Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Very Special Giveaway

One of the most rewarding things about my years online with my Etsy shops and my blog, has been getting to know other like-minded artists and bloggers who I may or may not ever meet in real life.  One of those bloggers is JenJen Furer of Gotta Love Mom. We both participated in Thursday Sweet Treat, a weekly art submission around a specific subject chosen by Natasha Reilly of Creative Nachos. Although Thursday Sweet Treat has been disbanded, I have maintained friendships with many of the artists I met there.  

Over time, Jen and I corresponded off and on about her desire to write a book about her family's story. (More about the story later.)  As she began writing and it looked like her dream could become a reality, she agonized as to whether she should search out a publisher or self-publish the book.  "I did some research about literary agencies, writing query letters and what the market is like for non-fiction writers. Most of the submission guidelines asked if I have had speaking engagements, etc. I really wanted to approach a literary agent but was scared to do so. I wasn’t prepared for the rejection. The book is a labor of love and for it to be “turned down” – I wasn’t prepared for that."

Her husband encouraged her to self-publish, and apparently an article I sent her as well as her own diligent research into the subject helped her decide to publish it herself.  She asked me at one point if I could help her develop the cover art and I was happy to work with her. (Besides, that gave me the opportunity to read the manuscript before publication. Special!)  She went with CreateSpace, part of the Amazon group of companies.  I asked Jen what advice she would offer to someone who might be thinking of publishing their own book and here's part of what she said:

"If you believe that the best direction for your book is for you to self-publish, you should read more about authors who succeeded and those who failed. When you self-publish, ALL the work is under your control. It can get overwhelming at times. But if you decide to self-publish, I would start determining what self-publishing company to use, start reading the different options available for you to use in getting your book in the eBook format and/or the paperback format. Consider your budget. You can self-publish without spending anything (but you have to work on re-formatting your work, book cover design, etc.)  Creating the book is just one task. Marketing the book – a totally different story!"

So what is this labor of love that Jen pursued so relentlessly and worked so hard to accomplish? 

The book is called Out of Status and it was published last month. 

 It is the story of her family's journey from the Philippines to the United States to fulfill their dreams of a better life. Jen is the third child of six, and the only girl. She has beautifully and descriptively drawn the details of her life as a child in the Philippines, her sometimes humorous experiences as a newly arrived 20-year-old in America, and the painful story of her family's struggles with the immigration experience. After 20 years in America, and endless struggles to obtain legal status in the United States, her parents and brothers were suddenly and insensitively uprooted and deported back to the Philippines. Jen had married an American many years ago and has since become a citizen so she remains in the United States.

 It's hard to believe that this is Jen's first book. Quite frankly, I was blown away by it.  It's even more astounding when you consider that English is her second language. (Or, as her husband and children joke, she speaks badly in two languages and that language is her second language!) Nevertheless, her words are lyrical:

"There are days no matter how we steer to the right, our path leads us left.
And there are days no matter how hard we try to keep stepping forward,
Something just stubbornly pulls us back. And yet one day life surprises us. 
We didn't even have to step on the accelerator. The cruise control had already set the speed.

Every day, I just need to count my blessings; 
Every day, there's a reason to smile;
Every day, I just need to be patient.
Every time I feel like getting angry and upset,
I look outside and know that there is always something to be thankful for.
L'Chaim! (To life!)"

 As I worked with her on the final details of getting her e-book published and read chapter after chapter, I found myself getting worked up about what her family had endured, and anger with my government for not trying to solve the immigration issue in a humane way instead of just kicking the can down the road for political expediency.  I'm well aware that there are very strong feelings on both sides of the immigration issue. I also know that the old saying - before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes - still holds true. When you read Jen's story and don't  feel at least some compassion for what they went through to try and do the right thing, then you have a hard heart indeed. Her family sought what so many of us strived for. We are all immigrants, or children of immigrants, after all.

But whenever I expressed my feelings to Jen, she was quick to remind me that although the book talks about her family's struggles with immigration and deportation, the main message of the book revolves around deep faith, love, family values and aspirations.  Even though the story doesn't end exactly the way Jen and her family would have wished, it does end with a heartwarming and uplifting message of love and perseverance that resonates with me. Jen reaches out to all of us in her book's dedication:
"To those who have taken risks,
Who have endured the consequences,
Who have celebrated the victories of their choices,
Who are uncertain of what lies ahead,
Who persevere through the trials that life throws our way,
Who believe in kindness and virtue,
 I dedicate this book to us."

It's a heartbreakingly beautiful story.  I was very touched to receive my autographed copy from JenJen and to be mentioned in the acknowledgements.  Oh, about that cover art? Turns out Jen handled that as well - the cover sunrise photo is one of her own; I just helped with some of the technical details. 

I don't think Jen was prepared for the reaction she has received since the book was published - more than decent sales, incredibly positive reviews, requests for interviews, and some possible affiliations with non-profit, humanitarian, and academic groups.  She has been caught up in a breathless whirlwind for the last two months!

I only talk about wanting to write a book.  My friend Jen actually did it - and did it very well indeed!

To read more about Jen: 

Here's where you can buy the Amazon paperback, the Kindle version, or the Barnes and Noble Nook version.
 Finally, did I mention "giveaway" up above?  Well, yes, I did!  Jen has very graciously offered a paperback copy of the book - AUTOGRAPHED, NO LESS - to one of my readers!  All you need to do is comment and let me know if you have signed up to follow Jen's blog and/or her Facebook page.  I'll use random number generator to pick the lucky person next week:

After 12 noon EDT, Thursday, April 5

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Funnies

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Can You Guess?

Can you guess what these images are? There's some circles ...

And some blues ...

Here's some cool textures ...

Have you guessed yet? Give up?

The pictures are closeups of the old cardboard table I use to do all my spray painting! Yogurt and margarine cup props create the circles.  It was such a gorgeous day today (in the 80s!) that I moved it to work outside instead of in my dungeon basement.  I'm glad I took the photos when I did because after today's painting session the surface will change once again.

 I'll bet if I consciously tried to create these textures and layers they wouldn't be as good as these "happy accidents!"

Monday, March 19, 2012


For those of you who don't already know, Etsy members are encouraged to create treasuries, a collection of Etsy artists' work that suits a specific theme.  For the curator, it 's a fun way to browse the thousands upon thousands of works and pick out your faves. The prize for the curator is to be picked - praise be - to appear on Etsy's front page!  Artists like to be included because it invariably generates traffic and followers to their page and - praise be - a sale! 

Once in a while I hit the jackpot and create something that has all the "right stuff" to be picked for treasuries. My most successful Treasury-worthy product so far has been these Sound of Music gift tags:

I have lost count of how many times these tags have appeared in "My Favorite Things" treasuries. In fact, I created a treasury myself with that theme a long time ago.  I have no proof, but I have a feeling that these tags had to be the initial inspiration for other people's collections because you can't help but think of the song.  Ahem, being boastful for a minute ...

More recently, I seem to have hit upon the right stuff with two more recently listed products.  My bright yellow frames are the leading champions right now. I have a rough count of 15 treasuries - make that 16; another one popped up while I was writing this (see below) - so far that include these frames.  I guess they're hitting the mark since so many of us are having spring-like weather so early this year.

Reclaimed Bright Yellow Frames - Set of 3

Following close behind is this aqua and lime green collection.  Not as many as the yellow so far, but hot on those yellow tails!  

Reclaimed Aqua and Lime Green Frames - Set of 5

Besides being thrilled when I'm chosen, I love seeing how other people put collections together. And I find lots of products that I love in these treasuries as well.  If you want to kill a few hours and browse a whole bunch of treasuries, go here.  The variety and talent is outstanding. Here's two of the latest collections with my frames.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Funnies

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Big Frameup

Did you ever just think you did something but actually didn't do it?  You too, huh? I thought I had posted my latest ongoing project several weeks ago but apparently I didn't.  So better late than ever  - here's the big frameup!

One of my sisters will be moving into a very cool independent living place so there's a lot of purging and selling and donating going on to downsize her possessions.  Like me, she had a ton of framed work on the walls.  I have been taking them off her hands, combining them with some of my own collections, and creating all kinds of fun products. 

Here's some of the collections listed so far in my More Bright Ideas shop.

Reclaimed Bright Yellow Frames

Reclaimed Aqua and Lime Green Frames
Reclaimed Pink, Purple, Lavender Frames

The frames below were in such good shape and so pretty that, other than polishing them up, I left them as is. These are listed on Ebay.

Gold Filigree Frames
Ebony and Cherry

I still have MORE frames to work with. I may post a simple tutorial for one of them if I can get some decent photos.  It's still unseasonably warm here, but the clouds have moved in and storms are predicted. I was planning to go outside to get some decent photos of the frames I'm working on, but I may be dodging raindrops to do so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Have a Winner!

The winner of the beautiful earrings from Divine Iguana, chosen by random number generator, is: 

Ellen C!

Congratulations, Ellen. I'll be in touch with instructions to claim your prize.  Thanks to everyone who participated.  Be sure to come back again for the next interview and giveaway.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy, Happy Treasury

Doesn't this just make you smile?? My bright yellow frame collection is included. 

Not Monday Moanin' Today

No moanin' this Monday.  Even though today is a rainy, dreary day, the rest of the week is forecasted to be in the SIXTIES!! And that makes me very happy!  I may actually get out to clean up my patio a little - probably the earliest ever I have been able to do that.  Do you think it needs it? In my defense, I have to say that last fall I was still recuperating from my back surgery so a more thorough cleanup just didn't happen.  I should be embarrassed to show you this - I suppose it could be a Monday moanin', now that I think about it. 

I hope the weather holds for the spring and summer because I'm planning big updates out there ...  Stay tuned. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Funnies

Friday, March 9, 2012

 The flowers of late winter and early spring ...
 ... occupy places in our hearts ...
 ... well out of proportion ...
 ... to their size.

 ~Gertrude S. Wister

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Three Bright Treasuries

Just yesterday I listed a few reclaimed frame collections.  The bright yellow frames appeared today in three different treasuries.  Aren't these fun??

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In the Michigan Studio with Divine Iguana and a Giveaway

I recently joined a new Facebook group called Southeastern Michigan Artist Trading Spot (SMATS).  We've had a few get-togethers already and we have big plans for some future group art activities.  It has been so much fun meeting and getting to know these artists right here in my own backyard! I was a bit intimidated at first because they all seem so much more accomplished than I am; but I like that being around them is challenging me to up my game, so to speak.

One of the artists I have come to know would be verrrry intimidating if I focused exclusively on her prolific and gorgeous body of work.  But she has such a warm, funny, somewhat quirky personality that I liked her the first time I met her.  So I invited myself to her studio so I could share her talent and her personality with all of you.

FK: I'll pour the coffee while you give us your basic information, Rena.

Your name: Rena Lynn Hopkins

Your Twitter page: @DivineIguana

FK: Let's start with where you live now. Is that where you grew up?
I live in Detroit now, but I spent most of my adult life in Cincinnati, Ohio. I've only been here for about a year, but I have absolutely fallen in love with this city. There is so much creativity here, this raw primal sort of creativity. There are so many people with wild, grand visions and their energy is infectious. Everywhere I go in this city I find inspiration. I miss Cincinnati, but Detroit is definitely home.

FK: It's so refreshing to hear some positive things about Detroit. Its national reputation over-shadows so many great things the city has to offer.  Tell me, do you have an art education background or are you self-taught? 

I studied painting, printmaking, and photography at Miami of Ohio. When I went to school I thought that I wanted to translate and illustrate classical texts. I studied a lot of Latin. I really wish someone had pointed out how impractical that was as a job ambition.  I mean, that job doesn't really exist, does it? 

When I left school I worked in theater for a long time, first as a costume designer and later as a singer/comedic actress. I remember in high school my art teacher told me I had my head in the clouds, and I guess he was right. Through all of that, though, I've always considered myself an artist.  I've always made things. It's compulsive. I get a little crazy, a little more than crazy I guess, when I can't create. 

FK: I know many people who made obscure career choices, but ... translate and illustrate classical texts?? That's a new one! Costume designer, singer, comedian, artist - a tad more accessible!

Talk to me about your three etsy shops - each one has its own distinct personality. That must keep you pretty busy.

BrassMenagerie is my steam punk and found object jewelry shop.  Most of the work is made from watch parts and old game pieces.  I have a new line of earrings that uses the date rings from old wrist watches and combines them with other gears and beads to make these beautiful little compositions that look like tiny machines for divination. 

There is one pair in my shop right now that has these gorgeous little navy blue discs with moons on them covered in resin and hung on the middle of these deep black watch faces with little gold tick marks around the edges.  To me they feel talismanic, as if they might still be connected to the changing of time in ways I don't understand. 
Antique Bingo Marker Lips and Eyes Earrings

Bingo Tile Blue Butterfly Found Object Earrings

DivineIguana is where I hide my collages, both quirky and obtuse. My recent work there is informed by an Edwardian, steam punk aesthetic.  I have this print with Edith Sitwell's hand reaching out to touch the moon. It's a digital collage that I made after meeting this fellow at a show in Columbus.  He spent nearly a half hour in my booth looking at art and jewelry. He examined every piece, touched everything. When I asked if he wanted to know where the pieces I used in my collages came from he said no, that would ruin the mystery. That may have been the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my work. Anyhow, when he left (with a brooch made out of watch faces and broken metal) he shook my hand and I felt like he had taken a little part of my soul with him out of the booth. So I made this piece which is titled "Handshake" or "there will never be another ocean" because "The way I felt after some stranger looked into my soul through my art in a booth at Winterfair" is way too long for a title. 
Handshake or "There will never be another ocean" 8x10" Print
The Military Man
PassionFruitsImages is where I share with other artists the images I have collected for use in my work. I have image sets of phrenological charts, old anatomical drawings, zoological drawings of squids and octopi and all kinds of other things that I happen to think are really cool.
1-Inch Octopus and Squid Images
Alice in Wonderland 1x2 Digital Collage Sheet
Lately I have been making digital papers to match the image sets. My favorite is a set of "Vintage Neutral" papers that were made from scans of actual antique book pages. I use those papers in all of my digital collage work. I hope that other artists might find them as useful as I do.

FK: It's all unbelievably stunning work! Tell me about your everyday creative life. Of all of these, what do you love doing the most and what's your inspiration to get going? And where do you do your art?

I have a top floor studio in our new house. It's still a big move-in mess, but it's going to be fantastic. In Cincinnati I lived by myself in my studio and I still miss some of that creative freedom. I used to work until 6 in the morning, crash on my futon with the computer at my feet, wake up at 10 and immediately get back to work. I'd go days without getting dressed. In the summer I'd work in my bathing suit because it was really hot. In the winter I worked and slept in my bathrobe and a winter coat.
Esoteric Phrenological Chart Bingo Tile Earrings
 Now that I live with someone else I have to be a little less bizarre with my art habits. I try to be in bed no later than 4 and up at 9. I bathe EVERY DAY whether I need it or not, brush hair and teeth, make dinner and all that other normal people stuff. It's a little strange not to be able to work whenever the mood strikes me, but I think that the reminder to eat regularly is probably worth the hassle. Plus David (my boyfriend) is a much better conversationalist than my cats were.
Allison's Earrings

FK: That's quite the schedule, Rena. I wish I could sleep only 4-5 hours a night - I could get so much more done! What part of being an artist is most gratifying and what's the hardest? 

I don't know what part I like best about being an artist, or what's hardest. I mean, I have tried to do other things and I always come back to art. I miss having money. I guess that's the worst part, the constant financial worry that comes with being a full-time artist/crafter. But I really can't imagine doing anything else and being happy with it. I can't work a day job for long without feeling like I need to chew my own arm off to get free.
Peach Blossom Earrings
 FK: Then by all means, be an artist!! As far as the money goes, it's probably some small consolation that 99% of all artists are right there with you.  What do you do when you're not being an artist? Are there other things in your life that influence your art?

In Cincinnati I danced with a burlesque troupe and sang with a band. (Our CD, Dead Band Walking, is out on iTunes if you want to check it out.) I like the stage, and I miss that outlet here in Detroit, but I'm sure I'll find someplace to perform here soon.

I read a LOT. I also enjoy sleeping and eating rich foods. Oh, and lately I have been taking this amazing aerial arts class at the Detroit Academy of Kinesthenic Arts (D.A.K.A.). I have never been athletic and this has been very new and exciting to me. Plus I get to hang upside down from one contraption or another at least once a week. Upside down is AWESOME!
Vintage Acrobatics Photoshop Brushes 25 Digital Image Set
 FK: Rena, you are a piece of work, and I mean that in the nicest possible way! You are insanely talented, very energetic, laugh-out-loud funny, and I thank you for letting me get to know you better and for giving me the chance to share you with everyone. Now tell me what some lucky person is going to win.  

I am giving away a pair of my new date ring earrings:

FK: Rena, simply gorgeous! Thank you so much for your generosity and thanks for letting me visit.  Now I'll tell everyone how they can enter.

How to Enter
You have several chances to be entered into the random drawing. PLEASE read carefully; the entry requirements have been changed.

First entry: Visit any of Rena's shops - BrassMenagerie, DivineIguana, PassionFruitsImages AND/OR website, come back here, and enter a comment about your favorite piece(s).
Second entry: Enter a comment if you have signed up to follow Rena’s Facebook page (or comment if you already follow).
Third entry: Enter a comment if you have signed up to follow Rena on Twitter.
Fourth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my blog (or comment that you already follow).
Fifth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my Facebook page AND/OR my Pinterest page (or comment that you already follow).

That's five chances to enter for the random drawing!  Please be sure that your correct email address is in your profile; if it is not, include your email address in your comment.  I will use random number generator to pick a winner after 12 noon EDT on

Wednesday, March 14.

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