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55 posts categorized "Speeches & Writings"

November 14, 2010


Silver Bella 2010 :: Closing Remarks


MOVING PARTS: Event planning, as Teresa knows so well by now, is something that has many, many moving parts that need to be managed with meticulous detail. And if planning this event were the only thing going on in Teresa's life, that would be one thing. But of course that is rarely ever the case when any of us tackle organizing an event, big or small. In the midst of planning this, the 5th Annual Silver Bella, Teresa has also continued keeping her home, being there for her husband, being there for her friends, and being there for her children.

Silver Bella

COMMON SCENES: And for all of us to get here, to Omaha, we all had to manage so much, right? We had to finish all of our work, send off those last few emails, instruct our beloveds about casseroles in the freezer, schedule future blog posts, remind our kids about their games, their practices, their homework, and remind them of where the spray bottle is, in case they need to use it for those unexpected accidents that our furry critters will undoubtedly continue to make during our absence. These are some of the life scenes that are common to so many of us.  Silver Bella

MORE THAN PARTS: But we did it. We managed to find a way to manage by proxy, all of the demands of everyday, at least for a few days, so that we can join Teresa here, at Silver Bella. And as lovely as all the moving parts have become executed by Teresa and her team, of course the reason we are here is about much mroe than those individual parts. We're not here just for the centerpieces or just for the workshops, or just for the goody bags, or just for the meals and treats. Because as important as those individual parts are in the scheme of events, they remain hollow if they cannot be experienced in a special and meaningful way.

Lisa Kaus

Over the past several days, I've observed and participated in the scenes that we've all been in ... scenes where instructors dispense patience and listening ears as students have needed extra help with a technique. Scenes of camaraderie and good will as students have loaned each other supplies and materials, and helped one another with the projects being taught. Scenes of "you go girl" as we've brought to show off our most prized creations at Bella Market. Scenes of hugs given as we reach out for support about some of the not-so-shiny happenings in our lives.

The individual scenes of Silver Bella become special because all of us together, as we bring our sincere hearts and good intentions to the table and to our roommates and to our classmates, we transcend being more than just individuals on islands. We become integrated, we become friends, we become a creative community.

Betz White and Charlotte Lyons

WE ARE NOT ALONE: It never ceases to amaze me that in this fast-paced world, there are many people who look forever puzzled when I emphasize the word "community." These individuals scratch their heads and ask me, "What's the big deal about community? What's so important about that?"

The answer of course is that when we are in a community, we know that ultimately, we are not alone. It's within a community that we learn that regardless of our shiny personas, regardless of our seemingly perfect lives and perfect blogs, and our mountain of Facebook friends and mountain of Twitter followers, that none of use are immune from some painful scenes that befall all of our lives ... sometimes when we least expect it. Some of us are living through those scenes at this very minute, wishing that there would somehow be a way to push a FAST FORWARD button so the scenes would finally end ... scenes that involve depression, unemployment, divorce, empty nests, accidents, illness ... I can't help but think of scenes that have recently been described by some of our Guest Curators on our CRESCENDOh site. Please allow me to share some excerpts with you now.

Sally Jean Alexander

First from Lisa Loria ... she says:

“At 28, I was lost, staring at the face of a woman in the mirror who I no longer knew. Who was I? I wasn’t ‘Lisa the woman’ or ‘Lisa the artist’ or ‘Lisa anything.’ My marriage was a wreck, my husband emotionally, verbally, and occasionally physically abused me … what had happened to me? Where was the girl who wanted to travel the world? She was beaten down, afraid, and felt as if she had no value. My counselor encouraged me to write and start creating again. So I carved a little niche for myself in the garage. Here I would sneak away in the evening after the children were asleep to just be alone with my music, my thoughts, and to create. Eventually, art gave me the freedom to leave an unhappy life. Art is not just how I make my living, it is how I have made my life.”

Next we hear from Pam Warden who explains that her husband is dying form chronic rejection of a transplanted lung. Their daughter and son have recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And in spite of these painful scenes, Pam concludes her story by saying to us this:

“In spite of any challenges you may face, I’m here to tell you that you can do it. You can create. You can make art for a living or just for fun. You can join classes in your area or you can join them online. If you can’t afford classes, there are many wonderful free tutorials you can find by Googling what interests you most. You just have to take the first step, putting one foot in front of the other.”

When I learn of these types of tough life scenes, it always makes me well up with tears. And in many ways, all of us in this room, as we embrace creativity in our own lives, we are electing to find the light in spite of scenes that are difficult and unique to each of us … we are deciding that we are going to reach for the paint Reach for the soldering iron. Reach for the vintage wallpaper, and we’re going to make something lovely. We are going to know that even though there are some not-so-pleasant scenes, we are capable of creating beauty, we are capable of making something that makes our hearts sing.

Beth Quinn

THE PROCESS: And when we reflect on the years that have passed, as we reflect on our art, our craft, we may not remember every single thing we ever made. But we will most likely remember the process and we will most likely still feel the sense of community. And when we look back on Silver Bella 2010, I know for sure that even if what we made was imperfect, we will remember and treasure the process involved … of how we laughed, how we hugged, how we cried, and how we cheered each other on.

Kaari Meng and Jenny Doh

HEAD SCRATCHERS: Those who scratch their heads about community also tend to scratch their heads about this whole process of creativity. And usually, these head-scratchers will say anything from slightly to moderately to excessively offensive things to us like:

  • Why do you bother making that when you can buy it for less?
  • Don’t you have better things to do?
  • How long did it take you to make that?
  • You have too much time on your hands.
  • Do you really need more paper?
  • What are you going to do with that?

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: What these head-scratchers don’t realize is a truth that Lisa Loria, Pam Warden, you, and I know so well, which is that creativity helps us get through life. More and more, scientific researchers are realizing this truth time and time again.

Dr. Kelly Lambert, Chair of the Department of Psychology for Virginia’s Randolph Macon College has conducted research to conclude that when we engage in hands-on projects, our mental, emotional, and physical states improve. Lambert’s research involves the study of data from MRI scans and parts of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, the limbic system, the striatum, and the prefrontal cortex.

Long story short is that when we participate in hands-on work … say, like knitting a scarf, our brain’s executive-thinking centers get busy planning, and then our brain’s happy anticipation zones begin to bustle with activity … and they talk back to the executive top brain centers, which reach out to other parts that make us dive our hands into greater productivity. In short, Lambert says “It’s like taking mental-health vitamins, building up resilience … our ability to bounce back from hardship by reminding our brains that we can have some impact on this world around us.”

To me, it’s not about whether my knitted scarf belongs in a museum, or my stamped cards belong in a magazine or book. It’s the process of creating that helps me get through all of life’s scenes. It’s the process of pushing aside worry and putting ink on my rubber stamp and putting that stamp onto paper that makes me know that though the final product isn’t always perfect, the process makes me happy.

Amy Powers


CHILDREN: Those who know me know that I love hanging with my children who are now 15 and 12. The three of us were together a few months ago wearing our 3-D glasses to watch Toy Story 3. For most of the movie, we were laughing and chuckling at all the crazy scenes that Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potatoehead, and all the other characters found themselves in.

Toward the end of the movie, I found myself holding back tears … wishing that rather than having Andy all grown up and headed for college, that he could remain a kid forever, and for all of his toys to enjoy their lives with Andy forever.

When I look at how quickly my own kids have grown, I find myself wishing that I could push a STOP button … so that this very scene of love and laughter is where we could remain forever. But of course that is not possible. Because really and truly, the only thing constant in life is change.

As we learn of stories like the ones by Lisa and Pam and countless others, we realize this truth about change. In one scene, we are young. In the next, we are all grown up. In one scene, we are at the pinnacle of health. In the next, we are fighting disease. The scenes we are in today won’t stay static. They will change.

BETTER EQUIPPED: But the good news about those of us who no longer scratch our heads about the power of creativity and the power of community is that we are equipped better than most, to weather all of it.

The fact that you are finding ways to prioritize handwork and creativity in your lives is important. It matters. And I applaud you for being able to do so. Because the head scratchers in our lives will constantly challenge our creative pursuits by saying slightly to moderately to highly offensive things like … “What exactly is a silver bellilla anyway?”

For me, I’ve come to the point in my life where rather than rebutting with a sly comeback or pulling out data about scientific research, I invite them to pick up a paintbrush with me, or to accompany me to the yarn shop, or to help me rubber stamp place cards for the table.

Silver Bella


And as soon as they do, and I see their faces light up, I know that maybe I’ve done more than just crafted with them. I’ve helped them realize a deep and significant truth … which is that: we all hurt. And if we are willing to open our hearts and hands, and say yes to the process, and say yes to the community, we will not need a fast forward button or a stop button … we will be able to live through each scene because no matter what scene we may be in we will always know that we are capable of creating beauty, and we are not alone.

Thank you very much.

{Per the invitation of Teresa McFayden, it was my honor and privilege to provide these closing remarks on November 13, 2010, for Silver Bella 2010.}

May 28, 2010


PAY IT FORWARD & ENJOY THE PROCESS


CRESCENDOh was founded on a dream that had been percolating for several years. It is a dream that seeks to shout from the mountain top about how art can bring about the best in us. That art can help us cope, art can empower us to make a positive difference in the world ...

5-21-10, Art Saves (28)d
... the piece that Danita made says, "Art Saves. OK, now what?" And it's a piece that challenges us to start thinking about ways in which we can pay it forward. For us, "pay it forward" for our team, it is about using our creativity and our imagination and compassion to make a positive difference in the world. The difference can be as simple as smiling to our neighbor. Or it can be as complex as starting an organization that helps battered women. Or helps the people of Haiti. Or ... fill in the blank. But I do believe that for the world to become better, we will need to deploy not only our technical expertise and financial expertise, but really, our creative expertise and our imaginations, in small and large ways, to become better.

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... the second piece that is in your goody bag is a postcard that features an original assemblage work by the late Janice Lowry. Janice Lowry was a mixed-media artist who created an amazing body of paintings, assemblages, and mixed-media art journals within her lifetime. It's a body of work that will, I believe, go down in history to mark Janice Lowry as one of the greatest American artists of our time.

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Last year, days before she passed, as she fought and lost the battle with liver cancer, I had the opportunity  to ask her what message is it that she would like for the art community to hear from her and she said, "Jenny, tell them to always keep working and to enjoy the process." And so that's what it says on this card.

So I would say that I want to invite everyone in this room and beyond to heed Janice's call. To keep working, to keep creating, to keep building, to keep sharing your stories. Because in my opinion, stories are what build communities. And as we learn through these stories and through this community, we are in it together. And most of all as we are working, I hope we will elect to be kind, to be generous, and to be forgiving. And also as Janice said, to have fun and enjoy the process ...

{This is an excerpt of the remarks I had the privilege of giving at the CRESCENDOh launch party on May 21, 2010. Photo #1 courtesy of Lola Morales.}

 

January 16, 2010


TO TWILIGHT


Dear Readers,

Though I've never read Stephenie Meyer's book, Twilight, nor its three related sequels, my daughter, Monica, has. She's also seen the movie and is excitedly awaiting the pending release of the second movie. She's hooked. And she's in good company, as evidenced by 70 million copies that Stephenie's books have sold worldwide ... so far.

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Recently, I watched Stephenie's intriguing interivew with Oprah Winfrey where she explained how the plot of Twilight was born. One morning, she awoke after having had an unusually vivid dream about a vampire boy and his "girl-next-door" love interest. The dream had been so lucid and so fascinating to Stephenie that she started writing it down. 

When Oprah asked Stephenie whether her process of writing the dream down was with the intent of turning it into a book, Stephenie explained that she had had no interest in publishing it. Her singular intent of writing was to document and therefore never forget this once-in-a-lifetime dream.

Another interesting point that Stephenie made was about her childhood. Growing up, she had a father who would read books to her. Not children's storybooks, but significant works of literature — like Pride and Prejudice and Gone With the Wind. And when her father would put the book down in the middle of the story to go to sleep, Stephenie found herself the next day flipping to where her father had left off so that she could finish reading the story. Much like her singular desire to capture the dream that would become Twilight, she was, during childhood, a girl with an intense determination to get to the bottom of stories.

Regardless of our respective fields, I'm sure that when we listen to Stephenie's story, we also long for the same type of experience — where an extraordinary dream could come to us so that we could turn it into a worldwide phenomenon. But I can't help but wonder ... is it the dream that comes first, or the preparation that comes through years of discipline and focus, that gets us ready to transform the dream into something spectacular? What if Stephenie had never been a reader of books? What if she had only been a skimmer? What if she had only been interested in get-rich-fast schemes? Would she have ever reached Twilight?

I doubt it.

I think the most important point about Stephenie's story is that she had lived a lifetime as an authentic and sincere lover of stories ... a "black belt reader," as Oprah described. Unbeknownst to her, Stephenie had prepared herself for the coming of the dream by reading, thinking, and getting ready to unleash her creativity. 

IMG_2038How about us? What is the "dream" that we seek in our quest to succeed? A shiny new blog? The latest and greatest line of paints and mediums? Enrollment in the newest online workshops? And if the dream we seek arrives, will we be able to meet it with the kind of authentic preparation that Stephenie had built throughout her lifetime as a reader and student of literature?

It's a new year. It's a new decade. Let us make a commitment to investing ourselves in the hard work of readying ourselves for a dream that may already be here — just waiting for our disciplined selves to take it all the way ...

To twilight,

Jenny

{This letter from The Editor-in-Chief was published in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Somerset Studio.}

January 13, 2010


EDITOR'S LETTER • SOM1109 • OPEN DOORS


Dear Readers,

Danita lives in Juarez. It's a place that exists within the state of Chihuahua, México — a town where most families live within not-so-colorful surroundings as they seek ways throughout the year to count blessings, and to keep alive their hopes for the future. I'm not surprised that Danita describes the Advent calendar that she presents on page 14 as a "Calendar of Gratitude." Because she is an artist who knows that we have choices. We can choose to gripe about what we don't have, or we can choose to count the blessings that we do have. We can choose to bemoan the past, or we can choose to have hope for the future.

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One of the most special holiday rituals practiced within Mexican culture is called Las Posadas (Spanish for "the inns"). It's a time when loved ones gather together to re-enact the long road that Mary and Joseph traveled that fateful night long ago, in search of a door that would open and lead to the lodging that they desperately needed. During Las Posadas, the indiviuals who play the roles of Mary and Joseph go from door to door, only to be turned away by those who play the roles of assorted innkeepers. At the end of Las Posadas, Mary and Joeph finally arrive at a door that opens. It is at this point of this grand ritual when all the attendees start celebrating with food, music, and festivities.

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On page 42, Rebecca Sower shares a stunning piece of artwork that incorporates a thoughtful line of text that says, "Be an opener of doors." When I saw this piece, it reminded me of Las Posadas. It also reminded me of Les Misérables — the musical based on Victor Hugo's novel. In the musical rendition, there is an early scene when a wrongly imprisoned Jean Valjean escapes jail and finds a door opened for him by Bishop Myriel. As Jean Valjean tries to leave in the middle of the night after stealing the Bishop's precious silverware, he is caught by authorities. At what seems like his impending doom, Bishop Myriel tells the authorities that the silver had been his gift to Jean Valjean, and that in fact Jean Valjean forgot to take the most important gift of all: two silver candlesticks, which he hands over to him in front of the authorities. For me, this is one of the most powerful scenes of benevolence in all of literature ... a scene that brings me to tears every time I think of it.

JennyStudio_006
Those who are familiar with Les Misérables know that Jean Valjean uses the silver to gain momentum to build an honorable life, where he works to "pay forward" the kindness that had been given to him by Bishop Myriel. A success story indeed.

Prior to my career in publishing when I was a social worker, I also had success stories. But I also had stories of failure. And after seven years of being a social worker, I realized that doors can become opened equally to everyone ... and while some will choose to walk through them and gain traction to build better lives, others will not. It is a hard lesson to learn ... one that I have continued learning (sometimes very painfully) in my role as editor.

So what are we do to then? Keep doors shut? Turn lights off? Keep Mary and Joseph out? Say "no" to Jean Valjean? To what end? 

This holiday season, I realize more than ever, the preciousness of life. And I resolve to join Rebecca, Danita, Bishop Myriel, and the countless others in the world who choose time and time again — even at the risk of being hurt and disappointed — to be an opener of doors and believer of hope.

Yes, it's tricky to open our doors, open our selves. But in the long run, I believe it's far riskier to keep them closed and chance living an existence where joyful stories of success are absent.

With hope,

Jenny

[This Letter from the Editor-in-Chief was published in the November/December 2009 issue of Somerset Studio.]

December 08, 2009


FAREWELL LETTER TO ARTISTS


Dear Artists,

We love stories, don’t we? We love telling them, and we love hearing them. For the past six years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of helping facilitate the telling of your stories. These stories have largely focused on the instructional details of your most treasured creations. And when I think of the trust that you have given me by allowing me to handle your art, edit your words, and oversee the way in which your items are photographed and laid out, I am overcome with emotion and am forever grateful and indebted to you for your unwavering confidence and support.

As your Editor-in-Chief, I have also had the opportunity to share with you some of my stories. You have allowed me to recall stories from my childhood, stories that I continue to collect through motherhood, and stories that we learn through films, books, music, historical events, and current events. Through these stories, we have struggled with tough topics like originality in art, the pros and cons of technology, the concept of always becoming, and the value of embracing curiosity and courage — even if such an embrace leads us to inevitable change. Change can be scary.

But the resounding story that I’ve been able to hear, tell, and live throughout my life is that no matter how scary, no matter how tough, and no matter how dark things get, we can find the light through art. Because art saves. Art is what saved me as a young girl who held onto her yarn and knitting needles on the plane that took her from Korea to the United States. Art is what saved me when my Andrew was a baby and my Monica a toddler … as I learned to wash away the pressures of motherhood through the creation of a rubber stamped card, or a pieced quilt square.

Over the years, readers have showered me with stories of their own, to prove to me that indeed, art saves. In sickness, heartbreak, unemployment, divorce, and more … in the depths of life’s despair, readers have expressed gratitude for how they were saved from their worst nightmares by discovering art.

Many of you know that prior to my work in publishing, I was a social worker. I worked for seven years within child protective services where I interfaced with some of the most intense and radically devastating life stories.

For quite some time, it has been my dream to create a new venture that could harness the strengths of our art community to help expose the truth about the power of art. After six years as your editor, I have realized that now is the time for me to embrace this change and start this new venture.

In March of 2010, I will be launching CRESCENDOh.com — an Online Media Center with a mission to inspire creative passion, authentic community, and focused compassion. This launch is made possible with the support of an amazing new team that has convened — educators, business leaders, artists, writers, Web leaders, and more — all who support and believe in CRESCENDOh’s mission. It will be one of several key components that make up CRESCENDOh, LLC.

CRESCENDOh.com will be a place to have fun, learn about inspiring projects, shop for unique gifts, check out what’s totally hot, and most importantly, to read and share stories about how art saves. With your support, I will continue to help facilitate the telling of your stories, shine light on your creations, and in the process, help raise awareness of the world around us.

One thing I know to be true about life is that with everything, there is always a beginning, middle, and an end. And I believe it is important to do our best within all parts. I think doing our best at the end is especially difficult but very important, because how you handle things at the end will provide the foundation upon which you build your next new beginning.

I will be working until the end of January to complete shepherding the final issues of my beloved publications and to support the details that are included in a transition plan. During this time, I will guide and support my team so that they continue with the excellent work within all facets of the publishing division as new leadership blossoms. There is no staff smarter, more dedicated, more courageous, or more classy than the one that I have had the honor of building, training, and leading. We will always be Team 22936 — the amazing professional cohort that focused on a shared vision and performed miracles every day to make it happen. I am so proud of them. I will miss them.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for having been with me, and I hope that you will come along with me to CRESCENDOh, as we work together to cast the brightest light on creative passion, authentic community, and focused compassion.


Let us begin,

Jenny Doh, Editor-in-Chief & Director of Publishing

DEDICATION: JANICE LOWRY

I dedicate the past six years of this incredible journey to the loving memory of my dear friend and mentor, Janice Lowry, who I am certain is guiding and protecting me today. Janice was a woman who was saved through art, and whose art saved many and will save countless others for generations to come. As I embark on this new beginning to complete what I know to be my destiny, I will hold close to my heart, the last words that Janice offered me, which is to “keep working and enjoy the process.” 

 MUSICAL INSPIRATION FOR THE COURAGE TO PURSUE MY NEXT BEGINNING

Running to Stand Still as performed by U2

 

STAY TUNED

Slowly, deliberately, and thoroughly, I will be sharing on this blog, the details of what CRESCENDOh is all about, and how you can be part of it. Stay with me …

 Jenny Doh

Founder & President

CRESCENDOh, LLC

PO Box 11726

Santa Ana, CA 92711-1726

jenny@crescendoh.com

facebook.com/jennydoh

twitter.com/jennydoh

youtube.com/user/jennycrescendoh

 

November 21, 2009


AUTHENTIC BLOGGING


No matter how sloppy my house might be at any given moment in time, my family and I know how to get it tidied up when we know that company's coming. And though company might say "you have such a lovely home," I know deep inside that they say what they say because I haven't let them open my drawers or closets. But that's OK because what rests in such places isn't meant for public viewing. One of the criticisms out there of artful bloggers is that what we show on our blogs isn't "real." That what is authentic is actually kept hidden in the dark and deep recesses of our minds ... recesses that are kept under wraps ... as only the pretty and tidied up parts of our everyday lives are what get posted by artful bloggers.

To which I say, "So what?!"

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So what if artful bloggers elect to present our best face, our most evolved musings, our most elevated images? After all, just like when company comes over, it is a persona we are presenting of the best of who we are, the best of who aspire to be. The commitment I made when I launched my blog was that at least for the first year, I would post every single day. And that I wouldn't crab, bitch, moan, or damage others in the process. That I'd share who I am, who I am becoming, and to do so with class, style, intelligence, positivity, and yes ... authenticity.

Because you know what? Though who I am exists within those drawers and closets, who I am also exists in the bright sunny room that is styled and gussied up for the perfect image to be used for the perfect post. There are some who would also argue that artful blogs with a focus on the positive are too distilled and sugar-coated to inspire anything meaningful or thought-provoking. 

To which I say, "Are you kidding me?!"

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Every day, we have the challenge of coping with completely uninspired scenes found in life ... attitudes of self-entitlement, envy-driven criticisms, corruption, and downright evil. Before you know it, the negativity of the world can swallow you up and completely strip you of hope, optimism, and the will to move forward and affect positive change. Can a post about pretty chandelier crystals with a fortune from a fortune cookie — or a post about my latest knitting or crocheting project — inspire hope for those in the throes of depression?

Yes.

Can a post about peanut butter sandwiches and a makeshift gun from Mother's white pumps inspire thoughtful dialogue about the effects of "nature versus nurture" in terms of raising boys and girls?

Yes. 

Can a post about passages from a book by economist Dan Ariely inspire nutritional and physical discipline?

Yes. 

Aside from provoking thought and inspiring hope, I love that my blog affords me the opportunity to play, prance, and provide respite from the weight of the world by pointing to things that are ... for lack of a better term ... HOT!

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And if you click onto the "That's HOT" category on my blog, chances are that you'll find many posts about my shoes. I have a thing for shoes. One could argue that it's a weakness. Another could argue that it's an addiction.

Whatever.

Regardless of what it may be considered, it is an attraction that I have decided to wholeheartedly embrace. Life's too short to deny such a simple and sexy pleasure.

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So that's who I am ... at least that's who I am allowing you to see. If you want to see the other darker parts, I'll need to have a pretty reputable referral to see you and you'd better have "LCSW" or "PhD" inscribed after your name. It is because I know that you're coming over every day to say hello that I resolve to keep things tidied up, put my best shoe forward, and create a space where imaginations are ignited, curiosity is quenched, and style is revered. It is where even the smallest of notes can be heard and nurtured ... because even the smallest notes can gradually increase in volume and capture an audience of like-minded people who will gather to applaud the beautiful and authentic crescendoh.

[This article was published in the Spring 2009 issue of Artful Blogging magazine.]

October 20, 2009


EDITOR'S LETTER • SOM0909 • FOCUSED ON THE MOON


Dear Readers,

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered an amazing speech regarding his audacious plan to ensure that our nation would be the first to have a man on the moon by the end of that decade. Undoubtedly, he had to manage the voices of many who were critical of his plan — causing him to imbed into his speech, an answer to the question of "Why?" by saying:

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained ... But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? ... We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things ... not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone ...

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This passage has always inspired me because it hits the nail on the head in regards to why we humans freely choose to embark on that which is difficult. We do so not just because we want to do things that are hard. Rather, we do so because when we set a vision for greatness, those who are most focused and most committed to the vision know that it will hapen only when we dare to embark on related tasks that seem impossible to most — especially our critics. For Kennedy, getting to the moon was one such task that he knew would mark a new day of global leadership for space exploration ... the beautiful, mysterious moon.

    It is the moon that always casts its protective illumination over my children, Monica and Andrew, this time of year ... a time when they don costumes and trek out into the neighborhood to go trick-or-treating. Admittedly, now that Monica and Andrew are adolescents, they much prefer staying home to hand out the treats rather than going out asking for them.

    One of the best Halloween experiences we ever had was when Andrew was not yet 3 and Monica was almost 5. Andrew's costume was all set because handed down to him was an awesome homemade bumblee costume created by my friend, Cynthia.

    Monica on the other hand had her heart set on being Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. And when I learned of her desire, I decided to embark on the challenge of sewing her costume from scratch. It was not easy. The pattern had many challenges which required lots of work — much more than I anticipated.

    At the time, there were some critics in my life wondering why I was "wasting" my energy sewing from scratch when I could easily buy a Dorothy costume from the store. But when October 31st arrived, the answer was clear: Monica was the best-looking Dorothy in the whole neighborhood. (And Andrew was the most adorable bumblebee on the planet.)

    When we embark on creating something from scratch, we do so not because it is easy. We do so because though it may be hard, we know it is what will mark a new day of achievement, a new day of gaining knowledge, a new day of knowing that when we stay focused and committed, anything is possible.

Somerset Studio

    I remember the walk back home that Halloween night, after we were all done trick-or-treating. My husband, Gerardo, was pulling our happy but exhausted Dorothy and bumblebee in our little red wagon as I followed from a few steps behind. And I'll never forget the moon casting its light ever so brightly to illuminate the path that would lead us back home.

    Let us continue to aim for the moon ... not because it is easy, but because it is hard. And because it is possible.

As always,

Jenny Doh

Editor-in-Chief & Director of Publishing

[This letter was published in the September/October 2009 issue of Somerset Studio.]

October 10, 2009


HAPPY TRAILS TO OUR BELOVED JANICE LOWRY


THE KIND OF PERSON SHE WAS: This past April, I received the news that Janice was sick. I called her right back but she wasn't there to answer the phone. When she called me back, I wasn't there to answer my phone. So she left me a voice mail. When I listened to it, I was so struck by how upbeat and positive Janice was in the face of such devastating news ... how come, I wondered, does she not sound sad and distraught? But the thing is, Janice was not that kind of person. The Janice I knew never allowed herself to wallow in self-pity or focus on the negative. Quite frankly, she was much too focused on creating and moving forward, as she kept her eye on the big picture of life, and the big picture of the mark she intended to make on the world, to ever allow gloom and doom to waste precious time.


SOMERSET STUDIO: Almost six years ago, I started working as the new kid on the block for Somerset Studio magazine. It was a very scary time because I knew that in order to be successful, I needed significant pillars within the art community to stand up with me. So with humility of heart, I reached out to those pillars, which included Janice Lowry. And the wonderful gift she gave me was that pretty much immediately after we started talking, she made a choice. The choice wasn't ever discussed, the choice was simply exemplified. The choice was to steadily and consistently offer up her incredible work ... as she entrusted me with her most prized creations so that they could be shared with readers across the globe.

ALWAYS OPEN: If I needed garments, she opened up her closet for me. If I needed journals or collages or assemblages, she opened up her studio for me. If I needed new ideas, she would open up herself and create new works to be considered. Whenever I was in need, Janice gently guided me, mentored me, and always encouraged me. And when she learned that my daughter, Monica, was interested in assemblage work, she invited Monica, me, and my little Andrew to spend a day with her in the studio to learn and play. Monica, Andrew and I will never forget the fun we had with her that day ... as we made assemblages, painted faces, and rummaged through all the cool things that she had collected during her travels with her beloved Jon.

BLOCKING: One winter, after we had worked very hard on a project together, she dropped by my house unannounced to present me with an assemblage. It was titled Blocking, with a figure in the center with arms up, in a protective stance. She explained that Blocking was inspired by her mother who used to do a fair amount of it, when assorted dangers surrounded her. I will treasure this assemblage for the rest of my life because I know it was Janice's way of letting me know that sometimes you have to block, in order to protect and preserve the most important thing of all, which is the right that each and everyone of us have, to fulfill a destiny of creating our own unique marks on this world.

THE BRUSHES: In June, I was able to visit Janice in her studio. During this visit, I delivered countless paintbrushes that had been embellished and adorned with messages of love from the art community. Janice was her usual upbeat self, and so very delighted to receive such a grand gesture from her colleagues. I am thankful to Lynne Perrella and Michlle Ward for their help in coordinating this effort with the paintbrushes — so that we could express to Janice just how much her work has positively influenced and inspired the art community, and how she has been a role model to all of us to focus on the big picture of creating and making our marks.

SEPTEMBER 4TH: On September 4th, I was able to visit with Janice in her home, just days before she passed. As we visited, I still couldn't believe how in the face of death, in the face of being ravaged by cancer, that Janice still remained focused on the big picture and would not wallow in self-pity.

I asked her what message I could convey back to the art community and she said simply, "Tell them to keep working and to enjoy the process." We were able to say "I love you" to one another, and as I walked out, I was able to say good-bye, and that I would miss her greatly. Which I do.

MOVING FORWARD: I am thankful to Janice for teaching me the power of YES, the power of staying focused on the big picture, the power of knowing when to block, and the power of working hard and always enjoying the process. These are the lessons I intend to continue instilling in my children, and these are the lessons that I am certain that our art community will strive to focus on as we all grieve the passing of Janice, as we continue to miss her terribly, and as we all learn to move forward.

[Per the request and invitation of Janice and Jon, it was my honor and privilege to deliver this eulogy at Janice's memorial service today held at the beautiful Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana, California. I am grateful that present to support this message today were my family members, and members of the art community — Pam Garrison, Amy Hanna, Cynthia Shaffer, Johanna Love, Christen Olivarez, Jennifer Jackson, and Amanda Crabtree. I am blessed to have these incredible people in my life.]

September 29, 2009


SOMETHING FROM NOTHING


LAST NIGHT

Last night, as I was boarding the plane that would take me from California all the way to New Hampshire to join all of you for this terrific event, I faced what many would view as drudgery ... which is, plain and simple, many long hours on a coast-to-coast flight. But I made it, and I'm thrilled to be here with you. And I'd like to thank Elizabeth MacCrellish and her entire team for so generously and warmly inviting me to join you for this special experience, and to share with you my story.

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For me, long flights like the one I was just on have never been something to dread. That's because long flights and long car rides offer knitters and crocheters like myself uninterrupted time to make progress on our latest projects at hand ... like this shrug that I am almost finished with, and this crocheted necklace that I am so happy to have completed ... to give to Elizabeth as a token of gratitude.

To me, the things we learn to do with our hands, our voices, our souls, our bodies, and our imaginations ... THE ARTS if you will, is what gets us through life. It's what gets us through flights, through motherhood, through sisterhood, through parenthood, through friendships, through marriages, through divorces, through sicknesses. THE ARTS gets us through it all, doesn't it?

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1974 & THE 747

Let's travel back to 1974. I was 7 years old then. And that's when I boarded the biggest plane of all: a large 747 that would take me from my homeland of Seoul, Korea, all the way to California.

    It was a long flight. I boarded that plane with my two brothers and my parents because it had been explained to me that we would be leaving all that we knew ... our friends, our extended family members, our school, our neighborhood ... so that we could go to America ... the land of opportunity, where if you work hard, opportunities for success abound.

    I remember looking out the window during the flight, trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of this thing called "opportunity." But the only thing I could see were long stretches of puffy white clouds, as I periodically wiped tears that rolled down my face as I felt the sadness of having to say good-bye to all that I had known and loved back in Korea.

 

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    I didn't know how to speak English. In fact, the only words I knew in English were "yes," "no," "orange juice," and "banana." During the flight, I remember coming up with a strategy for survival ... I told myself that even though I might not ever be able to talk to a person since I couldn't speak the language, I would at least be able to read books. And then of course panic hit during the flight when I realized that the books would also be in English.

    On that flight, though I had my family, there was something else with me that helped me cope. It was yarn and knitting needles. I don't remember exactly what I ended up knitting, but I remember that with each stitch, I felt a calm, and I knew that everything would be OK.

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MUSICIANS & MAGICIANS

My way with yarn was something I learned form a very early age from my late grandmother back in Seoul, Korea. But there was more than yarn that made my family special.

    I was born in 1967 into a family of musicians. My father was a conductor. My mother was a vocalist. And whenever extended family members would get together, we could enjoy a good meal and afterwards, we would all start singing. Not just any old singing. But really good singing. People who knew how to harmonize, people who knew how to play assorted instruments including the piano, the violin, the cello, the viola, the harmonica, the trombone ... and people who sang hymns. We sang lots of hymns. In fact, this is my childhood hymnal that was also with me on that plane.

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    We weren't rich. In fact, we were very poor. We didn't have much. And if there's anything I learned during my first seven years of life growing up in Korea is that you don't really need much in terms of material goods to live a good life. A life filled with beauty, meaning, yarn, music, and happiness.

    Not only were my family members musicians, I would argue that they were magicians — especially the women. Every day, I remember observing the women of my family. My mother, my grandmother, my aunts ... women who all lived crammed in our tiny little home. Women who had very little. They started the day with almost nothing. No filet of beef. No fat hen. Just a few humble vegetables and the good will of a local fish vendor to give us — frequently in good faith — a fish or two ... but in my neighborhood, good faith went a long way. The fish would go a long way. Many nights as the entire family gathered at the dinner table — my father, brothers, uncles and all the women ... we would feast on the most amazing and plentiful pot of soup that would emerge with that humble fish within an incredible broth that would feed and satisfy us all. From very young, I learned that with practically nothing, you can make almost anything.

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 When winters came and we could feel the draft of the cold enter the home, I remember seeing my grandmother unraveling old woolen sweaters that had been ravaged by moths. They were discards to some but not to us. She would unravel them and knit them up again to clothe the littlest members of the family including myself as we would proudly walk the neighborhood with our chests held high, showing off our brand new garments. With practically nothing, my grandmother could make almost anything.

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KOREAN FAMILY ARRIVES

So in August of 1974, my family and I landed on American soil. It was tough. I knew no one. I looked different ... especially because of all places, we settled in Bakersfield, California. In fact, a photo of our family was published in the Bakersfield Californian newspaper with a headline that read, "Korean Family Arrives."

    And from the day we landed, we hustled. We had no Fisher Price, no Hooked on Phonics. My brothers and I had one another, and we each had a key on our necks, and parents who worked nonsensical hours in the fast food industry to make it happen. The key on my neck is what I used to let myself in after school to fix myself top ramen, to do homework, and after homework, to knit, crochet, play the cello, and make clothes for my dolls.

    Before you knew it, we were bringing home straight As, making friends, performing in honor orchestras, and eventually getting accepted to college ... with nothing we made something. And along the way, as we experienced success, we did lots of happy dances. 

 

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"I DO"

So of course as I grew up over the years, yarn and music remained a large part of my life. But it's important to mention that along the way of growing up, many more tools and materials and substrates became part of my life. Like rubber stamps, paper, calligraphy pens, stretched canvas, beads, wire, and paint. And when I eventually met my beloved Gerardo and he said "I do," he knew he was saying "I do" not just ot me, but to all the tools and materials associated with my various creative outlets.

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MOTHERHOOD

Let's fast forward to 1995 when I became a mother for the first time to little Monica. And then to 1998 when I had my second child, Andrew. The scenes of my life at that time were bleak. I had to potty train a toddler while nursing an infant. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

    Don't get me wrong ... it was also the most joyous of times. But truthfully and honestly, being a mom of two little ones is when I experienced the greatest joys but also my darkest hours and felt the most profound depths of despair. And many days, I wallowed in sadness and doubt, wondering if I would ever be able to rediscover my identity, let alone survive the day or the hour at hand.

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    But you know, when I look back on those days, I know what got me through. It was my ability to psych myself out hour-to-hour, day-to-day, as I said to myself, "OK, if you can take the kids to the park and then bring them back and put them down for a nap, you can reward yourself with a few more rows of knitting, or with a few more cards with the new rubber stamp you just got." Creativity is how I coped and survived and still survive motherhood.

 

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MAKING ROOM FOR QUILTING

I mentioned to you that when Gerardo said "I do," he was saying "I do" to all the yarn and the beads and the paints and the inks. But with the birth of our kids, as if life weren't hard enough, I found an insatiable desire to learn how to quilt and sew. And even though I didn't yet own a sewing machine, I didn't let that stop me because I knew from all that I had read that quilts were made with arguably greater precision and care, long before machines were ever invented. And it's important to note that Gerardo didn't stop me from entering the quilting journey. Because he knew better.

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    So with Gerardo's help in juggling all the family stuff, I made my very first quilt that measures 52"x52". Every single thing about that quilt — from the cutting, to the piecing, to the quilting, to the binding — every single thing was done all by hand. And then after that quilt was done, of course Gerardo got smart and helped eek out enough money from our family budget to get me my very first sewing machine — a Bernina — which I love and still use today.

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    Given that our life was already bubbling over with lots of art and crafting supplies, I know it was a lot to ask my family to make room for quilting. But I think Gerardo knew that it was all related ... the yarn, the paper, the cello, the fabric, the thread ... and that if we were going to stay together and master the challenges of life, and if I in particular was to find a way to survive the difficulties of motherhood and womanhood, we would need to make room for whatever medium that I identified as aiding me through that process.

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YESTERDAY & TODAY

So here we are today. Most of you know me because of my role as editor for Somerset Studio. But publishing was not originally my intended field. After graduating from UC Irvine with a degree in political science, I felt a genuine calling to enter the "helping profession" because I wanted to make a positive impact on this world. So I went on to earn my masters in social work from UCLA. And for seven years, I worked as a social worker within the field of child protective services.

    And I have to tell you that when I observed families that were torn apart, in many ways it's because these family members never found THE ARTS. They never found the yarn or the paint or the pen or the bead or the cello or the dance group where they could feel the thrill of knitting a sweater, or piecing that quilt top, or writing a poem, or performing in a concert ... rather, they found things like heroine or meth to help them cope with life. And sadly, most found out too late how short-lived and destructive such methods are.

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    During those seven years, there were many times when I tried to equip young people with yarn and knitting needles, in hopes that they would find the true path for success ... a path where creativity can combat our darkest hours, where THE ARTS can save us from the depths of despair.

    In 2004 when I grabbed the opportunity to change careers from social work to publishing, there was part of me that felt guilt for leaving behind all the training and experience I had received to be part of the "helping profession."


SOMERSET STUDIO & THE HAPPY DANCE

For almost six years, I've had the amazing opportunity to lead Somerset Studio and its many sister publications. Shepherding the art, the words, and the visuals have in and of itself become a new art form for me ... a coping mechanism, really, as I say to myself on any given day as I maneuver through the pressures of the publishing industry ... "If you can get through this challenge or that meeting, then you can reward yourself with just one more article, just one more photo, just one more layout to work on."

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    And the best part of my job is when I receive letters from people from around the globe who testify to the transformative nature of THE ARTS, as evidenced by the impact that Somerset Studio has had on their lives ... like this letter:

Dear Jenny
My name is Michael Baker and I wanted to say thank you for having shown my later wife's work in Somerset Studio ... Mary Lynne was a passionate crafter and the consummate teacher. She spent her life as an educator constantly doing art and crafting as a hobby. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and retired a year later, working on expanding her horizons. She helped a lot of people into the craft and had several local sales that helped encourage her to do more. This past spring after having several works to you, she suffered a major relapse and passed away on June 5th — prior to having the article appear. She has however seen it (I am certain) and is doing the "Happy Dance" and celebrating with all her friends up there! Thank you very much from the husband of a very special lady.
Sincerely,
Michael Baker

 

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THE NEW HELPING PROFESSION

These sorts of letters make me imagine the happy dances that people throughout the generations have been able to do when we are able to express ourselves creatively. And I realize more and more that in many ways, this community, this mixed-media art community is also part of the helping profession.

    It's a community that isn't perfect. It's a community like all communities that goes through joys, sorrows, triumphs, and challenges. (Sometimes heatedly so.) But it's a community unlike any other because it can comfort us, it can help us cope, it can save us ... it can help us create something from nothing.

    From the bottom of my heart I want to express my sincere gratitude to each person in this room for allowing me to be part of this community. As Confucius once wrote many years ago:

As the sun makes it new

Day by day make it new

Yet again make it new

It is with joy and humility that I embrace the opportunities that are afforded in each new day as we inspire through our collective efforts — many happy dances for people around the world.


Thank you very much.

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[Per the invitation of Elizabeth MacCrellish, it was my honor to deliver these Opening Remarks on September, 16, 2009, at the Squam Art Workshops in Squam Lake, New Hampshire.]

August 31, 2009


EDITOR'S LETTER • SOM0107 • BEST TO COME


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Dear Readers,

Before world-renowned chef Julia Child passed away in 2004, she worked with writer Alex Purd'homme to author My Life in France — a book filled with her captivating autobiographical memoirs.
When we consider her celebrated achievements as a French chef, we may easily assume that she was born with natural culinary skills and a predisposition to all things French. 
Interestingly, Julia (who was born and raised in Pasadena, California) explains taht she didn't really learn to cook until after she got married at the age of 34, to her husband Paul Child. After four years of married life, Paul's work relocated them to Paris, France — a land with a culture, language and food that were completely new to her.

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Says Julia: "In Paris ... I was surrounded by some of the best food in the world ... so it seemed only logical that I should learn how to cook ... good, traditional French home cooking. It was a revelation. I simply fell in love with that glorious food and those marvelous chefs. The longer we stayed there, the deeper my commitment became."
Whether it's Julia Child or other individuals who have achieved spectacular success in their field, it is not uncommon to learn that success is frequently preceded by passion, commitment and hard work.

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The artwork of famous textile and collage artist Carolyn Quartermaine graces the cover of this special 10th anniversary issue of Somerset Studio. When we consider her accomplishments, we could also assume that things have always come easily for her. But as you will read in her Artist Portfolio (page 38), Carolyn was diligent in her studies and passionate in her efforts to refine her skills to develop into the artist that she is today.
In 1997, Somerset Studio was the second magazine to be launched by Stampington & Company. At the time, it was an audacious concept for a young publishing company ... a concept born out of a revelation that our community of paper and mixed-media artists deserved a magical space where we could gather to play, create, discover and share.

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For the past 10 years, Somerset Studio has been the nation's leading publication in helping artists share their most innovative techniques used to design projects of the highest caliber. Many contributing artists offer stories similar to Julia Child — of not having started on their artistic journeys until well into their adult lives. Lisa Guerin, for example, shares her exquisite paper dolls (page 46) for an audience who might find it hard to believe that she had not begun making art until just a few years ago. But Lisa and most other artists, including Michelle Ward with her very cool magazine file project (page 90) and Connie Govea Stuart and her Victorian Vignettes (page 98), have discovered a truth similar to Julias: that the longer one stays within the world of paper and mixed-media, the deeper our commitments become.

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In honor of Somerset Studio's 10th anniversary, we offer our gratitude to all of our contributing artists. Without your creative talent and generosity, we would not be where we are today. And the longer we have stayed, the stronger our commitment and resolve have become to continue publishing the very best magazines so that we can all continue to frolic together in a truly magical place that has come to be known as Somerset Studio.

Best to come,
Kellene Giloff & Jenny Doh

[This letter was published in the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of Somerset Studio.
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