Journal » Lemonade from Lemons

Lemonade from Lemons

I wrote this a few days before the election, then headed off to a fellow jeweler friend’s for a little distraction. My intention was to post this before the election but realized soon enough that the delivery date didn’t matter. It didn’t matter who won the election. It just matters that you follow where the path leads and make lemonade from lemons.


Four years ago, a few days after the election, I got shingles. I won’t say where.

I also started a monotype printing class the day after election day. I recall walking through the parking lot, my brain in a fog, and, admittedly, hungover. I felt a lot of things, but creative was not one of them.

Montotype print using cut-up stencils.

I don’t recall thinking  I might need therapy after the election when I signed up for the class weeks earlier. But when I walked in that day to face eight or nine women, looking as downtrodden as I felt, I knew I’d be in good company, that this place would be healing. It would be a refuge from the new reality, if only for a few hours a week.

There was something eerily comforting about knowing we all felt the same way. There was no need even to speak of it.

I carry with me the burdensome self doubt that afflicts many artist types. That sense that you must create a masterpiece, and oh dear…you must use your time wisely or else. I wanted to get the most out of the class, but I’d so exhausted myself with consuming news that I went into the printmaking class with no sense of what I wanted to create.

On that first day, the shingles would have been bubbling under the surface, ready to explode on me in short order. I’d spend the next several weeks hobbling into that studio, yet finding solace in the muffled chatter, the smell of ink and Simple Green cleaner, the satisfying clunk  as a new print unfurled from the press.

Collage using telephone book pages with ink from print-making stencils.

Despite feeling directionless and heavy with discontent, I dove in, cutting out random shapes to use as stencils, a technique practiced by the instructor, Marcy Baker.

As a free agent who has to invent each new day, it is always a relief to be guided by someone else. To give yourself over to a process. The tactile quality and clicking sound of a putty knife on glass to mix ink. Huddled shoulder-to-shoulder around a table with fellow classmates, something we’re now deprived of.

I liked my prints well enough, but ideas started to percolate as we cleaned ink from our brayers and stencils on small-format telephone book pages. As others tossed their crumpled pages in the trash, I was struck by the look of ink overlaid on lines of text. So I started saving these randomly inked phone book pages thinking they’d make good collage material.

I’d get home and spend hours creating collages. They were like cousins to the original prints. The precise cutting with an X-acto blade, the glue, the arranging, connected me to my graphic designer roots but without the constraints of client demands.

Fast forward to the present, to combat some of my over-consumption of news, cancelled craft shows and a slowdown of my graphic design work, I returned to some surface pattern designs I’d started some time ago. I referred back to these prints and collages from that fall of 2016 to inspire a series of pattern designs.

Pillow cover printed with my surface pattern design inspired by the collage above.

I then discovered the website Redbubble, where you can upload a design and apply it to a variety of products from shower curtains to mugs to iPad covers. For more enterprising folks, I offer many of the same designs in the form of fabric at Spoonflower.

The fruits of the class’ labor are still being felt as the forms and color palettes have wormed their way into my jewelry, in pieces like this pendant or these earrings.

. . .

I think about those women who, for a short five weeks, were my salvation. I wonder if they had similar thoughts about what they created, and if the way they felt about the new world order had an impact, positive or negative, on the art they produced in that class.

My biggest take away is that any monumental shift has silver linings. No matter what this world brings, I know we must continue to create beauty, even (especially) beautiful mistakes, stretch ourselves and inspire others to do the same. ||


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