Archive for the ‘Art and Business’ Category

Dusty Suitcase


Lauri Arntsen and Robin Hendricks, longtime artist friends, are genuinely intrigued by creative challenges. Robin, manager of the Wake Forest Farmers Market and self-proclaimed “Foodie”, grew up on a farm and enjoys doing hands-on construction work in addition to working as a fine artist with a particular interest in sculpting with concrete/hypertufa. This is in contrast to Lauri, growing up in rural northern Wisconsin but spending much of her adult life in North Carolina, works around the clock as an arts advocate as well as a sales and marketing representative for a nationally recognized fine art gallery. Lauri would not argue that she too, may be a “Foodie” as she also likes to try new foods and will eat just about anything. The two artists recently participated in a local chili cook-off for the first time and took third place beating out former ribbon winners and state-wide competitors!

Collaborative projects are nothing new to either artist. As the Mystery Build project became known, the choice to work together was never in question. In fact, they have asked themselves before, “Why don’t more artists collaborate on projects? We hear of collaboration between musicians, chefs, builders, etc…Why not more visual artists?”

Lauri and Robin have learned so much through this project. Spending days at a time, even several overnights in a row, we learned who is more sociable in the mornings and who needs a little more time. We realized that while careful deliberation is necessary, too much analyzing is just too much. There were times we needed to just dive right in and other times we needed to just sit back and watch a movie instead.  Mistakes became welcome paths to a new solution and the little goals were never lost throughout this project. We had a vision to strive for right to the very end.


Title: Dusty Suitcase
Song: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Artist: Lucinda Williams

The making of Dusty Suitcase:

After much deliberation and interpretations, we settled on using the box to create the suitcase which carries Lucinda’s memories of life at the age of twelve. Our research was telling us that her father packed the three children, Lucinda being the oldest, into the car. Taking only a dusty suitcase and a set of car keys, they were headed to Jackson where they presumably had family or friends on which they could rely for a while. As the family left their house in Macon and traveled past the cotton fields, telephone wire and trees, she reminisces about her childhood.

Note: It is important to point out that paint is our liquid of choice and is used throughout the piece. A set of ten colors in .33 oz/bottle was used to total just over 3.30 oz total. The only other liquid used was a water concoction (to be explained later) that evaporated in the sun. Construction of our project progressed from the outside in.

Suitcase: We began creating the suitcase first. Turning the original box inside out and carefully stripping the white paper for later use, we glued the box edges, holding it tight overnight with clothes pins. The box was painted a rough, darker color to enhance the vintage detail and add to its age. Drafting tape was laid in strips and haphazardly painted to create the seams of the suitcase while the white paper was more carefully painted to mimic the stickers and other memorabilia. All the metal clasps, hinges and nails were handcrafted from the wire and/or metal materials provided in the box. The handle of the suitcase was formed with Air Putty and the corner protectors are made of tin foil held in place with glue and metal crafted nails. Finally, the flour was dusted over the top and edges of our suitcase for the final touch.

Diorama: As we open the suitcase, Lucinda’s life is told in a pictorial manner that makes one smile despite its darker undertones. One can’t help but peer into her life as your eye is drawn toward the little farmhouse in the background. Made of wood panels and adding dimension with putty, the childhood home stands out in the dusk amidst the paper and corrugated cardboard foliage that might otherwise swallow her sanctuary. The wooden dowels and thread create an undeniable perspective as we catch a glimpse of the Georgia state bird perched high on the telephone wires.

Landscape: The canvas is probably the biggest player here. In our attempts to stretch and soften the substrate, we drove over it with our own car wheels, rubbed it along rough tree bark, threw it in the dryer, and took sandpaper to it. The paint was added to mark the road and fields and cuts were made to make room for added terrain later. Jute string was threaded into the canvas, glued in place, and cut to create the cotton rows. With a little separation of the fibers and the careful placement of a tiny portion of the cotton balls, our end result was a manicured cotton field. The canvas was glued in place atop blocks of wood, soap, and shreds of paper to give some variation in topography. The visuals of breakfasts on the farm are literally interpreted in the air putty creation of dining wear including coffee pot and cup, plates of breakfast items and of course, the silverware crafted from the wire. The tiny forks, radio, PBR cans and livestock are all poignant reminders of Lucinda’s passing of time.

Car: The car was the original idea that went through the most changes. From the very beginning, we wanted to make the car move. However, three weeks later we had not come up with the perfect solution for automation, and so it was time to dig in with another idea. It turns out our idea was just a simplified version of the others. With two dowels anchored within wooden blocks sloping downward into a piece of soap, the car could slide down the “ramp”. The car itself was built with wooden panels and putty to give some girth, while the car wheels were carved from the popsicle sticks and painted. A half round wooden ball was placed under the car hovering just a hair below the lowest point of the wheels. This would allow the car to slide along easier as the wheels hover above the shredded soap shaving that had become the gravel. With the canvas hiding the workings below, the movement needed to be helped manually. A length of fishing line was attached to the wire underpinning of the car and attached to a metal junkyard piece that blends into the road debris. As you pull the metal piece, the viewer will animate the Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.


* The smell of coffee looms from the canvas landscape as one gets even more intimate with the Dusty Suitcase. This was created by brushing the canvas with a strong espresso liquid and baking it in the hot North Carolina sunshine. It was tested on regular artists canvas first and we learned that the smell strengthened and held the scent very well. Other experiments included bacon grease and egg yolks but these were disregarded.

* The autograph on the outside of the suitcase is Lucinda’s own. Unbeknownst to us when we chose our song, Lucinda Williams was on tour at the NC Museum of Art on July 27th. We got our tickets and brought our project (which we finished that afternoon) hoping to get to meet her. Even before the concert began, we tried to make connections. After the concert, we asked a few more people but, on the verge of annoying some, we decided to unveil the suitcase and set it beside us. The next person we spoke to got a glimpse of the project and said, “Hang on. Stay here”. A few more people, a quick shuffle into the Tour Bus, and we were in heaven!

We met the entire band, Lucinda’s husband and managers. We laughed, cried, hugged and shared childhood stories of growing up in rural America. Twenty minutes later, we were on our way with her autograph added to our project and a huge accolade from Lucinda herself. She absolutely loved our Dusty Suitcase, took down our email address and is interested in following the project!


Thank you to everyone who votes for us. 🙂


While I was going to wait until tomorrow to post next, I thought I’d go ahead ahead and do it now. Especially since the look is a bit different and viewers may be wondering if this really is the ninety-one days they are accustomed to.

Let me just say that I am coming back to my original intent in creating this blog. Yes, this blog came from a somewhat dark time in my life that produced new growth and a mastery of optimism. However, now as move past that and readjust to a world of true creativity, I look toward the edgier corners of my reality. Life is not always pretty and so why should I pretend it to be so? I can certainly appreciate the beauty of color and sparkle and shine, but I also have an admiration for the free spirited, looseness of a more natural formation.

I am one who loves the look of brushed steel next to rough hewn cedar, stone alongside glass, and silver entwined with gold jewelry. I want to hear a dueling set between a rap artist and an a cappella group. Listening to the blues with a nice glass of wine, or drinking a PBR at an art gallery opening. Pair me up with a nice pair of jeans and a $5 t-shirt and I’m good to go to that gallery opening or just about anywhere.

So, in looking at a fresh, new look for my blog, I am going with something a little more edgy to reference my attitude for this next ninety-one days. Not to be lazy by any means, just not uptight in any way. In fact, this time my focus is to maintain what I’ve learned to be right and leave behind what I know to be wrong.

As my Ninety-one Day Challenge comes to a close, I realize it is time for me to decide my next challenge. Since weighing in at 139 last week Friday, I have another 4 lbs to shed to reach my goal this time. But, losing weight is not my only goal.

My life does not revolve around my physical appearance. People don’t seem to treat me any differently based on my weight. To tell you the truth, my well being has more to do with how I feel on the inside.

This last week I wanted so bad to erase the indulgence of good foods I had the week before. I did not totally fall off the wagon, but it was enough that I just felt “wrong”. After a week of indulgence, I worked out every day and watched what I was eating. A low calorie diet combined with high intensity workouts and a few outside stresses, made me feel better about my well being but I was emotionally and physically drained. A day of rest and and I bounced back and am now feeling better than ever.

Add to that a weekend of top rate arts and entertainment and then a day of meditation, seed sharing and a bonfire with friends and I am back to where I need to be. The full moon helped to guide my spiritual journey and this ninety-one days is about to come full circle!

Oh WOW! I am very much looking forward to what lies ahead as I trudge forward with so many creative undertakings that I hardly ever have time entirely “alone”. This just might explain why you haven’t heard from me in a while, which, is simply no excuse! I missed waking up to blog and have spent nearly all morning updating my websites and and this site. 

Did you know I started a new job about three months ago? It all started exactly ninety-one days ago. Ironic? Maybe not…

I knew I needed to find a job quick but I had all but given up. I knew I had the experience to carry out just about any task given me, but I felt I was screaming to silent ears. I focused on the incredible tasks at hand in the volunteer community and there you go–the job offer came nearly immediately after a job well done.

Busy with the job and meeting many new business owners and entrepreneurs, I am always thinking about my next move. Life, I think, is kinda like a Chess game. I say this even though I have no clue how to play Chess. What I mean is, sometimes you can think your next move to death, but why not just make a move and see what happens? Sound risky?

I am embarking on several new career levels. My role as President of Wake Forest Cultural Arts will see me and our Board reshape the vision for this organization in a way that has not been done in it’s near 20 years of existence. We will not be doing this alone, but with the added leadership of Nello McDaniel, Principle Director of the consulting group Arts Action Research. This very special arrangement is made possible through a Capacity Building Grant awarded to the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County from the Kresge Foundation.

I am also exploring other projects that will be posted at as they move past the planning stages and into the marketing stage. Life is full of surprises and with every setback lies an opportunity…

I cannot even begin to express the pure excitement and anxious feelings I have when I try to imagine all that I may learn this year. I look forward to taking it all in and remaining focused and committed to the tasks at hand. I just hope it will all carry over to inspire others and continue to shape my future as well.

So, I just learned that the man who apparently broke into my home over a year ago and led to this online blog project as well as a renewed energy in my artwork, has been convicted of murder and sentenced to a lifelong prison term. I guess this can bring some closure or relief. I guess. 

I wonder if I should still hope for a conviction in my case? Should I really care at this point? I have moved on and he is now in jail. What more do I need?

I feel like I need a story. 

Last evening I decided to go to a meditation session with a friend then just chill out with a nice dinner. I guess this did more for my thought process than I realized as I had the most unusual and vivid dreams I had had in a long time. Creepy as it may be, it was of a man at a party making me feel very uncomfortable. He was heavyset and he somehow looked vaguely familiar to me. It was pouring rain but I felt I needed to get home quick. It was a 4.5 mile walk home and I woke before I got there. 

The man from my dream is now in jail forever, convicted of murder. 

I will continue to live my passion and create. That can never be put away.

For the months of July, August and September, my Public Art Exhibit that initiated this blog is on display at 331 Galleries and Studios at 311 W. Martin Street in d/t Raleigh. During this time, I, as an artist, will freely create art through the experiences and discoveries found in the creation of “One Year and Ninety-One Days”. 

Please stop by to visit and experience the power of perseverance and good will. I look forward to meeting you!

311 West Martin Street Galleries and Studios, Raleigh, NC 
Open Tues. thru Sat. 11am to 6pm 
*First Fridays of each month, we are open until 9pm 

ph: 919-821-2262

Every once in a while I feel guilty about living my life as an artist. After all, all I do is walk around with this free spirit attitude. I work when I want, play when I want, meet friends when they want and otherwise just go with the flow. Wait a minute, while I have let my own priority,, fall second fiddle to the other priorities in my life, I have been extremely busy. The last month has seen me in a number of art classes and workshops and spending more time in my studio than I have in the entire last year. I saw my daughter go through a dizzying array of plans for after high school and finally settle down on one. I welcomed my family from Wisconsin and after entertaining longtime friends for a graduation celebration, we headed to the beach. We came back to town and I, along with and others, helped to entertain a community of 300 people for a block party like they had never experienced.  With less than one week to “relax”, my daughter and I are now headed to New York City (neither of us have been there before and with our shared interests in the arts, it was the perfect graduation gift). Everyone makes choices on a daily basis. Not every choice will please everyone or be the right choice in the long run. But, if there is one thing I know for sure, life is a blessing and should be lived as such. I gave birth to my daughter 18 years ago and I may never completely let go. Every choice I make in life has had her interests in mind and I hope that one day she will see that. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETHEART. I love you!!!!