2009 September Archive | Amber Jean

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Monthly Archives: September 2009



"Juliet" found a great home with a good friend (and cat lover)

Excitement and a Bit of Purpose

Earlier this morning I walked outside to my truck in the driveway. The crisp cold, the low light, the long shadows, the tall yellow grass and the instant cold nose created a flash-back; shiny new lunchbox, brand new backpack waiting for the bus with some excitement and a bit of purpose.  I love this time of year.

First Grade (First Grade…can you guess which one is me?)

I’ve zillions to do but snow is in the future  forecast so I get up before sunrise and work, then play, then work. Sunset is early. Climbed in the hot afternoon sun last Wednesday then stripped to my undies and jumped into the cold Yellowstone River with a girlfriend. I hiked to the Fountain of Youth late Thursday afternoon, sat in the thick soft moss, drank from the spring, and returned to civilization for a giant fishbowl-sized margarita at a local haunt (didn’t get any work done after that). After a meeting in Bozeman Friday, I mountain biked in the Bridger Mountain Range with a girlfriend and two happy stray dogs, grabbed a quick shower in town, joined girlfriends and be-bopped about Livingston in a miniskirt and flip flops for the last art walk of the season.  My town looks like a movie set.  Afterwards we made dinner and played cards (um…ok…I didn’t get any more work done that night either). After a sleepless night I climbed Alex Lowe Peak Saturday (14 miles and over a mile in elevation gain…spectacular!)

Yesterday two batches of visitors bounced up the mountain to visit. Each group included an interesting new person…one from LA and the other from Hungary. I worked in the early hours and even sold five original Works on Paper, not bad for a  lazy sunny Sunday. I received photos of the mesquite logs via e-mail Logs in Texas yesterday…the first I’ve seen the buggers…just a day or two before they arrive. Keep your fingers crossed…the logs were supposed to be here four weeks ago but the Universe had other plans. The “big” picture proved the delay a gift (or perhaps it is simply my attitude which makes it appear that way). I feel like I did decades ago waiting for the school bus; a bit of purpose… crisp cold air outside…warm excited glow inside.

a letter

I can’t begin to describe how much the image of this piece touched my soul this morning. The sculpture is a perfect visual rendition of how I feel. Delicate, tippy, weepy, broken, flawed, and attached . My soul and heart are touched by the sewn together parts and the oozing femininity. Wish I owned the piece and nearly feel like I could have created it. Honestly…I haven’t a clue about creating in glass and don’t mean to sound disrespectful of you or your work. I guess what I mean to say is that the sculpture speaks to me on so many levels…deep and personal. I have even equated pink roses with both my mother and grandmother (they have occurred in my sculptural works…i.e. “Grandma Smells Like Roses”). The china, the glass, the visceral rope-y parts, the slump, the spill…a connection to current events in my health and psyche.

The timing is poignant. Yesterday I scheduled a hysterectomy after a life-long struggle with endometriosis and more recently a VERY large fibroid tumor. I always thought I would have children….have held onto hope and my uterus. Realizing just how detached from the pain I became over the years, I feel almost like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me as I acknowledge the depth and frequency. Maybe I need to fully feel the pain to justify my decision. I’m startled and a bit scared by how much I denied for sooooo long. Unfortunately the earliest possible surgery date is more than a month away. Emotional rollercoaster. The morning brought several rounds of tears and weeping…then the image of your lovely sculpture. Even the teapot is womb-like…

I have never written an e-mail like this Susan. I don’t expect a response. Just know that through a cyber-connection your visual poetry has perfectly placed archival pieces and parts in front of me today which entered my soul, touched my inner girlie parts, and struck a chord beyond you, me, my mother, and my grandmother.

I look forward to following your work.

“Grandma Smells Like Roses”

Deeply touched by the image of another artist’s work this morning…the timing could not have been keener with events, thoughts, and emotions in my life today. Even some of the imagery she used resonated with imagery from my own work.
A piece from my past:
The fountain “Grandma Smells Like Roses" was one of five sculptures in my first public gallery show after graduating from college. I put rosewater in the fountain; the whole gallery smelled like roses. The blue birds are glass knick knacks like the ones which caught the sunlight on the windowsill above the sink in grandma’s kitchen. My mom had rose wallpaper in her bathroom, roses on her fine china, and the most elegant gown she ever wore was floor-length, white, and embellished with two beautiful red roses which climbed from the hem to her torso in embroidered silk. I created the sculpture well over a decade ago.  The fountain traveled to Nebraska for my grandmother’s funeral a few years ago.  Small roses adorned the metalwork on her casket. The rhythmic soft splash of water pouring from the “Grandma Smells Like Roses” fountain added subtle life and melody to the standard mortuary silence. The glass sculpture I saw today ties in with imagery and feelings woven intricately between past memories and current events. If I were ever to get a tattoo it would be a delicate rose as an expression of the ultra feminine lineage I share with my mother and her mother.

Cold connection

Wrapped in a soft blanket, wearing fingerless gloves, hat and scarf…my laptop looks rather uppity here on the old grey weathered picnic table which sits on a matching grey weathered deck. Birds chirp while a train mutters in the FAR distance (amazing how sound travels). The crisp air skips about my nose, numbs my toes, and cools the hot tea too quickly. Surrounded by tall golden feathery topped mountain grass, I wait for a languid sun which teases from beyond the long shadow in which I sit. White snow-capped peaks nearly blend with the pale blue sky across the valley. (I just knew that was snow I smelled in the air after sunset last night!) Wish I had a bit of Bailey’s for my tea, but considering that this is a chain-cup tea morning, perhaps it’s just as well I don’t. I’ve quite a bit of the business part of art life to tend too, a cabin to spiff up for the dinner party tonight, a desert to make and a trail to run. Have you guessed or have I mentioned how much I LOVE being outside this time of year?! Perhaps the outdoor crispy-cold-air-laptop-typing could be considered training for ice climbing season…certainly have sluggish reddened fingers.

The computer/internet parts of business have been integral for maintaining my lifestyle here at the end of a road near the top of a mountain in Montana. What a blessing. The first computer at my cabin was a gift from my uncle. He visited Montana once and insisted on seeing the rustic place where he heard I lived. Cliff (my mountain man logger neighbor and dear friend) chained up his orange flatbed truck (duct tape on the taillights). My uncle held on to the dashboard and hit his head on the cab ceiling more than once while we four-wheeled up the narrow rocky switchbacks to the really rustic cabin on top of the mountain where I lived at the time. I had spent the winter hiking up the steep road to the cabin (and sledding down it). I would never have guessed a truck could make it up there and believe it is the only time we tried. The cabin is literally cabled to the rocky top to keep it from blowing down the mountain. My current humble cabin home looks like a Persian palace in comparison to that plywood shack. No exaggeration.
“Call me when you get power,” my uncle said before he returned to his home in Chicago. A few years later I called him; eventually I got through his personal assistant and told my uncle I had managed to get power. He asked pointed questions about my business as an artist. Then a few days later some huge boxes arrived at the post office, were loaded in my truck, bounced up the mountain, unloaded and unpacked; a computer, a scanner, and a printer complete with numbered stickers to show me which cords and where to plug them in. Many thanks to a generous uncle with foresight, I was connected.
The “office” was a corner of my living room space. I didn’t have running water but I finally had a phone complete with an internet phone connection. Alas my business as an artist felt official…the world was more accessible…and my learning curve broadened. A “how to” book helped me create a website in a weekend.  Within a month I had my first internet customer; a bride commissioned me to carve a humidor as a wedding present for her groom. I would have photographed the piece if I had a camera.
Social media has opened the door to a whole new learning curve and level of connection for this mountain top “hermit” artist. One morning a little over a week ago I edited my first video, shot with my little digital camera on Black Mountain and posted it on my own channel on YouTube. I’ve a zillion video ideas and plenty to share. Visit the channel, subscribe (it’s free), rate my videos, write comments. Facebook and Twitter are enhancing my ability to connect with you. Right now I’ve got to take my cold sniffling nose and frozen fingers inside. Did I say “brrrrrrr?!”

“Evening Bird”


My current favorite ink color is this deep rich purple tone…somehow it looks both antique and contemporary. “Evening Bird” is entirely of the purple ink and…WOW…a big robin just hit the window and is recuperating on the windowsill. His (her?) beak is wide open…panting? The stunned little bugger can’t see me so I can get my nose right up there next to him. I had no idea that robin’s have…whiskers? Maybe they are super long eyelashes but they look like black whiskers. Poor fella.

Anyway. I was going to tell you about “Evening Bird” shipping off to a new home this week but the robin is still hanging out and worth looking at…



A Room of My Own

My big o’l 2000 pound logs are sitting on a truck in Texas. While my chisels lie sharpened and waiting for the lovely mesquite in their near future, I myself haven’t let any dust settle. Thanks to Paul’s foresight and ambition, two large trailer loads of free logs have arrived on my mountain and will someday be part of The Studio. We unloaded and selectively piled ‘em up near the tractor-powered sawmill while he explained which ones are going to be beams and which ones trusses. Feels good to gather materials and begin to manifest a studio…it’s been MUCH too long!! Hard to believe I’ve been studio-less for a number of years. Luckily, site-specific commissions kept my business as an artist rolling (a bit bumpily) along. The small works on paper don’t require much space to produce (thankfully Cliff patiently lent me the use of his dining room) but it is really…really…REALLY time for this gal to have a “room of her own” again. I even had my own studio space in high school while a student…complete with a key to access it on weekends (yes…I was obsessed with creating back then too!) I never imagined myself without a studio…so a few years ago when I found myself suddenly studio-less I panicked. My identity and my livelihood had sprung from within studio walls for much of my life. Just who was I without a studio? Like a traveler who’s suddenly lost their luggage and their bearings, I took a deep breath and embraced the question, the unknown, and the adventure. Freedom comes from letting go…new possibilities arise…demons lurk…emotions swell and swirl…exploration intensifies.

Life gave me an unexpected sabbatical…time to adventure both within and without. I had just discovered climbing and found strong similarities between the world of rock, ice, mountains and studio life. The urge to create pushed me past excuses into uncomfortable places. Growth.

Alas, growth is rarely pain-free. I just re-read the words above and feel compelled to confess; I cried. I wailed. I sobbed. I whimpered…more than once. I cursed the Universe. I curled up in a ball. I gnashed my teeth (at night…in my sleep). Do you know what it is like to have a head full of ideas like monkeys all screeching for attention? Did you see the words “demons lurk” snuck in-between the positive rambling toward the end of the paragraph above? Stripped of a studio, I was (and am) at times totally discombobulated. Lost. I am not all grace and graciousness. Yes…I explore. I seek adventure. But I can be a klutz and I certainly am not without fear. I did take a deep breath each time. I plucked myself from despair.  I donned a pair of tinted sunglasses to hide my puffy eyes and to cast a rose-colored glow on a seemingly hostile studio-less world so that could gather my gumption and move on. Am I better for it? Sure. (?)

BUT I am more-than-ready to return to studio life. I have yet to commit to a temporary space for the mesquite sculpture project…a short stop on the journey home. My guess is that another temp studio or two are in my future before I get to move into a “room of my own.” I will be lugging new suitcases filled past capacity with riches gathered during an unplanned journey. Maybe I increased the girth of a few muscles. I definitely have a few more scratches and scars…a deeper appreciation…a zillion ideas…a deepened thirst…and some new skills.


I stood outside just past dark this morning and watched as the sun (with much effort) slowly lifted thick heavy dark eyelids and began to consider waking.

Later I returned outside to find a pretty pink perky sunrise, complete with glow-in-the-light lace.



A rather distiguished looking fella…he is shipping off to a collector in Colorado today and will be missed.

Rilke Paints with Words Touched by Spirit

My girlfriend Liz gave me a slender colorless black tattered copy of “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke sometime during my early 20’s. The book did not look interesting, yet her hand written inscription was like a bright colored ribbon on the faded opening page. I was compelled to give the uninviting beaten up dark little book a chance.
I was smitten.
The book became a bible…a guiding light…a comforting lap to crawl into when the struggle to put myself through school left me disheartened and weary. I was living a rather bohemian lifestyle in a low-rent building right on main street in Bozeman. My apartment had a tall ceiling but no bathroom. One window opened into the upper story space between buildings…just bricks and windows. The other window overlooked the alley, more rooftops, and the stained glass steeple of a church. A carpet of tree tops stretched toward the jagged ridge of the Hyalite mountains past the edge of town. Passion to create meaningful art drove me. Juggling three jobs and a student load left little time to read but “Letters to a Young Poet” was read and reread along with other books by Rilke. Just yesterday a Rilke poem landed on my desk, soft and bright like the first yellow leaf of autumn…impossible to miss… full of meaning…a gift to share:


"Sunset" by Rainer Maria Rilke

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs-

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.