Yes, its been a challenge. However, it’s been a total of nine days now and I have not spent a single cent. That is correct, not a penny nor a dime nor a dollar. So, tomorrow I wake up and will put another dollar in my pocket as I head out the door.

How am I able to do this, you ask? Mooching off others, some say and still others say by being creative. I must proudly admit it is more the latter of the two. Let me tell you how:

Warmth: I fully intended to line my windows with a weatherproofing film to try to save energy cost this year.  Given that that would cost around $50 for the largest, most important areas, I need to do something different. To the fabric stash I went. I found old fabric shower curtains, window curtains and other fabrics to line the windows instead. Looks fine from outside and funky from inside.  How creative 🙂

Everyday items: I have a full tube of toothpaste that should get me through at least 2 months, about 8 rolls of TP, and am running very low on the female hygiene products that are needed about every 28 days. Not sure how, but I’ll make it all work. everything is working out so far. My dishwashing soap is in good shape but it is the laundry detergent that I am low on. A friend gave me just enough for a load or two and I have since found a great resource online for making your own soaps. That will be my next step, I guess.

Food: The pantry is full of canned soups, rice, beans, etc, which will be used sparingly while I focus my efforts on using those fresh veggies and fruits and dairy. I need to choose wisely so to not  allow them to wither, rot or otherwise let me know they are not in this for the long run. For instance, I had a bag of shredded broccoli and 2 tortilla wraps that really needed to be used up soon, if not before. So, a little ingenius thought and a monkey wrenched headache later, I came up with this concoction:

Something Something Burritos

Ingredients:
Two Tortilla Wraps
Turkey Burger, Garlic, Onion – saute until brown and cooked through. Place in large bowl.
Oil, shredded broccoli, carrots, celery – saute until slightly brown – add to bowl along with meat.
Stir fry seasoning, spices, shredded cheese – stir into mix.
– spoon mixture into tortillas and wrap in burrito fashion, like this:

Simply place your meat filling like so...

Then, fry in pan until golden brown and voila! Bon Appetite!

Way yummy!
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This time it’s budget oriented! But that will affect many other areas of my life as well. (Pretty guaranteed prediction)

Like many people, I woke this morning, the first day of the new year with a sense of reflection. While I will not dwell on any negative from the last, I can find plenty of room for improvement. Or more appropriately, I realize certain areas of my life need a little revision in one way or another. For instance trimming my budget, and spending more time in my studio would be my biggest goals.

In trying to improve both of these areas of my life, I have come up with a unique Ninety One Days challenge. For the next ninety-one days, through March 31, I will budget only $1 per day toward food, entertainment, and other misc things. Sound impossible?

I think it may be difficult, but not impossible.

Rules: outstanding bills, utilities, mortgage and gas for my vehicle will be paid from my regular income. I will begin this challenge with ninety-one $1 bills. If the dollar is not spent in one day, it can roll over to the next day. Also, any gift cards, certificates or other may be used as money exchange for goods or services and not be counted toward the $1 per day allotment.

Now, before you judge, I did not go shopping and stock the shelves and fridge. Nor do I have a supply of gift cards. In fact, I think I have a couple coffee cards, a few restaurant Groupons and a $50 prepaid Visa, which is good because I think I will need toothpaste before long.

I’ll keep you posted.

Dusty Suitcase

Prelude:

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.

FINAL NOTES:

* 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. 🙂

So, if we just said we are two collaborative artists, well into our adult life and acting like giddy little school children, it would be a severe understatement! As professional artists, we have been immersed in a project we had no idea would culminate and resurrect into such a spiral of good fortune and positive well-being.

Over the weeks, we have gotten to know one anothers strengths and weaknesses more than ever. Sleepless nights and overnighters, improv dinners and malnourishing snacks tested our sanity. Quick trips into the civilized world is all that kept us from completely losing sight of our destiny. Less than two days ago, on the verge of exhaustion at times but feeling the pressure of deadlines and the sheer happiness of having fun, we worked six hours straight to create the one last finishing touch.

Now, finally, we finished our Mystery Build project to our liking and it was just two hours away from what we thought would be our very last test. Could we possibly get this one last finishing touch added on? It would take some real talent to pull this one off. If we even had a chance we’d have to get on the road within two hours. Neither of us had showered, eaten or even slept much in the last 24 hours. I needed to go to the bank, shower, take care of my dog, water my plants, touch base with my daughter, etc. It seemed like days since I was at home.

But off I went, on a mission. My partner in crime was also on a mission. Together we had one more thing to accomplish that evening.

More than six hours later, and two days after that, we just keep on rolling…

WE NEED YOUR VOTES!!!

Robin Hendricks and Lauri Arntsen here! We will be posting our entry on Sunday, July 31st. Please view our entry and others at www.MysteryBuild.net . Vote for us for Peoples Choice Award beginning August 1st through the 14th. Check this site often as we update you as to the progress of this event. I’m telling you… you will not be disappointed!

* Everyone is allowed one vote/person/day

Thank you from Lauri and Robin!

It’s Wednesday, July 27th and the official deadline for our Mystery Build contest is not until Sunday. Wow, we have 5 days left to pull this together…or do we?

I was up at 6:30 this morning making my coffee, catching up on emails and sweating out the details of how we might pull this off. We have until early evening to work out the most grueling details on our project. Right, we are artists in dire need of a civil  engineer of sorts. Hell, a brain surgeon, a traffic coordinator, or a sociopath might help, so long as they are not drinking PBR and sidetracked with laughter and strange recipes throughout the night.

I guess that’s what has made this contest so much fun. The collaboration between friends who think quite differently but will laugh, think and listen together. I have the painterly more poetic skills at hand and my partner artist has the carpentry tool, carving skills in her background. So, for hours on end, we discuss ideas, work out experiments, shake our fists, clap our hands. Then we take a break and make some strange concoction in the kitchen that has no bearing on our project other than to replenish our carbs so as we do no more bodily harm. Exacto blades can be very dangerous!

Stuffed Chile Peppers

Creative juices

Here is last nights dinner. Fresh chile peppers (from Wake Forest Farmers Market) stuffed with cream cheese, parsley, garlic, cheese, shrimp. All this wrapped in bacon and placed under the broiler. As any great chef will do, I have left out a secret ingredient but you can doctor it up any way you want. Jalapenos add an extra kick.

Ooh! Here comes my partner in crime. Gotta go create!

Later!

 

 

 

[addtoany]

Rested and ready best describes my attitude right now and I’m pretty sure my fellow constructor as well. We plan to embark on a three day hiatus from the natural world as we bring our project to within days of completion. I am wearing the same shirt as when we started this project. It used to be a decent casual/business style t-shirt and is now something of a mystery itself. A little paint here, a little paint there, a blob of “not sure what” and somehow, it also smells of bacon!

Oh, the experiments stretched the limits of our imagination. And the care we took in the project far outweighed how we treated our own clothes or our own belongings. We were flinging around paint and tape and scraps of this or that to examine how things would work but, when it came time to put our tests to the actual project all bets were off and, extreme care was taken in the handling of every piece from the box. The house has been taken over by tables, lamps, and rock, paper, scissors but chaotic organization was to be had.

The deadline was yesterday, July 17th, for purchase of the Mystery Build box. I am assuming and hoping that all retailers will stick to that deadline and therefore we can be a little more loose with our descriptions as we progress. It’s tricky though–we do not want to divulge any ideas that may help others along, and yet, we want everyone to become intrigued by our postings so that we can win your votes.

Submission Deadline is July 31st!

Stay tuned!

[addtoany]

Yes, the secret is out. For the next ninety-one daysI intend to focus on my artwork and strengthening my place in the creative world. The first assignment bestowed upon myself is to collaborate with a friend in a creative contest while I continue to seek other avenues by which to pay my bills. (That’s no fun either but, it also requires creativity.)  Here is the first installment of our project.

Building a Mystery...

The contest rules are: The artist(s) creates a sculpture using only the materials inside, and including, the box to interpret a song. The only material we may add is up to 6oz of any liquid so as it is not used sculpturally in any way. The deadline is July 30th, 2011.

It was the afternoon of June 14, 2011 that I picked up our Mystery Build box from the retailer. It sat on my coffee table for nearly a week as my friend Robin and I seemed too busy to connect, even for a moment, to open it. As our curiosity continued to peak, and despite several phone conversations, all I could do is hint that it did seem heavy for being such a small box.

Nearly a week later, we finally got together. Some pizza, a bottle of wine and “the box”. I don’t recall which came first but, wow, what fun we had when we finally opened our Mystery Build box! Inside were all sorts of tiny and larger materials: 2r8dnss a3%$, KJH*(, #@&(*0, h*@, p(*Y+, #(@^?, “c&s, <=@s! and, of course, the box.

During our first intitial meeting we looked, touched, talked, drank, and laughed well into the evening.

Our goal for the night was to agree on our song. CDs were strewn throughout the house as we reflected on the lyrical passions of so many artists. The excitement was dizzying as our minds went from one extreme to another. It was as if the walls were made of mirror and we were in an amazing funhouse that whole evening.

A pattern began to emerge as we honed in on our song of choice. Toward the end of the night, we finally agreed on a particular artist and song unless, of course, something else popped up. We went our separate ways to think on our own a while.

Days later, we gathered the box and all the contents to set up shop in Robin’s living room. It would be a brainstorming roundtable for a while. We had tables, writing boards, spotlights, music and snacks covering every inch, minus a path in and out of the room. We experimented with materials similar to those found in the box by working and reworking our plans until it was just right. We listened to and read the song lyrics over and over. We researched the musician to try to understand the deeper meaning and the inspiration for such a melody. Several hours later we felt comfortable with our progress and called it a night. We’d get together again a few days later. The duration of our break was short lived as the phone calls and emails started the very next morning. It was one epiphany after another: while walking the dog; while in the shower; while asleep in our beds. It just did not matter. This was on our mind and consuming our thoughts so much, in fact, we began to laugh as every idea marked a new beginning. Details about the structure of the finished piece had flipped and flopped and tumbled and turned many times but, in the end, it was strengthened by the shear scrutiny of our brainstorming sessions. The prior planning had paid off and it was time to dig in.

Since the deadline was the last day of the month, we thought we’d start building our sculpture on the first. Weekly activities and duties took priority and we delayed production for one day. I left the office at the end of the week feeling pretty great and ready to begin on that Saturday. We would get together early the next  afternoon and focus on this project all weekend. So I got busy and packed up some munchies, food and drink plus an overnight bag. I hope Robin and I were on the same page about this. I was moving in for the weekend!

Later that evening, I got around to checking my emails. There it was – an email from the North Carolina Museum of Art!

We shared the news and both of us went to bed that evening with an excitement in our hearts and a smile on our face.

~ stay tuned to learn what happens next…