Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The "Underneath" Story

Note: I'm re-posting this from my art blog.

A reader commented on my 2014 Re-Cap post that her year was full of less tangible accomplishments than mine. I like that observation. It's true that some years are full of busy activity, and some can be more low-key in terms of visibility, but a lot can go on underneath the surface. I'm going to use my Golden Moth Illumination Deck to show you what 2014 felt like to me.

I receive e-mails with tips and quotes from a creative business coach named Alexis Fedor. One quote I liked a lot was by novelist Zora Neale Hurston:
"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

For me, 2014 was a year for both. I asked a lot of questions and experimented with trying to get the results I thought I wanted. I'm still sorting through the answers. I wanted to find a way to make a reliable living through my art, to find a way out of the ups and downs. I wanted to prove myself. But the truth is, I'm still experimenting. And I doubt that will ever end. Maybe I thrive off of the ups and downs more than I'd care to admit.

As an artist, I have never liked being fully in the spotlight. I want to reach people and share with them through my art, blog, and newsletter, but sometimes I feel very exposed doing so. And last year I felt more exposed than ever.

I wanted to take on a new role last year. One of "business person." I put myself out there in ways that felt exciting but sometimes uncomfortable. I worked a lot with my printer, figuring out solutions to issues that came up and figuring out the best ways to print my products. I called store owners and sent out many e-mails to try to get my notecards into stores. I had some success with that. But trying to learn how to run the business and apply it immediately sometimes felt like this:

It was a balancing act and a lot of scrambling. I went from feeling triumphant when I received an order, to feeling scared and overwhelmed that I couldn't handle anything or that nothing would result from my endeavors.

By throwing myself into my business, I also realized that running a business is unlike anything else I have done. It's not a flight of fancy. To grow a business, I'll need to keep it going on a day-to-day basis. I need to think about the next steps, how to make things work better. I run on cycles. The idea of long-term anything can feel like a burden. I wondered, "Is this really what I want? If not this, then what else should I do?"

By the end of last year, I had reaped my harvest. I wasn't a millionaire, but I had achieved small financial successes. Through trial and experience, I had made some good decisions. But I didn't feel good about it. It didn't seem like enough. I didn't feel good enough.

Right before I traveled to Rochester, NY to visit my family for the Christmas holiday, I spent an evening with a friend. Through intense conversations over dinner, in the car, and on a chilly walk through my old neighborhood, we both experienced a catharsis. 

"I feel pathetic," I told him. There were so many things I wanted for my future - children, a family, to continue to be a working artist. And I still couldn't see how that would be possible. It felt like so much work just to keep afloat. I felt lost and in need of a change. 

I still judged myself so harshly based on my social/monetary standing in life. Over dinner, my friend and I realized that's silly! Modern society places so much emphasis on our social statuses. As humans, we can no longer be happy with just surviving. We need to prove ourselves to other people, to bolster our own egos, to strive for what is considered "success."

I placed so much emphasis on money, thinking it would bring me happiness. I thought I was being reasonable, that I need money to raise a family, to buy a house, to continue to make art. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting those things. But feeling like I'm not capable of achieving them has tortured me for so long. That night, I realized that those things were outside of myself. What matters most is how I feel.

Rather than trying to be someone worthy of feeling happiness, I just want to be happy. And for me, that means not trying to control the future. Not thinking Point A leads to Point B leads to Point C. Not trying to find the answers that will fix everything. I know my desire for control will flare up again and again. But when I get that anxious feeling of dread when I think about the future, I'll know that something is amiss. And I'll try to move toward the thing that feels better. Moment by moment.

It's been almost three weeks since I returned to Richmond from holiday, and this is where I'm at right now:

I feel like I'm floating through my life, incubating. I'm not trying to push myself too hard. Last year was a year of willfulness, of trying to put things in motion in the outside world. It taught me a lot. 

But I'm very tired from all that striving. Now I feel like retreating into the part of myself that bubbles with creativity, stories, visions, unknowns. I want to nurture the part of myself that doesn't want to be rational or successful. It's the part of me that creates for pure joy.

I want to write and illustrate the stories that have been living inside me, half-formed, for years. I don't want to think about the long-term plan right now or where my work will lead me. I just want to do it. 

I don't have all the answers. But answers just lead to more questions, anyway. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Golden Moth Giveaway + Shop Sale Through December 14th!

Finally, finally... After much poking and prodding of digital files and discussions with my printer, James River Press, the second printing of The Golden Moth Illumination Deck has arrived! This time, I had the cards printed digitally on a smooth cardstock and they were corner-rounded by the printer (taking the strain off my shoulders!) For those of you who haven't been following its progress, The Golden Moth Illumination Deck is a set of symbolic cards that I self-published in 2012 with the help of lovely people who backed my Kickstarter campaign. You can read about the whole sage here. They are oracle cards (kind of like tarot cards), meant to be used for divination or any creative purpose you can think of! Take a look:

I just finished listing them in my Etsy shop, Sprout Head, and this time around there are a few different purchasing options. You can now buy the deck separately from the handbook. If you buy just the deck, it comes with a brief fold-out information guide to get you started on using the cards. This guide gives advice on how to give a reading and interpret the cards and shows you one spread layout. It does not include individual symbol interpretations.

If you want that, you'll have to purchase the handbook. It contains all the information from the first handbook that I published, but it is updated with individual card interpretations. It comes as a hard copy and a PDF version. If you purchase the hard copy of the handbook alone or with the deck, you will also receive the PDF version as a FREE bonus! But note that this offer cannot be used retroactively if you purchase the PDF version first and the hard copy later. Sorry, no refunds. 

You can see the listings for all the different Golden Moth products here. I hope you are as excited about it as I am. In celebration, I'm offering two cool things: a giveaway and a shop sale! Read on:


I'm giving away Golden Moth Illumination Decks + Handbooks to TWO lucky winners! Giveaway ends on the evening (Eastern Standard Time) of Sunday, December 14th.

How to enter:
1. Leave a comment on the blog about why this deck should be yours (or gifted to a friend, if you so desire).
2. Check this blog on the evening (EST) of Monday, December 15th to find out if you've won. If you aren't subscribed to my blog or might forget to check back, please leave your e-mail address in your comment, but put some spaces between the words so the spam-bots don't steal it. I need a way to reach you if you win - VERY IMPORTANT!
3. If you know of someone who would be interested in this giveaway, please SHARE! I will be sharing this giveaway on my Golden Moth Blog, Sprout Head Facebook Page, Golden Moth Facebook Page, and Instagram. Pick your favorite social media link!


If you don't want to take your chances with the giveaway, how about taking 15% off your total purchase in my online shop, Sprout Head? Through Sunday, December 14th, use coupon code HOLIDAY2014  HAPPY2014 upon checkout to receive your discount. (The previous HOLIDAY code had a minimum order requirement, the HAPPY one does not!) You must enter the coupon upon checkout or you won't get your discount - it does not happen automatically.


Monday, November 10, 2014


I forgot to post about this before, but a couple of months ago someone had an image from the deck tattooed on their arm. What an honor!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Golden Moth Review by Charmed Finishing School

Oh my gosh, I meant to post about this earlier. This is a totally awesome review of my deck by Deborah Castellano of Charmed Finishing School. Now I only have 2 more limited edition decks, probably owing in large part to her! But don't worry, I'm going to print more decks this fall. Read the review here: http://www.charmedfinishingschool.com/the-golden-moth-illumination-deck-review/

I also wanted to remark on her comment that she could separate the cards into piles of positives, neutrals, and negatives, but she could also see how they could be interpreted differently depending on the card groupings and positions. When I created the cards, I also had my own interpretations of each card. Even though I wanted the symbols to be flexible, there were some that I clearly saw as positive or negative. For example, card #55 with the cut hand. It was hard for me to see that card as positive. Since I have done so many readings with the deck, I've learned from other people their many different interpretations, and this has added to the deck to make it richer and more collaborative than I ever even imagined! Someone interpreted that card as being open to vulnerability, which was a very positive thing in her particular situation. This is where the magic of the deck mixes with the magic of the people who use it. It makes me so happy that this deck is out in the world.

I also really liked Deborah's comment:
"Not having to worry about more than a century of very intricate and specific interpretations of the cards actually made my readings more accurate."
This was exactly what I was hoping for with this deck. I created it as an artist, from my own personal experiences, and being naturally drawn to certain symbols. I thought about researching more into what each symbol should mean. I'm glad I didn't, because every person brings something different to the table with their own lives and outlooks.

Although after doing a survey of people who used the deck, when I release the commercial version of the new deck sometime this fall I will include an interpretation guide because some people really want it, and it'll serve as a "jumping-off point" rather than "set-in-stone"-type deal.

Thank you so much Deborah for a fabulous (and in some parts hilarious - see her footnote) review! Deborah is a frequent contributor to Occult/Pagan sources such as Llewellyn, Witchvox, PaganSquare and Witches & Pagans magazine. Deborah’s book, The Arte of Glamour is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Deborah also writes romantica fiction, sells handspun yarn and other goodies in her craft shop The Mermaid and The Crow and handcrafted items for magical/occult practice in her shop The Glamoury Apothecary.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Golden Moth 2nd Anniversary...and a Special Discount!

In early February of 2012, I launched my Kickstarter campaign to produce The Golden Moth Illumination Deck in a limited run of 300 decks. In mid-June of that year (2 months later than I had planned) I sent off the first decks to generous Kickstarter backers who supported me. It has now been over two years since it all began. Little did I know that the Golden Moth would sweep me up a whirlwind of fluttery wings and deposit me back on earth as a changed, and hopefully wiser, person.

I mailed deck #254 out of 300 last week, which means I only have around 40 or so decks left for purchase from the original edition and I'm keeping a few for myself. Last week I went through all of the remaining cards and finished sorting out the printing variations/errors so that the remaining cards would be ready for corner-rounding. 

Here are the last remaining cards on my shelf:

Some of you might remember when they took up a kitchen counter and two tables:

Back in 2012 I had arranged for my printers, Parcell Press, to print and trim the cards for me but I had decided to sort, collate, and corner-round the cards and assemble the boxes by hand in order to cut down on my costs. My boyfriend, parents, and a handful of friends helped me out as well. Before I received the cards, I had envisioned assembling all 300 of the decks within a relatively short span of time, maybe a couple months. After a couple of months of almost losing my mind from the pressure of delivering 127 Kickstarter rewards, I decided from then on the decks would be assembled in periodic small batches. I would spend literally hundreds of hours doing the aforementioned tasks for the next two years.

What led me to this situation was severely underestimating the time it would take me to do these tasks by hand. Why, oh why, did I not time myself in making a prototype from start to finish? Take corner-rounding. Each card has 4 corners to corner-round. Each deck consists of 75 cards. That's 300 corners per deck. That's 90,000 corners for 300 decks. Let me repeat that: NINETY-THOUSAND. Hmm, when you break it down like that, that's a lot of corners and a lot of potential shoulder pain.

Here are some other fun Golden Moth statistics: 

* For my Kickstarter campaign, I was backed by 127 people. Most were from the US, and 31 of those people lived in my current hometown of Richmond, VA. I also had 10 international backers from Canada, Australia, England, Singapore, Italy, New Zealand, and Norway.

* I raised $4,800, $800 more than my funding goal!

* 102 decks were purchased through the campaign.

* For the other Kickstarter rewards, I sent out 194 postcards, 67 notecards, 39 bookplates, 26 screenprints, 111 pieces of small original art, and gave 7 Intuitive Card Readings (like tarot readings but using the Golden Moth cards).

* I've given at least 30 Intuitive Card Readings to people using my pre-Golden Moth deck prototype, which was much smaller with loosely-drawn black-and-white images. I've given an estimated 50 or more readings to people in-person and online using the published Golden Moth deck.

The other day when I went through my Kickstarter campaign report to tally up these numbers, I read through the list of backers again. I re-experienced the amazed, encouraging feeling of having friends, relatives, and strangers donate money because they believed in me and my project. At one point during the midst of Golden Moth assembling madness, I told the people closest to me that if I knew it would be this hard, I might never have done the project at all. I don't handle stress well to begin with, but producing The Golden Moth Illumination Deck has been, to date, the biggest and most overwhelming project of my life. Now I look back and affirm that the statement was true, that I probably wouldn't have done it if I'd known.

And so I'm really glad I didn't know, because the deck has also been one of the most far-reaching and positive projects of my life. I made some new friends and became closer with friends I already had through the project. I've had many people tell me how much they've enjoyed and appreciated the deck, and how it has brought some clarity to their lives. I am very thankful for that. This has also been the most "collaborative" project I've ever done. The cards take on different meanings with each new owner, and their use and purpose goes beyond just me. I love that about the deck.

So I'm forging ahead with the next step. I would like The Golden Moth Illumination Deck to reach an even greater audience. I plan to make a larger commercial run of decks so that I can lower the per-unit cost of producing the decks and get more decks into stores and other venues. I don't want to do any more handwork on the decks in order to free up my time for promotion and creative energy (as opposed to corner-rounding). I also plan to revise and expand the handbook.

To celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of the Golden Moth and to pave the way for this new expansion, I'm now offering the limited edition deck in my shop, Sprout Head, for a $5 discount - from $50 to $45. Added to this, I'm offering a super-special (and super-short) sale in my shop that ends on Wednesday, June 15th. Use the coupon code FLYAWAY upon checkout and receive an ADDITIONAL 10% off your entire shop purchase! If you apply this to the deck, it will cost only $40.50 - that's $9.50 off the original price! Remember, you must apply the coupon code upon checkout or you won't get the additional discount. If you've been waiting to get your hands on this limited edition handmade version of the deck, don't delay or else they'll soon be gone!

I'm also offering a sweeter discount for those of you who already own a deck. If you complete this short survey, you are eligible to receive a coupon code for 20% off your entire store purchase. This coupon will expire on August 31st. To take the survey, click here. Please respond by the end of June if you want your feedback to be incorporated into the creation of the new deck and handbook. If you do not want to take the survey but would still like to provide feedback, feel free to post comments on this blog or leave a comment/message on my Golden Moth Facebook page: www.facebook.com/goldenmothdeck

Happy 2nd Birthday, Golden Moth!

Monday, May 19, 2014

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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.