I visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens to see the GardenFest of lights. It's a cold garden all warmed up by millions of lights.
There was an entire grove of trees that had been decorated by local elementary schools. I was envious of every young artist behind the beauty. But one tree in particular took my envy to a higher level: I was inspired. I immediately wanted to make something even half as beautiful. Every ornament on the tree was made from "odds and ends from the art room." There were these wonderful little silver frames with gorgeous collages in them.
(I've had to say this before: this is not a photography blog. I may go back to the garden and take better pictures)
Sometimes when I read a good book like, oh, say, Life is a Verb, or hear a lovely song, like Kristin Adreassen's, I feel compelled to know the artist. I find a way to send a letter. Yes, it's usually something as transparent as "I like you. I want to be your friend. Okay? Check yes or no." (If you have ever thought of reaching out to someone who inspires you, go ahead. I've had some amazing replies from writers, singers, painters I thought I would never hear from).
I took a picture of the teacher's name. Merle Kincaid. I searched for an email address for her. No luck. But, of course, she has a Facebook account. So I sent her a message.
Hello Ms. Kincaid,
Are you the art teacher at Echo Lake? I was at Lewis Ginter last night and I saw the most amazing tree ever. If you are responsible for some of that beauty, will you send me an email? I would love to say THANK YOU for doing what you do. I would also like to say: I have to make one of the little frames and I want to know what the magic silver/foil stuff is, and what the students used to color it. I love, love, love the tree that I saw. Loved it. It made me very happy. I'm still happy about it.
All the best,
Merle wrote me back. Twice. Her replies told me two very important things. 1) How I, too, could be an artist for the small price of the silver foil tape (huge roll, $8.00 at Lowes). And 2) That my email made her feel connected to the world in a big way.
Hi Amy, thanks for the kind message! It is so sweet you took the time to say our tree made you happy! I can't wait to share your note with my students! My 3rd-5th graders are the talented artists responsible for the decorations. Most everything we used were donated odds and ends I have collected over the past few years in my art room and studio. The frames are so easy. I took leftover cardboard boxes, cut them up in different sizes and shapes. Next I had the kids cover the cardboard with foil tape I got at Home Depot or Lowe's-it's a huge roll for around $8.00. Next I cut out an opening out of the middle with an xacto knife-this takes a little time. The students used a ball point pen to carve in the decorations-but a stylo pen would work great. We then rubbed acrylic black paint on the lines with a brush in a circular motion and quickly buffed it off with a paper towel-again in a circular motion. They used colored sharpies to decorate the designs-but they look great with no color as well. I punched holes in the frame and the students used wire and beads for hanging it. In the past we have added holes in the bottom of the frame as well and attached beads to wire to hang down. Then we added the collage in the middle. In the past we have recycled old art magazines and put famous art work in the middle.....that looks great too. Hope you have fun making one. They make great gifts! Take care and thanks again for the note.
Blessings, Merle Kincaid
There must be something about Amys because you are the second Amy God has placed in my life in the past few weeks and you both are so kind.
I think your blog is VERY cool...it is a testimony that there are no coincidences. Not a one .The picture I see is God in the middle of a giant web of circles. The web glistens and radiates life. It has no hard edges like a regular web. God is connecting us all through his grace and unconditional love. We are His messengers.
Thank you for being God's messenger of a kind word.
Blessing to you and thank you,
The world is big, disjointed, and chaotic. But it's so pretty in those moments when you can feel a part of it all. Whether you believe in coincidence, luck, God, humans, fate, silver foil tape, or some other thing that brings us together--even if only through a little frame--you can't deny the comfort that feeling connected brings. I'm so grateful for Merle the artist for reminding me of this today.
I will be making one of these for First Wednesday January (which happens to fall on Epiphany--which is a story for another day).