As you can read in my sidebar under “Mudding through life with the help of art”, I no longer write a regular column for Handmade Business, the magazine formerly known as The Crafts Report.

I haven’t for awhile now. I didn’t update my profiles nor did I advertise the fact. Truth is, I felt humiliated. (They actually didn’t even tell me. They just quit bugging me about deadlines.) (Which I never actually missed, I just couldn’t remember them.)

When I finally realized I hadn’t sent an article in for two months, they told me they didn’t need me anymore. They said I wasn’t funny or relevant anymore.

Ouch. (Gentle sobbing noise here.)

In my defense, I had about six editors there in 10 years. And my deadlines kept changing. But I still felt pathetic.

Then I heard from other writers in the industry, people I know who are truly professional, and excellent writers. Turns out that’s just the nature of the beast. Since we aren’t paid a salary, we’re technically freelancers, who can be hired (and fired) on a whim. (Though not technically fired. Just….not asked to actually write anything, for months at a time.)

I still fill in at TCR/HB with the occasional emergency article. I have no idea how they are received. And I can’t say, “But it’s a living” because, well, it’s not.

But I want to say, in their defense, that the print publishing industry is in tough shape. It’s hard on everyone, and no clear solution in site. I love print magazines and newspapers. Just check out my coffee table! But it’s cheaper, easier, and faster to get news and information on the web. And so, publishers struggle.

It’s not about me, and it’s not about them. They’re doing their best to stay afloat. I loved writing for them, and I would happily write for them again. (There. I said it. I have absolutely no pride. a professional attitude.)

And fortunately, I still write for Fine Art Studios Online, where I also have my website. (It’s as easy to manage my own website as a WordPress blog, and the support staff is amazing.)

So if, dear readers, you know of any writing opportunities, especially any that would be thrilled to to have moi on their writing staff, please let me know. I want to keep writing. Better yet, let them know about me. (Except for pro bono work. I already write for free, right here.)

And to those of you who followed my column at TCR all those years: A big, grateful “THANK YOU!!!” from the bottom of my heart.


Filed under The Crafts Report column


You are probably not doing it wrong.

Feeling Lucy-like lately.

I’ve been feeling a little like Lucy lately, the ornery character in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Not the ornery part (although those close to me might defer), but the times she sets up her free advice booth. I’ve had a lot of people come through my studio lately, who, obviously finding my artwork appealing, share some of their wistfulness about their own art careers.

I love giving advice. Having said that, I should, in the spirit of honesty and truthfulness, I’ve given a lot of bad advice. I’ve learned I really don’t always know what’s best for others. And every time I think I do, it goes very badly, for me and for them.

But sometimes, the misconceptions, the myths, the fears, and the self-doubt, are so obvious, I can’t help but point them out.

It’s not silly to want a studio. You need a place, a space, or a pocket of time to do your artwork. You wouldn’t begrudge yourself a bed (nor sleeping). Why would you think having a dedicated table, or a small room, or even a garage/barn/studio to create, is selfish?

It’s not wrong to want to sell your art.

It’s okay not to give away all your secrets, about how you do what you do.

It’s okay that, as a a wife/mother/parental caretaker/everything else society offloads onto women, you feel like a horrible person for even thinking of making art.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed about the business side of your art.

It’s okay if you don’t even like my advice. (The only thing I absolutely hate is when people beg me for advice, and then ARGUE WITH ME when I give it to them.)

Believe me, I’ve been there. I still go there. And I’ll probably be there for the movie version, too.

In short, you’re probably not doing it wrong.

But there may be a way to do it a wee bit better.

Your homework for today the rest of the year: Read the articles in the links.

If you still have questions, I’m here.


Filed under advice on getting advice


Reminding you that this weekend is still Art Trails, and my studio is open!

My brand new studio door!

My brand new studio door!

I have been reminded by various people/organizers/mentors that I need to remind you again about this weekend’s open studio. Sonoma County Art Trails 2015 runs two weekends, and this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 & 18, 10-5) is the last.

I’m bad at arm-twisting, except for bugging my husband. So I don’t WANT to bug you. But I know I really should.

So if you came my studio last weekend, THANK YOU!!!!! (If you bought something, you are my new best friend.)

If, while you were here, you thought to yourself, “You know, so-and-so would LOVE this”, well, now’s you’re chance to bring them by. (If you hated it, please keep that to yourself. I’m easily hurt.)

If you wished you could visit again, by all means, come on by!

If you forgot, or didn’t have time, this is your last chance for awhile. So git on down here!

Studio #30. In the SOFA Arts District in Santa Rosa, California. In the buildings just south of Julliard Park, on South A Street.

I’m down what is affectionately but unofficially known as “Atlas Coffee Alley.” Because it’s an alley, which leads to Atlas Coffee Company. And there’s a sandwich sign at the head of the alley noting same.

I’ve rearranged a few things, and I may have a new piece or two already. But I did not dust or sweep. (Artistic license.)

And I’d love to see you here. I mean, there. At my studio.

You can find a map of all participants here.

Til then,


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Filed under Open studio announcement


New tour! New studio! New work! Same ol’ red hair and smiling face.

There's room to SIT DOWN in my new studio!

There’s room to SIT DOWN in my new studio!
I have lots of NEW WORK, too!

I have lots of NEW WORK, too!
New antique box mini-shrines!

New antique box mini-shrines!
New framed fiber pieces, too!

New framed fiber pieces, too!

I’m delighted to be a new artist (#30) on the prestigious Sonoma County Art Trailes, a self-guided tour through the open studios of more than 175 artists and craftspeople throughout…well, throughout Sonoma County.

The tour covers the next two weekends in October, Saturday and Sunday, 10-5, Oct. 10 & 11, and Oct. 17 & 18.

I’m in my new studio space! It’s a lot bigger than my former space. In fact, I’m in the space you had to walk through to GET to my former space. There’s a window! There’s room to turn around! There’s a sofa and everything! I even cleaned!! (This in itself is a noteworthy event.)

I have new framed fiber pieces, new small antique box ‘installations’, featuring my handmade artifacts and small sculptures. I have new jewelry, too.

So come on down to 300 South A Street in the SOFA arts district in Santa Rosa, between Sebastopol Ave. and Sonoma Ave. There are eight artists on the Tour here. I’m by myself, down Atlas Coffee Alley, down the side of Gallery 300. There will be many bright blue signs showing the way; look for the cerulean blue door in the alley, that’s me!  Studio #30.

For more information, visit where you can also download a copy of the catalog (if you don’t have one yet) and maps of all the studios. (The one with me on it is


Filed under Open studio announcement


Let’s talk about success for a minute.

When I first stood up for my artistic self, it was a powerful moment in my life. I set aside self-judgment, feelings of inadequacy, needing success, ALL the baggage that being a creative person in our culture carries.

The questions I asked myself were:

I see my young children, vital and grounded, full of potential to do anything they turn their mind to. Was I like that as a child??

How can I want my children to live a life filled with passion and fearless commitment to their highest self, and not want that for myself?

How will they know what that looks like, if I don’t show them?

My mantras were:

I have to be an artist, or I’ll die.

I don’t even care anymore if I’m a GOOD artist. I just have to do it.

If one person in a thousand likes my work, I’ll be happy.

In addition to taking my art seriously, I took the business of art seriously, too. I created a business plan, a strong artist statement, hired a professional photography (great images are EVERYTHING), taught myself how to write good press releases, and promoted the heck out of myself.

So, a few years later, I was juried into major high end fine craft shows. My work was juried into art and fine craft exhibits across the country, and my work was carried in 63 shops and galleries in several dozen states. My work was featured in dozens of books, magazines, and newspapers. I wrote regular columns for two craft magazines. I wrote a book for Lark Books.

And I still didn’t feel successful.

I wasn’t, compared to really famous artists and craftspeople. But I was already learning that many of the markers of ‘success’ in our culture can feel empty and hollow. And money–or at least LOTS of money–doesn’t necessarily follow, either.

I had done everything right. But it wasn’t working for me. I quit the fine craft show circuit. I cut way way back on my wholesale market (with help from the 2008 recession.)  I stopped applying to juried exhibits. (Oddly, I made just as much money doing one big craft show and holding two open studios a year.)

I’m not saying my good business sense muddied the waters. I believe you can be committed to creating good work, and committed to getting that work out into the world. I’m saying that I need to periodically examine my personal definition of ‘success’. What would success look like to me? And how will that change along the way?

I’ve also learned that we cannot possibly measure the effect of our art, work, our deeds, our words, in the world. For me, ‘faith’ means we do the right thing, the good thing, the kind thing, not because we’ll be rewarded, but because that’s what the world needs from us, whether we ever know it or not. We have to believe that we throw our little stone into the water, and the ripples travel to places we cannot see, may never see.  Some days it may seem that the world does not want my art. Coincidentally (or not), I’m usually feeling like a sulky four-year-old on those days. But I also know I still have to make it.

I’ve written over the past few years about this, doing many course-corrections along my way. And recently, one of my favorite writers, Martha Beck, put it succinctly in an article (Life’s Not Fair) published in the September 2015 issue of Oprah Magazine. (Here’s the link, but it’s not a direct link. Scroll down to the second article on this page, to What Redefining Virtue Can Teach You About Happiness.)

In a nutshell, Martha says, “Life’s not fair. It’s possible to face that fact with grace. You just have to stop expecting fate to dispense satisfying little packets of justice.”

It’s an astonishingly good article. I think you’ll be glad you read it.

And whenever I get jealous about how wise and wonderful and well-known Martha Beck is, I just go read one of her articles about that, too.


Filed under life lessons


The fig tree, doing its best to feed everybody. EVERYBODY.

The fig tree, doing its best to feed everybody. EVERYBODY.

We were so excited about the orange tree in our new backyard in Santa Rosa, we almost overlooked the fig tree. The orange tree had reverted to less appetizing oranges, probably from a failed graft, though one branch continues to product delicious oranges. The blossoms are sweet, and the oranges that are edible are wonderful. They ripen all at once, though, so there’s a feast of oranges for a day or two, and then….nada. (Although the orange tree also keeps its leaves all winter, so there’s that.)

The less-romantic fig tree, though, is quietly becoming more important to us. And I’m amazed by the also-quiet, yet deep life lessons it’s teaching me.

It loses its leaves in the fall, then leafs out again in the spring. I don’t remember the flowers. We had to learn when to pick the figs, though we’ve also learned that some people like figs at any stage of their ripening-ness. One friend even likes the withered ones that fall to the ground. He pinches out the insides and cooks them down a bit to make a jelly spread. I like the idea that the fruit of this tree can please so many people, all along its timeline.

It produces figs for well over a month or two, and lots of them. Every morning, I venture out to the back yard to harvest a small bowlful. Then a large bowlful. Now I’m at the grocery bag phase.

So the fig tree is generous with its fruit.

I give them to our neighbors, to friends of our neighbors, and to the crew down at Atlas Coffee Co.. Atlas Coffee was the first place we stopped on our first visit to Santa Rosa, in the heart of the city’s art district ( SOFA Arts District)long before we knew we’d be moving there. It was also our main station to look for our next home. We could hang out, chatting with the owner, James, and Sean, Cody and Ian, the coffee meisters. It was were we saw a sign in a window on the alley leading to the coffee shop, saying a studio space was available for rent. It was availabe soon, which is unusual for these popular spaces. I jumped at the opportunity, and I’m so glad I did.

So the figs are a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ to all the people who first made us feel ‘at home’ here.

There are some drawbacks to a fig tree. But there are lessons there, as well.

I’m slightly allergic to the sap, which is milky. So after a round of fig-picking, I have to wash off my arms and face, anywhere I’ve had contact with the fruit or the leaves. It also drops a lot of overripe figs, which have to be picked up before the ants and flies go too crazy. And what’s really frustrating is, the best figs are at the very top of the tree, way out of reach without a ladder.

I’ve learned a little itchy is worth the quiet, calming pursuit of fig picking. It reminds me not to take blessings and gifts for granted.

The ants and the flies, well, they have a place in the world. (Just not in my house, please.) And the birds can have the figs at the top, because they’ve been so good about not eating ALL the figs.

And here’s the incredible thing I’ve learned about fig trees:

At first I used a small ladder to try to get more figs. But after a couple near-falls, I realized I was risking a lot just to gather even more figs than could be eaten in a day! I gave it up.

But those branches I can’t reach? As the season progresses, the tree branchs actually begin to bow down, a bit more each day. Soon, the figs that were out of reach, are close enough to snag. The branches are often small and supple, too. I can use a hooked stick to pull some of them down even further, and gather those last ripe figs.

It takes my breathe away, that the tree actually bends to my desires. Yes, it could be the weight of the figs, of course. Except that not every fig-laden branch lowers itself.

Here we go with my fig tree metaphor. You knew it was coming, right?

As my brain buzzes with fears of lack (“I’ve lost my best, most faithful customers!” “I’ve lost most of my income, even the other things that brought in a steady bit of money!” “I have to PAY for a studio space now, what if we can’t continue to afford that??”), I think of the fig tree. Simply doing what fig trees do, growing into its space, adapting, and making enough figs for everyone I care about.

When I’m worried I’ll never achieve my dreams of fame and fortune, I think of this single fig tree, hidden behind a modest little house in an old neighborhood, giving us, and other creatures, shade, food, beauty, every single day. (And to be truthful, I know now I don’t WANT fame.) (Although a LITTLE fortune would be nice.)

When I envy the success of others, and when I think my slice of pie is smaller because theirs is bigger, I think of how the tree makes enough figs for everyone.

When I feel like I’m not in synch with the universe, when I’m anxious because I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do next, I think of how that tree brings its branches just a little lower, so I can pick more figs. Just like the universe has a way of bending just a little, to meet me halfway. Or, in the case of this California move, bending more than just a little! That generous nature astonishes me. It lifts me up when I stumble, and soothes me when I’m fearful.

I don’t know how old our tree is. Our house is just over a hundred years old, in a neighborhood originally settled by Italians. So its probably been around awhile, and hopefully has many more years to go. It’s surely been here before I was born, and be here long after I die.

I hope its lessons will continue to ripen, like its delicious fruit.


Filed under Lessons from the move

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Change: The Movie (The Move continues)

Even tiny changes can reflect big ideas.

My head’s been in a whirl the last few months. I think I’ve entered that stage in a move where it feels like my life feels like a dream. Not the great glow-y kind. The kind where I find myself picking up dog poop and I keep finding hamburger patties in the dirt and I think, “Geez, this is weird. Wait a minute…..Am I dreaming?!” (I was.)

On one hand, there’s all the wonderful, heady stuff that comes from a major life change (the good ones, that is.) We go for a drive and suddenly remember this is an incredibly beautiful area, and the ocean is half an hour away. There are the marvelous moments, like learning our resident hummingbird darts into his nighttime resting spot in our little tree in front of our front porch, at exactly the same time (relative to sunset) every night. We sit and watch for him almost every night, and get a tiny frisson of joy when we catch him in the act. (It helps that he sits in exactly the same branchlet on the tree, too.)

On the other hand, there is the sudden realization that there’s no one to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go out for a drink!” Not that I could, anyway. Since we’ve been here, I can barely stay up past 9 p.m. Sooo…no one to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go to Happy Hour for a drink!”

I miss lakes, and rivers. There are lakes and rivers here, but not so much after four years of drought. I miss thunderstorms.

(OTOOH, I don’t miss mosquitoes, black flies, humidity, nor the season of funny smells.)

A few days ago, I had the scariest change of all.

I should preface this by saying my “year” tends to begin and end at my birthday. That sounds pompous, and I don’t mean it that way, really, I don’t. It’s just that when I realized the cave of Lascaux was discovered very nearly on my birth date, and other big events that cause me to stop and gasp (my birthday is 9/11), I often have reason to stop and take my measure. This month has been the same.

I was making a ‘batch’ of horses, as I usually do. Over the years, I built up to making my animal totems in batches of up to, oh, a couple dozen or so at a shot. It made for real efficiency, shaping them all, doing all the manes at once, all the eyes at once, all the markings, etc. (Even in a good sales year, I average about $2 an hour. Maybe I should go work at McDonald’s…..) (Nah.)

Lately, the batches have gotten smaller, down to one dozen, then half a dozen.

This time, I stopped at one.  A feeling of revulsion overcame me. I was overwhelmed with this awful, awful thought:

I didn’t want to make any more batches of little horses.

That stopped me dead in my tracks. WHAT??!! What…is up with THAT??!!

But instead of panicking (what would I do without the heartstone of my work??!), I got quiet. I asked myself, where is this coming from? And what do I mean by that?

And thank the powers that be, it came to me:

I want to make one little horse at a time.

And so I did. I made two little horses that day. Each one, totally one at a time. Each got its own shaping, then its mane, then its eyes and nose, etc.

I then made other artifacts that take less ‘soul’, if you will, easier work, and popped the whole bunch in the convenction oven in my home studio.

This may not seem like a big change to you. It sure started out as a big change, but ended up being a very small change.

Or is it?

My horses have always ended up as completely individual and unique. For years, I’ve been telling folks how collectors look for ‘their horse’ when shopping.

I don’t know how to explain this, except that this, for some reason, feels even more important than ever. So important, I felt the need to slow down, to get calm, to get centered. To really see the power, and the blessing, inherent in everything I do.

There’s something growing here in California, something big. When people are attracted to my work, they fall hard. The things they tell me about it, are powerful. My internet sales are growing, from people back in New England who are either missing my work, or have recently discovered it. More and more people are telling me about how the work feels, on many levels.

It’s scary. Someone asked me why, and I couldn’t say. It’s something about, with my work having that power, comes great responsibility, something I don’t know how to handle personally. It feels like the time a bigger-than-life visitor exclaimed, “You’re a shaman! You’re a shaman!” when he first saw my work–like my work is bigger than I am. I’m not putting that right, but it was exciting, and wonderful, and scary at the same time. It was a powerful experience, and propelled me forward in ways I could not have imagined.

Something like that may be growing now. All I can do is listen. Pay attention.

The past year was all about realizing the harm brought into the world by people who don’t know what they don’t know.

I wonder what this next year holds for me.


Filed under Lessons from the move