Poetry Soothes My Soul

The last week has wrought many events that have upset my normally serene and content state-of-mind:

The Tucson shootings have left me even more convinced that the death penalty is a valid exchange for mass murder - I understand the idea of those against the death penalty, but in my heart of hearts, I truly believe that some souls are irredeemable in this life, that to restore universal balance, the scales need to be re-set.  Even though I understand that mistakes have been made and innocent humans have been executed, I still believe that execution is the final retribution due because of lives stolen away . . . not to mention the lives of survivors of the victims.

 

Other issues are again, not directly my issues, but as they orbit into my reality, they have upset my balance . . . secrets kept, once revealed - can be freeing.  Their revelations always bring about better understanding of the secret keeper . . . but if the information gets out, does that wreak more pain for those effected?  Only the secret keeper can weigh that issue and make that call.  Although I believe in full disclosure, I am happy to hold shared secrets until their time is come.  What is the psychological WEIGHT of a secret?????  That intrigues me . . . if I were to paint a picture, would they appear as a large burden carried upon one's shoulders?  I am reminded of Robert di Nero in THE MISSION, one of my all-time, favorite movies, the freedom he gained when he, literally, let his weight fall from his shoulders.

One of my dear friends and her family suffered a fire on their property.  Everyone is safe, but the loss of personal property, those treasured things . . . that is heavy, too.  What would I grab if I KNEW my room was about to burn?  My nook?  A Photo Album? My Laptop?   It is something to consider.

So, for all the heartache I feel in the world around me, for my dear friends and family that are dealing with these issues, I share this poem, which soothed my soul this morning.

 

THIS IS MY WISH FOR YOU by Charles Livingston Snell

This is my wish for you . . .

That the spirit of beauty may continually hover about you

and fold you close within the tendernesses of her wings.

That each beautiful and gracious thing in life may be unto

you as a symbol of good for your soul's delight.

That sun-glories and star-glories, leaf-glories and bark-glories,

glories of mountains and oceans of the little streams of running waters;

glories of song, of poesy, of all the arts may be to you as sweet, abiding

influences that will illumine your life and make you glad.

That your soul may be as an alabaster cup, filled to overflowing

with the mystical wine of beauty and love.

That happiness may put her arms around you, and wisdom

make your soul serene.

                                                                               This is my wish for you.

 

 

 

In The Meantime . . .

I had every intention of posting weekly . . . especially chapters from the <i>Coping Skills</i>book as a 'tester' - but, as usual, life happens when your busy making other plans. My estranged Grandfather died and it took him weeks to be interred in his self-aggrandized mausoleum; I spiralled into an emotional whirlpool (i.e., emotionally flushed down the toilet); I had an exciting 2 days of working in the studio for a whopping total of 3 hours; and, whammy . . . back to one year ago with pain and general malaise.  Perhaps the surgeon did know what he was talking about - 1 year until I am as recovered as I will ever be. In the meantime . . . I'll just keep stitching my percocet bottles and putting them on display . . . In theory - this is progress.  Right?  I mean, it is something.  Not much, but something. This means that in 1 year I have finished, maybe (if we stretch it) 10 pieces???  So much for my legendary productivity and self-discipline. In the MEAN time . . . I am working on my PATIENCE.  My LIGHT & LOVE. I am reading books, playing on a DS Light, playing Beatles on the digital piano, watching every documentary available on Netflix Instant Watch, compiling my Good Reads Library (I am near 900 hundred 'read' books), and being the best mother that I can be from my couch.  For example, I now know that: I can say a few things about the artmaking and parenthood . . .  taking care of your own needs - that is just putting the oxygen mask on yourself (as they instruct you in life and death situations in an airplane) before connecting the child . . . if you go out - then no one is there to save the kid.   I am working on some new series (slowly) about how the woman is the womb of the family - even for her husband.  All the umbilical cords go from her - and thus connect the man to the child, but through her.  She is the keystone, if her foundation isn't strong - it all goes to hell.  If she doesn't feed herself - all connected to her will suffer.   A child is born . . . and then we train them to crawl, stand, walk, run . .. away.   There are days I want to run away to a job . . . because the multi-tasking of parenting is crazy.  But even as disabled as I am right now - - - I know that me being here - on the couch - allows them to have a center - they revolve around me . . . they boomerang out and then come back home.  It feels good to give them what they really need - an ear to hear and an eye to SEE them . . . every second that I can give that undivided and exultant attention - it is more than most mothers give in a lifetime.  My kids probably think I am a terrible mother, but I hope - that in the future - as they look back, that they will realize that I SAW them and HEARD them.   This year has taught me so much about myself and life in general - I guess it was necessary, and it is still hanging with me.  I don't know if I will ever be back 100 percent physically.  But emotionally and spiritually, I feel like I have grown 'backbone' . . . and that, even from my couch "Yes I Can, Have My Cake & Eat It, Too". So, In the MEAN time - What I have learned is that: "Yes You Can - Have Your Cake & Eat It, Too" Sher Fick, 2010 1 -   I am more than just my title of 'artist' 2 -   I still define myself as an artist, even though I cannot artMAKE right now 3 -   There is something, somewhere in the near future, that I will find - that 'ah ha' moment when I fully understand the benefit from this STATIC physical state. Hello, peanut gallery, what PRAY TELL, could that be???
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On Reading - Gillian Flynn's "DARK PLACES"

Ok - so I bought a new book [not true: I bought about 8 new books and 5 art journals] for vacation (which doesn't start until Friday).  dark places Here is the thing - I stayed up all night READING one of them (DarkPlaces by Gillian Flynn).  It qualifies as one of those, 'perhaps someone else had a worser (I know this is bad grammar) childhood than I (I know this should say 'me').  The point is, if you can forget my bad grammar, is that it has been a long time since I have been gripped by a book in this manner.  I have 'enjoyed' some and actually 'loved' others.  But this one - it is like the first time I read Augusten Burrough's A WOLF AT THE TABLE or Haven Kimmel's IODINE.  I was rocking, reading, and closing the book, turning off the light, turning the light back on, until 6:15 a.m.
PLEASE TELL ME I AM NOT THE ONLY PSYCHO NIGHT READER!           Hence - being in an altered state of stunned stupidity (or perhaps just otherworldness), I appeared at a 10:30 a.m. meeting with my web designer, which isn't until tomorrow.  um.  ding dang.  I blame this fugue on my altered literary reality. That is what I consider a good read.  To be so altered that I don't know, or really give a taco, what day it is.  Another sign - when you feel that you have only 2 toes on your right foot, like the main character.  Check - GOOD BOOK.  Sitting up rocking yourself - CHECK, good book - thanks Augusten and Haven!!   Kudos to Gillian Flynn for having the balls to write about a flawed, but -therefore- believable character.   This girl woman - Libby - is someone with twisted thinking, but is loveable at the same time.  Which, as you know - is my goal in life - to be the twisted soul that I am, but to be loveable (and, loving, of course). So, dear readers, who are all readers yourself - tell me, what is the last book that kept you up all night???  I'm just dying to know!   Other 'wee hours' of the morning books from my literary past: IT, THE STAND, INSOMNIA (how Ironic) - Stephen King I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb  . . . . just to name a few!
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Part II - Durham Journal - Augusten Burroughs/Haven Kimmel

So Thursday everyone visited different things.
 
Kate, Baby Alice and I did a Thrift Store Bingo ride, led by the Tom-Tom. I found a few great things . . . in one store they didn’t even speak English . . .
 
Here are a few of the treasures I found in the Durham Thrift Stores:
 
 
 
Above you can see the great hat and dollhouse/shelf I found for Claire at "Everything Except Granny's Panties" - which had to be my favorite location of all.
 
 How could I possibly pass up these vintage copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books?  Garth Williams, the illustrator, really inspired me as a child and I spent endless hours drawing women and girls in old-fashioned clothing and sunbonnets.  I can barely wait to use the aged pages in some collage encaustic paintings.
 
 
Also at 'Granny's Panties', I found these bizarre Lucite balls.  When placed on the fabrics (those were given to me by fellow blog baby, Carrie) they create bizarre distortions which I find greatly intriguing.  I also found and purchased Lucite cones:
 
I am very intrigued by these Lucite objects as I will be able to create some amazing sculptures, their characteristics also remind me of my 2006 series "Collected Works" were I suspended obje cts in resin and candle gel within toy capsules.  If they still have any left in July when we re-visit NC, I plan on buying them all.  Sometimes it is hard to know until you get home, how 'valuable' the items will be to your artistic production.
 
"Collected Works I" with detail.  2006. 2" toy capsules with found objects.
 
Around 2 pm, we made our way to GEORGE’S GARAGE (which was sadly George-less). The decor was unique and so was the set up . . . Mediterranean food  . . . purchased by the pound . . . so we all loaded up our plates and gathered together (hosted by Caryl) . . . unfortunately Linda and her gorgeous son SAM were held up at Chapel Hill and didn’t make it to the dinner.
 
Towards the end Caryl and I explained DEAR CARRIE’s “Fugly Bead” game . . . which brought her presence right in the room with us . . . Molly won the ‘ugliest bead’ so will receive a masterpiece from Carrie. Each bead was wrapped in lime green handmade paper tied with tiny twine - so I kept the remnants to use in future artwork.
 
Here is a view of two of Carrie's masterpieces, which I call my "Molten Sky-Drops"
 
 
As we left many pictures were taken, but not by me, because I was just STUPID . . . I think GiGi has the most pictures . . .
 
We then all visited the Regulator Bookstore (fabulous independent, they hosted the reading) which is just across the street. I already have every Augusten/Haven book, but I loaded up on some others (including one of Suzanne’s and lots of art journals).
We also went to a store called “Vaguely Reminiscent” nearby and Amber and I (we realized later) bought the same lovely handbags! Kate found some smashing vintage earrings . . .
 
We headed back to the Inn to freshen and dress up for the Reading . . . As we arrived at the Carolina Theatre around 6 pm we were greeted by Kimbits (a fellow blogger) who came up to us and explained “ARE YOU KATE AND SHER?” - we had our own ‘fans’ and had been ‘recognized’ on the street. It was thrilling and sweet. It was fun getting know them better and then we finally got to meet Linda and darling SAM . . . and on into the theatre we went.
 
We were all held like cattle waiting for the official seating. The Carolina theatre is GORGEOUS . . . even the vintage ticket box was evoking of the old, glory days. We were not worried because, thanks to Nora Barnacles a/k/a Sherrill, we had reserved rows of seats right up front. I had made some tags just like the t-shirts, so we were set!
 
 
Kate's daughter, Alice, waits for the seating . . .
 
I totally embarrassed myself by acting like a dork when I saw Kat (Haven's adult daughter) and her Gorgeous Boyfriend Tyson . . . I was like “Can I say HI???”  . . . but they were gracious and chatted like normal human beings, of course!
 
 
Here is a row of Official Blog Babies, holding our seat reservation signs.  From Left: Sam (Linda's son), Linda Carter, Molly, Amber, Kathleen, Maureen, ME, and Sherrill a/k/a Norabarnacles.
 
Here we see GiGi waiting with her collection of Augusten/Kimmel books.
 
Maureen and I had already agreed to sit together because we had not had a chance to ‘hang’ much. You could even get soda/wine/beer and popcorn to consume during the reading . . . wow!!!! I was driving and in pain so chose Root Beer and Milkduds as a lift me up.
 
Awaiting Haven and Augusten was fun in itself because you could see the family hanging around the entry door . . . the introductions were touching and then Haven did a beautiful introduction of Augusten. They then took their directors seats and began on a riff . . .
it was obvious we were attending the Haven/Augusten Show and not a typical reading. It was HysteriCAL. All the sudden they asked for questions and we all sat there enthralled and stunned.
 
They really need their own radio show!
 
Then the signing . . . which was standing in line for what seemed like hours and probably was . . . as we were in the end of the line!
 
They and WE prevailed and stuck there as they signed every book proffered. I had Haven sign a “Klattermaster” book for Claire and she made sure to say it was MADE IN AMERICA. I also had my much marked up, highlighted, flagged IODINE and she talked about the notes and symbols she used when she wrote the book. I told her I was working on my own index and she gave her blessings on that endeavor. For Augusten I had him sign a specific page in my Wolf At The Table Book - which made me cry as I stood in line choosing which page . . . I finally chose the one with “my mother couldn’t protect me”.
 
 I blathered at him as I am rather amazed that he is alive, that he never tried to commit suicide as a child. I am just so glad he survived with such resilience of spirit - that is something that is impossible to figure out - how some of us ‘dark place’ survivors actually blossom and others fall into an eternal abyss.
 
So now, at 10ish, we finally make our way back to the Inn, Linda and Sam joined us there . . . and we are trying to figure out where to eat in the lounge . . . I go to the bathroom and everybody disappeared except for Sam and Linda. We wait and wait . . . and wait . . . then we finally leave out of exhaustion as well.  Now, instead of ordering room service and taking a long hot bath and going to bed early as most sentient beings would do, I chose to  . . . follow this scenario:
 
I was painfully exhausted and all I wanted was my 2 bottles of Italian wine. I was determined. Kate was visiting with her brother, his wife, and newborn niece in our room so I went knocking on doors . .. Shanna wasn’t next door so I went on down the row until Molly and Amber answered - yippee!!!! - I petulantly refused to eat any of their chicken they had smuggled in from TGI Fridays . . . and Molly went downstairs to have the bartender open the bottle of wine . . . and, low and behold, everybody had re-gathered down there! But we decided to have our bottle of wine (which was already paid for!) in their room. We talked about breathing the wine, the bouquet, and the legs . . . they enjoyed the imported wine and we had a hoot. Talked about the reading, the barn, the whole experience and even went into relationships and surviving abuse. It was a great talk with much depth and moments of pure joy. I love me some Amber and Molly and I am encouraged that we have such intelligent, hopeful young adults to help us, as humankind, move forward into a bright future.
 
Before we made our way downstairs Maureen and Kathleen returned upstairs and Kate called begging for the party to convene to our room . . . so we all marched or 'ballet-ed’ over there.
 
I did a hysterical search for a corkscrew again, called the front desk in sheer desperation while Maureen suddenly appeared with one. Ooops, we ended up with 3 corkscrews. So we had the 2nd import and Amber and Molly offered up their White Zin . . . Alice slept through the entire 4 hour slumber party.
 
All I know is this: we are an amazing group and I want to know all of you the rest of my life.
 
I didn’t get to hang with Caryl or Shanna or GiGi 1/2 as much as I really wanted to . . . so I am thinking another get together is in order . . . to include all the missing Blog Babies this time . . .
 
After a quick goodbye to Shanna and Caryl in the lobby after Kate loaded up earlier and went to breakfast with her brother . . . we headed out of Durham with one last stop at the SCRAP EXCHANGE. What a glory that was.
 
Here is an Ode to Durham and our Blog Babies Retreat . . .
 
 
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Post Pilgrimage - Haven Kimmel & Augusten Burroughs - Part 1

So, for those of you who didn't know - I have spent the last 9 months completely immersing myself in a writer's blog.  I first read A Girl Named Zippy many years ago, and have periodically looked up and read the author, Haven Kimmel's work.  Last August I did an on-line search to see if she had any new novels out and, low and behold, she not only had a NEW NOVEL (Iodine) but also hosted a blog on which she frequently posted and interacted.  I immediately jumped headfirst and have been trying to keep my head above water ever since. www.havenkimmel.com/blog Other illustrious writers frequent the blog, as well as general fans which are many English teachers, writers, and general AMAZING people.  By September, October of '08 we were officially referred to as "Blog Babies"  . . . in celebration of ourselves, Haven, and her best friend and fellow writer, Augusten Burroughs (www.augusten.com , author of: Running With Scissors, Sellivision, Dry, Magical Thinking, and the recent The Wolf At The Table) and their joint appearance in Haven's hometown of Durham, NC - we all decided to go on a pilgrimage to meet this denizen of peace. I know this sounds rather 'stalkerish', right?  But you would have to be on the blog to realize how close we have all become.  We know each others souls inside and out, we are our chosen families.  We have been through good and bad together . . . we NEEDED to meet each other and, hopefully, Haven. So - here is my Durham Journal: I've heard tell that you shouldn't build up an event too much because you might set yourself up for disappointment.  So it is with great THRILL that I can report the opposite - somethings and some people are so much better and greater and kinder and brighter than you imagined them to be. I am speaking, of course, of Haven Kimmel's LEGS   I will give you the benefit of a time line because I know that everyone is breathless for all the details, right? So, last weekend I spent 4 days creating 18 paintings based on Haven Kimmel's She Got Up Off The Couch memoir.  Here are a few peeks:   "George" for George Stuteville (http://georgestuteville.wordpress.com/2009/) Also, George didn't come to the Pilgrimage because he was wearing his orange crocs while gardening and did some heinous thing to his toe which involved xrays and crutches, but really he might have been scared off by the estrogen-laden atmosphere . . .   "It's Elementary" - Fellow blog baby Sarah ended up with this painting and it was delivered in person by Fellow Blogger Maureen and her sister Kathleen.   My actual journey began Tuesday night when I drove to North Nashville to pick up Kate Cake (fellow Kimmel Blog Baby from Evansville IN) and her almost 2 year old daughter, Alice.  They spent the night in my vintage bed complete with vintage Holly Hobbie Sheets and Claire (my six year-old daughter) really enjoyed having a 'little' around   Kate Cake (along with two huge Tupperware containers of sinful Oreo Bon-bons), Alice and I left our house around 8:00 a.m. Wednesday after some waffles and coffee (for Kate, not me - I was already loading up on DIET COKE).  We made it exactly .25 miles before we had our first stop (Walgreen's for anti-nausea medicine for Alice) . . . another stop for a 'maybe Alice is sick' and another 'oh yes, she is sick!"  This is all par-for-the-course in our family as both my older kids promptly vomited on ANY trip . . . Dylan's most famous was a green fruit roll-up projectile vomiting which hit the windshield and splashed both me and my sister, Susan, in the front seat.  He.  Has. Never.  Consumed. Another. Fruit.  Roll-up. But, I digress . . . we had a lovely lunch in Knoxville with my artist friend, Alicia Beach (see my posting, http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/04/beauty-by-produ.html to read about Alicia's art and for photos) - we ate at PF Chang's which was LOVELY and Alice was PERFECT, both Kate and Alicia had Sesame Chicken and I had Honey Chicken . . . yum! We then pressed on towards Durham . . . and we drove  . . . and drove . . . and drove.  At one point I had to potty (like a LLAMA, as my soon-to-be 15 year old daughter, Lauren, would say) so badly (I was trying not to stop . . . to save the 5 minutes).  By the time I finally found a rest area I was in such horrible pain that I couldn't stand up straight or RUN . . . I hobbled like an old lady, which greatly entertained Kate as she watched from the car. We finally blew into The Washington Duke Inn (www.washingtondukeinn.com) at 6:30 pm . . . many blog  babies greeted me in the lobby - the first was Maureen and Kathleen, followed by the most gorgeous and generous Caryl, with Amber, Molly, Kittery and Shanna close-behind. Kate and I did the quickest 'freshen up' and joined the gang in the lounge for casual fireside fare and beverages.  Here is a gathering of the gifts I received from Caryl, the greatest and most hospitable Blog Baby -   Caryl actually created a book out of our blog postings, titled: "Blog Babies, What We Read", she included an original painting by Cathy DeleRee (www.siestalane.com), and two books as well as purchasing a glass boot cup for me from ebay (this is a famous item I am constantly searching for). Haven and her GORGEOUS husband/potter/singer John Svara http://johnsvara.com/ joined us at 7:30 and as she rounded the corner into the lounge this was my thought: "she is my childhood hero grown up, she is Pippi Longstocking as an adult"   Here is, from the left: Shanna, Haven, Kittery and Molly - we are doing a blog baby pose - photos which capture our bottoms (or lack thereof).     another picture shows Kate Cake on the far left . . . This Pippi Longstocking reference is a great compliment as I thought she was the BEES-KNEES when I was a kid.  She had it ALL: a wonky-creative house all to herself, fabulous wardrobe, and all those talking animals (not to mention she knew how to clean - strapping brushes onto her feet and DANCING!).  As you will see, Haven embodies all these tributes.  A gracious, generous and unexpected invitation occurred when Haven invited the group to return to her home to meet the dogs and see her writing barn.  Of course we all agreed and piled into cars for this added adventure.  Haven was amused to watch the blog babies spill forth from my van - it was like a clown car, they just kept pouring out.    Here is a vision of Haven's inner sanctum - focusing on her writing desk.  It was a great honor for her to invite us over . . . I can barely share this image because it feels a lot intrusive (which is rather how I felt as well).  Due to my general 'bizarreness' I LOVED all the taxidermy, bones, spiritual items with which she surrounds herself as she creates her chamber . . . simply entering it gives one the feeling of intellect and wry humor, as well as a deep and pervasive spirituality.  I was honored that quite a few my pieces were displayed in this sanctuary:     Can you name which piece of art is a "Sher" original? Haven displays many miniatures and these broken ladies almost broke my heart, they were so vulnerable and precious. Wednesday evening closed with a nice lobby chat with Kittery and Caryl, both of whom I hope to know better and for a lifetime!  When Kittery needed to return a phone charger to Kathleen (in Maureen and Molly's room) I moo'd at the door for many minutes before a perplexed Molly opened it up . . . apparently I shouldn't moo after midnight . . . right, Mooooooreen (note: Maureen and her asperger husband, Andy, run a dairy farm in NY state, so this is an homage to her Laura Ingalls Wilder lifestyle)! Catch up with Maureen and her fabulous blog http://lovingthetasmaniandevil.wordpress.com/ . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Footnote~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Post feelings about Wednesday Night's Visit to the Writing Barn:  Thursday I started off feeling very awkward about visiting the barn the night before. We were invited, but it felt a little bizarre . . . about 12 of us sat in the dark on the deck in the back yard as Haven lured Cubby out . . . it was a gorgeous thing to see her kneeling with her arms around Iorek (her massive Italian Mastiff and Cubby (80 plus percent wolf cub) and Pupa (sp?, smaller dog) prancing around. Amazingly, I was not afraid . . . even less afraid of Cubby . . . to me dogs are terrifying because they have been domesticated/humanized and knowing the completely heinous heart of some humans who then train their dogs in this manner . . . it is the human influence I fear in the dogs . . . so Cubby, 86 percent wild wolf- I am not afraid at all. Any...
Any encounter in nature, rattlesnakes or whatever, those don’t frighten me nearly as much as a barking dog. go figure.
Entering the barn was amazing. Going through the double barn doors you walk through a storage area where Haven has extra taxidermy (including the chow-chow) . . . she has the most amazing bicycle . . . then into the inner sanctum. It actually reminded me of many of the convent/monastery chambers in Italy. It has been modernized with the exception of the preserved original window . . . drywalled and whitewashed it is a blank canvas . . . in which you can see the heart and soul of Haven Kimmel. Her beloved friends (her animals/taxidermy) are gathered to keep her company in her solitude. The pervasive feeling is of spirituality and self-determination. It is the epitome of “A Room of One’s Own” - what she has been able to create in this physically small space is monumental. Every item has been chosen for its imbued meaning and this evokes such a spirit of readiness to creativity - I am enthralled. We were in a tour figuration, but it still felt intimate. Unfortunately, I felt like the people that used to go view the Dion Quintuplets. We were invited . . . and i LOVE to share my space with people, but it still seemed a bit voyeuristic. Probably because we were in a group . . . that was Wednesday night. In this image to the left you see a full grown wolf and leaning in the corner behind him is an altered Tibetan style prayer flag I created for Haven last Fall during an illness. Seriously, knowing that IODINE was written there. I am speechless.
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Open Studio - Get Ready, Get Set, Go!!!

    This is my 'before' view of the studio space in July 0f 2008.  I was blessed to find a house with a walk-out Daylight Basement, including one wall of windows looking out over trees, a creek, and an empty field.   Over the months I have added massive amounts of lighting, covered the insulated walls with a patchwork of mattboard, old paintings on canvas, and tyvek.  This view is of the North end of the studio - you can see my lighting which is actually outdoor lighting with movable cans - - windows all along the right-hand side provide addition light during the day and a beautiful view of nature.  Along the left/back side of the studio I have multiple shelving units for supplies, storage of completed work. This image shows the double-sided counter-height workbench with storage that I purchased from Goody's going-out-of-business sale, they are also on casters and anchor the north central section of the studio . . . you can so the great windows on this end of the studio, as well.   My favorite spot in the studio: the wicker porch swing were I can meditate on nature right outside my window, read, research, enjoy some of my friend's artwork (see CASSIE, the shoe sculpture on the left of the window by artist John MacMullen) . . . all I need is a lampshade! Below is the South End of the Studio - future office/bedroom . . .   Side of the office/future bedroom end of the studio . . . 16'x22'  (above) Below, my last stop before art is shipped, any hanging devices, polishing, wrapping and packaging, love having a space set aside for this task . . .   Left view is of the workbench area - the central section of the studio - with lots of open space to move around . . . and storage for wood and boxes . . . of course, I have my refrigerator stocked with ice-cold Diet Cokes!     So I hope you have enjoyed the tour of my studio - - - it has been a long journey of waiting patiently, focusing on my specific needs (custom lighting and electrical outlets) and scrounging to find the perfect furniture and units for my needs - - - I have already created some new encaustic paintings and am working on several installation pieces and the space is very conducive to my creative process. I'm looking forward to continuing the improvements and organization - I can't tell you how fantastic it is after years of working in corners, garages, and dining rooms to have MY space, MY studio - exclusively FOR ART'S SAKE!
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Altered Books (Gift From The Sea & Wollitzer's Abstract Art)

Here are some images of the altered books I have been working on.  I am practicing up for teaching a workshop in February/March for Teens and Adults. I began with a book I treasure, Anne Morrow Lindbergh's GIFT FROM THE SEA.  I had a portion of this book read (by my gifted public speaker sister, Lisa Frazeur) at my 1991 wedding to hubby, Don Fick. Here you see the altered cover - I have bleached and sanded a sepia toned photograph I took of our daughter, Lauren, when she was 3 - she is wearing an antique family heirloom of a muslin slip/petticoat and a floppy white sun hat . . . I caught her in a moment of discovery as she let sand sprinkle through her open fingers at Crystal Beach, FL. Here is an opening page from the altered book - I have added my husband's and my initials from antique oak-tag and doodled on and around them, then inserted our wedding date.  One of the main goals in altered books is to collaborate with what is already there - by eliminating words, you enhance the ones that are left . . . by altering and joining any illustrations with your own theme/artwork - you make them become your own, without stepping on any 'copyright' issues.   Here I have altered an image of a shell.  By adding a glint to the eye (using watercolor pencils) and creating an eye (using gray tone prismacolor markers) I transformed the literal image into a surreal visual. Other aspects of altered books include: use of old photographs, collage from illustrations, distressing with inks and paints, aging with an emery board or sandpaper, gluing, tearing, sewing . . .      These following images are from a drawing book "Abstract Art" by Bernard Gollwitzer from the 50's - his illustrations are on the right hand side, on the left page I painted out the printed images with gesso, then cut out a female dress template from card stock, painted with acrylic then wiped off with a paper towel, using an embroidery needle/thread I stitched around the pattern, glued on a button with YES glue and voila, a finished page!         Altering books for me has become a very meditative event - I get to reminisce, create, journal, paste and glue, sew, a little bit of all all favorite things - and I get to use text and visual imagery together - I can be as sentimental as I want to be. Hope you can pick up a discarded book and transform it with some of these techniques - even if you only are a few pages at a time . . . you will enjoy the process as much as the resulting artwork!
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Mother Delonda's Cherry Red Pants Certificate

Created as a Thank You in honor of Mother Delonda "Spirit of the Cherry Red Pants" Encaustic collage, with attachments, finished size, 8h x 10w, created December 14-16, 2008.  Your unstoppable spirit has inspired all who read of your heroics adventures.  Your willingness to face life headfirst (ehem, even if over the bars of an unbraked 10 speed) kept me driving to and from college (a 70 mile trip) three days a week while still being a somewhat attentive mother of 3 and wife of 1. Your ingenuity (and adaptation of the cherry red pants) is appreciated by all resourceful fellow pursuers of knowledge. As an icon of 70's feminine liberation, I honor your accomplishments and your mincing steps. Your life has touched me to my very core and I am a better person for having persevered and have been known to exclaim, in an hour of despair that "If Delonda can do it, so CAN I".     May you have many more days of love and laughter, as you have provided the same for me and countless others.  "Congratulate yourselves if you have done something strange and extravagant and broken the monotony of a decorous age." - Ralph Waldo Emerson   The original is on its way.  Wait, you ARE the original, this facsimile of your indomnitable spirit is on its way! For Art's Sake, & With Great Appreciation, Sher
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Book Thief - You Know Who You Are!

This story is real, it happened to me, or I happened to it, this is how important my 'books' are to me:

One time I was traveling 800 miles with 2 toddlers (mine) and I strategically stopped at a fast food restaurant (Burger King) where they had a playground for the monkeys (the toddlers) to wiggle on

. . . and brought in a book I was dying to keep reading (The Perfect Storm) . . . so first we take a potty break (diapers, pull-ups . . . hands . . .) you know that routine and I accidentally, not-on-purpose left the book somewhere in there (the ladies' room). . .  

____flash forward 5 minutes______

I am standing in line waiting to order when it hits me - my freaking book is missing!!! I holler, drag the babies back in the women’s room as two fat ladies exit . . . no book . . .I get behind them in line and I hear them whispering

. . . I am telling the kids, somebody stole my book! So I ask the fat ladies,

"Did you see anybody take a book in the ladies’ room"?

"Oh no, no" they say as they look nervously at each other.

I look over and fatty number two has a suspiciously rectangular solid form in the area where her belly should be!

#*%&&

So I look right at her, point at her tummy (my book) and say -

"IS THAT MY BOOK, IT IS CALLED 'THE PERFECT STORM'?”

She looks away, gets her food from the counter . . . and walks away.

I loudly discuss with my children that thieves will have judgment from God or Karma in their lives and that they will never be happy because they are carrying such black guilt for what they have done . . .

I see the fatty with the rectangular object (my book) hidden on her belly go into the ladies’ room . . . then they leave.

I run in there and

******what do you think was in the wastebasket?****

- my freaking book!!!!

I was so excited! I finished that book, which was great AND I made that fat idiot feel like crap enough that she gave something back (even if she couldn't face me to do it)!!!!

Note: I have been fat, some of my family is fat, so don’t make any “oh, you said FAT” comments. They were FAT/overweight/chunky/obese and that is a description.

They did not, however, have bunheads (which is related to a future posting).

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Tooting My Own Horn

It's my birthday, so I am giving myself a present -   The Right To Toot My Own Horn. Here are a few quotes from messages I have received in recent months about my artwork . . . as I deeply respect both of these authors, I am stunned and humbled to be lauded by their beauteous words!

I.

"You are an art magician.  What you do is spiritual alchemy made manifest"      - Suzanne Finnamore, Best-selling author of Split, Zygote Chronicles, Old Maid and others. www.finnablog.blogspot.com Sher's Response to Suzanne:  You are a goddess among women - you have the wicked tongue and cool bangs of a true lioness.  I would love to have you in my pack of wandering four-leggeds - after we have all reincarnated from our current, sharp-as-a-tack selves.  We can howl at the moon from all corners of our earth - ye from the west, self from the south, and blade from the easterly region, I'm not sure if Kate Cake qualifies as northerly (we might need to subsitute Jim Shue as our northern sister kin as he is closer to the North Pole). . . or maybe Brandon, I need help on the 4th! Your Prayer Flag is blowing crimson in the fluffy falling snow (calling you home to North Carolina, I hope).  If I can FIND my camera amongst my boughs of holly, I will take a shot and send it forth . . . (um, I might need a week for that).

II.

" . . . this is what I want to say: you are not merely gifted technically, you have endowed those pieces with such heart-sweetnessI wanted to cry. My daughter and sister will see what I meant them to see: a touch beyond dimensionality, as fragile and sublime as the butterfly wings and the words of grief behind them. Your heart is there, and as a person who tries to never shy away from putting my own heart in my work, I see it and I offer you my deepest respect and gratitude. I know I am a loony as a religious person, but I do believe we are here to enrich the space we’re given, and you have done that; I thank you. Thank you sincerely".     - Haven Kimmel, Best-selling author of A Girl Named Zippy (as well as She Got Up Off the Couch [sher's favorite memoir], Something Rising Light & Swift, The Solace of Leaving Early, the Used World, and Iodine, and several children's books). www.havenkimmel.com Sher Responds to Haven: I can barely respond to your comments because they mean so much to me.  From the moment I read the first sentence of Zippy I felt you KNEW ME, that we had lived parallel lives of some sort, not only with the back story/region, but especially with your lighthearted SENSE of HUMOR which slays me - and then to discover the deep spiritual truths and depths of your writing - which reveals your soul in all its glory. Thank YOU.  I hope to continue to live up to your authenticity.  I can't think of anything adequate to say . . . so . . . Appreciatively to BLADE from LANCE, May we slay all the beasts in the nether-worlds,
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On-line Interview by Erica Volpe of West Chester University

Conducted on November 30, 2007 VOLPE: PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR Name, age, location etc.  FICK:  Sher Fick, turning 40 this weekend, currently residing in Rural Tennessee. Midwest until age 18, Atlanta until age 22, Princeton NJ,  Atlanta, Panhandle, FL (age 26-36), Rural TN since 2003. Raised in Rural Illinois/Indiana.  I became obsessed with art from age  4. My first success was being asked by my first grade teacher to paint a manger mural for Christmas - it was a huge wall-sized piece and I had to get on a step stool to put the star in the sky.  In second grade I did a  Bicentennial Poster of Betsy Ross sewing the flag - I remember putting in the wood grain on the churn standing by her side.  On a negative note I also remember painting an old-fashioned girl (long flowing dress) in a field and having fellow 5th grade boys say it was a Kotex ad . . . I was devastated!   Moving into junior high and high school I was involved in art class and state competitions.  By then I was known as the "artsy" student. Dealing with the issues of motherhood vs. artist the work is more visually disturbing, but is constructed in the same celebratory feminine materials - the actual juxtaposition/conflict of material vs/with subject (as in "Constraint", a hand-made, quilted straightjacket, created as an "Ode to Motherhood" or in "Tread Lightly", my wedding shoe altered with safety pins overflowing from the shoe), so I think initially the viewer is drawn in by the warmth and nostalgic surface and then, hopefully, looks for a deeper  message. I am not bothered by displeasure from a viewer, as a matter of fact some of my work should disturb - I think the fact that I am willing to express my struggles so honestly is distressing to many people.  It makes them uncomfortable - so I expect mixed reactions.  Getting a reaction is what it is meant to do, complete disinterest is probably the worst reaction!  Regarding reactions, I have actually sacrificed a close relationship with a family member because of my candid worldview and my commitment to my art.  I have to do what is right for me and my family and if others can't deal with it (viewers or friends/family) - then they can lump it.  To me that is their issue, not  mine.  I separate myself from the reaction (good or bad) because I don't  want to be swayed in future creations.orks/series. VOLPE:  What do you love most about art? FICK:  To me the expressive qualities of art making has become a very therapeutic practice.  I get very grumpy and "off" if I haven't had enough art time.  I also love the fact that no matter the age, language, etc. of the viewer, they can communicate (or I can communicate to them) through visual art.  To me, art breaks all boundaries.  I have this weird thing, too, where I just love to look at art - I'm appreciative of the technique or the sheer ability to express.  I have a few pet peeves as well - Thomas  Kincaide makes me livid.  Ugh.  That is another story . . . VOLPE:  What medium do you work in, why is this your medium of choice, and if you'd like to explain some of your processes in working  with encaustic or other mediums you use. FICK:  After training for years in various methods of painting (from liquid watercolor, acrylic, oil, and handmade temperas, gauche, and mixed media with collage) I would hit a wall after "mastering" the media - I became completely  bored and kept searching for new techniques to emphasize the luminosity factor - even worked with tinted resins for a while.  The first time I saw an  encaustic and saw it labeled that (about 1999) I was intrigued.  After researching I began auto-didactic practices in 2003.  The publication of Joanne Mattera's "The Art of Encaustic Painting" was a goldmine and it has become my encaustic "bible".  In particular I enjoy the flexibility of the media.  I can also utilize it in assemblage work and textiles (something which Jasper Johns began in the 50's).  I am drawn to the ancientness of the materials, as well, and  the fact that it is completely natural and organic.  I am an avid environmentalist so this is important to me to not leave a negative  footprint (as with oils/plastics/etc). VOLPE:  What do you get out of doing your art?  Financially, emotionally, spiritually, being able to make a statement? Political, etc.? FICK:  Well-being is the main reason I practice art.  Expression vs. repression.  I have had emotional challenges in my life and art is a  catalyst for my resilience.  Financially things are beginning to take shape  - but that is never my focus when I am creating art.  In fact, the less I  worry about what others will like or buy, the more successful I have been!   The emotional and spiritual benefits of art are hand-in-hand, as well as mixed with a feeling of accomplishment and productivity in life.  I always feel the need to be pushing forward, breaking down barriers (personally, culturally, politically), and advocating for liberal arts in general.  Politically, I am concerned mainly with the personal acceptance of oneself - authenticity is the true success and in this way I have found myself in a group of female artists. VOLPE: Much of your work is themed toward women, would  you consider yourself a feminist, and why have you chosen to go this route? FICK:  It was never my intent to create feminist art.  However, I think all creative endeavors are best when the maker is expressing what they know best and when they speak from a place of experience.  I am a woman - so my experiences  are related to that.  I don't want to box myself into a label, but I do not mind doing series of work which relates to a genre.  I also do  environmentally inspired work, they are just different series to me. I am currently having fun exploring this feminine side - I am going at it full on and not questioning the impulses to use pink and lace and paper  dolls. Some of the seminal pieces (before I even recognized what I was  doing) were declarations of my working out the struggles between being a mother and a strong desire to be a working artist.  The mother part of me was  expressed in womanly fabrics and "handwork", I just followed the trail and was then approached by another female artist to be included in a group exhibition.  That was the first time I ever thought about my art being  "feminist" - I actually prefer "feminine" as I don't feel a huge burden to wave a pink political banner.  On the other hand, I don't want to deny the political implications of equality, opportunity, etc.  I have met and discussed this (briefly at an art opening) with Judy Chicago - I understand her view points based on her era, but I want to be open to an evolving, modern femininity and its issues.  I see no reason  to repeat what has already been said or to fight for what has already been won. VOLPE:  Was it natural for you to focus on female issues and/or childhood themes or whatever else you focus on because of being a woman, your own experiences, etc: and what does this do for you? FICK:  I actually fought myself tooth and nail to NOT express myself in a feminine way because I didn't want to be labeled.  That created a major imbalance in my own psyche and it showed in my work, I would even not share work that appeared too "girly".  My journey of self-acceptance included the integration into my art of who I already was.  It was similar to trying to merge several personalities into one. As I explored the subject matter I began to discover metaphors of media to the chosen subject.  The idea of working with fabrics and quilting directly correlated to my subjects of constriction and concealment, fo r example.  Following these avenues led from one connection to another until I was, literally, quilting found objects into altar scapes (see, "Coping Skills", which will be my first traveling Museum exhibition). VOLPE: What would you like your viewers to get from  your work? FICK:  My favorite reaction is to an initial sense of "fun" and "nostalgia", then  a deeper reaction to the underlying messages of "myth of childhood innocence", "celebration of innocence", and, possibly, the sadness of the loss of those things.  VOLPE:  Are there any particular issues you'd like to bring up? FICK: I think artists should free themselves to explore what is important to them, to not worry so much about selling, or reaching 90% of the  population.  I hope maybe 5% "gets" me.  I also think that the most successful artists were not trying to create only "sell-able" work when they made their greatest breakthroughs, I like to say I am following a "creative impulse" when I am trying something crazy or new.  If you only pre-plan and produce what is already acceptable, then you remove the opportunity of making a discovery along the way.  I really encourage the idea of following the artistic impulse without question, then once you have created you can begin the analyzing  phase - usually meaning is revealed through/after the creation process.   Sometimes it is way down the road or it can be instantaneous - but if you don't follow the impulse you will never know. VOLPE:  Do you come across any difficulties in the  professional field of art stemming from being a woman? FICKE:  YIKES - that is such a heavy question. I do think that the number of females in administrative/curatorial positions has a direct effect on the art that is selected.  That being said, I also believe that women have to choose between making art and raising families, so there are fewer women artists in any given pool to select from.  I don't like the idea of being chosen for something because I am or am not a woman - any type of discrimination disturbs me.  I do not feel that I have been kept from any opportunities because I am a woman.  The roadblocks for me have been logistical - I have no brain cells when I am nursing, I can't use toxic materials around infants or while pregnant, I chose to stay home with my children until pre-school age (thanks to a husband who has emotionally and finincially supported myself and our children) and then only part-time, so the number of hours I could have been creating art have been greatly reduced in my life.  Therefore, my personal choices have created major delays and constraints to my art expression. On the other hand, I feel I have so much more to share now that I have 20 years "under my belt" so to speak.  I feel like I am finally getting a clue  . . . so those years of diapers, cooking, cleaning, playing, were spent in a cocoon which has lead to the final product - and I am still discovering metamorphic results as a woman, as an artist, as a mother, and THEN, how to blend those aspects of myself.  I have no regrets, but I do have  frustrations and feelings of being caged artistically. VOLPE:  Do you have another job? Do you have children? A  husband? How do you balance everything? FICK:  I was a paralegal for 7 years before being married - I created art as a hobby during that time period.  After marrying and having the first two children I opened an interior decorating business, which morphed into Art Consultation . . . at that point I began taking classes and slowly working on an art degree (it took me 7 years to complete my BFA).  I have worked as a Curator, muralist, artistic portrait/collages, commission artist, private and public art instruction - it is only in the past year (as my youngest child went to school full-time) that I have abandoned any other forms of income to being a full-time artist.  I saved up money from being a paid Studio Manager/Curator and am lucky that my husband of 17 years can pay the mortgage, etc.  All funds I earn from my art can be re-invested in my art endeavors.  I could be making a lot more if I wasn't committed to being a mother who is  accessible to her children after school and on the weekends.  My children are aged 15, 13, and 5 - yes, I had a bonus ("too many bottles of wine for New Year's baby!") - the timing was terrible and completely tripped me up career-wise.  So I took a baby break, finished my degree, and am finally back on my feet (paying for preschool was a major hit financially for me) - it would have been cheaper to stay home and give up on my art all together, so I chose to do a half way on both things . . . I have to live with my conscience at the end of the day.  My husband is very supportive which helps, but I had to sacrifice many things and had to pay for childcare while interning and going to school, so I'm still personally pay ing off student loans, etc.  This is something that most people don't consider.  The hardest part for me has been being torn, literally, between my children and my  art - I feel that both have suffered, but that I need both things in my  life. I fully intended at one point to go to graduate school to become an art professor.  Along the way I discovered my love of creating and that I didn't need the MFA to be an artist.  I hope to one day have a larger studio where I can teach workshops for children and adults to fulfill my art advocacy/teaching impulses without sacrificing my creative time.  I also continue to develop and guest curate exhibitions of which I may or may not be a participating artist.  These side ventures tend to fund the art supplies and can at times even create a positive balance sheet.  I am also involved  in group or individual creations of public art installations which are paid contracts . . . that keeps expenses covered and is a great network/marketing tool for the individual w VOLPE: Are you satisfied, overjoyed, anxious? What  would you like to change for you----what do you really, really, really want? FICK:  Five years ago I created 5 Year Goals - I reached all of them ahead of schedule.  I am making new "bigger" goals and I am ecstatic at this point. Conversely, it terrifies me that I have to commit so far in advance  to contracts on "intangible" ideas.  I think that is my perfection gene and the feelings of inadequacy that was drilled into me as a "Christian" girl, also having 3 children I understand the fact that you have to leave buffer zones of time and funds as you never know what might happen to delay things. One of my biggest hurdles was the decision to sell our house to purchase one with 1000 sq ft of studio space for me.  This will enable me to be accessible to the children before/after school, but I will be able to gain access to my studio at any time of day or night (I am definitely a night  owl).  This is a huge decision, but one that I feel will benefit all of us  - I won't feel so guilty in being away so much.  The biggest negative is  that I won't be in "town" in the middle of all the art networking.  I will have to make big efforts to attend openings, drop in on fellow artists, lunch, etc. - it is amazing the information that flies through the air between artists.  I will greatly miss that - I will also hold open studio times at my place for fellow artists to drop in for work days and I also spend days in other artist's  studios working on "hand" work. VOLPE:  Are there any words of advice you would like the whole human race to know, and/or especially up and coming women  artists. FICK: Trust yourself.  Joseph Campbell says it the  best - "Follow Your Bliss".  For me, my best results have always been when I followed my instincts rather than the advice of others.  That being said, I have a very tight group of mentors whom I regularly enlist for feedback -  these are people that "get" me, that I respect for their own intelligence and work ethic.  If I do not admire the person (morally, ethically), I do not give credit to their opinions.  If I feel someone is tearing me down just for the fun of it, I review if it is someone I respect . . . if not, then I let it go.  Most  constructive criticism is provided from givers. Negative and mean-spirited critiques are given from takers.  Distinguishing between the two has really helped me move forward and not be side-tracked in my work. I also think that being free of grades is incredibly invigorating.   Some colleagues find it impossible to be self-disciplined, but it has been the opposite for me.  I feel let loose on the world instead of held back.   I think you need to weigh the source, decide if it applies to you, and make personal decisions on your work.  In that way, you are completely responsible for any successes or failures.  I don't believe any work is a failure, by doing we move forward to the next piece, in that sense all pieces are linked to the previous - make, make, make and the success (knowing that you have expressed what you intended) will follow. Also there are no absolutes.  One professor might have said "DON'T USE  ANY TEXT IN YOUR ART", but then you see an exhibition notice for a purchase award for a library gallery which required the use of text . . . so, don't exclude yourself from opportunities based on someone else's rules.  Find your own rules, create them if you have to . . . let them be flexible. I take every opportunity I can get to share my philosophy and art with others.  It has been a blessing and encouragement to me to encounter in my day-to-day life such open-minded and invigorating spirits.  So if someone asks me what I do, I proudly reply "I am an artist and a mother" - if they are interested in more, I give it, if their eyes glaze over, I shut up.  The perception of being an artist in America is very different from what you encounter in Europe - there they practically bow at your feet, here they  snicker.  Strangers, family, (former) friends actually feel it is selfish of me to apply my energies to my art, that I am "indulging" myself, almost like a drug addict.  To me, being an artist is a gift and a burden.  To  have the gift of creativity means you should honor and protect it.  Of all the liberal arts, I think Visual Artists get the biggest put down.  It offends me, so any opportunity I can have to further the understanding and acceptance of Visual Arts are greatly appreciated.  If I had no creativity,  I would definitely be a Philosophy or Art Philosophy Professor.  I think that educationally, the philosophies play a major role in advocacy for all liberal arts - they can actually teach someone how to appreciate and analyze art.  The more people who understand, the more support we, the artists, will have. ~~~~~~~~~~~~END of INTERVIEW~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Rapunzel's Tower - initial designs

Here are the initial designs for Rapunzel's Tower to be installed at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Art Museum, Nashville, TN for the Summer 2008 "Happily Ever After" garden installations . . . I am happy to have Selena Long as a fellow artist on this endeavor.  We are excited that another artist, Lisa Bachman, who worked with us on Adrienne Outlaw's design of Peter Rabbit's Garden for last year's "Once Upon a Garden" exhibition, is also going solo for the Rumpelstiltskin design!  Adrienne Outlaw has been a fabulous mentor to all of her interns - check out her website at www.adrienneoutlaw.com !  Hooray for Lisa Bachman!  And me (I'm excited, too)! The design is based on this tower we saw in Burano, Italy during our Summer 2007 travels. Our version will be 12 ft high, and the base will be 4 ft x 4 ft.  The first level will be 5 ft. and will include a rock climbing wall on the front under Rapunzel's window with discovery panels on the other sides.  The window level will be 4 ft in height - Rapunzel will be three-dimensional with braided nylon rope hanging down the front of the tower; the other three sides will include painted, inverted shields depicting the Queen, the King, and the Evil Enchantress.  The final spire level will be 3 ft high topped by a flag with the lettering of SOS in medieval style. The final element will have painted stepping stones hidden in the grass surrounding the structure spelling out Rapunzel's name and depicting key symbols from the story.  Children will be able to have their own scavenger hunt.   Initial design for the King and the Queen shield panels.   Main structure design, without the details or the spire and flag. Above, the shield design for the Evil Enchantress, to be located on the back side of the structure. Below, small versions of the stepping stone idea, this is found in an old Martha Stewart Children's Crafting magazines . . . I ripped it out so don't know the publishing facts . . .   The next step is the building of the 1/12th scale model, approval by the museum of the model design, and then the construction begins!  I plan on using redwood stained with bright whimsical colors for the main structure . . . Lisa Bachmann, Selena Long and I will be brainstorming to make my lead design even better . . . there might be some evolution to the design, but this is the core . . . I am looking forward to sharing the process with everyone. In the midst of this - our home is for sale and we are purchasing a new home with a full basement studio - otherwise, this will be built in my garage and backyard!  For Art's Sake, Sher POSTSCRIPT:  I have been off-blog as my mother endured a heart-valve repair and an aneurysm removal last week . . . on top of that wee Claire, age 5, presented with a bizarre rash (at hairline and from waist to knees) which has "stumped" the pediatrician . . . kept her home in case she had the plague, antibiotics didn't work . . . no fever or other signs of illness....switched her to prednizone and -surprise- the rash dried and now has white flaky scales - apparently it (whatever it is) responded to the last medication.  I state this as the eternal example of a frantic daughter, sister, mother, wife, artist - struggling to balance all these aspects and still, somehow, create some art in the wee small hours of the midnight! Everyone is now on the mend and I am playing catch up and clean up while the house is still on the market . . . quest for creativity keeps me breathing!
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