Thursday, August 30, 2012

Counting Days

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


They pass and this is followed by another line


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

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

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,


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,


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.


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