Monday, January 31, 2011

A Cupful of Fabulous

My weekend was wonderful! Full of movies, mostly. Every year James and I try to see as many Oscar nominees as possible before the Academy Awards Ceremony is broadcast, and we were able to pack four of the Best Picture films into this weekend. With yesterday's viewing of '127 Hours' (intense!) we're now cotched up; all ten nominees for Best Pic have been seen. My fave is still 'The King's Speech.' But films like 'The Fighter' and 'The Kids Are All Right' completely surprised me. I doubt I would have gone out of my way to see them if they weren't Oscar material.

Between movies there were trips to the book store and laps around the mall, creative conversation over cups of steaming chai (chai: liquid pumpkin pie for the senses!), brief moments of sun and the delight of watching feathery clumps of snowflakes alight on my jacket sleeve (stellar dendrites? The only 'snow' word I know....). I scored a free audio book (The Talisman by King/Straub) for this winter's studio listening pleasure. I found two lucky pennies, one quarter, and a dime! I ate popcorn and covered my eyes and had my mind opened a little bit. I knitted a pair of slippers for the Grandbug, logged a bunch of miles on the pedometer, made a friend on Twitter, and did some Mystery Mentoring. I curled up in front of 'Downton Abbey' and stirred rich droplets of melted butter floating on the surface of my supper of oyster stew.

And now it's Monday and time for me to get back in the studio.

As it always does, the weekend went by so fast! But as it almost always is, it was a cup full of fabulous. I hope yours was, too. :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

One Memory Leads to Another...

I don't know what made me think of this recently....

Back in the early 80s my studio was a little mauve-colored, calico-wallpapered room right off the kitchen. It was the hub of the house, and from it I could keep tabs on everything. While working there I could supervise my grade-school-aged girls as they sat doing homework at the kitchen table. From its single window I could look out at the swing-set by day and listen to the crickets at night. A lovely room! And one not yet filled with the mountains of print inventory that Mayfaire would one day bring to it.

During that time I did contract work for a large company in Minneapolis that designed products for students, things like workbooks and flashcards and the wonderful stuff that makes school bulletin boards (in my opinion) so inviting. Products my own kids were enjoying in their classrooms. A grade school friend of mine that I'd kept in contact with over the years hooked me up with the job, bless her heart; it was just a lucky turn of events that when the company needed a freelance artist she thought of me.

God bless that company for giving me the opportunity that it did because I couldn't have asked for a more perfect engagement! I'd tuck my girls in at night and then draw until late, creating everything from flashcards to puzzle designs, sometimes working until dawn when I'd wake them for school. Then while I dished their oatmeal and made their lunches, like clockwork a courier would arrive at the door to pick up my work. It was such a fabulous arrangement that a day didn't go by that I didn't pinch myself to make sure it wasn't all just a figment of my imagination.

That same company still exists, only now it has a staff of in-house graphic artists who create its product designs on the computer. And here I am: A pencil-and-paper kinda gal; too 'old school' for this new age. But the job was wonderful while it lasted.

And right about here is where I'd planned to end my post.

Except that during the time I spent proofreading it and making changes, I learned via Chase's Online Calendar of Events that January 27 -- the day this was all to be posted to my blog -- was the 25th anniversary of the day in 1986 that the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 10 miles above the earth, killing its crew members and teacher Christa McAuliffe. And if I have to reduce those Mauve Studio Memories to a single one, this is it.

Like the assassination of JFK, I know where I was and what I was doing when the Challenger met its tragic end: I was sitting at my drawing table designing a Chinese New Year puzzle and living my dream. And on my little minuscule black-and-white television I was watching Christa McAuliffe live hers.

And then she was not.

I still don't know what made me think of that little mauve studio and give me the urge to write about it now, but the fact that its story would post on this day of all days gives me a little shiver. Not to mention it hits me upside the head with the reminder that things can change in a heartbeat, even when you're right in the middle of living your dream.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

5 Magical Things About My Day

The world's best place to read and dream...
Make that 'Five Magical Things About My (yester)Day':
  1. Blue snow shadows and dripping icicles.
  2. A front window alive with the whirs and twirls and clicks and nods of solar-powered devices all worshiping the sun.
  3. Playing with knitting needles and designing a -- slipper?
  4. A breakfast of oatmeal with agave nectar and a handful of pomegranate seeds.
  5. My living room's fairytree alight and glowing in the dusk of a winter's evening.

What made your day magical?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Welcome to Tumbledown

Home is where the art is... :)
The first thing I should probably do is welcome you to my home, and here it is. Or at least here is its front door. I named the place 'Tumbledown' years ago when it was even less scruffy than it is today. (And this is not an up-to-date photo, so you can imagine what state it's in now!) Picking my house out of the neighborhood lineup is a piece of baklava; in my opinion, it's the only one with any character.

I've lived at Tumbledown for over twenty years. It's the residence I've been connected to the longest in my lifetime. I have some mixed feelings about it, mostly because several big life changes of both the happy and sad varieties occurred here over the years. And now that my daughters are grown and married and making lives of their own, I'm torn about staying in the house they grew up in....

James lives here with me now. He doesn't have the history with Tumbledown that I have. Occasionally I ponder what it'd be like to pull up stakes and find a whole new place that is ours alone. But about the time I begin to think seriously about it I open the door to the upstairs closet and see the pencil marks on the wall there of just how tall my girls were at different stages of their lives and I know then that it'd be impossible for me to leave. Which means that Tumbledown will be my forever home. Or at least the last one before the Nursing Home.

I'm not a housekeeper. The word is not even in my vocabulary. My mom, however, is an AMAZING housekeeper, and a day doesn't go by that I don't see a cobweb or a cat hair out of the corner of my eye and hear her voice in my head admonishing me to put down my pencil and sketchbook and do something important with my time. Sometimes I can tell myself that keeping house is her art and she's a master at it. And sometimes I can say with conviction that art IS important, more important than a clean house. But most of the time that voice in my head just saws away at me and I begin moving in circles: draw a bit, see something I should be doing, do it poorly, feel guilty, go back to the sketchbook, draw some more, lather, rinse, repeat....

James and I love stuff (especially books) and we love to collect it, and the odder the stuff the better. As a result, Tumbledown is a bit like Disneyland in that you can't see it all in one day. When my mom visits now, she can hardly speak her eyes are so busy! But her reaction over the years has made me self-conscious of my nest and more than a little hesitant to share it with others. I love it here, but I know it's not for everyone....

So this shabby front door is all you're gonna get for now. And I'll try to introduce you to the rest of the Tumbledown Experience in little bits, 'k?

Trust me. 'Little bits' is best. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Art in the Family

My eldest, who lives in Grass Valley, CA, just opened a charming photography studio and is open for business. As part of her cheering section, I'm posting the announcement of her first big Giveaway here by doing it the old-fashioned way: by copying and pasting it verbatim from her blog  -- Blissful Blatterations -- because I have no clue as to how to link it here otherwise. (Pssst. The canine subject matters? Yep, they're my granddogs! Cute, huh?):

Sarah D. Butcher Photography:

My first Giveaway: A pack of 4 Dog Lover notecards!


(1) Follow me (one entry)

(2) Favorite me on Etsy (one entry)

(3) Follow me on Twitter (one entry)

(4) Comment about my giveaway on YOUR blog (one entry)

(5) Follow me on Bloglovin' (one entry)

Post a separate comment for each entry! 
Winner will be chosen from

Winners will be announced on Sunday Jan 23

Me here again. Cool, huh? And please check out her cute Etsy storefront, the variety of photos on her website, and her blog posts to learn more about her wonderfully creative way of looking at life.

Lots to see, everyone! Enjoy. And may the best contestant win!

Break Time

My day is already full of Busy and I need a reason to take a break, so as long as I'm having tea we may as well have tea together. I hope you like Earl Grey. :)

My world is a mess at the moment and I'm picking away at it by degrees.... I didn't tell you that I'm gutting the studio and giving it a much-needed overhaul as my New Year's gift to myself, did I? I've been dreaming about doing so for years and the happy day (make that week; or maybe even month) has finally arrived. I thought it would never get here!

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point my studio became the receptacle for everything here that doesn't have a proper place, and now it looks like a science experiment, overgrown with a fungus of 'stuff.' Or at least it did up until last Saturday. I'd open the door to it and know that somewhere under all that clutter there lurked my behemoth of a drawing table, wondering what it did to deserve my neglect.

The idea of wedging myself in there to deal with the mess was overwhelming, so I avoided the task completely. But that didn't stop me from fantasizing about the end result. In my Studio Overhaul dreams I imagined myself magically recreating the room like something out of a magazine, complete with beautiful built-ins and cute baskets full of art supplies. Not just perfect, either, but Martha perfect.

Well, it would never get anywhere NEAR Martha perfect with me just sitting around dreaming about it magically being so. So last Saturday I went in the room with dozens of empty boxes and shoveled stuff in willy-nilly, just like the clean-up crew on an episode of Hoarders. Then James and I spent the rest of the 3-day weekend hauling crap downstairs and stacking it everywhere before painstakingly building shelves and putting them in place.

The 3-day weekend was my time frame, and Monday night was my deadline. But the shoveling of the stuff and the carrying out of boxes took up so much of it all that I missed my opportunity to paint the room prior to putting up the shelving units, so it's still blue. Which kind of bugged me (still does a little) until I walked into it in the middle of the night on Sunday just to revel in its emptiness and picked up a vibe that seemed to suggest that the Old Studio had been afraid that I was trying to eradicate it completely but felt better now that I'd at least left its walls alone.

Anyway, it's Thursday and I'd planned to have the boxes all returned by now so that I can begin the long process of organizing their contents, but by the looks of my living room that didn't happen.... Well, if there's anything I hate worse than my inability to be organized, it's having to climb over mountains of the evidence. I want my life back! So how about we have just one more cup of tea, and then it's back to work for me, 'k?

But if you don't see another post from me by the weekend, send a search party. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meet Mr. Right

James and Boo
This is James, the awesome guy who lives with me and puts up with my nonsense. What I'd do without him I can't imagine. He's the funniest and most interesting man I know, and life is just so colorful with him in it.

We are too alike for words, yet polar opposites. I'm Eeyore to his Tigger. He's Leonard to my Penny. The two of us are fascinated by absolutely everything. We brainstorm together and bounce ideas off each other and spend more time knee-deep in rich conversation than any two people I know. The man's got the world's best laugh! And I'm directly responsible for his girth and gray hair....

But dang. The gray hair is beautiful, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Room Aflame

There's been a designated studio area in my home forever, and long before I began to sell my work.

My first one was in an attic and it was haunted! (But that's another story....) And then there was the pink studio that was the hub of the house, and the shadowy wood-paneled one tucked into a dark corner of a dining room, and the chilly blue basement hideaway that I simply avoided. Then there was the bright yellow bedroom with the south-facing window. All day long the room was on FIRE. I loved it.

Those studios were like nesting boxes. As my work became more varied and I began to show and sell it, I needed a bigger space to be creative. So when my daughters both left home and the second largest bedroom in my current house became free, I took it over. And that's where my studio is now.

When I moved into it, the walls were blue and the ceiling was crowded with glow-in-the-dark stars. It'd been my youngest's bedroom for years; I'd once stood on a ladder and affixed every one of those stars to the ceiling myself as a surprise for her. So the room came pre-loaded with happy memories.

And in addition to its size, I liked this room because it had windows that faced both north and east. They were 'eyebrow' windows (my word for them) -- little things up close to the ceiling that I couldn't look out of unless I was standing on a chair. And this was a good thing insomuch as it prevented me from gazing out at the world all day when I should be drawing. Looking up at them and seeing nothing but treetops made me feel like a bird in a nest.

Nothing about it's changed since then, but in recent years the room has felt oppressive. Doesn't help, I'm sure, that I've simply spread out in it. The place is a mess....

The room needs a big old overhaul. My art does, too. On New Year's Eve I put it all out there for the Universe to see and think about -- wrote it down and everything! -- and I'll be darned if It didn't hear me. And I know this because I've been dreaming of rooms that are bare and rooms that are burning, and I'm interpreting them as signs that I need to plan for serious organization. And that I need to recreate that Room Aflame.

So a week ago I took measurements and paged through catalogs and studied shelving units and thought about Color.

And I've decided to bring back the fire.

Hello (Again)...

I'd originally planned to title this blog 'Mayfaire's Daily Maily' until it occurred to me that a 'Maily' can hardly call itself 'Daily' if something doesn't happen there every 24 hours.

My days are usually pretty routine. And most of the time I can pretend I've got things under control. But every so often (like this past week, for instance) a Little Something snowballs and turns my world into one big avalanche, and we all know how difficult it is to string three words into an intelligible sentence when Life is coming at you from all sides.

Anyway, I'll spare you the details except to say that since I wrote last my days have been full of snow shoveling and grandbug-sitting, rental truck agreements and shelving purchases, the filling of boxes and the moving of heavy furniture, ups-downs-highs-lows and the resultant chronic pain that too many days of stress creates. And today seemed to be the last straw....

But the good thing about a bad day is that it doesn't last longer than 24 hours. So here's to a New Day. And to the hope of getting back into the swing of things.

Still with me?

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Dipped-in-Gold Days

My weekend was crammed full of little treasures and golden moments. Here's just a handful of them:

1. Spending a happy morning over penciled studio layouts, detailed room measurements, and catalogs opened to shelving displays. (And coffee, of course.)

2. A sun-filled yet frigid walk in to town to mail a package. My nose froze shut, it was so cold! But the exercise felt amazing....

3. Visiting the local co-op for agave nectar and tea and being greeted by an employee who obviously likes her job.

4. Hearty egg-salad sandwiches and arty conversation for lunch. (And note to self: In future, ALWAYS ADD DILL to egg-salad sandwiches! Yum.)

5. Finding a lucky penny in the snow!

6. Measuring display shelves, making calculations, and dreaming of organization at last....

7. A head that's now full of imaginative surprises just waiting to be drawn on paper.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Studio Time

Artwork copyright Trina Schart Hyman
When my young daughters and I discovered the autobiography of one of my all-time favorite illustrators, Trina Schart Hyman, I took one look at the book's cover (at right), saw my own studio!, and immediately recognized her as a Kindred Spirit. And for all the years since this discovery, I've thought of Trina and her wonderful workspace whenever I've opened the door to my own.

My whole house looks like this ~ full of critters and clutter! ~ but it's been a big long while since my studio has.... The poor room's been the repository for All Things Without A Place for ages, and although I'm used to a certain level of chaos, I'm afraid it's reached a point where it makes even me crazy. Now in order to find my drawing table I need a shovel, a GPS, and a flare gun.

I'd planned to begin the big overhaul this week since my schedule was free, but that's changed. And I was lamenting that fact today on my outdoor trek until it occurred to me that my schedule always changes, and if I waited until the time was right, the time would never be right. It sounds stupid, I know, but I had a big a-ha moment out there in the snow, just stopped dead in my tracks and shook my head.

I can't imagine how long it'll take to get the place up to snuff again with only microscopic changes wedged here and there into my schedule, but I suspect my progress will surprise me. No job ever takes as long as I think it will.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fresh Air = Fresh Perspective

One of my Resolutions for 2011 is to spend some time each day outside, no matter what. Lord knows I could use the dang exercise and fresh air, of course. But I see that I'm becoming more and more reclusive as I age, and I know now that if I don't pay the Earth a daily visit, I'll lose touch with Her altogether. Sounds like a good habit to get into, in any event.

So yesterday I layered myself up and walked a side street to the town's main thoroughfare and back again. Snow was coming down at the time -- big sparkly flakes like sequins. And between the sounds my boots made as I crunched along I could hear them fall....

I stopped to appreciate one of my favorite trees, an oak that keeps its leaves in winter. And I saw discarded pines at the curbside, some still sporting a thread or two of tinsel, and I made a point of thinking kind thoughts to them about how noble it was to have been a Christmas tree. (Normally I'd just stand there and tell them so personally, but for some reason yesterday I saw in my head the entire village looking out its windows for a second and catching me talking to myself in the snow....)

Then on my way home again I happened upon a fort that some child had dug in a drift, and I couldn't help but stop to appreciate it as it was like none of the winter creations that I'd ever managed to make as a kid. This structure looked like it'd been carved out of ice pack. It was dark and sturdy and as big as a child-sized cave. There were even blunt little icicles hanging inside like stalactites. And when I bent over to look at it all head-on, I realized that the whole thing tunneled through the drift to daylight, and when I saw that it did so, I immediately recognized my focus for the year:

The way may appear to be cold and dark at first, but the dangers are minimal. And there's a light eventually.

Hmmmm. I can live with that. :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Good Intentions

I dusted off my resolutions today. And my treadmill. (Correction: James's treadmill.) And although I longed to leap into my new exercise regimen with gusto, I took it slow and gave myself a ten-minute limit. I love how just ten minutes of moving warms a body up and gets everything going in a forward motion.

I'm a horrid overachiever when it comes to New Year's resolutions. I swear my midnight list has everything on it from losing five pounds to curing cancer, and in reality, I'm lucky if I can manage to scratch even half of one from the count by the end of the year. This year's list is no exception, and I can already almost sense the taste of failure in the dust kicked up by the treadmill.

But it's not bad to set big, unrealistic goals, is it? I'm sure every New Year's Eve at midnight biochemists everywhere are writing Find a Cure for Cancer and it has yet to happen. But all year long they're working hard to make progress, and every year's end shows signs of improvement. Eventually the time will come when they can cross it off and celebrate.

There's so much I want to do this year. So many changes I want to make! And I know I'll be lucky to meet even one of my goals. But if I only keep moving in a forward motion, any progress I'm able to make will look dang good at the end of the year.

I couldn't help but post a pic of my getting-rattier-by-the-day Skechers -- icons of last year's good intentions -- as the big old visual for this post. Everytime they're on my feet I can't help but see little killer whales out of the corner of my eye! Hm. Whales and resolutions of weight loss; I sense a connection.... ;->)

Why Here? Why Now?

Bloggers today are fearless. As in 'no parachute' fearless. They burn bridges, type obscenities, name names, and fly by the seat of their pants. They're honest as all get-out and post things on the Internet that I can't help but imagine will someday come back to bite them in the butt.

And I admire them from afar....

I'm Old School. I didn't grow up with the Internet. To me, it's like a Visitor -- all perfect and shiny and full of the promise of good things, while somewhere in its humming works I suspect it's plotting my destruction. I don't trust it.

But times have changed and I have to change, too. It's no longer enough for me to have a website for my work. If Mayfaire's going to grow at all I have to step out of my online comfort zone.

I follow and study the artists I admire who have created successful businesses. They blog and Tweet and host giveaways and post tutorials on YouTube -- they do it all! But the biggest thing I've learned from them EVER is that folks who purchase from them want more than just their art -- they want a relationship. They want to be friends. They want to see their cluttered studios and enjoy the views from their windows and look over their shoulders as they create a little something.

It all makes perfect sense to me....

So I've given it a lot of thought. And if you're at all interested, I'd like to share a bit of my world with you. However, because I can't shovel out enough room in my cluttered studio to show you in person the view from my window or the art that's on the drawing table, I hope this blogspace will suffice.

Still with me?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11 ~ A Great Day for a Public Welcome!

A Mayfaire blog has been on my mind for ages but I've been too timid to begin one.

Wait. Scratch that, as it's not entirely true.

What I should've said was that I've begun a Mayfaire blog twice now and have just been too timid to make it public.

My most recent blog attempt accumulated a goodly number of posts. My plan was to contribute to it for a while until I'd found my Mayfaire 'voice' but when I went back and reread posts prior to this day I discovered that it was more about Me and less about Mayfaire. (As I have a wicked inner Eeyore, this is not always a good thing....).

Plus, it came to me in a dream that if I was on the outside looking in and discovered that six months' worth of writing had taken place before I'd been invited to read it, I would've felt like the guest who was invited to the party as an afterthought. And I don't want any of you to feel that way.

So the plan NOW is to invite you here from Day One and we'll see where we go together, 'k? This could be fun and interesting or it could crash and burn, but you'll at least get to enjoy the party in its entirety!

So here we go. :)