Comfort in stressful times

DSCN7825If you’re struggling to find peace in the aftermath of the presidential election, you’re not alone.

Several months ago, when I needed relief from divisive news headlines, I launched Something Beautiful Every Day, a daily blog that features my own photography and uplifting quotes from famous (and not-so-famous) authors.

You won’t find partisan politics on “Something Beautiful.” What you will find are photos of my gardens, things I’ve collected, and discoveries I’ve made on my travels. Each daily photo is paired with an inspirational  or literary quote that will lift your spirit, motivate your creativity, or get you thinking.

Version 2If you haven’t had a chance to explore this online photo diary, I hope you’ll visit soon. And if you opt to subscribe to “Something Beautiful Every Day, you’ll receive a daily inspirational post from me each morning. You can subscribe on the site, or I can sign you up if you email me at cindy@laferle.com usingSomething Beautiful subscribeas the subject heading.

A progress report: My year-long creative challenge is halfway complete

It’s hard to believe that Something Beautiful Every Day — my year-long “creative challenge” — has reached the halfway mark this month. So far, I’ve posted 189 original photos with quotations, and the new blog has logged more than 31,000 page visits from viewers in 10 countries since it went live in April.

dscn3434I appreciate all of the subscribers and visitors who’ve been waking up with me every day. Knowing you’re out there gets me out of bed very early each morning — and I look forward to sharing a new post with you before I start brewing my coffee. Your encouraging emails have meant so much to me.

Something Beautiful Every Day began on a gloomy day in March — and it has turned out to be the most enjoyable creative project I’ve ever attempted. After spending more than 30 years writing feature articles, memoirs, and personal essays, I’ve felt the need for a creative change — a different way to tell stories and share ideas.

As photographer Jan Phillips wrote: “Photos are our autobiography, a way of telling who we are.”

Inspired by Bella Grace magazine, I challenged myself to pair an original photo with a thought-provoking quotation every day for a year. Describing the project to a friend recently, I realized the daily photos I’ve posted are far more intimate than anything I share on social media networks. These images document the little things I treasure at home, gardens I’ve tended, dear pets who share my home, and places where I find inner peace. The quotes have special meaning to me as well.

dscn2598At first, I shared Something Beautiful Every Day with just a handful of close friends. But in June, a newspaper columnist encouraged me to add a subscriber option and open it up to everyone. Since then, it’s been featured in The Detroit News Homestyle magazine, HAP’s Balanced Living magazine, and was recently endorsed by Beaumont Hospital’s Sharing & Caring breast cancer support group as a “positive and inspirational resource.”

The project will end in mid-March of 2017 — one year after its launch.

Meanwhile, it’s already autumn, my favorite time of the year! I’m always moved by the rich, brooding palette of the season — and my images and quotes will reflect that in the weeks ahead. Thanks again for spending this year with me.

To view Something Beautiful Every Day or subscribe to the blog, please click here.

Photos above: Copyright 2016 by Cindy La Ferle

Crafting a mystery

Making your unknown known is the important thing.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

Who was she? I have no idea. But I was inexplicably drawn to her photograph (at left) in an album that once belonged to my mom’s stepmother, affectionately known as Granny Bee.

When Granny Bee died, my mother inherited this magnificent album of sepia-toned photographs — some dating back to the Civil War. Many are marked with the names of photography studios in Chicago or Aurora, Illinois; others are from studios in New Hampshire. Sadly, the folks in the photographs are not identified. Not a single name, event, or date is penciled anywhere.

Bee had no children of her own. I was her only step grandchild — by marriage — so the fate of this antique album now rests in my hands.

As it happens, I often use vintage photographs in my mixed-media artwork. (I make high-quality copies and preserve the originals.) In particular, the dour-looking mystery woman in Bee’s album is a perennial favorite. Her deadpan expression is so priceless that she’s played a starring role in countless craft projects, from greeting cards to note pads. She’s worn a red poinsettia on her head for Christmas cards, for instance, and a witch hat on Halloween party invitations.

This week I finished a more lasting tribute to her: a mixed-media “reliquary” of found objects. (Please click the image at the far left for a larger view.) The word remember is incorporated throughout the piece, along with scraps from an old hymnal, sewing notions, vintage fabrics, feathers and twigs. The door to the piece opens to reveal a small collection of old bottles filled with found objects.

“I like photographs that leave something to the imagination.” — Fay Godwin

I’ve even tried to give my mystery woman a proper name. “Isabel” or “Esmeralda” both seem to suit her — yet somehow I sense I’m on the wrong track. Early on, I tried to investigate. But even before her memory was fogged by dementia, my mother couldn’t recall the name of the relative in the photo — nor could she determine her kinship to our beloved Granny Bee. So I’ll have to settle for the stories conjured by my own imagination.

All said and done, crafting something with my hands sets my mind whirling in a thousand different directions. Making art is another way of telling stories. And I love how the process has created my special relationship with the incomparable “Isabel Esmeralda” — a relationship that reaches across time and never stops delighting me.

If she were alive today, would the Victorian mystery woman be honored — or appalled — at being the center of attention in my art pieces? I wonder if I could make her smile. — Cindy La Ferle

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“Remember” was chosen for the 2012 All-Media exhibit at the Ann Arbor Art Center, opening September 7, 2012. To view more photos of the piece on Facebook, click here.