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

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


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

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

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

nicolas hall 2010