life for me before Berkeley

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Today I've been working on a long-overdue revamp on my Web site and updating my About page was at the top of the list. Part of what needed updating was writing a more official artist's bio as well as augmenting my CV with some very important information. 

This update also meant I needed to shorten the narrative of my life story. I couldn't quite bring myself to delete the content, so I've placed here in case someone asks me for it. 


My life before Berkeley

Some of you knew me as @weatheredsilo. In 2010 I started a blog and opened an Etsy shop under that name. Studio time was far from steady but I somehow managed to produce a handful of oil paintings on canvases that I handcrafted from salvaged hardwoods and eco-friendly textiles. I also sold paintings and limited-edition giclées of my Dust Bowl Glimpses series depicting the resilience of families displaced by the Dust Bowl. During this time I amassed a fantastic online community of kindred spirits, many of whom I consider close friends today. I also had the great honor of contributing an art tutorial on Poppytalk. I consider myself a very lucky woman. 

I earned a degree in Business Administration, Marketing in 1990 and began my career working at a boutique advertising and public relations firm in Denver. From there I held various positions at a magnet manufacturing company in Castle Rock where I oversaw national advertising campaigns, led an in-house sales team, assisted with new product development, and traveled extensively across the U.S. to consumer products trade shows. Following a move to Seattle in 1995, I was instrumental in building a marketing communications and pr department and led product marketing management teams for a healthcare software company. From there I helped build the marketing department of an internet start-up that sold dental supplies.  

In 2000 I put my career on hold to start a family--this involved two unforgettable journeys to China. My family and I moved back to Colorado in 2003 where we literally built our own home on 35 acres near my husband's grandfather's farm. The allure of the Pacific Northwest drew us back to Seattle in 2006 and I began clocking volunteer hours in classrooms and on auction teams at my daughter's schools. I also proudly supported my daughters as they earned junior black belts in Kenpo Karate--a 4-year journey! In 2008 my husband co-founded Full Slate from our home office where I occasionally helped with social media and often referred to myself as a 'start-up widow'. In 2009 I helped my sister recuperate from surgery and chemotherapy, and in 2012 I became my mom's primary caregiver following a sharp decline in her health

 

our return to China

Earlier this summer my family and I spent three unforgettable weeks trekking across China. We visited seven cities in all: Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Jinjiang, Shanghai, Guilin, and Hong Kong. Summer is just coming to a close and already I'm dreaming of going back!

The trip was part sightseeing and part homecoming for our daughters who were born in China. The last time we visited was 2004 when we adopted our youngest from Jinjiang, Fujian Province, and before that, 2002 when we adopted our oldest from Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

 Beijing - Touring the Forbidden City with my family alongside thousands of other visitors. Behind us stands the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian) -- the throne hall of Ming and Qing emperors.

Beijing - Touring the Forbidden City with my family alongside thousands of other visitors. Behind us stands the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian) -- the throne hall of Ming and Qing emperors.

For years we'd talked about returning to China with the girls -- it was never a question of if but rather when. Thankfully this was the year we could finally pull together the funds and resources to make the trip a reality. If you or someone you know is looking to schedule a Heritage Trip, we highly recommend the organization we worked with: Red Thread Tours & Services.

Over the past fourteen years we've celebrated the culture and customs of China and both girls are learning Mandarin as just one way to honor their heritage. Needless to say, both daughters were eager to get this Summer's trip underway.

 Xi'an - Early morning light shining on some of the nearly 8000 life-size terra cotta soldiers commissioned by Qin Shi Huang, China's First Emperor and founder of the Qin Dynasty, to protect him in the afterlife. The soldiers were discovered in 1974 (I was six years old).

Xi'an - Early morning light shining on some of the nearly 8000 life-size terra cotta soldiers commissioned by Qin Shi Huang, China's First Emperor and founder of the Qin Dynasty, to protect him in the afterlife. The soldiers were discovered in 1974 (I was six years old).

From an early age both girls were aware of how our family was lovingly formed through adoption. We've shared their adoption stories countless times, answering questions and reliving memories through storytelling, old photographs, and keepsakes such as the outfits each wore when they were handed to us by the orphanage nannies. 

 Chengdu - Hibiscus, the city flower. 

Chengdu - Hibiscus, the city flower. 

As for the trip itself, I have SO much to share. We are still "unpacking" the memories and impact of this trip. I may never be able to fully articulate the full meaning, but one thing's for sure: the trip exceeded our expectations and left us feeling incredibly honored and grateful to have made new friends in our travel group and reconnect with/meet new connections at each of the girls' orphanages. Both girls' orphanage directors and staff were thrilled to have had the opportunity to see the girls in their teenage years and learn that they have not forgotten their birthplace but rather embraced it's people and treasures. 

In the coming weeks I hope to share more memories from the trip through blog posts and art. I'm still struggling with how much detail to share publicly, especially when it comes to the actual orphanage visits, but I trust that it will all work out in due time. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

 Guilin - Guilin Tea Research Institute, the only organic tea farm in the Guanxi Province. Majestic limestone mountains in the background.

Guilin - Guilin Tea Research Institute, the only organic tea farm in the Guanxi Province. Majestic limestone mountains in the background.

 

overcoming my fears of watercolor

 Mandy's Grandma Archuleta served her signature pinto beans in this 2 qt. Hall's Superior Quality Kitchenware bowl with Autumn Leaf motif.

Mandy's Grandma Archuleta served her signature pinto beans in this 2 qt. Hall's Superior Quality Kitchenware bowl with Autumn Leaf motif.

I have steered clear of using watercolor paints for years because they would usually leave me feeling disappointed, frustrated, and inadequate. Too often I'd watch in horror as colors bled into one another leaving muddy messes behind. Every now and then I'd overwork the paints when I should have just left well enough alone. And more often than not I'd watch helplessly as colors traveled to areas on the paper intended for different applications. It seemed like watercolors and I just weren't meant to be.

Fast forward to today where I'm living in the Bay Area surrounded by wickedly-talented artists, some of whom I'm proud to call friends. I am especially blown away by the watercolor artists -- they've given me hope that I can slay the watercolor demons of my past if I just try.

 Mandy's maternal great-great grandmother's solid bird's eye maple rolling pin.

Mandy's maternal great-great grandmother's solid bird's eye maple rolling pin.

So, try I have. I spent the last month documenting some beloved kitchen heirlooms for the #12monthsofpaint Community Art Challenge (the April's theme was "All Things Kitchen!") I welcomed the practice and also saw this as an opportunity to face my fears (I self-imposed a rule that I could only use watercolors). In the end, I discovered a greater appreciation for the medium and I believe I slayed a few of those demons. 

What did I learn? Investing in proper brushes and quality paper makes a world of difference. By simply committing to this practice for the whole month, I spent valuable time practicing brush strokes and varying the amount of water left on the brush to see the different outcomes. I learned that I didn't necessarily have to wet the entire surface with water first, before applying pigment, like I remember seeing on those PBS shows of my youth. I also realized I could wait for layers to dry before adding more colors (again, those TV shows made it look as if everything needed to happen at once). Lastly, the perfectionist in me learned to embrace the lack of control that comes with watercolors. 

 Fire King Jadeite Batter bowl belonged to Mandy's mom's mom, Viola Fossett.

Fire King Jadeite Batter bowl belonged to Mandy's mom's mom, Viola Fossett.

My finished watercolor paintings:  Click here to view my paintings and learn more about the #12monthofpaint Community Art Project, the artists co-hosting the project, and how there's still time left for you to participate. Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!