Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's amazing what you can learn when you get out(side) once in a while.

      Technically, the activities planned for a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship project are to take place during a concentrated 6-week period in the summer time. Teachers, of course, are engaged in the business of molding young minds during the rest of the year. However, the activities necessary for me to “unearth my creative identity” began last weekend with a visit to Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run.


       My proposed stained glass panels are not going to design themselves, and my ADD brain is not good at receiving mystical visions of highly aesthetic and compositionally complete visual inspirations. So, Phase One of my project is to visit the 28 Acres Land Trust preserves within a 75 mile radius of my home. My travels will take me from Wabash to each nature preserve in Miami, Fulton, Kosciusko, Whitley, Allen, Wells, and Huntington counties.
To see a list of Acres Land Trust preserves in these counties visit  http://www.acreslandtrust.org/Preserves.  My time at the preserves will be spent hiking the trails and taking many photographs of images that inspire my artistic eye. It is from these photos that I will compose the final designs for my stained glass compositions.
      On Sunday my kiddos and I took advantage of the gorgeous February weather (yes, I just said “gorgeous February weather!”) and went for a 1.5 hour hike. I was expecting MUD…and we got it! But what I wasn’t expecting were the breathtaking waterfalls that we found at Hathaway! The same rainy weather and ice-melt that provided the thick, messy mud on our shoes were also responsible for the rapidly flowing streambeds and rushing waterfalls we saw on our journey! 
I know what you're thinking..."she REALLY doesn't get out
much if she considers THAT a waterfall!"
I’ve stated before that we are shamefully guilty of not taking advantage of our Acres membership and so don’t hike much. But when we do, it’s always in the summer when all the streams, creeks, and waterfalls are dried up. What a wonderful lesson I’ve learned… get to the waterfalls when there is actually water to fall!!
There would never be this much water falling in the summer!

We just kept walking and finding more waterfalls! 
       I was also expecting to see a lot of brown, dead or dormant growth, and to NOT find much in the way of green. It is still winter, after all. And while we didn’t find any green shoots, buds, or seedlings, we did find green…moss!
It is not true that moss only grows on the north side of trees. In fact, it will grow anywhere it can find moisture and sunlight...like on this exposed bedrock.
     Frankly, I love moss - the thick, spongy, bright green kind that makes you feel like you are walking on clouds. I didn’t realize it, but moss is an evergreen plant. (Further proof that we rarely venture very far out into nature, especially in the winter, or I would have known this by now.) It stays green all winter and obtains all its nutrients from the air and from rainfall - it has no true roots.
More green: these fungi look green, but they are actually covered with a very fine moss!

      So all-in-all, I’d say my first outing for Phase One of my project was productive. We spent some quality time in the great outdoors, saw waterfalls in February, and learned something new about one of the worlds oldest plants. I think I’ll try it again this weekend!
It’s amazing what you can learn when you get out(side) once in a while!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Here's some money, go make yourself better..."

     I’d been mulling over the idea of applying for a grant, specifically for teachers, for a while. The grant, The Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship (http://www.teachercreativity.org/), is for $8,000 and can be used for anything you want…personally. Sound’s easy, doesn’t it? I think we could all think up a way to spend $8,000 on ourselves. But the kicker was this: it has to be spent on a project or activities that are “personally renewing and intellectually revitalizing.” The fact is, every year I consider applying for this grant, but have never had any good ideas for ways to personally renew myself and revitalize myself intellectually. I could have planned an exotic trip to hither or yon, traveled to unexpected locales and studied what-nots. But the ideas that came to mind just never seemed to fit ME.
       Until this year. Like the proverbial light bulb, an idea flashed into my mind as I sat in my classroom, where I teach art. As an art teacher, people say I’m a pretty crafty gal. And it’s true, I am good at making crafty things. But that about all I ever do. Crafty things. I like to say I’m a “stained glass artist.” But really I make trinkets you hang in windows or on Christmas trees, and the occasional picture frame. In truth, I have reached a creative plateau born of the need to satisfy my artistic expressions quickly so I can fulfill the requirements of life: domestic responsibilities, raising two children, holding down a job…well, you know. But lately I’ve felt that “satisfying my artistic expressions quickly” isn’t enough for me. I know that behind all the glitter and glue and pretty trinkets that I normally throw together (gotta get done and move on to laundry), there is an authentic, viable artist who want to shake off the expectations of pretty baubles and be appreciated for true artistic accomplishment.    Stained Glass Owl Suncatcher Bold Greens
stained glass picture frame - Shimmering Sea

These are stained glass creations made by me. You can visit my Etsy shop, The Glasserie, at www.glasserie.etsy.com

     Hence my grant idea: The project I proposed is based on my love of working with stained glass. This is a skill I learned in college and have continued to practice over the years. However, I no longer do stained glass for myself. I do it because it is requested of me, or for economic gain. What was once a creative, artful endeavor for me is now a rushed routine craft often done without achieving artistic satisfaction. I certainly don’t feel like the artist that I know I am capable of being. Therefore, I proposed to dedicate a focused 6 week period to designing and creating stained glass art that is more challenging and artistic than the trinkets that have become my standard. My goal for the finished product of my project is to create 4 large stained glass panels, approximately 22” x 22” in size, although the dimensions will vary with each specific design. I will take my inspiration for my designs from nature’s seasons, creating panels depicting nature-based scenes from autumn, winter, spring, and summer.
Landscape with Waterfall
by Louis Comfort Tiffany
I am consistenly awed by the incomparable Tiffany!  I won't even begin to pretend that I will ever reach his mastery of glass. But I sure do like to look at it!
        I have been a member of Acres Land Trust (http://www.acreslandtrust.org/), an organization dedicated to preserving natural areas in and around Indiana, for three years. Regrettably, I have not made an effort to enjoy the benefits of membership. I confess my neglect of free and unlimited access to Indiana’s natural splendor found in forests, wetlands, prairies, rivers, and waterfalls. Specifically for my project, I will explore 28 Acres nature preserves, hike the trails, take many photographs, and enjoy myself immensely. I feel this project will be a perfect opportunity to combine my passion for renewing my artistic sensibilities, my need to create for artistic satisfaction, and my desire to appreciate my state’s natural beauty and resources.

These are my kiddos, Hank and Evelynn on an outing to Kokiwanee Nature Preserve (http://www.acreslandtrust.org/templates/System/details.asp?id=44551&PID=635732), an Acres preserve in Wabash county, Indiana.
       And apparently the Lilly Endowment thinks so too, because I GOT THE GRANT!! There are many other things I will do with my $8,000 this summer, including taking classes, touring a stained glass manufacturer, and visiting stained glass exhibits and museums. Please stay tuned to this blog to see photos of my Acres Land Trust hiking experiences, to follow me as I take classes and visit interesting stained glass sites, and to be kept updated on my progress as I design and construct my stained glass panels. I will be very busy, but very artfully engaged this summer. And when it’s all said and done, I plan on feeling like a stained glass artist, not just professing to be one.

You just gotta love it when someone says, “Here’s some money, go make yourself better!”