Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hue Studies

My 2D Visual Studies class at CCA is focused on color, which is thrilling to me. I'm thankful to be slightly obsessed with the subject matter because we have a TON OF WORK in this class, and being excited about color helps the 10-18 hours of homework per week go down a bit smoother.

One of our standing assignments is to fill 8 pages in our 11x14 sketchbook each week. I'm doing a lot of pattern studies, which are fun. I'm also working on a series of hue collages, reminiscent of the color posts I did here on the blog some time back.

Here are a couple of examples:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One Year

A year ago today, Rico and I left Mozambique after having lived there for 5.5 and 4.5 years respectively. It hardly seems possible. That memorable last day feels at once decades away, and yet as fresh and palpable as last week.

I am having a moment of nostalgia as I remember our time in Maputo, in particular. We were part of such a wonderful social group, and it saddens me to think that these people are in our past, that we will never be together again. Most of our closest friends have already moved on from Mozambique, on to new contracts and new lives, be it at "home" or in a different country, a different adventure.

I reminisce fondly, and with massive saudades, about all of the house parties, the road trips, the late afternoon coffees and weekend sundowners. In particular I miss my fabulous girlfriends: Jenny, Kelly, Helen, Zahra, Anel, Lindsey, Claudia, Evy...the list goes on.

I always used to think it was hard to make friends in Mozambique, and in all fairness it really was. People always coming and going, tricky relationships between expats and locals, cliques determined by country of origin and/or place of work. However once you managed to establish a friendship, you could be sure long-lasting bonds would be formed in record time.

Making friends here in the Bay Area has been slow-going, and in some ways even more difficult than in Maputo. We've established really nice relationships with our neighbors - most of whom are in their 40s and 50s - but it's been challenging to make friends our own age. Much of the time I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to being social, in particular with "peers". I have some friends from my high school days in New Mexico, but for the most part they live at least an hour away and I see them very infrequently.

When it comes to friendships, I am definitely of the "quality over quantity" philosophy, and am content to primarily hang out with Rico, my mom and our neighbors. However, there is part of me that aches to have girlfriends again, ones who live in the same city and who I can call up to have a spur-of-the-moment drink, or invite to dinner full well knowing that the house is a mess and we are eating leftovers, just because the pleasure of their company is so desired.

I remind myself that it took a good 2 years for me to feel like I had friends in Mozambique. I'm sure that at some point I'll look back on this post and find it hard to remember what it was like *not* to have a close girlfriend or two near Casa Cali. But today, on this anniversary of a great change in our lives, I find myself wishing that I could turn back time and spend just one evening with my friends in Maputo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Repetition and Pattern

Repetition and pattern sketch #1 for my 2D visual dynamics class. Colored pen on paper, 11x14.

School is going to be quite the intense ride this semester. I've only had one week of classes, and already I have more homework and studio work than I'd ever imagined. I've had so much to do, in fact, that I've been waking up before 6am every day and working well into the night. Good thing I don't have much of a social life because, if I did, this semester would pretty much be the end of it.

In my 2D class, the teacher flat-out told us that we'd work harder for her class than for just about any other core class (core classes are the basic curriculum that all students at CCA are required to take). She said to anticipate at least 18 hours of work outside the classroom each week, and thus far has made good on that promise.

We've also had to choose a theme for the class. The theme can be anything - cats, skateboarding, black-and-white photography, heaven vs. hell, talking to strangers - but it must be something we are passionate about, as all of the work we'll do in the 2D class will be about this theme. Mine is Repetition and Pattern. Each week we have to fill 8 pages in our sketchbook with some interpretation of our theme. It's a lot more work than it seems. So far I've done 2 pages and spent about 4 hours. At least it's fun work!

In my jewelry class we're working on an assignment where we have to design a thimble inspired by a famous person (dead or alive, fictional or real). The thimble can be more than just a "finger cap", and we've been encouraged to get a bit crazy and creative with what the thimble can be. In essence, we're creating jewelry for the hand. The thimble then has to be housed in some sort of display when not in use, which we also have to make by hand. Finally we have to present the project with a research paper about the famous person who the thimble is for, as well as a discussion about the concept behind our piece.

I'm feeling a bit intimidated about getting back behind the torch. I didn't solder all summer long, and now working with metals seems like such a giant undertaking compared to beading and wire-work. My jewelry class is also full of more advanced students, so I'm feeling the pressure to come up with top-notch projects that have solid craftsmanship. I know the worst part is the anticipation, so tomorrow I'm just going to dive into the project and hope that I haven't lost my skills.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Second Semester

School starts tomorrow. I love the first day of school - the anticipation, the slight nervousness, the sense that great things wait just around the corner.

When I was younger, the first day of school was all about the social scene. Who would be in your classes, what people would be wearing, who would have gained or lost 20 pounds over the summer. Now (thankfully!) school is truly all about the learning for me. I'm looking forward to learning lots of new metals skills, to broadening my creative horizons, to pushing myself to heights I never imagined possible. I get really competitive in school, but the truth is it's competition with myself. I know I'm capable of amazing things if I just apply myself, and at this stage in life (and for the amount of tuition I'm paying), I expect nothing but 100% effort.

My classes this semester are:

Modern Art History
4D Visual Studies (basically a digital media class)
2D Visual Studies (the section I chose focuses on color theory!)
Jewelry/Metal Arts 2B

My life is going to run according to a different rhythm come tomorrow, but I'm ready for it. I had a good summer and feel rested and anxious to get back to work. I'm going to need all the mental strength I can get, friends. Not only to get through the workload and subsequent stress, but because I have 8am classes every day.

(One of) my goal(s) for this semester? Stop the snooze button insanity. I'm going to try waking up to music to see if it makes a difference. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Huge Summer Clearance on Select Alexandra Amaro Jewlery

Even though the weather is just now starting to heat up at Casa Cali, summer is nearly over and it's time to clear out some of the Krobo Fusion collection to make room for new jewelry.

Get up to 50% off one-of-a-kind jewelry featuring recycled glass beads from Ghana, sourced through Soul of Somanya.

Prices are already marked down, so swing by the Alexandra Amaro website and check out the great deals.

Stay tuned for a preview of the Fall 2010 collection. Expect lots of long, chunky necklaces with a retro feel, stacked pearl bracelets, colorful chandelier earrings, and lots of layered chain elements.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On Becoming Dependent

I start school in less than a week and have been valiantly trying to make these last few days really feel like vacation. In part, I've succeeded. I've slept in, gone running along the water's edge, had bbq's in the backyard with Rico, suntanned, drank beer, read the entire September edition of Vogue, and watched plenty of trash on tv.

However, in between the sun and exercise and celebrity gossip, I've also been working exceptionally hard. I've been preparing tons of new jewelry for a trunk show at a local boutique, and am trying to get my online inventory up in preparation for the holidays. I also did a record number of translations in August and, despite having sworn to myself that I'd take a vacation, just accepted two new assignments yesterday.

Even though Rico has a stable income these days, it's really hard for me to snap out of "freelancer mode". When you are a self-employed consultant, you never know when your next job will appear, or when your clients will get around to paying you for assignments you've already completed. It's a cash flow nightmare, and Rico and I became very good at dealing with the unpredictability. The key? Accept (nearly) every job that comes your way, even if it means you are triple-booked and working 90 hours a week. You never know, you may have to rely on that income for the next four months.

And thus, even though my husband now gets a regular paycheck that covers our living expenses, I still feel compelled to take on work even though I'm supposed to be on vacation or am super busy with school. Part of it is residual consultant mindset, but part is also a matter of pride. For the first time in my life (well, for the first time since I started college and was weaned off the parental financial teat) I am dependent on another person to pay my bills, put me through school, buy my clothes, cover the mortgage, pay for trips and entertainment, etc.

When Rico and I were in the throes of financial uncertainty back in Mozambique - in the good old days when we were just starting to work as consultants, trying to establish a reputation for ourselves, living off $800 a month - I always thought that having someone else take care of your cash flow worries must be the best thing in the world. Certainly, I am blessed that Rico has a great job, and that our situation allows me the luxury of going to art school and following my dream of being a full-time jewelry artist. However, it's been surprisingly difficult for me to accept that I am now financially dependent on Rico and - to make matters worse - not only am I not bringing in a big income, I'm also running up expenses right and left thanks to the astronomical tuition at CCA.

I don't think I ever realized how much of my identity was caught up in being a breadwinner, being financially INdependent, earning a salary that somehow validated my worth as a professional and as a person. It's been hard to admit, and even harder to let go. Even though I'm happier than I've ever been, and wouldn't want to go back to consulting unless truly necessary, part of me still feels like a "failure" because I'm not bringing in an income.

It's a very strange feeling because intellectually, I know this is ridiculous. That my happiness and well-being are worth much more than any silly salary I walked away from. I feel that $100 earned creating and selling a piece of jewelry is much, much sweeter than $10,000 earned doing some bullshit consulting assignment. However, there is part of me - a stubborn, superficial, distorted-feminist part - that feels ashamed to be dependent on someone else.

Rico has been super understanding of my internal struggle, and keeps trying to get the message through my thick head that his salary is OUR money. He reminds me of the times in our past - when he was studying, or sorting out the logistics of our wedding, or taking care of the bureaucracy of buying our house - when his income was zilch and I was bringing in the big bucks. He asks whether I thought about the money I earned during those periods as our money. Of course it was OUR money. "But that was different," I protest. Rico will then look at me with a raised eyebrow and as me how, exactly, it was different. Of course I have no good answer, and we laugh together at my stubbornness.

With each day that passes, it becomes a little easier to accept that I am lucky enough to be in this situation, that I am deserving of the support of my family and that there is no shame in giving up my income in order to pursue my dream. Now if I could only have the gumption to turn away the next translating assignment...

Riots in Maputo

"Six people, including two children, are reported to have been killed during riots in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, over rising food and fuel prices."

Apparently the local population, tired of increases in the price of bread, petrol, water and electricity, took to the streets in a protest that was organized primarily by cell phone. Unfortunately violence erupted, and people who I've spoken with in Maputo today say the situation is still quite chaotic. There are reports of tires burning in the streets, cars being stoned and vandalized, barricades blocking the circulation of vehicles, and even reports of the police firing live rounds into crowds (although supposedly the police only use rubber bullets). Most people are just staying home, hunkering down until the violence draws to an end.

The news today gave me flashbacks to the riots of 2008, which I experienced first-hand and wrote about extensively here and here.

The main problem, as I see it, is that there is no real solution in sight. Prices will continue to increase, salaries will continue to be miserably low, and the root causes of the social and economic inequalities in Mozambique will persist. While I don't condone the violence, I can definitely see how the poor reach a breaking point when their lives are so unimaginably hard, and yet they constantly witness others (i.e. the fat cats associated with the Government and those who thrive on corrupt business practices) driving their luxury cars, living in their 15-room mansions, and acting like they rule the world. Something fundamental has got to give...until then, expect more headlines like today's coming out of Mozambique.