Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series - Marcie Forest


When I discovered Marcie Forest and her wonderful work at the Forest Candle Studio, I was simply transfixed.  She wasn't just making candles from beeswax, she was actually creating the most amazingly beautiful small flower sculptures.  And not only that, but they were in the shape of one of my "favorite" flowers, the rose.  Since roses are considered to be one of the three sacred flowers and Marcie's work is so artistic, I thought that I would like to know a bit more about this highly creative person, her rose sculptures and her candle business.  I hope you will enjoy this inspirational interview with Marcie Forest as much as I did!

                                                                                                              ~ diane fergurson

Rose Candles
MBS: Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get started making art?

Marcie: As far back as I can remember I've loved art and felt a strong need to be creative. Some of my most joyful childhood memories growing up in the 1950's in Houston, Texas are: my mother taking me to art museums on weekends and my father playing jazz on his saxophone to me at bedtime. And with each new class in ballet, piano, drama and art I thought, "I'll be a dancer, a pianist, an actress, an artist!". I learned early on that creative expression has many forms. Exposure to talented artists in many fields made me want to explore what I could become talented at and eventually have a career in.
Over the next two decades, through formal study and self-teaching, I learned a wide variety of art skills. Some were passing fancies, others I became very committed to. I also had the opportunity to travel the US and Europe, soaking up the art, architecture, landscape and culture. These were all fantastic experiences that continue to inform my art-making today!

Settling in Southern California, my husband and I sold our hand painted and silk-screened clothing at a little boutique we opened on the Venice Boardwalk. The children's art classes I taught privately and in the community also helped contribute to supporting ourselves and our two young children. It was an exciting time and the future looked promising.

Then, as life would have it, my husband was seriously injured in an accident and suddenly it was all up to me to take care of the family. I decided to trust my faith in myself as an artist and my ability to adapt to the situation and attempted a bigger leap into making a living as an artist. What an unexpected turn of events followed that decision!

I was studying encaustic painting with Ann Thornycroft and fell in love with working with beeswax. Then a friend took me to lunch at a place I hadn't yet been to - The Rose Cafe in Venice, CA. It was beautiful with an art gallery atmosphere and rose gardens surrounding the cafe. I approached the buyer for their gift shop about making hand painted clothing with unique rose designs exclusively for them. The buyer said they weren't interested in clothing but they would be interested in candles. Immediately an image came into my mind of a candle shaped like a rose, mounted on rock, surrounded by dried roses. She was excited about it and told me to bring her a sample.

I had always loved candles but had never made them before. So day and night over the next 6 weeks I studied traditional candle-making methods and then developed my own. It was important to me that my candles be individual sculptures, evoke feelings of love for nature's beauty, and be made of pure beeswax, natural stone and air-dried roses. As soon as I made the first finished "candle sculptures" available to the public they were a big hit! That was in 1996 and they are still going strong. Over the years my candle designs have continued to evolve. I am always learning something new from experimenting with my own ideas and customers' requests.


MBS:  It seems like the image of a rose has been a reoccurring theme in your work over the years.
The rose, as you may know, is one of the three historical sacred flowers.  What is it about that image that you find so appealing?

Marcie: As visual inspiration they are amazing - so many colors, shapes and varieties. It's much more than that though. Roses thoroughly engage my senses in a way that brings serenity and deep satisfaction. They are enchanting with their captivating scents, velvety soft texture, the natural light glowing through their delicate circular layers, and the way they change from day-to-day as their densely packed petals unfurl to expose a beautiful and mysterious center. As an artist I hope to spark a similar sensory and emotional engagement for those who encounter my work. I find a deep connection of sensuous and symbolic aspects shared between roses, beeswax and candles. Highly valued throughout history, they are life-affirming symbols of love, celebration and remembrance. To me they are ideal together to create powerful works of art that convey their combined aesthetic, emotional and spiritual qualities.

Pale Pink Summer Rose Tapers


MBS:  Tell us about your process.  How do you create your candle sculptures?

Marcie: Rose gardens are abundant here in Los Angeles, providing me with continual inspiration. On my walks, I sometimes take photos for later reference. At random times, fully-formed images of new work will pop into my mind and I make sketches with notes so I don't forget what I'm thinking about. New ideas also come when customers ask if specific details can be incorporated or to fit a particular situation. It gives me joy to connect with others through my work, knowing it brings them joy as well.

Crafting the candle sculptures is quite complex. Over the years I've learned that some aspects require very exacting skill and critical timing whereas others allow for spontaneity and freedom. The process demands close attention, adaptability and patience, nourishing me intellectually, creatively and spiritually. Shaping each rose candle is a meditative experience, instilling in me a love for my work and the people who will receive it.

The beeswax, being a natural material, handles differently depending on the weather and seasons. In fact, I can tell when the weather is changing just from how the beeswax handles! In winter it's especially more difficult to work with than in summer - it takes much longer to melt &/or warm up for pliability, and cools faster so that I have to reheat it more often and work with it more quickly.

I begin by pouring wavy-edged sheets that I tear into smaller pieces. Then in a series of stages taking many hours over several days or more, I hand-build, shape and dip the delicate layers of beeswax until satisfied with each candle design. For adornment, I air dry whole roses, petals and leaves, hand-dipping them in beeswax to preserve their natural beauty. I also use other flowers, organic spices and herbs, and eco-friendly metallic paints and glitters on some designs. For the candle bases, I hand-cut granite and other beautiful or unusual types of stone. My intention is that each candle be unique and have its own identity.

Rose Candle Sculpture

MBS:  You've created these wonderful designs for a number of years now.  How have they evolved from your original idea?

Marcie: For the first year I only made what I call "Rose Candle Sculpture", which are the ones mounted permanently on a stone base with dried whole roses attached. Many of those first candle sculptures were much smaller than the ones I make now. In retrospect, I think they were small because I was figuring out how to make them and how to sell them.

Within one year my candles were selling well in over 10 local candle and gift shops, and the shop owners all told me that their customers said they were so pretty they would never burn them. That was a wake-up call! So next I designed little rose-shaped refill candles so customers would know they could light the candle sculpture and replace the burned out core and still have it look like a rose. During the next year I also designed several different sizes of large free standing rose-shaped candles (what I now call Rose Garden Pillars). The year after that customers were asking for tapers. It took me a long time to design a taper that had a feeling of looking rose-like and kept those sculptural qualities as the taper burned down.

Rose Tapers
All the styles were popular which kept me extremely busy, helping my technique and the work itself to improve. Over the years I became more adventurous with shape and the rose candles are more flared out now than they were early on. Also I started making rose candles that I call "column style". These are basically straight-sided but have my signature wavy-edged thin layers so that the candles still have a delicate rose-like layered look. In the last couple of years I added to my designs by trying out various new adornments: organic spices, crushed rose petals, organic lavender buds, glitter, etc. The most recent new design is my luminary rose candle, which took nearly two years (off and on) in development.

Another evolution has to do with color. Those first few years I was only working with honey amber beeswax and customers started asking if I had any other colors. I was hesitant to try that because I knew there would be multiple problems to sort out both logistically (need a dipping pot for each color) and design-wise (it's much harder to choose which rose petals look best than on white or amber beeswax). Eventually I became so intrigued by what I might design that I started experimenting with hand-dying the beeswax. I'm so glad I did because I love it! It's definitely harder to work with from a technical standpoint (each color handles differently) but it's worth it. About two years ago I began to occasionally use more than one color combined in a single candle.

Unity Candle Set
MBS:  Any ideas on where on expanding the designs for the future?
 
Marcie: I think of my candles as dynamic "living" sculptures, responsive to their environment, with their own light from within and their changing form as they burn down. Being fascinated with how light and color reveal form, create mood, and evoke emotion, I plan to continue playing around with shape, form and coloration in different ways.

Occasionally I try other designs that pop into my mind, completely different from the roses. I've been slowly working on several ideas for candle sculptures poured in sand. One of these ideas is based on organic shapes found in the ocean (i.e., jellyfish). I have a particular image in my mind though and due to the limitations of the beeswax and the delicate tentacles of a jellyfish, I don't know if it will work out to be able to package and ship to customers, so we'll see...

MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you?

Marcie: On a weekly basis I have three basic types of work days: 1 day out of the studio for picking up supplies, mailing packages, library for research materials, and any other business errands; and 4-5 days working in the studio that vary in length from 6-12 hours a day. Time in the studio is divided among making the candles, administrative tasks, and researching and developing new ideas. Most days I work long hours but I love the flexibility and independence that comes with working for myself.

My work day usually starts around 10am. The first thing I do is put my two largest wax pots (one amber, one white) on the stove. It can take 2-4 hours for the beeswax to melt depending on the weather temperature. Meanwhile I eat breakfast, do my morning stretches, check my Etsy shop, emails and phone calls. Then I look over my order sheets and weekly calendar notes and decide what tasks need to be accomplished.
The candles have a lot of steps that need to be taken in a certain order for the various stages of production. Also, there are a lot of materials used in the making and packaging of the candles and they all require prep work. Prepping the materials and crafting the candles require intense mental and physical focus, so I usually work in 2-3 hour increments with 1-2 hour breaks in between. For part of the break time I may do administrative tasks, the rest is spent relaxing, talking to family and friends, eating and replenishing my energy. At some point in the afternoon I take a long walk to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise, and clear my head.

I usually listen to music on Pandora when candlemaking - I love a wide variety of music, choosing whatever enhances my energy level and mental state at the time. I sketch ideas and make notes whenever ideas come to me.

Some of the work time is spent taking care of the business side of things. I photograph my work, design and print all my marketing materials, create the content for my Etsy shop and social media pages, and network online and in person to meet colleagues and make new business contacts.
I end my work day with checking my emails and Etsy shop again, participating in Etsy team activities, making notes in my weekly and monthly calendars, and reading research material I've gotten at the library.


Pink Rose Candle
MBS:  I originally ran across your wonderful work online.  How has the whole online/social networking experience been for you?

Marcie: So far it's been a great experience. I've met lots of wonderful people and made new friends online through having my Etsy shop, participating in Etsy teams, and having a Facebook business page. I have a Pinterest page too but haven't had time to work on it as much as I'd like. It takes a lot more time to establish and maintain an online presence than I initially expected, but in reality it's probably less than it would take to have one's own brick and mortar shop. It's fantastic seeing other artist's work and reading about their journeys, and being connected to people around the world. People have been very supportive of my work online and I'm so grateful this opportunity exists.



MBS:  What are you currently working on?  Any particular projects or shows in the works?

Marcie: Weddings and gifts for special occasions are now a major focus for my work. These candles are usually made to order with customized details, so I no longer sell wholesale to shops, preferring to work in direct contact with my customers through my online venues. It's exciting work as each candle is different and offers challenges to me as an artist. I love working together with these customers to create something that has so much meaning to them.

Because my candles are so unique, romantic, and can be made to match the wedding couple's vision for their special day, they have become sought after for Unity ceremonies, wedding reception table decor, and gifts for weddings and engagements. New colors and adornments are in the works to give wedding couples more choices.

Future projects revolve around wedding, holidays and home decor. I've been approached by several wedding and home decor magazines and blogs to feature my candles in their print and online publications. I'm working on creating new designs to showcase this summer and fall.


 MBS:  You had an idea, or vision to create this very inspiring work.  You had the courage to follow that vision...which is not something that I'm sure was easy to do...and many people in your position would not have done.  Through your experience what advice do you have for others.  "Following your heart" a lot of times is easier said then done.

Marcie: I agree it's not easy, but if you have a desire to make art then do it, especially if not doing it makes you feel like you aren't being true to yourself. Whether you want to create things for yourself or for others, as a part-time or full-time endeavor, each small step creates momentum and progress. Take bigger steps whenever you're ready and embrace courage over fear. Expect ups and downs and mistakes. Be open to change. If you hope to support yourself as an artist you need to don a business hat - take the time to learn the business side of things! Ask for help when you need it and trust you'll find solutions if the help isn't available from where you sought it out. Make notes about your ideas no matter how good you think your memory is. Notes will refresh your mind to the original details and can spark an even better idea at a later time. Share your vision and learn from others. Inspiration and guidance is abundant if you look for it and stay open to it. Watch out for signs of physical and mental exhaustion - take good care of yourself because being an artist takes stamina, patience and perseverance. Enjoy each success, though they can come fast and sometimes be overwhelming like a flood - you'll grow from each experience, and after all, it's what you've been working towards all along :)

Thank you Marcie! 



You can find out more about Marcie Forest and the Forest Candle Studio at:


Links to other interviews in the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.

         

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Writer.ly - An Interview With Co-founder Abigail Carter


When we interviewed Abigail Carter a few years ago, it was about the publication of her book, "Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation".  What has she been up to since then?  Well, she's co-founded the online marketplace Writer.ly to help bring together the talents of writers, publishers, editors, and designers into a mutually beneficial online community.  Since there are so many people in the Self Help and Spiritual Community who write, would like to write, or have self published their own work, I felt that learning a bit more about this wonderful new service could be valuable to quite a few people.  Make sure to pass this article on to anyone you know who may be interested in this terrific service!

                                                                                                                 ~ diane fergurson

MBS:  What is Writer.ly?

Abigail:  Writer.ly is an online marketplace where a writer can find service providers who will help them publish and market their work. It's a place where a writer can find a book editor, a cover designer, a social media expert, a web designer – you name it. It's also a place where someone can find a writer to help them, such as writing coach or a ghost writer. Conversely, it's also a place where service providers such as editors and designers can find work.

You can post a job – perhaps a manuscript that needs editing – give it a budget and a deadline and have editors bid on your job. You choose based on price, experience and ratings on the site posted by other people who have worked with that editor.

Writer.ly is also a community of writers and publishing experts working together to produce a successful, quality product.

 MBS:  Is it for illustration work too, or just writing content?  What about businesses who are just geared towards distribution?

Abigail:  Yes, there are illustrators on Writer.ly too. Writers need help with distribution as well. There are other websites out there who specialize in the distribution of ebooks (Bookbaby.com, for instance), but if you were to post a job needing help with distribution you would get bids.

MBS:  How did the idea for Writer.ly evolve?

Abigail:  My co-founder Kelsye Nelson and I met at a writing Meetup that she started several years ago, called Seattle Daylight Writers.   I had just published my book and had no idea that I was meant to do my own marketing, but learned a few things by talking to some of the other writers there. Some people in our group talked about needing an editor or a book designer and we realized there was no place where writers could find the people they needed to help them. Publishing a book requires a team of people and with the surge of self publishing going on right now, that has never been more true. Kelsye and I talked about this a lot and we got excited about this idea of bringing writers together with self publishing experts. But it was really Kelsye who formulated the idea for an online marketplace and was accepted into The Founder's Institute (http://fi.co/), a start-up incubator program that helped to build it into a real business. When she was a few weeks into the program, she came to me and asked me if I wanted to join her. I didn't hesitate, since I knew the need for such a marketplace first-hand.
We launched Writer.ly on January 25th, 2013 and now have over 3,600 people registered. It's been super exciting.

MBS:  Is Writer.ly for all levels or writers, or mostly just for those new to the world of writing and publishing?


Abigail: Writer.ly is for all writers, both brand new, self published and traditionally published. Even traditionally published, well established authors need marketing help, and new writers need coaches and good editors. There's something for everyone at Writer.ly.

MBS: Is this a pay service, or is it free?  When people sign on to the service, what can they expect?

Abigail: It is free to register, post a job and bid on a job. Writer.ly takes at 10% transaction fee, so it's up to the freelancer whether they want to pass that cost onto the writer, or absorb it into their own cost.



MBS:  In the Mind Body Spirit Community there are many first time writers and self published writers.  How can a service like Writer.ly benefit them?

Abigail: There is lots for a first time writer. It's a place where you could find a writing coach, and soon we will have services that will allow writers to select from a variety of services offered by our freelancers. Sometimes new writers don't actually know what services they need, so this new section will be a showcase of what's out there. As well, we are close to launching an educational section of the site that will enable people to learn about the craft of writing, self publishing and everything in between. Our philosophy is all about helping writers become successful, so everything we do is geared toward that goal.

MBS: Where do you see Writer.ly headed in the future?  What are some of the upcoming plans you have for it?

Abigail: I mentioned our "Offers" section which will be launching in a few weeks, and our "Community" educational section coming soon as well. We hope to create a vibrant community of writers, freelancers and self publishing specialists who work together to improve the quality of work that is being published in all the new forms available right now. It's exciting days for publishing right now, and we hope to open the door for more great work to be accessible.

MBS:  When you wrote your book, what were some of the biggest learning lessons you took away from it?

Abigail: In writing my book, I learned how much I actually needed to do myself. I honestly thought I could just sit back and let the publisher take care of everything. The reality is that I needed to build my audience, market my book and distribute it in any way I could. Some of those things happened almost by accident through writing my blog, but I could have done a LOT more to get my book into people's hands.

I am definitely going to self publish my novel. It will be a big undertaking, but I'm excited for the challenge.



Abigail Carter and Kelsye Nelson
Some other things about Writer.ly -

    •    We will be at Book Expo America on May 29-June 1st  at Javitz Center in NYC. (wanna come and visit our booth?).
    •    Guy Kawasaki (apethebook.com) is on our advisory board and is a big advocate of our service (see video below)
    •    Visit our Facebook page
    •    Twitter (@writerlytweets)
    •    Google+
    •    We also have a couple of really good webinars teaching people who to use Twitter
Part 1 and Part 2.






Thanks Abby, and good luck!










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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Keeping Things in Perspective - Positive Affirmation

Morning Droplets by Jude McConkey


It's easy to look on the bright side of
things when all is going well...when
the smiles outweigh the frowns and the 
sunshine is streaming in the window.

But the happiest people are the ones who can say-
when all is going wrong, when the clouds get in
the way - that a little unhappiness must balance
the joys and that a bit of sadness has its place in
the world, too.

For these special people know of the balance of
nature's ways.  They know that nothing grows
where the sun always shines and that gray skies
and rain can be an unregrettable sign of the day.

For these fortunate people, their favorite season 
is always the one they are in, and they continue to
look on the bright side, knowing that the sunshine
might leave for a while, but that it will never be
gone for long.

~ Jamie Delere




Prints of Jude McConkey's "Morning Droplets" can be found in her shop on Etsy.




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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Thoughts on Mother's Day

We recently moved my 87 year old mother into an Assisted Living facility.  It wasn't really a sad or bad thing - just an acceptance of time passing - what is.  While we were packing up her apartment I ran across the note, pictured above, taped rather haphazardly to the back of a framed photo that was on top of her bookcase.  My mother was never one to keep my things from childhood.
  Photos yes, but not sentimental mementos or any of my artwork. 
So when I saw this note that she had saved for over 50 years, I knew it must 
have held a special place in her heart.

Putting an elderly parent in an Assisted Living or Nursing Home will inevitably throw you into a backtrack through time.  As I ran across the note and starting thinking about growing up, I not only thought about my mother, but all the other motherly figures who were important during different periods of my life too.  My grandma, aunts, godmother, my friend's mother, neighbors - the list is a long one.

   My mother never pretended to be supermom.  She was outstanding at some things - ahead of her time really - good at others, and fell short on others.  But what for what she didn't manage to do, there was always someone from that cluster of women who was there to fill in the gaps of my ever 
growing knowledge base.
Definitely a divine plan of some sort.
 
 So to all those women, and especially to my own mom - cheers!
Thanks a bunch!



Enjoy your Mother's Day!





*as a post note - I open my sketch book, thumb through the pages, and what do I see?  
All these years later and I'm still drawing flowers - over and over and over.  
I guess some things never change!


                                                                                                          ~ diane fergurson





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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Healing With Gemstones - Getting to Know Carnelian




Hello, and welcome to the return of the gemstone series.  The first year focused on gemstones of the zodiac, and, specifically, the mystic gemstone for each sign of the zodiac. 

This year, we’re going to be a little more freeform.  We’ll still try and focus on stones that have a connection to the month in which they are featured.  However, it could be a regular birthstone, a sun sign, or have any one of a number of different connections.  This way, we can focus on a wider variety of stones, and also keep your guessing as to what the next month’s topic will be.  




We are going to kick off this phase of the gemstone series with one of my favorite stones to use, Carnelian.  Carnelian is one of the alternate stones for Taurus, making it a good stone to discuss this month.

Origin and History

Carnelian is a chalcedony, making it a member of the quartz family.  Carnelian beads dating back to between 4000 and 5000 BC were found in an archeological dig in Pakistan.  Today, much of the carnelian used commercially comes from India, some from Madagascar, and a little from Uruguay and Brazil in South America.  The Rajpipla mines in Gularat, India, have been producing commercial carnelian since 1500AD.  They have a way of heat treating it in earthenware pots to give it its fiery red color.

At an archeological dig in Ur, in the tomb of Pu-Abi, a Sumerian Queen, believed to be from the the third millennium BC was found wearing a robe that contained carnelians.  You can see the items in the photo below:





Ancient Egyptians used carnelian, lapis lazuli and turquoise most often.  The Goddess Isis used a carnelian amulet to protect the dead.  The amulet was named Tyet.  It would go through a process in which is was placed on a sycamore tile, soaked in Ankhami flower water and then placed on the body of the deceased.  This was done so that the soul (or Ka) could be protected from any harm while it moved on through the afterlife.



In Ancient Rome, it was used to make signet rings and seal rings, for imprinting onto the wax that sealed an important letter.  Carnelian was used because the wax would not stick to it.  They also used it for cameos and intaglios.  Whereas a cameo is carved on the front, an intaglio is carved from behind, so that the image is inside the stone, not on top of it.





Both the Greeks and the Babylonians considered it a good luck stone.  There is an ancient proverb that says “No man who wore a carnelian was ever found in a collapsed house or beneath a fallen well.”

Many Muslims value carnelian as a stone that brings peace and happiness to the wearer.  This is due to the fact that Mohammed wore a ring with a carnelian seal.

Healing Properties

Carnelian is looked at a stone that provides strength, courage, ambition and inspiration.  It has been used in decision making because of its ability to motivate and focus.  It helps dispel passiveness and idleness.

For those who meditate, this is a good stone for grounding you and connecting you to your surroundings.  It is associated with the root and sacral chakras and can help clear out those areas and aide in getting the energy to flow through them.

It is believed to protect against negative energy and ward off negative emotion.  It is believed to encourage love and to bring about peace and serenity.




Placed near the front door, some believe it can help keep your home a safe and happy place.

The Romans used it as a symbol of courage and power.  Ancient Buddhists used it for protection.  They would set it with lapis and turquoise to enhance the power of the carnelian.

On a more sexual note, carnelian was used in ancient times to help treat infertility, menstrual cramps, impotency, and frigidity. 

There are also interesting legends about having dreams of carnelian.  Dreaming about the stone itself is believed to mean that there is a strong, positive force of energy heading in your direction.  Dreaming of actually holding carnelian is thought to help you in your waking life, as it is meant to inspire you to new heights of creativity and action.

Carnelian Jewelry

Carnelian is one of my favorite stones to work with because of its vibrant color.  Here are a couple of carnelian pieces from my own collection available on Craftstar:

Carnelian Necklace 2





Carnelian and Pearl Necklace


Cleanse and Purify Your Stones

For information on how to cleanse your stones, see this wonderful article by Diane Fergurson, published recently on Mind Body Spirit Odyssey.



~ Giani




Articles from our series on Healing With Gemstones of the Zodiac can be found here.






You can read Giani's Tarot reviews in the Review section of this blog.
This is the first article in this wonderful series, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more
 in the upcoming months!  I thank Giani
 for his wonderful continued contributions to Mind Body Spirit Odyssey. 


The beautiful jewelry pictured above can be found in Giani's website and on CraftStar.
                                                                                  
 ~ diane





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