Beneath the Starry Moonlight

Normally, I don’t make big announcements about what is coming up in my harp world. But for my second CD project, I’ve been talking about it quite a bit. One, sharing helps keep me motivated and, two, I’m just excited about the project! My second CD will be called “Beneath the Starry Moonlight” and will feature love songs with a star and/or moon theme. And maybe a few oddballs. Somehow brought together by the harp.

If you have roamed my website or seen my social media feeds you will know I’m crazy into making books. I’m involved in a book making community that has a friendly monthly challenge and the theme for March was Flight. Of course, one of the songs on the list for my new CD is “Fly me to the Moon.” So I decided to make a little book to honor the project. And once I finished the book a friend wanted to buy it as a wedding present for a relative that is getting married on the full moon this month! Since this was going out as a present, I made a custom box for the book. There is also a video below so you can see the pop-up elements of the book.

Family Postcards

In November 2018, my father sent me a box of postcards. The box contained two sets of cards. One set was a group of cards that were sent to my Grandmother between 1910-1920 when she was a young girl. The second set is unsent cards from about 1930 that give a great tour of the highlights of Oregon. From these cards I ended up making four books. For the three books that include the actual cards, I created pages with windows so that you can see both the front and the back of each card. The postmarks, text, and postcard descriptions are all priceless, so we had to be able to see everything!

For the set of cards sent to my Grandmother I split the cards and made one book for my cousin’s daughter, Natalie, and one for myself (nearly identical on the outside except for the binding thread). Natalie is the youngest female in our family so I thought she might appreciate the cards. For her book I created a letter that tells her about the cards and includes a little family history. We seem to be losing more and more of those tales over the years.

For the Oregon cards, there was one oddball card which actually turns out to be a key piece of our families Oregon history. This turned into a great opportunity to have my Dad write up a few of those tales that we are on the brink of missing out on forever. Dad spent some time at the Oregon State Insane Asylum… as a doctor. I made one book for myself with the actual cards and then a second book for my brother with scans of the cards. I know he will appreciate the family history too. You can read the intro letter.

Being an Artist

(Lindsborg – Part Two)


Being an artist is hard. Mentally, emotionally, physically, financially… all of those issues are hurdles an artist must address in one way or another. And do you really have a choice? Basically, no. If you are an artist —painter, writer, maker, musician, whatever your medium of choice — that is who you are to the core. Being an artist is who you are and what you do. And probably the biggest hurdle for most artists is that we are the worst at self-promotion. You hate to brag and put yourself out there for criticism but if you don’t, who sees your work? Is your work only art if someone sees the final product, approves of what you made, and then they call your creation art? When do you start to call yourself an artist?

All artists struggle with this balance of self, self-promotion, self-awareness, and self-preservation. We work at finding that balance of caring too much or not caring at all about having our artwork appreciated. And then there is the big elephant of creation versus sales. Do sales determine the value of your work? And, therefore, your worth?

For the first third of my life I considered myself a photographer above all else. I struggled between wanting to only do “art” and real life and ended up doing mostly weddings, portraits, and corporate work. Still, work that I was proud to share. I did stained glass for many years. I tried hard to elevate my creations to the status of “art,” although almost everyone else thought of it as “just a craft.” Not a lot of respect or support but still a satisfying and creative outlet for me.

For a big section of my life I went corporate. Maybe some art here and there but work and school and life got in the way. When I decided all of those other things had infringed for far too long, I became a musician. Life got significantly better. Add a few other things to the mix and… a much better life!

For the last several years, with the help of an extraordinarily benevolent spouse, I have been a full time musician. Along the way, I did a few random art projects, added an editor hat, and somehow all of this led to my current (and terminal) obsession of making books and pop-ups. Is this craft or art? Who decides?

Late last year I got to go off to Kansas to be an artist-in-residence. (If you missed the how/why, catch up here.) I had the best time! We had a blizzard. The blizzard was bad because we didn’t get to have the harp concert we planned but the storm was beautiful and impressive to watch from the safety of my warm room. I taught a class on bookbinding and worked with some enthusiastic students. Left to my own devises (without a hubby to provide needed balance and sanity) I spent crazy long hours working in the studio. I played my harp a TON. I went into the residency with a clear plan for my harp but not for the art work that I wanted to do. I hoped to find a direction in the place and it did indeed provide a phenomenal amount of inspiration and a bountiful trove of bits and pieces to scavenge for further creation. I barely left the studio but I still met a lot of wonderful people in this small arty town. The morning of December 2nd, we had a breakfast party. Among the twelve people in the group, we had six people with Sagittarius birthdays—December 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12th. Seriously. SERIOUSLY! Mine is the 8th, by the way, so is it any wonder I felt right at home? No.

Over the many past years, I’ve done a lot of things, called myself many things, and had a lot of titles. Right now, I sport a few different titles. For a while I’ve known that I’m in the right place, doing the right things. I have luxuries in my life that I do sincerely acknowledge and appreciate. But the luxury that I have never allowed myself to fully embrace is to just call myself an artist and not qualify that in some way. Or apologize. Or minimize. Or… So did I make any art work in Lindsborg that will change the world? No. But I was changed. Even though as I look back I think my core has been pretty unwavering and determined through the whole process, waiting for me to catch up. What all this means to me going forward is yet to be determined. But for now, I can simply say, I am an artist. And that is enough.


The inside of the Dala horse card that I made in Lindsborg. The Dala horse is the Swedish mascot of the town.
This is a Jacob’s Ladder that I made from a couple of posters of Raymond Lester’s work. He loved acrobats and harlequins so they were just crying out to be doing something active and mobile!
My harp felt loved by all the other creatures in the studio space.

Harps in a Star Book

This summer a group of ten bookmakers embarked on a miniature book exchange challenge. Led by our excellent teacher and fearless leader, Lesha Shaver (LittleMountainBindery.com), we set out to give ourselves a creative push. For this challenge each bookmaker makes ten copies (at least) of their book and we exchange at the end so everyone receives a full complement of books. One specification is the books are miniature which means they are less than 3” max at each dimension. The Miniature Book Society (I am a member — mbs.org) allows that presentation boxes can be slightly larger but we decided to stay under the 3” guideline. Another requirement is that the books have content — probably complementary to the construction.  

I took my first class with Lesha almost two years ago and to say I’ve been swept up in the bookmaking process would be an understatement.  The creative energy that Lesha has shared with us has been a joy. Apart from the actual bookmaking, the best part of this journey has been participating in the classes with groups of like-minded creative people. Working with this talented group was the main reason I wanted to join the book exchange class.

Watching everyone’s project come alive over the summer, and now into fall, has been a treat! I know we have all pushed ourselves and learned quite a bit. First, you would think that smaller books are easier to make than larger books. No. Also, production runs of handmade books are a growth experience, for sure.

For my project I decided to use a series of my harp photos to tackle a couple techniques I had wanted to experiment with and use creatively. My book is a layered star book in a presentation box. I used five different photos which each have a foreground, middle layer with the harp, and background. When glued together the images give a dimensional tunnel view of the harps and the book opens up in a circle which is tied with a bow. I started off doing a lot of Photoshop work to each of the photos which later I ended up having to mostly undo. I was trying to limit the amount of ink my printer would use but the harsh borders ended up adding difficultly when cutting the images. I chose to make 14 books — 14 books x 3-layers for each book ended up being a lot of detailed cutting! Additionally, you have to take into account the tunnel effect of the layers so each layer is a different size. I have a much clearer vision now of things that I should have done to make the process easier and more consistent. Art is an ever evolving education!

Also, I learned a lot from the challenge in making a run of presentation boxes. I used old sheet music paper to cover the boxes and the book covers. The paper turned out to more fragile than I expected and that caused some hurdles. I had also planned to layer over the sheet music with some textured paper to add a little depth and an additional antique quality to the overall look. In the end I ran out of time and patience to cover everything again but I think the final outcome looks nice.

Another key to this puzzle for me was creating a new logo for my book. I wanted to create a stamp to use with one of Lesha’s foiling machines but it didn’t work out. The metal stamp wasn’t quite right to leave the impression I wanted. However, I love the final logo and I’m working it in to other things. A while ago I bought a rubber stamp with a beautifully stylized B which I had scanned and was using as part of my logo for cards and books. For this project I ended up combining the B with the outline of my harp and I think it is a great graphic representation of me and my work. I ended up printing the logo on to some of the old sheet music and cutting the shape out to apply to the books and boxes.  

So, I finally finished all of my boxes and books! Just before we were about to have our final meeting. We had to postpone but we look forward to meeting on November 11th to exchange our books and oh and ah over all the masterpieces.

While working on my books… along the way errors were made, lessons were learned, curses might have been said, delightful things were discovered, and overall I’m proud of how the project came out and I hope the group will enjoy the books as well.

Lindsborg, Kansas

One of my dear harp friends, RoJean Loucks, lives in a town known as “Little Sweden, USA.” Lindsborg is in the middle of Kansas and until recently I had no idea that my strong Swedish roots actually ran through the city. My Grandmother, Anna (Lind) Pankratz, was born outside of Portland, Oregon, in 1906. However, her first language was Swedish as both her parents came from Sweden—her grandparents came as well and lived with them. Here is some of what I retained of the Swedish she tried to teach us: Grandma was my Morfor, the mother of my father, she loved the fact that the relationship description was built into the word. Such common sense!

Since we were Oregonians I never thought much about the stops her parents and grandparents might have made between Sweden and Grandma’s birth. Luckily, she left us a short biography she wrote about her childhood. I’ve read it a few times throughout the years but never thought much about Kansas until we became neighbors! Turns out my great-grandfather, John Lind, was from the same area as the founders of Lindsborg and came to Lindsborg about the same time… Family weddings and burials took place in Lindsborg, according to my Grandmother.

This past June we decided to make the trek to Lindsborg to research the family history a little bit more. Genealogy researchers start their quests in Lindsborg at the McPherson County Old Mill Museum. We did as well and information on my family didn’t spring forth as quickly as I thought it would. Hmm… In the meantime, I got distracted by the art!!

In addition to being an abundant place for Swedish heritage, Lindsborg is also a fabulous place for art. Bethany College is nationally known for its fine and performing arts programs. A celebrated National Geographic photographer lives in Lindsborg with his superbly talented jewelry-making wife (I bought a necklace with a Swedish coin from 1620!). And there is also The Red Barn Studio. Lester Raymer studied at the Chicago Art Institute and worked in almost every medium. He often used ordinary or recycled things and transformed them into beautiful works of art, gifts, toys, and decorative elements. If you have ever watched the Sunday Morning show on CBS you have seen Lester Raymer’s iconic sun face. His studio was restored and opened as a museum to the public in September of 1997. (Redbarnstudio.org)

When we were in Lindsborg, we walked past the entrance to the museum. There is a nearly enclosed courtyard area in front of the studio and you aren’t quite sure at first if it seems daunting or magical. In the next shop we entered I asked the proprietress if we should go back and see the museum. She answered with an emphatic YES! So, we went back. And it was… magical. The space is fascinating and the artwork gloriously interesting and complex. I bought a small book about Lester Raymer and we went back to our room so Rick could take a nap. By the time he woke up, I was done with the book and ready to go back to the studio. When we got there I was immediately swept up with the print artist who was there as an artist-in-residence. She was lovely! And she helped me make a print. I told her it would immediately become the cover of a book when I got home but I almost like the print too much to cut it up. Maybe that will change but for now it hangs in my studio.

All of the art work in the Red Barn studio deserves close-up study and appreciation. However, I am particularly taken with his sun/moon theme quilt which must be seen in person to be truly appreciated and his mechanical toys. Seeing his toys is part of what inspired me to attend the Movable Book Society conference in Kansas City last month. Oh, and that part about being able to hang out with other book geeks!

As soon as we got home from our summer trip, I applied to be an artist-in-residence at the Red Barn Studio. This is a first for me. Their program for artists is obviously quite popular since there are only infrequent gaps in their calendar and many artists come repeatedly. I was thrilled and amazed when they selected me for the program and look forward to spending two weeks there from November 19th until December 3rd. I tell everyone that I have the best life in the world and I do. The balance between my harp life, magazine life, life life, etc. is a luxury that I appreciate. Going to stay in the studio feels like extreme decadence and I know I will relish my time there with nothing to do but art. And MUSIC.

Of course, there will be harp music! Over a year ago, I came up with the concept for my next CD and I hope the project takes a major step forward during this time. I almost have the set list narrowed down and I’m working on the final song arrangements now. I plan to have the arrangements done before I get to Lindsborg. The theme of the CD is a perfect fit for the Red Barn Studio and feels like another reason this residency was meant to be. One highlight of the trip is that I will be doing a concert with RoJean (tentatively on November 25th). I can’t wait!

Additionally, while I’m there I’ll be teaching a small group one of my favorite easy book binding techniques (on November 24th). I’m excited to share this creative endeavor with them. However, when I look around my art studio and now realize that I have to pack and move it a different location I think, “whose crazy idea was this?!!” I’m sure it won’t be as bad as I think. Part of the problem, I know, is that I don’t have a specific plan yet of what to work on. Specific book style, pop-ups…? Making a decision or two about projects would help my packing, obviously. But I was hoping for a little more “as the spirit moves me” art making on location. I’ll just have to channel Lester’s creative problem solving for inspiration.

So, follow along and I’ll let you know how things go.

Cheers, Beth

Check the Red Barn Studio website for additional information on the events. Also, the Christmas Artists’ Studio Open House on December 1st!

Below: My art print and the Raymer Sun Quilt

A book in a harp

If you have roamed around my website or seen my social media feeds you will know that in addition to being a harpist I am a lifelong artist. Photography was my early love. I did stained glass for many, many years until I decided cutting sharp glass didn’t blend very well with being a professional harpist so I sold those tools. I’ve dabbled at many other art forms along the way but over a year ago I found my true artistic happy place. And, actually, the only surprising part about it, is that it took me so many years to find! So now I’m making books—which means this crazy bookworm and LFL steward spends even more of her time with books. This is the perfect art form for me in so many ways.

Starting work as Editor of the Folk Harp Journal was really the start of knowing that my diverse paths, and maybe even some unfortunate missteps, have not been wasted. A recent conversation led me to think about the artistic curve of my life. Then a chance visit to a profoundly inspirational art studio happened. Then a couple of opportunities came up that made me think even more about my obsessions with art and music. And if I was going to pursue either lead which hat would I be wearing? After thinking about the situation I realized that I can’t separate my endeavors and I don’t want or need to try. 

I’m now involved in a book making community that has a friendly monthly challenge. After thinking about my passions the theme of “boxedin” took on a whole new meaning for me. I don’t want to be boxed in by a label as only harpist, or artist, or photographer. Everything can blend. I guess I am a mixed–media creation and that is also what I do. Something that is probably true for many of us! Which led to my submission for the challenge… Harp, photos, art, book-making all in one.

 

Happy 15th Harpy Anniversary!

Fifteen years ago this month, I sat solo in a small apartment late on a Friday night and put in the winning bid for a large item on Ebay. I waited anxiously all weekend for some word from the seller. Nothing. Then finally I heard from them early the next week. They had been out of town all weekend and were now trapped in by a large storm in Denver where they lived. Shipping my large package to Arkansas? Yeah… just not sure on the when or the how.

My very first harp. This was such an appropriate snag to the official start of my harp journey. Getting to the decision to make that bid had taken nearly a year of ups and downs and starts and stops both in my personal life and in this crazy dream. This was the biggest step and a huge decision in every sense—emotionally, financially, and more. The desire I had to learn to play the harp kept getting stronger despite a lot of obstacles, so a little blizzard, no problem.

Turns out a friend of a friend was headed to Denver that week in his large SUV. He picked up the harp and brought it back to me. My piano teacher taught me what she knew about tuning the harp, how to pluck out a few notes, and play a simple tune. A few weeks later, I put my harp in a cardboard box, checked it in on a plane as baggage, and held my breath as we fly to Portland. Then on a lovely day in April I met Kathleen Staub for the first time and HAD A HARP LESSON. Boom. Life changed.

By the end of that year the other greatest thing in the world came in to my life. About the April anniversary of my first harp lesson I was moving out of that small apartment and into the home of the man of my dreams. Somehow he has managed to put up with me all of these years and with the harp(s!). We’ve certainly tested the “in sickness and in health” part of our vows over the years. I think because of my health problems and surgeries I’ve lost at least two years (or three? and more on the horizon, unfortunately) out of the fifteen that I’ve been playing the harp. So the journey has had lots more stops and starts than anyone would want but during blizzards we just sit by the fire reading and life is exceptionally awesome. And there is harp music and cold beer.

Somehow the “butt in the chair” time and my dedication to my music have overcome my lack of innate musical ability. I’ve come further in my harp career in the last fifteen years than many, including myself, ever imaged would be possible. But I believed there would be music in my life and there is. So a crazy dream hasn’t turned out to be so crazy after all.

Fifteen years of harp sounds like a good start…. with many more to come.

Happy Harpy Anniversary!

(Here I am with my first harp in my little apartment. You can see I haven’t changed a bit! Ha!
And an angel shot my friend Christie took for her portfolio. You can’t take yourself too seriously as a harpist and sometime you just go with the clichés.)

 

Northern Lights Harp Fest in Canada

Just over a week ago we returned from Canada—including a lovely weekend at the Northern Lights Harp Fest and a waaaaay too short visit to Montreal.

I’m so impressed that the lengths harpists will go to gather together. No distance seems too far and no inconveniences too unmanageable. Every time I attend a conference I see friends I haven’t seen in a long time—like my friend, Linda Ashton. She lives in Southern Oklahoma and we have to go to Canada to visit. Likewise, I really wanted to meet and work with Diana Rowan of San Francisco and we finally accomplish the feat in Canada. Totally worth it! I can’t believe that I’ve managed to hit three harp conferences this year. What a treat it has been. I’m feeling spoiled.

The conference was a nice size and the teachers top class. Anytime you get to take lessons from Frank Voltz, Diana Rowan, Harper Tasche, Joanna Griffin and Ray Pool, you have had a successful and inspiring experience. I’m still processing everything we worked on over the weekend and I know the benefits will be far-reaching. I didn’t take a harp with me so that actually gave me more time to really listen and think about the insights I received from these exceptional people. Oh yeah, and I took a lot of photographs. Of course.

After the conference we went to Montreal and spent three days walking the city. I had worked hard on my French skills before we went and that was worth the effort. The vibe of the city is truly international. And young. There are several major colleges in the city so the youth movement is strong and vibrant. As we walked across one campus my husband felt completely at home and he is ready to move to Montreal and spend a year (or ?). I don’t know about the snow and cold of the winter and I’m not usually a city person but I could see spending some additional time there.

We didn’t get to spend much time checking out the music scene but I’m sure it is top-notch. We visited an amazing luthier shop and walked through one of the music school. I had to get out of their sheet music section quickly or I knew I’d be lost. I also showed some restraint, ok not as much, at an exceptional paper shop that we found. Yeah, I’m checking on their shipping rates too. It was heaven.

As was most of Montreal. We hope to get back there and to the Northern Lights Harp Fest.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick and I (above) at the Botanical Garden in Montreal. We saw such a small part of it, and between seasons, but it was still a beautiful place.

Below… Diana Rowan at the opening concert of the Festival.


 

 

New Orleans Jazz Harp Conference

This month, my harp-roadie (hubby, Rick) and I did an epic harpmobile road-trip through the southern states. Our purpose was primarily for me to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Pop Harp Conference but we added on a few destinations before and after the gathering. When the tires made their final rotation of the trip into our garage we had gone 1,967 miles in Alora, my trusty harpmobile, and she performed admirably. My black harp, Sabrina, was also along for the ride—well, of course, you have to have a harp to go with the harpmobile! And Sabrina really got the chance to perform because our dear pal and extraordinary harpist, Martha Gallagher, borrowed her (picture right) to use in the featured concert of the weekend. Wow! Martha sang and played after conference organizer, Patrice Fisher, and her group including her husband, Carlos, and all were top-notch. A large crowd gathered for the afternoon performance in the public library space and they gave a standing ovation when everyone finished. I was impressed by the number of people that came from the local community to see the harps in action.

The concert sets were inspirational and the intimate class sizes that we enjoyed during the weekend were perfect. I attended classes by English harpist, Ben Creighton Griffiths on preparing a Jazz standard (Parts I and II), and an overview of electronics and amplification options for the harp. NOLA harpist Rachel Van Voorhees did classes on the chord structure of pop songs and adding musical pizzazz. Martha, who lives in upstate New York, taught classes on playing the blues and working with Jazz standard (photo below). AND I was able to visit with Martha for a while about the music project that I’m working on right now. That time was well spent and is going to pay off for me in a big way. Soon. Really soon. I’m working on it… I promise.

 

During our lunch break each day, we set up harps in the coffee shop area that was part of the entrance to the library where we had our conference. People strolling in were greeted with music of all types and styles. We got lots of “I’ve never seen that” comments. I even had an opportunity to interact with a couple of kids. I played a few of their favorite songs for them and then they got to do their own mini-concert set. The smaller size of this conference was really a major benefit for attendees. I met several new harp friends and know that those are contacts I will cherish into the future.

On Saturday night, eight of us met up in the New Orleans French Quarter for dinner. We had a jovial time telling stories and talking about music. Then on to the main attraction. We went to Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro to see some local musicians that Patrice and her husband know. The featured performer of the group was an older drummer who knocked all our socks off with his virtuosity. The best way to describe him is to say it was like watching a hummingbirds wings flapping at 4x fast forward speed. Yet, he never sounded rushed or unmusical. Oh, and the rest of the band wasn’t too bad either. Yeah, just world class. I was exhausted just listening to them. I loved that Snug Harbor is a serious music place despite the laidback café atmosphere. The ticket lady told us as we went in that there was no talking allowed during the performance and she was serious. I thought she was going to kick a couple of people out because they wouldn’t stop chatting. I’ll contrast with an experience in a Nashville bar a couple of nights later where the music was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think but everyone was trying to yell above it nonetheless. There are all kinds of musical experiences to be had in the world.

Hope you get to enjoy some summer music soon, too!

 

 

An afternoon practice session in Mandeville, Louisiana.

 

Motivation from the Energizer Bunny

I’m fascinated when I hear authors talk about how they started writing a fiction book with a general outline in mind and then “the characters take the book in a different direction.” Aren’t they in control of the characters? As more of a visual and aural artist, I don’t experience this phenomenon often. I generally see the piece of art in my head and reach that goal (or never reach it!) or hear in my head what I’m trying to create. Sometimes things go a little off the path but usually I stay close to the trail I planned.

However, my new CD project is going in some unexpected directions from what I initially envisioned. Can’t say that I’m not excited about this, either!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to one of my harp idols on the phone. She is 93 and still very active in her community and performing almost daily. She plays the piano in her retirement community for everyone before dinner. They love her! This is completely not a surprise since she is a delight. Occasionally, she also brings her harp out for concerts and she was telling me about a new project that she is working on. “You need a good project to keep you motivated,” she said. And clearly this has worked for her because she is like the Energizer Bunny.

And obviously, I agree. I came up with the title to my new CD and thought I had a theme, era, and sound that I was working towards. The theme has been massaged some since then and the era has morphed in some ways. I’m moving into some new professional territory and I’m completely energized by the process. The project is growing organically into the thing it wants to be.

I am truly counting the days and minutes until the start of the harp conference in New Orleans. I think this will really be a life changing moment for me and help round out my project. I do not regret one moment of devoting the first ten-plus years of my harping career toward my hospice work. But the last few years of growth into different areas with my harp have been so much fun. I look forward to continuing down this path with my harp to see where we go. And I’m sure I’ll always have one project or another dancing around in my head keeping me motivated.