Friday, January 26, 2018

Man Behind Curtain

Let me introduce you to the man behind the curtain. As a mixed media artists who aspires to being discovered and successful there are a few "flying monkeys" or demons of deception of my own I must embrace. The one that flutters about the most is the one of self doubt. I alluded to this in an earlier post. When I look in the mixed media publications and see all the artists there.  The glossy well lit images make me wonder if I will ever be good enough to be included among their pages. It's like a ladder I must climb but I cannot even see the first wrung. I hear the positive feedback from my customers and colleagues and have slowly supposed I am an artist. In my years of creating I'd always be compared to someone more famous, there was Martha Stewart in the beginning before her fall from grace, during my home decorating days. Then Tim Holtz when I moved into the mixed media arena, a natural comparison I guess. I have never met either of these mentors or celebrities with their devotees, and I give them props for their sustainability and presence among the paparazzi, however I seek my own path. Even the pictorial  papers I use tie me to a certain company or brand of which I must float above. I want my art to have its own voice, and capture you for its uniqueness.
Another that swarms around in my mind is the fact that I am a messy artists. I am a bull in a china shoppe and need to be bubble wrapped when it comes to my clumsiness. At any given time in my studio there are open bottles of paint, next to packets of metals embellishments, a tube of Weldbond my go-to universal adhesive,  a stack of brushes both wet and dry depending on the technique I am trying, jars of  gels, and a menagerie of other necessities. A cyclone of creativity, a thunderstorm of thought, a tsunami of techniques, an earthquake of expectations, a hurricane of hope, all these natural disasters may be found in my studio at any given moment. From the beginning of the business I tried to do pretty and pristine but that is not what excited my clients. They were more intrigued by the messier more chaotic creations of my artistic aesthetic...which I sometimes describe as controlled chaos or eclectic enchantment. My art is a perfect union of form and function. From the madness that is me has escaped some outstanding pieces of art.
A close cousin of the aforementioned is what some may call ADHD or shiny syndrome. A friend recently posted this on her Facebook page, "My brain is like an Internet Browser with 17 tabs open, 9 of them not responding, thousands of pop-ups, and where is that annoying music coming from?" It made me chuckle as it so aptly represents my artist brain. I never know where my art will take me. I have no clear destination in mind; the materials manipulate me and entice me down their long dark corridors. As I journey on I may pass a room that entices me to try a new novel procedure or another that reminds me of my tried and true techniques. Often my art begins as a thought like one of those themed rooms in some hotels. Then half way down the passageway I may become distracted by an adornment I notice, a crystal from a sconce, rust from an unkempt metal table, glitter glistening from the ceiling, a scent from a flickering candle, or numerous other lovely distractions. Somehow I meander through the labyrinth process and emerge with what will be.
But as in many a labyrinths the path will suddenly turn outward, seemly leading me away from the inner center goal. I sometimes come to a point in my art where I absolutely hate it. The colors are not as I imagined, they've become muddied in my impatience of add multitude layers before the bottom one has dried sufficiently. Maybe, the product has not worked as it was preached upon Pinterest. The struggle is real, I am on the list of hilarious top 20 DIY Fails. I love the pictures that show what we imagine next to what actually is. In my mind's eye I know what I want my art to look like, as a finished presentable piece so I am disenchanted when I am staring at the ugly duckling and I have no way of knowing its truer self. Discouragement is a demon which destroys many of an artist's dreams. It's hard to carry on as your perceived failures pile up around you.  I want to be one of those artists that is not remembered best after their passing. This is when my life partner will quietly give this sage advice, "Step away, give it time, then look at it through new eyes later. Work on something else."  
As I pursue this blog, anticipating adding tutorials of some of my projects and proven techniques, I battle against my organic nature.  I am undisciplined and eclectic by fault. I have never imagined a project from start to completion. I will be forcing myself to tame my wild horse and take baby steps. I will need to keep track of the products I am using, to be mindful of the layers that give many of my works their vintage, worn appeal. My training as a teacher will hopefully allow me to be successful as  many of lesson plans have done before.  I accept the challenge and one day may even release my first ever video tutorial, it would be my maiden voyage into the land of YouTube. I've watched some tutorials there, and while some are hopeful I find many daunting or deceptive in nature.
As if all these manic monkeys were not enough, this is another of many  professions I am choosing that defiles my introverted personality. I am a shy hermit of a man, a homebody deeply rooted, comfortable in my own skin, a seeker of silence who began this strange dualism when I left the comfort of being a dishwasher at  Friendly's to becoming one of the first waiters at my local establishment. I liked being a dishwasher, I liked making order out of all the crowded bins brought to me from the waiting staff. I prided myself in my multitasking and efficiency.  I was terrified as a waiter, as I am now during parent conferences, or speaking with my superiors, or being a vendor at a heavily trafficked show. I'm exhausted by their enthusiasm,  I want to recoil from their recognition, I'm burdened by their blessings, and I collapse from their companionship.
So I battle against these monstrosities and fight against the machine so that I may become by better truer self. There is a song by Grant Lee Buffalo, titled "Demon of Deception" that sooths my soul.  Lyrics in part are " I'm in tight with a demon called deception. It's alright he's treated me quite well. I'm in tight with a demon called deception. He's right beside me when I fail. To whisper words like brother nothin' here is any good.  And all I wanted was a little patch of green. We're in tight playing seven one night stands and deception made me as I am. Truth is I am in tight. I barely saw the light just as it clicked in, something saved my skin.." So I am going to embrace the discomfort and press on,  dislodging from delusions and live what I proclaim. Living a life not lived in fear.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Upon Further Reflection

I am sure you have heard it said "There is no such thing as stupid questions" and I know as a middle school educator the rhetoric I am supposed to spin but as a mixed media artists whose canvas is in book form I have had a few that I think may titter tatter into that category.  "Do they open?" goes to the top of that said list. Yes they open they are book. A close second is a duel question, "Can you write in them?" "Do they have lines?" I want to say "I can write in them...but I'm not sure about you." and "No they don't have lines but if you get a ruler that is easily fixed." But my educator training goes into action and I respond more politely. Thirdly they might ask something like "Do you have a (fill in the blank) book?" I rarely do thematic books or books with titles. I recently have added a Limited Edition Classic Combos line that are "-esque" in nature, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and Star Wars I have sold thus far.
So whenever I hear someone at our shows exclaim, "So, they are journals?"  I must interject and proclaim, "No, they are not just journals.  We call them treasure books and they are functional art" Then they might say "Well I'm not a writer so I would not know what to do with them." Or a more thoughtful inquiry might be "How do you use them?" Sometimes I try to explain art is meant to be appreciated and adored but normally because I've been asked these questions multiple times at various shows I show them our look-book and offer suggestions as how one might go about encountering their treasure book. These are ideas that I included:
Favorite Family Recipes
We all have fond memories of foods we enjoyed through the years, or a dish that takes us back in time to Aunt Blanche's Place. Why not keep them collected in a treasure book to pass on to others. I photocopied some of my momma's recipes in her own handwriting and they remind me of my childhood.

Your Family History
We all need a place to belong. A treasure book is a great place to save where you have come from. We all have deep pasts with many colorful characters that are worth remembering. With the use of or other sites you are able to see just how deep your roots grow.

A Beautiful One-of-a-Kind Journal
No  two treasure books are the same. Each is a unique collection of carefully chosen papers of the highest quality. Some have images added from a variety of sites and carefully adhered to enhance the overall appeal of your treasure book. You cannot buy these at the Wal-Mart and they are made right here in the USA. If you are having a writer's block and a difficult time getting started there are many helpful suggestions by doing a quick online search for journal starters.

A Holiday Remembrance Collection
Start a tradition by saving all your favorite holiday traditions in one location. Do you have a recipe for Aunt Ruth's Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Easter Eggs?  A treasure book is a place to keep it. or how about a reason your family does what they do. It is never too late to start a few of your own traditions too.

A Birding Journal
A species checklist is a great way to remember what birds you see, but hours after observations a simple checklist will not remind you of their behaviors, field conditions, or the other factors that can make each sighting memorable. A birding journal on the other hand, on, is a way to record each bird sighting in more detail. Those details can help you perfect your identification skills. Train your eyes, ears and other senses to make more intimate observations.

Garden Diary
There is something wonderful about writing a garden diary. It's a great way to keep a record of everything you have planted, when you planted it, and where you planted it.  Make note if your crop was hugely successful or a big flop. It's a wonderful to look back over the years and see what you were up to...and what the weather was doing.

A Baby Book
Start a baby book while they are still young. Too many magical moments do not get recorded in the hustle and bustle of changing the diapers and feeding your bundle of joy. A treasure book is the perfect size to keep on hand to write down each new wonderful surprise. Plus what are you going to do with all those sleepless nights? Best to have something creative to keep you company while the others are sleeping.

A Milestone Memory Book
Do know someone who is turning the BIG Two-Oh or the even BIGGER Five-OH-NO, or someone who is graduating from high school or college? Is there a special anniversary coming up and you are looking for that one-of-a-kind type gift? Why not make a treasure book for them and you will be top of their list and remember fondly forever. I do custom Wedding Books if you know anyone taking the big plunge. Treasure books also make great Bridesmaids and Groomsmen gifts. One stop shopping, get that crossed off your to do list so you have more time to plan the menu and musical selections.

A Wine Journal
A bottle of red, a bottle of white... we all know what we like when it comes to the wine we drink. Sweet or dry, the list goes on and on. A treasure book is perfect for keeping track of the ones you have enjoyed the most. Steam off the labels: keep track of the places you purchased it and maybe a way to reorder when this bottle has seen better days.

Words of Wisdom, Songs of the Soul
A Montage of Poetry and Images of Favorite Quotes
Place all those quotes that have become your life mantras, that have carried you through the darkness, or have given you hope to hang on. We all know that life sometimes sends us for a spin and a treasure book  can hold those lifelines for you when encouragement is hard to come by.

A Friendship Remembrance Book
Borrowing from the song, "For Good" from the musical Wicked, "I've heard it said that that people come into or lives for a reason. Bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them. And we help them in return. Well I don't know if I believe that's true. But I know I am who I am today because I knew you..." Take the time and make a treasure book for one or two of your BFF's telling them how much you appreciate and treasure them.
A Travel Journal
Channel you inner romantic side and catalogue your travels in a treasure book collection. be on the lookout for unique and unusual places the locals go so your journal will be even more enticing. Why not add a train ticket or your European day trip to visit the place your parents met in Prague.

Non-Traditional Scrapbooking
Many of you have the skills and the desires, a treasure book is just that blank canvas that can take you there. Be the first of your friends to take scrapbooking to this whole new level. They are show stoppers.
Photo Albums
A treasure book will be the envy of all who see it. They look great on the coffee table and is a delightful discovery for those willing to look  beyond the cover.

An Artist Art Journal
Even creative people need a boost from time to time to keep the artistic juices flowing. Choose a treasure book that will inspire you to create even more fantastic works of art, a masterpiece held within a masterpiece.

Bucket List
Everyone has one, but will you be the one to write it down and keep track of it? What are the things you want to accomplish? What dreams are still unfulfilled? Why not take a journey of the soul? What favorite places are still left to see?

Fashion Sketch Book
Channel your inner Project Runway fashionista and come up with some of your own unique outfits ready for the next fashion week at Bryant Park. Make it work!!
Beer Book
Keeping a  journal of your beer tasting can be fun. You can track changes in your tastes or powers of perceptions, changes in different beers, and share your thoughts with other beer enthusiasts. You can challenge yourself to try as many different types of beers as possible. You will also be able to remember a particular beer and why you liked it.  You can keep track of your visits to beer festivals, brewery tours and even create your own beer cellar. Why not develop and track your own beer and food pairings.

Foodies Fantasy/Restaurant Roundup
Every time you dine out, note the name of the restaurant, the date and the time that you went, and the people you went with. Describe what you ate and whether you liked it or not. Most places have business cards or carry out menus you could attach to your journal. Add the receipts for authenticity and keep a few pages in the front or at the back to list restaurants that you have been wanting to try.

Guest Book, Traditional Address Book
If you entertain frequently, have a summer home, or even a guest room, consider reviving the tradition of a guest book. Let friends and family members write message to you so you can remember their visits. Create the ultimate address book. Along with the standard addresses and phone numbers information, include references like birthdays, favorite colors, and gift ideas. Add a photograph of each person or draw a caricature of them yourself.

Prayer Journal or Spiritual Journey

Many of us believe in a higher power that guides us and brings us into our own best self. If you take the time to be grateful and remember your blessings you will be amazed at how truly blessed you are. Be still and know that someone is watching over you. This too shall pass. All shall be well.
The Possibilities are endless what will your treasure books become?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Long Winding Road

The story of Crooked Tree Cottage Creations starts long ago in a land of little wealth but much imagination. I was a quiet, lonely artistic child who never felt like he belonged or fit in. I hid my sorrows and calmed my spirit by taking long walks in the nearby wilderness near my hometown of Opps Pennsylvania. I grew up in a family with many artistic skills, all self-taught or passed down through the generations. My fraternal grandparents lived with us when I was very young. My grandfather was a trapper and my grandmother worked in a pajama factory. My mother grew gorgeous gardens that fed us and provided for much of the neighborhood. She was an extraordinary baker but kept few to no recipes. She learned tatting from her mother, a skill now long lost. My father worked in a factory and dreamed of being a mail carrier, he loved to sing in the small church choir.
I grew up and became a teacher and moved to Maryland and created magical spaces in each apartment I called home. On a teacher salary I never expected to own my own place, fast forward to March 2002 and I become the proud owner of a small, brick Cape Cod house I named Crooked Tree Cottage because of the large maple tree that was in my front yard. I spent many of summers traveling and visiting exotic places I never thought possible for a country boy from my background. I loved my new home and would elaborately change over the decorations for each season and host a party to showcase my accomplishments. My sangria was famous and caused many a late nights. It would take me up to three weeks to change out the seasons and people were amazed at the meticulous designs.
I still felt unworthy of their admiration and praises heralding me a guru of creativity and charm. I heard over and over again, "You are so creative!" or "You are so crafty!" but I never  imagined it to be true until one day I decided to make a business card and declared myself as a artist. My business card read Crooked Tree Cottage Creations, Jon David Lowe-Artist, Maker of Decoupage Antiquities, Fabulous Permanent Botanical Arrangements, Tranquil Photographs and other Creativity Curiosities. I sold mostly my flower arrangements honoring my mother's gardens and my love of nature.  I continued to celebrate the seasons, travel to and fro in the summers, and host my soirees but still had not realized my artistic dreams.
At the end of the summer of 2007 I meet my amazing life partner and we slowly moved to our current solitude. A quiet soul who avoided the spotlight, an extraordinary artists of his own, making all sorts of jewelry styles and designs. Wanting to spend more time with him and less time is creative chaos of changing over the seasons we decided to take a book making class at the local mixed media art center, named the Queen's Ink located in Savage Mill Maryland. I was a reluctant participant saying " I don't want to take an art class, they will be all arty and I won't fit in." I loved that class as he knew I would and I started to believe that maybe I was an artist and I had found my true joy. Over the next few years we would take any class that was book making in nature or would further our techniques for the books we were now creating. Many of the classes were taught by Chrissie Hines and she became a confidant and encourager of my craft along with the owner of the Queen's Ink, Patti Euler. They, along with my partner, saw in me something grander than I could not yet imagine.
I created a website and sold my first book in the Autumn of 2010, followed the next year with our debut show at a local high school, band fundraiser. We heard many kind words from the beginning as no one had seen what I was offering. In the beginning my books were on pre-made covers or up-cycled game boards held together with recycled mailing tyvek envelopes. They would go through a few redesigns orchestrated by the engineering mind of my constant companion and forever life mate. I wanted my designs to be unique and included decorative papers throughout the signatures and moved away from cardstock to a finer parchment paper used for awards. The spines became solid and we used the long stitch as a decorative design.
We designed a Secret Belgium Binding allowing us to weave our long stitch throughout the spine. I found a supplier that sold us parchments that are used in reproduction documents like the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence. They became the pages of our Latin line of books  that has a bookplate on the front inside cover that reads "Omnia mea mecum porto" It is translated on the inside back cover  and  reads "All that is mine, I carry with me." This is the inspiration for my work. I created a double book for my niece's wedding and sell them as a guestbook or a photo album for their wonderful day. It is not gender specific and I have had the privilege of making a groom and groom book and still waiting for my bride and bride book My latest design is what I have named Houdini Hideaway Books that are hidden inside a decorated box as a companion piece that mysteriously levitates as the lid is lifted, absolutely magical!
There are many artists whose classes I have taken that have influenced my work, among them Wendy Vecchi, Laurie Mika, Anna Dabrowska, Chrissie Hines, Patti Euler, Michelle Delorenzo Arsenault  and Amee K. Sweet-McNamara to name only a few. I hear the universe agreeing with me and saying I am indeed an artist but not yet discovered...

                                          Picture is taken by my sister

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Brave Baby Steps

Welcome to my blog. I am a mixed media artists whose canvases are hand-bound journals and what I am calling Houdini-Hideaway boxes. The hand-bound journals are one-of-a-kind unique designs that come from the deep recesses of my many imaginings. They tend to be vintage looking in nature and are filled with rich pages of parchments,  pictorial  papers, and what we call "butter paper" because it is so smooth and silky. The Houdini-Hideaway boxes have a book that is hidden inside of them. Many of these books will mysteriously levitate as you lift the lids from a clever design I have invented. Please come back to my blog often to see what new creations I have made.

I work in a multiple medias including intricate layering of paints, inks, and papers. I also add my own artist embellishments of resin and polymer clay and found objects.