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10 posts from January 2011


Saved by Creating • by Harpa Jónsdóttir


Christine Gross-LohEver since I can remember, I have been interested in stories. My parents read to me, and I absorbed the wonder of literature; it became a big part of my life. As soon as I learned to read, I loved books even more. I got a library card and always took out the maximum amount of book allowed (three) and sometimes I got away with four. I usually returned them the following day and got some more.

Writing & Singing
I never thought I would be a writer though. That was my sister’s thing and one does not tread upon other people’s territory. I knew I could though; I won some essay competitions and always loved writing.

Music was more my thing, I sang and played the clarinet — although I was never very good at that I must admit. But singing brought me to another place, it released me from the hells of bullying and exclusion and in a choir you can belong, nobody can touch you while you sing.

Although I did not become a singer when I grew up, I always sang. In choirs, a quartet, and in other groups. It was a big part of my life. I also rediscovered writing. I wrote and won a national price for a children’s book and I was set on pursuing a carrier as a writer alongside my teaching career, which I loved.

A Serious Crisis
Then disaster struck. I fell seriously ill. At first nobody knew what was wrong, but I was soon diagnosed with CNS lupus. I had to stop working, I could no longer sing, and I could definitely not write.

It was a serious crisis for me, and also for my family. My youngest daughter had just started school, and I could no longer pick her up or even come anywhere near the school — I simply could not tolerate the noise.

More Than Just a Sick Person
I had to do something and I started to knit again. In a way I had always knit and been a crafty person. When I was a teenager I made a lot of my own clothes and my mother was a textile arts teacher so I learned a lot from her. But when I was juggling work and being a mom, there was less time to knit so I had not knit much since my children were born.

But I started knitting much more, and as soon I was a little better I felt the need to be more creative. An attempt to save a failed tea cosy gave birth to the idea of embroidered felted hats, and they became my main creative outlet.

I’ve made a lot of felted embroidered things over the last three years and this work has given me much joy. The work has evolved a lot since these first two hats; now my embroidery is much more intricate and time-consuming. It’s an outlet for my thought and feelings, and each piece tells a little story.

As I’m slowly getting better I’m starting to write again, and I have even managed to publish a book of poetry. But I continue to embroider and knit, and I think that will never leave me.

Lately I have had the opportunity to exhibit my work in the National Museum of Iceland and in major galleries in Iceland. That has given me strength and self confidence. The feeling being more that just a patient — more than a just a sick person.

Art saves.

To learn more about Harpa Jónsdóttir, visit harpaj.net.

Harpa Jonsdottir

Harpa Jonsdottir


Craving Creation • by Christine Gross-Loh


Christine Gross-LohAs a busy parent of four young children, I’ve found myself craving the satisfaction of creating things with my hands. Childrearing is rewarding work, but you don’t often see immediate tangible results, and I have a strong need to see something tangible and beautiful I’ve made every day. At times in my life this need has been expressed through cooking, through writing, and more recently through sewing, knitting, sketching, photographing, and papercrafting.

Satisfying my Soul
The urge to create comes from somewhere deep within, and it is simply unstoppable. There are times when I have ignored it, or times when the urge hasn’t been as strong, but when it is there, it’s always a sign that I ought to slow down, still myself, and listen to the voice inside me — so in that sense it is a wonderful way for me to get to know myself, something I wasn’t always good at doing when I was younger. As I get older, though, I feel as though I’m getting more in touch with what I really want to do and create and am finding the courage to do so.

It’s breathtaking to work with color and texture and pattern — it satisfies my soul in an indescribable way. When I knit, especially for a loved one, there is hope and love knitted into every stitch; when I work with paper or fabric and shape it into something beautiful, my heart soars. Something that some people might find tedious becomes a form of meditation for me and brings me to a state of balance. Our years living in Asia have added another element to my artistic ventures — blending Japanese aesthetics and sensibilities with Korean and Western influences in my life has helped me to find a creative path that mirrors my own multi-cultural life journey.

Expanding my World
I’m grateful to art for the beauty and fulfillment it brings to my life, and for the connections it opens up between myself and other people who understand the strong pull of creativity. I love how it has helped me expand my world. I love the idea, too, of modeling to my children — just as my mother modeled to me when I was a young child — that they, too, can create beauty — entire worlds in fact — with little more than the power of their own imaginations.

Christine is a mom of four young children, a crafter, and a writer. A former academic with a Ph.D. in East Asian history, she now turns her creative pursuits towards raising her kids, writing, doing sorts of crafts, and photographing. Her craft book and kit about Origami Suncatchers will be sold in Barnes and Noble stores at the beginning of March. You can read more about her at her blog, origamimommy.org.

Christine Gross-Loh

Christine Gross-Loh

Christine Gross-Loh

Christine Gross-Loh

Christine Gross-Loh

Christine Gross-Loh

Christine Gross-Loh


Live to Create; Create to Live • by Susan K. Weckesser


Susan K. WeckesserSo, what is “art” anyway? When taking a course of art history, or looking up “art” in a dictionary, this is the definition that you might find:

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings … Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions.

So, when studying a definition like this you can conclude that:

Art=symbolic elements + (emotion, intellect) + mode of expression

Letting my Inner Artist Grow
This very intellectual meaning of art is the reason that I have continued to face each morning with a smile on my face. I remember sitting in a logic class one cold January morning trying to make sense of words equations, when I looked out the old brick-framed window and happened to see a little sparrow keeping warm in the snow-covered branches. My head was buzzing with logistic debates, economic papers, and one dandy migraine to boot when all of a sudden that little sparrow wasn’t just a sparrow anymore. He was a palette of colors and patterns. The tree was beautiful lines and shapes. I was analyzing light and shadows. It was so liberating that morning in that dreary class to let the artist in me be free. I had gone to University ready to contain what I thought was my childish dreams of letting my inner artist grow. What a mistake that was!

Only when I learned to let my inner artist grow was I then able to advance in my career, help myself, and help others. At the age of 22, I had no idea what kind of tool and support my artwork would be for me later on in life. Not only has art been my shield, but it has also been my way to reach out to others that might need some help, comfort or love.

Strength I Didn’t Know I Had
I love to communicate through my canvas … whatever it might be! What a joyous feeling it is to be able to pick up a blank canvas and a palette full of colors and then unleash all of your emotions upon that work. It truly is a work of emotions, one that comes from the inner eye. All happiness, pains, anger, and sadness can be brushed away for another day without judgment. How awesome is that! I couldn’t and can’t solve people’s cancers, abuse, death, or sadness, but at that moment in time I could deal with it in a positive, productive, and healthy way!

Once I figured out this wonderful plan that seemed to work wonders for me, I wanted to share with others how to do the same. I started up Susiebee Studios with the thought of having a place for people to share their thoughts, photos, or artwork. More importantly, I wanted to teach and reach out to people; it made me feel happy. So I started teaching all ages how they could express their feeling through art. With doing this and writing magazine articles, I started to hear more and more stories from people about how art affected their lives. What was so fascinating was that even if I was having a rough time, like when my father suddenly died recently, or like lately with my mother now not doing well, I had strength. Strength that normally I don’t think I would have had. That awesome support and strength was coming from my expression in art, and also the wonderful people around me in the art world. Amazing! What a super blessing that I will always be grateful for!

A Community of Support
A couple years back, when teaching some courses, I was writing one of my articles for a deadline. After doing some research I remember sitting back in my chair with such a warm feeling in my heart as a realization hit me; crafters, scrapbookers, and artists were and are one of the most caring and giving groups that I have ever met. At that time, I knew of a designer who had fallen so ill that she had to be in hospital for a long time and insurance wouldn’t cover it. I was so touched when I saw how forum members and artists alike joined in to donate money to help. I was seeing these wonderful caring events happening everywhere and it made my heart feel overwhelmed with love for these artists, art, and love. I wanted to do my small little part so I started Susiebee Studios Christmas Love Campaign, which has been going for the last two years. Many fantastic manufactures and publishers donate prizes and I just ask that any artist, crafter, or scrapbooker make a little something and give it to a random stranger, a neighbor, a cashier/clerk, a friend, or anyone! It is so wonderful to make art with your heart and then share it. Not only is it making you feel wonderful, but it makes someone else feel special too! Each year it so awesome to see when stories start coming in from all over the world of people doing kind acts for other people, often people that they don’t even know. This truly is art helping people! Does Art Save? Yes. Yes it does.

How We Face Our Challenges
There are mornings when it is a challenge to get out of bed. I don’t like to tell people, but I have been plagued with chronic pain, surgeries, sadness, constant medical tests, etc. Maybe, I don’t talk about it because then it seems too real. Death has been oh too real the last two years after losing numerous family members. I don’t say all this to make you sad. Everyone faces challenges in their life, and everyone has heartbreaks and pain; well pain seems to be one of those puddles that some of us have to jump where others of us just have to wade through. It is how we face our challenges that make all of the difference. I almost crumbled a few years back until I realized that one of my biggest blessings and lifesavers was my love of art. “My love of art is precious, treasured, and amply shared.” So each and every day, I am so grateful for, and I know with all my heart that art does in fact save.

The Healing Canvas
Just a canvas plain and small
There was no heart I could feel at all
pain and sorrow took its toll
and tears down my cheeks did roll
I picked up palette and brush in hand
It was time to dry my eyes and take a stand
Yellow and orange, blue and red,
All my thoughts and feeling said
Hues and colors, stroke after stroke
I no longer felt like my heart had broke.

— Copyrighted 2011 Susan K. Weckesser

Susan K. Weckesser is a mixed-media artist, writer, photographer, designer, and teacher. To see more of her work, visit susiebeestudios.com, mysweetearth.blogspot.com, or snapshots52.blogspot.com.

Susan Weckesser

Susan Weckesser

Susan Weckesser

Susan Weckesser

Susan Weckesser


Art Saves • by Beth Nicholls


Beth NichollsFor the past ten years I have been so lucky to have a career which has taken me all over the world – to over 50 countries on every continent – but no matter where I went, when I was ‘on business’ it always felt like there was something else tugging at my attention. Looking back now I see that I was searching out beauty wherever I went – whether that meant photographing children in Nepal, sketching seals on icebergs in Antarctica, exploring handmade paper workshops in Japan or learning about flower styling in Thailand. I would often go early, and stay on after my colleagues had flown home, spending time alone seeking out creative inspiration.

Recently, sorting through the thousands of photographs, postcards and finds I have collected on my travels over the years, I realised something. What I thought was just a deep love of adventure and curiosity about other cultures and people, was also a decade-long creative-inspiration-gathering trip. The rose quartz from the Namibian desert, the pebbles from a Greek beach, the prayer flags from Bhutan, the ribbon from Paris – it is all there waiting to be translated into art.

Over time I started to realise there was some strange power that seemed to envelop me when I did anything creative, whether that be making a book or welding steel. But I was so focused on my career in the corporate world, and later with global charity UNICEF (which I found very rewarding), that I never stopped to consider what it was. I never paused to think whether there was a way of harnessing that power and letting it spill over into my every day.

That is until I went on my first art retreat, and everything changed.

I realised it was like I had been living my life on a train, always travelling, going somewhere, getting flashes of beauty as the countryside raced past. But the day I went to my first art retreat was the day that train pulled into a station and I got off. I started to explore the world beyond with bare feet and open eyes, right in amongst it, instead of peering at it through the train window. Suddenly I could smell the grass, hear the birds, feel the dew between my toes. A whole new world opened up to me. And it was in glorious technicolour.

This past year has probably been the most transformational of my whole life. I have allowed myself to say ‘I am an artist’, and established a new business running art retreats and e-courses to give others the tools and inspiration to do what they love, for life.

Now I truly am doing what I love. I have art to thank for that, and will be eternally grateful.

To learn more about Beth Nicholls, visit dowhatyouloveforlife.com.


It Is • by Jeannine Peregrine


Jeannine PeregrineIt’s a box of crayons, a stack of construction paper, and a bottle of Elmer’s white glue. It’s a tiny watercolor paint set with primary colors to mix into rainbows, and the 2nd place ribbon for the St. Patrick’s Day poster contest at Hickory Elementary School. It’s painting ceramics, and batik, and pounding on copper to make belt buckles, weaving dream catchers, and meeting Mr. Scribble who transforms a scribble I’ve drawn on a piece of paper into a cartoon that looks like me.

It’s bumping against that word “Artist” for the first time and “knowing” I’m not one because I can’t draw the apple on the table, or my sister’s hand, or the family cat in any realistic way, and so I walk away from art as an elective in high school ... but it wends its way into a flurry of notes written to friends, and poems scribbled in chemistry class, and doodles in yearbooks and painted posters for the football players to crash through on Friday night games in fall.

It’s a rubber stamp and another and another and paper besides, and coming home after the 9-to-5 job and creating until sleep insists I stop. The stamps adorn an envelope, which is chosen off a table by a Marine serving in Somalia and so then, these stamps, lead me to the man I marry.

Collage and art journals catch me when the stamps lose their magic after the towers collapse, and so it is images and matte medium and paint and books and a blog, all filled with Wordsworth’s “breathings of my heart.”

It’s drawing again and knowing it doesn’t matter if I can’t draw the apple on the table, or my sister’s hand, or the family cat in a hyper realistic way; it’s understanding that the word “Artist” encompasses so much more than that.

It’s my calling card and icebreaker.
It’s people and places and experiences.
It’s toughened me up and opened me up and softened me up all at the same time.
It’s the truest thing I do.
Art.
The links in the chain of the charm bracelet of my life.

To learn more about Jeannine Peregrine, visit myfourrooms.blogspot.com.


Art Continues to Save Her • by Beth Quinn


Beth QuinnOnce upon a time there was a girl who was not happy with her life. She worked her normal job as a medical social worker but each day would come home feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. She felt stuck — she loved being a mom and she loved her husband, but felt she was not growing as a person ... she felt a hole in her heart that needed to be filled. See, this girl had grown up being very creative (sewing, needleworking, playing with papers, etc.), but never dreamed that she could be an artist, that that was even a possibility for her — that was just “being crafty” people told her. But one day that all changed — she found a new art called mixed-media and she began making things. And suddenly her eyes were opened to a whole new world — things she only dreamed of, things that made her happy, rather than depressed and stuck. It awakened her soul again. Art was saving her ...

All She Could Think About
Now, you see this girl had two children and she knew that she wanted to be at home with them, especially because one had special needs (he had a stroke before he was born). As she continued her journey, she found jewelry making and began teaching herself using found bits and bobbles along with words that inspired her. She wanted to honor the friends and family in her life, and she wanted others to enjoy the pieces that she was making, too. She would go to work part-time on weekends and found herself daydreaming every day of what she wanted her life to be — she was doodling and sketching everywhere. She wanted to be her own boss, she wanted to create — it was all she could think about. She was dreaming big and believing in herself and putting herself out there in ways she never thought she could. She was creating art with every bit of her heart and soul. Art was saving her ...

Spreading Her Wings
After several months of creating as well as selling her jewelry, she had a talk with her husband. She knew with every bit of her being that she could turn her dream into a business (as it was happening around her every day) and her husband agreed. S she took the leap to make art every day and to sell it so that she could help support her family and take care of her children ... especially the one that needs lots of extra care ... She quit her job and spread her wings. And this is how art saved this girl ... and she feels ever so blessed that each day art continues to save her ...

To learn more about Beth Quinn, visit bethquinndesigns.com.


Returning to Art • by Amelia Critchlow


Amelia CritchlowDuring an intense period of post-natal depression and solo parenting in my twenties, I had a dream telling me to return to the study of art. I had studied it at school and continued to dabble as an adult. This dream didn't leave me for five years (the time it took me to act on it) and after moving back to London, UK, with a child in tow in my mid-twenties I finally applied and returned to college to study art. The night before the course began I had another powerful dream and knew it was the right thing to do.

The Way I Survived
I spent a total of seven years studying at foundation level and then doing a Fine Art Degree at an art school in London. I did it part-time as I had to both parent and earn money. By this time I had had another child who I found out at the end of my degree has Aspergers Syndrome, and ironically found myself alone again fighting some of the toughest times in my life.

Art was quite simply the way I survived learning about, and coping with, my son's condition and dealing with a difficult split. I found myself processing my thoughts, feelings, and experiences through the form of mixed-media art. The exploration through visual imagery became a powerful way to understand using a different language, whilst at the same time allowing me to envision better things too. Art has become a celebration of all that others and I are, see, and also wish to be.

I enjoy working with people so much that I also undertook a teaching qualification whilst doing my degree and went on to run art workshops and funded projects within the community (which I still do). I particularly enjoy projects that work with individuals facing challenges, such as expelled or excluded young people, or refugee seekers. More recently, I got funding for a project to work with sufferers of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and worked with a friend to realize this art project, which you can see at livingwithautism.co.uk.

A Fuller Part of my Life
Art is such a fantastic tool for communication and sharing on both small and large scales, whether a professional artist or a person that creates purely for pleasure. I truly believe art and creativity is something we all benefit from doing. As a result, I developed an online experimental art e-course in 2010 with busy people and parents like me in mind, who may not always get childcare or have the finances to pay for it (see it at ameliacritchlow.co.uk/section354449.html). It allows for an opportunity to explore art from the comfort of home. I know how demanding parenting is, but also how scary and difficult it can be to start one's journey into art, or even just to take our art further (parent or not). I have been so happy to have people from all over the world participate, forming a community of art experimenters and also connecting with other people and parents (including those who care for children with autism). I love connecting with others.

It has been such a pleasure to make art an intrinsic part of my life. At the start of 2010, I could feel my art slipping as I had to contend with the demands of parenting and earning, and it was in January last year I decided it was “make or break” time for my art; either I honored it properly and made it a fuller part of my life, or I let it slip, and I knew I couldn't do that. In this past year I have set up and loved running the experimental art e-course and as a result returned to study my MA in Fine Art at Wimbledon School of Art in London where I get to explore my own art, and I feel so very, very grateful for having art in my life. It is an ongoing, unfolding journey where we often don't know where it will twist and turn next, and I find this so exciting and regenerative.

To learn more about Amelia Critchlow, visit ameliacritchlow.co.uk.


It's a Powerful Thing • by Betz White


Betz WhiteI feel fortunate to have grown up in a crafty, “We could make that” kind of household. My mother sewed much of our clothing when my brothers and I were young, from polo shirts to swim suits. My father gardened, caned chairs, and even made the whole family down jackets one winter. Many evenings my brothers and I gathered around the kitchen table with my mother making crafts from macramé to papier mâché. And I always viewed my family’s “making” as resourceful, clever, and fun. Even then I knew how special it was to be able to make things for others and myself. It was almost like having a super power.

In middle school, I found that my “super power” served me well. I convinced my American History teacher that making a quilt like they did in colonial days was a much more valid history project than writing a paper. Science Fair projects were always a challenge, but where my research was lacking, I made up for it with bold, colorful presentations. Even my high school prom dress was a refashion of one of my mother’s ‘50s ball gowns, not because I had to but because I could ... and it totally suited me. Now I am the mother of two funny, sweet, creative boys. Each time they come into my studio to make something with me, it feels like a great honor. I know that I am passing my super powers on to them. Because being able to make something yourself, whether it is a stuffed toy or a piñata or a peanut butter sandwich, is a powerful thing. Creating is the power to change, to inspire, to provide, and to live.

To learn more about Betz White, visit betzwhite.com, blog.betzwhite.com, or betzwhite.etsy.com.

Betz White

Betz White

Betz White

Betz White

Betz White

Betz White

Betz White


The Storyteller • by Tammy Gilley


Tammy GilleyShe is the keeper of the tribal history,
the soulful voice of the clan.
Whispering the stories of the ancients
into the ears of the babes.
Quietly, she holds the space for our family’s history,
while chanting prayers for our future,
guiding us hopefully into tomorrow
from the wisdom of the past.
The children cling to her robes,
enraptured by her words.
Stargazey, marveling, drinking from her liquid voice
and chewing softly on her words,
the little ones take nourishment from her experience.
She is old, she is young.
She has wrinkles and curves,
is soft and pliable,
yet strong and sturdy.
Her hands are soft and warm as she clasps mine to her heart,
so that I might feel the steady rhythm of my people and their past,
all in the here and now.
She smells of cloves and gardenia.
Her laughter tinkles like glass on rocks.
Her voice soothes and comforts me.
Even now.
Even gone, she lives with me still
as I place my own hand
to my own heart,
a tear escaping, trickling down my cheek.
The steady rhythm of my people,
my storyteller,
my mother.
“Shhhh,” she whispers. “I am here.
I’ve always been here.
But they are your stories now.
I gave them to you.
It’s your turn.
Tell them.”

A Pull to my Mother
My mother was a quilter. When I lost her a few years ago, I felt a strong pull to create quilts, in homage to her I suppose. A connection to her. Hard.To.Let.Go. I do love working with fabric, and it was a joyous pursuit. But it never completely felt like my pursuit. On this journey, however, I began creating appliqué blocks from my hand-drawn designs. I loved the process of drawing simple shapes to cut from fabric, then selecting colors and patterns to coordinate, making the drawings come alive on the quilt. My art journal began to include few quilt block sketches and more whimsical drawings, peppered with phrases and notes to myself such as:
  • remain open
  • follow your heart
  • be bold
  • breathe
Like little whispers in my heart, my drawings became increasingly detailed as I spent more time with my paints and markers and less time at my sewing machine. During an early morning journal session, I thought, “What if I painted some of these? Really painted them on a surface, brought them off my private pages. Put them out into the world.” I was surprised that the emotion I felt was not terror, but a giddy excitement. That afternoon, I went to the lumber yard, bought a 6-foot length of 1” x 10” clear cedar (smells so divine!) and had the nice man cut it into 10” x 10” panels. I began my first painting the minute I returned to my studio.

That first one took days and days. It felt joyful. It felt somehow freeing. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.

All About the Journey
I’ve always had a desire to paint, but not the confidence to go along with it. That day was different. That day I felt nudged by unseen hands to express myself creatively in this way. I knew I wouldn’t abandon my textile arts. I was only adding another medium to my artist toolbox.

These last few years have been about finding a way to grieve the extraordinary and stunning loss of my mother, while at the same time finding my own artistic voice and the confidence to share it. In the time that has elapsed since my first ART SAVES installment, my time has been spent in deep thought, almost a fervent prayer, me seeking the way I want to put myself out in the world as an artist. What I’m learning is that it’s not always about finding “the answer,” or “the way,” or “the expression.” It truly is about the journey. It truly is about experimentation, and playing, and trying things on for size, and really and truly feeling the joy that comes from all of that process. It is a journey. It’s about me telling my artistic story, while mixing in all of the gifts from my mom and the rest of the creative souls in my clan.

I wish I had a really compelling conclusion for my essay today. But I don’t. Perhaps, because I’m so deep into this journey that I just can’t wrap it all up, and put a big bow on it. Check back with me in another six months?

Learn more about Tammy Gilley at tammygilley.com.

Saved From my Creative Rut • by Marisa Lynch


Marisa LynchArt Saves ... you could pretty much say that that phrase was my MO this whole year. After getting laid off, preparing to turn 30, and dealing with a personal creative-funk crisis, I turned to art to pluck me out. I needed to find something to help get me out of the rut I had fallen into and I did that through sewing. It all came about after a viewing of Julie & Julia. Yep, that moment changed everything.

I fell in love with how Julie Powell had found her creative thing amidst an uninspiring job — she got her creative juices flowing every day. And I knew I needed the same thing and then came the aha moment. (Cue angels aahing ...) I don’t cook, but I love to sew, so I gave myself a project/challenge/goal: to turn a piece of vintage clothing that was ready to be tossed or donated into something fabulous and re-wearable, all on a budget of $1 a day. Ooh, and I vowed not to shop retail for the year either.

Putting my Hobby First
My project made me put my hobby first. I’d only sewed and refashioned pieces when I had time in the past ... a weekend here and there every few months because there was always other stuff going on. I had always put work first and tried to be everything to everybody and this was my chance to make Marisa the priority.

I also had to deal with an adjusted income — being laid off had me prioritizing everything down to the last penny. There is nothing that feels better than putting on a new piece of clothing — I would get giddy walking home with bags from a shopping trip, excited to try on my new purchases, but that was going to be changing. I wanted to show myself that I could still wear new pieces each day — even though they didn’t come with tags or come in the best condition, I still got that giddy feeling. Taking just $30 for the month, I created a brand new, to me, piece, each day. One person’s trash became my treasure.

Art not only saved me from my creative rut, it literally saved me cash!!

To learn more about Marisa Lynch, visit newdressaday.com.

Marisa Lynch

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