Friday, March 29, 2013

Welcome home, old friend

Last week, I received a package in the mail. The Stars Motel, Chicago came home from the Visions Art Museum. It’s lovely to see it again. In fact, it feels a little bit like seeing an old friend. My larger pieces take between 200-300 hours on average to complete and I often create pieces against a deadline for a juried show. As a result, I don’t get a chance to “live with them” before sending them off into the world. As you can imagine, after spending so much time working on something it can be hard to part with it, even for a little while. So, I was really excited to have it come home. I have hung it on the wall in our living room so I can see it every day. I love that each time I look at it, I see something new. 

Oh, and did I mention it was selected for the President’s Award? Pretty awesome.
This week I am grateful for:
1. Ikea
2. sweet potatoes
3. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens
4. good lighting
5. Hulu

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Three Years Cancer-free

This weekend, on March 24, I will be celebrating a very special anniversary. My cancerversary. For most cancer survivors, the date when you first learned of your diagnosis is forever ingrained in your mind and every year that passes is met with a huge sigh of relief. The goal for many of us is to reach the 5-year mark—the mark that effectively says you are cured. Well, as cured as anyone with cancer can ever be. We all know cancer doesn’t always play by the rules. On Sunday, I will be another year closer to that mark. I will be three years cancer-free.

Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, life fundamentally shifts. They call it the “new normal”. You can never really go back to living your life the way it was before your diagnosis. I guess that is good and bad. I certainly feel anxious and vulnerable this time of year. I routinely question every ache and pain in a way that I never did before cancer. I no longer feel invincible. But cancer also reminded me that life is short, encouraged me to love big, and well…got me back to making art.

I was 38 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I think it is normal to reflect on your life when you are faced with a life trauma. You wonder, have I lived a full life? Do I have any regrets? What can I learn from all of this? On reflection, at that moment, I knew that I had lived a pretty blessed life. I had a wonderful family who loved me. I was married to my best friend and love of my life. I was surrounded by friends who truly understood me. I had jobs that had fulfilled me. And I was a new mom to a 5-week-old baby girl. A dream I had thought might never come true. When all was said and done, the only regret I had was that I had stopped creating.

So once I was feeling a little stronger, I got back into the daily practice of creating art. It was incredibly healing for me. This piece was the first work I made after my diagnosis. It was created for a traveling exhibit titled “Discovery.” It is a self-portrait during chemo.

I was lucky that my cancer was caught early. I have an excellent prognosis. That is not the case for most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are frequently dismissed as digestive issues and women fail to get treatment early, whether they ignore the warning signs themselves or their health care provider misses the diagnosis. I urge you to get to the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms and have been experiencing them for more than three weeks. You know your body. Be your own best advocate.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • A persistent lack of energy
  • Low back pain

This week I am grateful for:
1. being cancer free 

2. sharpie markers
3. a full night of sleep 

4. comfortable shoes 
5. the unconditional love of my spouse

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sorting out the mess

And six months later…

While I haven’t been in the studio, I have been busy. It is hard to believe that our little girl is almost six months old. What an amazing journey. But now that things are starting to settle down and we are finding our routine, I am hoping to get back to a daily practice of making art.

Where did this mess come from?

Every now and then my studio becomes a dumping ground for the rest of the house. I can try and blame my family for that, but really it’s my own fault. It’s the curse of having a home studio. Sometimes it is just easier to hide things away behind the closed door rather than deal with them. Out of sight, out of mind. But since I was literally on the last stitch of my Quilt National submission when Maya was born, things have gotten out of control in the studio. Six months of clutter. Plus, I never cleaned up my studio back in September. That’s not how I like to leave things. I may be messy during a project, but afterward, I like to put everything back in its place. So, while I have not had time to create in the studio over the last six months, I decided that a good swift cleaning was in order before I start on anything new. First things first, getting control of my fabric.

Like most textile artists, I have an abundance of fabric. And while I typically purchase fabrics with a particular piece in mind, sometimes those fabrics don’t work out exactly the way I planned. So they stack up. And stack up. For a while I used a series of hanging organizers in my closet to hold them all. When I outgrew those, the fabric piled up in baskets. It really became too much. So I have emptied out the drawers in my studio armoire and started folding the fabric on boards.

It was a huge effort, but most of the fabric is now neatly tucked away in the drawers. Slowly the studio is coming back to life. Of course, that just takes care of the larger yardage. For those who have seen my work in person, you know that I often use pieces smaller than a pencil eraser. So, there is more organizing on the horizon. Look out scraps. I have my eye on you.

This week I am grateful for:

1. baby giggles
2. sunshine
3. iced tea
4. having a studio space

5. nap time