Thursday, August 21, 2014

Enlightened by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I lost my beautiful Mama to ALS just 10 months ago, and the current onslaught of Ice Bucket videos has been a roller coaster of emotions!

My first reaction was sadness, and the urge to resist everything that brought the dreadful ALS to the front of my mind.  My next emotion was skepticism, as I saw no correlation between wet squealing people and a cure for ALS.

But as the viral reaction became impossible to avoid, I suddenly had an epiphany….a lightbulb moment, if you will!  Or, perhaps an "ice bucket" moment to be accurate.  Let me explain….

Mom was a beautiful lady.  She handled the news with grace and dignity, and a strong, faithful inner peace.  But as the days wore on, she also became sad and withdrawn, almost exhibiting a kind of shame over her fate.   She shied away from outings as the awkward stares, the confusion when she spoke, the lack of understanding of ALS - all these things left her feeling uncomfortable and alone.  Speaking, eating, breathing…normal acts that now made her embarrassed and afraid.  She made me promise to keep both friends and relatives away as the disfiguring disease consumed her body.  Her pride was gone and her spirit was broken.  I tried my best to keep that promise.  Turning folks away was hard, but I had agreed, after she promised to attend one last family birthday party and say goodbye in her own way.  It was one of the hardest events I've ever attended, but in the end, it was a huge success.  Here is my wonderful family, celebrating the birth and life of my Mom.

Just 3 months after this outing, Mom left this earth.  Her disfigured face returned to it's beauty as we watched the peace return to her soul.  She left as gently as she had lived.  For that we are forever grateful!  We had great support from the ALS Foundation and Heartsway Hospice, as well as our multitude of friends and family.  Sadly, ALS changed my whole family forever and nothing will ever be the same…..

But back to my enlightenment.  It suddenly dawned on me that the major accomplishment of this crazy Ice Bucket Challenge is awareness.  People are learning about ALS!  They get it!  The donations are fantastic and bring lots of hope, but from my perspective, awareness is the greatest gift that can be given!  May no other victim ever suffer the shame and isolation my Mom endured.  May no other family struggle to explain the devastation ALS can bring.  We all know the words cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease.  Thank You ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE for teaching the world about ALS

If you'd like to donate to help ALS families cope with this challenging disease, click here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Happy Handmade

I buy and sell handmade goods - with a passion!  Etsy, Zibbet, Ebay to name a few.  Our fine art prints are available on FAA, Zazzle and Society 6.  We've sold in local markets since 1974, so I feel qualified to share my opinion on the current state of the "handmade" marketplace.  It's not a very happy place these days, and I hope that is due to change!

Recent turmoil on Etsy has spilled over to other venues, most recently showing it's ugly head at Zibbet. Folks are angry, hurt and upset.  Name calling, finger pointing and pure hatred fill the social media sites that once promoted our wares.  While I'm distressed and sad that my friends and colleagues are hurting, I view this event as a good thing - a long overdue cleansing of the field.  Consider the stock market and the inflated prices that created a bubble.  That bubble burst because the underlying value of the stocks could not support the inflated pricing.  I believe the handmade market has just experienced a bubble bursting, and am hopeful for a real recovery.

As both a buyer and seller, I've experienced this recent flurry of anger.  I've encountered many vendors with hateful attitudes and unreasonable shop policies.  I've dealt with overly demanding buyers.  It puzzled me for some time until I realized that most of these sellers were more interested in profit than in their craft.  They bought into the advertising and promotion telling them they could "quit their day job" and make a living selling arts and crafts.  Many of these new shop owners  had never sold their wares before.  They hopped on the Ebay and Etsy wagons and were dragged to some success by a tidal wave of "handmade" passion.  Etsy became a designer label, and substandard goods sold with ease.  Buyers were confused and unable to count on high quality workmanship. Sellers were cautioned to raise their prices and promote their "brand".  But like every trend, the "handmade" movement has passed it's heyday.  That does not mean that high quality, well-priced goods are out of style.  Far from it!  What I see is the end of the love affair with the label, with ANYTHING sold on Etsy being considered a prize.  What I envision is the survival of the fittest - the artists and crafters who value their work beyond it's monetary value.  Those are the people that created the frenzy and will continue to create their wares whether they sell them or not.  Those sellers with a primary interest in earning a living wage will cry out in anger and eventually find other sources of income.  Those of us with a passion for creating will continue making and sharing our wares.

Now, I'm not saying that art and financial success are mutually incompatible.  I've known several lucky artists who have done very well.  But I've also seen many who thrive with a popular product then crash and burn when the trend subsides.  Think about it…how can 1 person alone create enough quality product each week to financially sustain a household?  The very definition of true handmade goods makes profitability almost impossible.  History tells us that most artists are not valued until their death!  Where do you think the term "starving artist" was born?  Chasing a profit is like a dog chasing it's own tail!  It doesn't make one very happy!

Folks like me make things because we must!  Creating is a way of life, a true passion that has nothing to do with profit.  Now, profit is wonderful and there is nothing more thrilling than receiving that email saying "a sales has been made on your account"!  But it's the validation, the knowledge that someone, somewhere liked your work enough to want it!  That is even more thrilling than the monetary gain.  That's what keeps us selling!  If you are lucky enough to love your work AND make a profit, you are truly blessed!

Learning things like SEO and product photography, not to mention keywords and descriptions are challenging.  They are a necessary "evil" in marketing our work.  Some have made money simply because they excel at the marketing end of the business.  But, most of the happy artists I know struggle with the marketing.  Again, it is not the REASON they create, it is simply a necessity.

In conclusion, I wish all my fellow artisans continued success.  But most of all, I wish them happiness!  That, to me, is the difference in a vendor and a true handmade artist.  Here's to Happy Handmade Artists and Crafters!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

With a Little Help from My Friends - 4

Today I'd like to introduce you to an amazing artist and kind, caring friend.  Let's reach from Texas to Germany and meet "Cat"!  Here's her story in her own words:

My name is Cat, I'm from the Southwest of Germany where I live with four crazy cats and a crazy bunny who might think he's a cat. I am a jewelry artist, but also like to experiment and create little sculptures or decor items.
I'm mainly working in three techniques that I also like to combine at times, wire crochet, wire knitting with a crochet hook and bead looming.
My shops can be found at:

My Facebook page is:

What inspires your works?

There is nothing that can't inspire me. I have been inspired by laundry on a washing line or a bowl of soup. Sometimes it's the colors, sometimes the shape, a scent or just an association. I have more ideas than time to realize them all. Some are not good enough and never make it, some need time to mature or have to wait for me to have the right tools, material or skills.

Which of your creations is your favourite?

That's difficult to say. I guess for many artists it's always the piece they are working on at the moment, the same goes for me a lot of the time.
I am extremely fond of my experiments, though. Not all of them make it into my shop because I can't bear parting with them, mostly the sculptures that took me really long like my wire crochet octopus.

How long have you been creating your art/craft?

I am not one of those crafters who started at a young age. When I was a child, I had more fun either reading or being outside with my friends. I am glue challenged and my pictures were all yellow dominated with lots of sun and usually wonky houses.
I stumbled upon wire crochet in November 2008. Although I hated crocheting with yarn - I used to be an avid knitter - I was intrigued and had to try it using my only crochet hook and some cheap copper wire. From there on there was no stopping me. I went from crocheting wire to knitting it with a crochet hook, I dabbled in polymer clay and spool knitting for a while, but gave that up for now due to different reasons and finally was convinced to try bead looming about two years ago.

What's the best thing about being a crafter / online seller?

The best thing about being a crafter is taking ideas out of your head and turning them into something real. Most of the time it's extremely relaxing and even meditative for me.
The best thing about being an online seller is being able to share those ideas and visions with others, meeting new people and new inspirations.

What's the worst thing about being a crafter / online seller?

The worst thing about being a crafter is not having enough time, arms or supplies to make all your ideas come true, especially if you have a day job as well. Telling myself I need to get to bed now because I have to get up in the morning although there are only a few rows on a bracelet missing ... only the threads to sew in ... only the clasp to put on ... only a few more beads to put on wire ... only to finish crocheting around that second cab for earrings ... I think you get the idea.
The worst thing about being an online seller is needing the time that you'd rather spend on creating on other things like promoting or taking pictures. You can only share your work if people can find it, and it's a lot more work than most people imagine.

Is there a purpose to your art?

The purpose is to make people happy, including myself. I'd like others to feel the same when looking at one of my pieces as I did when I made them.

How do you feel when people interpret your work differently than you intended?

My work obviously doesn't need much interpretation most of the times, but it has happened to me nevertheless. There have been bead loomed patterns that have been seen as something I haven't intended or maybe just not thought of. There have been pendants in which I saw something that others couldn't see.
So far it has been interesting, sometimes even inspiring to hear other people's opinions although it can be a surprise, too.

What advice do you have for aspiring shopowners?

There are the usual tips and tricks. Take good photos, be interesting in your descriptions, don't think people will just come to you, you'll have to lead them to your shop, but most of all I want to tell you to stay true to yourself. It's okay to create something because you think it will be a success, but always let part of you run free and do what's in your heart to balance things out.

Besucht mich / Visit me :-)

With such beautiful works, how can anyone resist this invitation?  Stop by and tell Cat that Texas Eagle sent you!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flower Boxes

What a lucky gal I am!  Look at what my sweet hubby built and surprised me with this week!

Yes, a gorgeous flower box full of colorful blooms!  He certainly knows well my love of these gorgeous ornamental plantings...and if you know me at all, you probably know it too.  You see, my dear Irish Isle is just covered with colorful blooming flower boxes, and I've longed to recreate that charm here in hot, dry Texas.  Being a pragmatist, dear hubby has continued to point out how bad they look when all the flowers are dry and dead.  But, being a problem solver of the finest degree, he obviously found a solution!  And an inexpensive and easy one at that!

Look closely at the photo...yes, indeed!  That is simply a section of vinyl gutter transforming my little fence into a glorious garden!  A quick coat of spray paint, a few drain holes drilled in the bottom, and voila!  Beautiful!

Here's his instructions:  Cut vinyl gutter to desired length if needed.  Spray paint all white vinyl pieces as desired.  Assemble per instructions for gutter.  Drill drain holes in bottom approximately 12 inches apart.  Hang with cable ties (see detail in photo below).  Lay landscape fabric (or coffee filters) in bottom of entire planter, then fill with potting soil and flowers!  The vinyl makes this very light and easy to handle!

Dear Hubby hung this on our low fence where normal lawn watering will keep them moist.  He also selected heat & drought resistant plants (portulaca) which thrive in our hot and humid climate.  I'm thrilled with this surprise, so I'll repeat....what a Lucky Gal I am!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Recipe - Fried Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Reposting a favorite!
My whole family loves this dish!  Especially in the summer, when the Texas heat makes it hard to find meals that are both filling and refreshing, this one fits the bill.  While it's got healthy fresh veggies, it IS NOT a diet meal - far from it!  But it's so, so good!
Adjusts easily for your tastes, and the number of folks you need to serve.

1 3/4 cups Mayonnaise (I prefer Kraft for the texture)
1/4 cup prepared Mustard
1/4 cup Honey
2 teaspoons Paprika
Mix together until blended, adjusting to taste...then serve.  It stores well, but we rarely have much left over.

Salad:  (adjust portions and ingredients to taste)
Iceberg Lettuce, chopped
1 lg. ripe tomato, diced
1 cucumber, diced
3 Green onions (or scallions) diced
1 cup of cubed Cheddar Cheese
2 boiled eggs, sliced (or 1 per plate)
4 strips of fried bacon, crumbled (2 per plate)
Prepare salads in individual plates or bowls; adding any ingredients your family likes.

Fried Chicken:
Chicken (1 breast or 3 tenders per person)
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp Cumin

Cut chicken into bite size pieces, then toss with Ranch dressing.  Dredge into flour and spice mixture and fry in hot oil until golden brown.   Drain on paper towel.  Serve immediately on top of salad and drizzle with Honey Mustard Dressing.

Almost as complicated as Thanksgiving dinner, but well worth the effort!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

With a Little Help from my Friends no 3

This week we're happy to introduce Cindy Nunn, of Cindy Nunn Photography, located in Simi Valley, California!

Cindy has a lifelong love of photography and a fascination with the photographic process. She explains, "my father had an old Brownie Bullet and I remember loving the feel of just holding it. I also had a thing for antique photos from a young age and would search through antique and junk stores to find them. I didn’t really get into photography on a more serious level until 2010, when my sister and I started going on intensive hikes three or four times a week. We would often come across scenes that were “picture perfect” and I was always regretful that I had not captured it. So, I began to take along my camera, and the rest, as they say, is history. I have now been selling through Fine Art America and other venues since 2011. "

Cindy selected these 3 images as her favorites, and we can certainly see why!

 “The Frog Pond.”
She explains, "I love this one because it is a favorite destination when out on a hike. I can just sit here and think quietly or not think at all while absorbing the peace and serenity of the area. This is located on what used to be part of Chumash tribal lands. "

 “Fine Feathered Fantasy.”

 Cindy composed this by throwing together some masks, beads, peacock feathers and Japanese fans and just started shooting away. She says this series always lifts her mood because of the vibrant colors and it is a fun reminder of that slightly quirky, bizarre side of her character.

“Living Canvas.”

Cindy explains: "This is an interior shot of 1st Amendment Tattoo Shop, where I recently had my first tattoo done. For me, this marked a major milestone in my life. Like photography, I have always been fascinated with tattoos. My father had a “Sailor Jerry” that he acquired while serving in the Merchant Marines during WWII. It was a classic three-masted schooner, which incidentally also provoked a love of old sailing ships in me, LOL! When I turned 50 this past February I said to myself, “Hey, you are 50 years old, have been married twice, raised two children, have five grandchildren, and have spent a lifetime playing by everyone else’s rules of what is acceptable. Now its time to play by my own rules!” So, I had my right upper arm and shoulder tattooed with a peacock feather rising from the flames, signifying how I feel about my own life and the strides I have made in my growth as a stronger, more confident woman. "

We think you'll agree that Cindy Nunn is an inspiring artist.  Her advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps is,  "Never, ever give up! If you think you have something to offer to the world get out there and promote yourself, and never stop believing in yourself. With access to the internet becoming easier all the time there is no financial excuse to hold yourself back. A lack of finances has limited me to an extent, but it has not, and will not, stop me. Be tenacious, be bold and be brave. "
If you've enjoyed this brief meeting with Cindy, stop by and tell her Hello at some of the following links.  Tell her Texas Eagle sent you!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

With a Little Help from my Friends no. 2

This week's featured artists are very near and dear to my well as talented!  Please meet my good friends, and fellow Texas artists, Gwen and Pat Knieff.

Gwen is a woman of many talents, which she currently showcases in her BaiBai Emporium shop on Zibbet.  She creates adorable little fairies, just bubbling with personality.  The tiny details that she paints on their faces are amazing!  She pours the molds, paints and fires them, then dresses each fairy and gives it a home and a personality!   This is Fairy Joan

                                        and this is Geraldine Showing off her Crystal

Gwen's equally talented husband, Pat, is a photographer who sells his art on Fine Art America.  You can find him at Pat Knieff Art.  
His works range in subject from stunning beauty to downright funny!
Here are a couple of favorites:
                                                                    Delicate Flowers

Beautiful Fowl


               And this fine piece to make you laugh:

                                         Unique Hair Piece

Gwen and Pat are new to the online world of arts and crafts.  Stop by their shops and show them some love!  Tell them Texas Eagle sent you!