Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Yay for Yves Rocher!

I just have to share my excitement about the bath & body site Yves Rocher. I came across them by accident several months ago and now, a couple of orders in, it's confirmed that I love what they have to offer!

The company specializes in botanical beauty care, stocking a wide variety of items - body wash, fragrances, make-up, skin care and more.

I suggest the Madagascar Orchid body wash [insert], which is a truly heavenly scent! The "last chance shop" is also worth checking out for expiring deals.

Everything is very reasonably priced anyway but to top it off, they offer free shipping over $25 and every order gets a free gift. (Last order, I got a free tote bag, which I am now happily using as my portable knitting bag!!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bohemian Dream Bag

Since my co-worker taught me how to knit back in January, I've been knitting like a maniac! I had purchased some novelty yarn on sale last year and tried to crochet with it but found that I didn't really like the way it looked. It then sat in a drawer for months while I tried to figure out what to do with it. Finally I decided it would be a fun yarn to make into a bag. I've made small bags and clutches before but never something like this! I tried searching around for a pattern that would work and ended up modifying a couple of different patterns to make something that worked. I then let it sit for a couple of weeks while I got together the motivation to line it!

I am really quite proud of the end result and especially love the colors. Although I think I'm probably going to end up listing this in my Etsy store (after I line the handles - thanks to a helpful hint from someone in the Craftster forums) I have several skeins of this yarn left in a couple of different colors so I'll probably end up making one for myself!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Etsy Featured Shop - ShaylaMaddox

I found my newest featured artist, Shayla Maddox in the forums on Etsy. When I clicked on her shop I was amazed by the beauty and unique artwork that she has to offer. It's completely different from anything I have seen up until now so of course wanted to learn more. She's also from SoCal so I'm happy to be featuring someone local after my last feature from half way around the world!
What are Light Reactive Paintings?
When I was first painting, I found the flat, regular paint I was working with very limiting. I wasn't able to capture the inspiration I had onto a canvas properly. I wanted something that was more experiential and participatory for the viewer. Each painting is made to look different in all forms of light. The sunshine coming through the windows changes color from the morning until the evening, and my paintings change with it, as well as shine and reflect differently depending on how you move around it. In the evening, a small black light used with regular interior lighting (or better yet - candles) gives the painting its best effect, and seem to light it up from within, adding color and dimension that are otherwise invisible. On top of all that, I love that after you turn all the lights off, the painting glows in the dark!

How and when did you get your start with this unique art?
I've always been an artist. My mom painted and worked in stained glass. Coloring books were my favorite activity, although I've participated in everything from sculpting to jewelry making. A few years ago, out of nowhere, I suddenly had an overwhelming need to paint something. I asked a painter I knew (who eventually became a mentor) for advice on starting and he said, "Whatever you do, don't make it good." It pretty much took off from there. I became obsessed with painting and began getting these vivid visions of color in my mind that I needed to express somewhere. All artists see color in a different way - a way that is unique to their own life experiences. I wanted to show people the way I see it.

What materials do you use for texture in your pieces?
Often I'll just use paint, which takes a lot of time and build-up, but I like knowing that it's created from just paint. I love using real beach sand as texture, since it's so intrinsic to my life. I've always lived near the water. I like that I'm using something so inherently earth-based to create art about heavenly things. Occasionally, I'll use candle wax, dripping straight from the candles I burn in my apartment. I think it's sort of romantic. The candles are a part of my personal life and experiences, so it's natural to use them in my art. They're so moody and dreamy.

What was your inspiration for this painting?
This style in particular really emphasizes my fascination with light. I originally came up with the concept during the month of June, when the color of the light was especially brilliant. It's one of my very favorite designs. June is a beautiful month. The air is warm and the sky is the bluest it can be. I feel very calm being surrounded by such natural clarity. I love long summer days that stay light until almost 9pm! The only thing better than the beautiful summer sunlight is the arrival of the June moon, bringing with it countless stars (and fireflies!)

How long does it generally take you to complete a piece?
A long time. I start with meditating on an inspiration that often just comes to me for no particular reason. I listen to music that I feel relates to the concept I want to paint, or the mood I feel about it. After sketching out my ideas, I start painting. The techniques I use require lots of layering and drying time. It depends on the size, but I'd say it generally takes about 2-3 weeks to complete a smaller painting and well over a month or more to finish my larger pieces.

You describe your paintings as portals to Thin Spaces. What do you mean by that?
Thin Spaces are transcendent moments that happen when the spiritual world and natural world intersect. To believe in these moments, one must believe in a reality that exists beyond what we are able to see with our eyes. Personally, I take a broad definition of what it means, since it means something different to each person who experiences it. These moments are without time, and can happen anywhere: watching a sunset, star gazing, walking through the forest, even hearing a child laugh. Thin Spaces happen when you suddenly feel that the natural world around you is part of something greater or has a higher meaning. My paintings are my expression of these moments, and I hope that they encourage others to take notice of when they happen in their own lives. I believe the meditation and contemplation of these Thin Spaces will bring greater understanding to those who experience them.

Are you involved with art in other ways?
Yes! Gosh, where to begin? I spent the greater part of my life focused on acting. I've been in lots of plays and a handful of independent films, some of which went to film festivals and such. For a few years, I made the circuit in Los Angeles, auditioning for various things every couple of days. It was exhausting! Ultimately I realized that I didn't like the business side of acting as much as I liked the acting. I'd still like to do the occasional acting gig throughout my life for fun. Aside from that, I'm also part of a group that holds periodic artistic events in the community with emphasis on spirituality and contemplation. Last November, I directed an Art Festival with over 30 participating artists!

A portion of your sales go to Acres Of Love. What is Acres Of Love?
Acres of Love is an amazing organization. Their goal is to provide "forever homes" for abandoned children in South Africa. Most of the children are HIV-positive. Many are orphaned because both of their parents have died from AIDS. Some are left on the doorstep of the organization, while others are found in dumpsters and gutters. Acres of Love provides each child with personal attention, love, medication, education, and a life. They give them small family groups to live in and grow in for as long as the child is with us. It's not an orphanage at all. It's a functioning family-like environment for children who would otherwise have nothing. Through Acres of Love, each child is loved, part of a family, and given the best care possible. Children who were born with a short, bleak future now have a family, food, time to sing songs, do art projects, and enjoy a true sense of happiness. They have hope.

Why did you choose this particular organization?
A friend told me about it a few years ago, and I fell in love with their vision immediately. I believe in what they do wholeheartedly. It's not simply an AIDS crisis organization. They have a one on one personal commitment to each child, because they believe that every child deserves that. I've always believed in giving to charities, even when there's little to give. Giving reminds us of how much we have, and gives us the opportunity to focus on something outside of ourselves. We get so lost inside our own problems that we fail to recognize everyone else on the planet. Acres of Love gives me a clear picture of what life and humanity can be at its best and its worst. I'm so grateful to the people involved for what they do every day. If children do not have hope, neither does humanity as we know it.

How has your work evolved from when you started and where is it going next?
My very first painting was black and white. I'd been advised to start with 2 cans of house paint that I could buy in the "oops" section at Home Depot, so I wouldn't feel pressure to conserve expensive paints. Over time I began acquiring better materials, and started exploring different textures and "effects" like using color that can only be seen with a uv light and gloss that reflects all light. It wasn't enough to have a regular painting. I needed it to feel "alive" and be more immersive while viewing it. I wanted the art to breathe and change every time you saw it. I want to keep exploring that and work with new materials that will enhance the experiential quality of my work. There are more colors in the world than we are able to see with our unaided human eyes. I'd like to find all of them. I'm in love with the cosmos, and it would be a dream to show my work in an observatory one day.

Art Show information:
Shayla Maddox will be featured in her first art show with the reception on July 13, 2007 from 6-9pm at Townley Fine Art in Laguna Beach, CA. Her art will be shown there through the end of July 2007 so if you are going to be in Southern California during that time, I definitely suggest taking the time to check it out. For more information on Shayla, also check out her website.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Love is in the air!

Not sure if it's in the water right now, or if it's just that time of year (or perhaps even a pleasant mixture of both) but my year seems filled with knuptual planning with two of my closest friends who are taking the plunge and pledging "I DO!" Until the bridal shower and bachelorette party dates draw nearer, I'm pretty much off the hook with my bridesmaid duties and can enjoy the pressure free fun of wedding dress shopping with the blushing brides. I am occasionally overwhelmed by the realization that I might end up like Bridget Jones - referring to my girlfriends as the old marrieds when we're planning to meet up for dinner - but then she got to marry Colin Firth, so things could be worse.

Where I am not off the hook is with the wedding photography, which is really the purpose of this particular rambling. These days, seeing as everybody owns a digital camera, it's quite normal for everybody to be snapping away at weddings. I've been both the hired photographer and these tips will help both you and the photographer the couple hired optimize the photographic opportunities. It's one day and you don't get a do-over!

- Do be respectful of the pro-photographer. The couple is paying them to capture the event and it's a huge task. You want to help the pro get the best shots they possibly can as that's the job they were hired to do.
- Do be mindful of the photography rules in places of worship. If the pro isn't shooting, they have probably be asked not to and you should follow their lead.
- Do take lots of pictures of those at your table or surrounding tables having fun. Often, the pro can't concentrate on these pictures and they'll be a pleasant surprise for the couple later on.
- Do take pictures of decoration accents or location that can be fun and perhaps even "artsy"!
- Do capture "reaction" shots of the guests for certain moments - such as the cake cutting. The pro will be concentrating on the couple and this is an opportunity for you to take a completely different kind of shot.
- Do encourage people to get into groups for photographs. If you're taking pics of a group at your table, have some people move around so they are standing behind others that are seated. That way you eliminate the half-eaten food and someone's head being blocked by the center piece.
- Do take candids. The couple is usually busy during the reception and won't see a lot of what their guests get up to, but they'll definitely enjoy that you captured a good candid moment later on!
- Don't put your arm up above people's heads or stand to take pictures during the ceremony as it's unfair to those around you. (This happens a lot more than you might expect). You'll probably remember the beauty of the ceremony better if you're not concentrating on the photography aspect - leave that to the pro. Instead, choose an aisle seat where you can capture pics of the couple and bridal party as they walk the aisle. [See inset. I was a guest at this wedding.]
- Don't stand right behind the pro-photographer and duplicate their shots. This may mess with their lighting and can also be distracting. The shot that the pro is taking is likely to be the better shot anyway, given they set it up, and is the one the couple will use in the end.
- Don't stand opposite the pro while they are taking their shots. (I took wedding pictures on a beach at sunset. A family member was taking pictures on the other side of the couple and I had to spend a lot of time adjusting my position to not capture them in my shots, all while the light was rapidly fading). Your pictures will also come out better as the pro probably has a way to keep you out of their shot, but they're probably in yours.
- DON'T FORGET TO HAVE FUN!! After all, it's a celebration.

Monday, June 4, 2007

My First Treasury!!

For those of you not familiar with the treasury function on Etsy.com, it is a selection of 12 items chosen by an Etsy member. Often, the treasuries have a theme (such as color or type of craft) and they are a great way to find some beautiful items that deserve to be put in the spotlight.

Of course, there is always a snag! Actually "catching" a treasury can prove to be harder than trying to syphon water from a spikey cactus in the middle of the Mojave in August. How thrilled was I when I spotted a post about beta testing of a new treasury system, clicked the link, and immediately got one.

It took me a while to find all the items that I wanted to include, and not that I'm biased toward photography at all (*cough*), obviously I made it a photographic showcase! I'm thrilled with the results, so here it is in all it's glory!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sharing knowledge helps growth

If you love crafting in general, enjoy learning new techniques, want to expand your hobby, or if you sell your wares online, check out this excellent resource - Craftytips.com!

Whether you are a beginning crafter or a veteran, there is something on Crafty Tips that you will find interesting as it covers a truly extensive list of crafts. While you are looking for free patterns, fun projects and even classes to take, you will find blogs and links to other websites associated with each craft. My favorite thing is the "Crafty Tip" posted with each link!

If, like me, you are trying to turn your hobby into a business, I know it's easy to be so absorbed in the art aspects that you end up being marketing challenged! Since I started considering my photography and other crafts a commodity, I've been trying to figure out how to generate business. The marketing pages on Crafty Tips are a godsend as a quick tutorial for being more marketing savvy.

I see a lot of forum postings on sites such as Etsy.com for people looking for answers on how to write better descriptions. Look no further! Here's a great read, complete with example, on how to do just that. I know that I personally was told by another friendly crafter that I should make sure to use my description "tags" properly. After all, in a marketplace with millions of items, how do you get someone to find yours and convince them it's just what they needed? Crafty Tips shows you how to use your keywords to lure in those buyers to your product. Elsewhere on the website, you will find useful articles, such as these business guides to help get you started.

While I know I could spend hours on Crafty Tips filtering through pages of interesting articles, blogs and other facts, the best part is that this is one of those websites that will just continue to grow and become an amazingly useful resource (plus I just found some new knitting patterns that I want to try!)

June Gloom? I don't think so.

Yesterday it was May Grey and today it's June Gloom. The goods news is that to make June a little brighter, and in honor of my new camera lens (see previous post), I am having a sale in my Etsy shop!

For this month, all photographic prints in my shop are buy one get one 50% off. Of course, you'll only need to pay shipping on the first item. I'll also be adding new photographs throughout the month to give you lots of choice.

My newest addition is this beautiful summery print, which I have titled Reaching. The plant colors, the clear blue sky, and the flowers reaching toward things unknown - it all seems quite inspirational to me....inspires me to get out of the office and go outside that is!