Category Archives: Around the Valley

On inspiration in art — 2015.2

I started creating with “jewelry and junk” after my Mom moved to an assisted living facility and weren’t sure what to do with her 27 drawers of jewelry — some of it of the costume variety but all of it special for one reason or another — mostly because it was hers.

Both Joan and I were looking for a way to celebrate our memories of which shell earrings she used to wear with which muumuu, the stunning pieces that she purchased on her travels — Mexican silver, a crown-shaped ring from Thailand, a seemingly endless supply of pins from cruiClock by Joanse-ships and state capitals and special events. We sifted through it all and separated out the “good stuff” between the three of us.

It wasn’t long before Joan was making bookmarks with beads (we sold these at Dark Horse Books), and treasures such as this lovely clock — which has been a beloved part of our home for a LONG time.

I started making frames and tins for friends, then tried my hand at more difficult pieces using all kinds of recycled bits. It didn’t matter whether it was a cap off a Bic pen or a spangly rhinestone earring — everything seemed to find a place somewhere (even if it rested a good long while in my collection of  “stuff.”) You can check out a lot of my work here and here, (this latter is one of three FB photo albums of my work).

Soon people were saving things for me; I’d be gone for an afternoon from the bookstore and might come back to find a box or baggie of jewelry, or odd-shaped bits of packaging, that some thoughtful person had brought in for me.

And then I started to hear Game Fish by Larry Fuenteabout “real artists” doing this kind of work. For example, “Game Fish” by Larry Fuente is at the Smithsonian Art Museum!

This giant piece is made of hundreds of pieces of kids stuff — toys, dominos, plastic figurines, even a baby-doll arm. Inspiration indeed.

And suddenly, in February, after years of doing my artwork, I have discovered many others who are working with found materials to create amazing pieces.

Check this out — by a British artist named Jane Perkins — a reproduction of one of my favorite VermeeJane Perkins Girl with a Pearl Earringr paintings but all done in  pieces!

She has created amazing canonical works — including Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” and portraits of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. She calls herself an “artist in found materials” — love that description.

I also recently learned that several of my cousins are making tins and other multi-media pieces, like these two made by my cousins Janie and Laura.

This was afJnJ_Janie_made_for_Margeter I had created “great women doodads” for all my girl cousins, and a tin for my Aunt Marge Rambo, which another cousin says sits on her kitchen. JnJ_Laura_made_for_Ally


I also really like these shoes, which a friend saya on Facebook and tagged for me. They’re of Swarovsky crystals, mostly…

I’m not sure how they get the beads to stay on them but they are certainly inspiring!

Sparkly shoes from FB

Which brings to my latest effort….

Last week, I donated this little book tin to Ollie-Fest, a fundraiser for the Eva Dahlgren/Dan Hundere family. It was given away in the raffle; not knowing the recipient, I found him on Facebook and send him a message, saying that I was hoping to chat with him about this unique piece.

book tin for Ollie FestHe wrote back that his daughters, four- and six-years old, “absolutely loved it. They filled it with all sorts of fun stuff and have carried it around the house the yard and collected shells and leaves from all over the yard.”

I’m so happy to know they are playing with it and enjoying it —  lots of good synergy there. The tin is from the Girl Scouts and the dominant color of green represents all things that are healthy and growing, as well as recycling, long a passion of Eva’s. This tin’s shape,  a “book,” is special because Ollie’s such a good reader — no surprise since Eva’s a librarian and was a long-time employee of ours at the bookstore.

All of this encourages me to work on yet another piece for a fundraiser, and to remember that inspiration comes from others’ joy in your work, from the examples one finds elsewhere, from sharing your ideas with others  — but mostly from within.




Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Valley, Cool causes, Fun art, Matters of the heart, other finds, Scrapbook, Sorting things out

Super Souper Bowl — O/N it 13

One of my favorite annual events is the “Souper Bowl” hosted by the ceramics program of Teton Arts Council.  It happens in early-mid November each year and seems to symbolize the transition from autumn to winter.

It’s a clever and delightful twist on a giant potluck. First, many volunteers create delectable belly-warming concoctions, filling tables full of slow-cookers and crockpots containing soups with descriptions like “vegan curry rice” and “bean-free chili” and “lemon chicken ravioli.”

Then, volunteers fill the entire City Hall entry way with a veritable smorgasbord osouper-bowl picf locally made ceramic bowls of every size and description, from brightly-colored to square to serious-looking. Every person who attends can choose their favorite bowl to use for their choices of soup that night– and then can take it home.

We have a whole collection of bowls from the last four years. Last year, Peter made soup; this year, he’s in Philly this week, so I’m on task Thursday to cook and take admission money at the bowl table.

Prizes are given for the best soup; the local music is always entertaining, kids love it, and 460 Bread donates their wonderful rolls. As a fundraiser it’s both affordable and fun — my favorite kind of community evening.

It’ll be a fun night.  See you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Valley, O/N it, other finds

Subbing — O/N it 11

Being in front of a classroom as a substitute teacher is always a learning experience. The last day I subbed, at Teton High in mid-October, I decided to capture bits of the day, and found inspiration on several levels — from the students, from various signs, and from staff and teachers.

I always leave knowing a little bit more about the way young people see the world — and about myself.

This IMG_2078hallway poster, above a classroom door, encourages punctuality; in fact, where just about everything else runs on “Teton Valley time” — it seems like just about every event begins at least ten minutes late around here — at the high school, the bells ring right wIMG_2077hen they are supposed to, and everyone hustles between classes.   My travel-agent parents would have approved.

I loved that this second one was on a classroom door, rather than in a locker room; the message, to go outside one’s own expectations, certainly applies to a wider audience than athletes.
And this oIMG_2079ne, a reminder to limit personal destructive behaviors, outlines expectations of every student.

Every time I’m at one or another of the schools, I’m struck by something new. This time, it was an over-sized mural painted on the main wall between the office area and the cafeteria.IMG_2074
I asked one of the teachers if it had special significance: no, she said, just the idea of breaking free to find what’s in the world outside…. I liked that, too.

Be sure to notice it next time you’re there; it’s opposite the doors to the gym and just past where the classroom corridors veer off to the north and south.


When you’re a sub, you rely a lot on school personnel.  They are incredibly helpful about procedures and AV problems and the schedule and answering general questions. I don’t sub that often, so I’m always glad to see the smiling faces at the THS office; neither Regina Beard nor Trudy Treasure were that excited about me taking a picture of them, but I caught them in action, anyway. And teacher Rose Hendricks helped in a pinch about how to deal with the classroom computer.

And lastly, I remember just how vulnerable we are in the early parts of our lives….. and that a little growing up goes a long way. On that beautiful fall Friday, I had one class of seniors (Economics) and two classes of sophomores (World Issues).  IMG_2083The lesson plans provided by Troy Miskin weren’t that different but students’ attitudes and the content they prepared certainly were. The seniors were attentive, interested, engaged on a higher level intellectually — the underclassmen — well, not necessarily so much so. Here’s the last class rarin’ to be dismissed at 3:09 pm.
Oh, it doesn’t seem possible that I roamed a high school’s halls as a student more than 40 years ago!  But I’m glad I’ve had the chance to rub shoulders with those in local academia at least every so often.

Perhaps subbing is as much a humbling experience as it a learning one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Valley, O/N it, Scrapbook

Fall, falling — O/N it 7

The snow predicted for last night came, but only to the upper elevations. Table Mountain is already well-covered, what looks like its flat surface (but is actually a steep scree slope) lies buried.

Tphotohis view shows how socked in it was this morning to our East; what looks like the silhouetted mountains is actually cloud cover over their tips, and you can’t make out Table’s distinctive shape against the still gray crags of most of the Tetons, as you can when it’s clear.

I loved to see such a vivid condensation trail as well — one of my favorite indicators of the magic of our technological world and that someone, today, is traveling somewhere exciting….

Frankly, I was delighted to wake up to the still-green leftovers of our barely-there lawn.

We had plephoto(1)nty of wind overnight, though: this morning I am encouraged by these leaves on the aspen trees in front of our porch. They are so stubborn to take flight!

They can’t “know” the inevitability of their fate.  The kitty’s bowl is testament to just how litkitty bowl w leavestered our front porch was with them today.

We’ve also had many freezing nights over the last month, evidenced by the fact that we’ve already swapped out Sweeter’s regular bowl for the plug-in one with the heater.  I’m glad I was home today to empty it of its organic matter and refill it for her with fresh water.

She didn’t seem too worried about anything, though.

kitty on boxOn this, what might be our last day of Indian summer (judging by the clouds gathering to the west), our little black cat is perfectly content to sit on her towel and blanket atop her box in the somewhat-warmish sunshine.

“What?” it looks like she’s saying. “Let me enjoy this moment won’t you?”

Yes, I will.

This has always been one of my favorite times of year, and this autumn has been a particularly noteworthy one here in Teton Valley.  In what can be one of the  most divisive places (it seems) on earth, the local population joins together to appreciate the beauty of the colors, the absolutely brilliant days, and just how many of them we’ve had.

Peter and I went for a good long walk out in the fields to the east of our house yesterday afternoon — a great way to cap this about-to-end season.

I see on the national weather that my cousins in Kansas could be having trouble in the shape of tornadoes today.

Whatever conditions you find yourself in, on this final Monday in October in Monday, take good care.

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Valley, O/N it, Scrapbook

Making the case, brilliantly — O/N it 6

As a kid, on hot summer days I loved taking my bike down the hill behind our house to the little library tucked on one side of Cole Shopping Center. I had some sort of carrier for the books I’d check out; although I don’t remember its shape or color, a clear muscle memory remains, of carefully stacking my treasures so they’d all fit inside for the ride home. I’d be back in just a few days to find something new to absorb my long afternoons and open my world, far away from our house on Foxcroft Road.

It wasn’t long, however, before I started acquiring my own collection of books. A school vendor, Scholastic I think, offered some kind of deal where purchasing books from them would earn points that could be “spent” on free books. Just my kind of thing! That was the beginning of my own personal and lifelong desire to not just read books but to acquire them myself.

More nonfiction on the main floor, and my reading chair, where I also knit, watch TV, and occasionally do artwork.

Nonfiction and reference books on the main floor, and my reading chair, where I also knit, watch TV, and occasionally do artwork.

Luckily I found, fell in love with, and married someone who, as a young boy in Worland, Wyoming, devoured every Hardy Boys mystery (and much more) in *his* local library.

Our mutual appreciation of words eventually led to our bookstore business. More importantly, it is a hallmark of our relationship and indeed, our lives together.

So we have our very own library.  It sits 20 feet away from where I write this, one of the many additions to our original log cabin, on the flats north of Driggs, in an alfalfa field with a beautiful view of the Tetons.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by books.  But I’m often on the quest for something that’s not yet on our shelves.

In the last ten days, even in my small rural area, I’ve visited (and checked out books from) three public libraries. These institutions are in two states — Jackson and Alta in Wyoming, and Victor, Idaho, a mile from Rusty’s house. Speaking of miles, my cross-border literary consumption covers about 550 of them;  I just received a book via Wyoming’s inter-library loan system (from Laramie) of a title strongly recommended by a avid-reader friend (author Cort Conley, director of literature for the Idaho Commission on the Arts) in Boise.

My good friend Eva Dahlgren — former longtime Dark Horse employee who has been a fulltime librarian for something like eight years now — told me this week about a piece by author Neil Gaiman. The essay’s all about libraries and the importance of reading for kids, and adults, even in this techno age (here’s the link to it).

Wow, struck such a responsive chord in me! In seconds, it took me back to those childhood bike rides in Cheyenne.

The title pretty much says it all: Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.

If  you don’t get the point from that, the subtitle goes even farther:  A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens.

We have three shelves like this one along both the north and south walls of the mezzanine. This is our collection of travel books of all types.

We have three shelves like this one along both the north and south walls of the mezzanine. This is our collection of travel books of all types.

Just one of the quotes she called to my attention:  According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need. Libraries are places that people go to for information.

If that blip doesn’t make you want to read Gaiman’s whole essay — it takes ten minutes, max — here’s one that jumped off the page to me (and maybe explains, better than I ever could, why I still love to read a great novel): Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

The center section, fiction, on the west wall of the mezzanine. Peter built this giant shelving unit while I was traveling in Asia seven years ago.

The center section, fiction, on the west wall of the mezzanine. Peter built this giant shelving unit while I was traveling in Asia seven years ago.

That’s the bottom line for me.

I know that reading has made me better, made me different.

May today you encourage a child to read, pick up a book to inspire yourself, or maybe sit down to write a few lines of your own.


These three photos, for those who have wondered what our library looks like, provide some views of it. Trust me, it’s oh so much better in person!  And when we’re gone from this world, I’m guessing our books will end up — where else — in a library.


Filed under Around the Valley, Matters of the heart, My Weekly Reader, O/N it, other finds

More than paint: O/N it 3

From my very first days as a journalist, when I used to write the “St. Mary’s Report” for the high school page of the Wyoming Tribune (or was it the Eagle?), right through my days on Wingspan at Laramie County Community College, decades later at the Teton Valley News, in all the Powder Mountain Press publications, on the op-ed page of the Idaho Falls Post Register and as a guest columnist for the Valley Citizen,  I always thought it was just a little bit fun to see my “byline.”

It’s an ego thing, I know. But there’s something about writing something, putting it out there for people to read, and then rereading it yourself and saying YES, this is good work, recognizing that the words you’ve crafted together actually say what I want to say and in the way I wanted to say it….

I’m sure architects feel something of the same rush when a building they’ve designed is finally bricks and mortar and people are actually walking in and out of the doors — I’m sure theirs is a much bigger rush!

Oh well. it’s ll about scale and satisfaction.

I don’t see my byline in print as much as I once did, but it seems just as fun in cyberspace, especially when it’s NOT here on my blog.

Right now I especially like writing for my friends at CityPASS, the Victor company that offers combined prices for admissions to must-see attractions in about a dozen cities. Here’s a sample, a look at Philadelphia’s Murals, which was just posted on the CityPASS CityTraveler blog yesterday.

This photo is  somShelter_Mural_detaile of the cute-critter detail of the “Gimme Shelter” mural. You can almost hear that dog barking, can’t you?!

It’s just one of the many pix I have of these Philly treasures. It was tough to chose which of them to send to CityPASS. It’s never a bad thing to have more images than fewer, as selecting just the right ones becomes part of the communication challenge, a step on the journey.

Here’s to a great Sunday, whoever’s bylines you might be reading, whatever pet you might be caring for, and wherever your feet may wander today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Valley, Fun art, Journeys..., O/N it, On writing, other finds

Joining a board?

I was recently asked for some impressions about a particular nonprofit because a friend had been queried about joining its board.
While it’s not my right to criticize or assess any group, debating whether or not to join an organization’s leadership team is a big decision. 
To help my friend, I put together a list of general topics that I have taken into consideration (and the questions I have asked myself) when considering taking on a new commitment.  
I thought others in the nonprofit world might find them helpful, too, so here they are, in no particular order:
  • Mission of organization (do I care enough about its goals to commit)
  • Reputation within the community (is this group best known for what it DOES — or for what it DOES NOT do)
  • Board meeting requirements and schedule (what if I can’t be there)
  • Communication practices within the board itself (how much happens outside regular meetings)
  • Committee organization and minimum responsibilities (is there some role I can fill that’s a good fit for my passion and expertise)
  • Financial obligation (am I expected to donate a certain amount of money, and if so — how often, when, and can I afford it)
  • Leadership structure (who are the officers and do I respect them
  • Leadership reality (how are tough issues handled)
  • Other board members (do I like the people I’d be serving with and/or do I want to get to know them better)
  • Staffing (if there is at least one paid employee, what is that person’s skill set and is it sufficient to meet the needs of the organization)
  • Expectations of service (if all volunteer, what’s the demand on each board member to meet the group’s mission, and can I do my part well and in good spirit)
  • Personal ramifications (does this service mean I won’t have time for something else I value in my life)
  • Constituencies (what’s my relationship with those we serve and others involved in the organization in a broader sense)
  • Timing and desire (do I *want* to get involved in this organization and is this WHEN I should)
  • Gaining cultural familiarity (how will I learn enough about this organization to even make this decision)

Volunteering is one of the most important aspects of my life, but I’m careful about doing due diligence to researching what’s a good fit. Sometimes, serving in a non-board-member capacity is the best route to take; I have spent literally hundreds of hours of service volunteering for a score of local nonprofits.

CFTV_Logo_RGBica_logo_colorAt the moment, I start my second term on the CFTV board in January.

At the end of June, I finished serving three four-year terms on the ICA board, a statewide obligation that also required traveling to meetings, usually the five-hour-plus trip to and from Boise (and when we operated Dark Horse, scheduling employees to take care of business so I could be gone.)  That gubernatorial appointment was largely the result of my four years on the Teton Arts Council board around the turn of the century — and connections made through the store and as editor of the Teton Valley News.

Through just these commitments, I have made so many friends and created so many valued memories.  The most important lesson learned (and relearned, over and over): Giving earns you so much.

Just about every good cause needs involvement and leadership!  Here’s hoping that when you are asked, you will consider serving.

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Valley, Cool causes, Sorting things out