Saturday, August 25, 2012

gratitude is an attitude

Harriman State Park, Photo by Cynthia Newcomer Daniel

For those who might not know, we make our living as property managers; art and music are what we love, but neither of them pays the bills. Nine days out of ten, the property management gig is an easy one, but when it's hard, it's very, very hard. The past couple of weeks have been full of very hard days; we had to evict someone, and they left the property in very bad shape.

Cleaning, painting and general repairs are to be expected; three months worth of uncollected garbage and never a spill wiped up, wasn't. Nevertheless, that's what they left us with; it's our job, and we've been doing it. It's just dirt, and, with a lot of scrubbing, we're getting it clean again.

But not without aches and pains. I've been working out for over a year, and I thought I was in pretty good shape; scrubbing walls, appliances, and floors for hours on end every day has shown me that there are muscles I wasn't using. I'm actually too sore to bead today; my hands won't hold the needle without complaining bitterly.

I wanted to have a tantrum; really and truly, I did. I wanted to lie down on the floor, pound my fists on the carpet and start kicking and screaming; but I'm too sore to do that, so I just moaned a bit and felt very sorry for myself. And then, I got to thinking.

This is a very temporary condition; it's one day out of ten in my life. The other nine, I'm strong and healthy and I don't have major aches and pains. This is the day that pays for what I love; this is the day that allows me to be an artist the other nine. For this one day, I can work in spite of the aches and pains. For this one day, I can let go of my complaints; I can be grateful that days like these buy me the time to create and do what I love.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

ch-ch-ch-changes . . . .

I'm rearranging my studio, and changing the way I've taken my photographs for many years. I've been using an improvised set-up for a long time now; I built a very small light tent out of an old pop-up clothes hamper and some worn sheets, and I've used a combination of sunlight from the breakfast table window, my Ott light, daylight bulbs in the ceiling fixtures, and a halogen shop lamp. I have to set it all up when I want to take pictures, and I have to break it all down before we can eat our next meal.

In this photo, you are looking at the future home of my dedicated photography station; I am officially taking the plunge. Last night, I ordered lights and a new tent; a new, larger, non-improvised tent, and a set of four very bright, daylight lights, that move around on a frame that goes up the sides and over the top of the tent, so that I can adjust them to get the exact lighting effects I want.

I also ordered two gradient backdrops, and this morning I picked up a nice table to bring it all up to a comfortable height. I briefly considered putting it all on the floor and taking pictures lying down, but then I thought not. If I'm going to increase my level of professionalism, I can't do it  while crawling around my belly. Of course, only the table and my camera are here right now; I had to mail order the rest of it. I am hoping that it will all arrive sometime next week.

I'e always started my photo shoots by taking a dozen (or more!) trial shots with my best guesses as to what today's light temperature and exposure might be; then I compare the results, choose the best ones, and shoot quickly, hoping that I can finish before the light changes. I haven't succeeded in that yet; light changes very quickly when one side is coming through an east window. It also makes it challenging to get a balanced photograph; no matter what I do, my photos are never evenly lit.

Once I've chosen the photos I like, I Photoshop like crazy to fix the color temperature and the exposure, as it has invariably changed while I was shooting. My new station is away form the window; and with all daylight bulbs and no direct light form the window, I should be able to set the light temperature and exposure and have them stay consistent for the entire shoot. Actually, I'm even hoping they'll stay consistent from one day to the next. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

I know, I know - I'm picky about my photos. But I'm not the only one who wants me to take better photos; lately, it seems, no one wants a Photoshopped photo. I'm better at Photoshop than I am at photography, and that needs to change. I need photos that come out of the camera with true colors, bright whites, proper exposure and sharp focus. And I want those dandy grey graduated backgrounds, without resorting to Photoshop, too.

Just as soon as the rest of the pieces have been delivered and are in place, I'm going to start changing. This is just the first step, but it's a big one for me!

Monday, August 20, 2012

With a little help

The bracelet is nice, but the pendant - even though it's not finished - is going to be better, and I have my friends to thank for that.

As I was working on the bracelet, I remembered Marcia turning one of my bracelets around, masking off part of it with her hand, and impishly saying, "pendant."

She was right, and I'd never thought of doing that. Now I do; and while I was making the bracelet, I was constantly turning it and looking for the pendant.

I found it.

And once I found it, I started thinking of other friends. I imagined Peter telling me to add a Navrette, and I told him to sod off, as I remember how how many needles he broke beading around them, and I'm not going there. I compromised on a rivoli, and promised to hang it from a St. Petersburg chain.

Nancy has seen the bracelet in all stages, and has been my sounding board and best friend every inch of the way for well over a year now.  It doesn't matter that we live on opposite sides of the country and may never meet in person; she knows me through and through and loves me anyway. The pendant has dark green in her honor; and pink because I'm a stinker.

Linda is always a voice in my mind - reminding me to keep playing with beads, to push past my fears, to take risks and be authentic. And I love her because she's a stinker sometimes, too.

Cath has the best profile picture ever; her positive outlook and daily messages of hope and joy make me glad to be alive. She's a rainbow of beads even on the cloudiest of days.

And Steve and Bonnie? They bring the music. What would life be without music?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The traveling bracelet has a fun day out

The traveling bracelet and I had a lovely day out today.  First, we met up with Marcia DeCoster, her husband, and her adorable dog, Maya, for lunch at Giovanni's in Morro Bay. Of course, Marcia got to try on Memories of Istanbul; doesn't it look great on her?

I was a bad, bad, girl at lunch; I had my favorite fried oysters and garlic fries. Marcia was much more restrained and had grilled fish; I really should have followed her example, but I could not resist. I will eat lightly tonight - and the rest of the week - I promise!

I got to see Marcia's project for Beading by the Bay, and it is even more gorgeous in person than in the photographs. The clasp is so clever; I've never seen anything like it before. I am going to be waiting by the computer, my finger on the mouse when it's time to sign up; I do not want to miss it this year!

After lunch, Dan and I drove up the coast to Cambria and took a walk around town; there was a small crafts fair in the center of town today, and we enjoyed looking at all the booths.

After the fair, we decided to stop into some of the shops: here's a picture of the traveling bracelet watching artist Patricia Griffin work on her pottery.

Her studio gallery is in a converted one hundred year old one-room schoolhouse in the heart of Cambria; the bracelet and I enjoyed watching her work and looking at the beautiful, detailed pieces of pottery that she has for sale.

I was sorely tempted by several pieces, but since I'm saving my pennies for Beading by the Bay, I decided not to make a purchase today.

Dan took this picture of me on the way home; we live "over the hill" from the beach communities, and I love this view from the road we take to go back home. You can see a little bit of the ocean behind me, the blue, blue sky, and the brown California hillsides.

The traveling bracelet enjoyed the spectacular view, too; it is my wish that it brings California sunshine and wide-open views to everyone who wears it after me.

Memories of Istanbul was made by Sig Wynne-Evans, and imbued with positive thoughts and good, healing wishes. You can learn more about the project, and see the adventures that this bracelet has had, on her blog:  The Amazing Traveling Bracelets of Positive Energy and Good Karma.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sometimes dreams are not subtle

I had a dream the other night that was so direct and startling; it didn't leave much to interpretation, so I figure it's a message I need to consider.

In my dream, our whole family was outside King's Cross station in London. There was a very large pile of bundles on the ground in front of us, all done up neatly in string market bags.

The kids ran off without picking up any of them, disappeared into the darkness of the station, and were gone. My husband picked up a reasonable amount of them, and walked briskly into the station.

I was left, struggling to pick up the rest of the bags, knowing that there were far too many for me to carry, but determined to carry them anyway. I draped them over my shoulders, slung them around my neck, tied them to my belt, and wore them cascading down my back. I covered myself completely with those bags.

Before I could pick them all up, my husband returned, and he picked up another reasonable load. We headed off into the station together, leaving no bags on the ground. Before we got to our train, a horn sounded three times, and he turned to me and said, "The train will be leaving in a few minutes, we need to run." He set off at a brisk jog, then slipped down an incline and almost fell. He dropped his bags and continued jogging towards the train.

I tried to run, but could only stagger. I tried to pick up the bags he'd dropped, knowing that what I should be doing was dropping my own bags and running for the train. I wanted to drop them, but suddenly realized that although I'd been fully clothed when I picked them up, now I was naked under them. These bags I was carrying were the only things covering me.

I woke up, knowing that if I don't manage to drop the excess burdens I'm carrying, I won't make it onto the next stage of my life's journey. How's that for a wake-up call?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Traveling bracelet takes a detour

My son popped into my studio for a chat this morning, and picked up the traveling bracelet. I dared him to put it on and let me take a photo; and being a good-natured sort of guy, he said sure. I think it looks great on him - and the color of his shirt co-ordinates with it beautifully.

He said that it gave him a very peaceful feeling, and he certainly looks like he's contemplating something in this photo!

So far, the bracelet hasn't made it out of my studio, but that will change. We've got the rest of the week for more adventures.

Memories of Istanbul was made by Sig Wynne-Evans, and imbued with positive thoughts and good, healing wishes. You can learn more about the project, and see the adventures that this bracelet has had, on her blog:  The Amazing Traveling Bracelets of Positive Energy and Good Karma.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The amazing traveling bracelets of positive energy and good karma

A few days ago, a Facebook friend asked me if I would like to be part of The Amazing Traveling Bracelets of Positive Energy and Good Karma Project, and, of course, I said, "YES!"

In a beader's cross between Flat Stanley and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, each of the bracelets was made by Sig Wynne-Evans, and imbued with positive thoughts and good, healing wishes. You can learn more about the project, and see the adventures that the bracelets have had, on her blog:  The Amazing Traveling Bracelets of Positive Energy and Good Karma.

Memories of Istanbul landed in my mailbox this morning, and (of course!) the first place I had to take her was into my studio. I think her good energy arrived even before I saw her; this morning, a task I had been dreading turned out to be a lot easier than I had any right to expect. It's still an unpleasant task, and one which will absorb a lot of my time over the next week or two, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I'm thanking good karma and positive energy on this one!

So, over the next week, I will take this bracelet on pleasant adventures. I will wear her with a happy heart and a smile. And I will take the good karma and positive energy she has collected with me, even when my adventures are not so pleasant. I'm so glad I was asked to be a part of this project!