Monday, December 27, 2010

In Which the Word "Better" Appears Seven Times (More if You Count the Title)

to everything there is a season

In another season, that may as well have been in another lifetime but was only five months ago, my life changed. Or rather, I changed my life. I left my desk job, began this blog, opened an online shop, and registered a business. I named it after one of my tattoos, two tigers inspired by a book of old Chinese ink drawings, alike but unique, placed in a yin yang position as a symbol of both balance and completion.  Since autumn 2002, they have been perched on the back of my left shoulder as guardians and reminders of the spirit of fierce pursuit and wise poise I wish to bring to all my endeavors, but never have I needed to draw upon their strength and grace as I have this year. When the time came to create a signature image for my new professional artistic activities, the obvious choice was some rendering of this old tattoo. After many failed attempts to re-create it, I simply turned my back on the mirror over the sink in my bathroom, stood on tiptoe, and took the photograph you see in the banner at the head of this page. It strikes me now that all the elements that went into this capture – resourcefulness and spontaneity, something familiar, yet requiring a literal stretch to achieve, self-reflection and self-revelation – were ideal auspices for the new life ahead.

In one of those amazing instances of good timing and good fortune that occasionally befall me, the newsletter pictured above, the biannual publication of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, of which I am a graduate, showed up in my mailbox last week. I recalled sending a thumbnail image and a quick alumnae update to their website months ago as I began my brave new life, and that it was the first time I really felt I had anything legitimate and worthwhile to announce to such a readership. Imagine my delight when my image was chosen to grace the cover of the bulletin of a multidisciplinary academic arts program that is now considered one of the best in the country, appropriately one about which most of its students claim “it changed my life!” In January 2003, a few months after receiving my two tigers tattoo on a visit home to New York, and a month after turning 40, I received my MFA in poetry in what I consider my second home, Vermont, after avoiding the perils of traditional schooling for nearly two decades. But this place is nothing if not untraditional. The students are all ages, from all over the country and world, and many have full rich busy lives outside of the arts they are somehow still amazingly devoted to and talented at producing.  They are not concerned with following trends or making it big, just making good work, better work, the best of which they are capable. Then something wonderful happens, and these unprepossessing outsiders, misfits and underachievers start publishing, and showing, and performing everywhere. Receiving this item in the mail was the perfect way to reaffirm how far I have come in 2010 and how far I will go in 2011.

spoiled for choice

One of the things I’ve come to understand along the way is that while I have an inner need for peace, quiet and singularity of purpose, I am always going to be one of those people who can’t just do one thing and certainly can’t do nothing at all for very long. I’ve spent a lot of time this year trying to choose between being a writer, a photographer and a maker of apparently highly desirable crocheted accessories, and have finally decided that Two Tigers Creations is all of those things – written works, photographic works, and yes, even a seasonal line of fiber works that are a little less than art but a lot more than craft. I’m a maker of things. I am happiest when engaged in the process of creation at some level – the planning, the execution, the completion, and the true conclusion in the joy of handing something I made to a stranger and knowing it gives them joy. I can’t and won’t choose between the ways I can do this. If this means violating one of the cardinal rules of self-promotion and marketing, which is to specialize and streamline, the better for the limited attention of the public and dealers to grasp who you are and purchase what it is you have to offer, so be it.  I’d rather enjoy doing three things I love and always feel I am not giving enough time to each, than do just one and always feel I have abandoned some essential part of my creative motives and mission. 

ever onward

This is the week I (and others I’m sure) typically spend time looking back or looking forward, cleaning up or clearing out the old to make way for the new, whether it’s closets and files or a soulsearching review of the year. I do all of that, filling bags with shredded paperwork, and also making lists of what I am proud of and grateful for, and where I found myself lacking, and finally constructing a highly flexible and provisional plan for both my soul’s journey and my practical agenda in the months ahead. I thought I’d share some of this online, as they say that announcing things to the universe by offering them in written form or spoken aloud is a good way of letting the universe know you mean business. And I do mean business this year, literally, because one of the main headings on my To Do list is to Be a Better Businesswoman, right next to Be a Better Artist and Take Better Care of Myself and Others. I have barely begun this list and it already bears the mark of a former library assistant’s zeal for organization, classification and a ruthless attention to detail, so I’ll give you instead the spirit of the Better List, which is to make peace with the ongoing challenge of balancing financial necessities and creative urgencies, including better self-promotion online and off (yes, this means you will see me on facebook soon, just in time for it to be replaced by something else!), revisiting the darkroom skills I learned many years ago among other ways of exploring classic photographic techniques, tools and presentation, a new book of poems and photographs, a calendar, and the item that never leaves my list from year to year – lose 15 pounds!

 yesterday and forever

As for what I am most proud of and grateful for, see above.  Thank you, Brian. And thank you, all you good blogfolks who follow me and support, inspire and encourage me though we have never laid eyes on each other and don’t even share a time zone or in some cases a language or a continent! I wish you the best for a new year full of courageous acts of creativity, good health and positive progress for mind body and soul, and new discoveries and pleasures where you expect them least and when you need them most!  

Gone for the year - see you in 2011!


  1. Gabriella,
    I appreciate your sincerity and purpose of writing. You leave us at ease by sharing your thoughts and resolutions!
    Congratulations on your picture [that is very good!] be on the cover of the book; is great!

    I'm sure with all your perseverance and dedication in everything you do, this year will be magical!
    I read that the universe is ready, a lot of positive energy, emanated by three powerful planets; so the year promises much success for new projects! and so will be!
    If we make the future, then we will do very well done!

    a huge hug to you
    and strength to the "two tigers"!
    [which is already a brand...]

    salute e un buon anno!!

  2. Gabriella, the best to you in 2011. I truly hope to keep on seeing the beautiful creations that come out of TWO TIGERS!

  3. Denise, cara - it is always good to see you here! Do you follow astrology?? I know we are between two eclipses right now, which means a very intense time for emotions and events, but I also read that there are some major positive planetary positions as we enter the new year, as you say! But you are right, with or without the help of the universe, we all have to make the future happen! I send you a huge hug and best wishes. Buon anno!

  4. long as people like you are watching and appreciating, it will be a joy to keep creating and sharing my work. Best to you, my friend!

  5. Gabriella.
    Reading this post it was like a closure on the
    ending year..
    Strong and positive thinking from you and your
    "Two tigers" and prospective new activities.

    Wish you all the best of your new ideas and
    looking back, it was a "very good year"!!

  6. Dear Monika! It is so good to read these words from you, my friend, because I have no doubt that you too will fill the year ahead with good new activities - the life force is so strong in you! But we do need to keep encouraging each other from far away, it is a precious elixir to the soul! Yes, a good year, but next one, even BETTER!

  7. Dear Gabriella, here are my good wishes to you and 'two tigers' for a 2011 full of oppurtunities, bright ideas, love and friendship, many,many happy moments and lots of creativity.
    And I agree you don't have to choose between photography, writing and crocheting, it's all part of your creative mind. There may be a difference between art and craft, but in the end they both are trying to make this earth a more interesting and beautiful place. Many great artists have(had) talent for various art and craft forms.

    I'm glad I met you, your posts are stimulating, you made me also think about the business side of being an artist(I'm no good at that, but I'm learning).
    So may stars and planets be at your side in the year to come (and always) love x Renilde

  8. Dear Renilde, I wish you all of those things for 2011 too! I am glad to have met you this year, your works and words always brighten my day. Sending my love to you, -G.

  9. Many blessings to you Gabriella!
    I think we have a mutual inspiration society going on... Both you and Brian are an inspiration and I admire the passion you have with your creativity. That's what it takes.

    Wishing you a prosperous new year.


  10. Gabriella, I learned of this post from a VCFA tweet, and am glad that I found it! I loved your cover photo! I graduated from the writing for children program in July 2006, at 43! (And I haven't had any news to share with the community yet, but hope to eventually!) Happy New Year!

  11. You're right, Douglas, about mutual inspiration, so much better than just an admiration society - it's so good to have a community of talented passionate people whose works and kind words give me that extra spark to keep striving, above and beyond. A prosperous 2011 to you too!

  12. Greetings, Kellye! Always good to see a fellow grad here! I'm not on FB or Twitter (yet) but the cyberelves are out there spreading the word on my behalf today it seems! Have a creative new year - I'm sure I'll be seeing you on the alumni news board soon! Now - get to it and make VCFA proud!

  13. Happy New Year, Gabriella!!

    Wow!! I love that you are a maker of things because I feel the same way. If I had enough hours in the day I would do it
    I had a plan for myself and that plan has taken a big ass detour so now I too have to forge ahead and start selling online and become a better business woman. Please know that you have support from me!!!
    It's been a year of ups and downs but I am grateful for so much and I am especially grateful for my friendship with you and Brian!!

    Btw....hurry yourself over to FB.....we're going to have fun!! xo

  14. i think it is one of my favorite posts ever !
    and what story ! i loved it . really .
    by the way , again , the photos are great !
    2010 was a much better year for me because you decided start this blog . thank you . a real pleasure to meet you .
    let's make a 2011 even better !!

  15. MANON - my need to make things played a big part in my leaving my desk required a lot of mental energy, but at the end of the day I hadn't really MADE anything, only moved other people's things from here to there and added data to an intangible heap somewhere in cyberspace. Creating something out of nothing, that is yours and you can touch and hold and give to someone else is SO much better!! And don't worry about your detour - they happen for a reason. Now the time is right, and now you're gonna SOAR.

    CAIO - I'm so glad you liked this! I feel the same way, that knowing you has greatly enriched this year for me, but next year is going to be even more amazing!!

  16. Thank you Gabriella for the positive forward-looking energy! This past season was a bitch: First Christmas post-separation and though we handled it with relative grace, there were debilitating emotional troughs I never wrote about and which I am now glad to be reminded can be put behind me. 2011 has many good auspices from this early view, which I hope to turn into creative work as well. Like you I cannot settle on one outlet. So long as I manage to focus, there will be writing and photography, music and the making of stencils, perhaps a new tattoo, and certainly much more construction of large-ish things for the next trek to Burning Man. Felice anno nuovo a tutti!

  17. Don - it's high time I threw all my energy into the forward look! For a long time I had more invested in the past than I did in the future, and so the past had a stronger hold on me too. Slow poison, that. I am glad to have lived long enough to break that hold and reverse that trend and share the positive results with others. It has indeed been a tough year for a lot of us, but the key many fail or refuse to grasp is to turn shit into something good, or what was it for? I have every confidence that you'll get this one right. There's a reason some of us have scattered focus and uneasy temperaments - it's to keep us apart from the single-minded simplistic path that is death to creativity and invention. So, my friend, go forth, and create good works. Oh, look, a bird! What was I saying?

  18. Gabriella/TT - it's taken me a while to go thru all the bits and then re-read and make sure I caught them all! Congrats on the fab photo and the front cover - like being' on the cover of rolling stone'! Way cool. I also really admire your strength and determination to forge ahead and make a go of your life as a maker - to leave security behind and face some tough choices. It is liberating and frightening at the same time - the duality; now there's a topic for a post sometime!
    I'm pleased too that you've worked your way to a place where you won't listen to that little voice telling you 'you should' be one or the other - I am a hopeless explorer of things and whilst I admire those who can specialise or select only one and know it in depth; I have come to accept I am broader than I am deep.
    I also really enjoyed reading of your plans - for your soul journey and your practical agenda. We too are planning and reviewing, celebrating and challenging ourselves this week - such a good time.

    Sorry for the lengthy post - best wishes for an exciting, fulfilling and creative 2011

  19. Fiona my dear - oh you are so right about the element of fear in any liberating act! I guess such leaps are not for the faint of heart, but maybe that's what the muse demands - insatiable curiosity and a desire to create, yes, but also a willingness to make the occasional sacrifice for one's passions! I am so glad to hear that you and B are also in review-and-planning mode. I am always happy to know of another household of two creative souls in harmony! By the way, I have framed your feather print and it is now hanging a mere few feet from me as I write!

  20. Gabriella,
    You, Madam, possess a wonderful gift. I am grateful to have found you in this crazy blogosphere universe. I always feel good after reading your posts and hope that, in the new year, you find the perfect balance of success and creative expression you seek.
    Best Wishes,

  21. Gary, many great discoveries this year, and thanks to you for being a part of it! Happy 2011!

  22. CHEERS to you, dear Gabriella! You have been and continue to be one of my true highlights for the year! I am always touched and inspired by your posts and your work and look forward to sharing all the joys and triumphs that await us on our parallel paths this year! Success is already yours and much more to come!

  23. It looks like 2011 is going to be a very creative year. Let the arts begin. I look forward to seeing what you produce. I'm going to try and get serious about photography in 2011 and maybe even lose a few pounds.
    Happy New Year!

  24. I think you do well being a writer, photographer and the crocheted accessories ... because it makes you happy doing these things. May the year in 2011 brings you happiness in doing the things you enjoy most!
    Greetings and Happy New Year 1

  25. PATTI - many thanks! It's going to be a great year.

    JAMES - Let the arts begin! Good luck with the weight loss and I look forward to seeing the results of your getting serious about photography! You seem pretty serious to me already!

    WONG - I wish you the same for 2011 - it can never be said enough that we have to remember to enjoy what we do, and do what we enjoy!

  26. Congratulations to you for being brave and changing! I think it's a tribute to life when people choose to lead their own life with joy. My best to you in 2011.

  27. TB - thanks for the kind words - it means a lot to have so much good support in my endeavors, especially from someone like you who understands! Best to you in 2011.

  28. Gabriella,
    my best wishes for a wonderful year,
    full of life!
    a warm hug...

  29. Hmmmmm yes, its all about that balance. Art and life. Art and business, Art and everything else.

    Creating is such an important part of being.

    Just keep crocheting, writing, and photographing Gabriella, the rest will fall into place.

    Remember that many of the best business people are not very creative.


  30. OOOOooppppps

    Forgot to say



  31. DENISE - hugs and best wishes to you as well!

    T - Happy 2011 to you too!

  32. What a great post to end this year with. The photographs are great and most of all i love the photo of you and Brian.
    I'm happy i've found you on the net Gabriella and you must know you're in my heart too!
    It's always a joy to read your posts, giving inspiration and happy thoughts.
    Let's make 2011 an even better year with sharing our thoughts, creativity and friendship.

    Love and kisses, Monica

  33. Dear Monica! I am sitting here thinking today about all the things that passed out of my life in 2010 and all that I gained, and your friendship is definitely one of the gains! It is also part of what makes 2011 look so promising and positive to me, to have such support from far away! Yesterday I hung four of your beautiful works on paper that you have sent to us in the past year on the wall in my livingroom, where I have my work desk, so I can have your lovely powerful ladies watching over my shoulder every morning as I begin my day! Together we can make 2011 a wonderful year. All the best to you.

  34. You are an absolute inspiration. So glad I happened upon you and all your 'products' - words, images, knitted wares.

  35. Hi Kass! It's good to hear I can inspire others - most of the time I spend on Blogger I am being inspired and amazed by everyone else, so I guess if I can do my part, that's only fair! Which reminds me, it's time for me to get a new post ready! Thanks for stopping by, and Happy One One!

  36. TT- we are lucky to have people in the world such as yourself who have the courage to let go of the secure and mundane and take the challenge of the creative path. Not a path necessarily littered with $ riches but it can be littered with so many other riches including building online art communities; and sharing closer links with our partners though art. I am fortunate to share much of what you and B do through F - and enjoy your journey. Go well in 2011; create well; and of course, because we need to put wine and maybe food on the table, may you sell well. By the way I think the cover of the journal is excellent and I love the tat. B

  37. Barry - many thanks for your kind words - I am meeting so many likeminded souls in blogland who have also taken creative leaps of faith, and not a few happy and successful creative couples, and all of it helps to keep me on my chosen path.

    By the way, I love the way you put wine before food as a necessity! If that doesn't motivate me to create and sell well, what will?

  38. Yes, get a Holga! It's fun to be not so percise, to intentionally look for light leaks and mistakes, to not follow the rules. :)

  39. Hah! I ordered one online and it is due to arrive tomorrow! Not following the rules sounds really good to me!