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About My Art, My Artist’s Statement

I am but a slave to the master of beauty and light. I live and breathe an ever changing dance of color and form. Glass is the medium that allows me to mimic this miracle of the universe best. Glass has a magic of its own and an ability to reflect and transmit light. I believe the reason we find this effect so beautiful is because light is our very essence. I hope that you can find a piece that resonates with you and reflects back the light in you. I will have served my master well.

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I believe that nature is a constantly changing miracle, one that as modern day humans we have trained our minds to overlook, I find great joy and inspiration for my work by constantly reminding myself to look closely at my natural surroundings. Living in beautiful rural Downeast Maine makes this easy. I am fascinated by the tiny details present in nature and constantly challenge myself to make my work more and more detailed. In the form of such small beads this gives my work the same quality as nature. You must stop, be present and look closely to appreciate the beauty that is there.

How the Beads are Made

My beads are made in the flame of a torch through a process called lampwork. The glass is melted and wrapped around a thick wire so the beads are formed inside out. I use many different techniques to achieve fine details including pulling the glass into hair thin pieces to “draw” or “paint” on the bead. Some of my designs are encased for depth and dimension. Most of the glass I use is murano glass, produced in italy. The majority of my pieces incorporate dichroic glass which has the magical effect of making the beads sparkle, glow and appear to have their own source of light.

When the beads are finished they are placed directly into the kiln where they are kept hot for a period of time and then slowly cooled. This process gives them strength and durability. My designs are always changing and I’m always experimenting with new techniques and types of glass. Though I have a few signature designs most of my designs change and evolve over time, resulting in pieces that are truly unique. Because of the nature of glass and the process I use each individual piece is unique and one of a kind, even if it is the same design made in the same week. Because of this I photograph each individual piece I sell, so you will receive the exact same piece that is photographed.

I started making beads in 2004 and have been blessed to be able to do glass art full time since 2007.

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Artist’s Block

I apologize for my lack of writing for the past months, after Christmas we gave up the idea of ever finishing our renovations ourselves. So we hired them out so the past few months have been a blur of sheetrock dust covered craziness. We lived for most of the renovations in just our kitchen and joining dining room with two little kids and a large dog. During that time we got two large blizzards and between 2 and 4 feet of snow. Needless to say it was a long winter.

Ironically today I feel like writing about how to overcome artist’s block. To me art is writing and painting but also all endeavors and tasks infused with creativity, including the mundane practical ones. It’s that newness and inspiration that can be brought into so many things in life. It’s magic. As artists, and as human beings we all know the high of that feeling so well.

And we also know the despair and discomfort we feel when that feeling has abandoned us.

Writer’s block or artist’s block comes from the belief that art comes from you. This is not how creativity works. It may seem like that’s how it works sometimes, but that’s an illusion. If you ever suffer pain from feeling uninspired, try to notice what your thoughts are telling you about you. Likely they are saying something like “I’m not as good as I thought I was.”

If you aren’t inspired right now, fully accept your lack of inspiration. Don’t judge it as a bad thing. If you don’t know what you should do next, fully embrace and welcome the feeling of not knowing. What does it feel like? Does it feel like emptiness or numbness? Or does it feel like fear? Where in your body do you feel it?

The problem is, we don’t often take the time to ask these questions. We instead beat ourselves up for being a fraud or lazy or whatever else, and then that feels so awful that we can’t help but distract ourselves with something else. Maybe we look at other’s art, not for inspiration and our of an inherent love of art but to compare ourselves with others. Maybe we get into an argument over what art is or what art is not. If you are looking at art and having lots of thoughts about how you stack up with the artist, you are feeding the artist block monster.

The artist block monster is your own ego, and it’s the creativity killer. Creativity comes from the you that is not your sense of you. Creativity doesn’t know what income bracket it falls into, what it’s horoscope sign is, or what color hair it has. Creativity comes from the you that doesn’t know it’s separate from other artists, nature, the stars, the universe, or the dust bunnies under your couch.

There’s a space of not knowing, a space of emptiness, a space of no thought and that is the space that invites in creativity.

There are no artists, there are just people through whom art comes through.

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Distraction and Discomfort

I think we all have some project or ambition that we never quite seem to get around to. For some of us it’s just being organized and for others it may be a book they want to write or a particularly challenging piece of art they want to create. We never seem to find the “time” but yet we have time for mindless social media scrolling and entertainment. So let’s get past the lie of telling ourselves that time is our problem.

We know when we aren’t reaching our full potential and it makes us uncomfortable. It also makes us uncomfortable to actually get to work on a project, especially if it’s important and we don’t know if it will work. For most of us that discomfort triggers us into seeking distractions. It’s easier to entertain ourselves with other people’s problems, whether they be real or fictional people. We could engage in gossip, watch a TV show, or just scroll through our Facebook feed. We could distract ourselves with the world’s problems by watching the news, reading news articles or being overly concerned with politics yet not ever take any action to improve the things politically that we are so upset about.

Or we can find something to nitpick about someone else’s project rather than going to start our own. We can spend our time leaving comments on blogs or youtube or social media whenever someone says something we disagree with or goes about doing something in a different way than we would have. Then we become hyper-critical and are so critical of ourselves that we are unable to work on anything that really matters to us.

Or we can tell ourselves that we aren’t running from discomfort, that we are just too tired. Being tired is just a form of discomfort and when you work on something that challenges and engaged you discomfort quickly fades away into inspiration and energy.

All you need to do is make one simple mindset reversal. Discomfort is to be embraced, not avoided and distractions are to be avoided not embraced. Most people come programed with the opposite setting. This one simple hack will transform your time and your life.

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Why I Photograph Each and Every Bead I Make

Have you ever bought something “handmade” online or through a catalog and received something that looked nothing like the photograph? I have and it almost never makes for a good shopping experience. The magic of handmade items is in the tiny details that make them unique. Those tiny differences are still there even when two pieces are very similar. Those small details really do matter and are a big part of why a piece “speaks” to us or does not.

I recognize the fact that I lose a lot of time and profit by thoroughly photographing each bead I make. I currently have thousands upon thousands of bead pictures on my computer that someday I will need to take the time to sort through. I was told that I couldn’t clog up my hard drive with photographs because I’d never be able to take so many, but I have managed to do just that. 🙂

However the alternative would be completely unacceptable to me. Not only would I risk disappointing my customers by having them receive something that wasn’t what they ordered, but I’d be reducing my beads to just a few cookie cutter designs. Instead I’m free to make each and every bead just how I like. My designs are free to change, evolve and improve over time, and I’m free to use rare kinds of glass that is no longer produced. I’m free to try new designs and new variations whenever I like, and sometimes they are one of a kind pieces and other times they may become series that I make for years.

I let the glass “speak” to me, in hopes that the results speak to my customers as well.

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The Criticism Addiction That Kills Creativity

Almost all of us are addicted to criticizing. Something in us enjoys criticizing others, to make us feel better about ourselves or maybe because it’s just a habit. Most of all we criticize ourselves. We have this ideal in our heads that we go about measuring everything and everyone by. We know that ideal is silly and can never exist but still it’s there.

It’s a slippery slope. First you’re innocently doing your art and you think, “Oh this little bit of tree detail isn’t right here.” Now you can either find a way to address this little issue and learn something from it. Or you fall on your butt and slide down the slippery criticism slope. This ride quickly takes you through the stages, “Nevermind, the whole thing is crap.” to finally land at the bottom which is “I am crap.”

There at the bottom of the hill, so many people quit and walk away. The brave ones climb the whole hill and start again. Be brave but next time save yourself a lot of time by learning to avoid criticism. Criticism starts when we go from seeing an area with potential for improvement and instead of going straight to improving we make it personal.

When you look at other people’s work really pay attention to the thoughts that go through your head. Do you feel like your work isn’t as good if you see something amazing? Do you feel superior if you see something that you don’t like as much? We learn more and open the door for inspiration if we see other people’s art for what it is, instead of always making it about us and our art.

Then when we look at our own art the same way, we can see more quickly what we can learn from it and how we can improve it. Instead of making judgments we can see possibility. Judgement shuts the door in creativity’s face. Curiosity welcomes creativity in.

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Art is the Act of Manifesting an Idea

What is art and what makes a person an artist? I think the answers to that question can vary as much as art itself. My own answer will completely depend on when you ask me, and I’d probably even give you different answers over the span of the same day. But this is my answer to that question for the purpose of this blog post.

An artist is someone with the bravery and ability to manifest a new idea in their head. Because only when an idea has been manifested, can the idea be shared with others.

The ideas can vary from something like “this is how a baby penguin’s likeness looks like in the form of a glass bead” to a startling, gruesome, hard to look at painting that makes a statement about society. Are they completely different ideas, that evoke completely different reactions? Yes. Some would say one is art and one isn’t, I say they are both ideas manifested by the artists, and therefore they are both art.

Some art disrupts the world. Some art can get you killed depending on the laws of the country you live in. Some art just makes the world a more beautiful place. For now, I’m content not to disrupt the world with my art because what I think the world needs the most right now is a little more beauty.

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The Path and the Butterfly

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I know from working with glass that just practicing the same skills over and over again results in great improvement. But this improvement can only be found on the level of technical skill. When I focus only on my technical skills my creativity starts to atrophy. If I focus only on following my creativity, the end product becomes more and more impractical and harder for others to appreciate and relate to. My current reality is that if I can’t make things that other people want I don’t get to make things at all.

Improving your technical skills is like walking a path and never leaving it. It gets you there, and it gets you there fast and safely but you’ll never discover anything that’s not along this path. Following your muse or being creative is like trying to catch a butterfly. Just as it settles down and you think you’ve finally got it, it flights off in some other direction or even completely out of sight.

To any creative person I give the following advice, try to give equal attention to the path and to the butterfly. Don’t be afraid to leave the path, and don’t despair at the time you “lose” chasing the butterfly. But when the butterfly goes so far off the path that you stand to lose your way, let it go for a while. It will always come back to you.

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Get Rid of Your Color Blocks

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I’ve recently gotten into doing a lot of mindfulness work and other than achieving it’s main objective of increasing inner peace in my life it’s had a lot of smaller ripple effects. One of these is how I see color. I live in rural Maine and one of the best things about living here is that nature is everywhere, and because we have such pronounced seasons it’s always changing.

I’ve always deeply loved nature but I’d never before been present enough to notice it quite as deeply as I do now. I’ve especially noticed the extraordinary way that nature puts colors together. It’s like living in the most fantastic art show of color and lights but it’s so pure and unobtrusive that we have to still our minds to even notice. Once you do it seems downright insane to worry about something when in the midst of nature but of course I still catch myself doing it all the time. When I’m fully present with nature a few flowers in a field have the power to move me to tears.

Noticing nature’s uninhibited use of color has made me realize that I have way too many conceptualized ideas about color and what looks nice. We all know that color is a huge part of style and trends, that’s why there are even color forecasts from Pantone. Supposedly companies even project four years into the future what colors people will want for various appliances and that marketing influences us on color preferences. We’ve been taught at early ages what colors clash or look bad together. While having this knowledge of color can be incredibly helpful for graphic design and marketing, I think it also has the potential to hold our art back. It also even limits our own appreciation of the colors we see in everyday life.

So if you find yourself stuck with your art start to look at color with an open mind again. Let nature be your teacher. Is mustard yellow really ugly in itself or have we been taught that it is? Does blue really evoke the color of sadness or is that a silly cultural assumption? If blue is a sad color why does a clear blue sky make us feel so very happy?

It’s true that we intuitively know that cool colors calm and hot color invigorates on some level. The complimentary colors and science of the color wheel still applies, but realize too that the beautiful of the color wheel is that it’s infinite!

Of course you can argue that if we are in the business of making things for people to wear or things to grace people’s homes we have to be sensitive to trends. However most people looking for handmade items or art want something OTHER than what is marketed to them everywhere. Our main selling point is being authentic and unique. So I challenge you to find a color or color combination that’s daring, and that really speaks to you. Then go see what happens with it.

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How to Find Your Calling

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1. Eliminate everything unnecessary in your life. This may include gossip, mindless TV or other entertainment, clutter, even junk food and other bad habits. The appeal of these things is that they distract us from doing the hard work we need to do and asking the hard questions that we need to ask ourselves.

Tip: Do this little by little but make small changes that you make stick.

2. Discover Your Authentic Self. Most of us do not realize how many of our choices are made in an effort to please others. Sometimes this may mean we make choices in order to please one particular person and sometimes it may mean pleasing our entire culture as a whole. We may find ourselves doing things that diminish our happiness or sense of fulfillment in life, just in the pursuit of being “normal” or being accepted.

Tip: This doesn’t mean you have to immediately dump your friends or people who are important to you. Certain people may drift away on their own while other relationships will deepen. Deep down no one wants a relationship with someone who has repressed who they really are in order to please. In fact those are the very relationships that often go wrong and cause us intense pain when they do. We all do this in big ways and subtle ways, and the trick is simply realizing when we are doing it so that we can examine it and change.

3. Clear your Mind. Go for a walk, or a run, preferably in nature. Do yoga. Mediate. Or just sit and spend time your dog or cat. Find any activity that really works to clear your mind. Most of them take a little bit of practice so we can go beyond thinking about how to do them, to achieving clear minds through them.

Tip: The discovery you will need to make through this is that thoughts are overrated, and you can never think your way to your life purpose. The thoughts are not who you are, but rather the still space between those thoughts is the true you. You can be told this but it sounds silly because it means nothing until you experience it yourself. Ironically when we realize this and honor it and learn to make space, the answers we seek will come. After we become ok with not knowing, we can finally know.

4. Act. By now if you have gone into steps one through three and have done them thoroughly you will probably feel fulfilled and at peace. You no longer feel the NEED to have a life purpose. This is key because we can never find our calling when we are coming from a place of lack or needing to get somewhere or make something happen. You can even stop here if you like. Maybe your life purpose is to simply do nothing. Would you be ok with that? Or you may act and do wonderful things in this world.

Tip: Many of us have lives that are dynamic and ever changing in ways we could never have predicted. Finding your life purpose is not an end all be all. Continue to be open and have a clear mind and you’ll receive the extra bonus of naturally being able to embrace change as it comes.

Disclaimer: I wish it were as easy and straightforward as I have written out here. Unfortunately it’s usually messy and involves a lot of stalling and relapsing, and wild goose chasing. But that’s just because we are human. It’s ok. 🙂

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“Worry Stone” Series Beads

A while ago I was making a bead and had a beautiful aqua base covered in dichroic glass ready to become an encased flower garden bead. Before I could add leaves and vines, the bead release broke. So I stuck the mandrel in a jar and tried again with a new one. Later when I was removing the failed  bead from the mandrel I noticed how pretty it was. It was a freeform shape because I had just finished the stage where I pressed the dichroic glass into the base bead and had not shaped it when it broke. The bead was so pretty that I put a silver core in it and kept it for myself. It became one of the beads I always reached for first when I redid my trollbeads bracelet.

And so that bead inspired my “Worry Stone” series. To these I added a second layer of dichroic glass, some encasing and a touch of enamel flecks on the surface to give the beads a stone like look. They are then shaped to be mostly round but slightly freeformed like worry stones.

The latest version of my “Worry Stone” beads is the color change version. These beads are made half one color and half another, so that the color changes as the bead turns on the bracelet. Using these in your bracelet designs will result in a bracelet that is never quite the same each time you glance at it.

Here are three photos of the same bead.

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