January 31, 2015 § 3 Comments
My grandparents met in Chicago in the 1930s, introduced by mutual friends at a social dance. At that time dancing was an entertainment that rivaled the popularity of theater, musicals and movies. Dressed in Michigan Avenue fashions, meeting friends in magnificent ballrooms, my grandparents danced the waltz, foxtrot and swing to the most well known big bands of the times. They were married in Chicago in 1940.
Grandma, Ruth Ethel (Wollwage) Lindblom, was a self-titled “domestic engineer”. She managed household operations, the children, pets and social activities, without many of the modern conveniences we now take for granted. An accomplished seamstress, she fashioned couture quality clothes for herself and her family, as well as housewares, textiles and decor for the home and her church. Described as ‘down to earth’ and ‘fun to talk with’ by friends and my grandpa’s colleagues, my grandma endeared herself to many.
Grandpa, Leonard Carl Lindblom, graduated from the University of Illinois in 1938 with a BS in Civil Engineering. His early career was spent working on dams and bridges in Knoxville and Chicago. In 1944, Grandpa joined BF Goodrich and Company, in Akron, Ohio and began a long and illustrious career in the automotive rubber manufacturing industry. Finally settling his family in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my Grandpa went on to start his own manufacturing company.
My Grandma died in 2009, living to be 93. My Grandpa died on January 28th, 2015. Although not quite 100, he lived to his 100th year. They lived through the Great Depression, experienced and contributed to the war effort, and propelled the post war boom with their entrepreneurial spirit. Of Swedish, German and French decent, they built enduring relationships with an extended European family. Respected and loved by his community and business associates, my Grandpa was known as an honest businessman of the highest integrity.
Leaving Fort Wayne, the day after my grandpa’s funeral, I flew home to Boston via Chicago. The plane flew north and over lake Michigan. From my seat on the left side of the airplane I could see Chicago grow larger out my window. Snow blanketed the city and surrounding landscape, and it appeared as a black and white city of towers. Like an engraved image from an old book, it stood solemn and stark against a white backdrop.
The plane then turned and flew across the north end of Chicago. As the sun shown down from the left and hit the wet and ice covered roadways, rainbows suddenly illuminated the streets, shimmering with colors from one end of Chicago to the other. It was so incredibly beautiful, street after street of rainbows. The angle of the sun, my dirty airplane window and my polarized sunglasses converged to create an amazing sight.
In that magical moment I could not help but imagine Chicago as it had seemed to my grandparents in the prime of their life, so filled with hope and opportunity, with love and exuberance; so it was again. Perhaps I was witnessing my Grandparents returning to Chicago one last time, dancing together in the sparkling light.
And the streets were made of rainbows.
January 2, 2014 § 1 Comment
So wrote the Roman poet and satirist Horace, who was born in 65 BC and lived under the emperor Augustus. Quintus Horatius Flaccus most frequently wrote of love, friendship, philosophy, and the art of poetry. Carpe diem is the pithy observation usually translated “seize the day”, but literally meaning “pluck the day”, taken from a poem published in The Odes in 23 BC, Book 1, number 11. More precisely, Horace wrote:
Spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur,
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum
Loosely translated it means, “Set aside faraway hopes. Even as we speak, time is running away from us. So pluck the day and the moment, and don’t put your faith in the future.”
The idea that one should make the most of each day because we never know what tomorrow may bring has been elegantly restated throughout history. Says Henry David Thoreau, “Find your eternity in each moment.” We think about this a lot in our house, and we tell each other, “be here now” or “live in the moment”. It is hard to do, when there is always work and video games, and the internet. I thank my friends and family who have supported, advised and loved me this year (and every year), and given me the courage to seize the day.
All the best to you in 2014!
Asked Pooh, “What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
With the goal of researching ideas and acquiring new skills in support of my enamel jewelry design work, this summer I had the opportunity to travel to Deer Isle, Maine to participate in a two-week intensive workshop on enameling with renowned artist Jamie Bennett. Jamie’s course focused on experimenting with painting on enameled copper using over-glaze china paints to create wearable works of art.
Jamie Bennett’s work is known for its meticulous use of color and his interpretations of nature that combine historical reference and contemporary explorations. Bennett is a Professor of Art in the Metal Program at the State University at New Paltz. Bennett’s work is the subject of a monograph, Edge of the Sublime, The Enamels of Jamie Bennett, published by Hudson Bay Press, which accompanies a retrospective exhibition of his work that traveled to six museums nationally through 2010.
From the interesting people you meet, to the talented instructors and their passionate support of craft traditions, to the glorious ocean setting, Haystack is an inspirational and life changing place. Yes – working in the studio all day (and into the evening) proved to be exhausting, however it was incredibly rewarding and a luxury I never have at home. It enabled me to hone my process and see new connections between familiar ideas and techniques – my work has grown tremendously.
Each summer at craft schools around the country, diverse communities of beginner to advanced artists gather in non-competitive environments to develop craft skills and nurture the creative spirit. Taught by national and international practicing studio artists and university faculty, craft schools like Haystack enable artists to question their preconceived ideas, reassess their work, and challenge themselves to experiment in unfamiliar artistic territory.
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is an international craft school located on the Atlantic Ocean in Deer Isle, Maine. Hugging the rugged coastline, the campus was designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, and added to the National Historic Register in February 2006. The school offers intensive studio-based workshops in a variety of media including clay, glass, metals, paper, blacksmithing, weaving, and woodworking.
April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
We live in a world where we can buy so many inexpensive and efficient things that function so well. Why bother to make anything by hand today, much less something ubiquitous like jewelry?
Every Spring I look forward to Craft Boston, hosted by the Society of Arts and Crafts, where I am annually exhilarated by conversations with artists who speak passionately about why craft matters. This year, my husband Josh and I met ceramicist Rob Sieminski, who spoke about the importance of the handmade in our daily lives. Our discussion was both inspiring and provoking, and here are some thoughts I took from our conversation.
Most of our daily interactions are with mass-produced goods, created by the thousands. Some may have been made partly by hand, but any evidence of handwork is usually absent. Most goods are made completely by machine. As a result, these products are relentlessly uniform and anonymous.
Although many of the mass-produced objects that surround us have meanings and stories attached to them, the stories often have little or no relevance to the object itself. Brand names, designer labels and celebrity endorsements, for example, create associations of quality and exclusiveness and connect with personal beliefs and interests; however, this is value through association, not inherent value. Once we lose interest in the meaning of and the identies behind the products, they are frequently discarded and can be easily replaced.
In contrast, handmade objects are nuanced. They express the skill involved in making; exclusivity due to the cost of production; authenticity because of human workmanship and materiality linked to a specific historical and cultural lineage. The intrinsic value of handmade objects is that the handmade object reflects its maker and references meanings or values that are part of a rich narrative that genuinely connect to the ideals and culture of the consumer.
Take, for example, a typical drinking glass. No matter how you hold it, the experience is the same. Every time you use the glass, the experience is the same. There is no nuance, no complexity, no authenticity, and we are not challenged to appreciate, or even consider the glass – how it feels in the hand, its weight, texture or any other quality. On the other hand, to contemplate and admire the complexity of a hand blown glass or a hand thrown clay cup, can bring a sense of wonder, appreciation, and even a new perspective.
Handmade objects can be more durable and more enduring than those of mass-production because their value is centered on their materiality; the object is as important as the stories and meaning behind it. It is not just a monetary investment. It is an investment in your values and your culture that supports a local way of life, environmental stewardship and craft heritage.
Beyond the personal satisfaction derived from interacting with things handcrafted, there is a larger issue, something our contemporary lives are lacking. You know that saying about food, that “you are what you eat”? Well, the same principle applies to your mind. We become more like whatever we put into our head, more like the experiences we have everyday. Things handcrafted repeatedly challenge our preconceived ideas, stimulate our senses and enrich our lives. If we do not have the opportunity to experience this in our personal lives, how can we hope to meet and engage with people and ideas different then ours, with tolerance and respect?
Thank you Rob for taking time to chat with us at Craft Boston. It was a wonderful reminder that, the more and diverse experiences you have, the more opportunities there are to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas – which, regardless of your occupation or aspiration, is critical to creativity, innovation and collaboration. Why not add the power of handmade to your daily routine?
March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
Mentoring relationships have been on my mind, in preparation for a key note address to students at the International Interior Design Association’s Student Portfolio Day.
I have looked through a few great titles such as Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. And I have surfed my favorite blogs like the Accidental Creative. I love to hear the stories of involved parents, inspiring teachers or a mentor, and how these relationships were essential to future accomplishments.
My dad has always been an inspiration and a guide. A while back I asked him if a particular person played a role in his career, and the discussion lead to the topic of mentoring. As usual, Dad added new insights to my views on both mentoring and being mentored. As a professional, I have had many mentors, but I wish that I had been more thoughtful about those relationships. From talking with friends and colleagues, I found many people have similar feelings. They also have questions like, “What is a mentor and how do I get one? The following are some thoughts on mentoring, inspired by a discussion with Dad.
A mentor plays a critical role in your success as a professional, facilitating your professional growth and your access to future opportunities. For many, the choice of a mentor will naturally follow your professional interests and aspirations. You will want a mentor who has expertise in areas you wish to develop in-depth knowledge and skill. She or he will be a primary source of information, provide constructive comments, and evaluate your plans and decisions. A mentor will provide encouragement and support. But what does a mentor do, exactly?
The origin of the word is telling. Mentor was the name Homer gave to the trusted
counselor that Odysseus left in charge of his household during his journeys. Mentoring is a process in which an experienced person offers advice, support and encouragement to a less experienced person. Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship between mentor and protégé, in which the mentor shares her or his professional and personal knowledge, skills and experiences with the protégé, and importantly, both the mentor and the protégé grow and develop in the process.
The one-to-one relationship is critical to the mentoring process. The best relationships are built on mutual trust, respect, encouragement, and constructive guidance. Personal chemistry between the mentor and the protégé is key to success. It is the mentor’s job to provide the kind of help that best suits the needs of the protégé. The mentor must exercise good judgement in helping the protégé determine goals and objectives, before jointly identifying future aspirations. More than anything else, the mentor must be a good listener. The protégé has important responsibilities, too. The protégé is the driving force in building and insuring a productive relationship with the mentor. Establishing expectations at the start of the process is fundamental to the relationship’s success. The protégé needs to manage the process, and that includes measuring progress. To accomplish this, the protégé must know what she or he wants to get from the relationship. You may be asking yourself, what attributes should I look for in a mentor?
Here are a few ideas.
• An effective mentor is accomplished and competent in their areas of interest and responsibility. She or he demonstrates genuine interest and expertise in the subject and is someone you can learn from.
• An effective mentor shows enthusiasm for teaching, makes time for regular contact and helps people negotiate the system. She or he provides wise counsel, clear expectations and appropriate feedback.
• An effective mentor creates an atmosphere conducive to learning, sets high standards, challenges people to think for themselves and engages their ideas. She or he displays integrity, and is forthright when dealing with conflict.
• An effective mentor is respectful of the protégé’s needs, believes in the protege’s abilities, and above all has an abiding interest in seeing the protégé succeed.
• An effective mentor has good work habits, is well organized, and efficient. She or he gets things done and attends to deadlines.
In your search for a mentor, keep in mind that not all mentors are alike. Some are just beginning their careers and some are well established. Some are heavily committed either inside or outside of the office or studio, while others are less so. Some expect to collaborate and some take a hands-off approach. Remember that no one is perfect. As I mentioned at the beginning, mentoring is a process: a process that by no means requires a single person to fill the job of mentor. If you are willing to listen, converse and debate, you will find that by sharing and testing ideas with others, the opportunities to learn and grow are limitless.
January 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
For me, week-day mornings are the toughest. No matter how early I wake up, we never seem to get out of the house on time – and by the time I get to work I am exhausted.
If I could thank someone for getting me through those tough times and for inspiring me to show up every day, it would be my grandmothers. My grandmothers took paid jobs at a time when it was more typical for women to be at home, and still seemed to fulfill all the family and social obligations expected of them – thinking back I don’t remember them ever missing a beat. I don’t know how they did it and I never had the sense to ask them – and, I do not know if, in all the things they did, they in fact found themselves fulfilling their dreams.
One of my great-grandmothers was a Swedish immigrant who aspired to be a doctor. Instead she studied massage in Sweden prior to joining her two uncles in the United States. In Chicago she found work for a physical therapist, was successful and eventually was able to buy the business. This enabled my grandfather to go to college. One of my grandmothers aspired to work, but had to ask her husband permission to do so. Permission was granted as long as working would in no way impact him or the family. She went on to mange a major city hospital, and pay for her children’s college educations – the first generation to go to college. By most measures my grandmothers did not achieve great success in their lives and they did not change the world. But maybe for that reason they represent to me one of the most fundamentally necessary characteristics – courage. Courage to embrace risk and courage to challenge the status quo, courage to dream big and courage to work with what you have been given.
So on those mornings after I have been up late answering email, and no one wants to eat breakfast or wear their socks. We miss the bus, and have to walk to school. On that walk I finally realize the one last thing that would make that day’s presentation complete but when I get into work there are a million things to do first.
That is when I think of my grandmothers.
Because it reminds me that I am part of a legacy. We all are.
Whether it is a family or a business, a culture or a community, being a professional career woman or a stay-at home mom – who we will become and the opportunities we have mattered to those who came before us, and the choices we make will impact, for better or for worse, those who come after.
This thought keeps me motivated; it reminds me to believe in myself and challenges me to not be the weakest link. It also reminds me to look to the horizon – because legacies do not go backwards.
So, thank you Grandma, and Great-grandma. I would not have been able to do this without you. And, I miss you.