Friday, August 15, 2008

My Week at Valley Ridge - Part 2

"Art has something to do with the achievement
of stillness in the midst of chaos.
A stillness which characterizes prayer, too,
and the eye of the storm . . .
an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction."
- Saul Bellow

(Cover of book I created in Nina Bagley's "Gahterings" Workshop, entitled, "The Test of Love")

The first workshop of the week was "Gatherings." Nina demonstrated several different ways to create beautiful portfolios by using old book covers, our favorite mediums, and assorted found objects and ephemera. I chose to do mine using a vintage book, entitled "The Test of Love." Anyone who knows me personally, knows the many hardaches and hurdles that my husband Mike and I have had to face over the course of our marriage. One of the toughest ones was the near-fatal accident he was in almost 2 years ago. After being flown 'Flight for Life' to Froedtert Hospital, suffering numerous life-threating injuries, Mike beat all the odds that were stacked against him (even the trauma surgeons did not think he would survive), and was able to come back home to me after being there for 6 weeks. It has been a long road of recovery, and he still suffers with pain from some of his injuries, but our love for each other survived all we have been challenged with, and continues to grow.

(The inside pages of "The Test of Love")

The first day of the workshop, I couldn't focus on working on the project, because my mind was filled with all the things that have been troubling me over the course of the past several months . . . things that felt almost unbearable at times. But late in the afternoon, after staring at the cover, the book began to take on a life of its own, and my 'creative juices' began to flow. The book became a tribute to my marriage and to Mike, and ideas seemed to come easily. I cut an oval out of the book's cover, framed the oval with wooden dowels, and covered the wooden frame with a piece of mica, so our wedding photo which adorned the inside page could be seen. Underneath the frame, I placed 2 large screws in a criss-cross fashion with a little ribbon bow and little flower sprigs. Those screws, along with 18 others and 2 four-inch metal plates were placed in Mike's badly smashed ankle to try and repair it. 1 of the plates and 10 of the screws were removed after several months, because of the pain they were giving him. The rest of the hardware is still in his ankle, and probably will always be there.

(The back page of "The Test of Love")

Inside the cover, I adorned the pages with vintage lace, an old watch fob chain found at an antiques shop on the way down to the workshop, an old heart charm, some pressed leaves that were in the book when I bought it, and an old prayer card showing Jesus nailed on the cross. That old card just seemed so appropriate to incorporate into the book. I used a lot of hand-dyed silk ribbon to tie the pages together, and finished it off by wrapping a lace ribbon around the book, tying it into a bow, and tucking a sprig of vintage flora into it. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

(The silver charms/links I created in my 2nd workshop of Nina's, using PMC 3 Clay)

The second workshop, which was held Friday through Sunday, was a combination of working with PMC clay and learning wire wrapping techniques, featuring the famous 'Nina Knot.' I never had worked with PMC clay before, and I immediately fell in love with it! I can't believe the great jewelry pieces you can create with the clay. Gosh....why haven't I tried this sooner!!!!! The jewelry pieces which were made by everyone in this workshop were absolutely awesome! Everyone was so talented! I pumped out some basic discs to use as links in future necklaces or bracelets, but I didn't get around to assembling them. I did make a killer ring, though. It's big and unusual - ala typical Jill style. I didn't want to post a picture of it yet, as I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it at this point.

(Amy and Me - She's my new-found friend and 'Partner in Crime!')

I made a great new friend during my stay. Her name is Amy, and she and I both stayed in the farmhouse on-site for the entire week together. I can't believe it --- she thinks just like me! She also has the same sense of humor as I do, of all......she's as bad of a shopaholic as I am!!! She can almost out-do me! During the 2 days between workshops, her and I went on several 'road trips.' On Wednesday, we went to several arty shoppes in Spring Green, and a really cute antiques shoppe in Gotham. On Thursday, we decided to head south to Cuba City, where we were tipped-off to a few antiques shops. We both hit pay-dirt down there. My truck was chuck-full of treasures both of us found. The highlight of this trip had to be 'Lucille,' a feisty 79 year-old woman who was just a little slip of a thing. Her gray hair was permed in typical 'old lady' fashion, and she could really 'call a spade a spade.' She had Amy and I staring at each other in disbelief while trying to suppress our laughter, as she told us stories about her and her husband, Ozzie and 11 grown children. You had to be there to appreciate the way she'd go on with her stories, told in her feisty, little voice. It was a riot!!! I wish now that I'd have taken a picture of her to remember her by. By the time we got done going through the 2 shops, it was almost 4:30 in the afternoon, so we walked across the street and ate at a little local restaurant called Nick's. That place had to have been the little gathering spot for the 'regulars' to come in and find out the latest happenings of the town. The waitress who took care of us there was named 'Bunny,' and I'm sure she is one of the 'fixtures' in the community. She was another character!

(Amy, Kecia, Kim, and Me - The four of us became good friends!)

The week passed by so quickly. Too quickly! I met some great gals at the workshops, and hope that we will continue to keep in touch with each other now that we're all back to our homes. I can't believe how far some of these people traveled to be there. I think myself and one other person were the only ones from Wisconsin. The others came from New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, and even New Mexico!

(Nina and Me shortly before we all had to say our 'goodbyes' and leave for our long trips back home)

I hope I see my friends again at future workshops! I think of all the times I've been down to Valley Ridge, the group I was with during the PMC class was my favorite. It's always hard to say goodbye and start the long drive back home after the workshop ends. But being there with other artists who all seem to like the same things, really rejuvenates me and gets me hyped up to 'get creating' once I'm back home. By the way, when I got home, the first thing I did was order myself a kiln so I can work with PMC clay in my own studio. (Always the shopaholic, you know)

(The whole gang from the 'Not Now, Nina' workshop)

When I finally got home Sunday night, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vase filled with a dozen red roses and a 'I Missed You' card waiting for me as soon as I walked in the house. Mike is sure a sweetheart! My 3 little puggy 'boyz' were waiting for me too with their little curly tails wagging away!

(My sweet husband had this bouquet of a dozen beautiful roses and a sweet 'I missed You' card waiting for me when I arrived back home)


dogfaeriex5 said...

besides creating beautiful art you write awesome too! i love your words and your husband is an angel having flowers for truly are blessed sweet one!!xox

kecia said...

what a lovely post about your time at valley ridge. i'm sorry to hear about the stressful times you've been going through and it made me sad to see your tears at the retreat. you are so talented and so sweet and have the best ipod music! i love everything you create, it is always so beautiful. i have a special needs son and his challenges are stressful as well, so i am glad for the both of us that we have such an inspiring outlet to pour our grief and stress into. having roses waiting for your return home is the sweetest gesture i know! turn up that ABBA and get back to work,