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My brother, Christian, and his wife Wendy, have two children - Emma and Matthew (affectionately called Mattman). My husband and I moved to our current location in Gualala, CA in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Emma and Mattman would come up for visits and spend weeks with us in the summer hiking, going to the beach, exploring and enjoying the remote, rugged beauty of northern California and also attending Summer Art Camp. I love them both SO very much. Some of you may have read about Christian's passing in my recent blog post. Losing my oldest brother has been difficult . . . to put it mildly. What must it be like to lose your dad when you are still a teenager?
I am doing my best to support them but I honestly don't really know how. They are both coping in their own way. Mattman is back in college in Illinois. Emma, well... let me let her tell you:
My name is Emma Herman. I’m currently a senior at Northgate high school in Walnut Creek, CA. I lost my dad about two months ago. I’m on my own road to recovery and I find that the best coping methods for me are talking to other teens that are in my same situation. I regularly attend a teen support group and I’ve recently become very passionate about adolescents getting the support and help they need. That’s when I found Comfort Zone Camp. It’s a non-profit organization that provides a free camp to children, ages 7-17, who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. The camp includes programs and support groups that help children cope with their grief and heal. They hold camps year-round across the US. They continue to provide free camps because of all the generous donations and support from donors.
I asked Emma when she was going to Comfort Zone Camp. She told me, "No I can't make it to the camp because it's in the LA area and not at a good time which is why I've chosen to do what I can to support them even though I can't participate."
WOW. She is that kind of kid. I am so proud and honored to be her aunt. She (and Mattman) have both taught me so much. . .
So needless to say, I am reaching out to some of my customers/friends and asking for contributions for this healing project. So far the following companies have not only stepped up and offered donations but have sent their kind wishes and comfort as well:
If you would like to donate, let me know and I can put you in touch with Emma. And yes, we will be selling raffle tickets at a later date. So, if you feel inspired to help this ambitious, thoughtful, caring, determined 17 year old that would be lovely and we'd really appreciate it! Stay tuned for more details and THANK YOU. You have once again proven to me that indeed I HAVE THE BEST CUSTOMERS IN THE WORLD!
Did you catch Emma is wearing a purple shirt and jeans in both pictures?!
My brother, Christian, never liked birthdays. In fact in his presence they were always referred to as "special days" not birthdays. Yes, we have been known to publicly sing "Happy Special Day" to the Happy Birthday tune. Harmony Art turns 9 this month!
Nine years ago this week, I was in Michigan with my father-in-law as he was released of his body. That event was the bitter sweet beginning of the Harmony Art journey. Just over two weeks ago I was with my brother, Christian (pictured above) as he was released from his body. It's hard to be happy and celebrate right now. I miss him terribly.
Someone told me when my father died that losing someone you love is like having a permanent hole in your heart. Lately I have been trying to imagine the hole as being a hug so when I reach for it I feel his presence and love rather than his absence. I can't say I am always succeeding but I am trying.
Christian was selfless, dedicated, and quirky. When Wendy (his wife) found the bathroom extra dirty and asked Christian about it he confessed to letting a homeless man in to take a shower and to pick out clothes from his own closet. Yes, Christian was THAT guy -- the one who would truly give a stranger the shirt off his back. He did these acts never begrudgingly but with a full and open heart.
Christian was dedicated.. . . to his job, his family, his friends, his church, his CAL Bears and all of us lucky enough to have inhabited this world with him.
If you EVER attended a Northgate girl's volleyball game you knew Christian or at least heard him. His cheers were legendarily loud. I'll personally never forget his Bronco whinny. When it came to cheering on his team (and daughter) there was no such thing as self-consciousness just utter dedication to having his support heard and felt.
A family story goes that Christian got in to one fight as a child. The reason? Someone was bullying his little brother, Merit. If you had Christian on your team he would go that extra mile. He cared about what he did and who he did it for more intensely and selflessly than anyone I have ever known.
Christian was quirky. One of his nicknames was BananaMan - he made it a point to bring bananas with him when he went on family outings or vacations. Why? To give them to people who were working that he encountered of course! It started with the sleigh driver and became standard operating procedure from there.
I for one will miss his big hugs, calling him my little brother despite his size and age advantage, our philosophical conversations - usually in cars, and just his unwavering loyalty and love.
I challenge all of us to keep Christian with us by being a little more selfless and loving when it comes to helping others, to acknowledge those things we are dedicated to -- to go that extra mile with a smile, and maybe even quietly perform a random act of kindness.
Christian, I don't know what to say but I LOVE YOU. This year's "special day" is dedicated to you.
I am often asked, "How do you come up with your designs?" Almost all of them start with a hike. I find nature to be an unlimited source of design inspiration. When I hike with the Thursday Ramblers I almost always have my camera with me and snap away at anything that grabs my attention. My most recently released fabric is called Stornetta after the land the flowers were found on. It's a magical place with fields, bluffs, cows, ocean views, a waterfall into the ocean, huckleberries, a spooky Halloween tree and much more.
Sometimes it's a plant, a texture on a stump, a flower -- really the design can start with most anything. In this particular case, the flowers on the hike beckoned to be put into a designs and I listened. . .
I have about 100 designs created and yet to be printed. How do I pick which is next? Sometimes I turn to my friends -- the ones who actually know what Harmony Art is and does -- that care and understand and maybe even sew.
In the case of Stornetta, Mary Sue and Bob picked it out. Their confidence and support of Harmony Art has been a constant source of strength and encouragement. So when they requested Stornetta in blue -- well, so be it! For the second colorway I turned to my facebook fans for suggestions and votes. They spoke too and I listened. I really love have having so many people involved. The journey is indeed the prize. Now the fun and patience begins as I wait to see what YOU create with it.
Nancy, Janice and me
Yesterday my aunt Janice left this life behind. She had been on hospice for some time. In late June I had the great fortune of spending a week with her and my cousin Nancy in Medford, Oregon. Despite her immobility and and obvious challenges her spirit and spunk was as strong as ever. The sign on the wall behind us in the picture was written by my Aunt Janice. It says: GOD - Gratitude Overcomes Depression.
What a gift to spend time together. That connection can never be taken away from me. Her advice, which she repeated several times a day was, "You just have to be grateful for every moment of every day." I couldn't agree more.
my father and my aunt
During our last week together we stayed up late watching The Sound of Music and we watched her (2nd) wedding video which is 90% dancing. We looked through photo albums and reminisced. Our big outing each day was to the "veranda" (aka her back yard) where we would eat a meal and admire the flowers, clouds, or sunset. I played "chef" for the week and Janice wasn't afraid to tell me she didn't like some of my cooking. She owned a Baskin Robbins ice cream store for decades and loved sweets. We ate lots of ice cream.
Although she remained friends with her first husband, her true love she found later in life: Miro. I got to hear about their trips to Slovenia together and their love of dancing.
At night we would put her blanket in the dryer and get it all nice and toasty warm for her. Every time we put it on her she would start singing, "Heaven, I'm in heaven . . . dancing cheek to cheek". . . I can't say what happens when we transition from this life but I like imagining my aunt Janice's vision came true and she is now reunited and dancing with Miro. . .
Thank you aunt Janice for your positive attitude, spunky honesty, zest for life, sense of humor, laughter and love.
I think many of us struggle with this puzzle. My next post or two or 10 or more will share with you some of my experience of juggling life and home and entrepreneurship. I also plan to use this space to answer as many business questions as I feel able to, so feel free to send me your questions. Let the journey venture forth. . . thanks for coming along.
Tomorrow my husband leaves for Russia. He will be gone for 2 weeks. In the 20+ years we have been together this will be the longest and furthest we have been apart.
He is going to Russia as part of the Fort Ross/Kashaya Expedition marking the 200th anniversary of the 1st Russian settlement in the continental USA - which just happens to be in our neck of the woods. Sus (hubby) will be traveling with 24 other people to St. Petersburg, Moscow and Tot'ma (the home town of the founder of Fort Ross). As the executive director of the Gualala Art Center, Sus is representing our local art community and traveling with some descents of the "first artists" of the area. Part of the reason for this trip is for the Kashaya (native American Pomo tribe) to see and identify artifacts and artwork that was taken back to Russia when the fort was disbanded - over 150 years ago. They will be touring museums, meeting with dignitaries, participating in a parade, and doing home stays while in Tot'ma.
He was trying to figure out what gifts he should bring with him. The idea of tote bags came up and immediate we thought of the Green Bag Lady. We called Teresa and she sent us some Silent Stumps Sateen bags as well as some other solid bags that we could screen print the Gualala Arts logo on. Teresa ROCKS! In less than a week we had the screen printed bags. Tomorrow they make they voyage overseas.
I can't tell you how happy these bags make me! The trilogy of Green Bag Lady + Gualala Arts + Harmony Art = BIG LOVE.
I hope the Russians like (and use) them and I hope Sus gets home safely with lots of good stories to share.
When I was a little girl I had a blue blankie. It went everywhere with me. Eventually it disintegrated and had to be thrown out. It was a sad day in my life.
A few months ago my dear friend Teresa (aka The Green Bag Lady) sent me a VERY special gift that she and her "Bagettes" made for me. When Teresa was visiting a while back we came across some dresses and skirts from my childhood that I still had! I gave them to Teresa for her youngest daughter to wear. When she out grew them Teresa couldn't bring herself to donate my 30+ year old clothes to Goodwill so she and the Bagettes transformed them into a quilt for me. I had NO idea they were doing this. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened the package and found this thoughtful, one-of-a-kind, re-recycled gift! I was speechless, touched, thrilled! Teresa even incorporated a hood for me so I could wear it while I worked. When we renewed our vows on Bowling Ball Beach, I wore it. When we took a road trip to LA in June, I took it and wore it. I basically am 5 years old with a blankie again. . . and lovin' it! THANK YOU TERESA and THE BAGETTES! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Paul in his element: up north + camera
This months marks the 7th anniversary of Harmony Art organic design. It seems unreal to me. Can it be? Really? WOW!
I can still vividly remember being in Michigan in January 2005, witnessing the "glorious transition to a freer life" of my father-in-law, Paul Susalla. He died on his 66th birthday, 7 years ago today. His passing was peaceful, calm and beautiful. We should all be so lucky to be at home surrounded by so much love.
If I hadn't quit my job to start Harmony Art I would have been in Germany attending the Heimtextil show rather than being in snowy Michigan with my family during this sacred passage. The timing has always felt like a confirmation of my decision.
This time of great sorrow will always be intimately woven into the start of the Harmony Art journey. Although I never told Paul about my new business idea/venture (it seemed so inconsequential in the moment) his illness helped inspire it. In the face of life's frailty, I was motivated to reflect and to act.
I miss Paul. I think he would be really proud of what we have accomplished. How I wish I could be celebrating another anniversary with him. When this time of year comes around it always feels bitter sweet.
To quote Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Life is short. Make your journey a great one! Thank YOU for SEVEN amazing years.
Check out my "new" couch. Sherry in Nashville did an excellent job making me new covers for our couch. We acquired the couch when it failed to sell at the Gualala Arts Center rummage sale a year or two ago. My husband called and said, "Can I buy a couch?" Sight unseen I became the proud owner of this corner couch. Now that it has a new face lift I am in LOVE with it. Every time I look at it I like it more and more. Note the flower painting in the corner done my oh so talented 14 year old niece, Emma. She is amazing! You might also recognize some other Harmony Art fabrics in the room.
The print I used for the couch covers is our organic cotton twill named Evelyn & Janette after my two grandmothers. The fun thing is that our other couch (in our living room) is a hand-me-down from my grandmother Janette (photo below). It has never been recovered. It's in fairly good shape for being at least 40 years old! I am happy to have earned the nickname Hand-me-down Harm. I like items with history much better than mass produced.
Why is 1998 a good number you ask? Well California Assembly Bill 1998 is the bill to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. It has made it through the California Assembly last week and its next stop is the state Senate! If all goes as we hope, this could mean the end of plastic bags in California! If passed, the bill goes into effect January 2012. I am very hopeful and proud of all the people who have gotten it this far.
The other reason why 1998 is a good number is that it was the year Sus and I got married. Tomorrow marks our 12th anniversary. As we do every year, we will be making a pilgrimage to Bowling Ball Beach to renew our vows. This year, after the vow exchange, we are heading off on a weasure (work+pleasure) road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to southern California. We plan to meet with customers, friends, family and on the 12th I will be giving a lecture to the Surface Art Association and then we will be heading home. We believe this is the closest thing to a vacation we have taken with just the 2 of us in 12 years! Should be fun! Back to packing.... and prepping. Have a great week!!!
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.