One advantage to having a blog is the ability to switch things up every once in a while. And, so, this post diverges from my typical style a bit. This post deals with gratitude and finding ways to stimulate your imagination. 


First off, I am indebted to the many people who have granted me access to their creative process and, of course, all of my readers and supporters. One such advocate of the site and the Iowa City Arts Community is Todd Thelan from Artifacts. If you don’t know Artifacts, it is an eclectic vintage store with one-of-a-kind treasures including pottery, original art, vintage clothing, used tools, knick knacks, books from all eras, classic toys, jewelry and more (check out my interview with Todd here). The motto of the store is “no boring stuff allowed,” and they stay true to that with a constantly changing inventory of curated consignment. I have been a frequenter of the store for years and, when I launched the website, Todd agreed to do an interview and pledged his support from that very day. Most recently, he has committed to placing advertisements on the site that help ease the costs of site maintenance. You may have noticed these ads and other donation features on the site. This website experiment is an ongoing education for me and one that I truly enjoy. That being said, education has costs and these additions are my way of offsetting some of these expenditures. After experimenting with several platforms, I have decided to keep the ads local and unobtrusive. Selling ads to a local art site with a limited reach is a bit of a challenge but there are those business owners like Todd who believe in the importance in what I am doing and support art for the betterment of the community at large.


Todd and Steve at Artifacts

As an artist, I have been asked on several occasions, “How do you come up with the ideas for your art?” It is a great question but not necessarily an easy one. I think it comes down to exposure to various stimuli. I listen to audiobooks while driving, stream music when relaxing, and fill my studio with items that interest me visually. I also push myself to try new things and read books on woodworking, art, photography, sculpture, and software applications. Finally, I keep extensive notes on my phone and in my journal. Those fleeting ideas often are the ones that lead to something great. Artifacts has always been a source of inspiration for me, not only from an artistic standpoint but also from a literary one. It is about seeing new things and exploring shapes, colors, textures that you can’t get from surfing the net. Additionally, many of the items are vintage, constructed from materials other than plastic that provide a tactile richness that I have incorporated into my mixed media artwork. From the literary angle, the shop has troves of items that you simply wouldn’t see anywhere else – things that make you wonder where on earth it came from and how it ended up in a small shop in Iowa City. 


This backstory of material goods has always been an interest of mine and was particularly piqued after reading the book, Significant Objects . In this book, editors Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn amassed items of curiosity and then had writers develop a fictional backstory for each piece. The items were then auctioned on eBay with their value dramatically increased by the accompanying story. This book inspired me to come up with stories for items I had seen or purchased at Artifacts. (If you are interested in purchasing this item, please click on the following link for Significant Objects which will take you to Abe Books. If you purchase the item, we receive a small commission that helps keep this site going. We appreciate your support.) In the next few posts, I will be sharing a few of these stories with photos of the items. I realize this is a departure from the normal posts but the process of doing this has reaffirmed the fact that good art requires an injection of human connection. It is that bond with the artist that we are seeking, whether it is a museum exhibition, a novel, a concert, or the theatre. We are human and the items we share help us relate to others through mutual experiences. I hope you will take a moment and read these stories. Please comment on Facebook; I would love your feedback.

Hibbing, Minnesota

My great-grandmother was from Hibbing, Minnesota. I had never been there. I only knew my great-grandmother when she lived in the nursing home outside the Twin Cities. She had minimal possessions in her tiny bedroom but held onto a few knick-knacks that she lined up along the windowsill. She would crack the window open slightly and feed pigeons with breadcrumbs that she had taken from the cafeteria. I loved feeding the pigeons too, but, when the birds were away, I would stare at a small glass dome filled with golden-red dust that sparkled when the sun hit it just right. It said SOUVENIR OF HIBBING, MINN. This was her connection to her childhood home. I was never allowed to play with it because it was glass and very fragile. I would curl up next to the window, peering at the globe, imaging what substance filled its tiny reservoir. When my great-grandmother passed away, I inherited the small globe. I was in my teens at that point and didn’t think much of it. It got put away in a box with the other mementos from childhood. It was many years later that this tiny globe resurfaced. It was the time of the evacuation, and I found myself in a similar situation as my great-grandmother. We were told we could only bring one small suitcase with all of our belongings. Other supplies would be provided for us at the waypoint. As we sifted through a life’s worth of possessions, I came across that globe once again. I packed enough clothes for a week, a small envelope of pictures, a necklace my mother had given me, and somehow that small globe made it into my bag. We said goodbye to our homes, neighbors, and belongings as we boarded the plane for Houston. We spent 3 days there in preparation for the first leg of our journey.  We were briefed on what to expect, and suits and rations were distributed. We held each other’s hands as we lifted off and could see our home disappearing in the distance. In my tiny room with its tiny round window, there would be no pigeons to feed, but I taped my small glass globe to the sill. As the days passed, I would stare as the rays of sun glinted off the globe’s golden red dust, wondering if the red dust of our new home could ever replace the one we had lost.

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Cory Christiansen
Cory is the founder of the Artists Action Network. He has an insatiable appetite for all things creative and is always on the lookout for talented people doing inspiring things.

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