It may not be Barbie’s fault…

 

Since I was a little girl I have been aware of woman being unhappy with their self image, wishing they were skinnier or a certain feature wasn’t how it was. Often I would listen to the woman in my own life pick themselves apart and be confused. I thought they were beautiful and usually what ever feature they were bashing was something I had hoped I would be lucky enough to obtain as I grew into a woman. I wasn’t being influenced by Barbie or the latest Disney princess. I was being influenced by the women in my family, the ones I interacted with daily. It was from them that I was being taught how I should judge my own beauty.

I can remember comments being made to the younger generation about being sorry that certain ‘unflattering’ features were passed on to them, or that they were lucky that they didn’t have to deal with a flaw they had. Without really setting out to consciously pass down a code of beauty, one was passed down. Like societies code it was not focused on feeling good about who you are and being healthy. It was about tearing yourself apart and doing whatever it took to fit unrealistic beauty ideals. It was heartbreaking to watch growing up. The foundation laid by the women I grew up with effected how I let what society was saying about beauty play a role in how I felt about myself.

The biggest obstacle in finding beauty in the mirror is that society teaches us to focus on what we don’t have and to criticize those women who feel good about what they were naturally given. Girls with straight hair wish they had the volume and versatility that comes with curls, while those curly girls look enviously at their straight hair friends. Yet when a girl openly admits that she loves her natural hair she is faced with criticism (behind her back of course) about how that hair isn’t as great as she thinks it is. So go on and feel good about yourself, just not to good that you don’t have a handful of features you are ready to criticize about yourself. Never do you walk into a public girls bathroom and hear a bunch of comments about how good they think they look as they primp in front of the mirror. How dare we ever become that vain.

I don’t think we should all walk around exclaiming how hot we look to everyone and anyone that will listen but we should be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and think ‘I’m totally loving me today!’ without the fear that we are being way to full of ourselves and resort to focusing on our flaws. We have all been dealt a different hand and we don’t have to love everything about ourselves but we shouldn’t let those features we don’t love dictate how we feel about ourselves overall. And we certainly need to stop projecting our own insecurities onto other woman through criticizing how they look. Even typing those words I can feel the crushing weight of my own need to follow that advice. I am insecure about my own lack of girliness so when I see the over the top girly girl walking past me my opinions of her are never that high. “She is a complete airhead” or “Why does she need to be so trashy. We get it, you have a vagina.” are some of the nicer things that cross my mind. I know nothing about that girl other than she knows how to pull herself together and can spend the day in heels. I love a good heel but I prefer a combat boot or my chucks more. I also rather spend the day in a t-shirt and jeans than anything fancier. Instead of embracing what makes me feel the most comfortable in my skin, I feel like my less feminine daily attire somehow makes me less feminine. Yet when I try to dress more along the lines of how I think I am supposed to dress as a woman, I feel uncomfortable and miserable.

Right now the internet is inundated with anti-photoshop articles encouraging woman to fight societies unrealistic beauty standards by just being yourself. I loved Colbie Caillat’s latest video for her song Try. The song talks about not doing anything just so someone will like you, asking if when you take your make up off and look in the mirror do you like what you see? I also support the Brave Girls Want campaign, which is challenging companies like Disney to stop sexualizing young female characters that are targeted to young girls. I think all of these things are great and are necessary in encouraging females of all ages to embrace what makes them uniquely beautiful. However they all but the blame on big industries and the men that come up with these unrealistic ideals of beauty. Although they do need to be held accountable, so do we. Each and every woman needs to take responsibility for how we effect the next generation of woman through how we talk about ourselves in front of them, how we talk about other women in front of them. We need to make sure we are giving our daughters the encouragement and foundation they need to see through the ridiculous beauty standards society is trying to set for them. We have the power to change the industry, but we can only do it by changing how we see ourselves and like that little Indian man said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

As always thanks for reading,

r.n.a.

Some great links to check out…

Colbie Caillat‘s video for Try

Brave Girls Want

 

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It’s subtle…

I am currently in a great show called Art // Service in the Artist at Work Gallery at Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. All of the work was created by veterans who are attending or graduated from Maine College of Art. Its a really amazing show and so great to be able to see how serving has effected the work we make. For some it is very obvious and for some of us it is more subtle.

For me, its subtle.

Prior to being asked to be apart of this show I never would have thought that my time in the military had any effect on my work. If anything I would say that it hurt my ability to think creatively. I really struggled transitioning from the military mindset, where I worked on computers on an aircraft carrier, to the more free thinking self guided mindset of art school. While in the Navy I was given a very straight forward task, success came when I completed it how I was told to complete it. Art school I was given loose guidelines for assignments, encouraged along the way to interpret them how I wanted, and to be open to exploring new approaches to that assignment. I had to think for myself, create my own guidelines. I found myself spending more time trying to make the work I thought my professor was looking for instead of finding my voice as an artist. It was not easy for me to let the military mindset go.

Taking a Surrealist Drawing class really helped me break free of that thinking. Working intuitively with materials, without a plan or goal, I was finally able to stop thinking and just create. I think it wasn’t until my senior year that I finally started to figure out how to express my own voice instead of trying to be the voice I thought was expected of me. I began to look for direction in how to express what I wanted to express instead of looking for direction in what I should be expressing.

Subconsciously the time I spent stationed on board the aircraft carrier had a big effect on the type of work I want to make. Spending a majority of my time for three years in a floating steel box was depressing. Everything was haze gray, deck gray, off white, black, or blue. It was cold and ugly. The carrier was so old that no matter how hard you scrubbed and polished or how recently you painted everything looked dingy.  Even the air felt dingy and old. Ironically the only time I felt like I could get fresh air was by walking out to the crowded smoke deck where I could feel the sun and see the water. Although it happened without realizing it I do not doubt that living in such a cold environment is what fuels my passion for creating work that is inspired by the lines of nature.

Talking to the other veterans about their work, individuals that understand and can articulate better than I can about why they make what they make, really inspired me to reflect on whether or not my time spent in the military has left its trace in my own work.

It may be subtle, but I can see it.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

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New things happening…

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 3.39.05 PM

 

I updated my website, again. I had been trying to do it on my own, starting with a blank template and setting it up myself because some how I thought that would make me look more artistic. I am not a graphic designer or layout savvy and it showed. I have seen worse websites but my pride was getting in the way of presenting my work how I wanted it to be presented. So I stopped being stupid and got a template. Eventually, when I have money for such things, I will have a professional custom design my website for me. Until then a free template will have to do. And honestly, I like my website so much more now.

I also have decided to start offering photo restoration through my site. I eventually want to go back to school to get my masters in something involving history of photography with a focus on archiving and preserving. Until I start working with bigger collections I thought I would start small, helping people bring back to life their family photos.

If you have time check out the new site and let me know what you think.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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Leibster Award and feeling encouraged…

I have been nominated for the Leibster Award by an upcoming blogger Emily over at Miscellanous Me. Not going to lie, I often struggle with this whole blog thing. I want to do it more often but struggle with the insecurities of wondering if anyone really cares what I’m writing about. I’ll start writing a post and delete it because I think half way through “Who gives a shit?” So to have a stranger comment on one of my posts and say ‘I want to read more from you’ is a pretty awesome feeling. Since that stranger has a pretty cool blog of her own it made the whole thing that much sweeter.

The Leibster Award is a pay it forward type of an award. One blogger gets nominated and then has to nominate 11 other bloggers who they think are awesome and have less than 200 followers. It’s a great way to connect and discover some of the little known gems on wordpress. Seeing how other people have structured their blogs and to read what their talking about is great inspiration to encourage me to keep doing my thing. Plus its hard to get noticed in this giant ocean of the internet. The rules if you are nominated and wish to accept are as follows:

1.First, include a link back to the post or blog of whoever nominated you and thank them

2.Include 11 facts about yourself.

3.Answer the 11 questions that the blogger who nominated you posted.

4.Post 11 more questions for your nominees to answer.

5.Nominate 11 bloggers that have less than 200 followers.

 

I’ll start with 11 facts about myself…

1. I really want a green thumb but really struggle with growing plants and keeping them alive.

2. When I’m walking down the street and become aware of being lost in thought I start to wonder if I was thinking out loud.

3. I don’t understand the universal acceptance of peanut butter and jelly belonging together.

4. Seeing roadkill makes me genuinely sad, unless its a skunk. After a skunk killed three of my baby chicks I do not care if they live or die.

5. Im often envious of how openly nerdy my sister is in front of people she doesn’t know. I wish I had that sort of self confidence.

6. I’m incredibly shy so interacting with other people is really hard, no matter how long I have known someone I still get nervous about going to hang out with them.

7. I’m always game if you tell me there is free food involved. I am fascinated by the history of anything and am full of useless facts.

8. I wish I had a name where I could go by my first and middle initial and my last name. Like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. R.N. Albon just sounds like a nurse.

10. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I thought I was too cool to read the Lord of the Rings because when I finally did at 24 they quickly became my favorite books.

11. Growing old doesn’t bother me. I look forward to every birthday and getting closer to becoming a little old lady shuffling around in her slippers and knitting hats for the kids in the neighborhood.

 

Answers to the questions Emily asked…

1. Tea or Coffee?

Coffee all day and tea when curled up with a good book until I became pregnant and now I cant stomach the thought of drinking either. Hopefully that changes once the baby comes.

2. If you could travel across time and space, would you got to the past, the future, or just somewhere else? Where and /or when would you go to?

I would go to the past anytime between 1475-1513 to whatever city in Italy Leonardo Da Vinci was working in at the time. That time period, place, and DaVinci have always fascinated me and I would love to experience it in person.

3.) This question is rather cliché, but I have always liked it… If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

I recently watched an amazing documentary on honey badgers so I will say that. They are smart and ornery little things.

4.) What is your idea of a perfect evening?

Eating a great dinner with the husband followed by a smooth glass of whiskey on the front porch while the Shins play in the background.

5.) The ultimate social dilemma: A girl/woman your age is walking directly in front of you with her skirt tucked into her underwear. You react by…

Trying to discreetly get her attention and make her aware of her underwear mishap.

6.) If you had a super power, what would it be?

It’s a toss up between super human strength and the ability to morph into a giant green monster when I get angry. I have always struggled with a short temper and I am envious of Dr. Bruce Banner’s ability to rage as the Hulk.

7.) Most listened to song on iTunes? (Or whichever platform you play your music on).

Ain’t It Fun by Paramore.

8.) If you could have one conversation with someone from the past who would it be?

Georgia O’Keefe.

9.) Do you have a nickname?

Lots. My favorite is probably my husband referring to me as Oscar when I’m being a grouch.

10.) Where is the last place you traveled to?

Seattle.

11.) Pick a quote, from anyone or anything, that you like or is meaningful to you.

“Only thing to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The 11 blogs I nominated in no particular order…

1. http://whatwomenwrite.wordpress.com

2. http://glassslippersandglassceilings.wordpress.com

3. http://cheekystreet.com

4. http://saltwaterspeculations.com

5. http://missmorningwood.com

6. http://mylifebyolga.wordpress.com

7. http://teresa0323.wordpress.com

8. http://nataliakwok.wordpress.com

9. http://misscasslee.wordpress.com

10. http://happybydesignparenting.com

11. http://slinkymissb.wordpress.com

 

Questions for the bloggers I nominated…

1. First thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

2. Best book you ever read?

3. Biggest pet peeve?

4. TV show you can’t get enough of right now?

5. One issue you don’t think people pay enough attention to?

6. Your favorite place to go to unwind?

7. The best present you ever received?

8. Cats or dogs?

9. You’ll never be to old to…

10. Where do you write your blog posts?

11. The best advice you have ever received?

 

Thanks again to Emily for nominating me! I am so excited to keep reading posts from the 11 blogs I nominated as well as all the other blogs this award has exposed me to.  Hopefully this award will be as encouraging to all of you as it was to me. Keep on writing!

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

 

 

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Closet Feminist…

 

From the series Teenage Vendetta where I unknowingly explored feminist themes.

From the series Teenage Vendetta where I unknowingly explored feminist themes.

I never considered if I was a feminist or not until I was called one by a male professor. Well, he didn’t call me a feminist exactly. What happened was this, during a one on one critique in art school he was looking at my work and said, ‘Look, I get it. You have this whole feminist thing going on.”

Immediately my blood began to boil. Just because I’m a girl attending art school I am automatically doing the whole ‘feminist’ thing? Feminism had nothing to do with my work!

Or so I thought.

I was working on a series of still lifes for my advanced studio class. My idea was to show what it would look like if a girl in her mid-twenties was to take out her frustrations from the cruel reality of the world on her childhood barbies who made her believe the world was a pink safe place where dreams come true. One of the images is of three Barbie heads on spikes in a heap of Barbie parts. I was trying to reflect women’s experiences through my work, which is the most basic definition of Feminist Art and the Feminist Art Movement.

I had a feminist thing going on. Yet why did it feel so insulting to have someone identify it as that? Did it only feel insulting because it was an old white male saying it? What if it was one of my female instructors?

At the time I was doing the work I was unaware of what Feminist Art really was. I knew women burned their bras in the 70s and I knew about Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party which was explained to me as ‘a bunch of vaginas on plates that she was calling art.’ Sure, I am all for women’s equality. One of my biggest frustrations as a kid growing up was being told or treated like I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. It’s still one of my biggest frustrations. I just didn’t understand how a bunch of vagina plates were supposed to make the ‘Man’ treat women with more respect. I wrongly grouped all of Feminism in with my mis-understanding of one piece of art work.

I wasn’t alone. I can remember other female students being equally insulted by automatically being grouped in with feminist art just because, we often wrongly thought, we were women artists. Many of those female students were unaware of what they were even being associated with.   Even the famed photographer Cindy Sherman has tried to disassociate herself with the feminist art movement. Art History 101 mentions the feminist art movement in passing, as the beginning of performance art. If you really want to learn about feminist art or about any women artists in any time period you have to take a special topics class. (But that is a rant for another post.)  The more I learn about feminism on my own the more I realize many of my ideas are feminist in nature. It shouldn’t be an insult to be associated with these woman that forced the male dominated institution to take them seriously, to consider women as serious contenders in the art world. I’m not sure I would be able to dismember Barbie and photograph the doll’s head on a stake and get an ‘A’ by an old white male artist if it wasn’t for their work, if Womanhouse never happened.

Yet, I still find myself stuck in an identity crisis. I am leery of being called feminist or having my work associated with feminism because I feel like I am just being grouped there by men that don’t know what else to do with women’s art. But on the other side of things I really enjoy being married and want a lot of kids that I can stay at home with. I am hesitant to openly share how excited I am by those things because then I am not feminist enough, just another poor weak woman giving in to the male dictated role of submissive wife and child bearer. What is even more confusing is that I do not think loving wives and stay at home mother’s are weak or unable to be feminist. I could say that its just in my head but I have had to many conversations with too many people that have re-enforced that this is a very real way of thinking in our society. When I tell people that now that I have graduated college I am excited to have kids and be a mom, I am asked why I even wasted my time and money going to school. Sharing future plans my husband and I are making, the conversation’s focus is always on what I am giving up for his career.

I could follow the old adage ‘who cares what other people think, just be you.’ But if we are all honest, it matters what other people think. It matters how we are seen by our society and our peers.

Maybe I let it matter too much.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

Check it out:

Womanhouse

Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party

More from my Barbie Series

 

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The Nick Offerman Effect…

One of the gifts I found under the tree this year was Nick Offerman’s book Paddle Your Own Canoe. I started reading it immediately. After months of researching my art history minor thesis topic on how motherhood and societies view of motherhood effects woman artists, I was happy to read something that had nothing to do with any of it. I knew the book would be funny but I was not expecting it to be so well written.  I mean this guy is a really good actor and I love the stuff that comes out of his woodshop, but great author too? I should have given him more credit.

Like most of America, I didn’t know who Offerman was until I started watching Parks and Rec, easily one of my favorite shows on TV right now. I was hooked by Offerman’s character Ron Swanson…

Actually If you have never seen an episode of Parks and Recreation stop reading this and go watch it, seriously don’t even finish this blog. You need to laugh.

Apparently I talk about Ron Swanson a lot which led to a teacher sending me a video of Nick Offerman giving a tour of his wood shop. At the time I was only a few months into pursuing woodworking. After two years of studying photography, I had decided that I wanted to switch gears. I had carved a spoon out of a piece of walnut and realized that my life would not be complete just being a photographer, I needed more. I needed to get my hands dirty and build things!! When I made the switch over to woodworking I had a hard time starting over. I understood photography, it’s history, who its key players were, who I liked, who I didn’t like. I did not have any of that with woodworking, so finding out that this funny guy also built things and appeared to be someone who I thought I could sit down and have a glass of whiskey with was encouraging at a time when I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into.

Reading his book sealed his spot on my list of artists I draw inspiration from. It’s part bio part giving hope to young actors not sure they can navigate show business. The later doesn’t really apply to me. I would say that if a director or whatever came up to me on the street and said, “Oh my, be in my film!” I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to try my shot at the hollywood big screen. The problem is that I have worked really hard to cultivate a don’t-even-look-at-me-let-alone-attempt-to-speak-to-me vibe when walking down the street and would be so annoyed by someone trying to talk to me that I wouldn’t hear anything they would have to say. (hey, don’t judge! This is what happens when you live alone in Philadelphia and are a petite young lady. It’s a scary world out there.) Plus there is no way I would believe they were anything more then a perv with a video camera in his mom’s basement. So like I said, I have no reason to ever need to know how to navigate show business.

It was still fun to read his advice since it easily translates to the pursuing of any profession. He matter of factly states that we need to live life and pursue what makes us happy so we can enjoy the life we are living and be happy. Unlike many of the self help e-card crap out there, he also makes it clear that following your dreams isn’t always a walk in the park. Although highly rewarding, there are times throughout the pursuing of said dream that will ultimately really suck regardless of how many people tell you that ‘every situation is what you make it.’ I think if more people were aware of the inevitability of suckey parts that come with dream pursuing, they would be more likely to push through the suck and achieve their dreams.

I could probably write a book about all of the reasons why you should also read this book. And don’t just think because you are a lady you won’t get anything out of this. The whole second half is basically a love story. This man is MADLY in love with his wife, the funny and gorgeous Megan Mullaly. In a world with failing marriages more common then happy ones and a society that promotes the ban of emotional expression by heterosexual manly men, it is beyond awesome to read page after page of this manly man talking about how great his own wife is and openly talking about how they have prioritized their marriage above their careers. Our society needs more of this. Men and women both need to read more about these types of relationships.

Basically, you should really read this book. It was no.8 on the New York Times BestSeller list so I am not alone in this thinking. Check out the videos I linked below. Laugh and enjoy life for a few moments instead of being so gosh darn serious all the time. When you are ready to be kinda serious, go to Nick Offerman’s website to check out the stuff coming out of his wood shop.

Ode to Bacon

All the Bacon and Eggs

Tour of the Offerman Workshop

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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Disconnecting in order to connect…

Last week I decide to take time off from the internet. I realized I was starting to feel like I NEEDED to check my Facebook, email, Instagram, and Pinterest every time I picked up my phone. Opening my laptop to do anything resulted in 45 minutes of getting lost in the black hole of the internet before I remembered I was online to do something specific, then at least another 15 minutes was usually spent trying to remember what exactly that something specific was. I tried for a while to limit my use, make little rules for myself about when I could and couldn’t go online. The stupidest part of it all is I would click the Facebook app for the 30th time that morning and realize I wasn’t even interested in seeing if anyone had posted anything new. I just clicked it out of habit. I do not have that many Facebook friends that I need to check it that often to keep up with my news feed. Despite the little rules and knowing how much time I was wasting I didn’t spend any less time plugged in and connected to the world.

I knew it was time for a change when my husband’s, “What are you looking at now?” became more frequent. So I figured some time apart was needed to break my habit. The week before the shut down was torture, there was an endless stream of proof that I did not have the choice to go offline, proof I did not have the luxury. I wasn’t sure I could live with the consequences of disconnecting.

Despite my best efforts to make a case for needing to stay online, I disconnected. And then… nothing happened. I just wasn’t online. I do not think I could convey to you how anticlimactic the whole thing was. Sure the first day I thought of all of the clever things I could say on Facebook, was sad I couldn’t share photos with you of how extra cute Bacon and Roxy looked that day, and wondered if any of you had posted something clever or cute that I was missing out on but the world kept on trucking just the same.

Car rides were spent knitting and talking to my husband instead of browsing the latest updates on Facebook. Without an Instagram feed to update, I just enjoyed all of the little moments for myself without missing most of it by fumbling with the camera on my phone. There was some reflection on what I wanted my internet usage to be like when I finally got back online, but for the most part my time offline was spent relaxing at home and checking the little things off my list that I couldn’t find the time to do before.

I decided I’m not going to make all of these rules about only being allowed on social media for x amount of minutes everyday during certain times of the day or making a strict outline of what my internet usage will look like. It was tempting but it doesn’t need all of that, I do not want to give being online that much weight. Sure it becomes serious when I’m not keeping up with my responsibilities and most importantly my relationships feel neglected because I am spending too much time online, but taking a week off showed me how un-serious the internet is.

Sometimes we just need to take a few days off to put things into perspective.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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Go Curly or Go Home…

Usually I do not give the whole new year resolution thing any attention. As a kid it was always filled with empty promises of being nicer to my family or working harder in school. With in a few days the seemingly heartfelt promises made during the sugar rush and excitement of being able to stay up way past my bed time were completely forgotten as I settled back in to being the person I was the year before. Eventually I tired of the pattern and took pride in my defiance to follow the foolish trend of making empty promises that never were fulfilled.  The last few years celebrating New Year’s Eve had lost its sparkle. After a week of traveling family to family in a sleepless caffeinated haze by the time December 31st comes I’m too settled in to my pj’s under a heavy comforter to even acknowledge the year coming to an end.

Last year I decided to finally admit that there is something fun and exciting about setting a year long goal, that I really did like the challenge, and if it was something I actually wanted to do my success rate would be higher. Because honestly, my resistance to make new year resolutions was more me hating the guilt that followed with not upholding my resolution than defiance against our culture. It was not hard to decide what my new year’s resolution would be, I think my desire to tackle this seemingly impossible task led to me using the safe confines of a new year’s resolution to take on the challenge. If you give up on a new year’s resolution no one is really disappointed in you because they have a list of resolutions long forgotten by march. It was perfect.

My 2013 New Year’s Resolution: Learn to embrace and care for my naturally curly hair.

This may not seem like much, unless you dear reader also have been blessed with the force that is curly hair. Despite having curly hair for all 26 years of my life, I had no idea how to tame my curls just enough to let them be free in all their curly glory. Growing up in the 90s, hair was long straight locks attached to the pretty popular girls named Kelly. Rarely did the trends involve curly hair, except that glorious time in 1990 when Julia Roberts removed a hideous blond wig to reveal a cascade of curls she would toss carelessly throughout Pretty Woman and leading to a single flicker of hope that curly hair is not just for heavy metal lead singers or Bob Ross. She gave me hope that you could be curly and gorgeous. A hope that faded as I grew older. My own hair was often wrestled into a french braid or a pony tail surrounded by a halo of frizz. I hated my hair and because I was going through those overly dramatic teenage years, hating my hair meant I hated my life because my hair ruined it.

Going to the salon only made things worse. Time after time I would sit down in the chair to hear gasps or astonished remarks at how much hair I had. (Because I was unaware of its magnitude every morning when I was faced with the epic battle of fighting it into some sort of style worthy enough to avoid a “You couldn’t brush your hair this morning?” from my dad as I got into the car to go to school.) Then they would ensure me they would straighten my hair like it had never been straightened before. Usually this resulted in me leaving with a weird white girl afro looking more like Bob Ross than Julia Roberts. Except one time when I let my hair go curly while playing an angel in the Christmas pageant, I never received encouragement to continue to wear it curly. I also was never able to recreate what I later decided had to be a divine miracle of those pretty curls I was graced with during the pageant. All I could ever get was a tangled mess of frizzy knots that looked to be hiding small animals.

Eventually I sort of figured it out. With enough patience and the advances made in straight iron technology I could achieve what appeared to be straight hair. As long as the wind did not blow, nothing touched my hair, it did not rain, become too humid, or if the amount of moisture did not rise above 0% while the moons of Saturn were perfectly aligned with the stars in Orion’s belt my hair looked presentable. The slightest shift in the atmosphere and my hair was a disaster. I tried cutting it all off and that just made the curls worse and my locks were not long enough to tame with bobby pins and hair ties. Long hair often forced into a french braid now made famous by Katniss Everdeen became my go to style.

It was time for a change, I was tired of the battle. My husband and I are starting to seriously think about having kids, kids that may inherit my curls. The last thing I would ever want is for my girls to go through the same hopeless journey of resenting their unmanageable hair while I re-enforced their curly helplessness with my own. I also was tired of waking up every day to battle my hair, there had to be a way for us to all get along.

The first thing I did was read Curly Girl: The Handbook by the fabulous and curly Lorraine Massey. If you have curly hair YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. It has, and rightfully so, been called the curly manifesto. It changed my life and how I looked at my curls. After a year of fighting the urge to straighten my locks or cut them all off when I thought I’d never figure it out, I finally have a handle on my curls. I get them, I know how to sweetly bribe them into doing what I want them to do. My life is no longer ruined because of my curls.

Here are my cliff notes of what I learned over the past year, things I believe are not stressed enough to those wanting to embrace their curls:

1. Stop using a towel to dry your hair. No matter how soft and fluffy that towel feels on your body it is 20 grit sand paper on your hair. You know those awkward t-shirts sitting at the bottom of your drawer that you know you will not wear but can’t bring yourself to throw away? Use them to dry your delicate locks. The soft cotton will not break and irritate your hair the way the terry cloth will. This isn’t just for curly girls, everyone should use this.

2. You have to treat your hair like fine delicate crystal. Those stubborn little curls only appear to be indestructible, the more you spoil them the better behaved they will be. One way to spoil them is to stop brushing your hair. Only comb your hair when it is soaking wet and filled with conditioner. This along with note 1 greatly reduces frizz.

3. Have a go to hair style for those days when your curls just aren’t working out. This was recommended by a hair stylist and helped keep me going those mornings I had five minutes to get out the door and I looked like I had electrocuted myself. I think its scientifically proven that you are more likely to have a better day if you are happy with how your hair looks.

4. Accept that 98% of all the pretty hair you see in magazines, tv, movies, and online was expertly styled with a small army of skilled hands and photoshopped. This does not mean that you can not have gorgeous hair, but you have to be realistic with what you are working with. If you see pretty hair in real life, do not hesitate to ask the person under that hair if they have any tips for you. Curly girls especially love sharing and swapping info since we all know the struggles that are out their. A great question to ask, “Where do you get your hair cut?”

5. Find an awesome hair stylist. Be sure to ask for someone with experience cutting curly hair. How your hair is cut plays a huge part in how your curls will look.

6. Use lavender water instead of shampoo to clean your hair and scalp. The products in shampoos are filled with damaging chemicals that turn your curls into brittle frizzy imitations of curls. Also find an amazing all natural conditioner filled with hydrating ingredients that will bring life back to your curls.

7. Air dry when ever possible. There are ways to blow dry your curls, ways I am still trying to figure out, but my hair always looks its best when its air dried.

8. I will repeat: towels, brushes, and shampoo are curls mortal enemy.

Are you still with me? I know this is incredibly long. I just don’t believe there is nearly enough encouragement out there for curly girls. There is plenty of time dedicated to showing us how to fight our curls and not enough encouragement in showing them off.  Sure I’ll straighten them from time to time, shake things up, try something new. But it feels really good knowing that the days of battling my curls are long gone. I never have felt more confident or more powerful then when I walk out of the house with my mane of curls bouncing around my head.

Let me know about your own curly journey or any questions you have about mine. And as always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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Past, Present, and Future methods of building…

While studying photography in Philadelphia, I remember taking a class a few quarters in that was meant to bring us back to the basics of photography, allowing us to revisit the rudimentary exercises we learned in the very first Introduction to Photography class we took in our first days at the school. In the first weeks of the class it felt redundant. We had worked so hard to reach a point where our cameras were an extension of ourselves, to be able to start formulating work that got away from the tell tale signs of student assignments. Yet now that we had more than a basic understanding of how to take a proper photograph, these assignments made more sense. We understood their application in a way we did not understand in the introduction class. Looking through the progression of my own work from the first class to the last class I took in Philadelphia it is fun to rediscover old ideas that were forgotten in the whirl wind of assignments and deadlines. It is also comical to see what I felt like I needed to photograph when I was first learning how to manipulate my camera.

My latest studio project was revisiting everything I learned by recreating the first assignment I have ever did in woodworking. By thinking through the basic process of building a table I was able to take my prior understanding of what it meant to build a functional table and push it further, to explore the many different ways one can and has built a table. This idea combined with my fascination with how adamant different people are about how right their way of building is and all of the contradictions it creates, shaped the outline of this project. What if I built the same table, three different ways, to try to understand if there really was a difference in the final result of three very different ways of making? The assignment of Past, Present, and Future was the perfect space to bring this idea to life since the contradicting ideas can be simplified down to past methods, present methods, and future methods of building.

I set about to build the past table, utilizing methods and technology available before the industrial revolution. I quickly realized that I was not advanced enough in all of these techniques to make an argument about which method was the best, that I was still too young of a woodworker to create three equally crafted tables to allow a viewer to look at them and say, “Oh the (______) table is the most structurally and aesthetically pleasing and therefore that is the best method to use ever.” Instead of trying to solve the debate for the public, I began to try to solve the debate for myself. What did I want my studio practice to look like? What method did I want to utilize and why? Does it make sense to cling to a technique that does not reveal itself in the final product? Can the final table reveal enough about the process to allow the viewer to determine which is the best method?

When all three tables are together, all of their surfaces are equally planed. Yet it took three very different planing process, taking various lengths of time to reach the final planed state. So although it was physically rewarding to spend over 20 hours hand-planing the past table, it looks no different then the 30 minute machine planed present table. Other then physical benefits of hand-planing for 8hours a day for a whole week (by the end of the week I had some serious muscle definition in my arms) it is not practical to waste valuable studio time on an outdated method. Conversely there were plenty of methods from the past table that continued through all three tables. Chiseling was the major one. All three tables required some level of chiseling to be done in order to have well fitted joinery. There of course were other tools or techniques that could be used, each taking various lengths of time, but none of them created the sharp and precise cut like the hand chisel.

That could be a completely personal preference, I am sure plenty would argue that it makes the most sense for them to use something else to create the same effect. That is the beauty of craft, the beauty of life really, everyone does it differently. I fully understand how great that fact is now that I have built these tables. How great it is that there is this full spectrum of how to build a simple table, that I can pick and choice which ways of making I like best from various schools of thought, and put them all together in my own hybrid mutated way of making. And that hybrid mutation will continue to shift and change as I continue to absorb as much about this craft as I possibly can.

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As always, thanks for reading.

- r.n.a.

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Fighting to put in the hours…

IMG_3306As much as I hate those awful e-cards that find them selves shared on Facebook and re-pinned incessantly on Pinterest, sometimes they have meaningful insight written on them. Insight like, “Don’t compare your first chapter to someone else’s last.” It’s easy to do, especially as an art student when we are surrounded by images of artist’s final chapters. When looking at the volumes written solely about one particular artist it is easy to forget that they, like most artists, did not have their first solo show till they were 40 years old. It’s easy to read about the years these now iconic artist spent being ignored or criticized without accepting that it is a very real possibility that it will happen to you. To forget that still today not everyone likes the work of the great artists whose names have come to represent entire periods of art history.

It is these facts that are often forgotten when we hit those roadblocks, when what we thought was great is met with negativity and disapproval. They are forgotten when we are forced to come face to face with why we are doing what we do, the question of who all of this is for. It is in those moments of self-doubt, when walking away would make sense to anyone looking in at the situation, that determines whether or not you will ever put in your 10,000 hours. Because it is not just about putting in 10,000 hours of practice, it is about putting in those 10,000 hours in spite of the obstacles that will inevitably present themselves.

I write as if I have overcome the desire to walk away, as if I have come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like what I do or who I am. Right now I am inspired, I am looking forward to the future, the fight of getting in my 10,000 hours to be great at what I do. But in the back of my mind is always that little voice that whispers lies that I have to fight daily to ignore. The whispers of all the things I have failed at, the whispers of all the things I will fail at, the whispers of all of my faults as a human. Paying attention, even slightly, to that voice creates a tornado of self doubt that consumes both my brain and heart, leaving me with the feeling that the dream was taken away from me a long time ago and I have only been clutching its memory.

Every time the tornado hits, it becomes easier to get passed it, to see it for what it is. That does not mean that I will not spend the rest of my life battling it, for I surely will, but it means I am ready to battle it. I come out of each battle wanting this dream even more, even more determined to figure out how to make it work, how to be better. In the movie Train Robbers, John Wayne’s character says “You’re going to spend the rest of your life getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, so you’d better start getting used to it.” We have to get used to getting back up, remember all of the times we have gotten up in the past, so the next time we get knocked down we don’t lose hope, we know that we are only getting closer to achieving our 10,000 hours and our dreams.

As always, thanks for reading.

- r.n.a.

To listen to the Malcom Gladwell talk more about his 10,000 hours theory go here.

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