2011 Summer Interview Series,  Thoughts

2011 Summer Interview Series | Chel Micheline at Ginger Blue

I first came into contact with Chel via Marc and Eliana when they stopped over at Chel and Tom’s house on their cross country road trip a few years ago. I started reading her blog and became hooked and through commenting and friending on Facebook we’ve become internet friends. It’s a shame I never actually got to meet up with her while I was living in Florida! She’s got some fantastic bead work and has started a new project called the Common Miracles project. Read on!

First off, give us an idea of who you are, why you blog and your geographic location.

I recently turned 37 (but I REALLY don’t feel my age!), I’m a mom to a really cool five-year-old named Gracie, wife to a guy named Tom, a mixed media artist, very amateur gardener, long-distance swimmer, animal-rescuer, and avid reader.

I started “blogging” in 1997 when it was called online journaling and there were only about 30 of us doing it (yes, thirty!). I was in my first year in grad school, a little emotionally overwhelmed, and needed an outlet without it being person. Fast forward 14 years later and it’s a blog and I’m still writing….

I live in Southwest Florida. I moved here in 1999, after spending several years in Atlanta (another location which deeply influence me) in college and grad school. My family always vacationed here on Marco Island when I was growing up, but I NEVER thought I would make a life here. But here I am, and I feel deeply rooted to this place, even though the summers are very difficult.

You make beautiful handmade beads. How did you get started in this creative endeavour? Where can one purchase your beads?
I always had a weird obsession with Fimo and polymer clay since seeing some beads in high school, but I could never figure out how to transform the hard, crumbly blocks of clay into beautiful patterned beads. In the early 2000’s, I picked the clay up again, determined to figure it out. I spent several years working with the clay before the pieces I made looked marginally better than a Tootsie Roll that got run over by a truck. Then it clicked into place. I started making interesting things and even innovating a little bit, and people were buying my pieces from my neck- I started realizing I might have something.

I’m trying to get my act together with my Etsy shop (my goal for the summer! – it’s at Gingerblue.Etsy.com but in the meantime most of my pieces are sold in small galleries and shops here on Marco Island and in North Carolina.

Art journaling is a big part of your blog. How long have you been creating art journals and how do they help you creatively?

Art journaling is pretty new. In a way, I think it’s an offshoot of my interest in scrapbooking. I started scrapbooking in 2006 while I was waiting for Gracie to come home from Vietnam- while we were waiting to complete her adoption, I felt a desperate need to document the process and also begin putting together a tangible history for her to look back on.

When she finally came home, I no longer had any time to scrapbook (and, I have to be honest, it suddenly seemed very fussy to me) but I still wanted to document our life. As Gracie grew, and she started becoming interested in paints and markers and collage, I found myself loving the process of “playing” alongside her- no rules, no limits. Art journaling was the perfect solution to my desire to document as well as my passion for playing. It’s a wonderful outlet, a way to document our lives, and it’s completely personal and flexible at the same time. I can tell a story or capture a mood or just smush down some paint with no thought at all and it all comes together to tell the story of our life.

Aside from creating beads, what is your favorite media to work in?

Paint, I think. Watercolors, especially. But I have a hug box of cheapy acrylics that are always fun to smash around on the page and get my fingers into. I also love Pan Pastels, liquid watercolors, and inks. Pretty much anything bright and translucent.

Art history is a major part of your background. How do you incorporate the curating side of art to the creating side of art?

I love to “gather” inspiration. A few times a week I dive through our mail with a pair of scissors and cut out anything that catches my eye. If it’s pattern or color or design, it gets glued into a big blank sketchbook. If it’s just a cool photo or a neat arrangement of words (I LOVE cutting text from catalogues and magazines!) I put it in a box and I later use it somewhere in my journal. I definitely approach my art with probably *too* much of a planning perspective- I spend MUCH more time thinking about and preparing to making art than I do actually making it. But I love the whole process of flipping through catalogs and magazines and searching for something that catches my eye, and then re-arranging it all.

What artists or subjects do you draw inspiration from?

The natural world!! Nature, nature, nature. I love being outside, I love gardening, I love flowers, I love water, I love nature. The forms and colors of nature just call to me. I feel caged in if I don’t go outside several times a day.

Are there particular projects or goals you wish to accomplish in the next 5 years?

This is tough. A year ago I would have told you my big goal was to go to back to school to get either a PhD in Art History or an MFA in painting. But now I’m not so sure.

I’d like to be a successful artist, but mostly so I can continue making art and feel good about what I am doing. I struggle a lot with the question of whether or not the things I make are worthy or not. I guess all artists do.

Right now I’m feeling really drawn to the idea of giving back to the world in some way. Ideally, I’d like to get my Etsy shop open, do more painting and drawing, and be successful enough so that I can give financial and emotional support to other creatives as well as worthy organizations.

I’d love a gallery or museum show in the future- I won’t lie. But I think this is more rooted to the fact that I’ve always wanted to work in a museum- so the idea of having my work represented in a museum is sort of magical to me.

For someone getting started in art journaling or bead making, what tips would you give them to get going in the right direction? Are there particular resources you’d recommend?

Art journaling is fairly easy. DON’T overthink it- it’s all play. Get yourself a journal that feels REALLY okay to work in, whether it’s a hard bound sketchbook with rich, creamy paper or just a marble composition book. Rip out half the pages (trust me on this one- your book will be VERY thick as you add to it!) and prep the remaining pages with gesso. Buy supplies that appeal to you- I love washi tape, watercolor paints, stencils, ink, and markers. Treat the journal as a place where you can let go, not as a place where you “come together”, if that makes any sense. The best thing to do is gather a bunch of magazines and catalogues, glue, some tape, some cheap paint, and just cut and paste and smear paint on and scribble some words and watch what happens. It’s magical. I highly recommend a few books if you need inspiration: Painted Pages by Sarah Ahern Bellemare, “1,000 Artist Journal Pages” by Dawn DeVries Sokol, and “When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put” by Vivian Swift.

Beads… oh, that’s a bit tougher. To be honest, I would recommend skipping the polymer clay, and getting a pack of paper clay (the kind that air dries- available at any craft store), buying some bead rollers (I like the ones from Poly-Tools.com the best), and some alcohol inks or liquid watercolors and going in that direction. I love paper clay- it’s got this great texture, and it feels good to use, and it is very easy to work with. Roll some beads, let them air dry, and then play with your dyes and inks and paints on the surfaces of the beads- they are like mini canvases. Just glaze them with a water-based polyurethane sealer when you are done. As far as books: 1000 Glass Beads by Lark Press, and any of Donna Kato’s books.

You recently started the The Common Miracles Project. What enticed you to start this project and what do you hope to accomplish with the project?
I have been doing a lot of research into personal well-being and spiritual philosophy and one thing that kept coming up was how important gratitude was. I’ve never been a big fan of gratitude- it always felt forced so I have never been able to make it a regular practice. Common Miracles is basically an attempt to find the magic in the everyday, and savor the little moments, and maybe figure out how gratitude can become part of my daily life. I invited other bloggers to join in and document their everyday pleasures, as well.

How do you incorporate creative living with raising your daughter? Do you have any particular craft projects that she likes and enjoys?

Oh, EVERYTHING. Since she was old enough to hold a crayon, I split my art studio in half, set her up with her own workstation and a ton of supplies. We spend a LOT of time in the studio together- sometimes we work on similar projects (she’s taken an interest in art journaling this summer) or sometimes she pulls out her stencils and markers and I pull out my beads or paints and we just work side-by-side. It’s definitely a shared passion for us, and I love that she has a place she can come and get messy and make messes and just close the door when she’s done and get back into it the next day. She can be creative whenever she feels the whim without having to worry about getting out her supplies or asking me for help. It’s been great for her- I can’t count the time I have gotten up in the morning and found her hours into a project on her own.

And finally, tell us the five people you’d love to have over for dinner and why!
Oh, wow. Hmmm…

Tina Fey, because she makes me laugh and she’s so smart. Amy Poehler, too. I love that my generation of women has these ladies to look up to.

Martha Beck, because she has the GREATEST common sense and always gives the best advice.

Shea Hembry– he gave a *FASCINATING* TED talk and he seems like he’d be amazing to have a conversation about art and identity with.

Elizabeth Berg– my favorite author. Alexander McCall Smith, my other favorite author. Oh, and Mary Oliver, a great poet.

That’s more than five, but it could be a dinner party!

Chel blogs at Ginger Blue, sell her bead work at Gingerbluebeads.com and at her Etsy shop and you can participate in her The Common Miracles Project. All photos courtesy and copyright Chel Micheline.


  • Fru Teston

    hey, just found your work online, love the beads of course, don’t have time now to check out all the entries, but am looking forward to the photos & the prose.

    i’m a Californian and my parents were fond of camping, we went all over the mountains, from Lassen to Tahoe, and it’s been such a long heartbreaking time since I’ve seen the water, smelled the smells, heard the feathery noises of the trees. makes my gut ache. my little brother is dead, he and I shared a passion for the sierras that nobody else even knew about. Once, Charles caught a minnow the day before we left the Lake, he pushed it into a crevice of the padded door of the 1936 Pontiac when we packed to go home, my mother found the source of the hideous stink under his bed some days after. the tiny little slimy gray thing in the glass of water was charles’ sacrifice to the god of the lake. so he wouldn’t forget the lake. every summer we’d mash ourselves against the window of the car door, fighting like beasts to see who’d see the lake first. it was a brilliant, neon almost, cobalt indigo skyborne blue like no other, turquoise like nothing imagined in all the workshops of the artisans of the Medici, the darkest green and the whitest sparkling granitic surging boulders, as big as houses, no, bigger than houses, gigantic pillows for giant heads, pushing up among the dark forest like deep violent explosions, no sound, only the sparkle, the unbelievable hugeness, and by god the impossibility of the is-ness. When Mother, or her friend, stopped the car, Charles and I’d go leap from the car, right to the beach, the sand so hot to our town-bred feet, we’d leap from shadow to shadow, going past the house with the pink wall – on top of the wall was big chunks of rose quartz cemented forever in iridescence, all I knew was that gold and rose quartz and sparkling black and white granite and turquoise water like the purest possible blue glass and green so dark as to be almost black and sky, too high to comprehend, and big yellow crunchy sand…all of these, when my brother Charles and I were little, and we knew the strangeness of existence in love and fear and were so happy that we could not speak. My brother Charles is dead now but if he were alive, and he and I were talking, and one of us said Tahoe neither of us would, or could not, talk or speak a word. Would that my brother Charles were here at this moment, so that one of us (maybe me) might say “Tahoe,” and he’d make a kind of grunting sound. And right now I’m remembering him, and the Lake, and the tiny laplap the water made early in the morning.

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