It's not often you get to experience a day, and know it's one you'll never forget. Today was one of those days for me.
I had the pleasure to visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, MO today. This ship and all it's cargo was one of hundreds of steamboats in the 1800s that sunk in the Missouri River. It is the world's biggest and most complete pre civil war time capsule ever to be uncovered! This steamboat hit a tree snag in 1856 and went down in 15 minutes, in 15 feet of water. All 121 passengers survived. Time took the Arabia and it's 220 tons of cargo away as the river changed it's course over the next 135 years. In 1988, 5 adventurous men set forth to uncover it, buried 45-70 feet deep in a cornfield. Yes, it was buried below a cornfield.
One of those men was Jerry Mackey. I had the museum to myself, and only one man was there as it opened. Turns out, it was Jerry. He proceeded to give me a personal tour of the massive collection that they are still preserving for over 2 hours today! To hear the tale from Jerry made me feel like I was somehow connected to the steamboat, and to the discovery myself. We walked room after room together as he regaled me with the triumph and tragedy of the Arabia, and his fellow partners. This dear man is so knowledgeable, he's probably forgotten more than I'll ever know. His wisdom and curiosity are unmatched. He knows the intimate details of all the items aboard, and has been a devoted researcher over the 30 years since they painstakingly pulled up the cargo. Their discovery has literally rewritten our collective knowledge of the 1850s in America, filling gaps with stories big and small. To see two story lines unfold; the story of the frontier and the steamboat searchers made history and the American spirit come alive in me in a way I never thought possible.
Not one piece of the collection has been sold or is in private ownership. The partnership of the five men vowed to keep it all together as one time capsule to share with the world. It cost them 1.5 million to recover the steamboat, and they made their money back in ten years of museum visitors. Talk about vision!
Jerry reminds me of both of my grandfathers somehow combined in one. I was hanging on each word, each story. I wanted to stay all day. I wanted to be part of their team!
I knew I would be seeing this amazing collection as I made my way to Asheville, and I listened to Surviving Savanna by Patti Callihan which is also about a steamboat from the mid 1800s and it's modern day recovery. To be immersed in this brave period of American history (and the historical preservation and seeking) over these 20 hours in the last two days has given me such a beautiful perspective on perseverance, resilience, and tenacity.
Adventure is out there. I feel the heaviness of the last two years wash away as I drive East to my beloved art show and family reunion with my fellow artisans, craftsmen, and collectors.
I could talk for hours about these photos below, but instead, I encourage each of you to come find this museum and walk it's 1856 rooms of artifacts for yourself. You will be transported back in time through the hope of the American West. Many of the items were brand new. Dishes never used, hats and shoes never worn, prefab homes never built. In many cases the last hands to touch them were their makers.... That is a powerful story for this maker, at least.
The 1856 Steamboat Arabia
Bookplates of the Arts & Crafts Movement
Feeling vulnerable about now?
Driving home from The Grove Park Inn on Feb. 25th with one of my life-long friends (Terri Boylan), listening to Brené Brown's The Power of Vulnerability was a highlight for me. I had just come from the 34th Annual Arts & Crafts Conference for the 7th year in a row in Asheville, North Carolina. I had sold my artwork to peers, collectors, and respected & dear friends. I had the great joy and honor to facilitate a Roycroft Artisan brainstorm session with some of the most talented people on the planet that are like family to me. I had amazing conversations about the future, full of excitement and discovery. You just can't stop me after Grove Park Inn every year. I get SO filled up with all the good in the world, all the healthy choices I want to make for myself, all the friendships that have deepened, all the art I want to create... it's really a spiritual experience for me on many levels.
As we were driving home on that Tuesday, my hubby called me and told me the CDC was saying that COVID-19 wasn't a question of "if, but when" it would hit. That it would disrupt daily life for everyone. This was a sobering moment to say the least. I didn't go into denial, I went into "what can I control" mode. I made it home Wed. afternoon, unpacked my car from the art show, and headed straight over to Costco for a cart-worth of, well, everything. It was surreal in many ways. Seeing all the shelves full, seeing normal shopping happening, no one worried about much of anything. I was grateful for each and every item in that huge store. I was calm, but reserved as I walked up and down isles, picking out all sorts of tasty varieties for the days ahead. I was thinking to myself, this may be the last normal shopping trip for me for a time. It wasn't. I returned to the grocery store the next day to buy things I forgot, and the next day because I didn't think to buy x, y, or z. It was almost like the twilight zone everywhere I went - for a full two weeks, my husband and I thought maybe we were going crazy --no one else was paying any attention, and the collective denial of our fellow man was HUGE. Everyone around me and on social media was making a joke of how blown out of proportion this whole thing was, and some actively mocking and belittling anyone that was voicing any sort of concern. I felt very alone. Yesterday, March 11th arrives, and WHO declares it a pandemic. Everyone is forced to see it now, things start to change. Everything closes down: schools, sports, concerts, tourism, conventions, airlines, stocks. I asked myself, what is in my control? Cleaning. Taking my kids out of school one day before the district extends Spring Break. Staying home. Numbing out to a favorite movie. Working on taxes. Washing my hands. Mindfulness on not touching my face. Breathing. Treadmill. Meditation. Being grateful for all that I have...
In The Power of Vulnerability, Brené talks about how we as humans handle crisis. We have one of two paths: under function, or over function. That's it. I am an over function queen in crisis. I tick off the checklist, I do the deeds. I gett'er done. I'm also an under performer in crisis when I think I've run out of my list of things I can control. I've laid in bed in the fetal position and scrolled the news on my phone plenty too. The key to these patterns that we all share is to be aware of which one you are in. Take the time to do a self scan. Am I over performing? That means I may be stressing out the people I'm with, I may be barreling ahead too much without thinking. I may be adding stress to my crisis. Am I under performing? Am I frozen in unrealized fear, ready to numb out at all cost? Am I not functioning like I need to be? I say to myself "Jules, you are under functioning. Get up." This very new practice is really working for me. I tend to bounce back and forth between the two, but with smaller amounts of time between. Smaller waves. It's a great regulator to take the time to check in on yourself and see where you are on this simple, binary topic. All the emotions come into play still, but if I use these terms, I find that I can see it better as constructive criticism, and the negative self-talk can't take hold. Brené 's research on the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living is a daily ritual for me to review now too:
This audible book is different than her TED Talk, it's not in printed form that I know of. This is a culmination of all of Brené Brown's decades of research. It's brilliant. Six 1-hour sessions that will change your life. Session 5 & 6 are all about these guideposts. I've listened to this talk 3 times now in the last 7 months. I recommend a listen through, and then a second pass with paper and pen for notes because there are so many nuggets of wisdom everywhere. Terri and I had 21 hours of road in front of us, and it didn't shock me even a little that we would listen, pause the book and talk, and then listen again for the entire drive. We had 15 hours of the most authentic, caring, and vulnerable conversation two best friends could have.
We all are going to have a bit more time on our hands perhaps with all the disruption to our daily lives. What will you do with your time?
What if we can lessen the blow of a different disease, the "Disease of Busy" (too much stress, too much work, too many activities, too much travel, too much everything) because of COVID-19? What if the silver lining is that we make it a goal to slow down, we find time to appreciate our family more, ourselves more and seek deeper connections? Pickup that guitar that's gathering dust, or learn how to really use that new tech thing you bought that's still in the box. Catch up on your family photo albums... play those games that are in the closet. What if we can take some of this balance back out into our world when this crisis fades? I believe we have a global opportunity to collectively use this gift of more time. We may even leave a larger impact on our planet than we can fathom. Wouldn't that be something? It may not impact the whole world for very long, but this gift of time could impact your life, and your family for many years to come, if you choose it.
I know this hiatus from the norm will increase my gratitude, make me a better mom, wife, artist, cook, and house-cleaner. Setting this intention now for myself is how I'm going to succeed. It's how I'm going to honor my creator and the universe for the positive, collateral and residual good that can come out of something so unknown.
References: Treasures of GSA Library, Wikipedia, Pinterest
The Hills Are Alive...
My daughter Abby in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Leidel's in Laterbrunnen, Switzerland
Hallstatt, Austria. So breathtakingly beautiful that the Chinese built an exact replica of this town!
My daughter swooped up into a Mozart Opera in Salzburg, Austria
I've recently been commissioned by the Civic Center Conservancy to create a painting to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Greek Theater and Civic Center Park in Downtown Denver. On this journey, I've found and fallen in love with the artwork of Allen Tupper True (1881-1955.) and I wanted to share some of his amazing story here.
He was born in Colorado Springs, and spent a great deal of his life here in Colorado. He grew up living at a time where the west was still a beautiful combination of early settlers, Native Americans, frontiersman, trappers, and prospectors. His goal was to always tell the true story of his American West: the hardships, virtues, spirituality, work ethic, and daily life of all the people living here at the turn of the century.
Photo Credit: Victoria Tupper Kirby in her book Allen Tupper True: An American Artist
Meaning Behind "The Raven"
I've had some questions about my raven and the meaning. There's a lot tucked into this one. The messy tail feathers are very much on purpose.
In my raven, there's an Art Nouveau feel of course, so there are some curves thrown in, but most importantly, this raven is a truth seeker. Especially when it's hard and can be unbelievably brave to tell the truth. This raven and the motto were inspired initially by the "silence breakers" of 2017 and beyond. It's quite literally meant to ruffle tail feathers. The truth isn't always easy, and it's not always attainable for many.
Odin (from Norse Mythology) had two truth-seeking ravens fly the world and report back to him. They were named Thought (Huginn) and Memory (Muninn.)
In each voyage for every individual, I believe that if we strive to speak truth, happiness is close at hand. Speak truth not only in the present to those around us but, even more importantly, to ourselves. The narrative we end up believing about our inner self through our thoughts and our memories needs to be checked or even reevaluated from time to time. Are we holding up truth even then? Are we honoring our truth by not tearing ourselves down with our inner monologue? Are we glossing over something we really should feel remorse for and make it right? Are we being fair, loving, and truthful to the one inside? Be honest... The voyage of self discovery is the longest journey we'll encounter in our lifetime.
The Meaning Behind Wisdom Tree
There's a lone tree atop a hill filling tens of thousands of people with inspiration, a sense of stability, connection to nature, and peace. This tree isn't deep in the Rocky Mountains, or on a hilltop somewhere in a remote part of Tibet. Nope, it's in an environment that you may least suspect from the description you just read. It's in the heart of Los Angeles, California.
This aging gnarled pine is a respite from the hustle and bustle below. People from all over the world hike to this singular tree in hopes of changing their perspective. Not just by the view, but by the words, images, song lyrics, and letters of inspiration that people leave in a box beneath the tree for all to read. It's a place to reconnect with Mother Earth, amid a sea of busy. It's a place to rest and breathe, and stretch, and write. Wisdom Tree represents a vein of hope for the natural world and a reminder to lift your head up and seek stillness if even for a short moment each day.
Original gouache painting 16" x 20" Framed in quartersawn oak - $2600.00. Prints available.
Brother of the Shadows
Inspiration comes both from the past and present for me. The beautiful dance through time that Edward Curtis and Paul Unks have is an amazing thing to behold. I'm so honored to have Edward Curtis's Incense over a Medicine Bundle in my art studio. This artisan giclee print brings mindfulness everyday through the grounded spirit of the Hidatsa People (plains tribe from modern-day North Dakota.) The pipe you see from this photo taken in 1908 is actually over 2,000 year old and still used in ceremony today. I can almost smell the single smoke line of sage burning as I gaze into this quite moment in time.
Paul Unks of Mountain Hawk Fine Art http://www.curtisprints.net is unmatched is his authentic and painstaking detail to recreate Curtis's work as he would have done over 100 years ago. I'm grateful for your friendship Paul, and if only we had a time machine to go back and meet Curtis and the Native American friends he made, I think we'd do just that.
To learn more, please read my article (written for the Colorado Arts & Crafts Society, see the file below these two images) on how much love goes into Paul's photogravures, & goldtones. Everyone should know the name Edward Curtis. The historical work he did in preserving the heritage and history of over 80 Native American tribes through story and photography still lives on today. My admiration for both the Shadow Catcher, and The Brother of the Shadows runs deep.
Springtime at Red Rocks
Spring blossoms at Red Rocks are a reminder (in Colorado especially) that some things last only a short time. But if you live that moment fully, it will bring more joy to you during the glimpse you witness.
As an artist, I feel so much gratitude when I can catch a short glimpse that will live on in my work.
Julie Leidel shares news and musings on inspiration for her artwork.