Thursday, February 25, 2010

Transformation and Healing

So I just finished up with an art show in Manhattan, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. It was supposed to be a show about transformation and healing. And for the longest time I was having a hard time figuring out how the heck to show those things. I hemmed and hawed, I sighed and pushed it off, I waited for inspiration to zap me. And then I waited some more.

It was funny when it finally hit me. Transformation and healing- it’s just the work artists do every day! Maybe it’s repurposing something old. Maybe it’s creating by combining actual materials into something entirely new, or creating by combining inspirations into real ideas. And hopefully, if I do say so myself, we artists are in the business of healing people as a result.

I say this because I think it’s important that as an artist I remember that I’m not just in the business of aesthetics. I’m in the business of touching people through the visual (or through sound or words, depending on what sort of medium you use). I have some very frugal, no-frills family members (Don’t we all have a few in our families? -Because if anyone needs one, I’ve definitely got some extras in back…) I’m pretty sure some of them think that my love for aesthetics lies somewhere between a shallow waste of time and an unnecessary waste of money. Their frugality cannot get them past something that seems so wasteful. And I can see how it may seem that way to people who know there are those without food in the world. (For sure food comes before a nice lamp, so please don’t send any angry emails!)

Still, what I’m saying is, art is important. It isn’t frills. It is transformation and communication- often communication that can cause reflection, and eventually, if we’re lucky, perhaps a bit of healing. The truth is, aesthetics are extremely powerful in our daily lives. From the second we open our eyes in the morning, our surroundings help dictate our moods, our attitudes, and our energy levels. As an interior designer, I have the power to approach aesthetics every day as something shallow and wasteful, or to approach aesthetics as something transformative and healing. It’s important I recognize why I am focused on aesthetics and what purpose they have, so they don’t become something shallow. Somehow, though, this argument hasn’t helped me convince my husband that I need the $100 pair of cast iron storks in the antique store window downtown. Will someone please convince him?


I'm not going to lie. I have been dreading today for about a week. I've been contemplating several meaningful ideas for this post but have come up short. I have a lot of fantastic thoughts in the gestation phase but nothing has formed well enough to "make an entrance" yet. At first I got down on myself about this but then I said to myself, I said, "Self, you are brilliant, creative and overall fantastic. This blog isn't about having it all together. This blog is about being honest about your creative journey. Got that self?!" Got it. So today I'm simply going to list out a few things that have been rolling around in my head with regards to my creative journey.

  1. Culture affects my creativity. The culture here in Southern Idaho DEFINITELY affects my creativity in a different way than other places I've lived.
  2. My feminine self and creative self are directly linked. In fact, I don't think I can separate them and even more, I don't want to.
  3. I once had someone challenge my business ideas, making the claim that I should be creative just to be creative. While I agree with the logic, I also love being a business woman. I find strength in how my creativity, femininity and business sense intermingle and influence each other.
  4. Most people have a happy place. A place they retreat to in their minds to deal with the often harsh realities of daily life. I have no such place. I do, however, have a physical happy place and it can be found at 228 Blue Lakes Boulevard North, Twin Falls, ID. It's my favorite local coffee shop.
The End.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artistic Adventures of An Ardent Amateur: Heaven

This past weekend I drove up to Chicago to see one of my best friends. I’ve been doing this roadtrip on a semi regular basis for the past 2 years, but given my impending relocation to New York City this one was the last, at least for the foreseeable future. So I was more than a little wistful from the outset, and more than a lot reluctant to say goodbye to my girlfriend when the weekend ended. And so it was that the goddesses saw fit to bless me with automobile failure. As I went to leave on Sunday afternoon I discovered that the difficulty I had experienced shifting gears on my way into the Windy City had increased, and there was no way I could risk the 300 mile trip with such an unreliable clutch. I would have to take my car to a Chicago mechanic the next day. So I was granted a reprieve from tearful farewells, and allowed to spend one more night in the company of loved ones.

When I set off again on Monday afternoon, $200 poorer but 24 hours of love richer, I spent much of my drive home thinking about the qualities of friendship, and the ever elusive but increasingly possible state of being known as “happiness.” And the path of these ponderings kept leading me back to Friday:

I arrived in Chicago late Thursday night. My girlfriend’s boyfriend (an awesome friend in his own right, hereafter referred to, for simplicity’s sake, as The Dude) let me in, put my things in the spare bedroom, and roused my girlfriend from bed to say hello. We talked and laughed together for a little while before exhaustion won out and we all retired to bed. When Friday morning dawned my girlfriend trudged off to work, chauffeured by The Dude. I made coffee and when The Dude returned we started talking about my move to New York - whether I was ready (hope so!), where I would live (don’t know!), what I would do (too many dreams to count!), who I could turn to there (???), and how I would start to build the life I want…it was this last question which led us to a course of action. I will be auditioning in New York. Ridiculous as it may sound, I never actually did that on my first stint in the city. And despite my relative comfort with St. Louis auditions, the thought of going to one in NYC is rather terrifying. But The Dude is an actor and singer as well, with significant experience in the realm of auditioning, and he immediately set about calming and preparing me. The two of us spent the morning going through his sheet music collection and then his ipod songs, seeking pieces I could use for an audition. By the time he left for work he’d found me several solid options, and he took those which were on hand to Xerox for me.

So the afternoon arrived, both my girlfriend and The Dude were at work, and I was alone in a Chicago apartment with (as far as I could tell) no neighbors home above or below me. And so…I sang. I sang Gilbert and Sullivan. I sang happy trilling soprano songs. I sang freely and without reservation and with a reckless joy I can only achieve when no one is listening.

After an hour or so heavy footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of an upstairs neighbor, so I gave the vocal folds a rest and decided to channel my exuberance into another of my favorite arts: baking. I made chocolate chip cookies, my specialty, and I made them merrily. I listened to a lecture by Michael Marrus entitled Justice and Theatre: Great Moments in Great Trials and snorted out loud at the brilliance and arrogance of Oscar Wilde while sliding warm cookies off a baking sheet. I sighed contentedly while washing dishes and indulged myself freely in the gooey, buttery products of my afternoon.

When my friends came home from work we ordered Chicago style pizza and stuffed ourselves silly, talking and laughing and communing in the easy, relaxed manner that comes only with years of love and shared experiences. Eventually we shuffled off to bed again, and alone in the guest bedroom, as I wrapped myself in my girlfriend’s familiar and luxurious feather blanket, I paused to marvel at the buzz in my body, the hum in my heart - how a day of art and friendship had set my soul to singing.

This must be what heaven is like.

Monday, February 22, 2010

See Kate Conquer: Semlordagen

Where to start?

Okay, a couple things:
1. I love to cook, and I like to think I'm rather good at it. Baking? Not so much. Cooking is like a game; toss in a little of this and a little of that, and it will turn out okay. Baking is like a science: if you deviate from a prescribed amount of the recipe's main characters, you will most likely totally flop. Rock-hard pizza dough, super-dense bread that's supposed to be light and airy... I could go on but it would be embarrassing. And, anytime yeast is involved the stakes get higher because of the large time investment.

2. I love to eat, and I like to think I'm rather good at it. While I would not say I am a huge fan of Swedish cuisine, the area that I have no complaints about is their pastry department. And, how awesome is this: many of their several holiday seasons (particularly Advent and Lent) have specific pastries to add to the celebration. AWESOME.

3. Over time, my husband has made me a big believer in the theory of, "Why pay someone to do something that I can do myself?" (There are limits to this, of course... like, I'm not quite ready to learn how to dry-clean my own clothes.) So, while I love to go to a cafe and enjoy my latte and delectable puff of flour/butter/sugar goodness, there is a certain Consumption Point at which it makes sense for me to cut out the middleman and start doing the baking myself.

The Semla is a most fabulous piece of heaven that haunts Sweden between Christmas and Easter, but remains quite elusive during the other nine or so months of the year. Traditionally it was eaten on Fat Tuesday, because it is so rich and decadent - it's prominent attribute is the almond paste center topped with whipped cream - that it was supposed to help fatten one up before the season of Lenten fasting. In modern times, Swedes eat them for three months and have foregone the fasting. Fair enough.

My Swedish friend Elin is a fabulous baker. She rolls out breads and cakes and scones like it's going out of style (although I assure you, it's not), and quite frankly, intimidates the yeast out of me! [lame attempt to make a baking joke]

She came over a few weeks ago, and, being in the middle of Semla Season, the topic came up. At one point she oh-so-casually commented, "Oh, you should just make them, they're soooooooo easy!" If they're soooooooo easy, I thought, why doesn't she just show me how to do it?

And soooooooo, she did.

We used this recipe, which was great. If YOU use this recipe, it will require the use of both language and measurement translation, which Google can surely help with. Or, here's one I found in English, although it looks slightly more complex.

Here's the result, and they were absolutely as good as they looked.

If you read the wiki article on semlor, than you know that the average Swede tends to eat about five semlor a year. I, on the other hand, ate four on Semlordagen last Tuesday, which, I suppose, makes me your average American.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Introducing Friday Guest Blogger Cheri Johnson!

A few of you may remember Cheri from a year or so ago when she was the subject of one of our Artist Profiles. Cheri has been my (Annie) friend for quite some time now and it is an honor to introduce her as a regular guest blogger here at D&L Day2Day! Cheri and I first met in Iowa before Cheri left to pursue her studies and career in interior design. Here's a little more about Cheri, in her own words.

Hello. Today is the first day of what will hopefully be a consistent contribution to Dot&Line’s Day2Day blog. So of course introductions are in order. And while I’m at it, I might as well tackle the topic of identity, as it has been on my mind since the moment Annie first asked me to contribute here on Dot&Line Day2Day a few months ago. “Me? Little old me? I’m not sure I’m worthy….”

My name is Cheri Johnson, interior designer by trade, fellow LlamaTM for sure, art show curator, blanket maker, organic foodie, supporter of all things green, lover of all things pretty (in my free time), and closet writer by night when I can sneak away from my four month old son. Ironically, like Kate, I have a gorgeous, genius, husband who has genetically engineered our newborn son to grow at startling rates. I have just entered into a new space in life - mother - and I am pretty sure no other experience can quite take over an identity like having your own little one.

When Annie first asked me to contribute here at D&L Day 2 Day, I told her I needed to wait until I finished an art show I was busy curating in NYC on Valentine’s Day. And while this was true, (and the art show was fabulously fun by the way, thanks for asking!) I was also hemming and hawing inside about what I could contribute to the thoughts of the creative world… It’s easy, no matter how professional or amateur your creative endeavors are, to wonder about what right you have to give yourself the label of “creative” or to tell other people you are an “artist.” Even now I can’t type those words without putting quotes around them! Of course, the truth is, there is no line a person crosses that does or does not give them the right to take on that identity as their own.

Still, feeling worthy can be a challenge. As I wrestle with the identity of “mother” and the percentage of my daily life taken up by what Annie refers to as the “altar of utility” (all of my moments now involve all engrossing feedings, changings, or playings), it’s easy to feel like the intersection of creativity and daily life can get farther and farther away. I find questions of self-doubt seeping into my mind. Can you call yourself “creative” if you haven’t touched a project in over a month? Are you an artist if you haven’t even tried to sell your skills for a few months? What business do you have to consider yourself a designer anymore when you haven’t worked since your baby was born? Is there a difference between being an artist and having a hobby?

The new challenge I am now facing is how I squeeze in another identity - mother - without pushing out others like “creative” or “artist.” But I have a feeling I am not alone… In fact, in the time since I started thinking about it, I have become certain that part of the true challenge of being human is how we navigate a desire to live ten lives at the same time… (I want to live in Africa among raw nature, I want to be a recluse writer on some tropical beach, I want to be a down town interior designer, I want to be Mother Teresa in the dredges of the most challenging environments, I want to be the perfect mother, I want to be a gallery artist, the CEO of my own company, an inventor, a politician… my list goes on and on, can you tell?!) I am starting to think the amazing thing about being creative, about having creative twinges, whether you’re a great artist or not, is that it is an identity you can take anywhere and share with any other identity. So now I am working on ways to use my creative energy in everything that I do, whether or not I am the world’s most recognized artist right now. From how I set a plate on the table to the way I fold my towels, I must remember that I am an artist-no quotation marks needed!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bathroom Before & After

A couple of weekends ago I renovated this ugly ugly bathroom. The renovation was quite the feat as there were plumbers and flooring guys to coordinate. Not to mention all the grunt work of stripping wall paper, resurfacing walls, and painting and ALL in one weekend (well mostly...there were some details handled afterwards).

Bathroom before:

After much hard work, scraping wall paper, resurfacing the walls, painting, coordinating flooring guys and plumbers, we have our dramatic results!

My Grandma Pat painted this. Isn't it beautiful?!

And a fantastic new light fixture!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Artistic Adventures of An Ardent Amateur: Vocal Voyage

I've spent the last two weeks digging through every piece of sheet music I own, and prowling the internet in search of inspiration. I'm trying to prep a variety of audition pieces, so my vocal coach and I have been seeking the perfect songs.

There's a lot to consider when choosing an audition piece. First of all, it's got to sound good in your voice. You can love the song to bits, adore the lyrics, worship the composer, but if it doesn't suit your voice, you're screwed. My singing voice is a syrupy sweet soprano. Which tends to rule out about 90% of all the music I have ever truly loved. But, hey, what can you do?

The next concern is the accompaniment. I couldn't play my way out of a paper bag, but I have enough piano skills to know when something's really tough, and if it's too much to expect a decent accompanist to be able to sight read, it's out. (Thus the universal Sondheim ban.)

Ok, so you've got something that sounds good in your voice and that can be easily played, but has it been done 80,000 times? Are the auditors' ears going to bleed if they hear that song one more time? Out.

Alright, so it's not too commonly done (you hope, though there's no way to know for sure) but is it the right style? You can't audition for Avenue Q with a song from The Sound of Music. (Well, you could but it'd be super weird.) And you can't try out for Madame Butterfly with a ditty from Spamalot. In fact, if it's opera you're after you should really sing a song in the same language as the show, which means you should have in your repertoire not just Italian but French, German, English...

Tired yet? No? Great! Because now you have to consider how much of your range the song displays. And if it's a musical theatre piece it better showcase your acting chops as well. And remember that you only get a few seconds of an auditor's attention before they've made up their mind about you, so make sure the piece you pick (or at least the measure at which you start it) gets straight to the point. No working your way up to that musical climax, it's gotta be compelling from beat one.

Singing auditions terrify the crap out of me. I have fainted, vomited, and flat out fallen on my face (literally! It's a funny story, I'll tell you sometime) at singing auditions. The only thing more torturous is the dreaded Dance Audition, which is a recurring specter in my nightmares. But though I avoid dance auditions like the plague, I have yet to similarly eradicate their vocal cousins from life. Because I actually like to sing.

Anyway, fascinating though this detour into my psyche certainly is for you, the point of writing this whole piece was to have an excuse to show you this:

Yes, this is one of my new pieces. I sing it about a half an octave above Ms. Minnelli's key (and I'm no Liza), but, nevertheless, it works for me. Just don't go telling anybody, or everyone will start singing it and I'll have to go through the whole song selection process all over again!

$50 Giveaway!

Hey folks! Just wanted to let you know about our D&L giveaway on Blue Cricket Design today. The giveaway is for a $50 gift certificate! Please stop by to check it out and enter for a chance to win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Llama TheoryTM

Annie has been asking me to write a post explaining The Llama TheoryTM for a while now, and with the redesign of the blog and the introduction of myself and Kate as contributors, this seems like the right time. So when we were chatting over the phone last week I asked Annie for more details about how the Theory came about.

Val: Jess is the one who came up with it, right?

Annie: Well, we both did, really, it was the two of us in the car.

Val: Oh. But, wasn’t she the one who said “You’re a llama!” first?

Annie: Well, yeah, but I pointed out that there were llamas on the side of the road.

Val: The fact that you were in the car at the time and that you noted the existence of the animal known as the “llama” does not mean you get credit for coining The Llama TheoryTM.

Annie: Hahaha! You’re right. Ok. Jess came up with it. Fine.

Begrudgingly as any older sibling with control issues, Annie admitted that The Llama TheoryTM is in fact the intellectual property of her baby sister, Jessica Croner. This magnificent brainchild was birthed on the lonely highways of Wyoming or Nebraska, or one of those states where there are sheep and llamas visible from the highway. The two sisters were on their way from Idaho to Iowa for a friend’s wedding when Annie said, “Look! Llamas!” (Well done, Annie.) And Jess said, “You know what Annie? You’re a llama!”

(From here on out I’m paraphrasing wildly as I was not actually there, but hopefully I’ll get the gist of the idea across.)

Jess continued, “Yeah! Llamas are curious and friendly and they’ll run right up to something and sniff it and want to know all about it right away, and the sheep are all moving slowly and shying away from anything strange, but llamas see a new person and they’re like, ‘Hi! I’m a llama! Do you want to be my friend?!’ That’s just like you! And me! We’re llamas!”

Later that week when the Croner women swung down from Iowa to St. Louis to see me, I was talking about how eager I am to have a community of friends again, but how so many of my friendship-making efforts have gone awry in this conservative Midwestern city because I think I have a tendency to scare people off. And that’s when Annie said, “Val! That’s because you’re a llama!” which, as you might imagine, had me thoroughly confused and wondering if I should be insulted. (Don’t llamas spit?)

But after Jess & Annie explained the theory, I was convinced. Indeed, I am a llama. I meet a person I find interesting, amiable, & fun and immediately I go into hyper-drive: “We should hang out! Wanna go to a baseball game?! Tell me your life story! Let’s play Twister! Yay, you’re my friend!!!” This strategy of making friends works REALLY WELL in kindergarten. After that, you may start running into some problems.

Nevertheless, being a llama has won me some truly awesome friendships which I wouldn’t trade for the world. And The Llama TheoryTM has given me a new way of thinking about the formation of bonds, and a new aspect of my identity to own. So, thanks, Jess, for the epic insight. Let’s get coffee sometime and discuss the theory some more. Or we could have a movie fest with popcorn and spiked strawberry shakes! Or you could just come live with me anytime you want! Cause you’re my favorite! Yay, we're friends!!!

Our Blog Facelift!

Can you tell we've made some changes here on D&L Day2Day? We had our banner designed by the lovely S (as her friends refer to her) of graphidesign. Isn't it awesome?! I have already received a question regarding the inclusion of the word "Fight" in the header. The word is included because it can be a fight to follow your passions...especially the creative ones.

Please take some time to read our bios in the right hand column. If you are interested in contributing to our blog we would be very excited to consider your thoughts! If you are interested please e-mail me at

Monday, February 15, 2010

See Kate Conquer: How We Fika-ed

Two weeks ago, I was in the planning stages of a benefit fika to raise money for Haiti. What I didn't say is that for me, if something is in the planning stages that means there's still time to back out. Drop the ball. Call it quits. Leave the scene before the crime happens. You following?

My follow-through doesn't always live up to expectations; or, at the very least, tends to exist on a different time line than anyone else's. But this was different. As soon as I mentioned it to the good folks at the cafe, aptly named Cafe!, I knew I would have to follow through... or, never go back to that cafe again. I mean, how embarrassing to convince someone to commit to a good deed and then back out myself? Only on the Internet!

So, with Keith encouraging me, I broke it down into steps and went with it.

First order of business: Nail down the details with Arjwan, the fabulous cafe owner. She graciously offered the space for free and the food at-cost, not to mention her time so that we could hold the event after-hours. Keith and I decided to pay for the food ourselves so that all the money people gave could go to the cause. We thought there might be more incentive to give if we could tell them that ALL of their donations would go to a good cause.

Second order of business: Figure out how to invite people (Facebook? Evite? Mass email?) What we discovered in the process is that Partners In Health, the organization we were raising money for, makes it extremely easy to host an event of your own. Seriously - go to their website and there's a link on the lower right-hand side that says "Can you host an event? Click here." The have an invitation tool, logos, thank you notes, and more so that you don't have to spend a lot of time thinking up ways to advertise and what-not. Pretty nifty! So, we used their invite and basically invited everyone we know in Sweden. I always get nervous that if I invite someone I know but only a little bit then their reaction will be, "Why would she think I would want to come to this?!" Or worse yet, "Who's Kate?" This is a very dumb thought to have, though, so I basically got over myself and invited everyone from my closest friends to my midwives.

Third order of business: Talk up the event shamelessly. On Sunday we took business cards from the cafe to church, writing the event details on the back and passed them to people who's email we didn't know, or to people we just met (including the super-cool sisters I ran into. I asked them where they were from since they were speaking English, and they said, "We're half American and half French, but we grew up in Africa and Sweden". I want to be them.) I kept the cards in my coat pocket throughout the week so I could easily hand them to anyone that I thought might be interested. I also posted on-line at some of the forums I'm on, and reminded people on Facebook as well. I will say that the biggest turnout certainly came from our closest friends; but, I think it's great to spread the word any way you can about events like this; and it's great networking for any future events.

And lastly: Show up. So, we did, Thursday evening from 5-7pm. Keith and I got there just a bit early to put out some info about Partners In Health (this is a truly fabulous organization that's been in Haiti for over 25 years), take some pictures, and welcome the guests.

We had a great time! About 20 people came over the course of a couple hours, and enjoyed coffee, tea, and three delicious types of cake. There were suggested donation amounts, although we were collecting donations in a jar so people were free to give more or less depending on their circumstances. There was no programming, people could just sit and study or read, or chat with friends.

We raised 2800 kroner or about $390. While this isn't a mind-blowing amount by any means, we got a lot of other benefit from the event as well... a fun evening out, a gathering of friends, the start of new friendships, and hopefully planting the idea that everyone can make a difference with a little creativity. Despite my aversion to follow-through this took surprisingly little effort on my part but the pay-off feels great, all around.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Friday Inspiration

Happy Friday everyone! I leave you all with my favorite quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn't serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Little Change With a Dash of Inspiration

As Val mentioned briefly yesterday in her post, a few changes are on their way with regards to this blog. Over the course of the last 3 weeks or so, I have been doing a lot of research for the purpose of finding suitable blogs to advertise on. During the course looking at hundreds of blogs I couldn't help but think about where our little D&L blog fits in with regards to the creative world. Initially I started thinking about this from a place of insecurity as I passed through a bazillion successful mommy blogs & blogs by graphic designers. I love these blogs but I couldn't help but to question what we were doing with this blog. What do we have to offer the creative world (and world at large)??

And then a wave of pride swept over my whole self as I realized that what we bring to the table is honesty! Whether we are writing about a benefit we are organizing (go Kate!) or how music heals us (yay Val!), we are all honest and true to ourselves and our journeys both creative and otherwise. This blog has organically developed into something fantastic. How many other people out there need to be validated and encouraged in their own creative journeys? How many other people come up with creative solutions for home, life and work and never view these abilities as creative strengths? The beauty of this blog is that it hovers around the intersection of creativity and daily life and going forward this intersection will be the more obvious focus of this blog.

Following my own creative path has long been my passion. Closely linked to this passion has been my desire to see other women and fellow creatives follow their unique paths in life. It has been my experience that the individual desires of people in these two groups have been largely marginalized in the name of utility. For example: A few months back I was talking to a friend of mine who is a dancer and mother of two. She explained to me a conversation she had in a young mom's bible study. The leader of the study asked the group of women to write out what they are passionate about...not what they should be passionate about but are passionate about. Upon sharing, they were surprised to discover that nearly everyone had something creative on their list and yet few, if any, were acting on behalf of their creative passions. Somewhere along the way these women had sacrificed their creative selves on the alter of utility...I think we can all relate to this, after all the bills need to be paid, the dog walked, the dishes washed.

What if this blog could be a source for exploring and realizing the creative strengths in all of us? What if the creative solutions we come up with on a daily basis are merely realized expressions of a larger creative need? How can we unfurl our own creativity and make space and time to explore and enjoy? How can we get over the notion that our creativity is worth less because it may not be linked with utility?

It is my hope that by walking out our journeys openly, we will somehow inspire openness among others. It is my hope that communities of like minded individuals will rise up to encourage each other as they realize their own creative strengths. It is my hope that this blog will act as a catalyst for these groups. We would love for you to join us in exploring the intersection of creativity and life. If you have any thoughts on this subject or would like to submit an article, please please e-mail us at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Artistic Activism

I remember clearly the first time I had an “epiphany” with regards to racism. I was in second grade, and we were learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. I was wearing my blue jean jacket – the heaviest of my Floridian outer apparel – meaning it was likely January or February, and thus our lesson plans were no doubt inspired by either MLK Day or Black History Month. I remember looking at the year referenced on our handout. 1968. 1968? Little more than 20 years ago? My mother was alive at the same time as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This realization was so astonishing to me I wrote about it in my journal. “My mom lived at the same time as MLK!” To me, the Civil Rights Movement had always seemed like ancient history. And at least partially due to the fact that African American history is taught in one tiny chunk as an afterthought in U.S. classrooms, my childish brain had assumed that Dr. King came along immediately after President Lincoln: slavery ended, civil rights were won, and everything’s been hunky dory for at least as long as living memory. This new revelation had blown a hole in my world view.

When I got home from school I confronted my mother. “Mom, were you alive at the same time as Martin Luther King, Jr.?” “Yes.” That’s all I remember of that conversation. Probably because that’s all there was to that conversation. My mom did not take the opportunity to share her experience of the Civil Rights Movement, to ask me why I had only just realized how recently it had happened, and she certainly didn’t talk about the fact that the bullet which assassinated MLK did not also slay racism. I still believed racial intolerance to be a thing of the past, even if I now thought it to be a thing of the recent past.

This is not meant to be an indictment of my parents. They are good people who succeeded in instilling a sense of morality in their children, but they unfortunately bought into the white liberal view that if we don’t talk about race with our children, then they will magically grow up to be non-racists. My parents didn’t lack for opportunities to discuss race, either. Later in my second grade year my aunt (mother’s sister) married a Black man from Jamaica, Uncle S. We all liked Uncle S and thought he was funny and cool. And while my older brother and I had picked up enough social cues to know not to mention anything about Uncle S’s race, Buddy was only 5 or 6 years old and had not yet internalized this cultural taboo. So, one Sunday, when Buddy was being passed from one frustrated adult to another in the church pew (he was a squirmy child) he looked up from his position splayed across Uncle S’s lap and declared, “Uncle S, your lips are black!” Everyone laughed. It was cute. He was innocent. And no one thought to ask him why he’d just made this discovery, what he thought of it, or whether it meant anything.* Another time we were walking through the city as a family when Buddy pointed to a Black person and cried out, “There’s another Uncle S!” This was certainly more problematic, and indicative of the absence of race discussions in our rearing, but again, everyone laughed. No one talked.

This is not to say that my parents’ children grew up to be Racists (with a capital “R”). But we didn’t emerge from childhood fighting racism, either. Instead, we continued to “not see” the hatred that was all around us, the way we’d been taught not to see it. We “didn’t notice” that we were privileged because we’d never encountered the phrase “white privilege” or been told that it exists. We quietly, easily, lazily took part in a system that oppressed the Other and privileged us.

Now that we’ve all entered adulthood the onus is on us to educate ourselves and fight the unjust system that we have profited from. Luckily, resources abound. For those of us fortunate enough to have access to the internet, there are myriad thoughtful, brilliant, passionate, artistic blogs committed to combating racism.

So now, perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “Thanks for sharing, Val, but aren’t you supposed to be writing about an artistic adventure? And also, isn’t this a design blog? What’s up with this post?” Ok, fair enough. Yes, I am supposed to write about an artistic adventure. But in this case, the writing is the adventure. My culture is one that prefers not to acknowledge the existence of racism, and in eschewing that rigid social tradition I am opening myself up for attack and criticism. However, the possibility of rejection by people unwilling to unpack their own privilege does not really concern me. What I worry about is that I will inadvertently put my lily white foot in my big gaping mouth (where that particular appendage so often likes to live) and say something racist, offending or hurting a person of color. This is why I’ve been reading antiracist blogs for a year and have hardly posted any comments. But I’m not changing any minds by remaining silent. The time for limiting my antiracist actions to my own tiny personal sphere is over. So what tools do I have to use in the fight against racism? The best and most powerful weapons in my arsenal are my arts: theatre and writing. As an actor I have limited control over the projects I am involved in – I can always choose what not to audition for, but I have ultimately minimal say in what works I do get cast in. So while I would LOVE to do social justice theatre and hope to have the opportunity some day soon, right now the art most readily available to me for the purpose of activism is writing.

To answer your second and third [presumed] questions, Dot & Line is undergoing a bit of an identity overhaul at the moment. You may have noticed that Kate and I have been added as contributors. There are additional changes in the works, and one of those is expanding the scope of the content we discuss. All three of us have passions which lie outside the range of what is traditionally considered “artistic” but which we feel are intrinsically connected to our creativity. And now we’re giving ourselves permission to explore those intersections on this blog. It’s a change we are excited about, as we feel strongly that it will result in more passionate, compelling posts, and more fulfilling writing.

So, yes, it’s a design blog. An antiracist, feminist, mommy, crafty, culinary, theatrical, practical, musical design blog. And so much more.

For those of you still yearning for a little more art in this post, I give you this: I Can Fix It – Volume 1: Racism; A Now Art Project by damali ayo. From her website: "damali ayo names her particular approach to art "Now Art." She describes Now Art as being immediate, participatory, and engaging social issues. Ayo believes that 'art should make you think and feel.' She eschews art that is primarily for decoration. She believes that artists and comedians have a special task to push our culture to understand itself in order to change itself."

While I firmly believe that decorative art has an important function in our lives (I assert that it has the potential to calm the mind and soothe the soul, thus facilitating the healing of wounds incurred in our daily struggles and enabling us to soldier on) I agree that artists are charged with a particular duty to effect change in society. And now I am stepping up to the plate.

*I want to make it perfectly clear that it was not Uncle S’s responsibility to educate my baby brother. That duty lay with my parents and, to a lesser extent, my aunt. As it was, Uncle S gently demonstrated the foolishness of Buddy’s query by replying that his lips were black because his “mother left [him] in the oven too long.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Confines of My Creativity

I've been thinking a lot about cooking lately. Not in the, "Hey I should really learn to be a better cook" kind of way but more in a, "Gee my creativity does not include the culinary realm" kind of way. I love words, visual art and design of all kinds but when it comes to cooking this is pretty much all I'm capable of:

A chicken and green bean casserole with green beans, 1 can cream of chicken soup and crushed crackers on top.

More on this topic later I'm sure.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Investors

Saturday was my first ever fabrication day, a day where I invited friends and family to stop by and help out with assembling reusable coffee sleeves. I decided to call this event Fabrication Madness and for a better part of day it was just that, chatty, fantastic, happy madness. The event was "open house" style and while we had a couple of die-hards (thanks Mom, Ally & Jess!), the majority of people came for a few of hours in the afternoon to help out. We traced, we cut, we sewed, we ate cupcakes and in the end we walked away with, a good number of completed coffee sleeves and several hundred pieces in a variety of "stages", all well on their way to being one of a kind reusable coffee sleeves.

This weekend has left me with a desire to share a little about my support system. I have built Dot&Line with a lot of hard work and dedication. I have never taken a loan, nor do I have any outside financial backers. I DO however have investors and even though they may not take traditional form, MY investors are even better than most. My investors are the several close friends who encourage me. My investors are the people who like my product so much they spread word and buy my items for their friends. Two of my investors are creative friends who contribute to this blog and three other ladies here in Twin Falls who I hope to hire someday. Then there is my father, who is a marketing guru (seriously, he runs his own ad & marketing agency), my mother who contributes wisdom and cuts batting. And let's not forget my kid sister who keeps things light when I become a little too intense and focused for my own good. One of my greatest investors is my husband who is perfectly fine with the financial implications of starting a full time business venture. He is also the planning type who has helped me stratagize on goals both short and long term. Thanks you investors for your unique and necessary contributions to my life. It would be no fun without you.

And now for some pictures of D&L's first ever Fabrication Madness:

Tracing, cutting, pressing, sewing...

Button sewing...

This was definitely a shot in the arm for D&L and boy was it FUN!
Thank you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Free Shopping and Eco-Friendliness

If you are anything like me, you like a good bargain! As spring quickly approaches and the spring cleaning commences, you may be trying to figure out exactly what to do with all that "stuff" you want to get rid of. Here are a couple of online options I can't get enough of:

I have long been a fan of clothing swaps. Not only is it a good way of getting rid of the things that you can no longer use, its a good way to give your wardrobe a free face lift. Yesterday I became a member of Rehash, an online clothing, accessory & book swap site. Check it out by clicking here. You simply photograph and list items you want to swap and then let the fun begin. As long as you have items in your profile anyone can contact you to swap. See something you want? Offer one or two pieces in exchange and let the negotiations begin.

I also recently joined Listia. Listia works similarly to e-bay but instead of paying cash for stuff you trade with points. You can earn points a myriad of ways. You get 50 points when you sign up, another 50 if you link your account to facebook and more when you list items. There is even an option to buy points. Unlike Rehash, Listia allows you to post virtually any item you want. Click here to check it out!

The best part about both of these sites is that you don't have to pay a dime. Simply use what you already have!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: The Healing Arts

Hello Readers!

I’ve been absent round these parts lately, as I’m in the midst of preparing for an enormous life change and everything has seemed just a little overwhelming. To calm my anxiety I’ve been listening to music by some of my favorite artists, and in doing so I found inspiration for this post.

I am a big believer in the healing power of art. As a form of expression higher than those normally accessible to us in our everyday lives, art has the ability to transform pain, and to forge from suffering a greater truth, beauty, and wisdom that can then be shared with the world at large. In my vision of utopia, everyone creates art from their pain and everyone enjoys the artistic works of others in one cosmic cathartic concert.

For myself, I find writing and acting to be the most useful for processing my own experiences, but I gain a great deal of spiritual salve from listening to music. Annie’s recent Twirl your stress away post reminded me of the circumstances of the creation of Corinne Bailey Rae’s latest album, and I thought the intersection of joyful celebration and sorrowful song would make a pitch-perfect addition to this post.

Ms. Rae lost her husband in March of 2008 to an accidental overdose. She says of her new album, "I wanted to be open. I'm really aware that I can't hide any of my feelings. With music I feel like it's the one time when I don't have to think and I don't have to contrive anything. So that's how this record turned out. It's not contrived. It's just open."

In her post Haiti & Art Therapy, blogger Roxanne Samer briefly outlines the artistic depth of the nation in crisis, and gives a quick list of Haitian artists whose work may provide a deeper understanding of Haiti’s culture and history. “In both Haiti itself as well as with Haitians living outside the country, people are turning to creative expressivity to respond to the pain that they are feeling. I suggest that all of us do the same as well. Create but also listen, view, read or watch.”

As for my own emotional comfort, I have returned, as I always do, to the work of an artist whose epic lyricism and unflinching honesty have guided me through the viscid darknesses of all my life’s enormous changes for the last ten years: Ani DiFranco. Perhaps it is selfish and foolish of me, but when I turn to the work of Ms. DiFranco for catharsis and healing, the lyrics of her song I’m No Heroine allow me to imagine myself her target audience: “I hope somewhere, some woman hears my music/And it helps her through her day.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Winter Outside but It's Spring In My Armpits

It all started last weekend when Peter ventured to the grocery store to do our weekly shopping. On the list was deodorant for yours truly. I told him the brand I preferred and asked him to pick out a scent for me (for some reason there are MANY scents with any given brand of deodorant these days). When Peter arrived home he handed me my "Spring Breeze" stick of wonder. SPRING BREEZE. for your armpits. huh.

(Note: I realize this post is a little off topic for this blog but I couldn't help but share)

Monday, February 1, 2010

See Kate Conquer: Planning Our Fundraiser

So, Keith and I are making progress on our Haiti fundraising idea. We got the go-ahead from the cafe (thanks, Arjuan & Tomas!), who will be donating the space to us for free and the food at-cost. I asked them on impulse if they would be interested in hosting, and am a little surprised that they actually said yes! People really do have kind hearts; and, as January and February seem to be slower consumer months (perhaps you business owners have noticed?), we are hoping this will bring some wanted publicity to the cafe. Lesson learned: it never hurts to ask!

For our recipient organization, we decided to go with Partners In Health, a Boston-based group that has been doing work in Haiti for the past 20 years. We've really been impressed with this organization for a while, and are thrilled to be able to help them help Haiti.

Keith and I spent some time trying to figure out how to actually deal with the logistics of the benefit... getting the word out, taking in money, etc... turns out PIH has a great tool on their website that pretty much takes care of everything. People can donate directly on-line if they wish; the interface is a bit like an evite, if you're familiar with that.

We are calling our fundraiser the Love Haiti Fika. "Fika" is a swedish term referring to having a snack together with friends... perhaps a sandwich or a cake, almost always coffee. I think of it more of a concept than a defined term. Now, our focus is on how to ensure people have a good time. But, our friends are pretty interesting, so I think that will pretty much take care of itself!

Check back in two weeks when I post about how our event went!