"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art Journals — The Good, the Bad, and the Frustrating

February 18, 2010

Over the past three years, I have been involved in three art journal rounds. I organized the first one, then participated in another two. Since this was done through a forum called the Pyracy Pub, naturally, the theme was all things from the Golden Age of Pyracy. Updates would be posted regularly to keep track of the books as they made their progress from one artist to another.

The first year only five people signed up to participate. Everyone was very enthusiastic. Most had never heard of art journals, so a lot of explaining had to be done. Books would make the jump every month, giving each artist plenty of time to fill between 2-5 pages. Within two months of the start, the frustration set in. People wouldn’t get the books out on time. One book got held up for four months, and then was sent home with no work done in it by that person. One person kept a book, and despite many attempts to communicate with him, never did return the book to the original artist. When the round finally sputtered to an end, I was sure no one would be interested in doing it again. When the person who never got his journal back volunteered to run a second round, I told him,”Good luck, but it’s like trying to herd cats.” From that point on, each organizer, whether for art journals or PTCs (Pirate Trading Cards, as opposed to ATCs) was dubbed the Cat Wrangler.

Round two started out with seven artists. Again, everyone very enthusiastic about participating. I was skeptical, but signed on because I liked the gent who had volunteered to wrangle the round. The books went out and everything seemed fine. Then problems developed. Two books were apparently lost in the mail while making the journey to Germany. This did not go over well with the two artists whose books had gone missing. One artist dropped out of the round, under accusations of really misplacing or sitting on the two books ostensibly lost in the mail. Books got stalled for months. For the Cat Wrangler, keeping the round going became a chore. Disgruntled artists posted heated complaints. I was relieved when my book came home, and vowed never to do another round. Some four months after the round was over, the two books lost in the mail miraculously reappeared, with no explanations.

The third round has just finished. This time there were eleven participants, many new to the art journal process, but again, very enthusiastic. The Wrangler for this round was one of the artist from the previous round. This time, things progressed fairly well. The books, with only minor hiccoughs, jumped month-to-month with no problems. At about month six, one artist dropped out, dumping two books on the next man in line. This got smoothed over, but then the holidays delayed books going out. As time went on, and enthusiasm levels dropped, more and more books were getting delayed. In some cases, two and three books would be mailed at one time, because an artist let them pile up without working in them. For the Wrangler, is was like pulling teeth to get people back on schedule. Then, with the round almost over, two books went missing in the mail, and one artist went incommunicado with a book still in his possession. No attempts to reach him have succeeded. The man whose book is being held, and who had mailed the two now seemingly lost, posted a virulent rant, stating in the end that he didn’t care if he ever saw his book again and would under no circumstances participate in another round. I calmed him down, but the damage had already been done. The rest of the artist were hurt by his accusations, and the two women whose books are gone were especially upset. It has been a year and four months and my book is finally home safe. At some point, a person thought my trademark “danglies” were a nuisance, and removed them.

In the end, I think the rounds were mostly fun, and I cherish the artwork in each of my books. But I will not do another. At the beginning people are excited by the idea, but don’t really understand the commitment it takes to see a round to completion. At about month four or five, they suddenly realize what they have signed on for, and end up resentful that they are trapped into doing something for which they no longer have any interest. Some bail out. Some drag their feet and hold on to books for weeks or months. Some do token work and pass the books on.

For the Cat Wrangler, it truly is a lesson on the good, the bad, and the frustration of trying to keep a group of people enthusiastic and organized over the long haul. Not a job to be taken on lightly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chained Butterfly Necklace

February 10, 2010

While making this necklace I pictured a young woman carefully threading her way through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic city. As she goes, she picks up bits of flotsam — broken chain, rusty keys, a tin fumigation tag from a downed utility pole. Miraculously, she also discovers a small cask containing silver butterflies, shiny glass lozenges, and a sprinkling of ruby crystal beads. Delighted, she tucks all these finds away in a knapsack and returns to her garret high over the city. Alone and in safety, she takes these disparate pieces of a lost generation and cobbles them together into a necklace. Maybe she will barter it for food or supplies. Then again, maybe she will keep it for herself and wear it as a reminder that even in a post-apocalyptic world beauty can still be found, and might be appreciated again. After all, is not the butterfly a symbol of hope?

Friday, February 5, 2010

When Hats Had Names

February 5, 2010

I read that caption-line in a magazine years ago and was very intrigued by it. Was there a time when people named their hats? Did a man wake up, look out the window and think, “Drat, it’s raining, I’ll have to wear George today?” At some previous time did a woman dressing for a night out put on a pretty concoction of feathers and net, sit in front of her mirror and say, “Ah, Trixi, you’re just the thing?”

I have many hats — pirate hats, sun hats, everyday hats, vintage hats — but none of them have names. Currently I have two favorites. One is my trusty gray felt fedora that I wear when it’s raining because I am too lazy to carry an umbrella. It keeps raindrops off my glasses. The other is my short top hat. This one has turned out to be very versatile, its accessories changing depending on the season, event, or my mood. Whenever I wear this hat, invariably someone will say, “Wow, I really like that hat!”

Maybe I should give it a name, so that the next time I get a compliment while wearing it, I can answer, “Why, thank you. Her name is Victoria.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010


February 4, 2010

Found in the Ruins is the name of my Etsy jewelry shop, but I decided to keep the name for this blog site, as it works for me on numerous levels. It describes the jewelry I make from castoff pieces and recycle into something new. It also describes the photos of derelict boats and the flotsam washed up along the tide line that I find so fascinating, and in a sense, poetic. My collage artwork is made up of scraps of this and that — the ruins of old movie tickets, magazines, junk mail, postal stamps, etc. And then there is life, which can fall all around you in ruins, but from which can come rebirth, new understanding, and new visions.

I confess, I am new at this, so posts may be erratic at first, until I find my way. I’m not sure which direction this blog may go, but then, starting out on a new adventure is like that.