. And that is, perhaps, the most amazing aspect of this mighty woman - this woman who lives her life in exclamation points of imagery and exuberance, that she can take the ordinary around us and turn it into forms which question our beliefs, challenge our senses, and cause us to stop and take notice.

If you want to see her work, go to www.harriete-estel-berman.info. Her website is incredibly thorough.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Acting like a Dog



Warning: this post is going to be a typical Lisa narrative which seems to be disconnected until the end. Stay with me, as the loose ends really do tie together.

Last month in North Carolina, I was charmed by the work of Margaret Couch Cogswell, a multi-media artist whose gentle whimsical work touched my heart when it was most fragile. I bought a piece entitled “Sometimes a Heart Needs Holding”, as my wounded one needed holding badly and I liked the idea of healing myself.



One piece in particular made me laugh, a piece in which Cogswell created her dog’s view of the Penland School where the artist has been completing a residency. Tessy, Margaret’s dog, saw the school as “Pee-land”, and the work included a map of Tessy’s pee spots, places where the hard-working Tessy announced she had been and by peeing on top was announcing her status as top dog.

Fast forward 7 weeks. My heart is long-healed, I am feeling stronger, less vulnerable, a few steps clearer about my needs and wants vis a vis love, dating again, and feeling great about being solo. And then this weekend happened, a time of long walks, planned adventures, serendipitous encounters throughout San Francisco. I found myself reacting to the city much like Tessy, as I visited an artist’s studio with the closest of friends, sat at a bar introduced to me by one man in my past, listened to a broadcast of a performance I had attended with another, admired produce at the farmer’s market as I remembered meals I had enjoyed cooking with yet another, shared a dinner with a new acquaintance at a new venue which will now be permanently linked in my mind to this man. Like Tessy, I was responding to each of these places as if it was scented and marked by a relationship, no matter how long or brief. San Francisco has become my pee-land, rich with experiences and associations. Unlike Tessy, I don’t feel the need to be top dog, but I suppose my version of re-marking these places is my urge to reach out to the men in my past when I re-visit these places, not to restart something which is over but to acknowledge the sweetness now past. Some respond, some don’t. Their loss, in my opinion.

Interestingly, the “Heart” piece I had purchased from Cogswell also arrived this weekend, and I was interested to see that while it still spoke to me, I was no longer that woman with the heart that needed holding that I had been in North Carolina. The heart heals, it re-opens, it discovers new people and places and sniffs them out, marking them and me permanently, like Tessy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes A Great Vision


It is often the case when I look at a shelter magazine that I wonder about the people whose homes represent a particular, unique, original point of view. I always wonder who they are, how they got there, what inspired them, what gave them the courage to so boldly customize their dwellings in such singular styles.


And then I realized I know one of them, my wonderful friend Jeffrey Moss, whose amazing home I visited this past week.
In his profession, Jeffrey is a filmmaker and photo stylist. In his personal life, Jeffrey is a storyteller, an imaginer with the most generous of hearts and spirits, a collector bordering on the obsessive, and an esthete with a keen eye for detail and nuance. Since I have known and loved Jeffrey for well over a decade, I knew all this already, but nothing – NOTHING – prepared me for the jolt of WOW of his home.

Of course the space itself is fabulous, a converted old building full of light and exposed brick, hidden corners and almost no closets. But it is Jeffrey’s collections that knocked me over. He has created walls of photos, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of photos, all black and white, all of people, all unknown to Jeffrey but with stories attached to them, all curated, chosen, and pinned to every inch of the wall. There’s the wall of men, another of women, boxes more edited and stowed. And then his books, and his shoes, lined up along the rungs of the staircase, celebrated as much for their beauty as for their meaning, treated like the objects of beauty that Jeffrey’s eyes see them with.

Everywhere you look there is a delicious detail, an artful touch, a considered placement, yet the home is obviously well lived in and loved, part styled and part messy, as ready for a nap as for an impromptu party. And everywhere it reeks – in a wonderful way! – Of Jeffrey and his vision, his personality, his sense of self. Not surprisingly, Jeffrey’s home is being featured in some rather prestigious shelter magazines, with Elle Decoration being the latest. Now I know that at least in one case, one of these fabulous featured homes is, indeed, the result of a courageous creative vision, that of my dear friend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What a Difference A Year Makes

Yesterday was my birthday, and while I am not thrilled to have to announce my age as yet one year older, I cannot help but look back at this year and think of all the learning and growth and change that has happened in my life. Normally I do that sort of thing on New Year's Day, but this year, birthday to birthday, has truly been a defining one for me.

This year, like last year, I was away from home in Chicago for my birthday. The art show, SOFA, occurs every year on my birthday weekend (I'd like to think they are celebrating me as well as the kind of art I love!), so it is a busman's holiday for me to spend the weekend in Chicago for the show, seeing artists and gallery owners who are part of my completely integrated personal-professional life. But last year, as I spent much of my time alone, I knew I was to return shortly to a home in San Francisco where I would be living alone for the first time in 33 years. My birthday preceded my official separation by a few weeks (though I had mostly been living apart from my husband for the prior two years) and I was feeling adrift, unmoored, excited but scared.

I had no idea when I leaped off the married bus what would lie ahead of me. I neither anticipated falling head over heels in misplaced crazy love nor the accompanying loss of equilibrium; I had no idea I would be so sad over the end of the marriage nor had any idea I would be so hungry for new adventure; I couldn't have imagined how many new people I would meet and how thrilling it would be to make new friends and lovers; I suspected how awful dating might be, but had no idea how I would cope, how I would be perceived, or how being rejected would feel (PS - it hurt like crazy!).

While I was building my new solo life on my own two feet, I was also suring up my company's life. Coping with the Great Recession and the toll it took on the company has been a huge task, and this birthday finds the company in a stronger place than it was a year ago, operating more efficiently and effectively, having greater relationships with both customers and artists, and in a sustainable healthier financial position. It has been a hard year, and my wonderful staff is understandably and rightfully exhausted from the effort it has taken. I am so grateful to them.

Throughout the year I feel like I tried on different Lisas in clothing, home decoration, and behavior, and ended up quite happy with the mix. While there are some purchases, trips, and actions I regret, most make me extremely happy and I feel at home in my home, in my clothes, and in my skin. Writing this blog has been a significant part in helping me think through that which is important to me, both personal and professional: part catharsis, part editorial, part reaching out to those who indulge me by reading it, part philosophy.

So here I am, 58 years old, a little wiser, definitely more experienced, and OK with it (well, not so OK with the number 58, but what can you do?) No husband nor boyfriend was there to wine and dine me for my birthday, and I was better than fine with that. I spent part of the day with friends new and old, and part of the day alone, and both parts were delicious and satisfying. On to the next year, the next experience, the next art, the next love, the next blog!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Conversation


Sunday’s New York Times had a piece called “Funeral For a Friend” about the lost art of telephone calls in the age of cell phones, texts, emails and Facebook. I could relate to the article all too well, as I know the quality of my phone calls has deteriorated dramatically. Originally this was the case due to the fact that I had little free time and was on the phone a lot for work, but I know that I have been greatly affected by the change in communication techniques and have had to have friends remind me of the delicious possibilities a great call affords.

One place where I find the phone to be immensely helpful is with dating. I recognized early in the online dating game that the sound of a man’s voice told me a lot, that it was a part of his being and thus was something to be attracted to – or not! And if a man could not carry on a conversation over the phone, I learned he likely was poor at carrying on one in person, and thus I added a preliminary call to my screening process.

But even more than that is the significance of staying in touch. While I lead a pretty busy life, I still speak to the people closest to me often, sometimes nearly every day. That sound of their voices tells me so much more than an email does, tells me if they are up or down, sick or well, crazed or on an even keel. When they don’t hear from me, they know something is up.

A voice serves as an oral touch, whether a caress , a helping hand, or a slap. If old telephone rituals are akin to a novel, today’s are more often like Morse code, and frequently are taking place along with another task. Maybe it’s not the telephone part that we have lost, but rather that wonderful art of conversation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

United in Color


I love it when there is a game-changer in a community, when suddenly everyone you know is talking about something, is excited about something, is changing his or her behavior because of something. Right now, I’m thinking of the color Orange.

On a grand scale, several years ago, Christo erected his monumental “Gates” project in Central Park, linking and re-ordering the park in a way which compelled everyone who witnessed the Gates to see the park and the city differently. A green park became orange, walkways were created, gentle strolls became promenades, and people became a moving part of an artwork.

On a much smaller scale but stretched out across a much bigger landscape, pumpkins are everywhere in celebration of Halloween. I am thrilled as much to find the self-expression of a carved pumpkin sitting on the sidewalk in a most unlikely back alley as I am to see some of the more extravagant displays in wealthier neighborhoods. No one is too hip or too traditional, too urban or too rural, to partake in the ritual of pumpkin carving, and through it, we unite as a country, linked by orange.

Even fashion is getting into it. Just this week the Times reported on the sweep of red hair in celebrity circles. Maybe it’s been the national fascination with Joan on “Mad Men”. Maybe it’s a desire for the lighter times of Lucille Ball. There is no doubt that red – er orange – hair is an attention grabber, and doesn’t want more attention?

In my fair city, the biggest blaze of orange right now is in support of the San Francisco Giants. Their presence in the World Series has galvanized and united the city, fans and non-fans alike, men and women, straight and gay, black, white, Latino and Asian, Republicans and Democrats, young and old. Go Giants. Go Orange. Now, if only we as a country could be so united in purpose.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Should I Be Wearing These? (Reprise)



A few things happened today which returned me to musing about style and aging. In the Sunday New York Times, two very different style icons, Dominique Browning and Keith Richards, commented on their unique personal styles and the issue of age- appropriateness. And, in addition, I whipped out my swashbuckler boots, only to wonder whether I might be too old for them.

Browning dealt with the issue of long hair and older women. We all know those television commercials showing sexy desirable women with long, swinging, shiny hair, the kind that is promised to us if only we use the right products. Yet, the target audience with the most disposable income for self pampering, “mature” 50+ women, is told(as Browning noted) that it is inappropriate to hang on to this symbol of desirability, that it is inappropriate for successful or established or – let’s just face it – older women to flaunt their tresses. Is it the association of sexuality with long hair that is supposed to be quashed or the association of witches with long grey tresses which is to be avoided? Either way, I don’t get the taboo, and wholeheartedly support Browning in her determination not to go the “sensible” route (even though I, personally, can never achieve that long swinging hair, given my birth gift of a mop of curls).

And as for my boots? They are a few years old, radical when I purchased them, and interestingly are very much in style this fall. With the advent of the first fall rain, I pulled them out for a jaunt around San Francisco, wondering if now that young women were wearing similar styles, might I be perceived as too old for these? It’s a curious thing about fashion, how once a style is adopted by the young it appears to be young. And what are we “mature” women of style to do? Ignore the trend? Move on? Or embrace the notion that as long as we are comfortable with ourselves, we can and should wear what we choose? That flaunting style and sexuality is actually OK for a woman over 50?

I would like to believe that in some small way I am giving other women who see me the courage to dress as they want, not as they think they have to. The number of “great boots” and “where did you get them?”comments from women young and old which I received today certainly let me know both my boots and I were noticed and admired. I don’t expect to be the fashion icon my 22 year old daughter is; frankly, I am no longer that interested in fashion. But I also do not expect to be banished to some preordained style for the mature, a dry, uninteresting , and unnoticed place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purple is the new Black


I am not a purple person, but today I am wearing the only purplish item in my wardrobe as a statement of support for opposing the bullying - or should we call it torturing - that led to a teenager's tragic suicide.

It was so many years ago that we could chant "sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me" and know that that was a remote possibility. Today, we can spy, post, rant, text, smear, brag and tag with no greater purpose than to instantly and rampantly violate someone else's privacy. No better example of this exists than the depiction in the movie "The Social Network".

Why humans feel the need to degrade someone else has many roots and causes. That we do it intentionally is horrible. That we might encourage it through our own actions of indiscretion needs to be checked and curbed, and I am definitely talking to myself with this. That we observe it going on and do nothing about it is inexcusable.

Wearing purple today won't end bullying, but it is recognition of the issue. If wearing purple every day would change the world, I would consider giving up my wardrobe of black. Speaking out when we see observe reprehensible behavior, teaching our children, and not condoning emotional torture is the only way forward.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

I have been thinking about commitment lately, about who we care for and why and how, about the fifty/fifty nature of a relationship, the willingness to give and take, about marriage vows and family vows and friend vows and lover vows, both spoken and unspoken.

We take no vows when we make new friends, yet the commitment from a friend can be the fiercest we know. It is not a coincidence that I just read "Let's Take the Long Way Home" by Gail Caldwell, a story of the most impassioned, meaningful friendship between two women. Over the past few months, I have been cared for by friends, by friends of more than 30 years who know me better than I know myself, by friends made in the past year with whom I have formed powerful bonds, and even by friends made in the last month. What I realized is that the give and take of friendship is based on mutual openness and sharing, by a willingness to be there for someone else and put yourself in the other's shoes, even when the shoes are sticky or sweaty or bloody or ugly. What I also know is that I love my best friends, no vows necessary, yet I wish there was, in fact, some ceremony which honors these relationships.

We take no vows when we are born into a family, inheriting people with common blood who we may or may not like, acquiring siblings, inlaws and step-families along the way. No vow is necessary for me to know that I will do anything - anything! - for my family members closest to me, and the feeling is absolutely reciprocated. It's not obligation, it is love at the deepest level.

The classic marriage vow includes the commitment to care "in sickness and in health". I truly can't remember if I included this in my mid-70's marriage commitment, yet here I am, separated, on my way to divorce, knowing that not only will I care emotionally for my ex for life, but, in fact, will be caring financially as well due to his health issues. This bothered a man I was dating recently, bothered him enough for us to end the relationship, in fact. I had taken no vows with this new man, had merely opened my heart to him in the opening stage of love, and learned that we had different notions of give and take.

We have to sign agreements online before we can submit personal information to a website. We have to sign NDA's when engaging in early business relationships. We have to get licenses to drive and hunt and fish, but not to form friendships or have children or date where we have the ability to grow love or inflict hurt. Those unspoken vows of honesty and caring are supposed to be enough, and thankfully, they usually are.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Generosity and Creativity of Artists


While traveling in North Carolina last week, one of my planned stops was to visit with Deb Karash, an outstanding jewelry artist represented by Artful Home. Deb had said, “You have to see my studio. You have to come to Marshall. And by the way, I hope you can see my new gallery, too.” Who knew? My expectation was to see her studio and see more of her work, and what I got instead was a fabulous introduction to a high energy wealth of creativity and generosity in the beautiful, tiny town of Marshall, North Carolina, and an example of how artistic vision can change the landscape of a place.

Deb’s studio is in a building called the Marshall High Studios, http://marshallhighstudios.com/as in Marshall High School. Abandoned as a high school and slated for demolition, artist Rob Pulleyn led an effort in 2006 to save the building and convert it into studio and exhibit space. Today, the building houses 28 studios , a gallery, plus fabulous community spaces where the artists have costume balls, performances, and other joint efforts.


I have not met Rob Pulleyn, but have an admitted crush on him nonetheless. First I had heard about his vision and energy resulting in the revitalization of both this building and several in downtown Asheville. Then I saw his ceramics; be still my heart. His forms are strong and sensuous, often in painterly colors with strong calligraphic markings, evoking shapes both modern and ancient, as if dug from a excavation of the future.



Deb’s work demands, deserves, and requires attention to the detail she puts in to each piece. Working in metal with color applied with colored pencil, Deb creates miniature sculptures to wear in organic, graceful forms.


Completely new to me was the painter, Gayle Paul, whose juicy canvases pulsated with a quiet fervor. I want one. Badly! I think that Gayle captures much of what is so seductive about the south in her paintings, that blend of an iron fist in a velvet glove, strength and grace with a drawl.


In the little downtown of Marshall close to the studio, we found a terrific real general store, a really great coffee house (Zumi) up to Bay Area standards where they individually brewed cups of iced coffee, a terribly-named nail salon (Ain’t that Cuticle), and the new cooperative gallery that Deb has started (Flow) with other artists from her studio. In a time when galleries are closing throughout the country, this is no doubt a bold venture on Deb’s part. But given the mecca for craft that western North Carolina has become, and given Deb’s critical curatorial eye, zeal and passion, I suspect this could become a destination gallery, much like the fabulous ceramics gallery, Crimson Laurel, in nearby Bakersville.


Deb didn’t need to devote the better part of a day showing me around. She didn’t need to start a gallery. She didn’t need to let me in to so many talented people’s lives. But she did, with generosity, and I am utterly grateful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inspired Lives: David Willard


It was my intention on my recent trip to visit both the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee. Arrowmont’s reputation lives somewhat in the shadows of the better-known Penland, so I was less prepared to be impressed on my trip there. So much for preconceived notions!

They say that an organization often mirrors its leader, and clearly this was the case with Arrowmont. David Willard is the Executive Director of this 100 year old institution nestled against the entrance to the Great Smokies National Park. He had graciously invited me to visit and tour, and from the moment I arrived, it was clear that his love, passion, and generosity of spirit pervade the atmosphere of the school. The place was quietly abuzz with enthusiastic students, residents, teachers and staff. While feeling something like summer camp for adults with its buildings and location, the reality is that serious art takes place here, and David's mission is to gently foster that creativity, to provide a place with outstanding studios, faculty, library, and spirit.

The current gallery show of work by the 2010 faculty was dynamic and exciting, exhibiting a fearless embrace of both contemporary explorations as well as more traditional in craft. It makes me wonder why the craft world as a whole can’t embrace the new and the old with the same enthusiasm, why there so often seems to be a divide between artists who came of age in the ‘70’s and the current generation who see things so differently when working with similar materials. It takes bold leaders like David to show the world that craft new and old can cohabitate. It takes gentle leaders like David to show the world that this can be done in an environment of gentility. And it takes, and will continue to take, ongoing sponsors to financially support and acknowledge crafts as a vital part of our country's culture.

Blessing Bowl by David Caldwell
The Overseer by Lanie Gannon

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inspired Lives: Andrew Glasgow

10 days of travel to see art, meet with artists, educators, curators and arts mobilizers have filled and inspired me in a way I had not imagined. As a result, my next several blogs will be dedicated to what I am calling "Inspired Lives".

It is with absolute purpose that I begin my tribute to my friend Andrew Glasgow, a man who is living with terminal cancer, a man who has astounded the medical world with his strength and tenacity, a man who has created such a global imprint on the world of craft and design that everyone knows him and has been affected by him, and a man who by example is teaching those he encounters how to live a more meaningful life.

Andrew's home in the hills of North Carolina is more than just a reflection of Andrew; it is Andrew. Gutted, redesigned and remodeled for him by his friend, artist and architect Randy Shull, every detail is a considered, personal choice with a meaningful story behind it: the orange cabinets, with their initial color pow and which upon closer inspection reveal painstakingly layered and rubbed colors; the windows which create the illusion that Andrew is the sole inhabitant of this gorgeous part of the country; the GammaPar and terrazzo floors both cool and warm at the same time, displaying an attention to detail and an expansive vision; and the built-in cabinetry meant to house his exceptionally curated and deeply personal collection of art and craft.

As Andrew cooked me a southern breakfast complete with cheese grits, my eyes flitted about, landing on one remarkable object and detail after another. In my dreams, I will someday have a home as beautiful as his. But it was Andrew's words which had the most profound effect on me. He knows his days are limited and has accepted that inevitability with grace and yet without succumbing. He told me that once he learned to embrace his cancer, it gave him greater strength to live, strength to defy the odds yet look life squarely in the eyes for all that it can be. Chemotherapy is a necessary nuisance, so he plans for it without dwelling on it. As he recognizes that he still has more to give to this world, Andrew is re- entering the work arena with a balanced fervor that so many of us strive for with limited success. His friends are his tribe, and their/our common language is honesty, as nothing less has meaning.

I am having technical issues posting images today, so a link to my images can be found at http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v413/lbayne/AndrewGlasgow

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tender


It started out as a melancholy day, a day for me of feeling tender and vulnerable, one in which I wished to be wrapped in gentle layers to ease the pains in my soul. The end of another short-lived possibility of romance was causing me to re-think my readiness for love and partnership. The imminent death of a family member for whom I have strongly conflicted feelings was hovering overhead as I anxiously awaited message of her passing. Other worries far too personal to write about were looming as well.

Was it any wonder that the artwork which resonated so strongly with me today was that which spoke to this tender feeling? I went to visit the studios at Penland, and found solace in artwork. Margaret Couch Cogswell works in imagery both gentle and soulful. A mouse-like animal with a sign over his heart saying "soft spot" called out to me. And beside it, a tiny folded book which fits into a tiny hand, with words that read "There are days when a heart needs holding"

Comforting as a warm blanket, these works soothed me, reassuring me that today's pain was part of the human condition, that art could help me heal, that I was not alone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rejection Letter

Is there any good way to be rejected? Whether in love or school or career, I think there is no good way, and that is a simple, hard, painful truth, as none of us likes being rejected, told that we are not " the one". But there are better and worse ways, and I remain dumbfounded that mature adults often do not have the courage nor the courtesy to handle doling out rejection with respect, with the silent treatment getting the prize for worst form.

Some of the greatest offenders are potential employers, and even worse, recruiters. While I have had the luxury and good fortune in my career to have been steadily employed, I have watched with horror as friends who are seeking positions have to endure the agony of the no-news rejection, the cowardly and inconsiderate practice of delaying rejection through dropping contact, compounding the ultimate rejection with the anxiety of waiting, waiting, waiting to hear.

I was once scolded for breaking off a relationship by email, rather than in person or at least over the phone, and in retrospect, I think I deserved that scolding. It seems to me that anyone for whom one has cared enough about to spend large amounts of time with, to say nothing of becoming intimate with, deserves some face time or voice time, no matter how uncomfortable that encounter may be. The person being rejected deserves that, and although it doesn't eliminate the searing pain of rejection, it helps preserve dignity at a most vulnerable time.

Schools, colleges, and competitions may do it best. They are direct, have prescribed dates and procedures, and one knows when one applies that the chances of being rejected are high. Perhaps if we walked into interviews and relationships with this recognition from the get-go, the roads of relationships and job seeking would be smoother. But with so much on the line, whether it is the hope for love or the hope for a salary, it is hard to keep that in perspective.

In my year of dating (which sometimes feels like my year of living dangerously), I have been both rejector and rejectee, and sometimes my skin has been rubbed raw from licking my wounds. But I hold firm that a rejection letter is an inferior form to a real conversationl

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Speaking of Craft



I was asked to speak in Edinburgh last month by CraftScotland about marketing craft online. The audience was gallery owners, artists, and arts enthusiasts. Here's the presentation, broken down into 3 parts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Slippers: A Love Story


Behold the simple knitted, felted slipper. While knitting is used as a symbol and metaphor all the time, (you know, knitting life's loose ends together or ripping out the knitting and starting again, etc), for me it is an enjoyable, relaxing, sometimes challenging creative outlet which provides me with an object at the end. I have gone through years of being a self-described serial knitter, yet stopped completely for much of this year. The zen of knitting was impossible while I was in the throes of a romantic roller coaster ride. Happily, knitting is back, as is my equilibrium.

So about these slippers. I started knitting and felting slippers a couple of years ago, when one of my two best friends (also a knitter) decided she wanted a basket full of slippers for people to put on when they entered her home. She and I knitted away like crazy, enjoying the wacky color combinations we produced and the wabi sabi nature of felting, where the chemistry of wool and abuse produced results outside of our control. Her pile of slippers grew and another seal of epoxy was added to the bond of our friendship. We laughed, loved and cursed over those damn slippers!

I did digress during the process, and made slippers for a few loved ones as well. Especially important to me was making a pair for my other best friend who had admired the pair I made for myself. Alas, those poor slippers got caught up in my affair, ignored and almost finished for months, staring at me like accusing eyes. I know I read the accusing eyes part into those unfinished slippers because both of my best friends, these two women for whom I would do ANYTHING in life, hated every report of the nature of my far-too-consuming-to-me romance. They knew better than I was able to see that my moratorium on knitting was one of the more tangible indicators that I had lost a part of myself in the affair.

With the visit to San Francisco this week of my dear friend, I knew it was time to finish the slippers so I could present them to her, present her with a symbol of my love, a symbol of my understanding- as only a best friend can- that her feet get uncommonly cold, a symbol that she was there before, during, and after the affair, a symbol that I'm back. We laughed like crazy as she tried them on in her swanky hotel lounge last night, knowing that her feet were now wearing my love letter to her.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Radical Art


Having recently made the acquaintance of a man who is influential in the world of contemporary theater, I am now getting exposed, often times vicariously, to performances which normally would fly below my radar. My friend is always out scouting for new theater which advances and stretches the art, and he gets as wildly enthusiastic about new performances as I do about discovering a visual artist previously unknown to me. Not all of M's recommendations are for hits; he and I will probably laugh for as long as we know each other about the performance with thrown and smashed tomatoes we both saw in Edinburgh. But with eyes wide open, I find myself considering the possibilities of new theater as I had not before he came into my life.

This past weekend, while my friend was watching a performance of GATZ in NY, a radical 8-hour reading of every word in "The Great Gatsby" by actors, I was viewing a different version of radical theater and considering the performance which I had been ready to dismiss. My performance of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" by the San Francisco Opera was, at first blush, a straightforward, traditional night at the opera. Originally I found myself rebelling against the idea of a performance which cost $250 to attend (What? Art only for the wealthy?), and then I was dismissive of the plot, content that the plot was simply an excuse for great music. But then I learned more; that this opera was radical in its time for mocking the noble class; that, in fact, its performance was banned in Vienna in the 18th century for its satire; that what seemed tame and perhaps silly to me was radical in its own time.

My not knowing the background of what I was viewing colored my opinion, possibly limited my appreciation, allowed me to focus fully on the music, and forced me to return to the age-old debate about how well informed does one have to be prior to observing art to fully appreciate it. How much does preknowledge color one's observation? Should work have to resonate with the viewer/listener whether or not he/she has been educated about it before experiencing it?

I really don't have a firm answer to these questions, and (sorry) think it's a 50/50 thing. Education certainly influences the experience, often heightens it and gives the viewer/listener a way in, an understanding of what the artist was intending that might make the work more accessible. On the other hand, viewing/listening with no preconceived notions allows the viewer/listener a kind of clarity that can make the work intensely and personally meaningful. I support both approaches, as long as they make room for the new and radical without automatically dismissing it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

American Talent, neither Red nor Blue


Remember when Obama first captured America's attention with his inspirational point that there was neither a red America nor a blue America, but rather one America? I found myself thinking about this in another context as I viewed the Spring 2011 fashion collections of small American companies, companies where the clothing is designed by Americans and produced in small studios or homes, not factories. The fashion I saw yesterday was outside the mainstream, sometimes quirky and perhaps arty, and while not classic and buttoned-down, was nonetheless as American as apple pie.

As a left-leaning voter, it has seemed to me that American-made as a rallying cry, just like the American flag as a symbol, has often been co-opted by traditional, Republican-leaning politicians and voters. I remember that one of the positive after-effects of 9/11 was the return of the American flag as a symbol for ALL Americans, Democrats and Republicans, left and right, red and blue. We waved our flag together in our common grief and pride.

Similarly, I have noticed that American-made, when applied to art, craft, and fashion has no political connotations. I share a common love of American art with some Republican friends, and my personal tastes and preferences diverge with friends of my party. The commonality is the work, and the appreciation of creativity as an integral fiber in the cloth of our country and culture.

American fashion, when designed and produced in the United States, expresses so much that is great about us as a nation- creative, expressive, optimistic and ambitious. Models wrapped in unusual styles exhibited as much national pride as if they were wrapped in a flag!

Note: The black "Beth" dress is by Lynn Mizono, and you can see more of her work at artfulhome.com. Bottom photo is of sweater designer Amy Brill just having fun!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

50% Perfectionism, 50% Procrastination


The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
—Mary Heaton Vorse

I discovered this wonderful quote as I started doing research about procrastination. Why was I doing the research? Because I thought it might help me with my lifelong issue. I really could be the card-carrying president of an organization called Procrastinators Anonymous if it existed!

In the process of avoiding (unfinished)work awaiting me, I learned a few things. On subject, I learned there is an apparent link between procrastination and perfectionism. I don't think of myself as a perfectionist, but when I state that out loud to close friends or colleagues they usually sputter in disbelief. It is interesting that these two "P" words are so linked, as
procrastinating guarantees failure, but apparently it helps perfectionists maintain our belief that we could have excelled if only we had tried harder. I am afraid that this rings a little bit too true for my comfort and I am hoping that this knowledge will help pry me out of my block to finish and prepare properly for my task at hand.

In addition, I also tracked down more information about Mary Heaton Vorse. After reading this quote, I decided to try Maira Kalman's approach of following a trail about an unknown-to-me but intriguing individual. Mary Heaton was certainly one of those - a woman of privilege turned art student (apparently untalented) turned writer turned social justice activist. She received the United Auto Workers first Social Justice award, and was lauded by Eleanor Roosevelt for her accomplishment. Quite a role model, she was, and nothing I could find indicated that she was a procrastinator, though her quote above indicates she might have known a thing or two about the subject!

Whether for a term paper or a college application, a board presentation or a competition submission, the sad truth is that postponing getting work done does nothing more than delay the work. It doesn't get easier; it doesn't get better. I should know this by now. And by the way, doesn't Mary Heaton look like a woman you'd like to know!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In the Freezer


I got some advice today from a close friend. I could feel that needy feeling coming on, that feeling that arrives when self-doubt starts creeping up, when insecurity wants to rise to take command of my emotions. I know what some of my past coping mechanisms have been for this feeling, and am not very proud of many of them. Tonight my wonderful friend suggested an alternative. "Put "Needy" in the freezer", she said. "What?" "You heard me. Put "Needy" in the freezer. Get her out of your sight, out of your universe, out of the realm of possibility". And so I did, as portrayed here in this most unglamorous photograph. It sounded rather hokey to me, an Oprah-like solution, a solution that others turn to but not me-who-can-always-hold-it-together-in-a-sophisticated-way. And yet, here I am, with "Needy" tucked away in the freezer, releasing me from behavior I might have come to regret, with insecurity iced for one night.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Just Breathe


At a fantastic art show I attended this past weekend in San Francisco, the Ceramic Arts Annual, I came across the work of Amber Aguirre. I must admit that at first I was put off by her work as her imagery seemed disturbing at best, sexually perverted at worst. But there was something about the work which drew me in, and the more I looked at it and talked to Amber and learned her story and her intentions, the more attracted to it I became. Ultimately, I bought the little piece pictured here. Why? That’s where the stories – hers and mine – come in.

Amber uses two animals in much of her work; she has created characters of bunny-woman and horse-woman, with each character having distinctly different personalities. To her, the rabbit symbolizes an animal that people think of as cute and soft and cuddly but may have more going on than that. Amber’s bunnies tell conflicting stories, from the jihadist bunny in sexy lingerie to the one dumping out the box of her fate: dice and carrots. As she explained it, Amber employs whimsy to draw viewers in to stronger messages.

My bunny is wearing a gas mask. The title is, “Just Breathe”, and this piece struck a very personal chord for me. Throughout this past year of upheaval and roaring emotional tides, I have often been advised by friends and loved ones to “just breathe”, to “just be” rather than obsessing, planning, performing, and trying to make sense of my roller-coaster post-married fears. Just breathing and just being are a lot harder than they sound, and what I have tried to do is learn to breathe this new single air yet protect myself. Like this bunny, I’ve been learning what protection I need and when to wear it, and when to take big full gulps of air without any armor.

So thank you, Amber, and welcome home, bunny.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The "C" Word


(Please note: As a cancer survivor myself, I am far too aware of an alternate, more common use of the phrase "the C-word" in that dreadful association. This blog in no way means to celebrate that virulent disease.)

Next month is the first celebration of "American Craft Week," an ambitious endeavor with the sole mission of raising awareness of craft and its makers across America. This celebration rings close to our hearts at Artful Home, since it is work in traditional craft media and techniques, such as ceramics, glass, fiber, metal, and wood, that have been part of the foundation of our business since we launched our website and catalog just over 10 years ago. We salute this occasion, and are helping sponsor it with a celebration of our own. Just last month I had a party with 65 artists, serving handmade food on the most beautiful plates, all created by Artful Home artists. What a glorious celebration it was!

As a lover and buyer of beautiful things, I find it both interesting and discouraging that arguments and discussions abound about the differences between art and craft, about the relevancy of craft in our modern world, and about the meanings of the words "artist," "maker," and "crafter." Two weeks ago I was speaking at a conference in Scotland, where this discussion was so lively that they organized a show and film called "The C-Word." While the Museum of Art and Design in New York removed the word "Craft" from its former name as if it was a stigma, other, bolder museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design, the Portland Museum of Contemporary Crafts, and the Fuller Craft Museum outside Boston proudly use the name in their respective identities. My alma mater, formerly known as the California College of Arts and Crafts changed its name, too, removing "Craft" as if it was that same stigma. In my opinion, the issue that most needs attention is preserving, supporting, and encouraging the making by hand of original work, regardless of medium or name.

There is going to be an exciting, free 2-day conference, "Crafting A Nation" at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. on October 8 and 9. I will be speaking there, and I hope some of you can make it. More info is at artfulhome.com/craftweek. If you are interested in local celebrations of American Craft Week close to your home, please visit americancraftweek.com and feel free to send me any pictures or accounts of celebrations you create.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bird Of Fashion


It is Fashion Week in New York this week, with runway shows of the major and minor designers and the comprehensive all-city party event known as Fashion's Night Out. And I couldn't care much less, which is odd for someone who spent much of her career in fashion and is known for her sense of style.

This might be a stage of life thing; after all, neither my career nor my lifestyle requires looking as if I know what's going on in fashion, and I no longer have the income to support the fashion habit. But I know it is more than that, that the relevance of new fashion and finding one's own style seem more and more in conflict to me.

I think one of the people who best exemplifies an outstanding balance of personal style, delight in fashion, passion for art, and irreverence is Iris Apfel. At 88 years old, she is one of fashion's muses after living a life in her own distinct style. Comfortable mixing haute couture with street cart faux, this year her inimitable collection was featured by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute.

From a UK Guardian article on Ms. Apfel earlier this year,
"The days when she felt insecure are long gone. "You learn as you grow up, if you're intelligent – or even three-quarter witted – that there's no free lunch. You pay for things in various ways. Living, loving, everything else is a matter of the same principles: you learn to work with what you have. And there's nobody today who can't do something to help herself."

What's more, being unconventional has had lasting benefits. "If you can't be pretty, you have to learn to make yourself attractive. I found that all the pretty girls I went to high school with came to middle age as frumps, because they just got by with their pretty faces, so they never developed anything. They never learned how to be interesting. But if you are bereft of certain things, you have to make up for them in certain ways. Don't you think?"

I love this rare bird of fashion, and salute her during this Fashion Week!