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!
 

2015: a year of community-based art

While I might not have produced as much studio work in 2015 that I'd hoped to, I'm confident I spent my energy in all the right places. In addition to taking some fabulous art classes and workshops (more on that in a separate post), I participated in some truly amazing community-based art projects, locally and globally, thanks to the power of social media and the Internet. When I look back on it all, the icing on the cake was making new friends and meeting some of my art idols along the way - pinch me!


The Keepsake Project  --  December

What an honor it is to say that my daughter's quilted yellow jacket was included in Lisa Solomon's The Keepsake Project. For her residency program at Irving Street Projects in San Francisco, Lisa invited the public to share items of special or sentimental meaning. She wanted to get to know the stories behind the keepsakes and create a collection of original mixed-media paintings based on photographs she took of the items. She and Kelly Inouye, artist and owner of Irving Street Projects, hosted a reception in early December to showcase Lisa's prolific body of work. 

I invite you to learn more about my keepsake and how Lisa brought it to life through a beautiful mixed-media painting -- just visit my Community Art The Keepsake Project gallery page. Thank you for everything Lisa + Kelly! 

Pictured L-R: A goofy-looking me standing next to one of my idols, Lisa Solomon, during the closing reception at Irving Street Projects. It was such a treat to meet her adorable family and see first-hand her phenomenal work capturing everyone's keepsakes -- a dream come true!

Pictured L-R: A goofy-looking me standing next to one of my idols, Lisa Solomon, during the closing reception at Irving Street Projects. It was such a treat to meet her adorable family and see first-hand her phenomenal work capturing everyone's keepsakes -- a dream come true!

Pictured at top: Lisa's photograph of the quilted jacket my youngest daughter Addie wore on the day she became a part of the family in China. Below is the keepsake description along with Lisa's masterful rendition of Addie's coat (paint with embroidery thread).

Pictured at top: Lisa's photograph of the quilted jacket my youngest daughter Addie wore on the day she became a part of the family in China. Below is the keepsake description along with Lisa's masterful rendition of Addie's coat (paint with embroidery thread).


CHROMA Installation  --  July

CHROMA Installation was the brainchild of renowned artists Lisa Solomon and Christine Buckton Tillman that explored color theory through everyday objects. Lisa and Christine invited people to contribute small-ish items for what would become a massive, eye-popping installation at Gallery CA in Baltimore, MD. Below is a snapshot of my contribution, but to get a better sense of the magnitude and brilliance of the project, please visit the following CHROMA links (you'll be happy you did!): tumblr, instagram, Lisa's portfolio, Christine's portfolio, and BmoreArt's "Life in Color" article. Thank you Lisa and Christine!

My CHROMA installation. As images from the project flooded in on social media, I found myself obsessed with trying to find my items amongst the sea of color -- a 'Where's Waldo' if you will.

My CHROMA installation. As images from the project flooded in on social media, I found myself obsessed with trying to find my items amongst the sea of color -- a 'Where's Waldo' if you will.


#STRIKEAWAY Show  -- May + June

I hopped, skipped, and jumped at the chance to transform matchbooks into art for the amazing #STRIKEAWAY Show, curated by artists/authors Courtney Cerruti and Alicia Dornadic. You could say this project was 'right up my alley'-ha!) My "Strikeaway Lanes" and "Floral Brooch" were shown at Paxton Gate Kids in San Francisco, CA 5/22-6/30 alongside nearly 450 other pieces from 225 artists from the globe. Click here to view the making of my pieces. To learn more about the show click here. To see other pieces, check out the show's instagram feed. Thank you Courtney and Alicia! 

Pictured L-R: Alicia Dornadic, me, and Courtney Cerrutti on the day these uber-talented ladies were accepting submissions in Temescal (Oakland, CA). Lucky me!

Pictured L-R: Alicia Dornadic, me, and Courtney Cerrutti on the day these uber-talented ladies were accepting submissions in Temescal (Oakland, CA). Lucky me!

My #STRIKEAWAY Show submissions:  "Floral Brooch" was sold at the show and "Strikeaway Lanes" was featured on The Jealous Curator!

My #STRIKEAWAY Show submissions:  "Floral Brooch" was sold at the show and "Strikeaway Lanes" was featured on The Jealous Curator!


Feb 2015 #creativeUNblock

As a longtime fan of Danielle and her blog, The Jealous Curator, I could't pass up the opportunity to participate in one of her #creativeUNblock art challenges (a year-long, monthly series based on interviews with artists in her top-selling book, Creative Block). I chose February's challenge inspired by Portland-based artist Kate Bingaman-Burt and spent the month cataloging my medicine cabinet using a set of retro Nifty cards from a dear aunt with colored pencils and ink. Click here to view all my cards. Thank you Danielle and Kate! 

Items from my medicine cabinet captured on Nifty cards with colored pencil and ink. 

Items from my medicine cabinet captured on Nifty cards with colored pencil and ink. 


The Sketchbook Project  --  January

I loved it back in 2011 so much so that I joined The Sketchbook Project's 2015 Tour and chose "Pushers" for my challenge. Being a part of a larger movement with artists from around the world is what made this project truly special. Click here to view the sketchbook.

"989 00"  installment: my "Pushers" sketchbook for the 2015 Tour. (Colored pencil and ink drawing of my dusting brush that's served me well for 17+ years). 

"989 00"  installment: my "Pushers" sketchbook for the 2015 Tour. (Colored pencil and ink drawing of my dusting brush that's served me well for 17+ years).