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Friday Five: Resolutions and Absolutions Edition

I’m playing a belated Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals on Resolutions:

Before: My Dining Room Table Desk
Before my Desk
The Corner: Before my Desk


1. In the past, what resolution has been your most successful? What change have you made that has been the most beneficial, to your mood, health, finances, or other way of being in the world?

In 2012, I wanted to make space for my business.   I took an online class in getting organized from the Artbiz Coach, Alyson Stanfield.  She asked us to take before pictures, and then create a space where we could work on our business.  Stratoz encouraged me to get a standing desk, so I could get away from all the sitting, and so I commissioned Dave and Mindy Spray of Creative Wood Designs by DAMI.  Dave measured the corner, and my height from elbow to floor and worked with me to create a desk that fit me.  I am amazed and how standing makes it easier for me to organize, to make to-do lists, and feel at ease rather than hunched over the dining room table with piles of stuff.  My desk has a big drawer, storage under the drafting top, and a flat area for a pencil cup.

Standing Desk from Creative Wood Designs by DAMI
Standing Desk from Creative Wood Designs by DAMI.

2. What is one thing you hope to do differently this year with regard to health, either physical or spiritual?

Discovering the Alexander Technique as a way to find more ease in my movement and in the studio was wonderful in 2012, and now I want to incorporate the idea of “constructive rest” into my daily life, and rest breaks while I am working in the studio, which is part of having compassion for myself.  F.M. Alexander, originator of the technique, believed that we are a unity of mind and body that makes up the self, that English doesn’t have a word to describe this whole unity of the physical-mental-emotional-spiritual self.

3. What is one thing you hope your family will do differently this year,  ways to deepen your connections with those you love.

More art and jazz dates with Stratoz.  We both tend to lack momentum in getting out of the house, or are busy with craft shows, but when we go on a date it’s awesome.

4. What is one thing you hope your community of faith will consider doing differently this year?

Stratoz attends the church on the corner, and there’s a new rector who just arrived in September, after an 8 year search.  I know people from this congregation than any one I ever was a member of, and they have a welcoming spirit, and I hope they find ways of being emboldened in sharing this welcome with the community.


5. In what area would you most like to learn to be gentle with yourself? For what would you most like to forgive yourself? Share your ideas and strategies for extending yourself the kind of grace we know we are assured of.

I want to be gentle with my body, and give myself enough rest, and the opportunity to release tensions that accumulate in my muscles.  I want to have compassion for myself, and rest in the idea that there is no “perfect”, and to practice letting go of tasks before I “feel done” with them.


10 Ways to a More Ergonomic Mosaic Studio

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals: Corner Shops and Lansdale’s Real Main Street

I am playing the Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals on the theme of Corner Shops.  Where I grew up in Edmonton, there were many corner stores,  and I was intrigued by the array of goods, and the possibility that I could someday buy Key-Tab notebooks(we called them “scribblers” in Canada).  When Stratoz and I moved to Southeast PA in 1997, we were deciding where to live, and my sister said Lansdale had a real Main Street, and indeed it did, and that’s where we’ve been ever since.

Edmonton’s equivalent of a Main Street for me was Whyte Avenue, in Strathcona, which used to be an actual town, annexed into Edmonton.  I didn’t know that, just that there were shops in interesting buildings and I could easily walk from one to the next.  When I moved to Bethlehem, PA in 1985, while my mother was attending Moravian Seminary, I was amazed at how a real Main Street brought in busloads of tourists!

1.  If you suddenly received a ton of money and could open up some kind of store or service just for the pleasure of having it (assume it wouldn’t have to be too financially successful!), what would it be?

I have an online shop for my mosaics, Nutmeg Designs, and sometimes I wonder about having a physical store.  Setting up for craft shows is exhausting and the idea of having a permanent home for our art is appealing, especially if I had this ton of money to ease the start up costs, but I love having a studio in my home, where making art is intrinsic to my life.  There is something magical about making an entire environment for people to step into and become part of, and I can envision having a coffeeshop, where art is on the walls, and there is music and pastry.

Part of me is attracted to the idea that places we enjoy being, in which we have community, and use our senses to make connections with our world incarnate,  could actually be financially successful.  I heard the expression “showrooming” where people try something on, touch or otherwise experience an item, at a physical store and then go order it online for a lower price.  Anyone who owns a yarn store knows about this phenomenon, and while there are times when a lower cost is important, I also do not want to make this my default way of shopping.

2.  What service or store that no longer exists do you miss most?

Landale, PA Main Street by Don Groff.
Lansdale, PA Main Street by Don Groff.

I miss the Spice Smuggler in Lansdale.  The owner retired, and it’s now a cell phone store, the original awning still remains.  This shop had walls full of bulk spices in glass jars, tea, and gifts, and I always felt at ease asking those who worked there to measure out spices for me, because they loved and respected their customers.

2nd street Lansdale-- sign lingers
2nd street Lansdale– sign lingers. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz took this photo of a shop on Second Street in Lansdale, long since abandoned, and I know he’d love to walk to a stained glass store. Stained glass is a trial to photograph, and with art glass every sheet is different, even of the same kind, because art glass is handmade with swirls and ripples of color.  Buying stained glass online is usually for emergencies when we need a particular color, and it’s a solid color. We were sad when Inspirations Stained Glass closed in Lower Providence, but Rainbow Arts and Crafts in E. Norriton stepped up and started a stained glass section in their store, for which we are very grateful. [Sadly they too have closed, but Colors of Glass has taken their place as of Summer 2015.]

3.  What local business do you think you could make better if you were to take it over? And if you don’t mind sharing, what changes would you make?

I am going to reframe this in terms of what my favorite local businesses have in common.  They know my name, what I like, are interested in what I do, are a positive force, and are reinventing themselves in order to respond to their customers.  We are ecstatic that after seeing almost all our local bakeries close over the course of 10 years, but now we have Alice Bakery in North Wales and Ambler and Bakers on Broad in Souderton, we can always find deliciousness.

Napoleon from Alice Bakery, North Wales, PA
Napoleon from Alice Bakery, North Wales, PA. Photo by Margaret Almon, who generously shared this Napoleon with Wayne Stratz.

4.  What spot nearby seems to be impossible for businesses to survive in?

There is a small tavern on a side street that went out of business, and there have been several pizza parlors, an ice cream shop and a youth drop in center which have not survived.  The tavern drew people from the neighborhood, and it didn’t matter that it was on an isolated street.  I am hopeful for the newest business there, Smoke Rack BBQ, because they sell BBQ and people will come a distance for good BBQ. [Now replaced by a pizza parlor yet again in 2014].

5.  We’ve all seen stores that combined books and records, beer and laundry, or coffee and whatever. One of my favorite places to get coffee in Honolulu is a cafe and florist, and there is a car garage that’s also a diner in a town nearby. What would be a cool hybrid of two disparate ideas for somewhere you’d like to hang out?

Stratoz and I had a fine gourmet dinner at a French Restaurant in a bowling alley when we lived in Illinois.  A typewriter repair shop in on Broad Street in Lansdale also sold honey that the owner collected from hives in the back of the shop.  When we first started going out, Stratoz and I thought we’d like to run a Diner/Bookstore.  We are regulars at Lansdale’s West Main Diner.  If there was a bookstore next door, we’d be in heaven.  We are happy though that the Pedaller Bike Shop moved in next to the West Main Diner.

Knitting Room at Seamen's Church Institute

Seafarer’s Scarves for Christmas At Sea

Seafarer's Scarves for Christmas At Sea
Seafarer’s Scarves for Christmas At Sea, Seamen’s Church Institute, Port Newark, NJ.

I am a Christmas at Sea Knitter, and sent my 2012 donation of Seafarer’s Scarves off to Port Newark, NJ. I was saddened to hear that the Seamen’s Church Institute(SCI), which sponsors the volunteer knitting program, got flooded by Sandy, but grateful for the dedication of the SCI staff who salvaged many of the knitted gifts that were soaked, as Paige Sato recounts in her update:

Friday 10 SCI staff returned to the port with sleeves rolled up for some hard work. We painstakingly sorted through each and every Santa sack, identifying and sorting the wet and/or damp from the dry.  I am THRILLED to say that over 1200 gifts (out of 1600) were FINE!  Thank goodness for plastic bags!

The wet and damp gifts were brought home over the weekend and laundered (as were any of the wet cloth ditty bags).

Today (Monday), we sorted through the nearly 7,000 items that were stored in boxes.  Every employee with electricity ponied up to the task and piled bag upon bag upon rubbermaid container into their cars and vans for more laundry.

I believe we will save well over 95% of all these knits. All the cloth ditty bags have been saved.  The toiletries–well, we’re not so lucky there.  But that’s the least of my worries.

SCI has collected handknitted hats, scarves and vests and socks for mariners and seafarers since 1898, during the Spanish American War!  Affiliated with the Episcopal Church, SCI is an ecumenical agency that advocates for men and women who work at sea with professional education, pastoral care and legal aid.

Knitting Room at Seamen's Church Institute
The “Christmas At Sea” program offers hand-knitted articles of clothing to each seafarer who enters the port between October and February. Volunteers gather and knit, pick up supplies and drop off finished scarves, hats, mittens, and sweaters for delivery.

If I lived closer, I’d love to knit in the SCI’s volunteer knitters room!  What do you volunteer your time for?

May we receive with gratitude.

Be Present at our table, Lord

Be present at our table, Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
From Thine all-bounteous hand our food
May we receive with gratitude. Amen.

From The Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church(1969)

The text was written by John Cennick(1740), to the tune of Wareham by William Knapp.  We sang this at my Moravian church as a table grace, and I loved how the words sounded, and the image of God’s “all-bounteous hand.”  The tune came into my head today, on Thanksgiving.  I searched for a video or recording, but the Moravian version is scarce.  Other versions abound, with a different ending two lines, and here is one of those.


A Mosaic Pendant Giveaway Hosted by Photographer Kerri Farley

Blue Jay Mosaic Inspired by Kerri Farley's Photo
Blue Jay Mosaic by Wayne Stratz Inspired by Kerri Farley’s Photo
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
~ Thomas Merton

Kerri Farley has been an inspiration, with her bird and nature photography(and her choice of quotes), and Stratoz was particularly taken with her Blue Jay – Sweet Soul Shining Through and he asked if he could do a glass interpretation and she said yes, and he created Kerri’s Blue Jay.  As the Blue Jay wended its way to its new home with an old friend, Kerri purchased one of my pendants and went on its way to her!

Kerri said she loved her pendant even more in person, and featured it as part of her Macro Monday, with exquisitely detailed macro shots, and we joined together to do a giveaway of one of my 1″ mosaic pendants from my Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop.

Kerri Farley’s Guest Post for Orange Tuesday.

Congratulations to Dawn of Dawns bloggy blog for winning a pendant of her choice.


Color Can Be Learned: Nita Leland and Exploring Color

Alas, Nita Leland’s Exploring Color: How to Use and Control Color in Your Painting is out of print, but used copies are still around.  I found a copy at the public library in 2004, and was entranced with Nita Leland’s assertion that color can be learned.  As I explored collage and other visual mediums, I noticed how strongly I responded to color, and I wanted to understand this language of hue and tone and contrast.  I took a watercolor class, and all I wanted to do was mix colors, which didn’t translate into actually painting much.

RYB Color Wheel rgbcoded
RYB Color Wheel rgbcoded

It was exciting having a name for why two colors practically vibrate next to each other(ie. orange and blue, complementary colors), and learning how colors transition into each other around a color wheel.  I found my notebook of color experiments, and it brought back the thrill of trying these combinations out for myself.  I played with a “tetrad” of red-orange/yellow-green/blue-violet/blue-green.I wrote a page of anxious notes about whether the colors were what I thought they were, but that’s part of what happens with colors. They shift and shimmer depending on context.  Fortunately, I wrote at the end the page that I really liked the red of the ship against the blue, and the yellow-green against the red-orange.  Color sense cannot be completely articulated in words, and along with learning the language color, I’ve also learned about the unspoken nature of color.


Red Blanket Flower Mandala by Margaret Almon

Remembrance Day in Canada in the 1970’s: Poppies and Neil Young

Red Blanket Flower Mandala by Margaret Almon
Red Blanket Flower Mandala by Margaret Almon, glass mosaic on wood, 8 inches.

Growing up in Canada, November 11th was Remembrance Day, and we would have assembly in school, with a moment of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve their country during times of war, conflict and peace.   Growing up in the 1970’s made for some unusual assemblies.   I remember both being chosen to recite John McCrae’s In Flanders’ Fields.  McCrae was as a physician in WWI and wrote this poem about the red poppies that sprang up in the many fields in Flanders where soldiers were buried.  For a moving reimagining of these fields, read Maureen Doallas’s poem What Girls in a Poppy Field Know, from her blog Writing Without Paper.

«In Flanders' Fields» - published & illustrated in 1918 via stoixeia on Flickr.
«In Flanders’ Fields» – published & illustrated in 1918, written by John McCrae via stoixeia on Flickr.

I also remember my grade 5 class sang Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush at assembly in 1977.  We practiced for several weeks in the music room, which was a series of carpet covered steps, auditorium style, no chairs or desks, descending the lowest level, where the piano and our teacher would stand.  We learned the song from listening to a recording of Neil Young, and I picked up on the mournful nature of the lyrics, especially this stanza:

I was lying in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for replacement
When the sun burst thru the sky.
There was a band playing in my head
And I felt like getting high.
I was thinking about what a
Friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie.
Thinking about what a
Friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie.

I don’t recall what my teacher said about why we were singing this song on Remembrance Day, but looking back, the image of being in a burned out basement, and hoping for a replacement seems apt for evoking the desolation of war.  I didn’t literally know what it meant to “get high”, but I understood the longing timbre in Young’s voice.  I remembered this assembly when hearing Neil Young interviewed on Fresh Air about his new album Americana, and how American folk songs and protest songs ended up in schools cleaned up and deprived of some of their power.  Young is Canadian, but drawn to these American tunes.  I wonder what he’d think of one his songs in a school assembly.

Here’s a great version by Thom Yorke of Radiohead:

The Artist’s Way By Julia Cameron and the Accidental Artist

Collage circa 1997 While Reading The Artist's Way
Collage circa 1997 While Reading The Artist’s Way

When Abby Sernoff of 111 Collage Design and I had a chance to meet, we discovered our shared experience with The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, and how this led us into collage.    I got my copy out, and looked in the index, and “collage” only has one mention, in the chapter, Recovering a Sense of Connection, as a kind of pictorial autobiography, with past, present, future and your dreams.  That one exercise opened up a whole world of visual expression for me, a language I didn’t even know I knew.

I was reading The Artist’s Way in 1997 because I wasn’t writing poetry, and I was searching for ways to move toward my writing, rather than wrapping myself in avoidance.  I had gone from getting my MFA in Creative Writing in 1992, to going to Library School in 1993, to getting my first library job at the reference desk of the University of Scranton in 1995, and I felt lost, as if I wasn’t real.

The beliefs we have about ourselves can be constricting, painful, damaging.  What I noticed, when collecting images for my collage, was the open doors, a window, and up in the corner, the phrase, “Have your next Escape Clause.”  This was unsettling, since I’d just gotten my first real, professional library job, and that was supposed to be my escape clause, my way to be self-sufficient in the face of a degree in poetry.

Now, I notice that I have two artists toward the center of the collage, Frida Kahlo and Maya Lin.  I resonated with visual artists, but until I started making collages, I didn’t believe I had kinship with them.

The collage task was the main thing I took away from reading The Artist’s Way, Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.”  I kept making collages, and I enjoyed searching for images, and then laying them out on the table and making connections, finding patterns, symbols, colors.  I was beginning to find my escape clause.

What became or is becoming your escape clause?  What doors opened in your life?


Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe is Gone: My Favorite Bookstore from my Life in Edmonton

RIP Greenwoods. Photo by Glenn Eilers
RIP Greenwoods. Haunting photo of the empty shelves by Glenn Eilers

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in my hometown of Edmonton has closed. Greenwoods’ was a refuge for me.  I’d go inside while waiting for the bus, in the early 1980’s, and browse.  Browse means to feed on buds, and shoots, and I browsed my way through the shelves, discovering books on keeping a journal, the poems of Alice Walker, as well as having my copy of Not Wanted on the Voyage (a re-imagining of Noah’s Ark, narrated by a cat named Mottyl) signed by Timothy Findley.  Greenwoods’ was a welcoming place for authors, and for readers.  My copy of Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See you in the Morning, by Alice Walker, still has the Greenwoods’ sticker on the back, $6.95, and one of the first books I remember buying at Greenwoods’.

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe was founded in 1979 by siblings Brad, Gail and Laurie Greenwood. They moved into the newly renovated Tipton Block building on Whyte Avenue in the Strathcona section of Edmonton, AB.  Whyte Avenue was also a refuge for me when I was in high school, with the bookstore, cafes, and the Princess Repertory Theatre.  It was a part of Edmonton built to walking scale, and I felt independent taking the bus there and then having a whole world open up to me as I walked.

Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.
Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in their first location at the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.

I discovered that since I left Edmonton in 1985, Greenwoods’ moved to another location in 2001, and then back to Whyte Avenue just a little while ago, and sadly, Brad Greenwood died in his office at the Bookshoppe at age 57 just a few months later, and then Gail announced the closure. I remember reading a line in a book in Greenwoods’ about information being the new wealth, that it will be the new currency.  That line stayed with me, and perhaps was part of why I became a librarian.  Many of the bookstores I have known and loved are gone.  Ironically, browse  is related to the term web browsers, and most of our browsing now happens online.  There are two bookstores in my area that I can still visit, and I am grateful to find their refuge.  Both are relatively small, but that doesn’t preclude serendipity and discovery, as the personality of their owners is expressed in book choices.

The Doylestown Bookshop

Joseph Fox Bookshop

What bookstores have you known?

Stitch Labs Inventory & Order Management for Artists and Craft Makers: Integrating with Etsy and Product Families


In March of 2012 I signed up for Alyson Stanfield’s Get Organized to Run a Successful Art Business online class.  l had a twinge of guilt when we got to the lesson on Inventory Management because I hadn’t been keeping track for about a year.  I had started with Artist’s Butler when I took my first class with Alyson in 2007, which worked well with my Mac but which didn’t integrate with my Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop.  I made notes on each item as to whether it was on Etsy and if it had sold on Etsy, but then I started making mosaic pendants and quickly fell behind, because people were buying them!

This time around I fortuitously found Stitch Labs, which just started in 2011.  When I signed up in March of 2012, there was as $12.00/month fee for a basic Stitch account, which I gladly paid after the 30 day free trial.  In August 2012, Stitch Labs instituted a free plan for users who only have one “integrated eCommerce sales channel.”  In my case that is Etsy.  [In January 2013, Stitch revised their plans again, and grandfathered me in. Their target market is a bigger business than I am. In March of 2017, Stitch revised their plans to make my monthly plan $49.99/month, and I chose to close my account.]

Stitch is an web based system, and they  back up data regularly.  They add new features in response to customer input, and unlike Artist’s Butler, which resides on my Mac, I don’t have to download updates.

What I’ve Learned About Stitch as of August 2012

  • A unique one of a kind artwork can be a Product Family unto itself, so if there are no permutations like different colors or sizes, just go ahead and create one for each item.  In Artist’s Butler, I would add a new record for each artwork, and you can work with Stitch in this way, and upload a photo specific to this particular work.
  • If you have an item in production, which has variations, such as my mosaic pendants, a Product Family allows me to add options such as metal and color, so I can keep track of which colors are the most popular and what inventory is low.   I can add photos of new work to the  Mosaic Pendant Product Family that show the range of work, and then print a line sheet for retail or wholesale.  Making a unique record for each and every pendant in Artist’s Butler was part of what overwhelmed me.  My work ranges over both one of a kind works that fine artists track meticulously and production items which are more akin to prints.
  • You can manually link each new Etsy listing with its appropriate Product Family, but the process is quick, and when someone orders something from Etsy, it’s automatically accounted for in your Inventory, and the Order is imported, and the information is ready for you to create invoices, add packing slips and payment received, and add  address information to the Contacts database.   [At the end of 2012, Stitch added the option of having Etsy inventory flow directly into Stitch.  I have not switched to this yet.]
  •  When you have work at a gallery or on consignment,  at a craft show, you can create an open order for those items, and print the invoice as a record of the inventory  for both yourself and the gallery or shop owner.  Those works will be committed to that order, but not taken completely out of your Stitch unless you mark them as sold.
  • If you sell online, but not through one of the integrated channels like Etsy or Shopify, you can still enter orders manually.

What I have yet to explore:

  • Reports and Analytics.  There are lots of pie charts and graphs and data to explore.  [In preparation for 2012 taxes, I have finally downloaded reports into my Google Drive.]
Note: In 2017, with the increase in fees, and the fact that Stitch also dropped support for entering expenses, I chose to cancel my account. I purchased and started using Paper & Spark’s Etsy Seller Spreadsheet for my expenses and Cost of Goods Sold, Invoice Ninja Pro for my invoices, and the Inventory Spreadsheet for Google Docs provided free of charge by CERF+ to track my inventory of finished items. I had defaulted to only adding inventory to Stitch after it sold, and I didn’t need to know the location of items in the same way a mass producer of t-shirts might.