Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trust in a Smile

I don't usually pull cards for myself. I used to quite often, but I found that in the past I relied too heavily on the cards and not enough on my self. The cards are a tool to access the self, but it can turn unhealthy when they start replacing trust in your own feelings and judgement. On the rare occasion when I have wanted a reading, I like to go to another reader for advice who can be more objective than I can be.

But I've had the nagging feeling that I should pull some cards and see what comes up, and today I did. My reading was done on my art desk, and you can see some evidence of art-making in progress. I've been doing a lot of wondering and analyzing in the past couple months about this almost constant anxiety I have in my day-to-day life. One of the greatest sources of anxiety at the moment is my solo art show coming up in June. I don't have much time to create new artwork, yet not only am I trying to create all new pieces for the show, I'm also using a medium which is a bit more unfamiliar to me - printmaking on fabric. The processes alone are time consuming, and I've already spent a couple months just doing research about techniques and styles of fiber art - quilting in particular. It has been really fun to learn about and work in a new medium, but also daunting. I am also working part-time and teaching. I know many people who have schedules far more demanding than mine, but I am perpetually anxious about whether I can do it all. I have always preferred a more slow, relaxed pace to life but the demands of earning a somewhat stable income while also creating artwork make that difficult. I had the last couple of days off from work and thought I'd get a lot done, but I had a lot of trouble focusing due to the pressure I put on myself as well as feeling not quite sure about which step to take next in my art process.

I asked the cards for advice about how to manage all my duties and my life leading up to the art show.

The first card represents "The Past," and shows a bell ringing out. I took that to signify my feelings of alarm, a bell call letting me know that I needed to start focusing on my art show. It may also symbolize the need for communication through my art - this is my time to sing out and express myself. The second card represents "The Present," and shows a flower growing out of the flames. I think this card means that I am going through a "trial by fire" in terms of managing my workload and creative processes. I think it's a time when I am being tested, or testing myself, to show that I can emerge from this period of intensity shining brightly and transformed by the flames. I've always thought of this as the "alchemy" card. The next card, #17, represents my "Challenge or Goal." Again, this is an image of great intensity showing a lightening bolt striking open an egg. I feel this shows outside forces (the art show, my teaching and work duties) coming in and cracking me open like an eggshell. While this split is sudden and forceful, perhaps it is telling me that it's time to get out of my shell right now, to accept all that is going on. Underneath that card is #37 showing my "Internal Influence" - my feelings. I feel like that traveller, staring up at vast mountains and wondering how I'm going to cross. I guess a more positive view of this is that I am an adventurer about to scale mountains. Maybe it's daunting, but at the same time exciting. At the top of this column is the card representing my "External Influence." It shows a figure under a bridge with two faces. When I created this card, I always thought of this figure as the god Janus. From Wikipedia:
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (Latin: IANVS) is the god of beginnings and transitions,[1] thence also of gates, doors, passages, endings and time. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January (Ianuarius) in his honor.
At first glance, I thought this card showed an element of busy-ness. The figure seemed to be looking back and forth rapidly, constantly switching from one thing to another (for me - my various obligations, as well as the switch from research to concepts to actual art-making.) But I think this card also represents the theme of my art show. I am creating works based on a specific time and place, a small town in Northern New Mexico that I visited five years ago. It was an experience very close to my heart, and something I've struggled to adequately express through words and images ever since. I think the card shows that this show is important to me because it is a way for me to look back at the past, ahead to my future (I'm hoping to continue this series of images and use the images to apply for arts grants) as well as the bridging of the two. This is something I've thought consciously about as I create the work, how I'm using new processes that I would not have used 5 years ago, and how my thoughts and experiences since that time have influenced how I look at those memories now.

Moving on to the advice cards, the "Release" card shows a figure holding the sun, moon, and stars in one hand. I think this card has to do with control. I need to release the need to control my universe. I need to let things flow as they will. The card above it is the "Accept" card and shows a snake slithering over a hill. I think this card is telling me to get over that hump, to just proceed steadily and keep low to the earth. I think that at times I get lost in thought and speculation, and I really just need to keep working and not worry so much. I think this card is also poking fun at my "Internal Influence" card that showed vast mountains. Perhaps I'm making mountains out of molehills at times, and need to just keep a steady pace and stick to what's in front of me- one step, or slither, at a time. Card #34 shows a house on fire. I was not scared of that card. It signified my "Possible Outcome" and I thought of it as a card of purification, of "cleaning house." It seems significant that I have so many cards with the element of fire in them - the flower in the flame, the lightening bolt, and now this burning house. It made me remember that for me, the artwork I'm creating is very personal and getting it in the open is a form of catharsis for me. Maybe this means I will experience intense emotions, perhaps intensified anxiety, but I think in the end it is all for the best. Card #47 shows "Further Possibilities" and it confirms my feelings that the process I'm going through now is a way to bring my memories full circle, as much as memories can come full circle. The plants in this card go through a cycle of death and rebirth. There's more to the story of what these memories mean to me, but I'd like to keep some of it private. But I will say that these memories are a joyful beginning to a road that also led through much pain, and I think that the celebration of these memories will help me to release that pain.

The last two cards in the upper right are the "Theme" cards for my reading. Card #36 flipped out of my deck while shuffling so I set it aside. It shows a boy with a sack, travelling light-heartedly. Card #15 shows a woman smiling. I think that both of these cards show that I need to relax and enjoy the process, that everything will work out and be okay. I can get so caught up in worrying and planning for the future. Every so often I will experience a moment where there is this incredible emptiness in my brain. It happens so rarely that it is immediately noticeable. This emptiness is saying "Nothing is wrong. There is nothing to worry about right now." That sounds kind of crazy, but I have an almost constant low-level anxiety that fills my thoughts and makes me worry about what I have to worry about next! I've been observing these thought processes, and I realize that it's not about what actually pops up in my life. It's about my state of mind. I know I need to find a way to relax and feel okay with life, but it is very hard for me to do. I've been like this for as long as I can remember. Maybe I should carry around the card with the smiling woman. Her face is very reassuring. Every time I panic that I don't have the energy or capacity to do what I need to, I need to pull the card out, take a deep breath, and trust in her smile.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

From "The Daily Draw"

Hi everyone!

I wanted to let you in on another blogger who has posted some well-wrought insights on a couple of the Golden Moth cards. Her name is Tierney Sadler, and she posts almost every day on "The Daily Draw" blog, pulling from her vast and varied collection of tarot decks. Llewellyn is publishing her Tarot Toolkit called "The Deck of 1000 Spreads" in March! Check it out. Even if you are not a tarot-enthusiast, her posts are insightful enough to get anyone thinking about life and the choices we all make.

You can read her Golden Moth interpretations here:

Card #17- What do you see in this card? Does your interpretation relate to something in your own life right now? What message does it hold for you?

Card #58 - What value and import do you place on community? How much do you give to your community? Do you feel there's room in your life to kick it up a notch?

What I love about Tierney's readings is her ability to cut through to the heart of a matter in a sometimes brutally honest way. She also provides historical background information about the cards - something I've never had much patience to do, which is why I created my own card deck in an intuitive way rather than spending a long time on research. So be sure to check out her blog for her individual spin on the cards!

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays. For me, it is a time of stress as well as joy, so I'm now making a very pleasant effort to rest and relax. That means reading lots of books, watching television, and not leaving the house much. Ah, such a nice break. In my head, I am also working on a review of the year which I plan to post soon. I wish everyone the ability to enjoy some peace and fun whenever you can!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Man in the Moon

About a month ago, friend, illustrator, and Golden Moth Deck owner Katie Green asked me to write about Card #21, or what I consider "The Moon" card. Forgive me if this post gets a bit rambly, because it has been on my mind for awhile now. It is also serendipitous because when I checked out Priscilla Smith's blog Spirit Speak 444, I discovered that she had pulled this card today! Priscilla is pulling one card everyday this November and writing about it. You can read her Moon/Star post here. It has been interesting to read Priscilla's interpretations of the cards because it further reinforces my decision to keep the symbols simple and in a single color (which was also suggested by Katie Green - double thanks!) I think these artistic decisions make the interpretation of each symbol much more open and free-flowing. With simple line drawings and no color cues, people are able to see what comes to their unique minds without too much outside influence. Priscilla's posts have also shown me that how someone literally sees an image is so very personal, based on their history and personality. It all continues to fascinate me, as both an artist and the creator of this deck. When Priscilla first mentioned this card in her Golden Moth Deck Interview, she called it "The Man from the Moon." Upon seeing this, I realized that when turned upside down, the object in the center of the image does look kind of like a person! Crazy, I did not picture this when I was drawing it. Actually, I meant the object to look a bit like a castle or a weird plant. I left it purposely ambiguous. The image actually came to me many years before as I was doodling some designs for T-shirts and this strange castle-ish image came out onto the page. I certainly didn't think I would end up turning it into a divination card.

When I created this symbol, I was highly inspired by the Moon card of the traditional Rider-Waite tarot deck and the interpretation I found on

The Moon card is often seen as representing fears, anxieties, heightened fantasies and imagination, intuition, and creativity. I thought of this card as a ghostly imagination-castle growing out of a lake reflecting stars. However, the reflections are not total mirror images, which makes them a little less cut-and-dry. In fact, for a long time this card still remained ambiguous, artistically and interpretation-wise. I had some idea of what it meant through studying the Moon card in tarot tradition, but it still eluded me a bit when it came up in readings. Now I can see the symbol of an upside-down Man in the Moon is very fitting for this card as well. It reminds me of the Hanged Man card in the tarot tradition.The Hanged Man is one of those paradoxical cards. While the words "Hanged Man" can sound ominous, the man in the card is very calm and the ring of light around his head makes him seem as though he is enlightened in the spiritual sense. (And isn't it further serendipity that my Moon card is #21, and the tarot Hanged Man card is that number reversed - #12? Woo...believe me, I didn't do that on purpose.) From  
"The main lesson of the Hanged Man is that we "control" by letting go - we "win" by surrendering. The figure on Card 12 has made the ultimate surrender - to die on the cross of his own travails - yet he shines with the glory of divine understanding. He has sacrificed himself, but he emerges the victor. The Hanged Man also tells us that we can "move forward" by standing still. By suspending time, we can have all the time in the world."
I see the influence of this paradoxical and mystical energy in my Moon card. In readings for others and for myself, the Moon card will often come up during times of uncertainty. But I also think it is about trusting the moment and allowing unknowing to function in your life. The moon appears when the clear light of day is absent and we are left with a different kind of light - bright in its own way, but softer, more mysterious and magical. I think that this card often appears in times of life when events, thoughts, or actions have this sort of mysterious quality. Perhaps we are building a castle out of moonlight, letting the castle grow out of the water like a strange plant with its own life-force. Maybe we are simply dreaming, letting ourselves float through the night because we know the dream won't last. Or maybe we are dreaming so that we can figure out how to build the dream during waking life. The light of the moon is our testing ground, a time when we can create, drift, imagine, explore what we don't know. This all sounds pretty ambiguous and mystical, I know. But I do believe that is what the Moon card is about, at least to me. A time of transitions, a time to see our world in a different light. What does the Moon mean to you?

This card also has personal significance for me because I believe it is my guiding force when doing readings for other people. Since self-publishing the deck, I have done many more readings and I think that I have grown as a reader because of it. There have been many instances when people have told me they felt better after a reading, and I could feel it from their smiles and the lightness in their demeanor. But there are times when I feel nervous or unsure of what others are getting from the readings. Sometimes I go into anxiety-mode and start talking much more than is necessary, trying to fill the nervous space by leaving no stone unturned. I've come to realize that reading cards is very much about being in the moment, responding to people's needs as well as knowing what it is in my power to offer them. I can't always tell people what they want to hear. As much as I want to help people who are going through difficult situations, I have decided that my role as a reader is one of facilitator for people to understand themselves better. I try to remind people that they do know themselves and what they need to do, the cards are just there to help them see it in a more conscious way. I am not an all-knower, all-fixer, or there to placate them just so I feel good about myself. I don't think anyone really expects that of me, but it is tempting to wish that I could make people's lives better through my readings.

I am constantly floored by the mystery of life. Who is to say what effect - subtle or larger - that the readings will have on a person? Maybe I helped someone become more conscious of a negative pattern. Maybe talking through a reading helped lightened a burden for someone. Maybe the burden will come back, maybe it won't. I can't know or control it all. All I can do is try my best to be open to what is needed in the moment. Whenever I shuffle the cards, I've come to ask in my head "What does so-&-so need to hear right now? What does he/she need?" which amusingly makes me think about the Oracle in The Matrix movies. And it is amazing when I allow myself to be open to the cards and see them fresh each time. I definitely have personal interpretations for each card, but lately I've been trying to truly be in the moment and trust my intuition. It actually makes a card look different each time. Certain aspects will appear more strongly to me. I also am more open to other people's interpretations. When I am unsure of a card's meaning in the spread, I will ask the Querent what they think. And this is always the "right" meaning for their situation. I have learned so much more about my cards and their possibilities through the thoughts and suggestions of other people.

Whenever you feel confused or unsure, remember the Moon. Don't try to understand right away. Let it be. Let it be scary, let it be crazy, let it be the wrong thing for you. Or the right thing. Maybe they are the same thing. Let it ramble just as much as this post about the Moon. It is your nightmare, your dream, your mysterious and sacred life.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sprout Head Sale - Hurrah for 2012!

To help kick off the holiday season and my new linocut prints, I am starting early with a SALE in my online shop, Sprout Head! Use Coupon Code HURRAH2012 upon checkout to receive 10% off your entire order - hint: that includes Golden Moth Illumination Decks! Sale runs from Friday, November 16 - Monday, November 26. The first 10 orders over $10 (not including shipping) that use coupon code will receive the zine "We Carry Each Other" for free with your purchase! IMPORTANT: You MUST use the coupon code or else you will not receive the discount or bonus zine.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


NaBloPoMo is National Blog Posting Month, where bloggers set a goal to blog every day for a whole month. I've been lucky enough to have Priscilla Smith of the blog Spirit Speak 444 choose my Golden Moth Illumination Deck as the theme for her NaBloPoMo! Starting on November 1st, everyday she will draw a card and post about her thoughts and interpretations. Get a preview of what is to come with her awesome and insightful "Interview with the Golden Moth." This will be exciting and fun for me to read and I hope it will be for you, too. Thanks Priscilla!
Also, you may have noticed a new tab at the top of the blog called "CRAFT SHOWS & EVENTS." You can click on it anytime for an updated schedule of craft shows where I will be selling my art and Golden Moth Decks, as well as events where I will be doing Intuitive Card Readings.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who's Behind Blue Elephant?

As some of you already know, I've started to give monthly Golden Moth Intuitive Card Readings (like tarot readings, but using my own deck of cards) at Blue Elephant in Richmond. This months readings will take place on Sunday, October 21st from 1-4 pm - coinciding with their weekend Sidewalk Sale which starts tomorrow! 

Blue Elephant is a fantastic boutique that sells vintage housewares and artwork by local artists, and I always feel inspired after I visit. I've gotten to know Patsy and Jessica, the owners, but thought it would be neat to interview them to find out a little more about the mysterious women behind Blue Elephant. Enjoy!

Here's Patsy on the left and Jessica on the right.

Hello Patsy and Jessica! Would you please tell us a little about yourselves?

J: I was raised in Northern Virginia, and came down to Richmond to attend VCU. I definitely wasn’t thrilled to move here at first, but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else! I have a cute row house in Oregon Hill that I share with great roommates and one fat cat, I ride a scooter everywhere and refuse to get my driver’s license, and I love all the great local shops and restaurants. The amount of creative talent and friendly people make Richmond one of my favorite places. It’s a beautiful, but unpretentious, city.

P: I come from a military family, and moved around often while growing up. My mother (Jessica’s grandmother) is Japanese, so my father would take assignments in Japan so my mom could be close to her family. I’ve lived in Japan twice in my life, and been back for visits several times. Japan and all things Japanese hold a special place in my heart and soul.

I worked in Northern Virginia at a large telecom company for almost 20 years, while Jessica and her brother, John, were growing up. When I first started working in telecom, I had no idea that I would do so for so long. While working in a corporate environment has its good points, it certainly didn’t make me feel fulfilled in a creative sense.

How did you become interested in vintage items and what made you decide to open a shop?

J: My mother, Patsy, was the one who always wanted to try her hand at owning a store. When she decided it was time to give it a try, I talked her into opening in Richmond, because I thought a vintage housewares shop in Richmond would make a great fit. She was still working in Northern Virginia, so she asked me to help set up the store. And things kind of just went from there!

P: As time went by in my telecom job, I found myself thinking more and more about leaving my current life behind, and doing something totally different. So in 2010, I took a large part of my savings, and opened Blue Elephant.

Jessica is a huge part of why I opened the store in Richmond. She loved this city, and, in all my visits to it, I found that I loved it, too. As I was still working in NoVA in 2010 and 2011, I also needed someone in whom I could trust to be my business partner, and whom better than my own daughter? J

It’s hard to say how I became interested in vintage items, as it seems like I just always have. I like things that have a history to them, and I like wondering about who owned them before me. I like new things, too (well, some new things), but given a choice between a new couch and a cute vintage one, I will almost always choose vintage!

How do you acquire your items, and what sorts of things are you particularly on the lookout for?

J: We take things on consignment from people and we also source things from auctions, estate sales, etc. Generally speaking, we look for things that range from the 1940’s through the 1970’s or vintage inspired pieces. Small pieces of mid-century furniture are always popular. I’m forever searching for dressers, side tables, etc. Things that fit into small Fan apartments.

P: When I go shopping for the store, I just look for things that I like. End of statement! I think people sometimes think we’re experts or curators and know a lot about this period and that particular designer and whatnot, and, over the past couple of years, that certainly has become more of a true statement as we’ve learned a lot. Jessica especially spends a large part of her day researching items, and can generally give our customers a much more informed history of an item in our shop than me. But as for me, I just look for what pleases my eye and what strikes a chord inside me.

What are some interesting/non-traditional ways that customers use objects from your store?

J: just had a customer that bought a wooden crate and mounted it to the wall for a shelf. He also came back and bought a giant wooden spool to try and turn into a side table. We also sell vintage luggage and people do all sorts of things with them; tables, storage, pet beds.

P: We’ve had people buy mid-century china cabinets and sideboards to use as dressers, and people buy dressers to use as sideboards. I think non-traditional uses of furniture and accessories make a space interesting.

What is your favorite item currently in the store, and why?
J: My favorite piece of furniture is probably the gray mid-century sofa that we had reupholstered at u-fab. It has the greatest lines with wide arms and original brass tapered legs. I’m also a sucker for tiny animal figurines. I have a lot of bookcases at home and I like to add the animals in with the books. I tell my little sisters they come alive at night to have tiny animal book club meetings. 

P: I love the gray sofa, too, but just recently someone brought in this blue clay bowl with three blue clay heads inside. It’s odd, it’s whimsical, and for some reason, it just delights me. I think I’m going to buy it for myself and take it home! 

You two are the main owners of the shop, but other members of your family are also involved. Can you tell us how each of you helps in the running of the business and what it’s like to work with family?

J: My brother, John, is a senior Crafts and Materials major at VCU. He comes in frequently to do the windows for us. I assist him when we do them, as there’s usually a lot of work that goes into our window displays. John also will come and rearrange the store for us. He has a great eye for visual merchandising.

My mother’s husband, Ron, also helps us. Unfortunately for him, it’s usually the un fun part that he helps us with. Delivering furniture, helping us with the accounting. He’s a good sport about it, thankfully!

P: As Jessica said, John has a great eye for arranging a space. Have you ever watched that show on HGTV where a designer comes into someone’s apartment and rearranges all of their own furniture and makes it look like a thousand times better? Well, that’s John! I love when he comes to the store and rearranges everything!

I don’t think that without the support of my husband, Ron, I would have been brave enough to venture out and start Blue Elephant. It’s true that he does help with a lot of the un-fun things, like moving furniture and fixing things. But for the past two years, he also played a really important role as our bookkeeper, and helped us make sure all our accounts and taxes were in order. 

What is the best part of running your own business? The most difficult?

J: The best part? I like when I have someone buy something that I know they are excited about. Most everything in the store is something I would like, but I am not a hoarder. So it’s the next best thing, finding things for other people that make them happy!

The most difficult part for me is the stress of owning your own business. When things don’t work out, or something you are trying to do fails, you have no one but yourself to blame. I think people have a misconception that what I do is fun all the time. I love what I get to do for a living. But it is hard. There are a lot of responsibilities involved, and I put myself last.

P: One of the best parts for me is that I get to work with my kids. I like that we have a common goal, and I feel it has brought us closer. The relationship between parents and their adult children is a lot different than when they’re little. I really like where I am with them at this point in their lives. J

One of the most difficult is exactly what Jessica said. It sometimes seems that we sacrifice a lot to maintain the store.  It’s not a job that you work 9 to 5, and then forget about when you go home. It’s integral to us, and it’s really important to us to be fair to our consignors and our artists and crafters.

What has been your favorite experience with a customer?

J: Recently, we sold a beautiful blue mid-century sofa to a young couple that had just moved to Richmond. They were both very kind and I knew the wife had her heart set on the sofa. When her husband came in later after work to see it himself, I worked with him to get to a price we could both work with and had it delivered for free. It made my day when they sent a text telling us how thrilled they were with the sofa and thanked us again. When people appreciate the things we do, it makes everything worthwhile.

P: I have so many it’s hard to choose! Generally speaking, I just love when someone buys something that they’re super excited about, and that’s a good deal for both them and us.

How do you like your current location in the Fan?

J: We just recently moved from Strawberry Street to Robinson Street. The old location was smaller, and when the opportunity to be next to Halcyon Vintage Clothing opened up, I couldn’t say no. And so far, it’s worked out great! The space is larger and brighter, all the ladies next door at Halcyon are wonderful, and having Deep Groove a couple blocks down is awesome too! We’ve kind of made a little trifecta of vintage stores.

P: Ditto to that!

What kinds of items do you think will be popular this coming holiday season?

J: The things that I think make great gifts are vintage items like aprons, books, embroidered linens, and cute kitchen items. I also think work by local artists such as yourself make wonderful gifts. Small prints, paintings, or pottery by local artists are great one of a kind items that support the creative community within Richmond.

P: I think anyone who has someone they’re getting a gift for who appreciates something not mass-produced and that’s different and unique as well as thoughtful, will be able to find something special at Blue Elephant!

Anything else we should know?

J: I can’t think of anything else. Just, thanks!

P: You ask a lot of questions, Aijung! I’m tired now. ;) But thank you so much for taking the time to interview us!!

Thanks, ladies!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Golden Moth is on Facebook!

I created a Facebook page for The Golden Moth Illumination Deck:

Please "like" my page to receive updates about events, sales, blog updates, and anything else Golden Moth! Feel free to comment about the deck or experiences you have had with it, too. I'm still trying to create a dialogue on the Golden Moth blog, and would love it if people shared their thoughts here or on Facebook because I've already heard some great stories from some of you.