Thursday, June 23, 2011

Creating With Special Needs Kids In the House – a New Series

This spring, I had a wonderful chat with Mark Lipinksi, and was also honored to be a guest on his radio talk show, Creative Mojo, where we talked about staying creative with a special needs kid in the house. As most of you know, I’m the mom of a Super Special daughter, who just happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as Sensory Processing Disorder. But, you may not know that Mark, who is a fantastic quilter and phenomenal person, is a special needs dad, himself.  Although our kids have different concerns, there is most definitely overlap when it comes to parenting issues, as well as crafting and the creative process.

We also agreed this subject needs more attention.

So, I’m starting a fantastic new series, which will be sprinkled among my regular blog posts, called, “Creating with Special Needs Kids in the House”, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it!

Why the enthusiasm?

Well, why not? After all, it’s summer (ok, winter for my Australian friends!), and the perfect time to introduce kids to all sorts of crafting, quilting, etc., and the Arts! First, let’s take a moment to be honest, here, and do some fessing up; so many of us have a special needs kid in the house and we may not feel comfortable pulling out the play dough. Or, heaven forbid, paint.

And don’t even mention scissors…

Especially to my sister, whom I gave a haircut to way back when plaid and polyester paisleys actually went together.

“Yee gawds,” you must be thinking, “is there enough cleaner in the world to fix the inevitable chaos following my child’s creative process?”

Relax. We’re going to have fun. Trust me. (We’ll deal with the inevitable messes later.)

Are you asking yourself, “Does she mean crafting with my kid? Or does she mean how having a special needs kid under the roof affects my creative moments? I’m a little confused. I thought this was about me. Or is it about them?”

I mean both. Even with a child with good fine motor skills, there can be concerns when she works with certain tools. And, let’s be honest, for those of us who create for a living, a meltdown in the family room can really ding our personal creative energies.

There is so much to say about the subject, which is why this is going to be a series, rather than a blog plopped here for “blogging day”. For instance, we’ll cover things such as how to find time to create, keeping your child’s weaknesses (and strengths – don’t forget those!) in mind, as well as general safety. And, just like my Facebook page for “Asperger’s in Pink”, I want this to be an interactive series. I value your input as well as your insight. We learn best when we learn from each other, don’t we?

Are you ready?

First assignment, if you will (ok, I know school is finally out, and the last words you probably want to hear are “homework” or “assignment” – or that even uglier words, “test”…), is waiting for you. Look at the image from my studio and see how many hazards you can find. Depending on your child(ren), your answers will likely vary, and that’s ok. Feel free to post them in the “Comments” section, and I’ll reveal my own answers next time. And I’ll bet you see some I’m missing. So, are you in? Let’s do it!




Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Get to Know Faded Leaves, A Talented Artisan who Offers Autism Awareness Pieces

Each month, an artisan will be featured here. The artisan will have some connection to either autism or the special needs community, in general. For the first in this series, I present to you Shannon, owner of Faded Leaves. I chose her not only for her unique, handmade, customizable Autism Awareness line of products, but also for her stellar reputation at ArtFire. I believe you will enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

Welome, Shannon!

For those who may not be familiar with you and your studio, tell us a little bit about yourself and "Faded Leaves".
My name is Shannon and I am a very outgoing person who loves what I do. My 'other' job is being a nurse. I love working with people and helping them feel better. I am married to a man who is in the military and I love every second of my life with him. Our furbaby is a West Highland Terrier Mix dog named Icicle, who is a ball of energy! She keeps me busy on my days off. Faded Leaves is the name of my shop. I have always enjoyed making things so it was only natural that I would start selling eventually. My husband really encouraged me to start selling the things that I was making because he really thought people would enjoy them. With his encouragement, I went back to school and got a degree in Jewelry Design.
Beach Necklace by Faded Leaves
I just finished that program in March. It really helped me evolve my designs. While doing that, I started researching places online to sell my items. I initially looked into Etsy since I had heard of that venue in the past. After reading their TOS, I decided that venue just wasn’t for me. After more searching I found ArtFire. I stalked the forums for about 2 months and I read everything I could find about the site. I made my decision shortly after finding ArtFire to go with them. I was going to officially start my business in 2011 but after learning about ArtFire's awesome deal last fall, I took the plunge and that’s when Faded Leaves was born! I have loved every minute of it, and hope to make it my full-time career. Despite a HUGE learning curve when starting your own business, I feel that I am doing very well. I love seeing people so happy when they purchase an item of mine. :)

Your passion for what you do shines through. Personally, I absolutely love your Autism Awareness pieces! What is your inspiration for those?

Thank you! My inspiration comes from my past. When I was going to nursing school, I worked at a center for Developmentally Disabled individuals. One of my "favorite" clients was a young autistic boy.
Autism Awareness Necklace by Faded Leaves
He had made a lot of progress from what I understood and was now able to be in the same room with a bunch of other people. I loved working with him and seeing all the strides he made. When I graduated school, I got a job in a far away city and I find myself wondering often how he’s doing now. Making these pieces helps to honor his memory and to create awareness in the world around us. There is definitely a need to create awareness for Autism and help people understand what it is all about. :)

So many pieces out there are generic, “one size fits all”. For those who want that special, personal touch, do you offer custom work/personalization?
Yes I do custom work and personalization. I make a hand stamped Autism Awareness necklace that you can customize with the name/initials of the child you are supporting and I also make a necklacethat is a small picture frame. One side holds a picture of your child and the other has an Autism Awareness ribbon in it. Both come with cubed crystals that are red, blue, and yellow, adding a touch of sparkle to the necklace. I also willing to try anything your imagination can come up with. I love a challenge and love working with my clients to help them create that one of kind special piece.

As you know, my daughter is on the Autism Spectrum, which makes awareness and understanding very personal for me. Why is Autism Awareness special to you? Is there one thing about autism that you think is important for others to understand?
As I said before I support Autism Awareness because of my past of working with autistic children. I think the one thing people need to be aware of regarding Autism is that the child is still normal. They react differently to situations than we would, but that doesn’t make them different. So many people look at them like they are different and it’s so disheartening. The reactions I got from people when I would go out in public with my clients was just sad. I hope that by selling these pieces that awareness will be increased and the stigma will dissipate.

As I mention in my book, life consists of so many different things, and autism is just one part. Your work also consists of more than just Autism Awareness pieces - and jewelry! Would you mind sharing with us a little about your other handcrafted items?

Giraffe Bookmark by Faded Leaves
I like to make an eclectic array of items. I love love love to cross stitch  and I have incorporated that love into cards, gift tags, and ornaments. A lot of the items are soon to be seasonal only so you will only be able to get them closer to special occasions/holidays, like Christmas. I also make gift bows using colorful ribbon that I love and I hope everyone else does, too. I have ones for pretty much any occasion you can think of. I also make non autism awareness pieces as well. Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, etc. I love creating!

I share your passion for creating so many different types of things! In fact, I recently decided to streamline my own studio, and the transition is almost complete. I understand your studio is entering a new, exciting phase, too. Tell us all about it!
Yes, I am entering a new phase! I’m so excited about it! I am slowly transitioning out all my current designs and replacing the silver plated/gold plated chains etc with sterling silver, copper, and occasionally gold filled if anyone wants that. I, myself, do not care for gold so I tend to use silver mainly.  I have also switched over to mainly freshwater pearls, crystals, and gemstones. I will still use other types of beads on occasion if I believe they will fit better into my design or if requested in a custom design. I also am doing more hand stamping. I am widening my line and making more custom pieces. I love hand stamping and making custom pieces for my clients. For sneak peeks of my new lines and specials, find me on Facebook!

Where can readers connect with you, and see your wonderful work?
Readers can find me on Facebook (, Twitter (@FadedLeaves), ArtFire (, email me at requesting custom orders, or follow my pictures on Flickr (

For those who might be interested in purchasing any of your pieces, I understand jewelry can be tricky to mail overseas, due to various regulations, etc. Which countries outside the USA do you ship to right now?
Yes shipping overseas can be tricky.  I currently ship to the UK, Canada, Australia, and obviously the US. I will ship any of my items to any of those countries as long as it’s not restricted by that country. :)

Is there anything else you would like to say? :)
I just want to thank you for this opportunity to talk about my passion for Autism and my business Faded Leaves. It was such a delight talking to you and all your readers. <3 Shannon

Last question, just for fun! What is your favorite dessert? 
My favorite dessert of all time would have to be pumpkin pie! I could eat it every day, though of course then I would weigh a million pounds.

Thanks so much, Shannon! It is such a pleasure to have you here on Julie Clark Art – the blog!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

So I Went For a Walk

So I went for a walk. My mind needed clearing and my body needed motion. And, above all else, I needed to get away from anything electronic.

Except, of course, my phone, which is slowly turning me into a Borg.

My husband, however, would beg to differ. Ever since I upgraded to a smartphone, he thinks the transition to half-human, half-machine occurred almost instantaneously.

But I went outside, in the heat, under the sun, contemplating all sorts of things in an effort to clear my mind. Things such as the electronic cloud where more and more of our data is landing. Clouds used to mean something that brought rain and blocked sun, cooling the air on days such as this. But now, it means something I can’t see, leaving me wondering what exactly this “cloud” is.

Then I reminded myself why I went for a walk. It was to get away from such things and focus on what is around me. Including thick piles of mulch at the base of perfectly aligned trees, stepping a little farther out from them, crossing fingers that nothing would hiss and slither as I pass by. Up on a small hill sat a bunny, staring at me from the gentle shade, then turning, cotton tail waving goodbye as he hopped away.

Then I thought of how I wanted to get home, sit under this laptop and type something about him.

But I caught myself and recalled that the point of this walk is the walk, itself. To be outside, even June’s heat that feels borrowed from some future day in July.

Walking past a neighbor’s yard, I took a moment to slow down and look down. Age makes it harder to keep up with things, and budgets make it hard to enlist others to maintain your lawn, when mind and muscle lack the strength and energy of earlier days. Thinking to myself how others around me have complained about spaces like these, even when mown, I took a moment, looked and recalled walks and hikes by fields mixed will all sorts of greenery. And I smiled and wondered, what makes something a weed, yet another a flower?

And I continued to recall days spent outdoors, when indoors wasn’t where I wanted to be. And how things in my daughter’s generation are so dependent on electronics, and how we’ve somehow allowed that to strip us of even a tiny bit of our connection with nature, and I felt a tinge of sadness.

So, I went for a walk, and I returned to my home a little more resolved to spend this summer connected more to nature than my computer.

Or even my phone.

Do you ever feel the same?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Those of you familiar with my artsy side have no doubt heard me mention my passion for Autism Awareness. In fact, a section of my ArtFire studio is dedicated to original pieces that either work to further Autism Awareness (specifically Asperger's Syndrome) or stem from that passion.

And those of you familiar with me from the autism community probably already recognize the name in the title of this week's post: Kristina.

Kristina has Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is also my incredibly strong daughter, and is often referred to as "the star" of my book, "Asperger's in Pink". When writing it, I, in essence, did the talking for her. But now she's a little bit older and it's time she speaks in her own words.

Kristina is blogging under Asperger's in Pink, right here on blogger. After all, it's her story, right?
Kristina is tweeting, too:

She's just starting out, and neither of us are sure how frequently she'll post or tweet, but when she does, you can rest assured that those words are 100% hers, and hers alone. She would love it if you would follow her on this portion of the journey. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, or concerns, even, feel free to direct them to me. I will continue to run this blog as I have been, posting about anything from art to autism, because, as I write in the book, life consists of more than just a few segments. That isn't changing.

As for Kristina? I'm looking forward to reading what she writes. And I am so proud of her that she is choosing to continue to share her voice with the world.

Welcome, Kristina! Welcome.