As a child, I never seemed to quite go along with the crowd — a trait I continue until this day. I have always combined a logical, scientific turn of mind with an insatiable curiosity and a wide creative streak. This has led to an intriguing set of twists and turns in my life path through the years.
I started off as a math major in college, but switched to psychology after a year. Even then, I did not take the “standard” path through the major, but instead focused on the biological and scientific side of the field, leading to one of those “twists and turns.” After one semester in graduate school, I realized that I just could not do research on animals. So I dropped out of grad school, took a clerical job, and started taking computer programming classes on the side.
A year and a half later I found myself in another city, in another state, back in graduate school but this time in computer science. I became a part-time instructor after my first year there, continuing to teach there until shortly before my son was born in 1984. Although I spent six years after graduate school in industry as a software developer, I never doubted that I would return to teaching.
In 1990, through a fortuitous set of coincidences, I was hired to teach computer science at a local two-year college. I have remained there since, through numerous personal and professional challenges, and still find teaching as frustrating yet rewarding as ever.
Like many children, I grew up believing that you were either “artistic” or you weren’t, and scientifically-minded people weren’t supposed to be artistic. That idea was reinforced by teachers who chastised me for coloring outside the lines, cutting out crooked shapes, and drawing pictures that in no way resembled the objects they represented. Fortunately, my grandmother was more open-minded than that, and taught me some basic embroidery stitches when I was around seven. She also encouraged me to dabble and experiment with whatever caught my fancy when I spent summers with her, being what was often termed a “craft-y type” of person herself.
The embroidery carried me through school, through college, through graduate school — from stamped cross-stitch to needlepoint and crewel embroidery to counted cross-stitch. At one point I tried pottery, but found quickly that it wasn’t my medium. Finally, in 1987, I had the opportunity to take a two-day weaving class, and took to it instantly. Weaving led to spinning, to dyeing, to a little basketry, a little beadwork, a little bookbinding. I immersed myself in textiles, experimenting with fibers and teaching others when opportunities arose. I volunteered with local and national weaving guilds and became a “workshop junkie.”
Eventually, I even went back to school part-time, earning an associate’s degree in studio art from the college where I teach. I actually conquered my fear of drawing and design and realized that it hadn’t been me all those years ago, it had been my teachers’ lack of insight and imagination. I even began graduate school yet again, intending to get a MFA in textiles.
Yet, by 2003, my entire life was askew. I was divorced, living alone, coping with empty nest syndrome as my son left for college, battling severe depression and anxiety disorder, and unable to muster any enthusiasm for textiles. Little did I know what changes were on the horizon!
I met the man who is now my husband in August, 2003; I began experimenting with collage and altered art; I left the MFA program until I could find some creative direction. Then, in May, 2005, a weekend get-away with my fellow women computer science professors directed me down a new path. The four of us took a morning-long workshop at a glass studio, trying our hand with lampworking and with fusing. The fusing was interesting, but oh, the lampworking! Playing with FIRE!!! Over the summer I took two private classes with local lampworker Cristie Prince, did a lot of research, and set up my own home lampworking studio.
Since then I have grown to love the many facets of playing with hot glass — the zen aspect of watching it melt (punctuated by sudden moments of panic as it starts to get away from me), the interplay of colors, the surprises when I open the kiln. I sell my lampwork, jewelry, and the occasional handbound book at local shows in partnership with fellow artist Andrea Winkler. I also sell online at our website, Copper Dancer Designs.
Currently I live in Marietta, Georgia, only a few miles from my childhood homes, with my husband Gary and our four cats. When I’m not teaching computer science or melting glass, I am often found volunteering for Good Mews Animal Foundation (a no-cage, no-kill cats-only shelter) as an adoption counselor and medications volunteer.
I can’t stay away from technology in my free time, either. I am active on social networks, particularly Twitter and Facebook, and run a number of other websites for myself and others. In a way, technology connects all the threads of my life together into a single multicolored braid.
Last, but certainly not least, I finally found a form of exercise that I not only can stand, but actually love. Thanks to Andrea, I started taking bellydance lessons in 2009, and currently take classes two to three times a week from a couple of different local teachers. Yes, you CAN learn something new, even bellydance, in your fifties. I’m not particularly good at it, but it’s bitchin’ exercise, a whole lot of fun, and I’ve made new friends from it. What more could I want from a workout? I’m even part of an embryonic student troupe, the Northside Tribe, directed by the stunning Lacy Perry. If you want to know more about this particular part of my journey, visit my dance blog, Thursday Nights at Windy Hill.
Yes, Life is Good!