Monday, June 20, 2011

Marking the Quiet Passing of a Day - In Memory of Christopher

Those who are familiar with my work are familiar with a very bright and brilliant little boy who left our earth much, much too soon at the dawning age of 8 years old.  Christopher died unexpectedly on the first day of summer in 1990 and both his life and death left an immeasurable impact on my own life and how I would later deal with learning to grieve my childhood friend and creating artwork which could honor his legacy.  To learn more about our story, go here.

While I've shared with Chris's family what has unfolded in my artistry and how through Chris I've been able to connect with thousands of grieving families and offer a message of comfort and healing, I have not yet made them a sculpture as it seemed it would be somewhat of a magnum opus for me.  I came up against artist's block when trying to conceptualize a design, and for that reason up until this last week I had not committed to sitting and creating this important legacy piece for them.  I felt in my heart that when the time was right I would be led to create.

With Christopher's angelversary up and coming, I knew the timing had come upon me to present his family with this gift but I still could not climb over my own artists block to create the "right" sculpture.  Finally it came to me that I needed a closeness to him where I could sit in his quiet and feel his inspiration, so on Friday I journeyed to his graveside with my journal, blanket, clay, and camera.

Christopher's grave site is under the canopy of  a large conifer.  While sitting with him it brought a very profound and favorite memory to the forefront of my mind, and it is truly my most cherished memory of us.  Chris and I had the most chemistry when we bickered usually, but reflecting on this memory I know that it is one that God set aside for me to later relive and reflect on.  Our class went on a field trip to go apple picking at the orchards.  That day Christopher sat with me on the bus and he did something unexpected and tender.  He put his head on my shoulder, right on my shoulder cap and so it was bony and very uncomfortable for both of us to sit like that but he left it there and I sat as still as possible so not to discourage him.  It was a moment that solidified to me how close we were and I hoped we'd never reach the farm so we could stay like that all afternoon. On that bus ride I felt that we loved each other in the purest way that two children could, gender disregarded.

Later Chris stayed near me in the orchards.  Christopher was so very small, and I pulled the branches downward and he reached up for his apples to pick them.  When I close my eyes, I can still see the memory of his hands splayed with the sun behind them.  The moment I learned of his death, that was the exact image that I thought of.  Christopher, in his smallness, reaching for his apples with sunlight glowing in his fingers.  Despite the bittersweetness of the memory, when I think of that day I refer to it in my mind as the Harvest because I think it redirected and redefined what had grown between us.

When I went to Chris's gravesite for inspiration, I genuinely had thought I would be sculpting a family sculpture for him.  Being there with him, underneath his tree, and thinking of our defining memory together, a much different piece came to unfold in front of me.  Above are some photographs of my quiet time with Chris.  Below is the actual sculpture that I created and shipped to his family today, along with an album containing 30 letters from friends that Christopher has made all across the world.  His family will be floored to read them and see how far reaching Chris' legacy is.


Today we remember Christopher.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surprise! I am back!

Most of you are completely unawares to the fact that I have been away on vacation these past few days!  We don't advertise an empty house over the internet until we are back home and safely occupying it.  Anyhow, we went away, spread our family magic in the Adirondack Mountains, and literally walked back into our palace (whoops, did I say palace?  I meant place.  tee hee) just a little bit ago.

Vacation for me is likely much different than it would be for someone holding a non-portable job.  I LOOOOVE long road trips, not only for getting to sing off key with my family most of the way, but because I am confined in one place and I get a TON of sculpting done.  We are talking a total of 12 hours drive time. !  I bring a conventional oven with me as well as all my brushes, powders, and wings, and each night I finish off the drive's pieces and then bake them in our hotel room.  Laptop gets a lot of action at night too as well as in the morning before we leave for the day's activities.  During those time frames I catch up on communication and play with you guys a little on my fan page.
Here is a shot of all the pieces that are pending shipment (in various stages of creation, some awaiting powdering and some awaiting glaze still).  If you have an order pending, you just might see it in here!

I know you folks are shaking your heads at me for working consistently throughout vacation.  I just can see you all doing it in my mind's eye!  But the nice thing about my job as a professional sculpture artist is that this is my heart's work.  I am passionate about sculpting and could not imagine going a day without doing it.  My 3 year old twirls her hair for comfort.  I play with clay.  It soothes my mind and my art soul!

Worky stuff aside, we had so much fun lost in the greenery of the Adirondacks.  For those who've never been there, I hope one day you get this true pleasure.  I have some highlights to share with you and then I need to get started on Wee Creature Week which is upon us.

This photo is from our prior trip to Lake George.  I have to mention this quickly because I can't not be immature about this so let me just have at it and then move along.  We could not go to beach along any part of the lake because of the current... Invasive Asian Clam Elimination Project.  (insert maniacal giggle at the phrase Invasive Asian Clam.  Those who have heard my laugh know just what this specific giggle sounds like, and I reserve it for just such an occasion!).  I did do my homework on this once I leveled my immaturity, and learned that despite being nominally funny, this is serious stuff.  These are very tiny clams that can each reproduce up to 70,000 offspring per year.  They literally pave the lake bed and the native species can't compete with them because of their staggering population.  It's crazytown.  I wish the project much success and that they can bring balance back to the many area lakes, canals, streams, and rivers that are affected by this.  Eradicate the Invasive Asian Clam once and for all!

And now, for the grand finale, the highlight of our trip every year is the visit to The Magic Forest.  I cannot accurately describe this amusement park that is self proclaimed as being a place for young children and families.  Sneak peeeeek...  Click on any of these images to enlarge them.

This theme park is set wholly within a forest and dates back 47 years, although some of the rides and attractions date back almost a century.  It is literally like stepping back in time and is genuinely and wonderfully creepy.  The rides are rickety as well as the marvelous elders who conduct them.  Acorn shells crack under your feet as you walk the pathways and inchworms hang suspended invisibly in little glowing patches of sunlight.  The statues bewilder at their own decay and chipmunks linger unstartled by them.

I cannot accurately describe this place except to say I do believe there is a magic in it which lights in the heart as you walk through it.  For me, as a sculptor, I am absolutely mesmerized by the artistry that abounds in this place, albeit overwhelming and perhaps terrifying when the sun begins to set.  The statues have plaster pulling away from the armatures and many are covered in dust and cobwebs.  I love that they do not try to defy time.  Here are some more photos to help you understand what I cannot do justice with words.

To begin, the ferris wheel is actually in the trees.

My little Natasha seemed to want to like this pup but couldn't decide whether to trust her better judgment.  This was as close as she would go for the picture.  <3

A small army of fairies flocking the roof top of one of the novelty shacks.  

Inchworms hung unevenly in every area imaginable, like green and glowing forest ornaments.  My daughters could not commit to whether they appreciated this.  Still a worm after all, and they didn't like the sneak approach.

This just looks like a big old Uh Oh to me....

Throughout the forest there are these giant cages which I am pretty sure were for large birds of prey at one point.  I have seen these cages at zoos, but here they only house set ups that I believe are supposed to be charming but could likely make a jumpy child cry.

Watching my children wandering down this path had a very Hansel and Gretel feel to it.  I like this photo because it shows the sheer size of some of these statues.  Some are well over a hundred feet tall.  

A row of sentinels that had a Robyn Hood feel to them.  Each looked suspicious yet unsinister.  You cannot tell from this photo because we were passing on a train track, but these are very, very tall.  

When you pass these giant hens, a very old audio track blares through equally old sound equipment.  The chickens sound as haunting as they look and I whispered to my husband that it sounded like a slaughterhouse.  I am sure this was not the case except my mind runs away on me when we visit this attraction each year. 

I cannot help but see these sculptures and wonder their purpose.  What inspiration led the artist to create the piece and is there a story behind it?  This may very well be an accompaniment to a children's story that I don't recognize because I was distracted by the peeling eyelids and the thought of whether, even when newly created, this was meant to be inviting or intimidating.  

I find it all alluring because it is slightly intimidating, although I know many of you will think this forest holds the stuff nightmares are made of.  

Okay, so wolves aren't your nightmare.  How about giant clowns?  For size perspective, take a look at his shin and you will see my 5 year old standing down by the boot.  M-A-S-S-I-V-E!!

I cannot wait to go back again next year and I fear my children turning the age where they ask instead to go to Six Flags which is just up the road.  I hope their childhood imaginations become as timeless as this magnificent forest.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Results from the Just As I Am charity auction!!

I am continuously amazed and encouraged at the outpour of kindness and sweet spiritedness of both friends and strangers.  I was looking through my studio shelving this week and realized that throughout the past 3 years, I have accumulated a large quantity of sculptures that I considered unsaleable due to minor imperfections.  The thought came to me that others may like the opportunity to own these pieces at a very reduced cost, and so I posted it on my facebook fanpage and asked what others thought of this.  The response was immediate and I could see there was a demand for these pieces.  One woman, Natalie, recommended an auction and I thought it was a wonderful idea!  However, truly I was not looking to profit off of these pieces and so it was decided that if we were going to do an auction, the money raised would all be donated to charity of the winning bidders choices.    The results are, in this artist's mind... shocking and wholly uplifting!!

62 pieces were listed and a total of ... BIG DRUMROLL .... $1300.51 was raised for charity!  It is unbelievable to me that together we have done this and I am just so stunned, touched, and humbled to have been able to be a part of this and watch it unfold in a matter of 3 days.  I also loved reading the metaphors so many of you found in these imperfect pieces and how they all spoke to you in different ways.  As humans, we are all flawed and I can see now how easily you all related to these sculptures and found a personal connection to them.  In reading your posts, I have found a connection to each of you as well and I look forward to friendship continuing to bloom with those I do not already have the pleasure of knowing.  If you had hoped to win a piece but were not able to, please take comfort in knowing that most of these pieces are available without flaw in my online shop and I would be happy to make them for you in your own custom colors. If you can't find something, just let me know.  If you had your heart set on making a donation, I would still encourage you to do so!

And now, for the specifics!  If you are listed below, you are an auction winner.  Congrats!  See details under this list for the next steps...  

Lisa Crownover Mickle - $87 - Memorial Fund for Chris Todaro, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Sheri Copeland Darge - $18, $23, $7, $16 Sealed Strength 
EmilieVergon Miller - $23, $2 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Audrey Rogers - $20 -  Pandora's Project
James Sessions - $30, $46, $30, $20 - Sealed Strength
Dani Franklin - $15, $25
Jennifer Gordon Baker - $30
Sarah Grandfield Connors - $22, $6 String of Pearls
Emily Rose Hughes - $36, $22  Metro-Detroit SHARE
Katlyn Hudgins - $25
Allison Miller Johnson - $65 Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Melissa Rebello Pachecho - $20 American Heart Association
Angel Bre - $26 Susan G. Komen
Annette Hopkins - $25
Sheila Simpson - $35
Jennifer Murray - $37, $17 Promise for Ethan
Angela Chrzanowski - $17, $30 Salvation Army
Rikki Donkin - $30 - Donation made to the Teddy Love Club
Kirsty Broderick - $12, $10 Mental Health Foundation New Zealand
Kim Giger Hart - $12 - The Gentle Barn
Jeanie Nelson - $7
Lauren Wolff - $15 Compassionate Friends
Lisa Hunter - $30, $15, $27 - Australian Cancer Research Foundation
Sara Mizzi - $26 - Memorial Fund for Chris Todaro
Holly Haas - $92 -
Jennifer Thiel - $23 SPCA - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Joy Carter - $5
Jenna Lynne Allen - $15
Ashley Wood - $11 MollyBears
Karen Morales - $14
Hope Wood - $15, $15, $12.50, $21.01 Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Ginny Slamka Prince - $41 Sufficient Grace Ministries
Lisa Lapierre - $20 - Girl Scouts
Margarita Garcia - $6
Alyssa Burrows - $7
Erin Foster - $32

The next steps will be me collecting payment and determining what charity I will be donating to on your behalf. I will be invoicing each of you via paypal so please email me your email address (you do not need to have a paypal account in order to pay the invoice, but if you do have a paypal account please send me the email you use with your paypal account).  You will need to email this info to me at and please ***attach a link to the donation page of your charity's website, as well as including your shipping address in the email so I can send you your winnings.  Once I receive your email address I will invoice you via paypal, and once I receive your payment I will make the donation (minus the shipping charge) and forward the receipt to your email so you have record that the donation has been made.  Your sculpture will be packaged and shipped to the address you provide.  All payments will be collected in US Dollars (it is okay if you are international, paypal will convert) and donations will be made in US Dollars.

Thank you again for taking part in something wonderful which evolved quickly and unexpectedly!  Once I have the details on all the charities supported I will post an update.  Very excited to be able to share that info.  Thank you all for blessing my heart through your actions, you do not know the warmth you've given me and I can only hope to be able to give it back to you in some way.
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