Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Interesting Thing Happened on the Way Home from the Art Show...

Most of you know I’ve spent the weekend in Jacksonville, participating in an art show there. On my way home this evening, I was starving and out of my diet’s foods and decided that plain scrambled eggs would suit me for dinner. Spotting a Waffle House in Maclenny, slightly west of Jax, I pulled in, eager for my first non-veggie meal in two weeks.

Always trepidatious around corporate franchises’ ability to deliver healthy foods, I just hoped for non-greasy, salt-free eggs and perhaps some tomato slices (instead of all the carbs/salt/fats/sugars and caffeine Waffle House is known for).

When I pulled into  the restaurant’s parking lot, I noticed the plumpest Harley Davidson rider I’ve ever seen, just dismounting his bike and gathering things together to go in. I parked and rummaged around for the Mrs. Dash and garlic powder I’ve begun carrying with me. An excellent, fool-the-tongue mixture of salt-free condiments, I carried them to the door with me. Whereupon I found, waiting there the Harley gentleman holding the door open for me. I thanked him and rushed in, eager to find a table and eat. Having just done an arduous 2-day show on my cleanse diet, I was very hungry (and very tired of the pre-cooked meals I’d carried to my hotel with me, and of the salads I’d subsisted on for two whole days in the show – along with great antioxidant drinks, of course).

The waitress picked up two sets of flatware and napkins, as if the gentleman and I were going to share a table. Very quietly, I said, “Just me, just one here.” And she said, “Okay,” and handed me my flatware and took his to him at his own table. I sat my condiments on the table and then realized that I’d created a stir throughout the place. “Joy,” I thought… “Just what I need, to cause myself weird, negative attention in a small town.”

My experience everywhere with Waffle House is that it’s a pretty harsh, sterile environment where patrons pay no attention to one another, and the wait staff pretty much mirrors that behavior. One can relax in one’s isolation and anonymity, eat a cheap meal, and be on one’s way.

I ordered just scrambled eggs and slices of fresh tomato and unsweetened iced tea, explaining briefly that I was on an odd no-salt thing and could have only that. I got no guff from the waitress, nor attempt to make me order bacon or grits or hashbrowns of waffles. Just sweet agreement. She took my order and went back to fetch the cook. A couple in the next booth turned around to stare at me. I looked back and they broke into smiles. I smiled back and looked down.

The cook, an older woman, came out to cook and looked at me and said, “You brought you own condiments.” “Yes,” I said. “I’m on a salt-free thing, and I have to do this.” Whereupon she smiled and said, “I understand.” I’ll use fresh oil and no salt in your eggs,” and turned to cook up the fluffiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever seen.

I thought, “Wow… she’s good enough for the Food Network.” Others dining there looked at me and smiled. I began to realize that, in Maclenny, the Waffle House is the go-to cafĂ© on a Sunday night, and that the patrons and staff all knew each other. I’d fallen into a local scene, where eveyone knew each other’s names and churches, and were very comfortable with each other. I realized I’d been behaving like the odd outsider, expecting no one to be interested in me – or to even realize that I was just passing through.

As I opened up to this awareness that I’d entered into a community scene that was sweet and friendly and respectful – and tolerant of tourists ignorant of this reality – I began to realize how much I’ve internalized a big-city behavior of ignoring others and expecting to be ignored. And realized how they had just the right tone. Nothing preachy. Nothing pushy. Just happiness and comfort in being together. A sense of acceptance and serenity I’ve rarely known.

My platter of eggs and tomatoes arrived and I sprinkled said condiments on them and devoured them. I kept thinking about how nurturing this all was to me. Good food, not too expensive, cooked competently and healthfully… good company all around me. Lovely wait staff of three women doing their jobs elegantly and well.

“Okay,” I thought. “I get it.” Like one of those angel stories, or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or something like that. A little tap on my consciousness to wake up and be alive in this situation and understand something about receiving nurture, just because I need it. A magical moment in this busy life, where I rush headlong from one activity to the next. It felt like a lot of wonderful oxygen got pumped into the room.

And the reality that sometimes, in some places, things are just so very right and people are just living without the usual neuroses and conflict – or indifference.

The combination of good food and this undeniable social dynamic eased my tension and got me ready for the road. I realized my bill had arrived and that, for all of this, the charge was only $5.75!

I thought to myself, “You’re kidding me.” Excellent food and all of this ‘angelic’ energy? No way.

I dug a twenty-dollar bill from my purse and went to pay the cashier. She took my twenty and meticulously counted my change back to me, twice! I thanked her and caught the cook’s eye and told her those were terrific eggs and that I’d be back whenever I was in the area. She just smiled.

And then I took all my change (just under $15.00) and laid it on my table for a tip. I dashed into the bathroom and when I came back by my table, the money was still there. I smiled to myself and thought, “Good, they haven’t noticed. Let me get out of here…”

I walked to my car and got in. And rummaged for my eyeglasses for a moment. When I got them on, I realized the waitress was standing at my window, holding the money. I rolled my window down and said, “I did it intentionally. It’s for you and the others.” She said, “We were worried that you’d made a mistake and not realized you’d paid with a twenty.” I said I’d done it for them and for her to take the money and divide it however they wanted. She looked at me for a moment and I said, “You’ll never know what you all gave to me tonight, and this is the least that I can do.” She smiled and walked back in. As I drove away, the cook waved out the window to me and I saw them huddle together to divide the money, with great smiles on their faces.

While a $20.00 egg meal was so cheap to me, I felt like I got about a million dollars’ worth of value for my money. And it looked like getting about $5.00 each was making a difference in their day. My money came from the privilege I have, of doing what I love and getting paid for it sometimes. Sometimes well. And being able to share the wealth a little bit along the way. Whenever I’m feeling a poverty of spirit or in my life, I must remember this meal in this Waffle House, with those lovely workers and patrons. However whiney or beat-up I feel from my hard work, I must remember that there’s enough resource in the world and that it can come from unexpected places.


I've illustrated this post with two new pieces I've made for my Etsy shop and spring art shows. The top one is my newest Trapezoid Necklace with copper and Imperial Jasper. The bottom piece is a trapezoid-shaped Charoite cabochon set onto textured bronze. You can learn more about then in my Etsy shop, by clicking my slide show link on the right.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Behind the Music... er... the jewelry glamour shots!

I'm relatively new to photography, never having been a shutterbug before. I always relied on others to take the snapshot while I just enjoyed the view. But, when I opened my own Etsy shop and Facebook fan page about a year ago, I was suddenly thrust into a new world where taking competent product pics is an everyday norm.

At first I panicked and then I called my fomer business partner and best buddy, Sharri. She'd always taken the pics for the gallery when it was open.

Oh, I'd struggled through helping her, but was seriously frustrated with the process while she leapt ahead and became a great photographer.

So when my online shop opened, it was Sharri who took my first shots, just so I could open!

It was immediately obvious to both of us that this arrangement was unsustainable. An artist selling on Etsy had better figure out how to shoot product pics! So, off I went to the store to buy a camera as similar to the one Sharri owned as possible. (It had been the gallery's and so I had the teeniest working knowledge of how it, a Nikon CoolPix worked.)

I had no idea what I was doing when I bought it. Not what to look for. Not what I should pay. I did know I needed a pretty strong memory card and a tripod to go with it. But that's about it.

So I brought it home and struggled with it. I took truly horrible pics! And reconfirmed my theory that photography is a different art form than jewelry making, and better left to the photography artists who knew what they were doing, and counted on that for their living.

If only. Of course, a beginning Etsy artist has no budget for professional photography. Hence, the camera in my hand. So I leaned over the tripod and squinted into the EZ Light Cube and still took horrible shots.

Sharri was my best critic, always giving me hope and pulling me forward. As her own photography improved in leaps and bounds, she again took some shots of my work mixed with hers and I began to realize how wonderful my jewelry could look in pics online.

Her encouragement to move my work to a white background and to actually locate the 'white balance' in my camera brought my shots into a greater, happier focus. Her suggestion that I begin to shoot outside (more palatable in the winter than summer in north Florida!) was something I finally took seriously. And, voila!  Suddenly I was much more of a product photographer.

Working with my little camera, I began to gain the muscle memory that comes with getting familiar with a tool. I grew more daring and quit using the tripod most of the time. I reserved the Light Cube only for night or rainy day photos. I experimented with just laying my work on my computer desk to record the day's produce for my fan page.

My Etsy shop began to lighten up and grow more focused, my jewelry more magical looking. And this is a great thing, because my little business depends so much upon it!


The top photo is the whole, uncropped pic I took knowing I would crop down to the pendant on the white necklace display. When I began to edit the photo, I found the whole image interesting and it inspired this blog post.

This was a moment in today's photo session, right outside my back door. The rusty old metal patio table has an interesting rust pattern as the paint crawls off of it yet again. The pretty metal/stone pendants look like dancers waiting in the wings for their moment in the spotlight. It's just such a vivid little moment captured unexpectedly!

The bottom photo is one taken by Sharri for our art show at Barbara Psimas' Midtown studio last December. It was the inspiration for me to finally get serious about this photography thing and take good shots. That's my Asian-influenced pendant standing in the background (sold to a wonderful customer in California last December!) and Sharri's memory wire bracelet featuring her renowned beaded beads. The props are wood beads she sells in her Etsy shop.

Sharri's shop on Etsy is called TheBeadedBead. You can find it here:

She also has a fan page on Etsy: The Beaded Bead by Sharri Moroshok. See her work, and her wonderful photography in both locations!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Goin' green (on the inside, too!)...

Reaching the end of my 50s, I've reached a fork in the road. I can continue the too-busy/too-tired lifestyle I've had for a long time, or I can take the other fork and find my way to better health and vigor with which to greet my seventh(!!!!!!) decade. I turned 59 yesterday, and though I am young at heart and still experience great joie de vivre, my physical vehicle knows I'm no longer young and is rebelling a bit.

Recently, two very healthy friends reached age 60 and extreme things happened to their health. Who knows what treachery lies ahead? I'd come to feel it certainly would, if I failed to make some changes.

About a month ago, I dropped by a fellow local artist's studio/gallery to talk about doing some business. Always a pretty woman, I could not believe the sparkle-dazzle (and the weight loss) I saw on her.

Wondering if she'd had a super-spa holiday and perhaps some 'nip-tuck,' I was quickly informed that these were the results of a deep, intensive 'cleanse diet,' and that a new class was about to start.

Mentally quoting that famous line from 'When Harry Met Sally,' I muttered: "I want what she's having" to myself and decided I would plunge into the program and see what would happen to me.

The leader of the program held an in-take meeting a whole week before we were to begin the eating regime. This allowed me to take a quick business trip with my husband and to celebrate my birthday before radically altering what I am to eat and drink. But, the birthday is now behind me and Day One of the regime has arrived.

And, I'm happy to report, so far, I'm feeling great. I actually do like the beet/veggie soup I made in advance. And I actually like the 'green' antioxidant drink I sip on, too. I have great expectations that soon some weight will drop and my skin will be radiant. At the very least, I think I'll beat back some of those encroaching 'old people' problems that were knocking at my door.

If all goes well, this will be a great 60th year, before I actually turn 60. It's a personal New Year's for me. One filled with hope and resolution. One anticipating greater energy and concentration. And one in which, in a teeny-tiny way, I get to put myself first.

Pictured above is my Owyhee and Bronze Pendant, which has been sold. But I love how it turned out and how photogenic it is. I'm busy making other stone and bronze/sterling pendants and as they are readied, they are available in my Etsy shop. Follow the slide show of my Etsy shop at the right side of my blog page to see everything there!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Stormy day in north Florida and the Southeast U.S.

We have stormy weather all around us. A very dynamic storm system is lodged to the west and north of us, in a diagonal line that's drawing moisture from the Gulf into the storm. The good news for us is that while this is occurring, so far the system itself is staying to the west. If it begins to drift eastward, things will change here.

I'm keeping my fellow Southeasterners in my heart and prayers this day. The Weather Channel promises it will be a long one and that these storms will not be over soon. And am also keeping those in Kentucky and Indiana in my heart and prayers, too. For the worst has happened to some of them, already.

It's always interesting, when I fear that Dooms Day may be approaching my home, to figure out what things to take into our safe place. I grab critical papers, my laptop and cell phone, my dog's critical things, my pillows, some First Aid... and then I look at my collection of studio tools (the fruits and acquistions of my life's work, gained painfully sometimes -- and critical to the future of my jewelry career) and try to think of what is absolutely core to the survival of my jewelry making.

My entire pliers collection and wire cutters, favorite hammers, raw materials and finished jewelry. This time I grabbed my scrap pile, because the silver has value. With two art shows looming in the near future, I would not have time to rebuild my inventory, should I lose my working studio.

This is when I get in touch with how tools and materials are the future for me. Insurance on the house would cover everything else, should it be lost. But my studio, since it's not specially insured, would not be. And this is also when I'm reminded that I need to scan in old family and childhood photos and store them in 'the cloud.' (If ever I didn't feel too busy...)

But mosty I get in touch with the treachery of stormy weather in this region and how vulnerable we and our materials things are.

Photo of Glen and me on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North  Carolina, in the mid 1990s! One of the few pics I've scanned in so far.