Wednesday, July 8, 2020

"Close to Nature's Heart" - a celebration of mountains CALL TO ART

"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, 
once in awhile and climb a mountain 
or spend a week in the woods. 
Wash your spirit clean." 

This quote by John Muir sings to us as we sit in quarantine from the Corona virus. Some areas have started to open up, other to shelter again.  We want to remind people of the joy and serenity of the mountains in this difficult time.

The Morgan Arts Council
The Ice House in Berkeley Springs WV is hosting 
"Close to Nature's Heart"
a celebration of mountains

September 18th to November 8, 2020

This show will exhibit the beauty, calm, joy and majesty of the mountains. 
All 2D and 3D art will be considered.  
The gallery is family friendly so keep it G or PG rated please.
The Ice House is in charming tourist town so think about pieces that can fit in someone's suitcase or be mailed.

Eligibility You must be 18 years of age to enter. There is no fee to enter.

Sales and Commissions  The Morgan Arts Council Ice House Gallery will retain a 30% (20% for Co-op members) commission on any works sold during the show. Credit card purchases require an additional 3.5% fee. Checks will be issued to individual artists within two weeks of the closing of the show.

Juror  Theresa Wells Stifel of Stifel and Capra is the curator for this event

Calendar Timeline
Work must be submitted online between July 8th and August 10th.
Entries submitted by July 15th will be considered for print promotional materials.
Final notifications sent out August 15
Artwork must be mailed or shipped by September 8th.

Show participants are advised bin pieces and cards are a possibility. Please advise of you have appropriate pieces.

For consideration, please send an email with
Your name, phone number, titles,sizes and prices of works along with
3 images with title and artist name in an unzipped jpeg file (example Naturesheart.TheresaStifel.jpeg)


Friday, June 12, 2020

The Bubble Conundrum - I Can't Breathe

I often feel like I live in a bubble. 
Self employed, working alone, still feeling new to the area. 
A feeling exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
I appreciate that self quarantining is a privilege.  
As a survivor of multiple viral pneumonia bouts, I have known the inability to traverse a room because I couldn't get enough oxygen in my lungs to propel me to walk.
So I have a healthy respect, nay fear, of contracting the virus. 
So I stay home. Stay in my bubble. 
I want to breathe.
These bubbles were painted on top of a covered up failed painting. In frustration I added "I can't breathe".

Adding "I can't breathe" again obscured the original message but did not stand out.
I am ridiculed by some for staying put most days.
My mental response is "you do you, but don't come visit me please".
Recognizing that people you care about don't respect your beliefs is a conundrum. Upon further reflection though I realize it not so much I need a shared belief system with my loved ones. 
After all, I have friends that don't share my religious beliefs, or parenting methods, or dietary regimes and that is of little consequence to me. 
I have realized what is important to me is that good, old fashioned word, morals.
Morals defined as not society's ethics, but that internal conviction of right and wrong.
In the past, I have tried to express myself without offending others. 
Don't rock the boat. Be nice. Keep the peace. 
That bubble has burst as I watch the world shatter.
Writing "I can't breathe" in loud red paint however is instantly legible and obscures further what is underneath.
"I can't breathe." George Floyd cried as his breath was stolen from him. The nation watched, stunned.
Most are horrified. Others can't seem to understand the collective outrage. I watch the commentary. So divisive. So US vs. THEM. So hateful. 

"There is no corona virus because I don't know anyone personally who is sick." 
"There is no racism because I am not mean to people that don't look like me." 
It's all a hoax or a scam or a plot or a conspiracy so they proffer.  
Everyone seemingly in their own bubble. 
I don't understand.  What is the thought process of people so willing to ignore others truths because it doesn't fit in with their experience? Why do I care if I offend them?

Covering the messages with bubbles obscures the words.
My sister said to me yesterday "Just because I need to lose a few pounds doesn't mean there is no need for food banks".  Being over six feet tall means I myself can't walk into the average mall in America and buy a pair of pants or shoes that fit. Does that mean I don't exist?  
Silly examples but they follow the same logic. 
Such fragile reasoning. 
Fragile as a bubble.
Staying in your bubble keeps you from being exposed to The Other.
I sit here and worry about friends stricken by the corona virus. 
I sit here and fret about sick friends I can't visit, relatives I haven't seen since lock down began. Graduations and wedding postponed, life on hold. I worry most about my children 
and the world I have brought them into. 
A world where a man can't go for a jog without being shot.
I sit here with my own truths and my lack of knowledge about the causes of such hate and systemic oppression in the world. It's overwhelming. 
I find this hard to do alone. I tend to find truth in relationships. 
Whether friend, colleague, neighbor, or relative all relationships take time and community. 
I am deprived of this community right now. 
The occasional Zoom call, while helpful, is not replacing old relationships and it is certainly not helping find new ones to help me get out of my bubble of ignorance.
I pray for this pandemic to end.
I pray for this hate to end.
Popping these bubbles expose you to others experiences.
So I read.
 I listen.
 I reach out. 
 For George.
 For those suffering injustice. 
I try to understand.
I try to breathe.

"The Bubble Conundrum" 36x48 by Theresa Wells Stifel
I am finding Rachel Cargle's Do The Work Course a helpful place to begin to learn to see with new eyes. Especially Day 4. Taking Implicit Bias surveys from Harvard were eye opening.

If you have a favorite read, let me know. 
Thanks for reading these words.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The End of an Era - The Counter finds a new home.

This baby has been with me for ten years. It came into my life the first month my shop had moved to its West Broad Street location.  A lovely woman walked in, saw me ringing people out on a card table and said "Honey, you need a COUNTER." Turns out she was a retired antique dealer and this 1800's North Carolina general store counter was stashed at the very understanding, long suffering friend's house.  She ended up selling it to me for a very reasonable price.  I felt like a legit shopkeeper right then and there.  A couple of neighbors and Randy's macho pickup delivered it to the shop. We literally carried it in by our fingertips because it cleared the door by a scant half inch! (And no, I did not even think to measure the door!)  This counter was the epicenter of activity for years.  I dragged it from Falls Church to Lewes Delaware to Coastal Virginia where it has taken center stage in my studio.  The only issue with that is it really to short to work from so it mostly just acted as storage.
Karma came knocking when my friend Anna took me on a whirlwind tour of Hilton Village in Newport News.  We popped into Design & Consign and met owners Stephanie & Robert. Design & Consign's two locations are packed FULL of lots of vintage goodies, furniture and home decorating elements. Lots of chatting ensued and they are now the proud owners of both the counter and the revolving cases.  I am happy they have found a new home where they will live out their intended purpose and will be enjoyed by more than just me.

Let's be real- it's bittersweet to sell the counter. I have wrestled in the year since my big move whether or not to open up another shop. I miss the community we created and the friends I made through running the business.  But I must confess I enjoy the freedom of not being a 7 day a week retailer and I am thrilled with the leaps and bounds my art practice has taken.  I am hoping when Bob retires this fall we will be able to have a life balanced with creating, playing, online work and shows.  Fingers crossed it will actually happen.

The counter has been around almost 200 years and it will be around for another 200.  If you want to go visit it, either in person or online, you can check out Design & Consign on Facebook here. The new location opens in June!

PS I have been invited to do a collaboration with Stephanie & Robert. Stay tuned for details!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"May cause dizziness" - Confessions & reflections on Mental Health Awareness Month

I am lucky. Until now, I have never suffered from anxiety and depression like some of my friends and family do.  Perhaps that is why I didn't realize how far down the rabbit hole emotionally I was until something very simple happened.

To back up a little bit, last fall I was having some breathing issues that I thought were allergy related. As it is not unusual to react to new environments after a move I didn't protest when my doctors prescribed some new medicines for me to try.  The next time I went in I was prescribed more meds as my breathing was labored, my heart was racing sporadically and my blood pressure was all very erratic. Tests were ordered to discover whether I might have pulmonary fibrosis (as it is present in my family) or an artery blockage.

As you can imagine, I felt like crap.  I was anxious and scared to think I might need major surgery or have a fatal illness.  I found it harder and harder to simply move. I found it harder and harder to get motivated to work.  I slogged through my days- doing what needed to be done and nothing more. I wasn't sleeping well and had to drag myself out of bed in the morning.  Simply, I was not my normal self.

After my exploratory surgery determined I indeed did not need a bypass I told my doctors I wanted a re-set. That I felt over medicated - lightheaded, jittery and erratic. I asked if there was any harm to discontinuing the pulmonary and heart pills I was on for a week or two. With their blessing, I discontinued them.

Two days later I woke up and told my husband "I feel like myself, instead of trying to ACT like myself."
Turns out the initial medication I was placed on just causing me to physically have the symptoms of panic attacks, anxiety and depression without the stereotypical "blue" feelings. I assumed Ifelt nervous and sad because of my escalating physical symptoms. Laying in bed at night and having my pulse leap to 98 beats a minute, breaking out in a cold sweat reading a book, being half way through a 2 mile walk and not being able to catch my breath - none of this was anything I have ever encountered.  

Lucky me, my mental health issues were solved by NOT taking a pill.  I have a whole new sympathy for people that have depression creep up on them or suffer from other mental illness.  When I confessed to close friends and family what had happened, everyone, EVERYONE was surprised and nobody saw it happening. Even those friends that suffer from depression themselves did not recognize it in me until I started reeling off my symptoms.  Then they recognized themselves.

1 in 5 people in the United States suffer from some sort of mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness ( has a plethora of resources to access if you or a loved one needs help.  If you want to learn more about the warning signs of mental illness check out their link here

If you need help, please ask for it. If you love someone that deals with the reality of managing a mental illness every day, educate yourself on how you can help them.  If you don't think you know someone that struggles with mental illness you are misinformed, you do.  

1 in 5

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
PS It seems like most of my health issues at this point can be solved by losing 50 pounds so cheer me on if you see me out walking. Of course they are still are threatening me with a statin but I am a little gun shy...

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Staycation - A Pirate, a Bride, and a Field Trip or two

While my hubs was busy at his Bar-be-que competition this weekend I fully intended to catch up on the work I missed with medical hi-jinks earlier in the week.  The bad news was I just flat out wasn't up to working with my hands as my wrist and arm are still healing from the medical tests.  The good news? I can drive with my left hand so I decided a little field trip or two were in order. 

These ruffled lilac tulips are calling my name. So unique.

 First stop? Brent & Becky's Bulbs in Gloucester, Virginia was hosting an Art in the Garden show on their lovely grounds. Not surprisingly the flowers were insanely beautiful and the artists work matched!  I had fun chatting with the artists and learning about their work.  My favorite booth was Connie Powell's. 
Connie Powell and wonderful work
 Her work was very soulful with lots of subtle layers. I bought a lovely piece for a friend's birthday (unless I decide to keep it for myself!) and I am hoping that Connie might teach me her secrets of nose drawing some day.
you can follow Connie @connie.supthinpowell on Facebook & Instagram
 I got home in town to see my neighbor grandson and his new bride posing for photos after their wedding before they headed out for their reception. After Friday's horrendous rain it was so wonderful to see that blue sky above the wedding tent!
Congrats to the young couple!
 Sunday dawned and Bob & I decided to take a trip over to Yorktown and watch our pal Tony and his pirate crew invade Yorktown.  There was a whole Pirate festival going on today.  The people and the dog watching were fantastic, as you could quite imagine.
I love the contrast of the pirate ship against the behemoth Coleman Bridge.

Our man Tony let Bob come aboard.
 It was such a lovely day outside that we wanted to grab a bite for lunch while we were out. Umi Sushi is a "hiding in plain sight" tiny restaurant right on the Yorktown Riverwalk.  Not exactly pirate fare but very tasty, especially when we nabbed the last outdoor patio table.
Umi Sushi Lunch special. Love that Spicy Tuna Roll
 One of the joys of being self employed is that you have a flexible schedule.  Of course there is an old joke that self employed folks are the only silly folk that quit forty hours a week jobs with a boss so that they can be their own boss and then work 24/7.  Now that spring is here we are making a conscious effort to get out and learn more about our area. Here's to new adventure! And healing so I can get back to work...

Dionysus was hiding in the ladies room in one of the local restaurants. The surprises keep on coming!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Happy Birthday from the Hospital - real life vs social media

 Tuesday was my birthday. Tuesday was also the day I went into the hospital for some cardiac testing to try to puzzle out some answers on troublesome ekgs and stress tests. So while I was waiting for my procedure I sat and read all my wonderful Facebook birthday messages.  I was sort of amused that everyone assumed I was gallivanting around, eating gourmet food with a champagne toast when instead I had been fasting before heading to the cardiac care unit. Aaah, social media self vs real life. (Although to be fair, I did not post any fake photos on my birthday.)
The operating room techs shared a slice of a fellow staffer's cake with me after my procedure!
 Happily, nothing was discovered that required surgical intervention. I am thrilled and beyond relieved. It was scary feeling like a ticking time bomb.  It was also a reminder that I need to take better care of myself.  With all the medical hi-jinks my husband has been through all I pretty much coast on the fact that I have never had high cholesterol or sugars and that even though I am overweight I "carry it well" and am fairly active physically.  Apparently that is not sufficient when one hits middle age. So off to the gym I will go.

Which was WAY tastier than the salt free dinner I got as I recovered.
 I use social media to hold myself accountable in my art practice. If I look at my feeds and see nothing new it's time to hit the studio. I also use social media to remind myself to look for beauty in the details. My son harasses me occasionally about stopping to take photos as opposed to just experiencing the moment.  I tell him by looking for photos I notice things I might not if were not looking for beauty.  I am an optimistic person that doesn't dwell on the negative in real life and I think my social media self reflects that as well.  I am annoying pragmatic and realistic 99% of the time but I think complaining or being negative is truly a waste of breath so here I am, in all my creaky middle age splendor.
Here's what 58 with no make up and new earrings looks like.  Happy birthday to me. 
PS on the 100 day project blog the night before I went into the hospital- there was a wonderful post about not beating yourself up if you missed a day or 8. My competitive self was grateful for the permission to rest. this will be Day 20 of 100. I am proud of myself for not bailing...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

Bunny shortcakes
 Holidays tend to bring out the food memories and traditions with people.  One of our now favorite Easter desserts - Strawberry Bunny Shortcakes started somewhat whimsically.  Back in the olden days (early 90's) there was a gourmet chocolate shop in Tysons Corner called Ethel M's.  It was named for Mr. Mars' Mom. Yes, Mars of Mars Chocolate Co. Ethel M's made beautiful, flavorful gourmet confections and they were a Stifel family special occasion treat.

At Easter one year they sold handsome cookie cutters filled to the brim with chocolate. The cutters were supposed to be a decoration I think but they were adorable functional cutters and I use the cutter the following year to make our shortcakes a little more festive. And that is how they have been made, of course, ever since!

Do you have any quirky holiday dessert traditions?  Do tell!
Bunny shortcakes moved to the coast last year!
PS Happily we have two cutters so someday the kids will each have one when they set up housekeeping and start cooking Easter dinner!