Sunday, August 19, 2018

An Abundant Life - Luminosity

The day I attended last year's Boutique Design Show at the Javitz Center in New York City was a busy one for me. I had so many things to do before I went, and another event afterward, but I didn't want to miss it because I had been invited by a wonderful design showroom and I wanted to make sure to say hello and thank them. It was a freezing day, and when I arrived it was so warm inside and I couldn't stay very long, so instead of checking my coat I carried it with me which only succeeded in making me more uncomfortable, and as I tried to take off layers and carry everything awkwardly, I discovered at one point that I had lost my entry badge that had been hanging around my neck. It wasn't a really big deal because I couldn't come back on any other day and once I left I would be leaving for good, but when I went to the different booths, everyone wanted to scan my information in for their records, and some people were not very happy that I didn't have any information to scan. As I walked quickly around looking for my friends who had invited me, I suddenly saw an oasis of pure beauty shining in front of me. When I stopped to look, I saw what appeared to be enormous gemstones that had somehow been made into light boxes and light fixtures and glowing table tops but that I realized as I looked more closely had been made out of glass. As anyone who knows me knows, I love glass. I've loved it since I was a child and over the years my love for glass has grown as I've discovered many different styles throughout history and been introduced to the artisans who work with it. Tomak Julian Baksik, through his company Julian Glass, is doing something very different, something that seems almost like alchemy, and as I walked through his booth and spoke with the person there I realized that there wasn't any other reason I'd arrived that day except to take in the absolute magical perfection of his work.

Tomak wasn't there at that moment, and though I would have loved to have come back to meet him I simply didn't have time. The person who was watching his booth for him was very cordial. He didn't mind writing my contact information down and he gave me Tomak's business card. Tomak followed up with me and I followed up with him, and when I told him I'd like to do a blog post and asked if he had any images he could share, he sent me some of the most mouthwatering photographs of his work along with a link to a video on YouTube. I'll share those with you here and share some photos I took that afternoon. They'll give you a taste of what he's capable of, but I can honestly say even the most beautiful photos can't come close. There is something mesmerizing about his work, as if the glowing creations are lit from within, naturally taking in the light of their surroundings as they are lit from without and back-lit with lighting sources to enhance the gleaming play of colors. The art of Tomak Baksik could make any room feel like a medieval palace, an underground treasure trove deep within a cavernous cave, a modern art fantasia and a futuristic scene all rolled into one and unfolding within and around each other. His eye for beauty and design are astonishing, and his pieces would make any room or space feel luxurious.

On the Julian Glass website, you can find this information: "Tomak Julian Baksik's early work as NeoClassical sculptor in diverse media, complimented by a science and engineering background, progressed into glass at an auspicious time. Since Tiffany, there have been many inspired glass artists but few breakthroughs in what was possible. Through years of bottom up research, new techniques and formulations in glass enabled an array of forms evoking the qualities of natural crystal and precious metals." We learn that "Tomak studied at the University of Michigan, hosts seminars in glass and metal casting, and exhibits at several national trade shows and festivals." There is a description of some of his notable works, including "an over-life-size fountain featuring Minerva and Neptune, the Pennsic Cathedral, and Urania, a life-sized sculpture in bronze, glass and fiber optics," and we are given a glimpse into his philosophy and vision. In his own words, "I have an enduring admiration for Bernini, Borrowmini, and the named and nameless sculptors of antiquity who pioneered the horizons of an art radiant with meaning, now etched into history. Time washes away the noise, leaving for us these jewels of truth." Take a moment and step into his vision for a journey of a lifetime.

The Art Of Tomak Julian Baksik
Founder Of Julian Glass
Photographs Courtesy Of Tomak Julian Baksik

A Video Of A Glass Lecture
Courtesy Of Tomak Julian Baksik

A Few Images Of The Beauty I Experienced
At The Boutique Design Show


Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 12, 2018

An Abundant Life - A Powerful Woman With A Powerful Message

I met Joy of Be The Difference, LLC when I first started posting on Instagram and I had started writing the Abundant Life section of this blog. As I have written in a guest post on her blog before, I had seen a t-shirt she had posted on Instagram with the simple yet profound message "Prayer Works!" and I commented something along the lines of, "Yes it does!" Prayer does work, something that I know from experience, both having prayed for myself and other people and having other people pray for me, and I loved the fact that whoever this person was, they were sending out that message simply and powerfully, helping to connect people with a great and powerful truth. As I wrote in the guest blog post, Prayer Works is not just a nice thing to say – Prayer really does work, and by praying we become a part of a greater work in the world. The act of praying is an act of intercession – we are actively taking part in the situation we are praying about. Scripture tells us that when we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit helps us (Romans 8:26). The seemingly simple act of praying, or of trying to pray, calls on the most powerful force in existence to help us pray and have an impact on the situation we are praying about. Prayer does not have to be done in any particular form. Just thinking about a person or a situation and asking for guidance or wisdom or the ability to do those things we may feel we cannot – to forgive, to love, to not be afraid, to find peace in a storm – that is a prayer. Instead of calling everyone we know to ask for advice, or suffering sleepless nights and anxiety – things I used to do before I was born again – we can pray, and be still, and in that stillness find the answer sometimes or sometimes just the next step, or sometimes just the ability to trust and wait and know that though things may be confusing or frightening or hitting every trigger we have, we can find peace and rest and the strength to let go and let God.

After I left my comment in enthusiastic agreement for that wonderful t-shirt Prayer Works, Joy contacted me through Instagram, and we arranged to meet on a beautiful fall day in Jersey City Heights at the lovely Riverview Park. She seemed very assured and very well put together, and I assumed that this was her only business, but when I began to get to know her more, I discovered that she has a regular day job and BTDLLC is just one of the many things she does to inspire, uplift and strengthen individual people and communities. As I have written before, Be The Difference Clothing, or BTDLLC, makes t-shirts and socks and onesies for the little ones that have inspirational and uplifting, encouraging sayings on them. I’d be attracted to the sayings all by themselves, but there is an artistry behind the creation of the clothing that goes much deeper than a happy quote. The designs are made to help us think and feel the impact of the words written on them, and to help encourage us to have the courage to believe that we can make a difference in our own lives, with others, and in the world.

Her designs are carefully made, with real people and real situations in mind, and each design is carefully printed in as high a quality as possible to insure the longevity and wearability of the products. She is always coming up with new ideas, and asking for suggestions from her wide spread fan base, encouraging people not only with her own ideas and designs but also encouraging others to speak their own words of power, wisdom and life.

Recently Joy told me that she was going to step into the spotlight a little bit - she is always so careful  not to put herself first and foremost, but she had been encouraged to show the face behind her wonderful products, and she was looking for ways to do that a bit more. She's a beautiful woman with a beautiful heart, and when I had first met her I had wanted to photograph her more, but at that time she was a bit camera shy and I don't ever like to push people to do things they don't feel comfortable with though I know that from a marketing perspective, as long as people are as humble as Joy is, readers and viewers like the more personalized experience of getting to know the face behind a story. She's been posting a bit more about herself, on Instagram and through podcasts, and in addition to the guest post I had written for her blog, I had written a short post here on May 22, 2016, but now for the first time in this blog I'll present a few photos of Joy, the powerful and beautiful woman behind the powerful and beautiful BTDLLC.

Joy At Antique Bar & Bakery

A Few Of Her Newest Designs And Products
Photos Courtesy Of Joy And BTDLLC

Models Keyanne And Danielle
Photo Courtesy Of Joy And BTDLLC

A Few Photos From My Earlier Post
On May 22, 2016

And From Our First Meeting On November 1, 2015

A Percentage Of Proceeds Donated To
Congenital Heart Disease Foundation Hayden's Heart

Styles For Adults, Children, And Babies

Modeled Here By Spokespeople Maryanne And Tory

Joy At Our First Meeting In Riverview Park


Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 5, 2018

An Abundant Life - Beyond The Boundaries

Walter John Rodriguez is a teacher and a healer. I know he knows he's a teacher, because he's told me that he is, but I don't know if he knows he's a healer. When I first met him at the opening for his solo show at Paul Fitzgerald's N Gallery that was part of Urban Consign & Design in Hoboken, there was something about him that I couldn't quite place. His work was extraordinary - I later found out that he referred to the pieces as totem poles, and they were that but they were also something more, something deeper that kept you looking at them to find that deeper meaning for yourself. He was very elegantly dressed and clean-cut and the work was so visceral that it seemed to have come from some place completely different than the well mannered young man I spoke to. Very serious with a smile that arrives on his face like a flash of sunlight on a spring day, he has a sensibility about him that extends into his work and makes us want to look deeper into and under the surface of things and find out all that is there.

A few months ago I saw him at an event for ESKFF, the wonderful organization founded by Eileen S. Kaminsky that I have written about in these pages before, and as we were talking he asked me if I had met Aaron Boucher who had founded Field Colony, a gallery, meeting and co-working space in Hoboken. I hadn't, but I had heard something about Field Colony through the part of the grapevine that runs through Instagram, and Walter suggested I stop by to introduce myself and said I could tell Aaron he had sent me. I stopped by one day soon after that, but Aaron was out so I left my contact information and heard back by email, and then about a week later another artist friend called me and asked if I had heard anything about Field Colony, and when I told him I had and that it was Walter who had told me about it, my friend said, "His work is amazing!" The friend who I was talking to is an amazing artist in his own right, and he also is immersed in the art world as a supporter of other artists and creative ventures. We talked about Walter's work for quite a while that afternoon, and because it had been Walter who recommended that I introduce myself to Field Colony and my friend admired his work so much, I followed up again to set up a time when my friend and I could meet with Aaron Boucher.

A day before we were scheduled to meet at Field Colony, I stopped by to confirm the meeting and saw Walter. He told me that he was preparing to start an Artist Residency, and so I suggested that when he'd gotten settled in a bit I could stop by to take some photos and interview him for my blog. We decided on the following week as a possible time, and the next day when I stopped by with my friend to meet with Aaron, Walter was not there yet, but Aaron showed us his canvases that had been stretched on the walls. They were going to be very large pieces, and in my naivete I thought that when I came by to see Walter the following week he would have just barely begun. Much to my surprise, he had completed a prodigious amount of work, glorious paintings of the forefathers of America circa the signing of the Constitution. To my defense I know that Walter has a teaching job that takes a great deal of his time and that he takes very seriously. It's important to him to do everything he does more than just well - he tries to do all things with excellence, and because I know how time consuming teaching can be, I had assumed that he wouldn't have much time to be in the Residency at Field Colony. But he had found what looked like a great deal of time, and unless he's found a way to stop the clocks, he must have been working around them. The work is stunning, and very moving, and became more so as I spoke with Walter and learned more about his background.

Born in Havana, Cuba, he came to this county with his family when he was 14. Living first in Union City, he had to learn to speak not only English but Spanish in the way that the other people in that community did. Dialects and pronunciation vary, and it's amazing that he was able to communicate at all, never mind learn a new language that is as difficult as English is and learn it so well. As he told me his story, I stopped him at one point and said how impressed I was by his ability to move beyond what could have been barriers that might have kept another person back. I am a native English speaker, and I'm also somewhat of a careful listener of the English language - I love words and linguistics, and very often I hear interesting colloquialisms even in the most well educated people. But Walter speaks not only like a native, but one who has had the best education and the best opportunities to learn and excel. He has had a great education and wonderful opportunities, but they are things he fought for, going beyond and past what was normally suggested and expected of a young man who had come here from another country with very little except for the skills and talents and drive that have created a life far beyond what even some people with an easier road might have accomplished.

As we spoke that afternoon, I asked Walter what had made him want to begin drawing. His answer was a beautiful one to me, simple and profound, because it reminded me of my own history and why I had wanted to act and write. He told me that he had always been drawing, from a very early age, and that he found a great deal of enjoyment in it, as well as a way to find peace and a place of his own. The community he grew up in when his family lived in Cuba was not a quiet one, and it was not in an affluent area. When his family came to America, they moved first to Union City, and at the time that they moved there it must have been very different than it is today. Throughout our conversation he never once complained, something that was surprising to me because I've heard so many people over the years complain about the places where they grew up in and where they've had to live. But Walter just seemed to take it all in stride, knowing with a quiet purpose that he wouldn't stay in the Union City of twenty years ago and that somehow, in spite of recommendations from school counselors and advisors that were at times limiting, he would work to make a better life for himself and his family and to honor the commitment his parents had made to come to a new country for a better life for their children.

And he has done so much work over such a short period of time, gaining a B.F.A. Degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an M.A. from St. Peter's College in Jersey City; his work has been shown in group exhibits and solo shows in New York and New Jersey and is included in many private collections. If he did not look so young I would have thought he would have to be a much older man because of the length and breadth of his experience and expertise. There is a seriousness about him that keeps him focused, but then that smile shines through. As we spoke about his current project, we talked about passion, the passion of the forefathers of America who felt so strongly that the world could and should be a better place, and how that kind of passion is at the root of what can be great change for good. His working title is Power Is Not Love, and we talked about that too, how sometimes people can mistake one for the other or think they can gain one by using the other. And we talked about Walter and his vision, why it is that he chooses the topics he chooses, and the answer I kept hearing was healing. Though that word was not said, it's what I kept feeling, and as I thought later I realized it's what Walter's work is capable of. Helping people to look at the seemingly familiar in a new light, opening up a visual space for personal reflection, investigating what something means to him in a deeply personal way while allowing each person to interpret what they need to in order to discover meaning for themselves. This is the power of Walter John Rodriguez and his work, and somehow it feels very close to love. 

Walter John Rodriguez
At Field Colony
1001 Bloomfield Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

New Work From His Current Project
In Residency At Field Colony

Past Projects

With Eileen S. Kaminsky
At The ESKFF Residency Program
Following Three Photos
Courtesy Of Walter John Rodriguez

With Aaron Boucher, Founder Of Field Colony
At The Inaugural Hoboken Waterfront Arts Gala

With Artist and Venetian Plaster Artisan Zac Scott Gross
And Aaron Boucher, Founder of Field Colony
At Field Colony

At The Opening Of His Solo Show
At Paul Fitzgerald's N Gallery
With Paul Fitzgerald And Jannie Wolff


Jannie Susan