Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Retreated to Ocracoke and it Was Awesome!

Hey everyone! If you have followed me for a while you know that I usually have to have an extraordinary reason to inspire me to post to this blog. This time I have something really exciting to tell you about, so grab a cocktail and prepare for a long post.

Sunset from the Swan Quarter ferry.
First, for a long time I've been reading and hearing about Art Retreats like Art is…You, Art and Soul, and CREATE Mixed Media Retreats. I’m friends with someone who regularly teaches at these events and she says they have become huge corporations and money making events. Now, Webster’s defines “retreat” as “a place of privacy or safety: refuge” and “a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study or instruction”. There doesn’t seem to be anything “retreatish” about these artist gatherings, just hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people in a large venue cranking out the art classes. 

I don't know what these are, but they look seafaring and cool.
Second, you know I’m an introverted hermit, right? I have a peaceful, quiet, stress-free life in a beautiful place, I don’t travel much and I don’t do well in crowds. The last time I went anywhere far away from home  was to the PMC Conference in Cincinnati back in 2012. I don’t take vacations. I like the saying “Instead of looking forward to your next vacation, how about creating a life you don’t want to get away from?” I've done that. Therefore, art retreats like the ones described above are not something that would interest me in any way at all.

View of Pamlico Sound from our front porch.
Hang on. I'm getting to the point soon.

 A couple of months ago a friend told me about a small Art Retreat called ReMe Retreat that was happening in October on Ocracoke Island,a small spit of land that's part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After researching it I decided to push myself and sign up to do this because it’s completely different from anything I’d normally do, in a unique location that I've always loved and, most importantly, a small group.  Well, I’m so glad I did because it was AWESOME! I’m going to try and put my experience into words here, but it will be difficult to convey just how AWESOME it was. (I hope I don’t have to use the word AWESOME too many times!)

One night the power went out on the whole island.
“ReMe" comes from the slogan “Rest – Relax – Renew” and is the brain child of the three instructors and hostesses, Jodi Ohl, Penny Arrowood and Jean Skipper. We also had a Den Mother, Debbie Keen, who kept us fed and the house running smoothly. (Debbie is a lampwork glass artist when she's not taking care of ReMe'ers) The 8 students from all parts of the country made up our small group of 12.  I’ll let you peruse other web sites (follow the links) to see about the accomodations for the week (an historic Inn on Pamlico Sound) and to read about the classes with Jodi, Penny and Jean. And you can read all about Ocracoke Island (a place lost in time and the location of Blackbeard's demise) here.

Sunrise photo by Penny Arrowood

The AWESOMENESS that I want to tell you about is that this truly is a retreat, away from the distractions of life (no phone, TV or wi-fi). Every evening we took our cocktail of the day, walked the short distance to our private beach on the banks of Pamlico Sound and watched the sun go down as the fishing boats returned home. Every day we were treated with delicious home made meals and snacks, getting to know each other activities and gift exchanges. The hostesses did their best to immerse us in Island life as we visited with a 6th-generation “O’cocker” to learn about what it was like to grow up in such a remote place. The head of the Ocracoke Preservation Society came to speak with us one evening and told us some of the Island’s history and ghost stories about the house were staying in. One evening we were treated to drinks and snacks at Books to be Red, a local bookstore/art gallery. We visited the remote beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and collected tidbits to be incorporated in our art work. 

Another view from our beach.
I rode down with Den Mother Debbie, so I arrived earlier than the other students, and I got to witness how they transform the place ahead of time. All the beds are made up, towels set out, bathrooms stocked, classroom set up and artist sales and supply areas arranged. Laundry services were available during the week, if needed. We were pampered from start to finish, from unloading and loading our cars for us, to a daily newsletter that told us of the happenings for the next day, to being presented with a goody bag upon departure filled with nibbles and drinks for the trip home.  Every.Little. Detail. was thought of and carried out. 

Ocracoke Light, courtesy of
And the art classes couldn't have been better. We made books with Penny, paintings with Jodi and jewelry with Jean. Each artist/instructor provided all the supplies we would need for each project. They were well thought out and each student went home with something finished. We had two women there who had never done anything artsy before and even they were happy with their results, which says a lot about the instructors!

My funky little lighthouse.
My abstract painting. (Sorry, for the life of me I can't get this one rotated properly.)

My "Long, Tall Book of Days" with a wrap-around cover.
The best part is that we bonded. I was a little (well, more than a little) worried about spending so much time with so many people (12 people is a LOT to me!) but every personality was embraced. I did become somewhat overwhelmed towards the end of the week and it was no problem to borrow a car and go off by myself for a few hours  By the end of our time together we had all shared some of our deepest secrets and there was so much laughter my face hurt. There were a few tears, too, but no judgments.

Seagull following the ferry. Photo by Lynn Ovenden.
I guess what I'm trying to convey is that ReMe was more than art classes, more than a vacation on a fabulous island, more than a retreat. I came away with some new knowledge and 11 new friendships that I hope will last a long time. I'm so glad I pushed myself to do this! 

Seafood boil dinner on the last night. The shrimp were swimming in the ocean that morning.
There will be 3 more ReMe Retreats on Ocracoke in 2015, so go to the website and sign up before all of the limited spaces are gone. You'll have no regrets. It's AWESOME!!

More Ocracoke Photos:


An "Ocracat". One of the feral cats that everyone feeds.

The Sound Front Inn

Beach ephemera.

Della Gaskill, 6th generation O'coker and champion fig cake baker.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Part of the National Park Service.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Breaking Through the Creativity Log Jam

Wow! Here I am again! I know you’re amazed, and it amazes me even more. Fair warning, though: don’t get too used to it. 

I know you’ve heard about writers getting writer’s block and my loss of jewelry making mojo was the same sort of thing. It was starting to bother me a lot because I still need to make a living and I have a Trunk Show coming up and galleries to fill for tourist season. Not to mention my poor, neglected Etsy Shop! Inventory was so low that I considered selling some of the pieces I had made for myself.  And then, the most amazing thing happened… 

A little over a month ago I woke in the middle of the night (something that’s not unusual for me) with an idea for a pendant. I had all the details, the design and texture and how to build it. I was so excited to have something creative happening in my head! As I laid there trying to go back to sleep I kept telling myself to write this idea down because I wouldn’t remember it in the morning. I’d drift a little and wake again and repeat “get up and write that down!”  Finally, since sleep was not happening, I decided to get up and go in the studio and make that piece. 

As soon as I opened a package of PMC3 the next idea hit me! And then the next!  I ended up staying in the studio of several hours that night and finally had to stop and go back to bed when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.   

After sleeping late the next morning all I wanted to do was make jewelry, but there were too many other things to do that day. I had appointments and errands to run and it was a gorgeous day to be outside. The gardening bug was getting to me, too, and I really hated the idea of being inside on a pretty day. 

Then another idea hit me: Second shift! For the next week and a half I would go in the studio at about 5:00 in the afternoon and work until midnight or so. I recorded “Good Morning America” so that when I woke up around 9:00 a.m. I could pretend it was my usual time of 7:00. I’d work in the yard and do other things in the daylight hours. Perfect!  

It’s amazing to me that that one idea in the middle of the night broke the spell that had frozen my creativity for over 4 months. Then the idea to change my schedule so that I could accomplish all the things I wanted to do was just brilliant, if I do say so myself!  

After a while I went back to a normal schedule because I was not in such a manic creative mood once I got the first few ideas out. (This whole thing really confused poor Lola. Cats are very schedule oriented people!) 
I finished TWENTY SEVEN new pieces! My camera broke, so I only have my phone to take pictures with and it doesn’t do close-ups very well.

I took this one of some of my favorites from the batch when I was at the gallery the other day. I ordered a macro lens that attaches to my phone, so I’ll have more and better pictures when that arrives. I hope to get the Etsy Shop updated soon. Wow. Feels good to be back at it!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been!

Hi! It’s been a long time since I abandoned this blog and I’m not quite sure where to start again. I guess I should start at the beginning and see what happens. Or, start at what I thought was the end… semantics… anyway, here we go. 

At the end of 2012 I was tired, burned out, and overwhelmed. I had to let the blog go to focus on other things, and I’m glad I did. It had become more of a burden than a pleasure; I had the feeling that I was working my butt off to come up with interesting posts and not getting much in return. After all this time I realize now that it’s about the writing, not about the reading. It’s a perk to know that people out there in the ethers enjoy what I write, but I understand now that’s not what it’s about. 

2013 was a hell of a year.  At the end of January my property flooded and that scared the crap out of me. I was sure the water would get in the house, so I threw some things in the car, stuffed Lola into her carrier and drove to my neighbor’s property on higher ground. It was too late to drive across the bridge. I stayed in the car for 5 hours (with Lola yowling the entire time) until the water went down enough that I could get back to the house. No water got inside the house, but my front yard and driveway were washed away.  Many hundreds of dollars’ worth of gravel later the damage to the road and around the bridge was repaired and I had a guy dig some ditches to drain the water from the front yard.  Then, it happened all over again in July. Who knew rocks could be so expensive? The gravel/grading guy said “The rocks are free but it’s expensive to get them out of the mountain and over to your house.”  

Every time it rained I was afraid it would flood again.  These fears brought to the forefront just how isolated I am here, how increasingly difficult it is to keep up with things by myself, and how it’s almost impossible to find anyone to help, even if I offer to pay them.  I have one neighbor who used to help me all the time, but he’s been laid up with a couple of surgeries. The other neighbors are either too busy or incapable of understanding the meaning of being a good neighbor and doing someone a favor.
The combination of fear, anxiety and no support system led me to decide that the best thing to do would be to sell this property and move to a better location that wouldn’t terrify me if the skies turned dark.  At first I pondered moving off the mountain so I could be  closer to family, but I realized that (1) they’re all so busy they wouldn’t know I was there, (2) all my business relationships are here, and (3) my small group of close friends is here. I decided to stay in this area, but find some place out of the flood zone. And, it's just so GORGEOUS here!
I spent a large portion of the rest of the year purging, cleaning, painting, repairing and generally getting the house ready to put on the market.  I’ve been here 12 years and it’s amazing how much one person can accumulate. Lots of it went to the dump or to Goodwill.  All with the goal in mind to list it in the spring. Like now, but it hasn’t happened.  After looking online for months I’m disappointed to find that there’s nothing on the market that I even want to go look at, much less move to. Right now I’m too chicken to put this place on the market and risk having it sell when I don’t have even a clue as to where I’d want to end up, but that's what I might have to do.

There are so many factors to consider and it's stressing me out. I thought about getting some flood insurance and sticking around here for awhile, but I found out that it would cost me $1,000 to get a Certificate of Elevation from a surveyor, a document required just to get a quote for flood insurance. So now I feel trapped, too.

The beginning of 2014 has been strange. First, several appliances crapped out on me. The dryer had to be repaired, the washer had to be replaced and the furnace blower motor quit working. That took nearly two weeks for the part to arrive, and luckily I have gas logs that kept the house warm.
I usually spend the winter months in my studio building up my inventory for tourist and show season. This year I lost my mojo. I couldn’t work. It’s happened before but has never lasted this long and I’m starting to get worried.  I tried several times to force myself, but nothing would come out. I crocheted an afghan that kept getting bigger and bigger until I ran out of yarn after about a month. I packed up a lot of things in my studio in anticipation of moving and sold a lot of supplies that I knew I would never use.  I binge watched “Breaking Bad” and “Orange is the New Black”. I tried to trick my creativity by imposing deadlines. I solicited advice from fellow artists and received lots of tips for jump starting things and lots of opinions as to why this was happening.  Nothing worked until recently, but that’s for the next post.

So, I’m back. I feel like I took a detour and wound up right back where I needed to be. No promises as to how long this will last or how often I’ll post here, but this is the start of something new and right now I’m excited about it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Am I Crazy, Or What?

Orchid from the Biltmore House, Asheville, NC

After way over a year, is there anyone at all out there who would still read this blog? I feel like I'm peeking around a corner to see if any of my friends are still here. I've had the urge lately to do some writing and I'm wondering if it's worth my time and effort, since I share most things on Facebook. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lately I Hate This Blog

I'm just not inspired to keep up with it. And when some time goes by without a post I feel guilty and it weighs on me, always in the back of my mind. I look at my stats and that's discouraging, too. Over the last 15 posts there have been an average of 14 views and exactly 7 comments. I really appreciate those of you that read and comment, but there's just not enough of you to make me feel like this is a worthwhile effort. So, I'm done. For now. I might be back, though, who knows? I'm at least done until next year.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wrap It Up!

Have you been noticing the wrap bracelets that celebrities are wearing now? I looked them up and they're made by a designer named Chan Luu and they're extremely expensive. Hundreds of dollars.

Photos from
Then, I saw this bracelet on Pinterest:

Photo from
This one has the gemstones laddered between two lengths of leather cord like the Chan Luu bracelets, but also has sections of woven Chinese knotting cord, giving the bracelet a lot more color. Plus, it wrapped around the wrist five times! The list of "ingredients" and instructions for how to make one are on the website.

That got me thinking... I had some leather cord and lots and lots of beads to choose from. I didn't have Chinese knotting cord, but I did have a huge wad of tangled up embroidery floss in every color imaginable. I also had some silver buttons that I'd bought 20 years ago for some kind of project but had never used. You know where this is going, don't you?

This is the first one I made. I used random colors and some beads that seemed right.

I had so much fun making it that I made another one. This one I planned out and tried to use coordinating colors:

Things I learned:

  • Since the embroidery floss is cotton, not nylon like the Chinese knotting cord, I couldn't burn the ends and had to glue them. So the back is probably not as finished looking as the ones made with the knotting cord.
  • On the first one I used a single strand of black Nymo beading thread for the bead laddering. I was afraid this might not be strong enough, so on the second one I used a #2 beading cord.
  • I understand why the Chan Luu's cost so much. It took me a day and a half to make one of them, so the price of $150-$200 sounds about right to me. If you really, really want one I'd make another just because it was so much fun. Contact me and we'll negotiate price.
  • It's a good idea to only work on these when the cat is sleeping.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Two New Shop Listings

Here's my latest Etsy shop listings. I'm also using Blogger's new iPad app, and I can't see how to link to the shop, or the listings. So, look over on the right side bar and you'll see how to do that.