In April, I visited Greenville, SC, with artist Katrina Berg. She was in town visiting her daughter for a dance competition and invited me to join them for the weekend. It was a much-needed break from home and important time spent around art, seeing new places. I've been thinking about how important it is for us to experience wonder and joy, so going out of our comfort zone is one way we can do that.
Knowing I would be in Greenville, SC, I decided to reach out to Lucy Boland, an artist whom I met last year at the Artist Mother Retreat in Black Mountain, NC. Lucy and I connected over an intense hike and many art making experiences during that weekend; her energy was infectious and memorable. She's based in Spartanburg - just next to Greenville - so I couldn't drive back to Durham without meeting her for lunch and visiting her studio.
I'm so happy I saw her work in this space, especially since she's currently hosting a studio moving sale as she's relocating her workspace. It's been a bit since the end of April, and not everything is fresh in my mind that we talked about. I'll leave you with the morsels I remember, and hope you'll seek out her work and find out where she lands, maybe even collect something from her!
CHECK out Lucy's work In PERSON July 13 - 15th in her Spartanburg, SC, studio, located at 146 E. Main Street, Spartanburg. She's hoping to sell everything in her inventory before her move.
Connect with Lucy:
Meet Lucy Boland Artist (https://shoutoutatlanta.com/meet-lucy-boland-artist/)
Scroll down to see pics from my visit and you'll get a sense of Lucy's work and her infectious energy.
I fled my home for a quick weekend respite away to Greenville and Spartanburg, SC upon hearing that my IG artist mother pal, Katrina Berg, told me she was travelling to South Carolina from Utah. She was going to be in Greenville for the weekend, and once I made plans to make it happen, realized I would be just 40 minutes away from another artist mother, Lucy Boland, who I met at an artist retreat last year.
Greenville is just about 3.5 hours from Durham; not a quick trip, but given Katrina's distance from me, I wanted to make this happen. Planning this 48 hours was not for the faint of heart - my husband took over logistics with my two sons - with two different sporting obligations, an overnight stay for one of them, help from another family with an overnight, and I coordinated dog boarding. It worked! I was gone from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon - full of conversation, art, good food, and enjoying the beautiful weather in South Carolina.
This is proving longer than I intended, so read on for PART 1: Greenville. PART 2: Spartanburg is to follow. Sign up for my Newsletter so you don't miss it's publication. And, there are deeper reasons for needing a getaway - you can find out all about it in my last email here.
On Friday, 4/22/22 at noon, I'll be offering an intimate tour of my new studio in Durham, NC, on Zoom. This has been a work of love, that has been in progress since July of 2021, after we moved from NJ. This room has faced a lot of challenges since we bought the home remotely, gasp, in 2021. I know - crazy, right? It was the only way in the current real estate market in the Triangle.
Anyway, the back story: we bought the house with the 3rd floor finished, however we learned just a day prior to closing that permits had never been taken out on the work. We were told if we wanted to resell the house based on the square footage we were buying, we would need to permit the space. That meant we might need to tear down all of the drywall and redo rough inspections of electrical and HVAC. This was beyond a headache, but fortunately we found an amazing electrician who was able to work within reason with the building inspector and get access points to the electrical without tearing down the drywall. He did find some problems which he corrected.
We then learned through our HVAC professional that the room had been shared with the 2nd floor zone and to be up to code, needed to be on it's own zone. Given the labyrinth of ductwork that was done, they felt it best to take the 3rd floor off the 2nd floor zone, and install a mini-split system. Geez!
Once all of that work was done, we finally embarked on removing the wall to wall carpeting. My handyman pulled out the rug - which was a huge help in getting us over the overwhelm of starting the project. Next, my husband learned how to build a floating wall - by sinking 2 x 4s into the floor joists below. Then sometime in January, we started laying the vinyl plank flooring I took some time to source and purchase. Finally in March I embarked on a Facebook Marketplace hunt for specific pieces that I needed to store everything I still had boxed from NJ. I found four really good finds - I'll point them out on the tour.
We are close to finish - the floating wall needs drywall, spackel and paint, and we need to finish installing finishing trim around 1/3 of the room. Then, I'm thinking about repainting a wall or two - that might come later . . . we'll see!
If you have some time at noon, EST, on Friday, RSVP below to get an invite for the Zoom. Who knows, I might even have some art hanging! PS - I can also tell you about an upcoming exhibit, part of the #TakingUpSpace2022 initiative, with the Artist Mothers Triangle area below, opening in Raleigh, NC, next month.
A Seat by the Firehole, Watercolor and Gouache with Image Transfer on Paper, 14" x 9.75", ©2018 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world. - Amy Poehler, from Yes, Please
I think I forgot over the past few decades that I was one of those dreamers, a thinker, somehow magical for what I do. I grew up as a dreamer - playing, creating, and then I became a mother, at the same time as opening a studio / gallery in a storefront. A lot of energy went into creating that space, the events, the shows, the lessons, and some artwork along the way.
Since closing my brick and mortar in 2013, I birthed another son, took time off from creating art, but then slowly started pulling myself up and out of my house. My art classes moved locations, grew in number and then shrank again while I tended to some very personal needs for my family. All the while, I was making, exhibiting, but something was shifting. During that contrition, my artwork started blossoming again, changing, emerging as something wholly new.
While motherhood may spark dreaming in some people, I have found in some ways the opposite. There were moments of creativity and bursts of ingenuity that surprised me, but for the most part I was tired, exhausted, and spent - trying to juggle so many things. The truth of motherhood is that it is so damned hard. And, it doesn't get easier. But, somehow in the past two years, I have worked equally damned hard on myself and have found a burst of growth that is too amazing not to notice. I have found peace, I have found more space for my ideas, and I have found new places for my work.
35 has been a long time coming. While I'm no longer 35, I began this painting when I was 34, I think. Sometime in 2012, I believe, or maybe 2013, those years are a bit of a blur. I was running my gallery in Newton, NJ, a large 1250 sq' space where I was teaching, curating and exhibiting shows, and painting. Those years were great, and I have fond memories of the space, the art, and the people I connected with through art.
At the same time, it was tough. We honor and lift up women who do it all, and laud all the hard work. But, behind all of the successes, events, and work, I was struggling. My oldest son was 3 and in daycare 4 days a week, I was working tremendous hours, and my husband was commuting an 1 1/2 by to Millburn, NJ, and traveling on top of it for work. In the midst, we wanted to have a second child. I grew up with a sibling, as did my husband, so we wanted that for my son. All the while, my husband and I were discussing a move from Newton, which on top of everything was draining; not knowing whether to close my gallery, where we would go, what I would do.
The second time around, this process was not easy. Looking back at my life at the time, I can see why. I eventually got pregnant sometime in 2011, and was so thrilled that I wanted to tell my family and close friends, earlier than most do. I always felt if something did happen, I would want the support of my family. Sadly, something did happen, and I miscarried around 6 weeks. It was hard. I sometimes minimize the difficulty by saying, well it wasn't as hard as others' situations, but it doesn't matter. A loss is a loss and it is emotionally difficult to deal with. Beyond that, recovering physically was something I wasn't prepared for. It took a toll on my body and it took me almost a year to move on, not so much emotionally, but to normalize my body and physically let go.
This piece was started sometime after I miscarried, which the term in itself has a negative connotation and suggests that the mother did something wrong. I never felt it was my fault, and was hopeful that I would be able to conceive in the future. During that time I put so much pressure on myself, that I ended up with increased anxiety, a trip to the ER for a panic attack, and of course the side effect was an inability to let my body relax and be open to a pregnancy. After therapy, many doctors appointments for various issues, I finally found an answer from a doctor who, after some minor medications worked, told me your body is healthy, you can start trying. He worked with me, he was honest with me, and his statement lifted a weight off my shoulders. About a month later, I was pregnant with my, now, 3-year old son.
I've dealt with appliances as a subject for various reasons; maybe out of fear or just not knowing yet how to deal with the figure. They have become metaphors for people. Many are unfamiliar with the small appliance depicted in my work; it's a Sunbeam egg cooker. It was my mother's; she gave it to me several years ago to use in my work. This entire work is an evolution from my Maésta paintings featuring an appliance version of a Madonna and child seated on a throne. No longer is the chair the seat of the appliance, but a reference to a kitchen sink that has been collaged with egg shells. If you count the pearls, you will see there are 34. At the time after my miscarriage, 35 was the year when all things fertility-wise start going downhill (so we were told) and you become classified as high risk. This year hung over the head of many of my friends, including myself at the time. I ended up pregnant at 34, and delivered at 35, a healthy natural birth.
We ended up selling our house and closing my gallery two months prior to his birth, and relocating to a temporary apartment in Short Hills. All of my art supplies were boxed up shy of a sketchbook and a few watercolors. We were there for only 5 months before moving permanently to our home in West Orange. I took the time after having my son to care for him, minimize the time my oldest was in pre-school and get our house settled. That first year and a half are a bit of a blur with lots of sleepless nights and very full days. I produced little if any artwork during that time.
I gradually set up my studio, began teaching again, and I believe it wasn't until last year, that I pulled out this painting to resume work on it. I'm not one that easily lets go of things (as you can see). And, while some artists can just toss out a painting, say it's not significant for me, that wasn't the case. I needed to finish this, see it through to the end; it was important. So finally after 3 intense months working on this a few hours a week, I felt it was completed. It is done. That period of my life is over, but not forgotten. It was beautiful, tough, and while I often felt discouraged, there was hope that a second child would come, despite 35 hanging over my head.
Now, 35 is not such a problem and new research is coming out that suggests women who give birth at later ages, actually live longer! I stumbled on an article in The Daily Beast by Jean Twenge, psychologist and author of The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, that noted 35 was derived based on French birth records from 1670 and 1830! It was thought that 1 out of 3 women could not get pregnant between the ages of 35 - 39. Those statistics lasted so far into the future that it affected my thinking about my pregnancy capabilities only a few years ago. New studies show 80% of that age group does become pregnant. So to those who have experienced miscarriage, struggles with pregnancy, fertility, you are not alone. I'm so thankful that this is a conversation that we are starting to have, and am very grateful that my second child did arrive, and thrilled that "35" has been resolved and is no longer on my easel.
Head over to my Facebook album of works in progress if you'd like to see the development and transformation of "35" over the past several years. Contact me for interest in the "35" or exhibit opportunities for the work.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Deemed the Kitchen God's Artist by NJ Savvy Living for my sainted appliances, I'm now known more for my vibrant, meditational paintings of chairs set surprisingly in landscapes. Since relocating to NC from NJ, mothering my two sons, and caring for our rescue pup, Cider, took the lead. Now, that my Durham home studio is renovated it's open again for virtual art coaching and the resumption of my personal art and commissions. The work I make is inspired by my joy of teaching, exploring nature, and traveling. On The Teaching Artist Blog, I share my approach to teaching and educate my readers about my creative process.
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