Artist Spotlight: {Eye} Wonder Workshops + Giveaway

Eileen Nishi by Thea Coughlin
I had the pleasure of meeting Eileen Nishi, creator of {eye} wonder workshops, last fall at Squam.  She is incredibly talented and full of inspiration.  I participated in her class last fall and learned so much about my self and my creative journey.  I am pleased to introduce you to her and her workshops.  Please welcome Eileen from {eye} wonder workshops.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a global "waker", enlivening and inspiring others as an insightful photographer, e-course instructor, loyal friend, mixed-media artist, blogger, mom of two hilarious boys, and believer in the universe.
How did you get started in photography?
I took a photography class when I was about 10 at my alternative elementary school in Eugene, Oregon.  I remember learning about how to load film into our cameras (35mm), and how to process our black & white prints in the darkroom.  Looking back I can’t believe we were using all those chemicals!  As an adult I picked up a camera again about 6 years ago when I was navigating a rough time in my life.  I had decided to start a blog, and told myself that a good blog had to have good photos.  And to take good photos I needed a good camera.  I’ve been taking pictures ever since!
How did you come up with the name {eye} wonder workshops?
I have two boys (11 & 14), and along my journey as a curious Mom I’ve found myself on countless occasions saying “I Wonder . . .?”  When I was brainstorming for class names that popped into my head and it was just right!
What is your favorite photo that you have taken?
Urban Laundry by Eileen Nishi
This was one of the first photos I took with my new camera years ago, and I love it because it is an image that begs to tell a story.  Whose pants are those?  And how did they get there?  Additionally, I think I had to climb on a trash-can to get this shot – and when I look at it I’m reminded that it’s OK to do things a little outside my comfort zone to get pictures I love!
Why is the intuitive process important when documenting daily life?
Life doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, so my belief is that if you can learn to use your intuition when approaching photography, it will in turn help you navigate your life journey as well.
How or where do you gather inspiration?

1.  Spend time with kids.   I know not everyone has kids, and not everyone even likes kids – but if you have the opportunity to spend a little time with some nieces & nephews, or maybe your friends’ kids, or even volunteer in a classroom from time to time?  I’m pretty sure you’ll walk away having learned something new or feeling inspired to get in touch with your inner child!
2.  Move – Sometimes I find the easiest way to get inspired (& get un-stuck!) is just to MOVE.  A quick walk around the neighborhood or several laps around the track down the street, some simple yoga stretches or just shaking my arms & legs around can get my creative juices flowing.

3.  Expose Yourself to Art –  Go to museums, galleries, libraries, and keep your eyes peeled for public art.  Inspiration can hit when you least expect it.
What do you wish the participants will gain from taking your workshop?
I want my students to learn how to slow down and really see the world around them, which will help them capture photographs they are really excited about.  The class includes some personal growth prompts and projects as well – which are a big part of the process.   If they walk away with a new way of seeing the world and seeing how they are being in it?  I will be thrilled! 
by Eileen Nishi
You work full time, you are a mother to two boys, and you run workshops.  What advice do you have for other women when they are on the fence about taking your class?
My approach to e-courses is to carve out a little time in the evenings or weekends when there is a break in the chaos to watch the class videos or devote some time to the assignments.  My kids are at an age where they are pretty self-sufficient, so of course that helps.  I don’t give a lot of homework in my class – and I think the projects I do assign are one’s that can easily be done at any time if my students want to take notes & practice on their own later.  The idea is that they’ll be gaining lifelong skills – so if someone doesn’t get a chance to do the assignment or post their photos . . . they can still get something out of it.
Do participants have to come to your class with special knowledge or equipment?
No!  In fact, my belief is that good photos are a product of the person behind the camera (rather than the equipment), so no fancy cameras are necessary.  You can even use your phone!
What is your next big project?  Anything bubbling?
The winter months are when I do my best brainstorming, and at the moment I’ve got a few ideas that are rising to the top.  I’d love to teach at an art retreat in person, and also add another class (or two!) to the series of {eye} wonder workshops.  I’ll keep you posted!  


The next session of {eye} wonder :: intuitive photography for everyday people will start on April 1st, and go through May 10th. As a bonus, there will be an extra week of class added to the curriculum (it used to be 5 weeks, now it’s 6)!

In addition, Eileen is offering a FREE SPOT in her class to one lucky reader. 

To enter, leave us a comment below and tell us why you think you deserve a spot in {eye} wonder workshops. You have until March 1st to enter. The winner will be announced March 4th.

Website  ||  Blog


Artist Spotlight || Studio CB

Oh, do I have a treat for you.  I have the pleasure of spotlighting a fellow Squammie as part of the artist spotlight series.  One of the best experiences about Squam is meeting truly wonderful people you would not other wise meet.  Cathleen Bradley, known as CB, is a friend to one of my Squam cabin mates.  While we enjoyed a lot of laughs, and I purchased one of her amazing recycled pieces at the art fair, I didn't know the full scope of her work until I asked her to do the interview.  Her work and her mission are amazing and I can't wait for you to meet her.  Here is what was recently written about CB from her latest show.

image || Cathleen Bradley
Divergent thinking defines Cathleen E. Bradley’s mixed media art. It’s CB’s natural inclination to be curious, try new techniques and think of different ways to use objects.

“I love a creative challenge. My visual-kinesthetic approach to learning and expressing comes through loud and clear in this body of work. Each composition here holds two common threads: the physicality exerted in the process and the exploratory road-trip to visualize it. I layer, scrape, scratch, sand, tear, cut, burnish and rearrange ---all to give my thoughts imagery --- to give the stories in my mind tangible existence.

Painting came alive for me when I was introduced to a palette knife; a mode I could honestly relate to after years of manipulating clay, glass, fabric and wood. In my hands, discarded objects and vintage graphics and text get a second life as they take on new roles to play. Though my heart wonders about their origins, my mind twists their fate. Ultimately, my constructions and assemblages evoke feelings of familiar and mysterious histories.

Inspiration comes my way through listening to the news of the day or by coming in possession of a fabulous old implement that begs for a new life and provokes a quest. As the right side of my brain works over-time, I am continually drawn to combining mediums and trying new techniques. I often feel like I am just scratching the surface of a new way to express myself. “

CB’s work requests viewers to take a moment, look deeper and think twice. Do not just skim the surface; dive in.
Please welcome CB...

+ When you are not busy with art installations you teach art classes. What joy do you get out of teaching others art?

I completely enjoy encouraging creativity. I am all about divergent thinking ... stretching the right side of the brain, so to speak ... helping others to look at objects in a new way. No kit, just creative wit, is my m.o. in my home studio classroom. The notion repurposing is always present in my studio as well as my home. I also teach teens and tweens how to use tools ---such as hot glue guns, hand drills, pliers, irons, screwdrivers, etc. It is empowering; it builds self-confidence.

Also, my third grade teacher wanted to buy one of my art projects from me and also had me copy a poem (the first poem I ever wrote) on a large poster, which she then plastered on our classroom’s door. Those two acts made a dynamic impression on me, so now I am paying it forward. (Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, wherever you are.) 

images || Cathleen Bradley

+ In addition to teaching, you create and sell art. Tell us about what you create.

As a mixed-media artist, I am always working on various projects --in various mediums, simultaneously. (That might be the result of having ADD, which manifests in me as curiosity, creative energy and spontaneity. Good things for an artist!) Presently I construct assemblages made from salvaged implements, timber, leather and found objects. I also paint with acrylics, fuse plastic bags and sew. 

image || Cathleen Bradley

+ Your work includes materials that are recycled from all manner of places. Why do you love incorporating used materials in your art and where do you find your materials?

It’s almost as if vintage objects call out to me. Seriously, my pulse races and this strange excitement resonates within as I peruse through estate sales, flea markets, antique stores and old barns. I am probably best going alone as I hyper-focus and start visualizing. Patinas, vintage graphics and game pieces, hardware, jars of once- cherished ephemera catch my attention. I tend to visualize how objects might have been used and wonder about their origins. I have a respect for their history. It’s almost like the soul of an object gets resuscitated as a new use for it unfolds. Okay, I admit as a kid, I favored those old black and white cartoons where inanimate objects came to life and danced by the light of the moon. I do love old movies, jazz music, biographies, architecture and treasure hunts. Shake it all together and that’s my art.

image || Cathleen Bradley

+ Do you have a favorite piece? 

After a project is finished, it is my favorite until a new one takes its place ---- which can happen the next day or week.

+ How or where do you gather inspiration for a project? 

Inspiration comes from stories in the news (tsunami in Haiti), a salvaged object (diary found at a flea market), vintage illustrations (old Red Cross booklet), texts, photographs or personal experiences. In a painting, I might explore a new technique which lends itself to an emotional adventure, although most of my paintings are mixed media. 

image || Paige Gilbert Goldfarb

+ Is there a media you prefer to work with? 

It depends on what I am exploring at the moment. My circle of mediums keeps broadening and I don’t let go of one as I take on another. There is a connecting thread. Part of it is the physicality I put in to my work. I thrive on that, whether it be scrapping, sanding, chopping or tearing. Doodling with ink on paper, moves to sgraffito on clay, in paint or with thread in free-motion sewing. 

image || Cathleen Bradley

+ What has been your most interesting or challenging project? 

The challenges can be mental or physical. They can also keep me at bay for awhile. I don’t give up easily. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding that lemonade beyond the lemon. Last week it was a lampshade I had redesigned. After I fused a new cover and inverted it, I had to invent a way to fasten it to the harp. Hanging out in hardware store isles brings out the jigsaw puzzler in me. The blue timber lamp base, made from a century-old farming implement and rescued from a dilapidated barn snow pile, brought challenges, too. I wish I had a camera filming my grunting angst as I hulked over it, forcing its heavy rusted hardware free. I had to reach out for drill-press help and I learned that as wood ages, the grain tightens and it can even pull a 24” drill bit in the direction it wants. Gratefully, the lamp design I envisioned did not end up on the cutting room floor.

+ You followed your dreams started selling your art. Do you have a motto or advice for other artists just starting out? 

Take risks. Veer from plans. Keep learning.

+ What are you working on now? 

I want to go bigger with my 2D assemblage constructions. I would love to finish some tall lamps I have designed. I have a large gessoed and cradled MDF substrate calling my name every time I pass by. Do you notice a pattern here?

+ Do you have any other words of wisdom to offer?

”To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”—Thomas Edison


CB has plans for a website and online shop.  In the meantime, if you are not in her neighborhood, you can still purchase her pieces.  View the art to sell gallery and contact her for pricing and shipping information. 

contact - studioceb {at} comcast {dot} net

Photography Classes

I have immersed myself in photography lately.  I took a class at Squam with the lovely Thea Coughlin and something seemed to shift in my mind's eye when it comes to taking a photo.  Currently, I'm taking an on-line course with Eileen Nishi, whom I also met at Squam, and I'm enrolled in another on-line course, again with Thea set to start in January.

Many of you have asked how my photos have gotten so much better since I started blogging.  While it's been a lot of trial and error, I've also spent time learning from pros/friends that know what they're doing.  These two ladies get it.  Not only is there camera instruction that is easy to understand, you get a little extra.  Secrets I can't give away. 

So jump in, sign up, and don't be afraid of your camera!  These ladies will walk you through it all.


While it's too late to sign up for Eileen's fall class, I know she'll be hosting another class after the first of the year.  At least bookmark the page, and I'll post info when she opens registration again.


Thea is full of energy and authentic.  The best way to describe her is genuinely happy.  She is a teacher at heart and her instruction on how to use your camera is easy to understand.  A definite must! 

Artist Spotlight: Jenna from UpCountry Living

I'm very exciting to be introducing Jenna today. I met her through an online class, and after checking out her blog I quickly realized we have a lot in common. Later this month she will have a guest post with more great information for the September 4(for) green acres challenge. In the meantime, I wanted to spotlight her and get to know her better.  She offers a great perspective on how to just begin.

Please welcome Jenna from UpCountry Living...

I’m Jenna and I’m a professional writer and blogger that lives in northern Maine. I am a reporter for Fiddlehead Focus and creator and contributor for my blog UpCountry Living. I love soft sweaters, button-down skirts, and books I can’t put down.

Why did you start UpCountry Living and what can readers find when they visit your site?

I started UpCountry Living as a way to document my journey back home. Though I’ve lived for most of my life in the Saint John Valley,  I discovered that I was a stranger in my own land. I did not know the old ways or realize that where I lived was special.

UpCountry Living chronicles my research, discoveries and stories and encourages readers to embrace the process of establishing roots.

I frequently write about my experiences with first-year gardening, food preservation, supporting the local food market, community events or descriptives and ways to pursue simplicity.

Could you tell us why Saint John Valley is so special and where it is located?

The Saint John Valley is the Great Valley of northern Maine. If you watched Land Before Time a thousand times as a kid (and continue to watch it with delight in your grown-up years), then you know what I’m talking about. It’s the paradise at the end of the hero’s journey. It’s where life can be sustained after tragedy befalls you. It’s where all the tree-stars are (a.k.a. leaves).

The Valley spans over 70 miles and is home to about 25,000 people. Though residents of the Saint John Valley are assumed to be American, the Valley actually includes Canada, our neighbor nation that shares the Saint John River.

Canadians contribute to the local economy through commerce and employment. Mostly, we all get along. Sometimes groups of 19-year-olds from each country start disputes with each other. Just your run-of-the-mill border town dramatics.

It’s special because it’s home to farmers, artists, writers, mill workers, teachers, and all-around hard workers. If someone from the County (Saint John Valley is the northernmost part of the Aroostook County) migrates out and applies for a job in another Maine region, it’s very likely they’ll be hired. We’re known in the state for our work ethic and dependability.

Most Valleyites speak English and French and are primarily of French descent, though there are some towns with Scott-Irish and native descent.  My parents’ generation grew up in bilingual homes and, unfortunately, were discouraged from speaking French in school as the region became more anglicized. Because of the alienation they experienced when speaking their native language, the strength of the French language started to dwindle about 50 years back.

The Valley is a place where you don’t lock up your home or your car and where crime doesn’t kill people but the moose sure try to. It farms buckwheat and potatoes, contributes to Maine’s logging industry, and hosts annual dog sled races.

What are some of your interests?

I am a voracious reader of primarily non-fiction: books about gardening, homesteading, food politics, botany and even a bit of neuroscience. I am learning how to garden, cook, get handy around the house, and play the harmonica. I also knit, crochet, and play basketball with my niece and nephew.

I hope to someday play the mandolin and write songs that have recipes for lyrics.

You are new to gardening.  What has the journey been like?

A rush. The journey has been incredible. We started our garden by building raised beds, and watching all of that come together gave me such a feeling of accomplishment. It had been years since I’d played in the dirt and I had forgotten just how natural it felt.

Even though my mother had a garden when I was a kid, I didn’t help out too much and hadn’t learned any basic skills about sowing and tending. Thankfully Mr. UpCountry has some experience and was able to provide me with some delicate mentorship.

Through hard work, experimentation, and too much time spent watering (here’s looking at you, drought), we produced a bumper crop of cukes, tomatoes, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, peas, beans and mint. The veggies that suffered were broccoli, basil and peppers.

The best thing about mistakes is that they’re just investments towards success in the future. Now I know not to plant my broccoli so close together and to keep mint out of the raised beds because they want to choke out everything else.

When you don’t feel like doing anything, where do you find motivation or what keeps you inspired?

Three things!
1. Past accomplishments.
2. Being mindful of how a series of little baby steps has led me to a completely different place than former years.
3. Trusting the process.

These three things keep me inspired. I don’t always follow through with my inspiration and actually “produce” anything, but it helps keep the guilt out of it. A lot of my lack of motivation comes from thinking “I can’t,” so if I remove those words from my vocabulary and think about what’s already been done, motivation becomes more natural.

You recently purchased a local broiler chicken.  What was the deciding factor?

I realized that, with pretty minimal effort, I could eat a chicken that had been raised by a local family in a happy environment, eating the feed that it wants to eat. Through this purchase, I could support the local economy, local farmers, organic farming, and my own health (by not eating a chicken that had been fed on antibiotics and corn). “Why I Bought A Local Broiler” covers this decision in detail.

Where do you learn your homesteading skills?

It’s a combination of “asking around” and research (primarily on the internet). I’m continually surprised by little “common knowledge” I have. It inspires me to ask questions of my parents, my grandparents, and other folks in my community. I usually get a very practical answer and also learn more about my heritage and this place.

When that method of research doesn’t work, I turn to books and the internet. Amazon’s recommendations always extend the library wish list and keeps the good books stocking up the shelves. Online, I rely on resources like Mother Earth News, MOFGA, Cold Antler Farm and good “old-fashioned” Wikipedia.

You talk about making your journey practical, what are some of your goals to accomplish that?

What I don’t want is a head full of facts. I want hands that are working through the process itself. I can share links on social networks til the cows come home, but if I don’t actually make laundry detergent myself, how is all this research actually enriching my life?

With that being said, do you have any advice for someone wanting to live more consciously?

Start small. It took me a long time to take the step to make laundry detergent for myself. I had done the research and knew that it was cost-effective, customizable and pretty natural. For some reason, I had Resistance about actually doing it. (I’m pretty sure my primary excuse was, “Well, couldn’t I just buy it?”).

Eventually I started asking myself, “Shouldn’t I just make it myself?” Instead of asking, “Why?” I challenged myself with “Why not?”

It took me 15 minutes to make my own laundry detergent. The momentum built from there. Now I find myself attacking challenges with a sense of eagerness and excitement. I know I can do things now, simply by doing them. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s one of those honest truths I had to ease up to.

You are passionate about our food system, give us a fact that might encourage us to think about what we eat.

There are lots of scary facts out there about America’s corn and soy monocultures and the sad state of our meat system, but more jarring to my former philosophy was finding this particular quote: “Shake the hand that feeds you” {from “In Defense of Food,” by Michael Pollan, personal favorite).

Also, in one of my multiple documentary viewings, I must have heard the following statement. I can’t place the specifics, but the concept itself has been sticking with me:

Paraphrasing: We can be very particular about who works on our car or who works on our house. We ask each other about good mechanics and contractors to work with. We put faith in these people to take care of us. But, for some reason, the majority of us have no idea where our food comes from. Food: the stuff we put in our mouths to fuel our bodies and keep us alive.

What information will you be sharing with indigo 26 readers later this month?

Along with being a first-year gardener, I’m also a first-year canner. I’ll be sharing my experiences with first-year canning and will focus primarily on all the forms of Resistance I’ve encountered since first deciding to learn some food preservation techniques.

Jenna can be found here:

Thank you Jenna for answering all my questions.  I'm looking forward to reading more later this month. 

What inspired you about Jenna's interview?  Leave us a comment below.

*** photos provided by Jenna ***

And the Winner Is...

Thank you to everyone that left a comment for Katrina about her interview.  I too believe her work is amazing and I was lucky she agreed to be spotlighted.

The winner of the giveaway was randomly selected by using  Katrina's beautiful stationary goes to...

It was really cool to see the actual process! I love the feeling of embossed paper - it is the same as the wonderful feeling of opening a blank notebook. Newness, crispness and possibility!

Congratulations, Lina.  Please contact me with your address so we can get your stationary in the mail.

Don't forget Katrina for all your letterpress needs!

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