Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wishing

I was reading a post today about making wishes. . .

It struck me as such a poignantly simple and beautiful thing to do. And one of those things we just seem to forget about along the road of adulthood. . . Sometimes I feel I am so fully connected to those childhood days and then, every once in awhile, I am reminded of something that I have somehow forgotten.  Today it was wishes. . .

The simplicity of a wish. . .  the multitude of reasons that we came up with to make them.
The power and the wonder of the things that inspired them.

But then, it occurred to me that I DO still make wishes.  You might call it something else since it doesn't happen with a dandelion in hand or a falling star to prompt me. . .

But it's a wish just the same. . . after all these years of seeking and discovery, I feel I have found my place, my path back to the beauty of childhood.

My calling.

And every single day, I wish for. . . ask for. . . hope for. . . one more day to create beauty and whimsy and the certain magic that you might find within my work, be it photography, music, poetry and writing, miniature worlds or Egyptian statues.

To continue to be the vessel it comes into the world through. . .
I feel I am in service to it.
I no longer create what I want. . . but instead, I create what I feel called to make.

And every day, that wish I make, is for the chance to do that all over again. . .

Tomorrow.




Saturday, December 8, 2012

Angel in the Fold

Ted Althof. . . of Tarentum PA. . . a man I never met.  An angel none the less.

It is strange to write about the loss of someone you never knew. . . but who impacted your life in ways you can only begin to sum up at the time of their passing.

When, just a few years ago, I realized that my path, my future, indeed my purpose might be tied so intrinsically to all that I experienced, dreamed and created in my childhood, I found it hard to speak of it. To share it with anyone through any method other than my creations. . . and that, from a safe distance.

We are all too often told we need to "grow up", become adults and leave behind the wonders of childhood.  That we can't "live in the past" and that we should move on from those old days and memories.

But i have believed for some time that ALL that we are is written in those early pages and all that time we spend trying to create the adult us is wasted most of the time when it does not factor in those early and pure pieces of ourselves.

But even I, who have clung to that childhood magic inside for so many years, have struggled with the notion it could be the basis of my purpose and pathways in life.

I do not remember how it was I came across the article that completely blew that out of the water for me but, upon first reading of Ted Althof, a collector of Christmas Putz houses who lived in Tarentum PA, not far from where I grew up, I found an angel in the fold.

To read of his love for the past, for his childhood memories and, above all else, the magic of Christmas, the way he had never lost that spark in his life. . . it did more than inspire me, it cast me in a form that will now remain with me forever to my death.

I am saddened today to have learned that Ted passed on last month after a long battle with illness. I knew he was not well for some time as he had not been updating his incredible Christmas Putz site for some time now. . .

I won't go into all the ways this stranger touched my life but I will leave you with this quote of his that has been woven into my heart for the last two years and that keeps me believing, daily, that I have found my path through creating wonder and magic in my miniature and fairy tale works. . .

"The power that an object unseen in decades can have to transport us in mind and spirit back to a specific period or moment of our lives -- to unlock long-closed doors in the mansion of our memory -- is the true value that it has." Ted Althof

Thank you Ted. . . you inspired the discovery, or rediscovery, of that magic in so many and many of us will carry it on for the rest of our days. . . just as you did in your life.

That original article can be found here:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

43 Degrees


I knew it would happen. . . it was just a matter of time.

Sun broke for the first time in four or five days. First thing in the morning and just weeks away from the shortest day of the year, the sun now rises and sets well within view of our windows.  It lit the eastern horizon, cascading over the coast range and filling the inland end of the bay with warm winter light.

43 degrees the thermometer read but with no wind in sight, we headed for the beach.

As we walked down the short trail from the jetty parking lot to the beach, the huge skyscape in front of us opened up. Voluminous clouds filled the sky, some tinged with the gold light of the sunrise and some, already, white against the brightening blue.

Most of the year, if one gets here early enough, you can have the beach to yourself.  Perhaps passing one or two others who may be occupants of the RV park at the jetty or a few locals who, like us, look forward to having this curving piece of the pacific all to ourselves. . . or almost.

Especially when it is rainy or cold. Even with the sunlit morning skies, i did not expect ot encounter anyone else walking today.

However, just ahead we saw an old man walking the beach with his dog. a Cairn terrier. The man, with a driftwood stick in one hand serving as a walking stick, edged along near the water, gazing out across the rolling waves. His little terrier, darting around his feet and stopping to look out at the waves, though I suspect with a less enthusiastic, shorter perspective eye. 

Once the dog noticed us his tail went up and he began to circle the old man a bit. His excitement increased as I made what I consider one of the many universal dog gestures for "come here".  He accepted this invitation and his excitement built as his short legs carried him up the beach to greet us.

I knelt down to accept his welcome and he skittered about all around us, allowing just a moment or two of petting before turning and returning to his master. It was enough time to see that he was an older dog, the years showing in the little ways they do on our ageless friends.  Ad we saw that had been dressed in a hand knitted blue and white "sweater" that ran from tail to neck. We laughed at this and commented on it as we continued our walk.


We watched the dog a moment more, waved to the old man as well, and turned to go on.

t one point I turned to look back and saw them both, man and dog, far now in the distance.  So small against this vast backdrop of sea and sky.

And it hit me.

I felt more curiosity, about a random human being, than I have in some time.

I wanted to know if the woman who had knitted that dog sweater was home awaiting their return or if the man came here to the beach alone because she had passed.  Perhaps he came here, where they once walked together, to feel her near.

I wondered what HE thought as he watched the endless cycles of waves as he has through all of his years.  I wondered if he felt peace and contentment with his life. I wondered if he felt he had done and been all that he was meant to in life.  If he was living in the place he most wanted to live.

I wondered if he had any regrets.
Or anything yet undone.

I felt all of this curiosity that life in a city, the previous 10 years, seemed to drain from my soul. Owning a coffeehouse, people are always willing to share their stories, their joys and sorrows and I have always been one who prefers to listen rather than talk about myself. It was a perfect fit. . . but the heaviness of city life, as it careens and spirals and rockets out of control in recent years,  as people struggle and awaken to more and more unfulfilled dreams, can really wear one down.

There, it is the greatness and the loneliness of any one person caught in such a contrived and stifling landscape. It is overwhelming.

I knew that the solitude we have embraced here the last year would allow my heart to open up again to that beautiful, endless wonder.  To the curiosity about one person that I know, in so many ways, is so intrinsically tied to myself.

It is a mirror.
A view into my own mortality

And here, I feel the greatness and the loneliness of one person in such a natural and timeless world.  It is inspiring.
 
As the tears welled up, I saw myself as whole again.
I felt the joy I've found being exactly where I know I belong
Doing exactly what I believe I am meant to do.
When people say "Oh, you're an artist?"
I say, "Well, no, I just make things"
And I tell stories with them
As I always have

Such is the wonder of accepting space and silence
Of embracing alone-ness and fragility
And the endless beauty of all that we may be, every day.

It 's all there
In one morning
In one moment of awareness
In a sky illuminated with the sun's rising
In 43 degrees

-nicolas

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What's Missing

She asked me, "Did you know that Malta is it's own independent country?"

I did know that.

That simple question though prompted me to think about HOW it was that I knew that. Where that little bit of knowledge came from and why it remains with me to this day.

It is there because  many years ago, on those Friday nights when my grandfather and I would watch Studio Wrestling as I drifted off to sleep, there was a regular wrestler named Baron Mikel Scicluna who, as it turns out, hailed from the "Isle of Malta".

I am sure it was one day when I was 11 or so that I took to leafing through our home encyclopedia and read about this Isle of Malta for the first time.  That led to a visit to our neighborhood library for more reading.  This was right around the time of Malta's claim to independence so there was much to read at the library.

It was planted in my brain and remained a part of my consciousness all these years.

But why it remains up there is, I believe, mostly because of all the circumstances surrounding the actual knowledge I acquired.

Today, when I think of something or hear about something that peaks my curiosity, I look it up instantaneously on the internet and, to be honest, it is usually gone from my memory capabilities within a day or two.  I believe this is because a large part of the circumstances that make things memorable are not there with such instant, high-speed gratification.

As a child, there was the need to research any topic you wanted to learn about and an effort required to do so. Even if it was only to get up and go into a different room and pull out a thick volume of an encyclopedia and leaf through it. Better yet to walk the long blocks to the library and pour over books and magazines. The trip there and all the surrounding experiences etching themselves in as a form of inducing the tactile memory.

I love the world wide web. . . it is how I make a living and I count on it for recipes, information, news etc etc but, I know deep inside that something is missing when I take that route. As someone who experienced life before and after the explosion of the on-line world, I can tell you that the convenience is not always the best thing for our storing and retaining of knowledge. 

Something is missing when you can just sit at the same desk and whip through one subject after another. . . there is no separation. No lead up to the discovery of the knowledge. No sense memory to help write it into our consciousness.

It's not a better way.
It lacks soul, as do so many other internet based discoveries. . .

I recently got a library card in the new county I live in. Just walking around the aisles of books and magazines remains a thrill.  And I am determined to venture there on occasion to learn things the "old fashioned way".

So they'll stick like Malta.
For years to come


Monday, November 5, 2012

Repetition


I ran from the ocean all those years ago. ..  like I ran from so many things because, the more time you spend with anything or anyone, the more it becomes a part of you and gets inside of you. Time spent in repetition, contented spaces and familiarity is what creates the natural space of opening.

And, so often, we shut down, self destruct or flee. . .

I found myself feeling too open in the presence of that vastness
The endless cycle, the constant.
The repetition.
I found myself feeling too vulnerable, too exposed. . . like so many of us.
So much of the time.

When I moved away from the ocean I said I would go back often to visit and instead I went a half dozen or so times in 11 years. Each time the ocean moved so much thru and out of me.

It cleansed me.
Prepared me to open
And I left

I am back now and, today, after my umpteenth visit to the ocean in the last 9 months, I felt the opening again. I felt the deeper places inside me rising.

I'm being given yet another chance.
Which, thankfully, is also another of life's repetitions
This time I am not running away

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Weight of Existence

It has been 8 months since we left the city. . .  there are ways I feel the change in a very immediate sense and then, in other ways, the changes are not as noticed until something brings them to our attention.

Yesterday morning, with dawn light just beginning to pour over the coast range,  I sat here looking out the window and watched the sky begin to glow. I turned away to begin my work day and, after a minute or two, I turned back realizing there was something outside the window that was just "off".

A quick survey of the surrounding area told me it was that there seemed to be an inordinate number of gulls and crows flying about.  To see these scavenger birds, along with herons, pelicans, swallows, terns, cormorants and geese is, of course, not at all uncommon. But to see them so close, circling and perched on the wires across the street, calling so shrill in the early morning, just seemed out of place.

As I watched, several of the birds took advantage of the lack of traffic on the road to swoop down and land at, what I then saw, was a dead seagull. It had been hit in the night by a car or truck. It lay on it's back, it's brilliant white wings spread out and slightly upward as if awaiting a deliverance from that hard asphalt spot.

I watched for a minute as crows and gulls approached and, it occurred to me that the crows were busy feeding upon the gull while it's kin seemed to be trying to pull at it's feathers. . . almost as if to remove it from the road.

A few seconds later I could hear the sound of a car approaching on the road and, as it reached the spot, it had to slow. The crows, always keen and aware in busy road conditions, had safely flown up to the wires again but the seagulls, more used to the lull of the bay and the ocean and at worst, a passing fishing boat, did not make a great attempt to get out of the way of the car.  

The car passed by going around the site and, a moment later another approached and I watched the same scene play out.

I decided I could not wait a moment longer and I immediately threw on the first jacket I could find and grabbed a large garbage bag and headed barefoot down the steps and out the door.

I reached the street and saw no vehicles coming. The crows and gulls had returned to their tasks around the fallen bird. They scattered as I approached, again the gulls not clearing the way but just moving along the road a bit,  and I stood over the gull, it's wings spread a full 3 to 4 feet tip to tip and each feather along the span still so perfectly and beautifully aligned.

I bent over and covered the bird with the bag and scooped it up as quickly as I could and, having not thought beyond this moment, stood in the street unsure what to do next.

Before that thought could be completed I was overtaken with the realization that a bird like this, that I had watched and marveled at it being so magnificent and impressive in the air, and even in the prone death pose on the ground, could weigh so little now here in my hands. The thought carried me unconsciously and I found myself then on the side of the road holding onto the bird, wrapped in the bag and I could not help but be fixated on it's lightness. . . and consumed with the thought of the weight of it's existence.

My entire day was affected. . . as was the next and still, today, it hangs there within me. 

8 months ago, and all the years prior living in the city, I would not have noticed "too many" birds gathering anywhere or if there was any rhythm or pattern to their movements at all.  I have loved birds all my life but not since the days of my childhood, when I would lay on my back beneath my grandmothers bird feeder and watch them in awe and wonder as they flew in and out of the tree have I felt that I was truly a part of this life WITH them. . .

There is no going back for me. . . the weight of my existence is growing noticeably and considerably lighter since I chose this place. What it allows for is more room to breathe and to grow, more emptying of the old and unnecessary and a stronger belief, as I often express in my visual art, that there is a theory of flight that just may allow us to, one day, spread our own wings and ascend.

nicolas






Friday, September 28, 2012

Warhol's Soup Cans

I am listening to a podcast about an event in the art world 50 years ago. That being the day when Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup can paintings first were exhibited in an LA art gallery.

I do not want to rehash the story, it has already been written to death. What amused me were the words of one elderly art critic who was part of the scene at the time and, clearly of the old school, went so far as to blame Andy Warhol for changing all that was "good" about art and taking the value and structure out of it, ushering in an era when "anyone could call themselves an artist" and it would be ok.

I have to laugh at the audacity of that statement. To look at the era of abstract expressionism that was dominating the art scene at that time and to read some of the lofty praise thrown about, even going so far as to compare some of the gallery works to artistic acts of "shamanism". . . is just as ridiculous to me.

Do not get me wrong. Jackson Pollock is among my favorite painters of all time. Though Willem de Kooning is not.  Yet many see them both as almost one and the same.  They bantered back and forth about who was the greatest artist of their time, often in very choreographed and rehearsed dialogues and then, out of the blue, were affronted when someone upstaged them and the art world was turned upside down.

What seems clear to me is that the establishment of the art world did not like that it's end time, as with all great empires,  came too soon.  It has rarely been suggested that perhaps the changing times meant the public simply grew tired of the reign of artistic elitism and the same rehashing of lines, geometry and colors that people later accused Warhol of in his pop work. 

If anything, it seems to me that he exposed the art world for the frail, hulking skeleton it was.

Just as I , as a child, feared the 4 story tall T-Rex skeleton at the Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh. . . even knowing it was just old bones, it's size, stature and ferocity overwhelmed me. As the art word did, and still can do,  to many.

I cannot disagree with the critic's dismay with the word "artist" being so easily thrown about. It has become increasingly annoying, not solely because of it's own rampant and nonchalant use, but because there is usually little explanation beneathe the word to give it meaning for each individual.  While this is not necessarily a discredit or disservice to other 'artists" it IS a discredit to the individual using the word so loosely.

There are skills that accompany any working profession. The profession or pursuit of an artist is no different. I do believe that everyone has creative miracles within them but often the vagueness of the word, in it's context, is what makes it so for the person who calls themselves an artist.

A "laborer" is another common term of similar ilk. It does describe a large general swath of the work force. But, there are hundreds of jobs under that cloak, each with it's own varied skill set, that are worth taking pride in.

And I DO see art, in any form, as a labor.
Not a high and holy calling that deserves lofty praise.
A simple and austere blue collar path.  
One that requires a lifetime of patience, investment and spirited input

I call myself a maker-of-things
I work in polymer clay, paint and miniature scales.
I go to work on my art EVERY day
Though unlike the artists of DeKooning's era, I do not sit around drab bars at night and espouse my genius and my soul searching, gut wrenching art.  I have no interest in that bullshit.

As a child of the 80's I felt far more in touch with Warhol. His creations were more immediate than the art I found in many galleries and high art publications.  It was, if I had to choose one word, accessible. And that, in my own opinion, is what all great art should be. 

Looking back 50 years, I believe Andy Warhol opened doors for future generations in many ways.
If not in the elitist art world which, though no longer an intimidating  T Rex, does still thrive and exist, then in the world that came to realize that it is the viewer, and only the viewer, who truly determines the worth of any object.

There should be no turning back the hands of time
I applaud the abstract artists for their time as I do Warhol for his. 
This then, is a new time
A new world of art is created every single day

And as another icon of the pop era said, quoting a 19th century poet:

We are the music makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams. . .

~nicolas






Thursday, September 27, 2012

Playing with Passion

I constantly get asked where I find the time to create such a variety of items in such a wide range of mediums.  In addition to the three online shops I also write music and poetry too. And, yes, I make time for all of it.

The truth, as closely as I can tell it is this. Since I was a young boy, creating has been the most important thing in my world in one way or another.  What people get to "see", through my online shops, is just the tail end of that lifelong process.

The shops have only been open for two years. But the creativity and passion behind them are a force that has guided me for the last 40 years.

I try new ideas all the time because I have, thru that 40 years,  eliminated that angst artists often feel about how "good" their work is.  I know when I make something for the tenth time it will be many times better than the first iteration. But I know that my calling for creating is going to make sure that my first iteration is definitely setting the bar high.

If I have one true "passion" in life it is to make things. Now, the list of things I love or have deemed as a passion thru the years is quite long. Cooking, golf, travel, history, mythology, ice hockey, Zen study, building tree houses etc etc from ages 10 to 40 I filled my "spare time" with all sorts of pursuits. . . and they have all served me well.

But there from the start, before and through them all,  was the desire to make things.  

This is the inherent quality I talk about a lot.
Figuring out what is at it's core is a must for each person to be truly happy in life.
And I can almost guarantee you that your true passion somehow, someway, ties into who you were at a very young age.

It will manifest in a variety of ways throughout the years.
But it will have a raw and undeniable form that you will recognize.

And that form will not be based on how much money it can make you or how many other people will relate or understand it. It may be the one thing that leaves you feeling so very much alone. . . that too, in my opinion, can be a beautiful and healthy thing.

Creating your life, creating the happiness you seek, is inevitably tied to things we have always known in life.

How we can best manifest that in a daily form is ours to discover. . .
And then, when we do, it is up to us to change our lives to accommodate it fully. 

So, how do I manage to create so many things?
I simply NEED to. . . more than I need many things that other people fill their days with.
More than I need any of those things I used to list as my "other" passions. . . there just is not time and, if I want to succeed in creating a life from creating, I have to be willing to let some things go

So far, so good. . .

I have 40 years of history and passion behind me every step of the way. :)

nicolas



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine - #2

Here are my September selections of work samples from my three Etsy shops.

My Antarctica
"From the Inside Out"
Photographic Construction 8 x 10




Bewilder and Pine
Miniature Onegai Jizo Statue




Shadow of the Sphinx
Full Ibis Form Djehuty Votive Statue




Thank you for looking!

Whatever it is you are seeking in this world, I hope you find it in everything that you see!!

nicolas

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cycle of Seasons

I haven't written anything here for some time.

This is not out of a lack of ideas or content. . . it is more that my brain has been overloaded with thoughts.
Creative ideas
Reflections
Nostalgia
Memories
Possibilities and questions

It's autumn. . . or close enough
My mind does this at the end of every summer as it has since the days of grade school.

It's like fall is a reset button in my soul.
I find myself purging old thoughts and attitudes
My eyes open to new things and something in me seems to connect with the faltering of summer
and the transformations of fall.

It's the beginning of my creative season too
Following the warmest season which always seems to leave me in a fog. . .

And this year, on top of it all, I find myself thinking more about the possibility of whether there is a divine plan to it all

My life has had more than it's share of turning points and moments I can only describe as "guided"
All along, since I was 7, possibly earlier, I've felt the presence of other forms and entities around me.
Voices have, literally, saved my life
Imagination too has been a saviour of sorts
And I've gone off course before over the years
Only to pulled back by luck, fate, timing, circumstance. . .
Call it what you will
It comes along with the cycle of seasons too. . .
And life as one big cycle, is fulfilling that as well now
In the summer of my life, the fog all around me, I lost the way
Not completely mind you
But I read the signs wrong
Missed the opportunities to advance and grow
Or perhaps, I was just "biding my time"

Now, the autumn of life is here for me
The years are past their brightest and fullest point
this, I expect, is a very good thing

The fog is clearing
The voices and dreams are returning
I am on course again
Finding the strength to stay steady
Is a daily challenge
And so I come back to imagination
As I always have
The worlds I invent
Are what keep me in reality
As I create it
Walk through it
And disappear

nicolas hall

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Counting Days

I watch the first line come into view out of the heavy coastal fog and I count them

9

They pass and this is followed by another line

7

Moving as if attached to an invisible cable.
Moving as a rollercoaster might as it passes over undulating hills of wooden track.

12,  7 ,  15.  4

Each appears out of the gray, rolls up and down along the shore, dipping above and below the break of the waves then banks at the rise of the jetty and moves out towards the open ocean.  

I want to be closer.
I want to hold this moment

Suddenly the two longest lines of all
33
and
21

Back to back

All move along the same path and all emerge and fade into the fog covered abyss.

I have never seen so many pelicans in my life
These are surely one of the most graceful and beautiful of birds
People think of them as awkward and big because we judge everything by the same standards we defeat our own kind with.

These are magnificent aerial angels who move with the design of the sacred
They do not subscribe to, and are untouched by,  our small thoughts and limitations
To watch them is to be transformed too

But I want to be closer
I want just a minute more to commune

6, 12, 5

Later that day we walk to the bay at low tide
I am still thinking of the pelicans
I know we will see gulls, cormorants, herons and geese
And they are all magnificent
But pelicans. . .

We walk along the exposed mud flats and, around the turn of the bay, we see the sun illuminating gulls resting on the shore

And among them, as we draw closer, the Pelicans are here too
Dozens
Bathing
Sitting
Waiting

A wish answered
This day will never come again
I number it as well
One to remember



-nicolas hall

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spirituality in Miniature



Why do we do what we do?

I am not sure I ever asked my self that question until I hit my mid thirties.  I always enjoyed my work. From chef to coffeehouse owner to musician to recording engineer to multimedia performer.  Everything I set out to do in my life has been, for the most part, a joyful experience.

Each brought new insight and understanding to my world and each has imparted something to the creative path I am on now.

When I think about what I do now, the reason I make miniatures, why I create little worlds and spiritual descansos and dabble in whatever suits me on any given day, I see it is directly related to the days of my childhood.

There are, in play, rituals as profound as any other we may experience in adulthood.  Ones that set us on a path that, if it is true to our nature, will remain with us forever. As I began to ask the questions of "why" in my life, all the answers seemed to point back to those early days. And, the more I realized this, the less satisfied I was with the things I pursued as my "work".

When I was 12, and my mother decided it would be ok for me to have my first true model railroad,
I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I was instantly consumed with the planning and layout and creation of the miniature "world" beneathe our holiday tree. It came naturally to me. Just as I had done my whole childhood, I created stories and sub-plots for what went on in my little train town.

It became a ritual to bring the town to life every year and create new stories within it by adding new features. I started earlier, often planning the setup as early as my school summer vacation and I left the village and train up later each year.

The art of miniature from railroads to dollhouses to terrariums to keepsakes allows for the creator and the buyer to indulge in this highly spiritual ritual. The time spent on  such things is meditative and relaxing and allows for the creator to "get away" from the other life they may lead.

We can create ideal places and can pour our innermost dreams and desires for how we wish to live our own lives into them. We make a ritual out of the creation and care of such places and, indeed, the way we tend them over time often runs parallel to the way we tend to our other, adult lives. And sometimes, when that falls out of balance on the imagination side, it is a sign that we should look at changing that "real world" around us to reflect what it is we are missing.

So yes, for me the creation of miniature is truly about ritual and a spiritual application of the work it takes to make such things.

Ritual combines repetition and a certain spiritual or religious observance . . . and both of these are traits that, I believe, are common in many of us during our childhood years.

We cultivate ritual in our games and in our imagination. Those worlds we create are what keep us aligned with our true inner voices. They speak through the roles we create and adopt within those adventures, It stands to reason then that I also believe one of the things we cast aside all too often in our desire to be "adults" is that ritual of wonder.But it is never far away.

Life offers every opportunity to find or create such places again.
Along the way we do need reminders though.
We need little votives marking possibility
Miniatures may act like polestars.
They may be signposts
They can keep us on track

I have never been more content than I am right now in my life. I feel completely at ease with what I do and where I am going with it. In between childhood and this moment, I definitely lost my way at times. But it is funny how, along the way, there would always come a reminder. . .

A model railroad catalog
An artist working in miniature
Walking through a toy store or hobby shop
Sitting in the silence and ritual of a monastery
Visiting old, forgotten towns that seem to linger in simpler days
These were my polestars
They kept me close to the path
Tugged at my childhood love of ritual
Once again became my religion
They brought me back home

And I will never leave again. . .

nicolas hall




Sunday, August 19, 2012

Any Given Path We Choose

I, and so many more people I know, are certain that their life's "spiritual path" lies along the lines of creativity.  In this day and age when it is becoming ever more realistic to entertain the idea of making a living from ones creative work, I think it is important to say a little something about the reconciliation between the two.

For one, I see a lot of people give up way too quickly on their creative goals, both as a means of making part, or all of a living from it, and in terms of exploring it as a spiritual path. I suspect this is, in great part, due to what my Zen teacher used to say all the time. "Anything that you truly love or love to do will be lonely."

Creative work usually demands we spend time alone and many people simply are not good at this.

So I would just like to share a quick thought on these ideas above. Just my own perspective.

I am fortunate in this way to have always craved my time alone. It's a preference I developed very young and though it came from a myriad of factors, some just circumstance and some created, it is something I treasure for all of those reasons now.

The spiritual part of my creativity is easy for me to accept. I have been creating since I can remember and there is nothing in the world that makes me feel more at peace, more at one within my own life and more true to who I am. It can take many forms and, in truth, I have been working in fields that always allowed some creative outlet since I was 19.

Now, that spiritual exploration is separate in every way from creating with an idea of it being considered "art" or being "marketable". The two do not coexist in most ways. Any idea of what art is is a creation outside of the spirit. A marking of the time and place and a mix of history and relevance but not at all to be linked with the spirit of creating. For me, this makes it easy to see my creative work as my spiritual path. It is also why I work in so many different disciplines. 

Making music, for years, was how I dealt with the world around me. A therapy undoubtedly. . . but not my creative spiritual path.  When I realized that, I began to try other disciplines. Photography, painting, writing. . . of course, they were all there all along. But the spiritual path has to come from something deeper. More from your landscape of childhood and early experiences.

That path was reserved for the creating of worlds and sinking into them. . . BELIEVING in them. . . that is at the very heart of who I am. It is how I live my life daily. And it has always been that way since I can recall.

As a child, empty cardboard boxes became houses and cars for action figures who not only were part of a world with identities and lives of their own, but who were integral to my own. Not separate.

I became part of the sports teams I followed through my own invented games and ways of playing those games all on my own. For the most part, I could not share them. . . nor did I want to.  They were a part of me. A spiritual part I realize now.

But then I just played because it came naturally. As it does to most of us in childhood.

So, after 20 years of playing the "adult world" games and never feeling the same satisfaction, I began working towards merging it all again.

I am just two years into this process and nowhere near where I want to be though, yes, I do primarily create for a living now. I work at home and spend countless hours in my own imagination once again.

But in both the potential for that creative life and for it's spiritual depth, I am just scratching the surface.

Everything I create for sale has a story, Each story has layers to go before I reach the depth I want to achieve with my creations. Also, the level at which I execute each piece is just beginning to grow. This ideal is also what keeps me from ever being bored. There is always more to learn and deeper levels to go to. And this is another area where many often fall short and give up.

There is such depth in routine and in working through repetition that cannot be found any other way. Especially in the spiritual realm. Much like people who travel, bouncing from place to place for a day here a day there and never settling in and really taking in a culture or a locale. It is still wonderful to travel but it lacks the depth of understanding that comes only with investment of time.

I feel like the transition back to this creative, all inclusive world was somewhat easy for me.
I was fortunate in this way too.
I have always believed in what I do.
In the things I make.
In what I have to offer.

That has come with the 20 plus years swimming in the adult world.  And the time invested in places, people and endeavors. . . all learning lessons preparing me for now.

That's all I can say at this moment. . .I am still just beginning in so many ways.
And I do not believe one masters this or any path.
I think it is a daily process of learning and growing that never ends.

But at the core, either creatively or spiritually, are a few truths

Be strong enough to work at it daily
Embrace being a beginner and the learning curves that go with it
Believe it is the most important thing you can do for yourself or your life
Accept that it will be hard and lonely at times

But if you love it, if you have ALWAYS loved it. . . know that it is the right path for you too. 

Thanx for reading,

nicolas



Monday, August 13, 2012

Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine - #1

I'd like to also begin sharing my work from my creative studio here. For those who do not know, I have three very distinct shops on Etsy.  So, once a week, I will feature one selection from each shop here to give you all a feel for what I do and how all those wonderful childhood creative pursuits have now come back full circle and are allowing me to make a living from my love of making things. :)

Theory of Flight - Blue Herons Limited Edition Print from My Antarctica
 Visual art has been there within me since I was able to finger paint. lol but in truth I just took up the art of photography about 6 years ago. The digital realm allows for me to create things I only see in my head that would be either impossible or impractical to try and stage as a photograph. In the case of Theories of Flight, the backgrounds are Encaustic swirls of wax and color and the image is a photo etching over top.

Sekhmet and Bast from my new Mini Copper Patina Votive Statues from Shadow of the Sphinx
 From the time I first saw images of the tomb of Tutankhamen I was hooked on ancient Egyptian religion and art. The more I read about it the more I was drawn to the humbler everyday practice of votive worship and the more my own creations reflected that. Simple statues for everyday home altars and offerings.
My newest Burano Italy HO Scale Houses - SOLD - From Bewilder and Pine
I am forever under the spell of Venice Italy. Who wouldn't be? The houses of Burano island are just over the top. The colors and the distinctive walkways are so mesmerizing to me. These seem to go out of my shop as fast as I can create them which, I assume, is because so many others are also under the Venetian spell!!


I hope you enjoy my work and I hope you will visit the shops to see more~

Until the next,

nicolas

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Value of Time - Etsy Lessons - Creating a Life Around Creating

It is one of the biggest discussions in the creative marketplace.

"How do you value of the time you spend making an item you sell?"

The mistake, to me, is in the asking of the very question itself.

The question, from the working or want-to-be working artist's perspective should be:

"What is the value of the time you are given to spend creating?"

Subtle difference? Only in the wording.

The first question asks us to look at how much we want to make for our creative efforts. Regardless of the skill level, the perceived value, the quality of materials, the market that exists for the finished product etc etc. It's a sales/financial oriented question top to bottom and often, in my experience, it puts people in a huge hole from the beginning in their attempt to make a viable living from their craft.

The second question asks us to define how valuable it is for our SOUL to spend time creating.  There are only 24 hours a day. How many of them can be spent doing what we truly love is directly influenced by only one thing really. How we have built our life around us to sustain those creative hours. In other words, how simply we live. The less money we have to make "out there" to support ourselves, the more time one can spend within. In that creative space.

The question, at it's deepest root is, do you value "having" or "being"?

I believe the reason more people focus on the first question is because it is how we are programmed to think by the society we have grown up in. An acquisition based philosophy that leads to so much suffering and sadness.

How much money we make is at the core of so much stress in our lives. But that is a perspective that needs to change for the better good in this world. How much we need to make is directly influenced by one thing only. What kind of a life we have created and are creating for ourselves.

I am amazed when people talk about the problems within the world economy today that no one mentions the one thing that seems, to me, to be at the heart of almost all of it.

Greed.

Gone are the days of valuing a simpler life and in it's place we have sunk deep, thirsty roots in the soils of acquisition, status and wealth.

Call it whatever you want but when we NEED the newer car, the faster computer, the nicer house, to live in the middle of a city, the designer clothes, the two week vacations, the dining out, the best concert tickets etc etc etc we are choosing that. They are not necessities. They are superficial needs and that need is a product of human greed and desire. We choose them. And, that is perfectly fine. . . but, if what we want most, if our soul NEEDS is to create? What do those niceties have to do with anything in that chosen life?

We choose. It is all our doing and our undoing.
So, my next question to anyone who wants to make a living creating is:
"How much are you willing to do without?

It might mean tough choices. Giving things up. Doing without. Settling for less.
But sometime less IS more.

Somehow we have gone from a society that once believed in building towards a dream to one that believes we simply DESERVE and have a right to be living the dream.

Charles Bukowski, in one of his better known works, put it best:

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners

it hasn't told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone  . . .

 <><><>

Our time here on this planet is deceptively short. Too short to think we have enough of it to do all that we might like to do. So it is important to first define what we truly need, one or two things at most, then show that we value them and build our ENTIRE life from those points and ONLY those points.  If it does not serve them, it does not belong. Period.

Remember that if it is in our soul, it is a lifetime's work. It will take a long time to fulfill it. A lifetime of building towards that dream we hold. No guarantees. Just the pursuit of a soul fulfilled.

It's enough,
Trust me

Just let go. . .



Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mazeros' Drugstore

It sat on the corner and you entered through one of those odd angled "corner doors" that had steps down to either sidewalk with a pillar in between

It sat adjacent to some other business on the 2nd avenue side of the block
An insurance agent
A notary
I don't remember
It was surely something that a 12 yr old would never care about

When you walked into Mazeros' drugstore the ceiling fans turned slowly above you and the long, dark wood floor drew you right inside

The place was filled with all sorts of sundry items that also were of little interest to me
Cotton balls
Rubbing alcohol
Ace bandages
Dr Scholl's foot pads

For me, it was all about a particularly large glass and wood display case
Back then, I entered that door so many times with my grandmother or my grandfather and
was funneled to the back of the store.
Pushed along by unseen hands to where that case waited.

Passing the old soda fountain counter with the round, spinning chrome and leather stools and the old, tarnished cash register with it's numbers that popped up as Mr. Mazeros' arthritic fingers rang in the purchases

It was the case that held it all for me
The now and laters
The chocolate bars
The Swedish fish
The baseball cards
Neat rows of all the things a 12 year old boy could want

I didn't know it then but the world around me was changing
Industry closures and recessions rearing themselves on the neighborhood periphery
As I was entering middle school and meeting a hundred new faces daily
Each of us colliding like tiny particles and, as life insists, rocketing off in as many unknown directions just as quickly.

Thirty and more years later I can imagine the faint trails of them all.
Whatever the cause and effect of that collision, it surely played a part in bouncing me further out there, into the mostly solitary universe I was already busy creating and in no hurry to leave.

A 12 yr old never thinks that much about the changes happening around him
Never notices that a neighborhood is already in it's decline
That the people he loves are aging and that life is visibly and terribly fragile
Even with all the signs showing
It happens almost unseen

It hits me sometimes
As it did just now
Not because of a certain birthday passing, or a marker or an event
Not because of a death or a birth

Maybe it is because I am returning to myself inside
After years of faking adulthood and playing "grown up" to an ever growing audience of that certain, expectant misery, I am creating a life from the same universe I dwelt in all those years ago

I am 12
Or 42
It's just a number after all
We hold them as being so important, don't we?
16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50
So eager to reach them and to enjoy whatever freedoms and fears come with them
And so many get stuck along the way in their numbers games along the wa

Numbers mean nothing in my world
And it is now a world that has everything this boy could want
Well, almost everything

Mazeros drugstore is long gone
Just an empty lot the last time I was home
No trace it ever stood there on the corner of Hazelwood and 2nd Ave

I missed it's passing along the way
Too caught up in 21 or 30 
I didn't know what a treasure it was then
I didn't think that it would one day be missed so much along with all the rest 

So now I keep it inside
And there I find it as wonderful as ever
Imagining, one more time, swinging around that corner post
The force propelling me the three steps up and walking through that corner door
It resides with all the other wishes which can never come true
One more Friday night wrestling show with my grandfather
One more garden bulb planting with my grandmother
One more time, face pressed to a glass and wood case
Believing the old cash register, with all it's numbers, will never say
No sale

nicolas hall

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Name Game - Etsy Lessons - Creating a Life Around Creating

Etsy Lessons ( short essays on making a creative life )

"The Name Game"

I have wanted, for some time now, to begin to write about my experiences as they pertain to making a living as a "maker-of-things". I suppose that very phrase may be as good a place to start as any.

This question is for the creative soul. . . What do you call yourself?

I prefer to describe myself as a maker of things as opposed to an artist. The reason has nothing to do with my thoughts about the word itself being too general, which I DO think by the way. Saying one is an artist narrows the field about as much as saying physician, custodian, counselor, teacher, performer, laborer etc. Nothing wrong with it really. . . but beneath the surface it usually seems to belie a lack of certainty and confidence while still attempting to stake claim to a desire to be creative.

For me, the realization came that calling myself an artist allowed me to stay stagnant and not move forward with my desire to live a creative life. I floated in apathy and dead space. Though I never stopped creating.

I realized that the term artist described nothing about my passion or my creative soul and offered me no motivation to get moving. At the same time, I had come to think of some of my favorite people around me as artists though they had no traditionally creative outlets.

They were artists at living. They created a life that suited them in every way.
That appealed to me greatly

So, a maker of things? Yes, that, although as general a term at first glance, came to seem far more true to nature. At least, to my nature and to the life I wanted to live.

I make a living by making things. Simple and true enough.

What is most important to me is to be working with my hands and my mind in unison. Exploring many avenues and always in search of new roads to explore and ideas. All with the intent to tell my stories and offer my customers and casual observers the opportunity to be a part of them.

I didn't want to settle on one form of expression.  If I was to be true to my creative origin, I could not do that.  Though it seems that is what an "artist" is supposed to do.

But me?
I make photographs
I make miniatures
I make entire worlds in forms and words
I make music
I make poems
I make things
And above all else, I play

I felt that, to be successful,  I needed to embrace every fiber of the vivid and unending imagination of my childhood. . . or more precisely. . . to bring it all forward into my "adult life" and allow it to take over now as it did then.

With that comes the pleasure and the pitfalls and the constant fight against the programming I believe we all receive about what life and adulthood are "supposed" to be and look like.

Also, it is imperative to say that nothing went as planned during this transition period of my life. I had to think on my feet and constantly rework the original plan, sometimes daily.

I was able to change my life completely in a little over two years.  And while I feel that I am well on my way, the path is just beginning in many ways too.

The excitement as raw as it was in my youth.

So, yes, a maker of things indeed.
Not just art
Not just craft
But of a life itself.

nicolas hall 2012



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cobblestone Road

When is the last time you really looked at the surface of a road?

I do not mean while driving or riding in a car. I mean walking or sitting along the curb and staring at the road? My guess would be, in this day of asphalt and blacktop, it happens rarely if ever.

I grew up in a neighborhood built around the river and steel industries. The roads, in many cases, lasting into the early eighties, were made of large cobblestone or brick (called sett). Big square granite stones with sand between them,

If you have never seen this type of road, or did not have the luck to grow up on and around them,  it may be hard to understand what it is I miss about them.

Originally laid because they made travel easier for horses and carts, offering traction and better footing than dirt or, when it rained, mud, the sett and cobblestone roads were already being phased out of many highly traveled areas by the time I was growing up.

For me, they were a source of endless fascination. Our driveway was lined along the edges with the remnants of the stones that once made up the driveway itself. I spent many hours as a child examining the worn and smooth surfaces of the stones and the maze of spaces between.

They were an integral part of the landscape and the roadmap of my childhood.

Times change
Not always for the better

The stone streets were murder on the ever more expensive automobiles and, as snow removal became an important part of keeping a growing city moving in winter, (they were impossible to scrape completely clear of snow or ice) they became a liability in most eyes.

Not mine.

Let me tell you what they did do.

They slowed you down. The speed limit on our street, a fairly well traveled artery, was 25. . . and you had to be a fool to go much faster over those stones. Many a hubcap became a treehouse trophy or home plate for a wiffle ball game after being found along our road, lost in the night by those too drunk or too young to know when to slow down.

You could play on the street anytime of day or night with little fear of a car ever surprising you. Even today's hybrid or full electric cars would make enough sound passing over those stones to warn you ahead of time.

These are roads laid by hand. Each brick set in place and filled in. That part was timely I am sure, yes, but I can recall few road crews setting up for now customary days or weeks on end to have to repair them.

These roads had give and move, the stones and the sand between them flexing with heat or cold.  On occasion that some might need replaced, it was often a one day job done by hand. No machines, no smelly asphalt, no high tech engineering.  Simple.

They are beautiful. Today they are often referred to as "up-market", quaint or unique.
All words I have never used to describe a blacktop road anywhere at anytime. . .

We've lost so much beauty in this modern age
Everything is supposed to move faster and easier
Cities accumulate, suburbs sprawl and the ugliness seems to have no end
People and places have become dull in this scenario

Along with those gains has come a loss of just as much if not more
Cobblestone roads are just one example
And we just went ahead and paved over them
These colorful ribbons of our life blood
We willingly replaced them with ugly black veins
We poisoned a bit more of what made us feel
Alive

All these years later, the avenue I grew up on is all but gone.
The geography is the same
The curves, the hills, the houses. . .

But the stones are gone
Black veins that no one notices run the course now
People speed without a thought
Children stay clear
They paved over it all
Right through the heart of my childhood

nicolas hall



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Postcards

In the postcard, the old man is stands along the edge of a rough and stony shore
It's on an inlet or a bay perhaps
A wooden fishing skiff sits at the water's edge
Weathered and worn as the man

The scene around him is vivid and raw
Stones reach to the sky, jutting from the water
Their outlines worn and shaped by the ever present forces of time

The obvious natural beauty of the scene is not the essence of the image though
To me, the draw to it is something more
The man in the postcard belongs
This land is clearly as much a part of him
And he is of it

There is so much talk in our country of seeking in a spiritual context
And it occurs to me now that perhaps what is missing is not the lack of community or of a faith
Not the lack of belonging to an organization or a lineage
But the lack of belonging to a place
To a landscape

But instead, here, people flock in droves to the same urban bone yards
And what their spirit seeks is never going to be found there
We've leveled and scorched that landscape
We've built above and through it's heart
We've left ghosts and shadows on this bloated vista
 Inhabited by empty souls
Dead weight

Our place can't be found among the hordes and the groups born of so called common interest
That is not what we are bound to connect with in this life
We have created that purpose in our mind
To stave off the constant hunger
Just as we have created so many other distractions
So many other false starts

But maybe you have felt it stirring inside of you
Along a weekend country drive
Or at the water's edge
Across a plain or a plateau
In the forest or the sea 
Just a moment perhaps, when everything you deem your life was left behind
When it all disappeared into a dream
And the place filled you
Consumed you
Recognized you
As you seemed to recognize the place
What lie did you tell your heart then?

Often, in the end, we let all our superficial needs pull to the bone yards again
How would we live without our pleasured distraction?
How would we live without our tribe and causes?
How would we live without ambitions and status?
How would we survive?

The answers is
If you truly listened
Heard the landscape
Opened to that spirit
You might actually find yourself
You might actually find that you ARE alive there
You might just. . .

One day I hope to be the old man in a postcard
In the right place
A part of the landscape somebody captures
Whatever the background
Wheteher a storm is coming
Whether it is dusk or dawn
Whether it is sea or sage
I want to look, not like an awkward visitor
Not like a stranger
I want to look
As if I too
Belonged

nicolas hall 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Poem and Visual Art: Theory of Flight

Featured image in my Etsy Shop : My Antarctica (link in the margin to the right)

Theory of Flight"

It's not necessary to hold tight to this so-called reality
The mystery does not always need to have answers
Science is lacking in it's charms anyway
Knowing too much is always a weight upon the soul

Once, we drew the plans for airships and
Mythic, winged creatures filled the margins of our notebooks
The red, vertical line a boundary no one dared to cross
We dreamed and doodled every possibility
We were better for that innocence
We were
Better

And now we look back at those same, red lines
Standing here on what is supposed to be the usable part of the life "page"
A page we fill with urgency and to-do lists
We fill with hellos and goodbyes
We fill with budgets and breakdowns
We've forgotten how to hold on to a dream
We've forgotten the way back
We've forgotten and we've grounded
All of these
Mythic
Impossible
Winged
Dreams~

nicolas hall 2010

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Squeezing Through the Neck - Poem

Two blocks below
The bay pushes gently over stony shores
Marking cycles of time
As the fleet of fishing boats crawls in and out of their berths in a similar, constant rhythm

Five blocks above
The range of mountains rises sharply,
Standing still against time
Clouds hang there
Snatched upon the pines and pulled over the ridge,
Closing the roof around this little town

We are scattered along 12 or so odd blocks between
People pass through, squeezing through this bottleneck of a town
Pushed between the bay and the mountains
They must feel constrained with the long narrow passage
It must feel like choking on the palpable lack of motion
It must be why they never
Stop

We chose to stop here
To stay here
Settling into the midst of the neck
Between bay and mountain
Where the lack of
The less of
Doesn't choke us
Here, we swallow
And every morsel of this life
Tastes so sweet

~nicolas hall 2012



Friday, June 8, 2012

Second Skin

"You mean you don't want any of them?" my mother asks, at least semi annually.
She has taken out the shoebox of old photos and cards again.
A semi annual ritual though not one in accord with any changing of seasons or certain anniversaries.

"No, none. . . thank you." I respond
Semi annually

I have never been one for the taking of or keeping of photographs.
As long as I can remember, I never found myself wanting to look into polaroid frames of the past.
At least not ot when the image I would be looking at was myself

This is not a preference derived from avoiding shadows
I had a most wonderful childhood
The images my mother keeps are, I know, happy and light
A family history unstained
She keeps them, I have supposed, to quell her age-old fears that she was the reason I moved far away
That she was somehow a faulty mother

It's much simpler than that though
I do not want to look into those eyes staring from the box.
My eyes
At ten
At thirteen
At fifteen

I am afraid of what I might see there
I am afraid of the sign of a secret separation

While others often keep photographs as markers of their youth and pull them out, or up, to remind themselves of what once was, or what could have been, I tend to walk side by side with my past
Always keeping close to that boy
Of ten
Of thirteen
Of fifteen
He is with me in every way
As much a part of me now as then.

So close that
Sometimes I think of him as a second skin
And I know it can be so easy
To dissolve that part of ourselves into a living, time-line memory
Instead of doing away with the apparitions of adulthood
The ones which keep us stacked in the cardboard shoe boxes
Filed under "Yesterday"
While we struggle daily
Just to breathe and
To find a way home
Again

nicolas hall - 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Death Knell For Another Coastal Community


I read this in a small coastal business paper today.

"The creative class of people is one of the signs of an emerging area. Then rich people are attracted to that gritty feel."

I felt immediately ill. . .

As I reflect on it, my gut feeling is that this story, played out in community after community, is killing this country faster than anything else I see on the near horizon.

It is also in great part why I removed myself from the hipster haven of Portland to the small, blue collar fishing village I now call home. One with no room for pretentiousness or attitude. It is the antithesis of a town like the one described in that quote. One that will never likely turn itself out for the quick fix of the  "revitalization" and "progress" that others have sold the soul of their own towns for.

Goodbye Astoria. . . I'll remember you as you were while the wave of hipster attitude quickly erodes your unique landscape and charm and tramples your historic soul, I wish you peace.






Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Shadows - Poem

To be given the task at 11 or 12
Of filling the gas tank of the old lawnmower
As the warm July sun dropped its late shadows across the oil field

Or to pull the wet leaves from a gutter catch 10 feet off the ground
Or to clean the paint brushes in an old Folgers can filled with turpentine
All under watchful, trusting and loving eyes

It's these little things I miss

The devil is in the details they say
But so then are the angels
And I hope I am as surrounded by them on my last days
As I am today

The memories we've stashed away
Between those long, heroic summer shadows
Often reach back for us
A beacon for the seasons ahead


~nicolas hall 2012 


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Crossroads

A few months ago I left the city to return to the Oregon Coast. Leaving the spiraling, urban sprawl of 600,000 for a quiet fishing village of 900.  The return to a simpler place and a less frantic pace has allowed me to breathe for what seems like the first time in years.

I return to the city twice a month, for now, to help out at the coffeehouse I used to own. I work two shifts in a little more than 24 hours and I get to see many people who were part of my daily routine over the previous 10 years.

I am asked time and again "Do you miss it?" and the answer, without hesitation is "No."

Now, I left the urban sprawl and static once before, years ago. And, after five years in a similar small town, I felt I had to get back to where things were "happening".

So what is different this time? Most people would tend to put it down to little more than the fact that  I am 10 years older?

In retrospect, I think it is simply that I realize the site of the crossroads when I am at them now.

In any lifetime, I believe we come to those crossroads again and again.
Many times over actually.
Some large and some small
Some almost daily.

But all of them are marked by choices we make or have to make and then, by the directions we turn. Often we do not turn. We just plow ahead with no acknowledgment that we are even passing through one or slowing to think about where the other road might lead.

We think that the slick, well paved highway we are on must lead to a better place than that little dusty road that transects it.  But that well paved road was once just dirt and gravel too.

When I return to the city, I walk about  25 minutes from the train station to the coffeehouse. Crossing through downtown and then across the river into the old industrial SE area of the city. I pass by hundreds of people going about their day. Some walking firmly with each step a foot-fallen vow to "make it" and some stumbling along just barely making it.

And I fee l this hanging, smoldering presence pressing down on so many of those I pass.

They've all reached the crossroads in life too.
Many did not think to slow down at all.
Most did not turn.
They just kept on going.
They made choices at each crossing whether they know it or not
And they are living out the result and destination of their choices.

Yes, it gets harder to go back each time

I am grateful to have seen the signs
To have known when the time was right
And to have turned down this little dusty road where few would think to turn
Off of the fast track
Leading to a place where I belong
Where I can slow down
And now
Thrive

-nicolas hall

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Land - A Creative Path


Land

If you had told me, just two years ago, that I would be making part of my living creating scale model miniatures. . . I would have laughed and shooed you away. . . but inside, I would have been wishing it could somehow, possibly,  be true.

I have been making art for 30 years. . . but the twists and turns of time, circumstance and fate that led me back to this childhood love are too many to mention. And I do not want to bore you with them all as it is.

What I do want to say is this:

We spend our lives so immersed in our own world, in our own situations, that we rarely get the chance to glimpse a life outside of our own. The world becomes more frantic, moving to an ever-quickening pace all the time. We are swept up in the currents of our own days, of our own battle for survival and, as if often the case in the deep waters of life, we lose sight of land.

Our childhoods are filled with these "other" worlds. Sci fi, monsters, dolls,  model railroads, imaginary places and creations fill our days. As i grow older I am more convinced every day that there is a reason for that which is supposed to serve us well as adults too. That is VITAL to our survival and our future happiness.  And that is all too often left behind in the rush to "grow up." Those early experiences and imagining. . . that is our landscape.  That is the ground under our feet throughout our lives.

When I first began making these HO scale buildings. . . just under two years ago. . . it was as if I had my first true glimpse, and feel, of that land in years.

They were a familiar sight as they appeared before me.
That childhood love and fascination with model railroads.
With small, imagined worlds.
With other places.
It brought back something I hardly had taken the time to realize was missing.

I cannot tell you what it is, only that it is pure and a part of the thread I never can let go of again.



There are many who also share this love of "other worlds"

We are drawn to them because they offer us those glimpses. Peeks into a place and time outside of our own. One of our own creation and choosing when, sometimes, we lose sight of that possibility in our own. They are unspoiled and clean. Simple and remarkable at the same time. 

For me, as the maker of them, they are something of a pole star. They are a magnetic draw towards the life I wish to lead every day. One of creation that opens doors for others. Brings a sense of joy and calm. Offering these glimpses into other worlds. A little hint of the magic that can be. . .



And maybe, just maybe, a reminder to not allow life to become so big.
So overwhelming.
So torrid a current

I invite you to find these places in YOU
Whatever they look like or how they manifest
They are like the distant shore in deep water
They are familiar
They are the constant
They are
Land

nicolas hall

Monday, April 2, 2012

Who's There? - Poem

The doorbell rings by itself again as it has done dozens of times since we moved in
We've taken to going down, opening the door, and welcoming our ghostly visitors in

I return just in time to look out the window and see the old man
Almost every morning at this time
He is walking slowly down the sidewalk
With his old dog
Their gaits, quite similar
Belying the time each of them has spent on this Earth

I notice him, as I do so many things here
Because there is so little else to distract me
Here, I seem to slow down
I actually breathe
And I feel I can see

I try to recall, in the cities, if I ever really "saw" people.
People in that environment are always on the way somewhere.
They are hard to see and we are too busy hustling ourselves to be able to see
Everyone seems to be moving a step ahead or, as is more often the case,
Falling a step behind

It seems many people in a small town such as this have arrived
They've caught up with themselves
They have nowhere to go
Their steps are measured
They aren't chasing anything
And I wonder
If the phantom who keeps ringing the doorbell
Is just me catching up
With me

nicolas hall - 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lessons In Time (Everything Must Change)

When I was a little boy, my room, to the naked eye, looked pretty much like any 11 year old's with the sport's posters on the wall and the baseball glove and souvenir hockey pucks on the dresser and night tables. Yet, hidden way under the bed, in the closets and anywhere I could find, were the pieces no one was able to see.

I had entire cities made of cardboard boxes stowed there for my action figures. My closet was painted (as well as an eleven year old can) with Egyptian hieroglyphs on the walls and my dresser drawers were filled with all the little extras my imagination created to aid the hours of solitude and play time.

And, no matter how much I had already created in this way, there was a to-do list somewhere with another three dozen ideas. . .

This is pretty much how I am today with my Etsy shops.

I have a foundation of things in each shop that I make and remake as they sell. They are the things "on the dresser" so to speak, there for everyone to see. . . but I always have another three dozen and more in some form of process going at any one time.  Seriously. . . all. . . the. . . time. . .  lol

This is both the good and bad of my creative soul.  In one way, it allows me to constantly keep moving forward even when I am making that miniature stone chapel for the umpteenth time, which is the good. I never quite feel like I am in a rut.

On the down side, I can guarantee you I should be spending time making multiples of the things that, come the holiday season, I will wish I had made many of in advance. Because I know they will be selling but I would rather take that extra time and work on something new or undeveloped.

The thing is, my creative "success" has been directly related to a return to those childhood habits and imaginings. Much of what I create today is based on that 11 year old boys fascinations and interests in mysteries and unknowns. So, the change we experience in life is also, as I have found, cyclical.  

Everything must change or it stagnates. In my world I can feel stagnation, when it creeps in, like I can feel the slow movement of the hands of a clock. . . it can somehow be upon you without any notice.

So, take five minutes, if that's what you can spare, and just start on a new idea. Or find something inside from your childhood. Tuck it away and keep at it when you can. . . but consider doing it because, if nothing else, it's a movement forward.

It's a nod to the law of change.
It's a step towards a circle completed '=
And it will keep you ahead of the sands of time. . .if only by a grain or two.

*No tidying. . . this is just how I started the day. . . projects everywhere . . . LOTS of motion just like when I was 11. lol*


Thanx for reading!!

nicolas

This was inspired by an excellent post by Sarah on the AGTeam blog which you can read here:
Time's Catching Up: Making Big Changes

And another view:
donauluft

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Never One To Follow The Crowd - Four Vignettes

(One)

When I began writing music 30 some years ago, I knew I didn't want to play in a band. I didn't want to play on stage. I didn't want to write normal "songs". The other 99% of musicians I knew aspired to those goals.

I set my sights on other ways of going about the business at hand and, in the end, I created and recorded music for meditation videos, wrote pieces for modern dance companies and entire scores for art installations and brought my own multimedia performance shows to the theater.

(Two)

When I decided to move out of the mid-sized city I grew up in, all of my friends were shocked that I chose a small town of 6000 all the way across the country. They had all moved to larger cities.
To huge metropolises.
Most were, admittedly, miserable.
I went off with the idea that a small town, even in bad economic times, could provide more opportunity if you had a variety of services you could offer AND were actually good at them. In those years, I was never at a want for work in ANY of the areas I pursued.  

(Three)

When I started my first coffeehouse, the last owner I had worked for came to visit my place.
"How can you make it with only fifteen seats?" he asked as he looked around the converted house-turned-bakery/cafe.

His restaurant, to this day one of my favorite places I have ever worked, sat 55 people in a huge and spacious room. Most nights it was two thirds empty.
It often felt even emptier.
And people talked about that all over town.

The same people talked about my place, with no mention of the small number of seats, but only of the fact that it was impossible to get into almost every day for lunch.

(Four)

So. . . is it any wonder that when I decided to set up art shops on the internet, I chose, in every avenue, to veer away from what is popular merchandise wise and any promotional avenues that are already over-saturated and pursued by everyone. A year later, I am making things I never dreamed I would be creating and I am finding niches in each area of my work that is allowing me to live, as a working artist, for the first time in my life. 

The few keys I always follow are to stay wide open to the possibilities and steered clear of the "brass ring" effect. People flock in droves trying to cash in on one idea.
Often one stemming from what others have already done first.
Often without the willingness to put in the effort and hours it takes to set their work apart form other's.

Then, as cliched as it sounds
I always follow my heart.

Not what the business model suggests would be good to do.
Just what I LOVE to do.
Just what my heart asks. . .
And, I
LISTEN

I think, in truth, many people have forgotten how to do this.
And listening to our heart, and to our customers as we cultivate them, is a niche market all of it's own
And while it definitely is not a guarantee of our success
It IS a guarantee of our sanity
And that makes anyone who follows their heart
The genius of the crowd

Thanks for reading!

This blog topic was inspired by Lee at One Clay Bead who wrote this charming post here:
Etsy AGTeam Wirter's Circle Post

nicolas

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Climate Change - Poem

Climate Change

When it rains HERE
People do not talk about climate change
Day after day it comes
And no one thinks of it as an inconvenience
No one feels that their day is lost

Day after day it falls
And I watch from my window as people
Walk
With it
Not dashing, as if to slip as many raindrops as they can
While wearing a lemon peel puss

They move easily in it
As if it were just part of them
As if they were invisible

Now I am here
Far from that place where they throw stones at the clouds
Far from that place where umbrellas reign
Far from where no one wants to go unseen for long
Those places
Are gone now
Wiped from my memory
Due to climate change

I am here now

Moving with the rain
And I'm happily
Invisible

by nicolas hall 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Charity - Poem

Charity

My grandmother loved to give her money to charity
The unemployed sitting in the diner
The sisters from the church
The starving overseas
And then my brother who, daily, needed "a couple bucks for gas"
So he could drive the 20 or so blocks to his favorite bar.
My mother said she was, "trying to buy her way into heaven".

The rest of her mad money would go to buy flower seeds and bulbs
And I, who wouldn't take a dollar from her without earning it,
Planted these each year
From April through September

When I moved across the country
I called her that first February to tell her
That the camellias and the daffodils and the crocuses
Were in full bloom out here already

"Boyyyyy aren't you lucky!" she said
"We'll have to wait and see if anything blooms at all here this spring."
Her tone made it seem as if that might actually be in doubt
And I, basking in the glory of my early season, suddenly realized
It was never about giving anything to charity
Or buying a ticket into heaven
Or disappearing gas

It was simply, for her
A matter of hope

~nicolas hall 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Welcome By Committee - Poem

"Welcome By Committee"

He thought we were tourists and
Crossing the road back towards the docks,
He called out after us

"Where are you from?"

"We live here" we said
"Oh, really?" "Well I was going to say welcome to our beautiful land!"
We thanked him anyway and continued on

We are tourists, in some ways, of course
Just living in a small coastal town for three weeks does not wash off the last 11 years of city living.
And, we certainly weren't carrying the look of a crabber or a clammer.

A little while later we were standing on the walkway of a long, narrow pier
The wind off the ocean was coursing through the bay and chilling our warm moment in the sun
A gull landed effortlessly on the pier post just down the railing from us
She pulls her wings in and stares
She probably thinks we are tourists too
But she doesn't say so
And suddenly, I was feeling
Truly welcome

~ by nicolas hall 3 / 5 / 12

Sunday, March 4, 2012

All Our Yesterdays




"I have lost the idealism of my 20's,  as I feared I would" - Annie Dillard

Add me to the list.  I remember fondly that wonderful, take-on-the-world-and-change-it fire that burns so bright in our youthful adult years . . . it filled me with purpose and, like the separation of of a space capsule from it's booster rockets, sent me into deep space. . . far away from my childhood home.

But then, over time, across thousands of orbits of that strange unknown world, it somehow quietly slips away. Time erodes it with washes of reality and our new found angst and uncertainty over what we are here for, or to do, with this life we are given. 

Many of us just hang there. . . suspended in that slowly eroding orbit. Waiting for the crash and burn.

Some of us escape and go on to explore other worlds.

As for me, well I do not wish to return to those days. What has replaced that explosive sense of youthful power and possibility is, as I experience it daily,  even more powerful. . . and possibly what will keep me going, albeit with a different fire, for the remainder of my years on this voyage.

That voyage is not out there, into some unknown and uncharted space.
It is right here. The point of origin and the place I began.
It is the idealism born of all that came BEFORE that time.

It's the source and the core of all of the wonders I held as truths as a child.

I sit, daily now, looking out over this beautiful corner of nature I have chosen to call home and I craft visual and three dimensional art that is all connected, in some way, to the days of my formative youth. The youth that really mattered and defined who I was to be. 

As life goes, I feel we never get very far from those years.  We never evolve into anything that was not born in those early experiences and we never learn any lessons that we did not already know, in some form, back then as well.

We are simply cycling on those themes over and over and, if we are lucky, we are able to, once again, befriend that young child who we were. We take them under our wing and either embrace them or comfort them for what they have been through and brought to these adult lives.

If we are wise, we listen.
Truly listen.

We sit with them and we realize that they have as much to teach us now as they ever did. As anyone or anything ever will again.

I consider this phase of my life to be a form of "school" all over again. I am a quick learner. I am learning once more how to lose track of time. How to immerse myself into the solitude and creative bliss that I love and have craved to return to for so many years.  I am learning how to not feel bad or "less than" for doing so.  I am learning that the world responds to people working with "what they know" far more than it does to people pretending to be in the know.

It is, as any life decision will be, a choice. 
For me, it is one based in creating, above all else, simplicity.

As far as I am concerned, you can keep the world of the "adult".  Take the politics, policies and anxieties and all the future fears that fill the days and nights of the bustling, climbing, worrying human race and jetison them into deep space.  And you can do that in a little space capsule that I will build of clay and wood.

Send it off with a hearty bon voyage!

So, now then, I am here.
Right where I was all those years ago and where I will now plan to remain as long as I am alive
Creating everything that my soul can bring forth to share
Everything that I have to offer
Everything I know

There is a shaodow over my shoulder
Hello little one
I am here for you
Again

~nicolas 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crows on the Wire



The morning begins, as most do, with the CAW of the crows outside on the wire. . .  even here in the foggy coastal pre-dawn, it is as it was in the city. . .  and for that reminder I am grateful.

Moving from the city to a very small, oft forgotten, coastal town has already brought about the clarity I was seeking in the move. Ten years in a city, albeit a very progressive and nature-loving city, had worn me down. Draining the life out of me, as cities tend to do once we have grown beyond caring about the nightlife, the constant buzz and the exterior fascinations as all are distractions from who we are or where we are going. Or sometimes just reliefs from the truth we know too well.

Three weeks here and I feel compelled to write again. To make imagery. I feel compelled to dig in deeper to my own internal world and bring forth what has been stewing all those years.

To open fully.
To grow.

Looking back at those city years, it was a slow disintegration. I didn't wake up one day and decide I hated the city again. It slowly wore me down. Slowly ate away at the awe I hold for nature around me. And I mean by this, true nature not what many city dwellers, particularly in Portland, consider to be green or sustainable which is, by it's very definition, inclusive mostly of the well being of human beings only.

The truth is, as I began preparing to move, I heard story after story from others who "dream" of such a move. Of such a life. And, though I would often shake my head and smile, I felt like treating these people as I finally needed to with myself and bluntly saying "Then get off your ass and change your life, make decisions and leave things behind so you CAN move and live where you want.

It is cheaper here. Yes, that's right. Living on a clamming and fishing bay 5 minutes from the ocean is cheaper. Much cheaper. In a town set against the quickly rising hills that surround the bay,  I now walk two blocks to the Post Office and two blocks to the local bakery which serves up 3 freshly made doughnuts for one dollar! Three blocks to the local supermarket which FEELS like a local supermarket. . . smells like a local supermarket. . . as those A & P's of my youth always did.

Historic rail cars sit just across the road on their tracks and the local coffeehouse, what I really think a coffeehouse should be, welcomes community and conversation all day long as the proprietor serves up her amazing cranberry scones and freshly made chowder. Not 50 choices for every possible diet or "lifestyle choice". Just one delicious scone. Take it or leave it but don't complain about it.

I didn't realize how much people in the city complain.  How pervasive it is that even in writing it I had to really think if it were true. But it is. It is just that it becomes such a normal aspect of so many people's lives that it seems like normal conversation. But it is not. And I was falling into it as well.

So let's focus on here. . . THIS is where I have wanted to be. The town name is of no importance. It is the place. The setting.  The fact that here, I can reinvent myself and begin again in a place where others may see decay and economic repression, I find the beauty of what used to be, what is and what could be again.

My first day here a woman in the coffeehouse actually recognized me. Not from the city and businesses I owned there but from the small town I lived in on this coast some 15 years ago. From the bakery I owned and the sandwiches I made there all those years ago. It was a bit of a shock and unsettling to be truthful but also, I know it is a part of reinventing oneself. It is necessary to acknowledge all that has come before and to accept it. 

There are,as so many paragraphs that start, "there are two types of people". In this case I am speaking of those that feel compelled to remain in the habitat they grew up in and to do as the rest of the "herd" do those that can wander and move and adapt and who can make change in their lives and leave the past behind. Those who choose what is better for them. Even when "better" means a little harder or more uncertain.

We, of this group are the crows of the human world. We adapt and we move and we find ourselves making our way home in whatever landscape we  have chosen to dwell.

There is space here.
To roam
To breathe
To live out each day fully and to explore how to create a life that I WANT to live for the coming weeks and months and years.

Will it play out that way? Time will tell. . . and I know that the crows will watch it all from their vantage point and caw as they do everywhere, every day.

And I will smile at that here. . . as I always do.