I was going to write 21 reasons, but that seems exhausting.
2020 was a year.
A wildly unique and dreadfully heartbreaking year. We made it through. So many people did not.
The sun rises. Seasons continue on. The world moves relentlessly forward into the unknowable future.
My dog, Ellie, now 10 years old, just snuggled her little body next to mine.
I have some of the most amazing humans in my life.
The story of Abstract Embroidery Portraits
I have recently released a new commission option on my website and I am really excited to open this opportunity up to others. You can order your own custom pet portrait or family embroidery portrait.
Pictured above is a portrait I made for my dear friend. This is her family, including their fur babies past and present. I used a combination of two photographs to create a template to work from.
Because I was using two different reference photos I needed to create a solid line drawing of the portrait before I could ever add this two fabric and stitch. I love it because she has this drawing also and if we got real excited it could become some custom stationary or a their Christmas card.
I start by giving myself a basic pattern to follow, then I paint. Once I have the portrait image painted I can then choose the color palette for the background. In this case, I knew what colors my friend is drawn to and loves so I just used those. I then begin the abstract embroidery portion of the project.
During this time I go back and forth between the abstract embroidery and the detail embroidery of the portrait. It's helpful for me to swing back and forth, I never get bored.
I work on these at night while sitting under a lamp, listening to a podcast or watching a show/video. It is relaxing and fun. This is the longest most time consuming portion of the project. I can see the finish line but the stitches to fill in the space take time. It is meditative and peaceful work.
Sky Art Peoria
Early in 2020, I visited the St. Louis Art Museum and I left knowing that I wanted to try to push my work into an even bigger scale.
I began working with the idea of LARGE CANVAS, Extra Large Murals and even creating more LARGE embroidery.
little did I know...
"Abstract Embroidery" - Sky Art Finalist 2020
Sky Art Peoria, hosted by Arts Partners of Central Illinois, a juried competition style art event here in Peoria that was previously known as Art Pop.
I had applied in the past and never won.
This year I decided to apply again and to my utter delight and excitement... I was selected!!!!
From 150 entries only 5 pieces are chosen!
When I received the call, I was so excited I almost forgot to find out which one of the pieces I submitted had won!
Check out the other Sky Art winners of 2020 here.
Why crop the artwork? Why not show the whole piece? Well, this is a unique circumstance because the artwork has to be able to fit specific dimensions (to become a billboard). So I chose to zoom into the pieces. What you might see if you stepped towards it in a gallery as you take in small sections before stepping back.
You might be surprised to realize that the embroidery piece is actually a small section within a small 9" hoop. That's what makes Sky Art Peoria so cool to me. It takes artwork, made by local artists and scales it to a massive size.
I did it. I went really large!!!!! 48 feet large! HA!
I still plan to paint large and make larger embroidery works, but seeing my work on a billboard has got to be one of the coolest experiences!
I am so humbled and honored and thrilled!
The same week Barbie and I led our Olli "Students" in creating the piece that would later be hung in the library.
I had no idea in January, that we would spend weeks in quarantine... months in isolation. That my first social gathering I would attend after months... would be to march in the streets for Justice. That we would be in the middle of a Civil Rights Movement.
It's been a particularly intense year for our collective human experience.
We have had a lot of suffering and pain.
yet, also there is joy. BOTH.
On an individual level, a community level, a country level, a global level.... we are in the thick of it.
Living in the AND
trying to navigate
to find a way to hold them both. To move through them both. Forward.
That has always been the core of my art process, the roots that I found in art. Using my creativity to climb out of the pain and exist within both the truths. That the world can be falling apart around me and I can still find my way.
My friends... THAT is why my business is not just "art by Jaci Musec"
it is in fact "Captured & Reclaimed"
because we exist in the AND
the AND is it
because life is going to be a beautiful mess of all the things AND more.
The thing about Happy Mail.
Maybe you noticed that my Art by Jaci Musec Insta & Facebook pages have been talking all about Happy Mail. What is the deal????
I LOVE MAIL!
Seriously. I really enjoy writing, sending and reading letters. I love opening the mailbox to a personalized message from someone I know. My "go to doodle" growing up was a mailbox. I LOVE MAIL!
I also have a pen pal in Germany (Bo) who I actually had the chance to meet IRL!!!!!! A few years ago when she was traveling through Chicago! Oh My Goodness it was so fun! We have the best conversations and have sent some of the best mail to each other throughout the years. And I can honestly say we will remain friends for life.
Pen Pals are so much fun!
I also wrote so many letters to strangers. I have been a contributor to many bundles of letters via this beautiful letter writing movement. (Check it out : http://www.moreloveletters.com/ )
I wrote letters and left them around town; at the grocery store, the book shop, tucked behind a rock at the park. Those letters were written with the thinking that "whoever needed a love letter... would find it"It was like dropping little bits of my heart around. I loved it.
I also wrote to "sort of strangers" people who requested letters or who put in requests on behalf of someone else. People I may know or have known, or perhaps not. But these letters were more purposeful in the way that they were written specifically with them in mind. Even if I didn't quite know "them".
I'm REALLY -REALLY- REALLY "into" writing letters, but it's more than that. IT's about the human connection. The encouragement, the community, the voice you can share when you have someone reading your words on a page. It was part of my healing and part of my gift .
As my life continued to unfold and my art became so much more, I let some of my snail mailing habits take a back seat. I simply would run out of time and energy after volunteering, creating, documenting and also being. Years would go past with only a few heartfelt letters written.
Sometimes it would be more than others, sometimes less. Life is like that ya know.
It had actually been a while since I had mailed letters...and then this Global pandemic burst onto the scene.
I found myself wanting to write. Wanting to connect. Creating these little happy mail care packages for my friends.
I started sending them out... one by one. And It was such a joy.
I would be filled with excitement knowing that in a few days someone I care about would open their mailbox to find this burst of sunshine... in the form of a decorated envelope filled with a personalized booklet of encouragement, topped of with a handwritten letter.
(Guys, I've had years to hone my skills and I love to gift give so these packets were something very special)
BUT HOW? And who would want them? I mean... yes they are super cool and fun. But they also take me a long time to create, to personalize.
Then I had an idea...
a way to give people some of my supplies and a little example so that they could create their own. That IS part of the fun! And with so many of us stuck in our homes missing our friends and families what a great idea.
I put together a few options.
And I added them to my website (this website that you are reading this blog on). I had been procrastinating on putting products on my site for so long, because it seemed too hard, too complicated. But I did it! I did it for you!
sending mail is a gift. Reaching out through distance... with a piece of paper and a pen, your thoughts in your own penmanship... it's a beautiful thing. And you don't need to make the envelope cute, or compose a fun booklet... a simple letter is so meaningful and beautiful and enough.
But if you want to be extra.
and you want to have some fun being creative...
why not send some Happy Mail.
I put together some bundles for you. Each bundle has a little page full of ideas if you need some.
The Make it @ Home Activity Kit
Has a hand made (by me) care packet ready to be personalized . Think of it as a template to follow to make your own. And then a whole kit of supplies. Everything you need. Seriously... except maybe a pen, glue stick, scissors and your imagination)
The Materials Pack & 1/2 pack
Just the materials baby! You can order these on their own or add them on to the bigger bundles. Each one is unique. You get cute paper, washi tape, masking tape and an envelope.
The Big Bundle of Love
This one is just plain fun! It comes with 2 handmade care packets & so many materials!!!!
Everything is ready for YOU to do the personalizing!
That's right! You get 4 hand made ready to personalize care packets! This one is for those of you who don't want to mess with the materials... you just want to add in a few of your own personal touches and get those babies in the mail.
Another option exists too...
You can have ME personalize the care packet!
Send to yourself or send to someone else!
You just fill out a little survey and I will make it just for you (or your friend).
**this can be done with any of the bundle that has a "ready to personalize" care packet inside. If you just send me a note I can arrange for you to get the survey.
**also, with any bundle you can request a letter.
**and if you need your items shipped instead of a porch drop off or porch pick up.... please add the little shipping option too.
It's not a perfect system but it is chock full of love and goodness and I am so happy to be bringing you this piece of my heart.
a shelter-in-place diary
Today is April 7, 2020.
10 more days of being home and living in this new normal. The world looks different, it feels different, we are moving about in different ways and yet everything is the same too.
As we find our new rhythm and create our daily routines, it seems that the days are speeding by. Just when I was getting used to the slow pace, I had a few days of "busy", hours flew by and it felt like my feet were pulled out from under me. A few deep breaths and a slow afternoon, a slow morning, a device free evening... and I am back to my "new normal".
A Shelter-in-Place Diary
Blog Post 1
Living through a global Pandemic is a strange experience. Humans everywhere are all affected in various ways and we are rapidly learning the "new normal" as it unfolds.
Yesterday, I watched a Instagram video from Elizabeth Gilbert... she was reflecting on a conversation she once had and said something to the effect of this: humans are uncomfortable with change, but we are VERY adaptable. In very little amount of time we adapt. We fear change, we struggle with it, but we can pivot in a moments notice, in a crisis, in a pandemic... to adjust to new rules, new thoughts, new realities.
I really like thinking about that, because I often think about our resiliency and our strength and our ability to endure.
I thought I would blog a bit, share a few thoughts and photos from our first week of "shelter in place" and my second week of social distancing.
Our time together included a power point presentation that gave examples of installation art from various artists around the world. We talked a bit about our individual art practices and our WHY for participating in this particular project. One of the group favorites was this video of an installation by Daniel Wurtzel. Check out the link below, this piece is is beautiful and relaxing...Ballet de Plastique | Daniel WurtzelIn little to no time we became acquainted with our Olli students, we answered their preliminary questions and then set to work. We officially dubbed our participants as "STUDIO ASSISTANTS" and tasked them with hoops. Each hoop came with a corresponding bag of supplies.
On the first day. The studio assistants used glue, yarn and nimble fingers to completely wrap the pre made hoops.
On day two the studio assistants forged ahead on the creating portion. We encouraged each participant to insert their own creative ideas within the parameters we had set. This was exciting for us as artists because both myself and Barbie are highly encouraging and passionate about self expression. Some of our assistants worried that they would "mess up" or "do something wrong".
Barbie and I continued to offer our support and guidance all the while encouraging and boosting their own creative confidence.
It was very important for us that our assistants understand that we were less concerned about the end product they were creating and more invested in the process, the act of creating. We wanted them to explore, troubleshoot, play and take risks. We also wanted them to take ownership over their portion.
We made sure that each participant knew that they were an integral part of this project. THEY were creating the pieces that would later be assembled into our hanging mobile.
Volunteering & Community
This is a story about one of those projects.
It began with my studio mate, friend and fellow community volunteer Barbie Perry. She approached me about an opportunity that friend and artist, Duffy Armstrong from Olli had presented. This was an idea for Barbie and I to teach a class at the winter workshop sessions that Osher Lifelong Learning Institute conduct. (You can learn about the organization here).
Lucky for us, we had just learned from the programming Librarian at Peoria Public Library, Karla W. that she had just the spot for an art installation. With that we set to work creating the workshop outline, researching, gathering materials, meeting with Karla and preparing. We knew that this would be big project to tackle and would require a balance of time and energy.
In one of our initial meetings with Karla W. we discussed measurements, logistics, and timeline. We were able to break the project down into small tasks that could be tackled easily over the several months we had to prepare. This helped to ensure that we were able to still work on our individual art practices.
Our earliest studio sessions involved concept design and execution projections. We knew that the artwork being created need to meet some of our conceptual goals. The library is a community space that while welcoming, is still a very utilitarian space. We wanted to bring soft, airy, feminine and ephemeral qualities to the space. We also had to consider that this piece needed to be achievable with a group of people who may or may not have artistic tendencies. We wanted the experience to be positive and successful as well as educational for our Olli students.
While both Barbie and myself believe in the importance of paying artists for their time and work, we volunteered our efforts in this project, in the same way that Olli runs completely on volunteers. Because we were not working with a budget for the project, we made a goal to spend little to no money on materials and supplies. We worked with items that we had on hand or were given to us.
Aluminum Boat Ramp poles, Rope, Twine, Glue, Fishing wire, pvc tubing, spray paint, yarn, string, wire, an old book, fabric, packing material, plastic waste, bubble wrap, and garbage bags.
To use these materials to create a mobile that could hang in the skylight area of the main branch of Peoria Public Library. We intended to best utilize the Olli participants to help assemble elements of the project.
We created 10 hoops from PVC tubing, glue and tape. Each hoop was spray painted. We designated materials that would be used for each hoop. During our Olli class we had our students wrap the hoops with yarn and then create interest and texture within the space of each hoop using the provided materials.
On one hand I want to recap everything and bring you up to speed. On the other, I just want to begin from here and move forward.
What will actually happen? Probably some messy combination of the two.
So... what has this messy artist lady been up to?
A quick recap...
After moving into my new studio, I rearranged no less than 75 times. (It's part of my process. Constantly shifting and changing. )
I painted a mural in the ladies restroom.
I had my work in a few exhibitions.
I launched my Play! workshops.
I taught a kids class at the Peoria Art Guild.
I joined the advisory team for Peoria Made.
I created a logo for North Art Studios.
I taught an Olli workshop with Barbie Perry, creating a community Art Installation.
I took lots of naps. I went on some trips. Some of my friendships deepened. Some have faded.
I ruined a few paint brushes, broke a few finger nails and wrote a few blog drafts.
Things have been steady.
Things have been slow.
It has all been rather messy, beautiful, chaotic, overwhelming, pleasant, exciting, frustrating, underwhelming, ordinary .... and everything in between.
I hope you stick around. I'm glad your here.
I love using words to connect with my fellow humans.