March 2011


Christian A. Harvey tribute

Christian Harvey, November 15, 1976 - March 20, 2011

Sometimes life throws an unexpected gut-wrenching twist into your predictable routine, and like the first ice-cold blast of water shooting from the shower faucet – in that instant when your mind is cruelly jarred into alert panic, you realize the water heater is not working….

Then the dread creeps in, frozen fingers tickling your spine, as you contemplate how long you’ll survive without the comfort and convenience of warm water.

Freezing water is just the tip of the iceberg, pun poorly intended.
We take nearly everything in our lives for granted – the things which give us pleasure and amusement, the things which keep us safe and healthy, have all become such an integral part of our environment that we cannot imagine life without them.

We may romanticise life in Colonial America or Regency England, but I doubt whether any of us would survive one week in such primitive conditions, without having a nervous breakdown and subsequent re-evaluation of our priorities.

When we strip all the excess finery away, we’re left with humanity’s basic needs. One of those needs is companionship and social interaction with other human beings.

The greatest technological achievements of mankind were developed specifically to connect people to one another.
Transportation to bridge the gap between towns and families, telecommunication to send messages farther that people could easily travel, and the invention of various appliances meant to ease our workload – presumably so that we would have more time to socialize.

Christian Harvey, Lorrie Whittington, Tara Fly Facebook conversation

Friends react to my horrible confession... I follow Martha.

 

People need people.

Yes, it’s corny… and I cringed writing it, because I can just hear Barbra Streisand’s voice crooning in my head:
“…are the luck-i-est peee-ople…”

(Go ahead, I won’t tell… you know you want to sing it!)

But it’s the truth.
And sadly, people are one of the ‘things’ we tend to value the least.

We get short-tempered with the incompetence of our sales clerk or waitress.. and vise versa.
We belittle our spouses when gossiping with our co-workers… and vise versa.
We lose our patience with our children, our parents and in-laws, our supervisors and “The Man”… and sometimes even wish
We could escape from them all.

We desire a quiet island or mountain-top, to sit and meditate, to commune with our own thoughts.. a place free from those blasted people who dare intrude into our lives and demand our attention.

However ignoring people comes with a heavy price. When you shut people out, it’s like turning off the hot water heater.
You don’t notice anything has changed, until… you turn on the faucet to take a shower.
Then it hits you, the icy frigid water, the lack of heat…
The lack of human company.
Suddenly everyone is… gone.

Christian Harvey and filmmaker John Waters

Chris and legendary filmmaker John Waters (from his FB album)

I lost a friend over the weekend, someone very special to many of us, but unfortunately I can’t say I knew him as well as I should have.

He and I had both managed large departments for a global, evil retail super center (Toys and Grocery, respectively)…
We made small talk in the company break room and during group functions.

I knew that he was passionate about charitable and environmental causes, that he grew his hair long and then cut it off for Locks of Love (at least twice that I can recall), he had an anti-establishment view towards government and authority.
He listened to punk rock and heavy metal bands, worked in his spare time as a sound technician for local rock bands and theatre groups, and generally considered himself a misunderstood outcast.

Christian Harvey technician in recording studio

Christian in the studio, courtesy of his Facebook Tribute page

He struck me as having a somewhat esoteric nature, that I wanted to get to know better but my reserved nature held me at bay.
Nevertheless, when we both gave up our jobs in order to pursue other careers, I decided to locate him on Facebook to “keep in touch”.

And as I imagined, we clicked right off the bat, and he became one of the most engaging and entertaining commenters on my somewhat mundane posts.
Each morning when checking my e-mails, I’d see a notification that “Christian replied to your post”, and I knew I was in for a real treat:
“This will be good; get ready to laugh!”

Christian Harvey, Sarah Phillips, Tara Fly on Facebook

He was always quick to reply with a quip.

 

Occasionally, I’d post something especially bizarre knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to respond; he was also one of the few people on my friends’ list who could appreciate the morbid side of my humor.

Christian Harvey, Michelle Ahlstrom, Tara Fly joke about meat cleavers

For the serial killer who has everything: sterling silver meat cleaver earrings?

 

But while we teased each other with observations and witty cracks, it was still the online version of break room small-talk. I never took the time to dig beneath the surface of Christian’s charming exterior, to examine the personal demons that he kept chained in the basement.

Christian Harvey Facebook photo album plaque

He was the 'nice guy loser' in his mind....

 

Despite how far we’ve progressed in the year 2011, how easily we can communicate and share every bit of our lives with the rest of the world, people are still keeping each other at arm’s length. We still maintain this level of privacy and anonymity, and are very selective about who we let into our inner sanctum.

The trouble is, we have so many “friends”… but we don’t really have any friends.

Who are these people anyway?
We collected them because we wish to know them better… but many of us never make that effort.
We just string them along on our social networking sites, leaving breadcrumbs for them to follow and nibble on, and pat them on the head with our thumbs up of praise.

When it comes to a matter of great importance, a matter of life and death, could we depend on them?
And could they depend on us?

The news of Christian’s death, knowing we had just chatted on Facebook days earlier, made me keenly and painfully aware that I never really knew what was going on in his life.
I wasn’t checking in with him regularly, and paying close enough attention to the changes in his mood and behaviour.

Instead, I was performing my joint roles as wife and mother, obsessing over my silly website portfolio malfunction, worrying that my allergies and the full moon were hampering my creativity… truth is, I’ve been completely self-absorbed.
And sadly, this revelation doesn’t come as a surprise, as I’ve been introspective for years.

Christian Harvey Tara Fly facebook conversation March 17th

Complaining about my allergies on March 17th... three days before

 

But I lost someone who mattered to me, and it was someone I didn’t even realize mattered so much to me… until he was gone.
Like turning on the faucet and fully expecting to get hot water….

And as I contemplate what happens next, and pine over the lost opportunity to reach out, and dwell in darkness over how his mother must be suffering to lose her precious child…

I’m also making a vow to myself.
And to my son and daughters, my husband, my relatives and friends – both off-line and on-line…
That I will be more attentive in the future.

I will take those extra few moments to write back, to click your profile and read your messages, to give you more lap-time and cuddle-time (if you live in my house!), and make sure that everything I say and type is expressed in a kind, compassionate manner.

It won’t be easy for me.

I’m one of those people who craves “space”, and that ever-elusive “peace and quiet”….

But anyone who has lost a family member knows how depressing that “peace and quiet” is, which comes with an empty house, an empty room, an empty chair…
In all that newfound space, you’ll see shadows moving, and you’ll turn to see – hopeful and still-expectant to find your loved one standing in the doorway, alive and smiling.

All the technological advances, greed, and ambition in the world cannot replace what we need most…. other people.

Without love, we are nothing.

So I give you my love. All of you.
Oh, and a can of SPAM too!

Christian Harvey, TaraFly joking about SPAM cans

Sharing some crazy craft project ideas...

 

Those of you who read these words, those of you who don’t… and even the ones who are too young to read, but are sitting on my lap watching me type. You get kisses instead. Unless you’d rather have SPAM. ;)

Let’s hug and embrace each other, reconnect, and share who we really are.

[And on that note, I'm going to confess share that one of my favorite songs was written and performed by Metallica.
I'm dedicating "Nothing Else Matters" to Christian, even though he preferred Pink Floyd.]

Victorian cat wearing floral easter bonnet hat. Artwork by TaraFly

Despite the pull of gravity, I managed to finish Victorian Cat.

Last week passed by in a Benadryl-induced blur of grogginess, thanks to the fine weather spawning a severe allergy… it was the first time I’ve ever experienced throat-swelling in addition to my red, itchy face and watery eyes.

Cat dander and dust, most likely, stirred up by the spring breezes blowing in the open windows throughout our house.
Merlin rubbing his furry face under my chin produced an itchy rash… and my family is howling with laughter at the irony of Mom being allergic… to CATS!

The horror!
*grumbles*
It isn’t funny.

I was also dealing with a creative slump, which coupled with the medicine, left me couch-ridden… drowsily nursing a root-beer float and watching BBC television.

I’m tempted to blame the “Super Moon” for my lack of energy… you know, that hyped up phenomenon about Saturday’s moon being apocalyptic due to its close proximity to Earth.
Hehe, and I wonder if my ex-boyfriend is being adversely affected, since the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet’s interference with his brain supposedly caused him to break up with me… ;)

The full moon is notorious for the belief that it induces crazy behaviour in humans…
In fact, the word “lunacy” is derived from the Latin word for moon [luna];  people actually used the full moon as an excuse to commit crimes (i.e. the 19th century version of “pleading insanity”).

I rather tend to think it acts as a stimulant, not unlike a sip of Folger’s MasterBlend or a draft on a cigarette.

The interesting fact about stimulants, however, is that they produce the opposite effect in people prone to hyper-activity.
It’s true that caffeine can relax and even put folks to sleep… I can attest to it personally. LOL

I was a bit shocked to read online somewhere that parents were letting their toddlers drink coffee, and a few parents were recommending caffeine as an alternative to prescription drugs for calming ADHD children.

Drinking coffee was a “no-no” when I was growing up. In fact, one of my “rights of passage” involved being considered old enough to taste it.

I still get a twinge whenever I put a coffee jar into my shopping cart, or buy an extra-large cup from a convenience store…
it’s an – “I’m an adult, and I’m allowed to drink coffee!” feeling.

I would imagine it’s akin to making a liquor purchase, but I don’t have any experience with that.
Coffee and Pepsi taste far better than alcohol. ;)

Especially if you brew spices like cinnamon and nutmeg into the grounds, and then stir heavy whipping cream and some caramel syrup into it.
Mmmmm nom nom.
Okay… but getting back on topic…

If full moons have this reputation to drive people mad,
than what effect would they have on an already insane person?

My belief: full moons make crazy people SANE.
They make creative people un-creative, boring, and normal.

In my case, it dampens my ability to paint cats parading around as literary characters, dressed in silly costumes.
Because it takes a certain ounce of insanity to see the images that I see in my head every day.

I wasn’t feeling at all crazy last week, lying on the couch… tuning into Netflix to catch up on Mistresses – Season 1 in my pajamas, with loads of laundry waiting to be folded, and kids in need of a hot bath.

I felt decidedly typical… as if any moment, I might morph into the next door neighbor who hangs her clothes on the line, while chatting on her cordless phone (to another housewife, no doubt) about Jennifer Horton-Deveraux’s latest entanglement… both wearing their slippers and robes, and curlers in their hair.

Okay… so I made up the bit about the curlers.

I wasn’t in the mood to design new business cards, or upload my latest painting for sale, or write a blog post.

I wonder what other creative individuals do when faced with a slump like mine?
What do the folks at Disney do?
WDDD? LOL
When those silly little creatures need to be digitally painted a thousand times over, regardless of how the animator feels…

autumn walk through downtown Funkstown. Guten Tag gift shop.

This shot of Guten Tag was taken during my autumn walk last year.

On Saturday morning, I took a walk into town to visit that locally owned gift shop that I’d been eyeing for several months.
Stepping inside, it reminded me of a potting shed… but in an earthy, inviting sense.

The owner of Guten Tag has focused her wares around the “home and garden” theme, and with the advent of Spring… her shop was full of potted plants, vintage gardening tools, lawn ornaments, and all sorts of home accessories in wrought-iron, stone, wood, and grapevine materials.

Promisingly, too, her shop was busy! I was hoping to catch her all to myself, to chat about the possibility of a consignment or wholesale arrangement… but I wound up standing in line behind a few other ladies, with a paper weight and picture frame in my hands.

I did get a chance to mention my artwork, give her Mr. Darcy’s portrait with my contact info… and she seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance.
She said Mr. Darcy should do well, as apparently cats sell like hot cakes… strange to note that I saw very few cats represented in the selection of goods.

Another lady who showcases her work in the shop, creates apparel pins with kitty cats on them… and the owner suggested,
“Perhaps you could put Mr. Darcy on something like that?”

I’d hate to compete with another pin-selling cat artist. But her inventory got my brain plotting ways to utilize all the flower pots and vases I’ve been storing in my studio closet.

Unfortunately, when I arrived back home… after doing some research into 19th century porcelain vase designs, I couldn’t settle upon a design that I liked.
After decorating the blasted flower pots for nearly two hours, I changed my mind and trashed the whole thing… repainting over them all.

Painting a rural countryside scene on flower pots

Changed my mind from pink marble to 'rural English country'...

I’m still stuck in this rut… with a tentative appointment scheduled for tomorrow looming over my head, I’m worried that I won’t have a single thing to show her.
Worse still, I have half a dozen projects lying around and no guidance whatsoever. I keep adding to the growing list, and nothing is getting finished.

People often remark on the effectiveness of the calendar method, so I’ve decided (as of, 5 minutes ago) that this will be tomorrow’s FIRST project:

Create a calendar to keep track of every idea that floats into my brain. Assign a date to it, and if necessary, an approximate deadline.

Each day, I will have a visual reminder of which projects need to be completed first, i.e. the oldest pieces.
Hopefully checking something off the list will feel more satisfying than jumping sporadically into different projects, leaving a chaotic unfinished mess behind.

This also works well with blog post ideas, or so I’ve heard… it will be worth trying.

*************************************************************************

Of course, you know what else can be determined using the calendar method?

A: A full moon.

Perhaps it’d be wise to schedule those periods as “days of rest”… for couches, PJs, and good old Netflix.

When I’m called into account for my laziness, I’ll plead guilty to lunacy!
The full moon made me do it!

Do you think it will work?
And any thoughts on fighting creative burn out?

I’ve been distracted and unfocused this past week, bouncing from one project to another… but I did manage to sneak in a photo shoot using my awesome new thrift store finds!

soft dreamy vintage photoshop filter tutorial

Gossip Girls 8x10 Archival print, shown in frame.

It happened to be an overcast day, when the children finally decided to behave themselves, so my lighting situation wasn’t perfect… but nothing a little Photoshop couldn’t solve, right? ;)

I’ve also been excited to experiment with some vintage filter techniques, so I fired up Google and set off to find a great Photoshop tutorial.

This “breathtaking, dreamy, vintage” tutorial seemed to fit the bill at first glance, but after reading through it, I found myself disappointed by its rigid structure.

Use these (x,y,z) settings… download this (abc.jpg) texture… and this (etc.jpg) one… and this (blah.abr) brush…

I know.. I know… What the heck was I expecting with a tutorial?!
I dunno, perhaps a little wiggle room… the chance to stretch my own creative muscles.

Because you see, I don’t play by the rules.

I don’t follow recipes to the teaspoon, or sew using patterns…

I quit piano lessons at the age of six, after only two months, because I was frustrated with my teacher’s strict and seemingly limited Suzuki method.
Impatient to play any piece by sight, I begged my grandmother to “just teach me to read the treble and bass clefs, pulleeze?”

With that in mind, after getting the basic gist of this photoshop tutorial, I threw it out the window. My childish foot stomping: “Don’t tell me what to do! Let me do it myself!”

But I’d like to show you step-by-step what I did instead, using PS Elements 6 (as the original tutorial had different settings)… and encourage you to explore these steps on your own as well.
Just remember as we get started, no decision is right or wrong, as long as you enjoy how it looks!

Another Vintage Dreamy Photoshop Tutorial

I started with a few shots taken of my “Gossip Girls” Regency Cat art, framed and hanging on the wall.
You can see here that I had some issues with lighting contrast – bright sunny spots and deep shadows.
Hey, that’s okay – *deep breath* – we can fix that problem.

three photographs of TaraFly's art studio

Three photos of my framed artwork, taken from different angles...

I chose the photo on the left, because I liked the angle, and all the key elements (props, etc.) are relatively centered.

The reason why this matters?
Well, I want to upload the finished piece to my Etsy shop, where pics are recommended to be 1000×1000 square.
When I set up my photo shoots, I try to keep a cropped “square” in mind.

In this screenshot, I’m using Levels to fix the lighting problem, which can be done by sliding the arrows (left or right) to accentuate the light, shadows, or midtones.
In this case, I slid the right arrow over towards the center (where the wavy lines begin), causing the entire image to grow brighter.

adjusting light with photoshop levels

Brightening my photo with Levels

**Quick note – normally, you wouldn’t want to saturate a photo this much.
See how washed out my poor porcelain pitcher is? For a nice “realistic” photo, I might create a mask to ignore the basin, and lighten just the chair and wall.

Next, I cropped my image into a rough square for Etsy… it was actually 1000×960 but close enough.
Obviously, you can crop your picture however you please, or not at all.

Okay… here is where the real fun begins.

1. We’re going to create duplicate copies of this image: I made 2 copies (plus the original).
We will be adding a different color effect to each copy, and then blending them together.

creating duplicate layers in photoshop

Right click, and select duplicate background/layer

2. Make two of the copies invisible, by clicking the eyeball next to each thumbnail. That way, we can work with one layer at a time, and see the results. (Otherwise, the layers above would block our view)

3. Go under “Enhance > Adjust Color” …. we have multiple options here, and you’re free to try them all.
Our goal is to shift the color balance of each layer… making the photo appear redder, or greener, etc.

Adjusting Color Variations in Photoshop

Selecting Increase Red for this photo's midtone colors

I personally chose “Color Variations”, which allows me to alter the color values of the image’s shadows, midtones, and highlights.

4. I selected “Midtones”, set the sliding arrow about mid-way, then clicked on “Increase Red”.
And… Voila!

TaraFly's tutorial, increasing red with Color Variations in PS

Yes, that is definitely an increase in red!

I did the same thing for both of my duplicate layers, by making each one visible again, and increasing the blues and greens.

5. I chose to increase the blue shadows on one layer, and the green highlights on the other.
Resulting in this:

Altering the highlights and shadow colors in Photoshop

Looking at my green and blue layers, side by side

6. Now we blend the layers all together, using the Blending mode (located next to the Opacity level).
The two duplicate layers get blended, and you can experiment with different blending styles of course.

I chose Soft Light.

Adding soft light filter to blend layer in Photoshop

Selecting Soft Light from the list of blending options...

7. I also set the Opacity level of the Blue shadowed layer at 100% and the Green highlighted layer at 45%, which toned down the green somewhat.
If a particular color looks too strong for you, try a different blending mode (Overlay, Lighten, etc…) or even adjust the Opacity to a lower setting.
Everything is negotiable.

After you’ve finished blending and playing with the transparency, you’ll have a better idea of how your image is coming along…
Mine looks like this:

creating a soft dreamy vintage style image in Photoshop

It looks very warm, soft, and inviting, doesn't it?

8. At this point, I merged all the layers into one by selecting “Layer > Flatten Image” from the top menu.

This isn’t necessary, but neither is having a bunch of loose layers hanging around, since we’re basically done editing them… it just keeps things tidy. ;)

Okay, now we’re ready to add some aged effects!

You know those spots and splotches of UV and acid damage commonly found on vintage photographs? We can re-create that appearance digitally using a photograph of clouds. Seriously!

You probably have pictures of clouds somewhere on your computer or photo albums; the shot doesn’t have to be award-winning, so don’t worry, but it helps if the clouds have a nice shape and strong outline.

If you don’t have any on hand, let me direct you to a great stock photographer for your fluffy cloud needs – Hatestock on Deviantart.com.
She’s an artist who also provides free-for-any-use stock photographs.

9. I took this cloud photo from her gallery and cropped it, resizing it to match my photo dimensions.

dark clouds with patch of sunlight, photo by Hatestock on Deviantart

Photograph courtesy of hatestock.deviantart.com

10. Next, I added a new transparent layer above the cloud image, to experiment with gradients.

Yes, you can add gradients directly onto the photo, but I also like to play with blending modes.
I’m just a layer junkie, okay?! :P

11. Choose two colors that you would like to create a hazy effect with… (I picked a pinkish violet and gold) and add a gradient over the transparent layer.

Create one by selecting the Gradient Tool, and click/drag your mouse over the transparent layer, to establish the direction with which one color will fade into the other.
Mine was a diamond-shaped gradient, beginning in one corner and expanding outward.

12. Then we can blend it into the clouds on the layer beneath, using various settings (Overlay, Vivid Light, Dodge, etc…)
until you find something interesting that you like.

I chose Color Dodge, and set the Opacity to 85%… creating a large burst of whitish yellow light and fluffy pink/purple clouds.

Using Photoshop gradients to add special effects to clouds and sky

My gradient in the corner, and my new pink cloud layer underneath

13. Merge the layer onto your clouds, then copy and paste this new creation onto your original image.
Again, adjust the blending mode to suit your tastes.

I used Vivid Light at 50% Opacity this time.

Creating a vintage style photo in photoshop, adding cloud texture

Clouds create a gorgeous deteriorated effect, don't they?

*Keep in mind, you DO want these colored clouds to be visible, even if the image looks really weird at this point. LOL

I also wanted to add another texture to age it even further, add a bit of graininess and a few tiny scratches… like this poor photo has been kicked around in a dresser for fifty-odd years.
The perfect thing to get a texture from, is a bit of rusty, scuffed up metal…. like an old, grimy cookie sheet.

an old rusty cookie sheet, used for a metal texture in Photoshop

Well, not truly grimy... it does get washed after every use.

Please don’t tell me that your cookie sheets look nothing like this, or I’ll accuse you of sounding like my mother. :P
Hey, I line them with aluminum foil.
And…. they’ve been scrubbed a million times.
They’re clean, I swear!!

But I digress.

You can snap a picture of some old, dirty metal object in your home… or scan it…
OR …for those of you with pristine, immaculate homes … *cough* yeahright *cough* …you can surf the web (i.e. Deviantart) for “rusty metal textures”.

14. One way or another, grab an image of a rusty, nasty looking scrap of metal… preferably scratched or dented… then crop and resize it to fit your project.

15. Copy and paste the metal image over your cloud layer, and set the blending mode to Overlay, with 100% Opacity.

A photo with two textures applied for vintage look in Photoshop

Now THIS looks like a beaten-up, weathered photograph.

Using Overlay eliminates the majority of its color, and leaves you with just the texture of scratches and scuff marks.
You could’ve also converted it to black and white scale first, but it isn’t necessary.
If a bit of the metal color comes through, it just adds to the effect, right?

So, by now you’re probably thinking “What the frak have you done to this picture?!”
It does look pretty rough! LOL

But wait! Here’s the best part:

16. Take your bottom layer (with your color-altered image on it) and duplicate it.

17. Drag this new copy up to the top of your layer heap, above all the textured stuff….

Now of course, all the textures are hidden under this new layer, which matches the bottom layer, like a rainbow sandwich.
But not for long.

18. Set the blending mode on the duplicate layer for Multiply, and leave the Opacity at 100% by default.

The result is that your duplicate image now softens the effects of the cloud and metal texture, while still allowing them to bleed through.

dreamy, soft, vintage aged photoshop tutorial by TaraFly

At last, a soft and romantic vintage inspired photo.

At this point, I’m calling it quits! LOL I like my picture just the way it is.

19. When you’re finished, click “Layer > Flatten Image” and save it as a .jpg file.

However, you might want to continue making small adjustments…
Perhaps it’s still a bit dark, and you want to brighten it? Go ahead.
Add a sepia filter? Sure, why not!

One thing I’ve noticed with my product photos:
** The clouds or metal texture sometimes will encroach on key elements that you want undisturbed. **

I could’ve easily wound up with my framed artwork of “Gossip Girls” covered in purple clouds or rusty black spots.
Not exactly flattering when I’m trying to sell reproduction prints, eh?

In that case, I would need to take the Eraser Tool, and erase the cloud or metal texture layer just inside the framed area, or whatever object needs to remain free from clutter… like the faces of people, for example.

Experimenting with Photoshop is an ongoing process, and as I said, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to use it.
If someone tells you otherwise, bite them. Not too hard, though. ;)

You should feel free to take this tutorial as a starting point, and make improvements, or completely throw it out and start fresh…. but I’d love to see what you create!

If you did this project, please show me your results!
If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. :)

TaraFly's 3-year-old daughter Mia in the studio.

My daughter Mia, posing with Mommy's thrift store finds.

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon treasure hunting.

Joe stayed at home with the three little beasts, and I hijacked the car for a pleasure-filled frolic through Hagerstown’s thrift-store district. ;)

My purpose for this little adventure was to find some props for staging photo shoots.
I’ve been growing increasing dissatisfied with my current set-up…
Even though friends tell me “Your shop looks great!” … I’ve decided that I want to brand my work against soft, romantic backdrops of lace and porcelain.

I have this vague destination in mind, and I’m struggling to find the right path to get there.

Most people have enough “things” lying around the house, that if mixed with a little creativity, can produce interesting tableaux…
and believe me, I’ve searched our house from top to bottom.
My blinders must be heavily padded, because I’ve given up, unable find any cute knickknacks to stage a scene with.

We don’t really own much anymore… I’ve learned one lesson after years of living with cats and children:

1. Do NOT bring anything valuable or fragile into your home.
And
2. Don’t grow attached to your material possessions.
Okay, two lessons rolled into one. ;)

But I’m determined to set my work apart… even more so than it already is… so it’s off to the Goodwill thrift store, to look for diamonds in the rough.

wooden jewelry box with keyhole lock

a charming wooden jewelry box

In the past, my trips to the second-hand shops were focused on finding usable, affordable items – tables, dressers, toddler clothing – especially children’s coats and seasonal items that will be destined to repeat the adoption cycle in a few months.

I don’t normally see Hagerstown’s thrift stores as eclectic troves of buried gems, not like the dusty yet magical shops depicted in made-for-television films… where the heroine discovers one-hundred-year-old love letters in an antique writing desk, and embarks on a journey to uncover the couple’s star-crossed history.

Browsing the racks of my local Goodwill typically gives me as much excitement as weeding out my closet.
My neighbors’ discarded apparel, worn paperbacks, and chipped dishware look nearly identical to our own.

As the saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s… ermmm… trash.

porcelain water pitcher, basin, candle holder with handle, copper skillet

A few of my recently acquired treasures...

Saturday was different, however. My mission wasn’t to search for everyday functional items… rather, I specifically wanted old junk.
The older the better.
If a piece wanted to tell me its story, I would invite it home for coffee and biscuits.

I walked into the Goodwill with a fresh pair of eyes – leaving those industrial-strength blinders at home where Joe would likely need them. ;)

I headed past the racks of clothes and toys, making a beeline for Housewares. Originally hoping to find some crystal goblets or china plates… I was met with initial disappointment at the limited selection.

But my luck soon turned, after stumbling upon this lovely porcelain water basin and pitcher… looking for all the world like it belonged on the bedroom nightstand in a prairie cabin. I scooped it up for $8.00 and canvassed the shelves for similar accessories.

porcelain pitcher and water basin with vintage photo filters

My pitcher and basin, with candle sticks on a string...

Additional treasures I unearthed included a colonial style candle holder with handle, a pair of large wax candles molded as Victorian Christmas carolers, and a wooden plaque sporting a reproduction of baroque painter Peter Paul Ruben’s self-portrait with his wife Isabella Brandt.

trio of painted bird figurines and box covered in tapestry paper

My bird trio, and a papered box

I also picked up this decorative trio of bird figurines for $5.00, because I liked the irony of photographing my predatory cat portraits alongside their painted prey.

Quite a number of people gave me strange looks after glancing at the odd mixture of items in my basket…
I wasn’t the typical Goodwill shopper: arms filled with paperback romances and blouse/skirt sets.

Studying my finds as an ensemble, I was mightily pleased with how well they coordinated (at least, they seemed related to me) …
and calling it quits, I hauled my collection up to front counter.

Passing the furniture section along the way….

Where I spied two lovely Victorian balloon back chairs positioned near the corner window.

victorian balloon back side chairs at thrift store

Pair of Victorian balloon back chairs at the Goodwill thrift store

I rested my loot on a farmhouse table, and went over to examine the side chairs.
They were $35.00 a piece, and although I preferred the chair with the squarish shaped seat, naturally I wanted them both!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t budgeted $70 to spend on furniture.
I snapped a couple of photos of them with my cell phone (my first attempt using the mobile’s camera, and it worked!) …before letting the cashier ring up my other items, and went home to beg discuss it over with Joe.

He acknowledged that one chair could be afforded, so I sent him back to grab the smaller one that I favored.

Shortly after he arrived at the shop, I received a phone call from him: the chair that I wanted, he feared, wasn’t structurally sound…
One of its legs had been broken and re-glued, something I hadn’t noticed.
I did see the cracks in its back frame, and some of the carved details had been sanded down.

The round chair, however, looked alright and felt sturdy when he sat on it. So I forfeited the smaller chair for the opportunity to bring home its sibling.
[See: Rule #1 above]

In addition to adding character to my product photos, this lovely piece inspires me to model again in my Regency wardrobe. I haven’t created any new stock photos in years.

TaraFly's art studio photography corner, with Victorian chair

My ready-to-shoot photography corner of the studio...

I even reorganized my art studio to accommodate an actual photography corner, where my precious chair and a temporarily repurposed filing cabinet can remain dressed and ready for lights, camera, action.

Of course, you know what this means… right? More work for me!
For the next few weeks, I’ll need to experiment with staging and photographing my art prints, incorporating these new props.

You won’t notice dramatic changes overnight, but I’ll gradually re-shoot the majority of my listings.

And once I finally have my shop designed exactly as I’ve envisioned it…

It will be time to begin all over again.

Because my website, much like my house, gets vacuumed 37.2 times per day on average… dust and fur doesn’t settle around here. *sigh*

angry artist attacking printer with hammer and saw

Threatening To Torture My Printer Unless It Surrenders...

This year, my luck has officially run out, folks.

I’m beginning to feel like the old cat trying to learn new tricks…
Okay, more like trying to jump through a hoop of fire, with my legs tied together and a blanket over my face.

It began with the transition of my website to the WordPress program, which was originally limited to a sub-folder for running my blog.

The move itself went swimmingly.

However some of the hard work I’d done, incorporating my Zazzle store merchandise into my website via the Store Builder, was rendered redundant because WordPress doesn’t recognize the program.

The Zazzle Store Builder integrated on my website

Remember these pages? They're gone.

There was a work-around, via a plug-in designed specifically for WP, which seemed easy enough to install and use.
Except it didn’t work for me…

And after reading 50+ pages of users’ questions and the standard troubleshooting responses,
and double-no-triple-checking to ensure I followed all the advice given,
I figured it was just me.

I’ve also been forced to re-write all the image links on my blog posts, because they were uploaded to my “blog/wp-content/images” sub-folder…
which no longer exists …as WP is now running the entire site and not just a single folder. :/

Half of my images are still broken… because I get caught up editing the posts, reworking the SEO keywords, and various other distractions.

Disgusted by all the additional work my website now requires, I jumped into a fresh sewing project:

Artist angrily attacking printer with saw and hammer

You Talking To Me?! Go Ahead.... Make My Day.

I want to create some tote bags featuring my artwork.
The original tote bag prototype will be my personal messenger bag for carrying packages to the post office.

So I purchased these nifty sew-able cotton fabric sheets created for ink-jet printers, as an alternative to iron-on transfers.

Unfortunately, my printer doesn’t like these nifty fabric sheets.
It refuses to print anything on them.

Whenever I try to feed the sheet, my printer kicks it out…
and then has the gall to demand REAL paper, by blinking its “paper out” light accusingly at me.

I’ve even tried tricking the printer:

I’ve loaded a few sheets of fine-art paper, slyly slipping in a sheet of fabric paper, and set it up to print multiple copies.

All the velvet art paper and premium presentation paper fed through and printed beautifully, but it spit that cotton fabric sheet out with distaste.

Googling for answers resulted in nada.

Plenty of folks on the planet are experiencing paper feeding issues with Epson printers… however mine isn’t acting in a similar fashion -
mauling the page to shreds or refusing to feed it entirely.

Rather mine feeds directly through, without stopping to print a dot of ink. :P

Eventually my curiosity will overcome my deep well of frustration, and I’ll discover the secret to getting my printer to eat its vegetables.

But for now, iron-on transfers will have to suffice.

TaraFlyArt.com via mobile smart phone

TaraFlyArt - On The Go via my mobile browser

Last week, Joe and I decided to reinvest in cell phones.

We’ve gone without these modern necessities for over two years, after my last contract expired.
I’ve never missed being shackled to mine.

The beauty of a cellphone is also its biggest drawback:
you can be reached anywhere, and are expected to be “on call” and willing to answer.

And as you know, among other things I have a fear of phones. :P

Joe was required to get one for work, but what made me jump back on the bandwagon?

I was seduced by these “smart” phones that are essentially portable internet browsers.

Since my master plan involves getting out into public, and being prepared to promote myself, I wanted a nice way to show people my website and
gallery.

I was also tempted by those folks who can Tweet “on the go”, instead of hours later when the news is less relevant.
Folks who can perform google searches or get questions answered in real-time while out shopping.

I’ve recently become addicted to Pandora, the internet radio station that tailors its song selection to your individual taste… and I wanted to bring it along for the ride.

Oh, and not to mention the convenience of accessing Paypal… and perhaps some on-the-spot selling. ;)

TaraFlyPhotos on Etsy via mobile smart phone browser

My Etsy Shop in a tiny screen, filled with tiny clickable links

For these reasons and more, I succumbed to the awesome sale on my Motorola Defy. Although after paying less than $20 for a phone retailed at $450, I felt insanely angry at the state of our economy.

It says volumes when a company has to practically pay customers to TAKE the product away…
Joe tells me to quit obsessing, and just be happy that I got a super great deal.

But this type of mentality bodes ill for everybody.
Who wants to pay for things anymore?

*sidestepping the tangent*

So after setting up my online profiles, downloading a couple apps, as well as adding music and images from my computer…
I tried to send a simple text message to Joe, reminding him to pick up a vacuum belt.

Q: How easy it is to send text messages?

A. Not very.

Q: How long does it take to find your own flipping phone number?

A: A very long time.

(*hint, it wasn’t under the account settings or phone status, where it should have been)

I can pop off a tweet or update my Facebook status with two clicks, but I spent half an hour trying to text my husband.
I was once the queen of text messaging… in another lifetime.

Accessing Facebook profile via browser on Motorola Defy

Interacting with Facebook pals is easy enough.

Don’t get me started on the convoluted contact list, which very nicely uploaded every single Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail acquaintance I have.
Try finding a real-life contact in all that mess?!

Oh, and this lovely feature called Touch Screen?
It’s highly sensitive.

That is an understatement.

A stray cat hair, that landed onto the screen from a drive-by shedding, actually turned on the Google Voice Search.

That was an exaggeration.
But just slightly.

I liked the phone when I realized I could access my Etsy shop and website,
with full color images and teensy-tiny links that you need razor-sharp nails to click on.

I fell in love with the phone when I plugged it into my car’s stereo, and played my favorite music on shuffle while driving to Joann Fabrics.

I married the phone when I could update all my social networks all at one time,
from anywhere.

But the honeymoon is over now, when I feel like a deceived fool trying to use this blasted phone…

…AS A PHONE.

But then again, this is 2011 – The Year of the Cat (or Rabbit), depending on your beliefs.

It is definitely not MY year.

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