Introducing Jalex Studios

It has bee a while since I’ve blogged and it’s been a while since I introduced any artists.  Golly…with my temporary blogging break due to our move (which HAPPENS TODAY!!!), I may have lost all of my readers.  Let’s hope not!  I found some awesome contemporary art pieces for the home on Etsy and I’d like to share my discovery of a WONDERFUL new etsy artist and his DELIGHTFULLY REFRESHING work with you.  It is a long introduction, but I hope you enjoy reading it.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  🙂  He’s truthful, real, comical, and quite enjoyably genuine.  Introducing…Jalex Studios.

The artist’s name is Jeff Alexander.  He is a 36yr old resident of Houston, TX, who is originally from a small town outside of Rochester, NY called Scottsville.  Jeff is an electrical engineer by day, and currently by night,an aspiring entrepreneur, trying to share with the world his designs and ideas.  He is married (let’s congratulate him on just reaching 10 years of marriage!), and he and his wife also have a very active 5-year old boy.   They have no pets (although, he says he keeps teasing his wife about the day their son asked for a dog)….so perhaps, no pets “yet”.  🙂  

To characterize his artistic style, Jeff says it is modern design.  I would agree and say it’s the new wave of modern design because his creations are modern with an up-cycled twist.  In his own words on his style, Jeff says, “I like to create things that have clean lines that convey a simplicity. I also like juxtaposition. What I mean by this is I like to use material that vastly different from one another (i.e metal and wood) to create some texture to my designs. I am also interested in using recycled material unique ways.”  So, what are Jeff’s favorite materials to use?  Wood, recycled material, found objects.

We know that every artist has inspiration, so where does Jeff get his?  “…from everyday life.”  On thought of this topic, he adds… “It’s kind of funny — I would always ask my wife, why does she buy so many shoes?  I would always say to her, “You don’t have an outfit to match those shoes so why buy them!!” My wife would respond – “Honey, if you buy the shoes, the outfit will come”. Needless to say, she was right (did I just admit she was right? Hmm… must be getting late).  So you may ask, what does this statement have to do with my inspiration. Everything, because many of my inspirations come about in this manner. Whenever, I find an object that intrigues me and I’m hesitant to use it, I go back to what my wife said but change it to “if you use it, the design will come”.  So, many of my inspirations come from ordinary objects that I feel have a unique quality that can be fused together to create designs that are intriguing and thought provoking and hope that someone might say “Wow, I never thought of using that object that way”.  I’d say that Jeff’s wife is a genius…on shoes and on artistic development.  🙂  And I agree that, if you can find ONE element of what you want to do and you branch off of it for inspiration, it will all come together in the end.

So, what about this town that Jeff lives in?  I often wonder about artists and the places they live, and whether or not I ask, I’m curious to see how different areas impact artists differently.  I’m a firm believer that the energy you surround yourself with has a large impact on the many facets of your life.  As mentioned previously, Jeff lives in Houston, TX – the fourth largest city in the U.S.  According to Jeff, “Houston is a great place to live (if you can stand the summer heat!!)” — He also adds, “I love it here. Houston has a small town feel to me, but yet is a large city…with great style when it comes to modern design and living.”  I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there (myself included), who when they think of any Texas city, they can’t help but think western, but Jeff reminds us not to focus on the common correlation…”Houston is an undiscovered gem when it comes to modern design/lifestyle. Most people associate modern design/living with New York, or California, but Houston has great modern design/lifestyle that makes me proud to call it home.”  Judging on Jeff’s designs, I’d have to agree with him.  Even if he was the only modern design in Texas…I’d say his art is quite an undiscovered gem of modern design!

So, what about his beginnings?  How did Jeff come to start making his modern art/craft(s)?  What is his story ?  I think you’ll enjoy reading what he says about how it all came to fruition.  “I think initially I started my craft the first year my son was born (2003). The prior Christmas, my wife and I made a resolution for the next Christmas, to not go out and buy gifts, but rather make something. We felt that it was too easy to just buy something. To make something by hand — now that would make for a memorable Christmas that would never be forgotten. Well, needless to say August rolled around and my wife comes to me and says — So how’s my Christmas present coming? I, with a look of horror andfright claim amnesia (don’t worry, if your husband hasn’t given you this look by now, in time he will!!).  So, I hastily began to design a modern armoire for my wife. Well, I held up my end of the bargain and come Christmas day, my wife got her handmade modern armoire. I think at that point, the seed was planted. When we moved into our new house, we were pretty much broke. We had this beautiful brand new house, but no money to furnish it with the style that we loved. So through necessity, came creativity. One of my first endeavors was to try and furnish our guest bedroom. Many of the items in that room I hand made (bed, side table, shelves…). After finishing that room, someone told me that I should post my work on HGTV’s rate my space page (http://ratemyspace.hgtv.com/SNC/GroupSearch.aspx?pguid=6db6be3f-1720-4ba3-a081-999042c09b6b&username=jba4718).  After posting my work, I was so overwhelmed by the positive responses back from people, that I began to realize that people had an appreciation for my ideas and designs. So, I got enough courage (as well as finally getting off my butt) and decided that I would no longer sit back and wonder what if, and change that to “And If” !! — Pretty cool story, ay?  To me, Jeff’s story is a testament to the serendipitous moments that probably happen to us all.  I like to think of it as God and the Universe urging us toward our destiny and life calling.  Lucky for Jeff, he had his ears open!  🙂 

So, we know Jeff is a busy guy.  He’s got a full-time job, andhe’s a husband, and he’s a dad, AND he’s a budding artist on Etsy.  It’s different for all Etsy artists, but how does Jeff balance his Etsy shop with everything else?  “Well, I am a fairly new to Etsy (I opened my shop in May, 2008). As far as balance is concerned, ever since I discovered Etsy, I have
been so focused on getting my portfolio out to the world in my Etsy shop.  The weird thing is, I feel rather balanced.  I know this sounds odd, but the moment I discovered Etsy, something clicked. This was the missing piece of the puzzle for me. I work in a technical field that is very demanding, but at times lacks any real creativity. I have always had a creative side to myself, but never knew of a venue to show it off in. When I discovered Etsy, I knew that this was the place that I needed to be. I am so passionate about the opportunity to show off my portfolio, that it has crept into my day job (Oops, guess I shouldn’t have said that, but it is true).  I would love to ultimately be able to sustain my lifestyle with my shop on Etsy, but for right now I am content with the adventure of getting my name out there.”

True to form, Etsy artists love handmade.  For everyone, it is different, so I like to know what element(s) of handmade really attract people to love it so much.  I asked Jeff about this and he said,

1. “I love that fact that it comes from the heart and mind. What I mean by this is that
in your heart is where your passion lies, and in your mind is where your creativity comes from. When you combine these two (heart + mind) you get handmade from the heart.”
2. “I love the fact that there is a face to the product. You get a sense of what that person has created and why they created it.”
3. “The uniqueness of the experience.”

Of course, after knowing those things, I’m curious to know about Jeff’s own favorite piece from his shop.  After cornering him on the topic (he really likes them all because each one has a piece of him), he finalized that he likes the Doors Collection of Wall Art (Introspective, Juxtaposition).

Now, with all of that, how does Jeff promote his work?  As an artist, it is great to know because it could open your eyes to a new avenue you had not thought of.  As a reader/supporter, it’s interesting to know how much additional work goes into getting a successful business off the ground.  Exposure is everything, and with today’s day and age, technology and the internet is key.  Jeff maintains a Website, blog, Etsy shop, and myspace.  His shop was also featured on Fresh Shops (http://www.etsy.com/storque/section/spotlight/article/fresh-shops-jalexstudios/1847/) on May 22nd (“I found this out a week later. Guess that explains why my views on some of my items shot up so fast”).
He’s also on Flickr and on Squidoo: www.squidoo.com/jalexstudios

You know?  I’m writing about all of this business and well, after getting to know all of that, I wonder what Jeff does for fun when he isn’t busy with all else… Jeff’s response was…”What do I do for fun? Hmm, that’s a good question. I love to spendtime with my family. I also findmyself spending a lot of time at Hardware Stores (I’m doing the Home Improvement growl as I type this 🙂 ). I also love going to Modern Home Furnishing Stores to see all the great designs (this gives me lots of inspiration). Most times you can find me in my garage/studio, tinkering with new ideas/concepts that I have in my head.”

 

Lastly, Jeff would like to share some encouraging thoughts with my readers, “Over the last year before I opened up my shop, I was in an artistic slump, self-doubt, etc.. (if you will). What I mean by this is that, I felt something was missing in my life, there was a hole somewhere, but I didn’t know where. One day scanning through the channels on cable, I ran across the movie RENT, and was mesmerized by the message of this movie. So I submit to you what I would like for your readers to take away, whether they are fellow Etsians, or contemplating becoming future Etsians — “Forget regrets, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way. No daybut today”. I think this says it all, have no regets, do it your way, and sieze the day!!”

Thank you, Jeff!  I’m certain your words of encouragement will speak to at least one reader other than myself and I would venture to bet that they’ll reach far more than that!  Jeff’s story is an encouraging one, an inspirational one, and hopefully to anyone reading my introduction, an enjoyable one!

Visit Jeff’s Etsy store now! He’s offering 10% off to any one who mentions nicoleleeartistry in their message to seller when they purchase an item from jalex studios etsy store.

Date Nights with RedBox

So, Anthony and I love renting movies and one day, the Lord above sent us a gift in a big, redbox.  🙂

 If you aren’t familiar with redbox, it’s a DVD vending machine and they are popping up everywhere.  Locally, we have them at McDonalds, but I know in Pennsylvania, they have them in grocery stores too.  Anthony and I love redbox!  If you don’t rent movies all the time, they are super!  Even if you rent movies on a semi-frequent basis, they are a great alternative to having an account with Blockbuster on line or NetFlix. 

You can go online to review movies and reserve them online, or you can drive right up to the box and rent on the spot.

The rental process is easy.  redbox has a super easy, user-friendly, touch screen

You select whether you are renting or returning  
and it walks you right through the process until you swipe your debit/credit card to pay.  Oh!  And it’s only $1.00 to rent any DVD!  Rentals are good for 24 hours and if you decide to keep them, it’s only $1.00 a day for each day you keep it.  Returns are simple.  You take your DVD back to ANY redbox location and slip the slick DVD case with clear instructions, right in the slot provided.   

     redbox will even send you email confirmations of rentals and returns, just so you feel extra secure.
The best part is that, when you set up an account with redbox, you can rent movies for FREE quite frequently, with the codes they give you in your email or even as a text message to your phone!  Interested?  Go here.  It’s a super deal and if you like watching movies and haven’t tried it out – hop to your local redbox and get started or you can click here to visit their site!

We rented Juno  the other night and LOVED IT!  It is a comedy/drama/romance movie that really hits so many good spots, it’s hard not to like.  It’s about a girl and how she deals with the life event of an unplanned pregnancy.  It won an oscar for best writing and it truly is EXCELLENTLY written, funny and just plain wonderful!  I highly recommend it if you have not yet seen!  View the trailer here.  If you are already a Juno fan, Etsy seller, scissorkix, has these great Juno themed, pinback buttons!
  Click here to view the listing.  They’re only $4.00 for all three!

 

Now, for our Creative Journey : Before this task, I ask – are you still doing your mental dumping?  If not, make time to start it.  They will help to reduce your stress levels, and will improve your clarity and creativity!  Does anyone have a poem or quote to share?  If you’re following along, please let me know!  🙂

Creative Journey Task (Day 5):  Take a walk for inspiration today.  Take in all that you can of the details that surround you.  Open up ALL of your senses.  LOOK, SMELL, TOUCH, LISTEN, BREATH.  Let those things inspire you.  Think of something to create that will reflect your walk and make it.  It could be as simple or as ornate as you like.  (I’m off to take my walk now.  I’ll share my creation tomorrow.)

A SANDWICH OF INSPIRATIONAL PROPORTIONS!!!

I know I’ve said it before, but when I think of people and companies, who inspire me, I think of people who think OUTSIDE THE BOX.  Today, I thought I’d share a sandwich with you.  “What?  A SANDWICH?” You say.  Yes.  A sandwich.  But, not just ANY sandwich.  This sandwich is one of inspirational proportions!  A little while back, I mentioned my longing for home sweet home, and a fellow blogger reminded me of one of the many things back home, that all Pittsburghers likely reserve a special place for (many, right next to their beer)… in their stomachs, that is.

PRIMANTI BROTHERS  PRIMANTI BROTHERS
    

As you can see, these sandwiches have a colossal size and a reputation to match.  They give the phrase, “The Works” a whole new meaning!  Slaw, French Fries, Tomatoes, and whatever meat, cheese and sauce you like, all slapped on sourdough bread.  It may look gross, and may seem like it’s a bit TOO MUCH.  Well, it is kind of gross, but it tastes GREAT, and it may be a bit too much, but you can always share with a friend or save some for later. 

  

They are open 24 hours, so you can stop in after the clubs shut down (even the after hours ones!), or you can stop in and eat breakfast with the early rising blue-collar workers that fuel the city!  Either way, it’s one heck of an eating experience!  If you ever make it to Pittsburgh, this is ONE thing you HAVE to try…just ask anyone on the street for the name of one place you should eat before you leave.  And, trust me when I say, this will be at the top of the list!

Now, you could go to their more recent, Harmar location, but I wouldn’t recommend it, if you want to get the TRUE, Primanti Brothers Experience.  You need to go “DAHN TAHN” (Which is Pittsburgh-ese for “downtown.”  And not just “dahntahn”…you have to make sure you go to the Strip District.  Now, don’t get all worried – I’m not talking about the “adult” district…The Strip District is just a shopping district, where you and truly and authentically experience the Burgh…right by the docks.  🙂

So remember, yes, it’s going to be smothered in coleslaw, french fries, grease, meat and whatever else you choose, slapped on sourdough bread, but it’s going to leave you more than satisfied – so satisfied you might just think you DID visit the “adult” district.  Heh heh.  And that, my readers…is inspiration!  If you make something crafty, does it DO IT FOR THE CROWD, enough to make them rave about it like I just did about a Primanti’s sandwich?  If not, maybe it’s time to reevaluate and ask yourself what you can do.  Trust me…I’m right there thinking with you!  🙂  (Right after I suck the saliva down from thinking about a Delicious, Hot, Pastrami from Primanti’s!).

 

Now, for those of you who have decided to JOIN ME ON THE JOURNEY with our tasks to provide inspiration.  Here’s what we are doing between today and tomorrow…

(Day 2) – Tell a friend about your practice of using the mental dumping exercise.  Become the teacher and explain the purpose behind it.  Encourage someone else to join in on it!  Whether or not they do, you will benefit from sharing.  When you become the teacher, you take increased ownership and personal responsibility for your new task…which will hopefully become a good habit!  YOU ALSO LEARN BETTER WHEN YOU TEACH.  🙂

Seeking Inspiration? Join me on a creative journey! (DAY 1)

Journey

I find that many people are looking for ways to get inspired and are curious about how other people find inspiration.  To this point, I am going to start posting a new series that I will title, “JOIN ME FOR A CREATIVE JOURNEY!  Tasks to help you get inspired!”  I hope you join me and hope you share your experiences as we journey along.  I anticipate it to be quite fun!

Day One:  As we start our creative journey, it is important to begin with a clear mental state.  So, for our first task, I am assigning this…Upon waking up each day, set aside 30 minutes to sit without distractions, with a writing utensil and a piece of paper.  During those 30 minutes, write whatever comes to mind.  Don’t worry about punctuation, or composition.  Don’t worry if it’s disconnected, silly, emotional, senseless, or even if you are drawing blanks and you write, “blah, blah, blah.”  JUST WRITE.  And, write continuously, EVERY thought that comes into your head, as it comes, until those 30 minutes are up.  It will be very important to prioritize this task, as you will find that not doing it will produce a whole different affect.  So, what do I mean?  Well, I’ll help you get your juices flowing.  I’m going to free write and share an example:

 “…so, I’m writing, and I’m not sure what I’m going to accomplish, but I’m writing.  My fingers don’t want to type.  I need to clean up the pencil container on my desk.  I love that dog Anthony gave me…it’s so cute.  He is so thoughtful.  paper.  ugh.  have to find craft shows for the summer.  maybe some local churches – got to look in the local Penny Saver that comes in the mail.  I am looking forward to going home for a visit.  Can’t wait for the retreat either.  Should be fun.  my coffee is getting cold.  I need to pressure wash the porch today and have to get some calls made too.  work stares me in the face.  A woman’s work is never done.  ha ha.  I love taking pictures.  I need a new phone.  My phone is a dinosaur.  At least it functions though….” 

So, you get the point…JUST WRITE.  FREE FLOW WITH IT.  Clear your mind.  Years ago, I started this practice when I began a creative journey for inspiration, and it totally works!  I’ve since gotten out of the practice, but I’m going to start again.  Join me!  Do it daily, and if you are really diligent, do it twice daily – once in the morning and once before bed.  Don’t think of it like a journal, per say, because it’s more like a dumping ground.  Clear your head of all stress, thoughts, anxiety, worry and preoccupation.

  
     

In today’s society, it’s easy to become distracted with all that is going on around us.  It’s not easy to get centered, to clear our minds, or to be available.  When we “dump” all the “clutter,” it opens our minds up for a more productive day and invites creativity.  Try it and see what happens.  I’ll bet you’ll start seeing a difference after the first day.  Go wherever you want to, to do your mental dump.  When I started this practice, I was a teacher and I would write in the morning, while early students would eat breakfast.  On weekends, I liked to go outside and be alone with the chirping birds.  It’s whatever works for you and it can be different every day. 

Please let me know if you plan to join in on this journey, and if you do, let me know when you have started to practice your “mental dumping” and, please share your experiences!  I’m going to be posting new weekly tasks for you all to try, that will hopefully help you to jump start your creative juices!  Looking forward to a great group project and creative journey!  Hope it helps!  Have a wonderful day!  🙂

So, where do YOU get YOUR inspiration from?

I’ve been chatting it up in the etsy forums and found the many people like to know where artists get their inspiration from.  I’m going to share my most recent inspiration with you and I’d like you to share your inspirations on my blog also, by leaving a comment on today’s blog post. 

 When you see my inspiration, you may not get it.  Other people – they will immediately understand.  It’s common for people not to understand the inspiration of others, so I’ll explain.  “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.”  It’s important to stand out. 

I’m slowly defining my style and how I, Nicole Catroppo, will stand out among the masses.  “What makes me ORIGINAL?  What do I do that makes people talk?”  If you’re an artist and you’re reading this, ask yourself the same questions, then follow the link that will lead you to my inspiration.  Every day I am defining who I am as an artist, but it’s coming along… a constant work in progress. 🙂

Now…MY INSPIRATION (ON APRIL FOOLS DAY, 2008)
It’s called, “Frozen In Grand Central Station”:
Click–> http://www.maniacworld.com/frozen-in-grand-central-station.html <–Click

When things come our way…

Inspiration…a SERENDIPITOUS moment, indeed!

This is probably my most favorite quote and my mantra.  I believe quite strongly that, you can achieve any goal that you can conceive and believe in, and that if you commit to working toward making it happen, it will.  The beauty of following your dreams is the places they will take you.  You might have something in mind when you start on your journey and you may expect to proceed down a specific path.  Sometimes that happens, but sometimes your dreams will take you somewhere completely different from your original plans.  When this happens, you have to embrace the natural ebb and flow of life.  It’s like they say…”Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”  I believe that everything happens for a reason, so with that in mind, I suggest we believe in reasons unknown and make the most of what we’ve been dealt.  The unexpected “detours” on the path of life can be completely beautiful in how they contribute to our growth, knowledge, wisdom and experience and often bring unexpected gifts of inspiration and wonderful blessings in disguise. 

Follow your dreams.  Take risks.  Love with all that you have.  Live life to the fullest!

Something beautiful about being an artist is that inspiration can strike us at any given moment.  And when it does…let it be a force to be reckoned with!  It is a beautiful gift, so don’t let the whirl of thoughts, ideas and mental pictures die.  Inspiration… One of life’s natural highs – let it take you places! 

The last few days, I have been working on creating a new something for an Etsy friend.  This something required that I work with wood and paint.  While working on that item today, something struck me to play around with a tool I had originally bought for soldering.  The tool doesn’t get hot enough for gold or silver, so it has sat around for months.  It was a hot iron tool, that can also be used for wood burning and today it occurred to me that I might just TRY it!  I have never dabbled with wood burning, but today I gave it a shot and let me tell you…I loved it! 

I know that all artists find inspiration differently, but today, lit a fire of fresh and new ideas!  I’m getting ready to turn in early for bed, so I’ll post a picture of the doodling I did with the iron tomorrow.  Who’d of thought that burning some wood would lead to such great inspiration?

How about you?  When is the last time you stumbled upon something that led to great inspiration? 

TAKE TWELVE MINUTES TO WATCH THIS.

My college girlfriend, Carrie, sent this to me and I must share.  The things that this man says are the way I choose to live my life!  Watch it.  You will understand why I shared after it ends.  I hope it inspires you.

<http://video.stumbleupon.com/?s=ithct48cqw&i=ufcchmyxqsuj9vwsemax>  

I’ve put together a collage of my thoughts and emotions following that video:

                                      

What Would You Buy This Time of Year?

So, my new pal Jill, who is a very nice fellow Etsian (http://knit1scrap2.etsy.com) and also has a blog called “The Chittum Files,” is seeking inspiration for the warmer months.  You see, in her newly opened Etsy shop, she sells hand-knit items.  She has been adding some other things, but wants to come up with some new projects because she wants to appeal to those who are soon to be enjoying the warmer months.  She is currently working on a new version of this great accessory clutch and carry bag, but is seeking additional ideas and suggestions.  I thought I’d help by passing the word along to my readers.  

Can you think of anything else that she might make? 
What would you buy this time of year?
Thanks for any suggestions!  :O)