I’m always fascinated to learn how other people go about their work, whether it’s developing cookbook recipes or rehabilitating abandoned dogs. So in the hopes that this is of interest, today I’ll share a bit about my artistic process.
My pioneering great-aunt, Helli Stehle, died in Basel, Switzerland this past Sunday at age 109. As I described in “A trail-blazing woman” last November, she was a well-known stage actor who then became Switzerland’s first female newscaster, serving as a mentor and role model to many younger journalists.
She was a spirited, smart and funny woman, generous and deeply loyal to her extended family. We miss her already. But what a full life she got to lead!
The end of her reign as Switzerland’s oldest living citizen has made me think anew about the trials and rewards of aging. At 54, I am encountering many unexpected details of getting older. For instance, who knew that you could get wrinkles on your earlobes? Or down the bridge of your nose?
I used to have such sharp hearing that I would often hear other people talking about me (typically speculating on my ethnic background; sometimes just wondering where I got my ice cream cone). But when I wash dishes these days, I have to remind my kids,“I can’t hear what you’re saying when the faucet is running,” just as my exasperated mother repeatedly told my sisters and me.
At the same time, what freedom comes with age! Freedom from caring what other people think of me; from trying to meet external measures of success; from judgment about myself or others. As a result, I am taking more risks and trying new things.
Earlier this year, I joined five other women in my choir to perform a hip hop dance during a concert for about 800 people. Even though the choreography did not involve spinning on our heads or landing in a split, it was a real physical and mental stretch to learn. But what fun to perform a dance for the first time since I was 17—and to find it was still possible!
Overall, I find a richness and ease in these so-called “golden years” worth far more than a flat belly and the ability to remember names. I wouldn’t choose to go back even one year. And considering I am less than half of Helli’s age when she died, who knows what adventures still lie ahead. I owe it to her to find out!
in my own skin
Makino Studios News
Free shipping for Labor Day weekend: Get free shipping on any US order of $5 or more in my Etsy shop with code LABOR17. Sale runs Saturday through Monday, September 2-4.
New cards: I have five new card designs coming off the press tomorrow! You can check them out in the MakinoStudios Etsy shop. Choose any six designs for $19.99 plus tax and shipping.
2018 calendars: For the fifth year in a row, I’ve designed a mini-calendar of art and haiku. This year’s features local landscapes, dogs, cats and flowers, and I think it’s my best yet! It’s currently being printed and will be available starting in mid-September.
Food Art Show Reception: As part of Local Food Month, the Humboldt Food Policy Council is hosting a Food Art Show. Stop by the Redwood Arts Association Gallery in Eureka (603 F Street) through September to enjoy the food-inspired paintings and drawings of over a dozen local artists, myself included. An artists’ reception will be held during Arts Alive! this Saturday, September 2, from 6-9 p.m.
North Country Fair: Celebrate the fall equinox at the 44th annual North Country Fair in Arcata the weekend of Sept. 16-17! This festive event features 200 booths, live music on two stages, and two parades. I'll have the new cards and calendars at the Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.
Instagram et cetera: I am now on Instagram as annettemakino. Follow me as I figure out this newfangled platform that all the youngsters are into! You can also get news, fresh art and haiku on my Makino Studios Facebook page and my Twitter feed.
The haiku “heirloom tomato” was first published in Frogpond, Issue 40.2, Spring-Summer 2017.
Humboldt County is famous for two things: its magical old-growth redwood forests and perhaps equally magical marijuana. But there is a lesser-known feature that makes this area unique: it has more working artists per capita than any other part of California.
Each year in June, some 150 Humboldt artists open their studio doors to the public as part of North Coast Open Studios. Earlier this month, it was my pleasure to be part of the "Seven in Samoa" group that hosted visitors the first weekend. The following weekend, I got to tour nine studios.
In visiting other artists, I was inspired and moved by much of their art. But it was just as interesting to talk with these working artists and learn about what goes on at the other end of the paintbrush. I discovered we are grappling with some of the same issues.
A common theme of our conversations was the tension between making art that purely expresses our creativity versus making art that we know will sell. For instance, one artist is currently drawn to images of melancholy women, but knows there is a much bigger market for her playful pieces of cats.
Another sells a lot of art postcards with inspiring quotes, but her passion project is a scrapbook of sketches and thoughts about silent meditation retreats, though she knows the market for such a book is very limited.
For my part, I sometimes find myself painting simply because it’s time for a new card catalog. Instead of “What do I really want to express about my core being?,” the “helpful” and persistent voice inside my head asks a much less inspiring question, “What would make for a good birthday card?”
Another common theme of my Open Studios conversations was the competing demands on our time: we need to spend time managing and marketing our business, but that cuts into the time to actually create. And it's hard for me to compartmentalize: when I know I have orders to fill or an event to publicize, I can't get into the open, spacious frame of mind I need to paint.
Finally, an underlying issue that emerged from talking with other artists was, what does success mean to me as a working artist? Is it measured by sales? Reputation? Appreciation from buyers? Personal satisfaction from the joy of creating? While it’s surely some combination of all of these, it’s challenging to find the right balance, especially in a culture that confuses money with worth.
Overall, I came away from Open Studios without clearcut answers, yet comforted to know that I am not alone: even the most successful artists struggle with these dilemmas. It was inspiring to meet so many passionate, committed people who have chosen to walk this sometimes difficult path. We may never get rich from our art (though I'm not opposed to that!), but we are certainly rich in spirit.
summer solstice . . .
the skipping stone
all the way across
Makino Studios News
Seven in Samoa: The Eureka Times-Standard ran this story about the group of artists that showcased our work together as part of North Coast Open Studios.
Summer vacation: Happy solstice! I’ll be on vacation from this Saturday, June 24 until Sunday, July 2. While I am swimming and painting at the Klamath River (depicted in the above image), my Makino Studios Etsy shop will be closed for the week and I will not be filling store orders.
Westhaven Wild Blackberry Festival: Rabia O’Loren will be selling a selection of my cards and prints at this festival on Sunday, July 30, 10-4 at the Westhaven Volunteer Fire Department.
North Country Fair: Mark your calendar for this two-day festival celebrating the fall equinox, taking place September 16-17 on the Arcata Plaza!
Popping up in the middle of National Poetry Month, today is International Haiku Poetry Day. To mark the occasion, here is a smorgasbord of haiku I’ve published this past year. Enjoy!
I remind my mother
to buckle up
tendrils of fog
I follow a thread
back into the dream
in her text message
every night between the sheets
a little more sand
the windshield crack
the sky the color
And for a selection of some of the finest haiku of 2016, see the short list for The Haiku Foundation’s prestigious Touchstone Award.
warmly, Annette Makino
“gentle rain” - The Heron’s Nest, Issue 19:1, March 2017
“tendrils of fog” - Frogpond, Issue 40:1, Winter 2017
“understory” - Exhaling, Seabeck Haiku Getaway 2015 Anthology
“beach vacation” - Modern Haiku, Issue 47:2, Summer 2016
“sunlit pond” - A Hundred Gourds, Issue 5:3, June 2016
“thin ice” - A Hundred Gourds, Issue 5:3, June 2016
“Indian summer” - Frogpond, Issue 39:3, Autumn 2016
Makino Studios News
Free shipping for Poetry Month: Since April is National Poetry Month, I am offering free shipping for US orders of $15 or more through the Makino Studios Etsy store. Use code SPRING2017 through April 30.
ukiaHaiku Festival: I will be at the ukiaHaiku Festival in Ukiah, California on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center in my old hometown of Ukiah, California. Stay tuned for some happy news!
BeeFest 2017: This annual celebration of bees takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 13 at the Adorni Center in Eureka, California. A sampling of my cards and prints will be available.
Open Studios: Mark your calendars for North Coast Open Studios! Once again, I will join silk painter Tina Gleave, plus five other women artists, at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa for the first weekend. We’ll kick off from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, June 2 and continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 3-4. We’ll be showing new art, demonstrating our tools and techniques, and offering free refreshments.
It seems like an eon ago when I last wrote, in the final days of the Obama presidency. I was anxious about putting my political opinions out in this forum, not knowing how many others shared my views about the dark turn our democracy has taken.
I needn't have worried. Aside from four unsubscribes, the response I got was overwhelmingly positive. And nationwide, starting with the Women’s Marches that drew a remarkable 1% of the US population to the streets, the resistance to the Trump agenda is proving to be deep and wide.
So far, this administration is even more dreadful than I feared. As a result, life has entered a new normal. I write, paint and sing with my choir as before, but now, on Tuesdays at noon, over bowls of homemade soup, I join several dozen other local folks at Power Lunch Humboldt to make calls to our representatives. It nourishes my soul to join with other committed citizens to reclaim our democracy, one phone call at a time.
And in this time of daily assaults against reason, compassion and integrity, I have to be careful how much news I consume. The goal is to stay informed without feeling overwhelmed by the daily outrages. Periodic “fasts” from news media, Facebook and Twitter help to maintain that balance. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we are all having to learn how to stay engaged without burning out.
Meanwhile, spring is sproinging. Down the lane, my favorite cherry tree is in bloom; in the yard, the daffodils are exploding with color; and this morning at the marsh, the sparrows were singing their hearts out.
If we are to maintain the energy to resist over the months and years to come, we need to take extra good care of ourselves. For me that means spending time in nature, connecting with friends and family, and finding reasons for gratitude in the everyday. Despite the madness in Washington, DC, I wish you moments of joy in this time of renewal. Happy spring!
warmly, Annette Makino
Makino Studios News
Free shipping for Poetry Month: Since April is National Poetry Month, and April 17 is International Haiku Poetry Day, I am offering free shipping for US orders of $15 or more through the Makino Studios Etsy store. Use code SPRING2017 through April 30.
Twelve new card designs: A soaring hawk, frisky dog, and redwood trail are among a dozen new and updated greeting card designs just listed in the Makino Studios Etsy store.
Open Studios: Mark your calendars for North Coast Open Studios! Once again, I will join silk painter Tina Gleave, plus five other women artists, at the Samoa Women’s Club for the first weekend. We’ll kick off from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, June 2 and continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 3-4. We'll be showing new art, demonstrating our tools and techniques, and offering free refreshments.
Connecting: I deeply appreciate the outpouring of positive responses to my last post about our political situation. You can also get news, art and haiku on my Makino Studios Facebook page and my Twitter feed.
“sunlit pond” was published in A Hundred Gourds, Issue 5:3, June 2016
For years, I’ve been content to live a quiet life in the woods with my family—writing, painting, soaking in the hot tub and going for long walks on the beach. In retrospect, because it seemed that the country was basically going in the right direction, I took our beautiful, messy, multicultural democracy for granted.
November’s election results were a shocking illustration that our democratic system is much more fragile than we realized. To many of us, the worst of it was not the denial of the popular vote. Not the lies, insults, and ugly revelations of the campaign. Not the Russian government’s hacking or their mysterious hold over Donald Trump. Not the FBI director’s last-minute election interference.
No, the worst was the discovery that so many of our fellow Americans—about a quarter of eligible voters—would voluntarily choose a racist, misogynistic, climate change-denying demagogue to represent us. I have to believe that Trump voters genuinely felt he was the best choice for president. But as a woman, a minority, and a child of immigrants, I struggle not to take this personally.
this deep blue state
While still grieving, I have been inspired to take action. As President Obama said in his farewell speech last week, "Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it's really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power - with our participation, and the choices we make."
So since the election, along with hundreds of thousands of others, I have been phoning Members of Congress, writing letters, and donating to environmental and other groups.
Tomorrow, I will be walking and singing at a freedom march honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We can learn much from the civil rights movement about the power of nonviolent action over time.
And next Saturday, January 21, I will take part in the Women’s March in Eureka, CA, one of some 300 women’s marches held around the country and the world in tandem with the big one in Washington, DC.
Political activism was not my priority for 2017—or ever. And I have hesitated to share this piece because I know not all my customers and store buyers share my politics. But the threats that our nation and our planet now face transcend all that. As Dr. King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
If there is a silver lining to the coming administration, it is that it could usher in a new era of political engagement by everyone who feels unrepresented and disrespected by our president-elect. And beyond politics, I hope the election will commit us, with “every cell awake,” to put love into action however and whenever we can.
Dr. King said, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” Let this time of darkness inspire us all to shine more brightly.
warmly, Annette Makino
Makino Studios News
Red Moon Anthology: I’m honored that the following haiku made it into dust devils: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2016, an annualcollection of the best haiku of the year:
edge of the woods
some things I may not
want to know
(originally published in The Heron’s Nest, XVII:3, September 2016)
Still need a calendar? A few of my 2017 mini-calendars of art and haiku are available online ($11.99).
Art Prints: I have just listed several signed 11x14 art prints in the Makino Studios Etsy shop.
Today I mailed this “wise owl” card to my great-aunt for her 109th birthday. No, that is not a typo. Helene “Helli” Stehle was born to a butcher and his wife on December 6, 1907, in Basel, Switzerland.
But longevity is by no means the most remarkable thing about Helli. This pioneering woman first achieved fame in Switzerland as a stage actor playing strong characters. She has always been a vibrant, strong-willed woman with a great zest for life, so I can imagine how riveting her performances must have been.
She gradually began working in radio, performing and directing plays and reciting poetry for Basel’s state-run radio station, Radiostudio Basel. With the outbreak of World War II, all her male colleagues were called to active duty. So in 1939, Helli became Switzerland’s first female newscaster. She was soon widely known through the region; when she was out in public, strangers would recognize her by her voice.
She eventually became the chief newscaster and a mentor to many younger journalists. Meanwhile, she continued to act in and direct radio plays until her retirement in 1967. She is now Switzerland’s oldest living actor.
My great-aunt never married or had children—in those days, only single women were allowed to work in state jobs. But she had one great love, Otto Crone, a calm and quiet actor who grew up in Russia. He eventually moved into another apartment in Helli’s building; over their decades together, Helli learned to speak Russian.
When I was eight, my adventurous aunt joined my family as we travelled around Japan, soaking in the communal baths and sleeping on the floor in traditional inns. On train rides, she and I enjoyed many conversations in a secret, nonsensical language we made up called “Bochisch.” And she would perform comic vignettes for my sisters and me again and again on request.
Deep into retirement, she continued to travel. On one trip to Russia, her suitcase got lost on the flight over, and she gamely spent the week wearing shirts borrowed from the gentlemen in her group. She took gymnastics and Russian conversation classes well into her 90s, and had a circle of dear friends, many of them much younger.
When Helli turned 100, the Basel radio station threw a big party in her honor where she was warmly feted. A few months later, she finally moved into an assisted living home, but she gave an interview as recently as 2010, on the occasion of her 103rd birthday.
Back in 1999, when my grandmother turned 100, her birthday party was attended by a Basel city official. He joked with my grandmother that he would be back in five years for her 105th. Ever witty, her sister Helli replied to him, “Ah, but whether you will still be around…?”
My grandmother lived to a ripe old 104. Who would ever have thought that her little sister would beat that record by five years and counting?
However much longer my dear aunt Helli sticks around, she has inspired me and countless others through her example as a powerful, creative woman, forging her own path.
all the strong women
warmly, Annette Makino
UPDATE: Helli Stehle died in Basel, Switzerland on August 27, 2017. She was 109.
Makino Studios News
Mother's sculpture show: My mom, Erika Makino, took up sculpture around age 80, and now, at 88, she is showing her clay and cement pieces in a solo exhibit. The show opens this Friday, Dec. 2 in Ukiah, California (details in this Ukiah Daily Journal article).
Free shipping through November: Use shipping code FREESHIP2016 for free shipping in the US through this Wednesday, November 30 on orders of $15 or more from the Makino Studios Etsy shop. There you will find my 2017 calendar, laser-engraved wooden keychains, holiday and everyday greeting cards and signed prints.
Arcata Holiday Crafts Market: My only public event of the holidays, this fair includes many local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food. It runs Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata.
Pierson Made in Humboldt Fair: You can pick up my calendars, cards and prints at this fair of crafts and specialty foods handmade in Humboldt County. It runs through Dec. 24 at Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka.