Letters To Timmy

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I’ve produced several pieces of art in the last few weeks, but again none that you would ever see hanging in a museum, or even a local gallery. Despite many promises to myself to return to the oil painting I love so much, I find myself drawn back to creating for those I love in my life, particularly my grandson Timmy. Life throws us all some curve-balls, unexpected losses and gains (though it seems most of the time its losses!), we learn to cope the best we can and to adjust to life as it is. For me it is that careers have taken my daughter, her husband, her son, and her soon to be born daughter to the other side of the country. Life has also moved my son to Los Angeles, roughly 85 miles from me, although if you are familiar with LA traffic you might understand when I say sometimes a flight to NY would be quicker. I am grateful for the modern conveniences of social media. Thanks to cell phones, iPad, and my desktop computer, I am able to talk, text, Face Time, Skype, and email to my heart’s content. Despite all of that I miss the face to face time, the hugs and kisses, and the pleasure of holding my grandson on my lap.

When my kids were growing up I made it a daily habit to include notes in their school lunches, creating characters just for them so that they knew I was always thinking about them. Several months ago I decided to connect with Timmy in much the same way through snail mail. I began to write him short notes, always asking Grandpa to add his own thoughts as well, and then illustrating not just the card but the envelope as well. I decided after my last visit to NY to make Timmy a box to keep his letters in. We visited one of the local antique stores looking for the perfect box, but instead found a little brown suitcase that had seen better days. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I repainted the suitcase a bright and cheery red, searched for images of vintage travel stickers of places that Timmy has been, has family living in, and a couple just for fun. I made one of one of my “Timmy” cards to personalize it. I refurbished the inside as well, using Mod Podge and tissue paper, which looks like lacquer when dry. I also added a little cork board for when he is old enough to safely pin a few things to. Of course me being me I have to go a step further, I bought him a mailbox at the craft store. Personalizing once again to make it special for Timmy (There is also a pink one waiting anxiously for his sister). One of these days I will actually pick up that palette and brush again, but for now I’m happy to send a little love across country.

 

Since I began writing the blog above I have begun the long overdue task of sorting through the boxes of my dad’s papers and photographs. It has been more than two years since he passed, and Saturday was the tenth anniversary of my Mom’s passing. While I am still grateful for what modern technology can do to keep me in touch with family, I found myself moved by looking through the papers and letters that were in dad’s boxes. My grandparents were in Ireland, they didn’t have the connections that I have. They had to wait for a cherished letter or photograph to know how their son, their daughter, and their four granddaughters were doing. Phone calls were possible but expensive. Those words written on paper were the connection of a family that was far apart. Loving words preserved, glimpses of a life since past, gifts for me, my sisters, our children and theirs. The memory of phone calls fade, Face Time is in the moment, and although an email is I guess the modern letter, and I suppose you could save the file, I wouldn’t trade these faded papers with my grandmother’s signature, my dad’s life story written by his own hand, or my mother’s profession of love to our dad in an old anniversary card for anything. I am hoping that someday long after I’m gone that Timmy and his sister will be able to look back and their grandmother’s funny little drawings, to read my words, and know just how much I love them.

Timmy plane

copyright symbolTimmy Mail, and all images created by Jacqueline Zuckerman contained in this post.

 

 

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To Be Continued…???

I’m back. Posting just a little tonight. One of the unfortunate side effects of moving west is leaving our sports teams behind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big sports fan. Actually if I never watched a sporting event again it would be fine with me. I think it has something to do with my childhood. My Dad played professional soccer when I was a kid. Every weekend my Mom would dress my sisters and I in matching dresses, frilly socks, with bows in our hair, and make us sit on the sidelines watching our Dad play. The other kids would be running around enjoying themselves, not us, we were like little matching dolls all sitting in a row. These days I’m just trying to be a supportive wife. The Blackhawks are in the playoffs, and if we want to see them we have to go out, and of course they went into triple overtime. We thankfully left before they lost. So here I am writing at ten when I should be going to bed.

I did manage to eke out a watercolor this afternoon. Still working on my super secret project that I can’t unveil as of yet.  The lovely Theresa came by today and gave me some beautiful tulips. I managed to paint them right before we walked out the door. Tonight is my last night of posting retrospective work. I’m still not sure now that my year is up how I will proceed with this blog. Lots of changes ahead in my life, most of which I can’t reveal quite yet, but I missed writing when I took the night off. I can’t promise myself that I’ll write every day, but I feel like its been something to hang onto in these troubled days since Dan lost his job. I think we know what we have to do. Making the plan is the easy part, jumping into it is a whole other matter. That may seem a little cryptic, but I will explain in time. Meanwhile, the last of my favorite pieces, and the first to head into the future. As for this blog and project? The title says it all.

4 17 14  Today’s work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo Riley, one of my cats in pencil.

 

 

 

 

IMG_9711  The children’s play area that we built for the children at our daughter’s wedding.

 

 

 

image  The tabletop I painted based on a vintage French powder tin that I own.

 

 

 

 

Ab aeterno (4)  Altered Art. The photo is from a gravestone in Virginia.

 

 

 

 

005  A piece I did fairly early in the project. An ode to my artistic journey.

Marker on Bristol.

 

 

5 13  My faux brick wall, made entirely from cardboard. My most often pinned pin on Pinterest.

 

 

 

image  Pastel desert scene.

 

 

 

 

 

6 3 3 6 3 (1)  The “before” and “after” of a table I bought for $5. Wood burned design painted with pearl paints.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0831 Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet door. Canvas cut to size to fill the center. I reproduced the business card of the restaurant where Dan and I had dinner in Paris for our 20th wedding anniversary.

 

 

 

 

12 20 Riley once again in pencil.

 

 

 

IMG_3262 The sign I made for my daughter and son-in-law for Christmas. Cardboard and burnt glue.

 

 

 

 

12 25 Custom designed Christmas fairy.

 

 

 

 

IMG_3427IMG_3430  More of the burnt paper and glue on a cardboard pencil box base.

 

 

 

 

2 7 14 (1) Polymer clay sculpting attached to a small cardboard box.

 

 

 

 

2 23 14 (2) Old window transformed into a memo station with mirror.

 

 

 

3 24 14 Another cabinet door.

 

 

 

 

4 4 14 (1) Antiqued mirror with one of my Paris photos tinted sepia.

 

 

 

 

There were a few more pieces that I love, but I’m tired. I think the triple overtime did me in.

 

 

 

 

 

A Change In Attitude

A change in the atmosphere? I’m not sure what it is, but today was the first day in quite a while when I spent the day feeling hopeful. Still no news on the one job that may still be in the works, but we are pursuing some financial options for our business that look very promising. There is also another plan in the works. Dan and a friend have an idea for another business, something that could prove to be very successful if they can get it up and running. There are two things about it that I love, one is that it should bring money in quickly, the other is that it would allow Dan to continue to work with me on our business. It’s literally down to the wire around here. Something has to work!

I’m also surprised that I feel as good as I do because I’m exhausted. I was up early on Monday, didn’t make it to bed until 12:30 Tuesday morning, up at 6:15 a.m. yesterday. I should have slept well last night but I didn’t. I went to bed at around 10:30, slept for maybe twenty minutes and then…wide awake. I laid there for at least a half hour before giving up. I came downstairs and used the time to do research for our business. My mind is racing with ideas and possibility.

I actually have two projects tonight despite the fact that I’m falling off my feet. In a flash of brilliance (if I do say so myself) I came up with a quick project to turn two vintage plinths into book ends for our upcoming shop. We ran over to the office supply store and grabbed a couple of metal bookends, added some glue, and there they were. There is a little bit of the new metal showing underneath which I plan to address. I’ve been pricing out bookends and they are really expensive. I’m going to need a lot of bookends. This project inspired me to see what else I have that can serve the same purpose.

I’m craving oils once again, but unfortunately my respiratory system is still not up to par. I am only days away from the end of my year. It may just end up in watercolor. I did a small one tonight of one of my Giverny photos. Dan and I are both longing terribly to go back. We went to Paris for our twentieth wedding anniversary. We are a little over ten weeks away from our twenty-fifth. We had hoped this would be the year, but things change. It will certainly be a different anniversary this time around.

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First Steps

Today was a day to plan the future. We spent today on the hunt for a possible business location. It’s harder than you might imagine. There is a lot at stake here, and finding the right spot is essential. The entire process of opening a business is both exciting and terrifying. It is however a dream that I have had for many years. Now it is a dream that must become a reality if we want to find a way to earn a living. That may sound melodramatic but at our age people seem to view us as too old to be of any use. Dan has had his age come up repeatedly in interview after interview, and has been asked more than once if he can “keep up”. One of my friends has a husband just a few years older than us who has been out of work. He is a hardworking man who knows his business. He is also in excellent shape. He continues to play softball with his sons and their friends who are in their twenties. He recently had the opportunity to pick up some part-time work. The young man who was interviewing him for the job actually asked if at his age he could still climb a ladder. Trust me this man does not look his age, and looks in much better shape than your average thirty year old. My sister lost her job in December. She is one of the hardest working women I know, and she can run rings around people half her age. She was turned down for a job because the interviewer was concerned about how much longer she could work. She is only fifty-three. As we move forward in this business I will be going out of my way to look for the kind of mature responsible employees that my sister and our friend are. There’s a lot we can teach some younger workers about how things need to be done.

I have an upcycled project for tonight, but as so often happens I forget to take the “before” shots. (I guess I’m getting old.) An old cabinet door front that has been given new life as a shadow box. I left the door as it was found, just a little cleaning, and built a box to attach to the back. I gave it one shelf right in the middle. On the bottom I added another small vintage wooden shelf. I painted the interior in a dark maroon. The perfect place to display some of my pottery.

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Staying With It

I started the day hoping to be very productive, but my artistic mojo had jumped ship. It seemed that no matter what I put my hand to it just didn’t want to work. I began to get discouraged but I didn’t give up. First because I have the show to get ready for and time is moving fast, but I am also fighting some inner demons. My mind isn’t where it needs to be, which is focusing on my work. I almost quit, but I don’t have the luxury of quitting. So I plowed ahead and you know what? My mojo made a return appearance. By the end of the afternoon I was well into not one but three pieces. Only one is fully completed, but there isn’t much to do on the others. I’ve produced a few pieces that I really love in the last few weeks. That’s one of the unfortunate perils of artistic creation. You fall in love with the work, but you can’t keep everything. On a positive note, as I near the one year mark of my project, my “artistic refrigerator” is starting to look a little empty. I feel like I’m making real headway on finishing many of the upcycled projects that were started long ago, using up unpainted wood that has been sitting for years, and turning some old pieces into something really nice.

In a little less than two weeks I will be at my year’s end. I had promised to do something fabulous for the anniversary, but what I had in mind might not happen as of yet. My head cold of a few weeks ago left me a little on the breathless side. Working with semi-gloss paints on these wooden pieces isn’t helping. I’ve promised myself a break from fumes after Saturday. I had planned on something in oil, but it may be a last-minute production.

I forgot to take a “before” tonight on this box. It was an old piece I picked up a few years ago in an Arizona antique mall. The perfect size to use as a desk top file folder. I had attempted to work on it a while back using the photo to wood transfer technique, but of course impatient me ruined it. I thought I might try again but then remembered that I have a roll of beautiful vintage wallpaper. I attached the wallpaper using spray mount, added metal corner brackets on the bottom, but I still wasn’t satisfied with the piece. A look through my stuff turned up a piece from the back of an old chair. I painted it black, distressed it, and attached it to the back of the box, perfect! This is one of those pieces I love that I wrote about, but off to the show it goes in hopes that someone else will love it as well.

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Growing Confidence

It’s been some time since I visited my orphans. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, they are the pieces of work that I have left undone. Many months ago when I first relayed the tail of my “orphans” I had offered the explanation that it was because I was suffering from such a lack of artistic self-esteem that I was in effect, afraid to finish in fear of being judged. This project that I have been working on for the last year has done tremendous things for me. I no longer sit in fear of judgement by anyone, particularly myself. (And I do that better than anyone) Last week I was sick and did a really crappy piece of art, and you know what? It happens, it isn’t the end of the world. I was hung up on perfectionism in a world that is far from perfect. I’m still not happy when something doesn’t work out, but I no longer use it as a means to tear myself apart. That is some real progress.

Several months ago I began using my friend Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet doors to create new things from what essentially would have been material for a landfill. Recycling maniac that I am, that just wouldn’t do. Theresa had been kind enough to offer the doors to me knowing that I would do something. At this point I’ve used only five or six of them with plans for the rest. I had used one of them to create a mirror. When I posted the photo not all  the pieces were fully attached. I had painted the piece out in a silvery blue, but in the end I wasn’t happy with it. The pieces languished in my studio for months. The other day as I began to look through my things for pieces for my upcoming show I came across it. I decided to revisit the piece. I took a section away, and added another, and then changed the paint color. The blue was flat, boring, and did nothing to highlight what I liked most about the piece, the raised curved lines, the crevices, and the intricacies of the added floral wreath. Using a combination of metallic paint colors, silvers, antique bronze, and a champagne, changed everything. The colors really made the mirror come to life. It no longer looks like a kitchen cabinet door, but what I wanted it to be, something that looks like it’s been around for a while. Something beautiful and elegant. It left me anxious to get to the next one, and gave me a little more confidence, so much so that I may be adopting more of my orphans in the near future. First a reminder of the mirror with the blue paint finish, and then the new metallic finish.

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One For The Money

Every now and then I can pick up a small side job, or a craft show that brings a little money into our house. These days any extra cash is welcome here. I have a dear friend who has in the last few months thrown a little work my way. She has found projects around her home that she has asked me to update, or refinish. I really appreciate the business. Last year I painted a mantel shelf for her. A few weeks ago she asked me to paint a table to match. The table is my art project for today, I’ve spent the better part of today perfecting the finish. I unfortunately didn’t take a “before” photo, but if you can imagine it in its original form it was brown, non-distinctive wood. A few coats of polyurethane and it’s finished.

I haven’t really picked up my regular paintbrush in a bit. As things here at home have gotten down to the wire I’m feeling very stressed. I haven’t felt like painting. It’s honestly been a struggle to work at all in the last few days. I have so much on my mind, hesitant to hope with Dan’s job opportunity, adjusting to Brian moving out, and daily issues with my aging father. I need to figure out a way to relax and let my mind wander, and recharge my creativity. There are a few things in my life that always cheer me up. Three of them are my cats. One of them is always near getting in my way while I work. Whether its to sit on me, to sit on the paper I’m working on, or making a bed in my drop-cloth so I can’t move it, they always make me smile.

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One Man’s Trash

Some time ago on this blog I wrote about my Dad and myself and how we “saved” things. I referred to us by the name my Mom gave us which was Sanford and Daughter. This morning I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, the news and human interest story program. On one of the segments there was a piece about hoarders, it is now a diagnosed mental disorder. I didn’t even have to turn my head, I knew Dan was smiling behind the newspaper, particularly when it came to the woman who saves the metal holder off the top of Chinese takeout containers because, “You’ll never know what you can use them for.” Famous last words. Words I have spoken so much, much more than you can imagine. My “Artistic Fridge” that I am in the process of cleaning out is filled with lots and lots of  “I can use this for something” fragments. In my defense I actually do use some of these pieces from time to time, but I will admit there are probably more pieces than I will ever get to. People with this disorder have anxiety when separating from their things. It apparently runs in families. Funny since I referred to my daughter as “Sanford and Granddaughter”only yesterday . It made me sad to see how difficult it was for some of the people on the show, but also made me realize that maybe I really need to look at all the stuff, the fragments, the pieces of things I have kept. I certainly think I may have just a touch of this disorder, or harkening back to another post about Myra and Emma (the ladies who rewarded us neighborhood children with candy for picking up trash), it may just be that I can’t stand to see waste, or see something perfectly usable end up in a landfill. Could it possibly be The Boxcar Children? The books by Gertrude Chandler Warner that so enthralled me as a child? All that said, I’m ninety percent finished with the first of my window projects. An old window, scrap plywood, left over fabric, and vintage hooks. In other words, garbage. Bits and pieces given new life in something quite useful and pretty.

I’ve again leaned the window against a mirror for the center. There are three small hooks on the bottom for hanging jewelry or keys, and one larger hook on the side.Tomorrow we attempt to cut the mirror once again.2 23 14 (2)

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Superstitious

I’ve never been to see a psychic. I’d like to say it’s because I don’t believe in psychics, but the truth is that I’m not sure if I believe in them, and I know myself. I have a very active imagination, and as I have mentioned more than once in past posts, I’m Irish. (If you happened to have not read it, it means glass not full, nor empty, because the glass is shattered on the floor.) I’ve always been afraid that if I heard something that wasn’t good I’d obsess. (I’m also phenomenally good at obsessing.) It would rule my life, no matter how much I would try to convince myself that it was nonsense there would be that little corner of my mind that would poke its nasty self into my every waking moment. It’s much the same with superstition. We’ve had a rough year, and the disappointments, bad luck, and struggles continue and seem to have no end. (Dan does have a promising job interview on Tuesday, but I’m honestly afraid to be hopeful.) In the last few days I’ve been writing about the never-ending window projects. I left them alone yesterday, I needed a break. Today with fresh eyes I went back to work on one of them. This would be the larger of the two that I intend to turn into sort of a jewelry/mirror/memo center. A place where you can check hair or makeup, choose your necklace, and read your to do list before you have to run out the door. I coated four of the triangular shapes with magnetic paint, and then on top of that a few coats of chalkboard paint. The two side panels will allow for tucked in memos, I plan on covering them tomorrow and adding ribbon detail, and finally the center, which will become a mirror. Except this, I bought a door mirror to cut to fit the center. I’ve never cut glass. I watched a YouTube video which of course made me an instant expert.  I broke a piece off. Seven years bad luck. Then Dan came in. He has cut glass, successfully, but not this time. Four breaks. So basically right now we are looking at another thirty-five years of bad luck. (Openly groveling for all reading this to wish me good karma.) Do I believe in the superstition of seven years of bad luck for a broken mirror? Seven years times five? Not to mention we have to try again tomorrow!!! I’d like to say no…but there is that nasty little corner of my mind….

So here is what’s happening so far…IMG_5625

I leaned the window against a mirror in my guest room. (Notice the magnet) Still much to do, but I think you get the idea…

…to be continued.

Progress Report

I think I may have dodged the flu bullet. Feeling much better today.

It’s been ten months since I began to clean out my “artistic fridge”. I bet you’re wondering how that inventory is going. I’ve hardly made a dent. Sure I’ve done a project nearly every day, all 308 of them, but I still have a lot of stuff. (Some of which are finished projects, still dragging my behind on selling) I have more than you can possibly imagine. I not only fill my studio until it is busting at the seams, but also both our two car and our single car garage, projects in the garden, and on the side of the house. If I died tomorrow my children would be buried alongside me in mountains of “stuff”. Today I began an attempt to rectify that. I am working on not one, but three projects today. All of them involve upcycling, or recycling pieces that I have gathered along the way one. I began working on a really cool old window, and a small door that at one time had two glass panels, one is still intact, the other was missing when I got it. Finally a very small piece of wood that was in the garage. Too small to be of any real use, but those who know me well are familiar with the sound of “I can do something with that.”, coming out of my mouth. I just hate to throw away anything that can be used. Here’s the plan.

Window number one. I broke the last of the glass panels out. I used a putty knife to get rid of all the loose chipped paint. I then sanded, and sanded, and sanded, trying to get to the nooks and crannies. For this one I believe I will be turning it into a very useful mirror. A mirror in the large center panel, and for the side panels, some bulletin board type pieces covered in fabric, and some hooks on the bottom. I may have to add a piece for that. Something that can be used in a bathroom or bedroom. The hooks for hanging necklaces and such.

Small door project. Again with some kind of useful bottom, possibly one of those boards with the ribbons that allows for tucking mementos in. For the glass part of the door I ordered two of my photos from Paris in poster size today. They won’t be ready until tomorrow, but I will choose between the two to put under the glass.

My small piece of wood. As soon as I laid eyes on it I knew. I’ve been pinning vintage book covers on Pinterest. I painted a watercolor the other night loosely based on one. This piece is the perfect size to replicate one of the covers. You can see them on my board “Books By Any Cover”. Incredibly beautiful work. I spent another twenty minutes or so sanding this piece as well.

Only sanded beginnings to share tonight, so I’ll post one of my photos as well. A photo I took last year in San Diego, just a reminder to those of you still in the midst of winter’s grip that spring will be here eventually!IMG_5558

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