The Softball Season…

Those who play it, know it!

Those who play it, know it!

For the last few years, we have moved beyond the days of “rec” ball and having a Saturday morning dedicated to a game of softball, to the life of travel ball, a more intense, competitive softball life.   The culture of travel softball… my friends is a whole other ballgame, altogether.  To the outsider, this lifestyle can sound anything but appealing.   When shared with friends and family who are not in this world, it sounds not only time consumer, but down right grueling.   To be honest, sometimes it is both.

However, for the most part, is an exciting world with life lessons that will serve these girls well for the rest of their lives and keep us adults in check as well.  We parents often times bond over, shade, snacks and early morning Starbucks runs while the girls warm up.  Our weekends are no longer our own, our motorhomes gather dust, and family vacations are limited around softball tournaments and practices.  Some parents get a little more intense, with their strategies and opinions and can lose perspective as to who is really playing the game and why.  For the most part, however, it is a positive experience.  It all depends on the team… and the parents, and the coaching style.  We’ve been lucky so far in all of our competitive softball experiences with all three.  We’ve experienced a few twilight moments when one shakes their head and wonder if they are getting punked, but that’s life in general isn’t it?   This last week, I have to say, was by far the best team experience we have had thus far.

We had some of the everyday, average softball experiences that go with any tournament as well.  During various tournaments and showcases there is what I call, the softball migration.  It happens every tournament when the players go from one field to the other with parents in tow carrying, umbrellas, chairs, coolers, and younger siblings behind them.  Once settled the girls again warm up for their second or third and in extreme cases their fifth game of the day.  Their stamina is breathtaking, their athleticism is often measured by how much pain and discomfort they can endure and they are in every sense of the word, Athletes.

The heat can also be brutal and a character unto itself.  Living in SoCal the temperatures range drastically in the wee hours of the early morning cold and gloomy, to triple digits afternoons where an endless supply of water and Gaterades to kept handy for our performing athletes.  Most of the time these girls are piled in cars before sunrise in sweatshirts and are warming up before most people are even up for their first morning cup of coffee.

Could not keep enough of these...gallons of bottled water this week!!

Could not keep enough of these…gallons of bottled water this week!!

This past week was my week to take our daughter to her tournament, not just any tournment but a showcase tournament.  This is where colleges come and look at the girls and see what they like.  This is what our coach calls, “Chasing the Money.”  These girls want scholarships.

Denver was our destination and the whole team was going.  I and five other moms were the assigned chaperones.  We all met at the airport and after a series of tranes, planes and automobiles we settled into our under construction, air conditioning-broken, with suspicious elevators hotel, that we would call home for week.  We each had three teen girls to a chaperoned room and the altitude to adjust to.  We spent more days at Walmart than I have in my entire life so that  each room was oozing with snacks and leaking cheap coolers of waters.

As awesome as this all sounds the truth is, it was a blast.  The comradary and laughter was in surplus, the music pumping and lyrics that make a rap star blush, was pulsing through the vans to and from games.  The vans smelled so badly by the third day an air freshener intervention was done while we were inside strategizing what we would feed the group for the next meal.  Before the games, music was played, prayers were said.  Injuries happened, bags of ice placed in various places, scrapes off and on the field, one scare of concussion, more prayers, fast food, laundry lines, sandwiches “Again??”,water runs, ice runs, one downpour, hot Denver heat, is that lightning?,awesome firework displays, wins, losses, f-bombs, and plenty of photos to share…

What an amazing group of girls!

What an amazing group of girls!

 

Dancing and singing a huge part of this week!

Dancing and singing a huge part of this week!

 

Just a few of the amazing moments these girls displayed.

Just a few of the amazing moments these girls displayed.

 

Pitching

Even in the pelting rain these girls worked their butts off!

Even in the pelting rain these girls worked their butts off!

 

The Process…Keepin it Real!

This month my name made the cover!

Summer image transfers by Michelle E. Black

Summer image transfers by Michelle E. Black

I was so excited I posted it on Instagram that MY name made it to the front page of Somerset Studio Gallery Magazine!  I loved the layout, how they photographed my work and the amazing artists that I share the magazine with this month.

Sneak Peak of Michelle E. Black article  in Somerset Studio Gallery June 2014 magazineIMG_5650

More of my work!!!  Thank you Stampington!!

More of my work!!! Thank you Stampington!!

Michelle E. Black June 2014 Somerset Studio Magazine article4So now with a few articles under my belt, having even shared some random moments with strangers as they are looking through various Stampington’s magazine publications… I now feel a sense of peace. To a point that is…do not confuse this with stagnation, however.  I am in a creative whirlwind of activity, but a sloppy artist at that.  Yup!  Just when I get my act together and get things all straightened up, something gets a hold of me and I’m off and creating!!  So as much as I would love to have my studio looking as fantastic as Cathe Holden’s, I’m afraid its just not going to happen, not yet anyway.

Friends and family alike have suggested that I share the processes that take place  in order to create my art.  After all, I do teach workshops on how I do what I do.  What’s wrong with a little show and tell?  I, myself, love to indulge in the magazine, Where Women Create, for that same reason.  I want to see how they create what they do, where do let their brushes dry or where do they make those amazing collages?  These incredibly talented women and their studios make me drool with envy.  Whenever I read it I find myself in the company of kindred spirits, embracing not always fitting in the square peg part of my personality. I respect them, immolate them and they have given me the more courage to blaze the trail I have before me than I thought possible.  It is by their inspiration that my art is now to that next level.   ( Which at this point is not accosting anyone who is coming over my house to show them what I have recently made or photograph!  ”Oh really you are selling cookies?  Well, I just made a collage out of music sheets and fabric swatches…you want to see?  What??  Where are you going???”)  Being a constant buyer of these types of publications however has made me scared…my studio and surrounding area looks NOTHING like theirs!!  Although much like how I felt inadequate to Martha Stuart’s clean and tiny craft rooms and immaculate garden sheds, I too find myself falling far short of these beautiful ,elegant spaces that these magazine articles portray.  Truth is I’m lucky if I don’t dip my paintbrush in my coffee!  Here it is anyway…some of chaos.  I am a firm believer that things often have to fall apart in order to come together and my work is exactly that.

A dozen projects created this perfect storm and now I

A dozen projects created this perfect storm and now I’ve spilled out into the driveway!!

My name is Michelle E. Black and I

My name is Michelle E. Black and I’m addicted to Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint…

See!  You are never going to see a photo like this in a magazine!

Truths out…I suffer from my own self diagnosis of “Shiny Squirrel Syndrome”.  (A combination of Up and the Simpsons) I often have several projects going on at once, which renders nicely to this character “flaw”.  When something is drying, I go to the next thing, then when that is drying I cut out something over here, or I go to the table saw, or…  This crazy behavior however, is what keeps me going.  I am happier now that I have the space and time to create and produce my work.  Happier that all of my random interests and collections make sense in my life.  I love also that the material I use is something out of what was discarded or no longer needed, that I create new life with it and that people actually like what I do.   So regardless of the messy method in which I create, the art that emerges is a beautiful collage of flaws. Much like how I see myself, I suppose.  Anyway… I must be doing something right, even if I do so by making such huge mess!

So alas, this post is called Keepin it Real!

Black Out!!

How image transfers can add to a store…

Bakers Twine is a huge hit but a sign adds to the attraction

Bakers Twine is a huge hit but a sign adds to the attraction

People often mistake me for being the owner of the store knot too shabby (www.knottooshabbyfurnishings.com)or a partner of it, but I am merely a fan and contributing artist and you can find me behind the counter every now and again covering a shift.  I am not minimizing my role in its success especially with visual displays or product lines.  I have been a positive influence in the store’s development for sure, I am simply stating a fact.

Michele Rivard’s ability to see the jewel in what most will overlook has been one of her greatest strengths.  Although she specializes in turning a disheveled piece of furniture into the rooms focal point, she also couples those pieces with carefully selected repurposed, vintage home decor pieces that pull a room together as a whole.  She has an innate ability to put a variety of, often times unrelated items, together that visually inspire much like a living magazine.  People often visit the store who may never even purchase a thing, but come in to browse and be inspired.  Its as if it makes their soul smile with decorative contentment.  I know this because that is how I came to know Michele, doing that very thing.

Fast forward two plus years and here we are today, growing together and separately in our businesses.  We have collaborative projects from creative brainstorming and inspire each other to be more and put more out there.  As product lines have been introduced and seeing a need I began to make signs to showcase those product lines.  With creative fonts,  sometimes painted backgrounds, my own personal stash of scanned clipart, coupled with my madd photography skills, here are some examples where a sign can answer a customers question before they even knew they had one.

I set up this little tiny photo shoot to showcase the packaging and then did an image transfer on salvaged wood

For the actual transfer itself, I set up a little photo shoot to showcase the packaging and then did an image transfer of my image onto salvaged wood

This is a sign I created with a the combination of one of my favorite fonts coupled with personalized vintage price tag clip art.

This is a sign I created with the combination of one of my favorite fonts combined with a personalized, vintage price tag.

Vintage clip art to show the price on something the store has a large stock of.  This helps reduce having to price each individual package by hand.

A close up of vintage clip art to show the price on something that the store has a large stock of. This helps reduce having to price each individual package by hand.

 

To tag every single knob was hugely time consuming.  This cut down literally hours of tagging!

To tag every single knob was hugely time consuming. This cut down literally hours of tagging!

 

RePurposed Rentals

I have now been creating image transfers for two years.  As I have been fine tuning my art, selling my wares, teaching my workshops  while making a name for myself, I have come to realize when it comes to wedding you don’t want to BUY huge signs or all of the props for that matter. The ideal is to rent them.  And so it begins.  I, by no means think that I have had an original thought here.  In fact there are amazing artists out there doing this exact thing!!  No, I am simply finding the need in my own community with my tiny, but loyal following… putting my spin on the biz!  Last year this time, I was playing with the idea when I friend of mine approached me to do just that.  To create signs for her best friends wedding, two of which she bought as gifts for the newly weds.  The response I’ve received from the sign has been amazing.

This is an image transfer on a salvaged repurposed shipping pallet

This is an image transfer on a salvaged repurposed shipping pallet

So, it seems the wedding business is pulling me back in, with its flair for details and planning and my evolved self.  Years ago PreCarson (my third child, who is not 11 years old)  I was the second camera for Florence Helmberger’s amazing wedding photography business.  I specialized in the black and white candid moments a wedding can have, while also assisting her with the more formal shots.  I would simply hand her my rolls of film at the end of the night and she would develop them and that was that.  Once I was pregnant with our third child however, I hung up my wedding camera and focussed my energy on my family of now three children.  Although it was an amazing experience, I never quite wanted to take on wedding photography full time.  The hours were grueling and during its season weekends are not your own.  Plus having athletic children, my husband a softball manager for many years, who am I kidding, that was not really an option anyway.

This was an image transfer on salvaged repurposed fence boards

This was an image transfer on salvaged repurposed fence boards

I have also discovered a fun and creative way to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and stencils to create an awesome chalk board!

I have also discovered a fun and creative way to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and stencils to create an awesome chalk board!

So now with my love for antiques and really cool pieces… I want to see them in wedding photos EVERYWHERE.  Even my love for textiles and fabrics can come into play with what this vision holds which is RePurposed, ReCycled, ReGifting.  Because lets face it folks, I am in the Business of RE.  As I ReInvent myself, creating the space to do what I love and adore, and still be close to my family, the dream is taking shape and unfolding right before me.  Without ever being fully aware of its process, I’ve been working on this for YEARS!!!

Happy Birthday to me…

A New Dawn for this "old" gal or young gal depending on who you are talking to!

A New Dawn for this “old” gal or young gal depending on who you are talking to!

So on this day 46 years ago a young woman deliverd a baby girl and named her Michelle Elena Hamm.  She was conceived on a houseboat in the city of Portland, Oregon and as soon as she came into this world her parents moved to solid land and began their domestic life as a family.

Here’s where I break out into song and sing myself Happy Birthday while the rest of the house is still sleeping.  I suppose the norm is to not let other people know my age, but to be honest I find this part of our culture absolutely ridiculous.  Sure there are times when I wish I wasn’t as old as I was, wishing for the body of a twenty something year old, wanting to believe that the women my age on television truly owe their tight taunt facial expressions to a bottle of miracle lotion.  However, I have intelligence and don’t want to buy into that illusion.  I have earned my age, it took that long to get to where I am now and learn all that I know and I hope the rest of my life is lived with my eyes wide open and embracing this awesome crazy ride called Life.

So with that being said on this very special day I am contemplating my business or how I really feel is my “business”.  It is still in its infancy not yet consistent.  I want to produce, but find myself trying to get organised while still balancing the demands of a family and my hatred for cleaning for our house, which is on my shoulders…begrudgingly.  Don’t get me wrong I love a clean house, just don’t enjoy cleaning…it is however a luxury problem.  I have a home to clean, and people in my life to care for and a damn good life…

So with that small little post, as I am reorganising my studio so I can be more productive in the next coming months I am taking a moment to be grateful.  Grateful to have lived 46 years on this planet.  Grateful that I am creating art and that there are people who want to see it.  Grateful that I have the tools near or in front of me to make a huge GO of the dream.  And grateful that I have collected, especially over the past couple of years, a village of those who are like minded and are helping me reach my goals.  Today I say to myself… Atta Girl!