Sunday, July 27, 2014

There's This Little Place I Know

One of my favorite things about selling my work on line, which excited me from the very start of this adventure,  is the ability to connect with people throughout the world.

Having loved traveling when I was younger I could easily imagine my packages arriving in far off places, especially places throughout the world I had visited.

What I did not know is that it would stimulate my imagination so much is learning about all the places my packages go. When I've sold something to Rome, Paris, Dublin, Chicago, Montreal, Sydney, Edinburgh etc etc I can instantly picture these places and it is a thrill to ship something to a person who discovered your work from halfway across the world.  But what I love even more is selling to someone who lives in a small town, a village, a remote location on any continent. Small towns that I have never heard of before. I turn immediately to our old friend, Wikipedia, and I spend a few minutes familiarizing myself with the where and whens of it's history and locale. The inevitable pictures of main streets, historic sights, architecture, sweeping landscapes and vistas and old twisting roads and pathways pull at something in my heart. Of course, I've chosen to live in one of those towns too so what registers is the instant realization that someone who lives as I do, but many miles away, can find my shop, see my work, and decide to bring it into their home or gift it to someone they love.

In the past week I've shipped packages off to places like

Theresa, Wisconsin (pop 1200)
Havre Boucher, Nova Scotia  (pop 1500)
Crickhowell, Wales (pop 2,800)
Gravdal, Norway (pop 1500)

Each allowed me a chance to peek into the remote and unheralded places of our world.

I suppose what interests me most is this. I feel like I know cities. I've lived in my share. It's not that they are all the same but they all have very similar dynamics to them. Population density, a mix of old and new architectures and infrastructure. Constant change and shuffle. Lives pass through them in a heartbeat with no trace left to remember them by. The cities ARE the stories. . . and they are, at this point in my life, rather overwhelming to consider.

People actually use the term "livable city" these days. That should tell you all you need to know.

But for all of their grandness and opportunity and energy, they are desperately lacking in something I find to be a necessity. Continuity.

Especially in this country, old is not nearly appreciated enough be that in people or buildings.  Face-lifts on both offer a promise of newness and vitality but it's all a facade.

Cities, it seems to me,  swallow people whole. . .

Smaller places. Landscapes and places that do not change. . . one leaves a mark there. Stories evolve over time and lives stretch into the very fiber of the places they inhabit. That's lore. That's history. And it is not forgotten. That's what is interesting and eternal about them.

Look up Halstatt, Austria (pop 950) on Wikipedia and you will find a photo of the town from just a few years ago as well as one from 1898. There is so little difference in them it's amazing. Same scene, same buildings. Same beauty. No one moves there to "be something." or to attain anything (except, obviously, peace and soulful living) No one moves there to cash in on real estate opportunities or to bring something new to the town. no one moves there for social outlets or the overt distractions of population densities as we all have done with our city dwelling.

The US has it's share of places like this too. My town is one. Every building here has a story and it's not something you have to look up or dig to discover. Just ask anyone old enough and they can tell you it all. People in cities can;t tell you about the last person to live in their house or apartment let alone the history of the block, neighborhood or community. 

But in my town? A lot of people today and their families have lived here in this little fishing town for generations. Yes, things change here as with any US town. Our culture and economic structure demands it unfortunately. Change and growth are synonymous with success in the US and are often just an ephemeral illusion and an empty promise. But much stays the same too.

This little coastal town I live in is a gem. All the places I listed above are too. . . If I were to travel again in my lifetime, THESE are the places I'd want to see. But i am content here. . .and that is a feeling I never had in the city.

But that's me. . . I'm Larkrise to Candleford over EastEnders . . . Little House over Gotham City

These little discoveries are one of the many reciprocal gifts of what I do. These "out there" places work their way, in the smallest but most meaningful of ways, into my stories.
Into my paracosm.
Into my heart.

I won't forget them

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Growing an Idea

"To see is a trick of the mind but to believe is a trick of the heart."
 -Ronlyn Domingue from "The Chronicle of Secret Riven"

Maybe it's just me. . . .but I have to say that I never feel a sense of "completion" in my creative world. There is no "done" when it comes to an idea or a technique. I am always looking forward to the next iteration. To the sharpening of the skill set and the expanding of the inner mythology that allows each creation to come alive. 

I think that desire to re-imagine, recreate and reinvent is part of what makes being a maker-of-things a lifelong pursuit.

And I experience a connection in this to many who are able to make their living in a creative world. Because on the other side of that equation are the many who start an idea, perhaps a really GREAT idea. . . then make one or two of something, and then expect that they have done the work to be able to sell what they have made. When, at the heart of every creative soul who makes a living from their creativity, there is usually a deep, driving desire to carry their ideas to their greatest and fullest realization. Whether they sell them or not. . . In fact, to carry each little component or technique within those ideas to the same extent. 

Many people "see" ideas. . . but only a few, in my experience, believe in them enough to carry them out.

Don't misunderstand. I've left ideas behind. More than I can count.

I've moved on to new and more interesting ones too. Not everything is meant to be carried forward and invested in ( in life AND creativity!) and I certainly have my share of feeling like ideas have reached their logical conclusions. But those are few and far between.

I love stories and great stories, like ideas, in my world never really have an end.

So I wanted to just present this little "road map" of an idea for you to peruse

This is how an idea grows. . .

It began right after the New Year with one little tiny fairy house. I had been working for some time on finding an interesting idea I could develop and grow and, as is often the case, it turned out to be the idea tha was least hollering for attention in my mind that grew into something larger. lol

That first house/style just seemed to have a certain Alpine feel to it. A little square chalet style with wooden door, stone archway, mossy tiled roof and flowers.

This was not the original but likely the second or third iteration!
Tiny textured walls that allowed me to paint the individual "stones" in a plethora of color. I loved the very first one and I believe it sold in two days. So I made another.  . and another. . . and another. After selling a dozen or so of this one model, I decided it would be interesting to grow the idea and it's story a bit. So I wrote a little piece about Alpine Fairies and thought I should christen the cottage after one of the Alpine peaks. . . a quick search led me to the revelation that there are literally hundreds of peaks ithat make up the Alps. (I'd been there twice but somehow forgotten the scope of the Alpine range!) And that each peak does indeed have it's own name. This one above became the "Monte Rosa" Well, that got the creative brain going and what has come of it is an endless and ever-growing series/story/paracosm all unto itself.

The story grew. . . (each mountain band of fairies had their own distinct fairy cottage style) the house names I liked are so numerous I can't imagine how long it might take for me to create a distinct style for each. . . Matterhorn, Hochwilde, Mont Pelvoux, Lagginhorn. . . sometimes the name suggests the style. . . sometimes it works the other way around.

While I am still working in the "stone cottage" style, I do have a desire to move this series forward into making some half timbered minis too! When that occurs, the story will get re-imagined and grow yet again.

Then came the desire to photograph these little cottages in a unique style so that, when people saw them in the shop, they would instantly recognize them as being a series. A background was found among my pictures of the time I spent in that region and I created a long-overdue photo fairy garden in the studio to shoot them in too.

The new, very- incomplete, fairy house photo garden!

At this point, there are 10 individual styles in the Alpine Fairy House series and it grows each week.

I can barely keep them in stock these days which, if you know me, is sometimes very frustrating as I love to have them around as much as my clientele does! But that ensures I will kep the production of them going and each time I remake one, I try to work on a new model or idea as well. :)

Below is the first group shot I took of the houses in this series. There are already four new styles being completed as I write. So this group image will grow and change as time goes on too.

8 of the Alpine Fairy House Series

But the thing I want to say here is that this idea also fit so well into all the areas I love most about creating. There is the challenge of keeping it ever-evolving and fresh and not being able to see an end in sight. The expanding story that allows me to grow the idea slowly and create the mythology as it comes to me. The time needed to "research", which is, in effect, me happily spending hours pouring over images of quaint Alpine villages and settings! And last, the constant honing of certain techniques that, I believe, make these little cottages so magical.

And most of all, these allow me to create yet another world to inhabit within myself. The story unfolds the deeper I go and the more I allow it to become a part of my day to day life.  

If there is an end in sight, I can't fathom it.

And that wide open road ahead is, to me, the epitome of what real-world magic is all about.
It's not a trick at all.
It's alive
And it is completely invested in the heart of it's creator.
So take care of it just the same. . .

See you all in Alpine fairy land!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Month of Gathering

Back in 2004, a few years before he died, my father and I spoke often about life. We were never close when I was a child as he and my mum divorced when I was four. This was, for all intents and purposes, a very good thing for her AND I.  He was very stodgy, quite mainstream in a narrow and limiting way and he had little room for self expression and the roads less traveled in life.

I cannot imagine who I would have turned out to be if he were a directive force in my developing years. . . but people change.

We reconnected when my grandmother, his mother, died when I was 19. Slowly, we built the strands of connection after he accepted my plea that, "I don't need you to be dad anymore.  . I need a friend."

And a very good friend he turned out to be.

So that day, as I recounted all that was going on in my life, how I was pursuing my love of music-making and music production for others. How I was thriving owning a coffeehouse and creating digital art and poetry. (this is all about 5 years before my creative life as you see it now even began)
He listened quietly and patiently and then, when I had finished, he offered the following.

"Son, I've never told you this but I wish I had lived (he was 61 at the time) my life more like you. I would do it differently now but back then I always was so concerned with climbing the ladder of success and making more money and having better this and better that. There are so many things I thought to do but did not have the courage or the inner strength to try. And I see you, living your life this way and your voice is filled with joy and I feel every new experience brings you closer to something bigger. Maybe even closer to a sense of "purpose"? "

"But I am going to give you one piece of advice" he continued. "From here, the choices in your life will get tougher because you are still seeking  and yet you have managed to eliminate all of the things people usually fill their lives with that are less than fulfilling. You love your job. You love where you live and you love the people around you. You have several creative outlets that take up every moment of your free time.  . . and I know you, my son. You are going to keep finding things that you love and now? Now the choices are going to be between two or more things you love and where will they fit in when the days will always only be 24hrs long? And you don't do anything half assed. . . so where is the time going to come from and when those new "right things" present themselves? Because one of them may be "it". So remember that you'll have to make room for them. And that it is ok to let go of something you love as much as something you don't.

Oh, how right he was.

So the last 6 months as I've "struggled" with the lack of time that being a full time, all the time, maker-of-things requires and found myself overloaded with custom orders and requests as all the while the new ideas pile up and up and I cannot tend to them, And then, beneathe it all, this "new thing". . . this sense of something greater being right there all along. . . oh yes, it reared it's head and asked to be heard.

I once again took stock.
Made lists and looked deep within for the answer to what stays and what goes. . .
 And here is what has changed from that kid who got that piece of advice 10 years ago.

The "new thing" is that I DO feel a sense of purpose in what I do now. It's the one thing I have done in my life (and I have done and tried more than my share) that feels really close to perfect and complete as far as being part of the thread I have known since childhood.

But these days I feel pulled to leave something behind. Something more than just bits and pieces and assorted lovelies. . . though those are as much a part of the "purpose" as what I have planned

My father was right,

I do not do anything half-assed. I don't know how.  The details are everything and no matter how much I love something I make, I find myself looking to make it better and just a bit more innovative next time around. Good enough is never good enough even if I am the only one who sees it.

In truth, when people ask me for advice on making it with an online shop or with creative self employment, I usually include this one little piece of advice. What ever you do today, you can do better tomorrow and you have to want that, without fail, first and foremost or you'll not get far in the creative world.

First, you have to make room for it. . . and it requires lots of room.
Then, YOU have to

It's time now for me to reach. . .

I am setting a larger goal with the worlds I create.

They have been these lovely bits and pieces with little stories (also a must in the creative world I think.  . tell a story!) that often are there before the pieces themselves.

But I want to bring them together and give something more through them.
A larger story that ties many of the smaller pieces together.
A world that is tangible and ever growing.

In my head, they always were this but, if I have one shortfall, it's that I often do not have the patience to write in such broad scope AND detail. I offer little detailed glimpses when an entire world is right there waiting to be brought to life. 

And that world is what I want to leave behind. . .hopefully to inspire others as I have ben inspired by those that came before.

So this is what I have been doing the last month. Losing myself in reading about ancient civilizations, myths and stories I have loved my whole life and making notes, creating names, filling in gaps in my own stories and letting that world emerge. . . one village, one character, one myth at a time and, as is my way, the details sometimes come out first.

These are a couple of Elvin "reliquaries" I created this week that are just 1.5 and 2.75 inches tall. . . . perhaps containing mythic dragon scales or bits of ancient magic cloth, or a troll's tooth. . .  or a thread of pure spun gold from time before time? Who can say?

What would YOU imagine to be found within an Elvin Reliquary?

More on their story in future posts. . .

Which is where the blog fits in with my future plans. 

So many bits and pieces to keep track of and I am not an organized person by any means. So I will be posting more often and shorter posts with just that.  . . bits and pieces of the larger story. . . threads that are all being woven into the larger world of my imagination. . . into the world of Bewilder and Pine. . . I hope you'll come along with me on this journey. It's going to be an adventure, I promise! :)

And my father, on that day I referred to earlier, added one more thing at the very end of the conversation that I took to heart then and still do to this day.

"No matter how busy you get. . . call your mother more. Because you'll regret it if you don't one day."

Thanks dad. . . you really were a true and beloved friend.

Thank you all for stopping by!
Soon again. . .