A shift in perspective…

Two days ago I realized the furnace wasn’t kicking on.

It is not the first time I have walked by the thermostat and noticed the temperature gauge did not match where I had the heat set. Not the first time I leaned down to put my hand over the grate to feel nothing coming out. I flip the heat gauge up in hopes of hearing the furnace come roaring to life only to be faced with silence.

It’s always something with this old beast of a machine crammed in to a tiny cellar below our kitchen. When we bought the house we knew it was old. It had a complete tune up before we went to settlement. Every valve, hose, filter, and thingamagig was replaced and the whole system was cleaned. ‘It wont last forever,’ they said, ‘but it will get you through winter.’

And it has chugged through this winter reluctantly. A few trips from the mechanic and a few more replaceable parts discovered all has led to my seething dislike for the it. So when I discovered once again it had gone on strike, I was beyond over trying to nurse this hunk of junk any longer.

But this time it was our neglect that caused it to power down and resist my previous successful attempts at getting her going again. (Yes mine, and not my husbands because it only quits when he is at work adding to my disgust with it.) We under estimated how quickly it would burn through oil and it ran dry.

Thankfully the oil company was able to come out quickly and fill her back up. I was happy to leave the house knowing when I returned the chill would be knocked off and I could return the heat disks to their place in the attic. Except when I returned it was still cold. The furnace still quiet.

Of course I did not return home at a reasonable hour in which one feels like dealing with a stubborn furnace, no I came home late after having dinner with friends. I wanted to go snuggle up in bed full of good food and conversation. Instead I found myself at 11pm crouched in front of the pump in my dark cellar, rigging hose to bleed the line to try and let any air out while my husband walked me through the wikihow article via facetime and gave me moral support.

It worked, the furnace came to life, heat began to blow out of the vents. I began cleaning up the oil that didn’t make it into my bucket and return the tools I had brought down still feeling pretty pissy about the whole thing, looking forward to the day we finally replaced the stupid thing and I could take a sledge hammer to the jerk like the printer scene in Office Space.

But then my husband told me he was proud of me.

He said that I should feel awesome that instead of going to sleep cold and angry, I did something about the problem. I figured it out and was able to go to sleep in a warm house.

Begrudgingly I admitted he was right. It did feel awesome figuring out how to fix the furnace myself. That I didn’t have to sleep huddled under a mountain of blankets with a heat disk stewing over how much I hated that stupid furnace. That I was willing to get my hands dirty instead and was able to sleep comfortably and wake up feeling awesome that I had solved the problem.

I wont always drift from my normal pessimistic nature, but right now I am going to drag out this moment for as long as I can.

As always, thanks for reading.


L7 Weenie…


Made by the talented Spencer Simmons. 

There is this glorious period of time that exists between the moment you tell someone you can do something and the moment you actually have to step up and do it. It’s also super stressful.

Sometimes it is reveled that I am an artist of sorts, that I graduated from art school with a degree in woodworking and furniture design, that I studied photography, and that I am in the process of setting up a studio in my home.

Sometimes I talk way to much.

And they believe me. Just saying that I went to school for photography and woodworking makes me a great photographer and woodworker in their mind. Or at least one that is more than adequate. The conversation often will include a comment about how they would love to see my work or how they would love if I would do something art related for them.  I hope they never see my work and forget that I ever said anything.

Because until they see my work or give me a task to complete they just go off my word and they believe that I am more than an adequate artist. Once they see my work they may realize that although I call myself an artist I am far from one. Or if I help them with their art crisis I may fall short causing them to realize I am no artist at all, just someone with a lot of art making stuff and a misguided notion that they can do anything useful with it. I don’t know what their expectations are but I do know that I wont be able to live up to them.

I still haven’t convinced myself that I am an artist/woodworker/photographer or figured out what those words even mean or what it even looks like to be an artist/woodworker/photographer. It all starts to lead into this whole existential dilemma that makes me want to say FORGET IT. (Okay it makes me want to say a different  word that has four letters that also starts with the letter f but my in-laws, parents, and sweet people that might not appreciate such vulgarity might be reading this so I edited it.) 

And so I make excuses. I don’t have time, I have my daughter to take care of, my space isnt completely set up to work in yet, I don’t have the right tools, it’s too cold outside while also being too hot, the lighting is off, I ate to much or too little for dinner, I needed to check facebook every 5minutes, I don’t know how to use the equipment in my woodshop, the local lumberyard doesnt have the right wood that I like to use, I was going to work on it tomorrow, my nose itches, I’m probably getting sick so I should just curl up in bed with a book because I do not read as much as I would like, I am to tired and need to just go to bed, i’m just going to go to bed instead because that’s easier and no one will judge me while I sleep for not sleeping good enough.

This past christmas I got a christmas gift that called me on my shit. This gift was so good it called me out right in my excuse making face. To be fair the gift giver had no idea they were calling me out, they thought they were making me a nice gift. And it was a super nice gift. My sister-in-law’s husband made me a wooden beer carrier. He had seen it online, thought it was cool, and figured out how to make it with supplies he got at home depot in his basement where he is not hiding a state of the art wood shop as far as I know.

He thought I would like it so he figured out how to make it. The end.

If it was me I would have spent three months talking myself out of making it for any number of reasons that were not actual reasons based in any sort of reality, and then I would have just bought something while feeling blue about how little time I have to make art and the growing number of projects that I know I will never get too. It is so stupid but I have the hardest time changing my thinking.

But I have to. It has to change because until it does I am just going to be a wanna-be artist that is too much of an L7 weenie to do anything about it.


As always, thanks for reading.





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Traveling between universes…

How do you illustrate the power and emotion of growing up with divorced parents? The struggle of trying to live in two parallel universes? The transition of going from one parent’s house to the other?

Since moving to Maryland I have made a few trips to see my family at my dad’s house. Part of the route is the exact route I traveled every other weekend as a kid to visit my mom. It’s strange to be 28years old, with my own daughter in the back seat, driving the same route. The route is super charged with memories that pull me in reluctantly, flooding me with moments from all of those car rides. I am equally as moved by what has changed and by what has stayed exactly the same 10 years later.

I have always played around with the idea of making work about the duality of being raised with divorced parents. To illustrate how it felt to be raised in that setting, to make the conversation focus on the children of divorce. Not to shame parents who got divorced, or to some how make my own parents feel like they failed me in some way, but to say, ‘Hey having two birthday’s wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be,’ or express how frustrating it was to have someone ask if me and my sisters had the same mom, or how hurtful it was when I would say no and they responded with ‘Oh so then your actually only half sisters.’

Confession: I do want to shame those people because that’s actually just a turd thing to say to a kid. They are my whole sisters because love doesn’t play by your genetic technicalities.

For now the idea will continue to muddle around in the back of my brain, it will either continue to take shape or just float around as a fragment of an idea. I’m finding that is how my brain works, it needs time to really flush an idea out. It doesn’t like to be rushed. I remember hearing that Louise Bourgeois would spend 10 years from initial idea to finished piece. They would start as sketches, then become small hand-held clay or wood models, then slowly become bigger and bigger until she felt she had found the right scale. Of course she had multiple ideas being flushed out at any given time but all of her work followed a similar process.  In the mean time landmarks of my route between universes have started to show up in sketches and doodles, becoming the subject of my recent exploration in india ink. I don’t know where either this subject matter or this new medium will take my work but I’m enjoying exploring both.

As always, thanks for reading.


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I’m Not that Bold…

Earlier this week I caught the faint whisper that Mary Ellen Mark had passed away.

I was first exposed to her work through her documentary Street Wise. I had just moved to Philadelphia from Seattle, WA where her documentary took place. Although filmed 25years before I arrived in Seattle, the landscape was still familiar. I had just been introduced to the work of Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange, these women who had created these relationships through the lens of their camera to give those that were being overlooked a voice. Watching the documentary, I was overwhelmed by Mark’s ability to tell this story without glamorizing the life of Tiny or Rat. She didn’t make me feel sorry for them either, somehow she found that middle road that so many struggle to find when dealing with this type of subject matter. I left the class and walked straight to the library to pour over her photography, in awe of the way she put herself and her camera unashamedly into this world that was not her own in order to capture it. Along with Arbus and Lange, the subject knows they are being photographed. Many of Mark’s shots imply that she was bent down, leaning in, engaging with the subject to photograph them. I wish I could be that bold.

You put a living, breathing, human being in front of my camera and my blood stops moving through my veins. Even if I know them, if they are willing to be photographed, or even if they asked me to photograph them the reaction is the same. My stomach tightens and my mouth goes dry as I fumble around with my suddenly foreign camera. I had to go out and shoot at least two portraits of strangers in Portland for the medium format class I was taking. It was one of the later assignments, I had made a few dozen photos already and was incredibly comfortable with the camera I was using. Then I went and tried to complete the assignment, waiting until the last possible moment to do it. I nervously stood on a busy street, trying to find the courage to stop biting the side of my thumb and wondering where I was going to find the courage to actually ask someone if I could take their picture. When I finally did it went horribly wrong. I quickly took two shots making so many mistakes you would think it was the first time I had ever attempted to photograph anything. For some their camera gives them this confidence. For me its not big enough to hide behind and instead draws to much attention when I am trying to go unseen.

As always, thanks for reading.


Check out…

Time Article about Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark Website

Diane Arbus Website

Recent article on Dorothea Lange from NPR

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An Artist with a Baby…

  A little over a year and a half ago I began research for my Art History Minor thesis. I wanted to look at how society’s pressure on women to become mothers effected women artists. Because it needed to be historical I added ‘and how/if it’s changed over time as society’s expectations of women have changed.’ I began scrolling through page after page of women artist’s wikipedia pages. I know wikipedia isn’t an up standing academic source but I needed to answer two questions very quickly about the artists I was considering for my paper; Did they have any children and when did they live. I had a long list of data that was eventually narrowed down to two women who were raised around the same time, with similar cultural expectations, whose lives led them down two different paths. Georgia O’Keefe, who had no children because her husband Alfred Steiglitz thought it would ruin her career, and Louise Bourgeois, a woman whose anxieties over not being able to conceive actually prevented her from conceiving a child until after she adopted her oldest son. I also included contemporary women artists like Sally Mann and Mary Kelly.

Around the same time Sheryl Sandberg was getting media attention for Lean In. As I was doing final edits, Michelle Obama was being criticized for calling herself Mom-In-Chief during a speech. It felt like everywhere I looked there were more facts, more things I wanted to talk about regarding women in art and mom’s in our society. But the paper had to be submitted and I had already exceed the minimum number of pages required. The semester ended and as my brain tried to shift gears to my second thesis paper for my major (which was on a completely different topic because I never thought to carry on my research and tie it into my studio practice) I found out I was pregnant. I was going to be facing my own challenges of balancing mom and artist. And all that research I had done just made the whole thing even more intimidating.

I remember during a visiting artist talk with a woman who refered to herself as a ‘stay at home mom who is lucky enough to have a studio practice too’, I had asked her how she balanced being both mother and artist. She told me to establish my career first and then pursue being a mom. It wasn’t the response I was expecting. Most artists can’t claim an established career until they are 40, a little late in the baby making game for a girl that wants a few kids. And at 27, the idea of waiting another 13years to have children seemed crazy. No longer are women told that they shouldn’t assure their failure as an artist by having children in art school, but there is still a very real idea spread around that regardless of your gender, kids just get in the way.  I returned to my research notes, I looked everywhere for glimpses of how mom artists were making it work. I read books, watched documentaries, and talked to anyone that would answer my questions. I walked away fearful that for most the pursuit of being a mom and artist simultaneously meant sacrificing their husbands. I really like my husband. I didnt want him to be the price I had to pay for an art career. Other women who seemed to have happy marriages seemed to have had a career established before having children. I was planning on walking across a stage to receive my diploma 5 months pregnant with no established art career other than obtaining a Bachelor of Art Degree with a Minor in Art History. It didnt feel promising.

I had visions of sharing my own experiences. Being open about how I was going to manage my studio practice once my little one arrived. Telling stories of how I gently rocked her with one arm while making brilliant art with the other. I would stay up late to get in studio time if need be and I would look back fondly on it all with a knowing smile.

And then she was born.

This little creature consumed every second of my life. With trying to heal, feed her, change diapers, and getting thrown up on without sleeping for more then two hours at a time there was no time for anything else. And that was with help! Any functioning brain cells were occupied with taking care of my little one. 

Even when I did find time for things, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share anything about what was going on. It all felt to personal and private to share. Despite my own frustration at how very little was said about finding studio time with a little one, I was unsure if I wanted to say anything on the topic. But being a mom has become such an all consuming part of my life, that if I make it off limits I dont know that I will have anything else of any real value to say.

I have started slowly, feeling like I have enough of a handle on taking care of my little one that I could slowly add something else to my plate. Reading Art + Fear during feedings was a great inspiration to get up the courage to get moving. I also started reading an Artists Guide, taking time to journal. I probably spent a month putting things in perspective so I would know what I was working towards. I found a grant and applied. Having to write out what I intended to use the grant money for was an awesome way to shape my intentions. It got the ball rolling. I wanted to be the artist I was talking about in my proposal.

Having spent time journaling and planning allowed me to mentally plan for the lack of time I would have for my studio practice while I prepared to move my family from Maine to Maryland. I knew it could potentially throw off the momentum I was building, but by scheduling it in and having a plan for what the studio practice looked like before, during, and after the move made the event a stepping stone in the grand scheme of things instead of a road block to intimidate me.

I came to the close on our second week in our new place and I finished carving out a space to work. I even found a little time to work. It has only been about 35minutes of hands on studio time but it was a glorious 35minutes. Some weeks that number will increase, and other weeks the number of minutes will get even smaller. But I am working and that is all that matters right now.

As always, thanks for reading.


I included links for the books I mentioned in my post but check to see if your local bookstore has them first.

Mary Kelly

Sally Mann

Georgia O’Keefe

Louise Bourgeios 

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Quick Update…

Last post I shared how excited I was to use the new film scanner and was starting with all of the images I had taken at Diamond State Vintage Baseball games. Well they are up on my website with some other new work. Check it out.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

Kindling for the Fire…

On Deck at Pea Patch Island. Diamond State Vintage Baseball Team 2011

This week has been an exciting one for my little studio. After a lot of consideration and months of second guessing I decide to use some of the money I generously received as a graduation gift almost a year ago to buy an Epson Film Scanner. Although nerve wracking, it was inspiring to invest in a piece of equipment that will allow more freedom in my studio.

My goal is to one day have a studio equipped to support my pursuits in various artistic mediums. With an extremely small budget for equipment and materials, my studio will continue to grow slowly. I have a pretty good idea of what I want my studio to look like and have been slowly adding pieces that are making it more of a reality. Things that allow me to continue to pursue art.

Diamond State Baseball. 2011

With a film scanner I feel more encouraged to use my collection of film cameras. Its easy to get the film developed (the next addition on the photography side of the studio will be the chemicals needed to develop my own b+w film) but well outside of my budget to have the film scanned for me. The frames aren’t always consistent on every roll of film because of the type of camera’s I am shooting with so there is the concern that the film will be cut to a standard size which could cut through the middle of one of my frames. So the rolls of film just sit. At least they did until this past week. I’m starting with scanning all the photos I took while attending my dad’s vintage baseball games. I hacked my 120N Blue Holga to use 35mm film to capture one of their games at Pea Patch Island in Delaware. Another game I took my Agfa box camera along and played with the framing options built into the 85 year old camera. I like the diversity of using the various cameras and the lack of control that I have beyond pressing the shutter and hoping for the best. I like that they force me to stop trying to take control and to just focus on what is in front of me. To finally see the fruits of those labors is exciting and rekindles the passion I have for going out and capturing the world.

This is not the start but the rekindling of something great… a fire that my insecurities and fear prevent from burning for to long.

As always, thanks for reading.


Check out…

Diamond State Baseball 

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Sooo…. it’s been a while.

Runny Bunnies and Friends

I could say that I have just been super busy doing all this super busy stuff but the truth is I didn’t know how to follow up after my last post. Somewhere along the way this blog went from a place for me to just ramble about what is going on in my studio practice to me feeling like I needed to write these deep insightful reflections on the deeper issues of the world with every new post. Honestly I don’t have it in me. I don’t know how often I’ll update but I think it’s important, more so now that I am out of school, to keep talking about what I have going on in my studio.

Right now my focus is on getting my Etsy shop going. Making new work and photographing that work is great. Listing the stuff and trying to figure out how to maximize your SEO so that shoppers find you in the gigantic sea of Etsy shops is another story. I think I am slowly getting the hang of it but I’m not getting as many views as I would like. I also find myself getting so caught up figuring out the logistical side and how to best promote the shop to attract more potential customers that I am spending less time on making. I like the business side to a point but half the time it feels so hopeless that I get frustrated and find myself going down the dark dangerous path of wanting to walk away while wondering why I even tried in the first place. If I can’t direct traffic so people can see what I have already made why keep bothering to make new stuff? Somehow I keep turning around with a new sense of determination, wanting to try at least one more time to make it work.

Right now I think my biggest problem is that there is no order or plan. I try to make a point to work on something related to the shop, but lately its just been picking up my laptop to make a few posts on a team board or to post something to our Facebook page. There is no schedule and I definitely need a schedule. My only schedule up to this point has been to work on the shop daily without any specifics. Usually I just grab my laptop, make a few posts to different teams I am a part of, put something up on our Facebook page, and read another article about how to make your etsy shop more successful. At the end of the week I feel like I have nothing to show for all of the ‘work’ I put in. I don’t feel like I have actually done anything useful.

And maybe I haven’t. I spend time doing something shop related but its really not constructive time and it’s usually just to say that I have done something. I certainly am not spending it wisely and balancing the business side and the making side. If I want this shop to make a profit I need to start treating it like a job and put meaningful hours in. That is where I think making a schedule will help, if the schedule says that I am supposed to be working on making new items then I need to be making new items. If the schedule says I need to be promoting the shop then thats what I need to be doing. I really need to make a schedule…

I don’t know why I am so passionate about making this shop work or maybe I do and just don’t know how to articulate it. But I really want this to work. The items that I make to sell in my shop are things I really enjoy making. After four years of art school, where everything you created was embedded with meaning and you were encouraged to look deep in your soul to find the inspiration to make meaningful work, it is nice to be making for the sake of just wanting to make something. It’s a welcomed mental vacation of sorts. There are a few ideas working themselves out in my brain that have deeper meaning but they are going to stay in there for a while longer. At least until I can no longer ignore the little voice in my head telling me to jump in and work on multiple projects at once. Right now I am really enjoying just focusing on one project, I like the simplicity of it.

Alright… I have a schedule to make.


As always, thanks for reading.


My shop Don’t Blame the Bacon

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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,


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.



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