Cindy La Ferle on January 12th, 2012
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way — things I had no words for.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe
One of the many things I appreciate about my artist-architect husband is that he’s always encouraging me to push my own artwork to the next level. Given that our family has been in a crisis mode (my mother’s health) for the past year, it’s not easy to make time for art, let alone enter our work in competitions.
Regardless, earlier this month Doug printed out the forms for the Anton Art Center‘s 38th Michigan Annual Art Exhibition and nudged me to enter one of my new pieces.
I’d been working on a mixed-media assemblage (mounted on canvas) that was inspired by a post-Civil War photograph I found in my Granny Bee’s family album. The woman in the photograph isn’t identified, so, sadly, I have no idea who she is. Yet her pensive expression and confident pose always intrigued me.
In my assemblage, the woman’s photo is surrounded by found objects — twigs, feathers, part of an old leather Bible cover, and vintage fabrics. In the background, you’ll also see a scrap from a notebook of shorthand that Doug brought home from a thrift shop.
Titled “The Importance of Ancestors,” this piece pays homage to the “stuff” we leave behind — and how tokens from the past can influence our memories of a person. It also plays with the idea of having roots and family trees.
Thanks to Doug, I entered the piece in the Michigan Annual Exhibition, and was pleased to learn this week that it was accepted. The opening reception is on January 27th, 6 – 9pm. The exhibit runs through February 24th.
One final thought: Athletes typically have their own cheering sections, but most artists and writers labor in solitude. If you practice any of the arts for business or pleasure, it’s important to have close friends and advocates who keep you encouraged and inspired. (Of course, a supportive spouse is invaluable.) Cherish those people — and try to schedule more time with them. Avoid the naysayers who trample your dreams or spend most of their free time watching mindless games and shows on TV.
Seek out the company of other creatives, and be sure to applaud their efforts and talents. — Cindy La Ferle
– For a larger view, please click on each photo. –
Cindy La Ferle on January 1st, 2012
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce
I’m always cheered by the thought of a new year and another chance to start over. Blank pages used to scare me, but I welcome them now.
Last year brought incredible challenges involving my widowed mother’s healthcare, leaving me little time or energy to devote to writing projects. At the end of the day, sometimes, I would head up to the art studio to work on collages, greeting cards, or mixed-media constructions.
In the process, I learned that making art both relaxed and uplifted me — and appealed to a part of my soul that writing never could. Of course, I will always write, one way or another, but right now I’m excited about the possibility of projects that combine illustration with text. I want to push beyond the creative goals I set for myself years ago. It’s time to begin again.
I hope your new year is off to a great start, and that you’re excited by creative possibilities and dreams. I hope you find what makes your heart want to sing, or dance, or paint, or draw, or write. — Cindy La Ferle
–Original greeting card collage by Cindy La Ferle–
Cindy La Ferle on December 12th, 2011
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” ~Norman Vincent Peale
Give me any holiday, and I’ll make a greeting card for it. No matter how crazy-busy life gets, I like to think of card-making as instant art therapy. It’s a terrific way to unwind after a long day, and I can vouch for the fact that it’s incredibly easy (and economical) to do. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Gather a batch of recycled greeting cards or magazine clippings that strike your fancy. Or, dig through your own family photo albums for funny vintage shots — and jot down a clever message or sentiment that works with them. (If the relatives in the photo are still breathing, you might want to ask their permission to immortalize them on a funny card. Otherwise, you’re good to go.)
Next, make a list of craft supplies you’ll need to assemble and complete your cards.
Michael’s, the craft store, carries packages of blank cards with envelopes in all sizes. While you’re at it, pick up a few bottles of glitter, glue sticks, stickers, and other trims that work with the theme you’ve chosen. Clear space at your kitchen table, then grab your scissors … and start playing! There’s a certain charm in a crafty, handmade card — so don’t feel you have to aim for glossy perfection. (That’s what Hallmark is for.)
Michael’s also carries a variety of stamps with greeting card messages for any holiday or season, or your can print your own sentiments. The card shown above is one of two designs I’ve been working on this season. I also purchased several packages of star confetti to sprinkle inside each card, to carry out the “Christmas magic” theme. –CL
Cindy La Ferle on August 31st, 2011
The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.” — Julia Cameron
Remember the late-summer thrill of buying notebooks, Magic Markers, and bright yellow Ticonderoga pencils for a new year of grade school? And who could forget the incomparable scent of a fresh box of Crayolas? For me, the ritual of buying school supplies softened the hard reality of summer’s end.
Even if your kids have flown from the nest, the beginning of the new school year still inspires personal growth and renewal.
Is there a dormant passion you’d like to rekindle? A hobby waiting for you to explore? My new column on Royal Oak Patch details the first season my son left home for college, and how I started a new “term” in the school of lifelong learning. Included with the essay are several photos of my art projects. Please click here to read it. — Cindy La Ferle
Cindy La Ferle on August 18th, 2011
Field notes on an empty nest
Last week I found a bird’s nest on the brick walk leading to our backyard. I’m guessing the nest fell from a nearby silver maple; or maybe a neighbor found it while jogging and left it by the garden gate for us to admire.
Not much larger than a cereal bowl, the nest now perches indoors on a shelf near my desk. Crafted from hundreds of delicate twigs, strands of grass, and patches of moss, it’s truly a work of art — and a timely reminder to prepare for my son’s return to college after the long summer break.
Children of baby boomers are heading off to college in greater numbers than children of previous generations. At the same time, the age-old ritual of “letting go” is the final frontier for those of us who’ve made child rearing a major focus of our adult lives.
I’ve been discussing this tender rite of passage with other middle-aged parents. And we all agree there has to be a better term to describe our next season of parenting – something that doesn’t sound as final or forlorn as “The Empty Nest.” Our nests, after all, are not completely empty. Not yet. My only child, for example, still has a bedroom here at home in addition to a loft in a crowded dormitory four hours away in South Bend, Indiana.
Whatever you want to call it, this to-and-from college phase is a thorny adjustment for parents and their almost-adult kids. College students are bound to ignore house rules when they return home for summer and holiday breaks. (“Curfew? What curfew?”) Even the most agreeable families discover that this can be a volatile time – a time when teen-aged tempers ignite and middle-aged feelings get scorched. All said and done, we’re all learning how to grow up and move on.
“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth…. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” — Erma Bombeck
A lot has changed since my son started college. I’m still adjusting to the hollow echo of his (oddly) clean and empty bedroom, looking for remnants of my old self — my mothering self — in the bits and pieces he left behind. The family calendar in our kitchen has some blank spaces, too, and is no longer buried under neon-color sticky notes announcing band concerts, Quiz Bowl meets, school conferences, and carpool schedules. At first, this was not cause for celebration. I’d become what our high school mothers’ club affectionately refers to as one of the “Alumni Moms.”
While I suddenly found myself with unlimited bolts of time to devote to my marriage and writing career, I mourned what I perceived to be the loss of my role as a hands-on parent. Despite the fact that I had a cleaner, quieter house, I missed all the athletic shoes and flip-flops piled near the back door. I missed the boisterous teenagers gathered around the kitchen counter, or in front of the television downstairs. I missed bumping into other parents at school functions, and wondered if life would ever be the same.
Life isn’t the same, but I’m OK with that now. I’ve come to realize that a mom is always a mom, even though her parenting role changes over time.
Not long ago, I stayed at my own mother’s place for a few weeks while I recovered from major surgery. When I apologized for disrupting her normal routine, she said, “My home will always be your home, too.” I found comfort in knowing that. Yet at the same time, I missed my own house. And I felt grateful that Mom had encouraged me, years ago, to craft a life — and a home — of my own.
It’s hard to believe my son is packing for another year of college this week. The hall outside his bedroom is now an obstacle course of boxes, crates, and suitcases stuffed with everything he needs for the months ahead. I’m still not very good at saying good-bye when his dad and I leave him at the dorm and steer our emptied SUV back to the expressway. I manage to compose myself until I notice the tearful parents of college freshmen going through this ritual for the first time. But it does get easier each term.
So, is the nest half-full or half empty?
Reflecting on the small bird’s nest perched near my desk, I’ve come to believe that every family is a labor of love and a work in progress. It’s a bittersweet adjustment, but I’m at peace with the idea that our household is just one stop on our son’s way to his future. He’ll be flying back and forth over the next couple of years or so. And hopefully, patience and love will be the threads that weave our family together, no matter how far he travels. – Cindy La Ferle, September 2006
– Top photo: Detail from “Nature,” a mixed-media collage by Cindy La Ferle. Bottom photo (nest) by Cindy La Ferle –