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  • Writer's pictureJ Susan Aitken

2023 Reflections

I begin this having just rung in the New Year, so I guess it's fairly apt to title it 2023 Reflections. Before I give an account of time spent in 2023 (just what have I been doing?), many of my friends want to see what I came up with in the way of a gingerbread house.

This year when I bounced my idea of a toy shop off a couple of my loved ones, they seemed unimpressed, as if to say "not your most creative idea." So I changed it to café instead - still just ho-hum. When I decided to do both, it was given the thumbs up. And so the duo gingerbread house was born. This is not the first time I have done something like this - back in 2013 I made one titled City Sidewalks, and it was an inn, a theater, department store, book store, tea shop and bakery! Not quite as robust is Cuckoo Café & The Toy Shelf but I have learned a few things since then, and there are definitely a couple of challenges in this one. As usual, it is entirely edible and there are no added supports inside. Other than gingerbread and frosting, there are wheat thins, fondant, gum balls, chocolate mints, pretzels, graham crackers, ice cream cones, tootsie rolls, chocolate chips, Kit Kats, peanut butter cups, and I was able to find some really cute candy toys. You will see some details like the tables and chairs in the café, the toys in the windows, and the trees in the upper windows of the toy shop. Note that there is a bird weather vane on top of the Cuckoo Café.

Warning! Gingerbread minutiae! This year I tried something new - I baked large slabs of gingerbread and used my scroll saw to cut out the pieces! There are definitely pros and cons to this method. The pieces end up straighter, which is great; however, you have to drill into each window and thread your saw blade through, which is time consuming. It also takes a bit of practice and every once in awhile the gingerbread doesn't cooperate. I did discover (on the plus side) that I could put a cut piece back in the oven and bake it longer, so I would have been able to use crushed candy for the windows if I had wanted (I used gelatine sheets because I wanted to be able to see inside) - note for the future, though...

As usual, I had fun making this duo gingerbread "house" and I hope you enjoy it!

Art Update

Let's see - an entire year of art! When I haven't been camping in the trailer or visiting family, which has been considerable this year, I have been working on portraiture - still learning! Up until this year I have only exhibited my stained glass effect paintings in competitions and solo shows. Although I still exhibit them and have them for sale, I have begun to enter a few of the portraits.

The first painting [1] is my husband on a tour boat we went on at Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula; the second [2] is James, my grandson. The portrait of the woman in the chair [3] is of my mother who passed away recently; I painted it as a surprise for my father's ninetieth birthday and he loved it. I went back into my daughter-in-law Emily's portrait [4] and worked on it some more since I last blogged about it, and now it's titled The Apple. The little girl Grissel [5] is from a small town in Mexico and the last painting [6] titled Hidden is my daughter rising from the water. There are a couple more semi-finished paintings waiting on the sidelines of my studio, needing some sort of attention. I am working on an interesting canvas at the moment - it is long and narrow. I'm excited to see how it comes together.

This painting, Sunlit Gaze, received People's Choice award in the Canton Fine Arts Exhibit 2023 and then Judge's Choice award in the Three Cities Open Exhibit 2023.

The Apple was juried into the Birmingham Society of Women's Painters (BSWP) Janice Charach Gallery exhibit and was awarded second place in the Three Cities Open Exhibit 2023.

My stained glass effect paintings were included in the Everything Green Exhibit at the Plymouth Arts Council, in an art membership show at the Canton Village Arts Factory and in The Big Reveal exhibit at the Plymouth Art & Recreation Complex; the entire collection was displayed in a solo exhibit at the Canton Village Arts Factory gallery.

In the spring of 2024, some of my paintings have been juried into exhibits at the Woods Gallery, Northville Art House and Livonia Fine Arts Gallery.

That's the update for year! I hope as you go into 2024 you find something creative that inspires and energizes you!


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