Custom Orders: You Get What You Pay For

It’s not like me to custom order anything. The thought terrifies me and does something internally on a very basic psychological level. It’s rather ridiculous when you think about it but there it is.

As the Universe reflects back what we need in our lives, you can imagine my discomfort when first opening The Wild West Art Store on Etsy, to discover that there is not only a ‘Custom Order’ button but that people actually use it! No, really.

The first time I received a personal message with a custom order, I have to admit it threw me for a loop. What’s wrong with the billions of options I have already offered you, I thought to myself – you see how my own issues were causing me problems? – but that very quickly changed.

My first custom order, you see, was from a gentleman somewhere in Oregon who wanted to know what the BIGGEST size available would be for a selection of FIVE of my Oregon prints for his office walls – above and beyond the poster size that I already offer! After some to-ing and fro-ing we agreed on sizes for the various images (some looked better than others in the new LARGER dimensions) and the customer got exactly what he wanted and needed and I realised that that is what ‘service’ is all about. It’s about giving you what you want and need.

Since then, I have had other custom orders. People who have seen my images in the ‘flesh,’ so to speak (at exhibitions) and want to know if it’s possible to have this or that image on aluminium or canvas and have a budget of such and such.

One woman recently contacted me to let me know that she was looking for something special for a relative’s 75th birthday and had a fixed budget. “He loves Vegas, Route 66 and all that retro Americana stuff,” she said, “and it would be great to have one of your images on that really glossy stuff rather than a standard print in a frame.” Well, you have come to the right place I thought.

Another person contacted me having won a frame I made up with a selection of 3 individual prints for a draw, to ask how her friend could get the same, having coveted the prize upon the wnner’s wall.

Now I get the whole ‘Custom Order‘ thing and realise that that is the whole point of a site like Etsy. You really do get what you pay for.

Just sharing: you can see the unveiling of the Portland Custom Order here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1m0bIlQfTE and the unveiling of a Custom Order aluminium print here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxiJg–xkj4

 

 

Look Here for Amazing Office Art!

 

Copy of FineArt-Kitsch-Retro-Neon-IconicArt-WallArt-RoomDecor-DormDecor-Children'sArt-Gifts-Landscape-Vintage (1)A new acquaintance mentioned something the other day and for a split second I was struck dumb – which doesn’t happen often, as my husband will readily attest – and then my brain started whirring into gear.

What the acquaintance said was this, “I have just moved into a new office; bought the desks, chairs and equipment but I have no idea where to look for ‘office’ art.”

The reason he was telling me was because I was tagged in response to his Facebook post asking if anyone knew where he could start looking for ‘affordable prints that are cool and appropriate for all clients.’

It was his lucky day because I was able to reply with a big fat YES!!

I am a Saatchi Art represented artist and I sell art prints. Photographic art prints via The Wild West Art Store on Etsy and ship them internationally.

Most of my art is suitable for office walls, all are extremely affordable and all are also totally original, so you won’t have to worry that you will see the art you have spent your valuable time choosing wisely, hung on every wall in every office or home you ever walk into. Remember the days of the Athena poster? Well, not that. Or at least not yet.

Depending on what your ‘business’ is, I am certain I have art to match – from cityscapes, seascapes and landscapes, to powerful architectural buildings and bridges, kitsch and bold neons, vintage style retro signs & cars, flora, fauna, abstract, modern, pop art, black & white, colour and sepia.

Everything is customisable and can be printed on photo paper, fine art paper, canvas and even aluminium (with maximum sizes determined by the type of print you choose). It’s all up to you.

You deserve a break, so grab a cuppa and spend a few minutes browsing and imagine how that bare magnolia wall will look with an incredible and unique print right in the middle of it – in a week or so from now!

Just click here and make your choice!

My business makes your business look better.

 

 

 

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Oregon – You Little Beauty

We just got back from a 3 week trip to Oregon. Friends moved there 10 years ago and invited us to visit.

Our first sight of what was to come was from the ‘plane window. The stranger in the window seat pointed out the mountain and the shiny waters of the two lakes beneath it and urged us to go visit. He turned out to be Kevin Rankin, the US-born drummer for a UK-born band: A Flock of Seagulls and had friends in common with our friends – which we discovered at the baggage carousel. Obviously.

Our destination was Portland – an incredibly vibrant city, full of coffee shops (very few offering decaf oddly), local breweries (very few offering low or non-alcoholic brews), cafes, independent cinemas and bookstores, ice-cream and doughnut stores, vintage and thrift stores, music and comic stores, the Willamette River, bridges too numerous to mention (and oh so beautiful. It appears that I have a thing about bridges…!), green and open spaces, defined neighbourhoods, fabulous live music venues, art! art! art!, wonderful and interesting people and scenery to die for, viewable from various vantage points at every turn.

Our trip was memorable mainly but not leastly for this one fact: it was totally effortless to have the most fantastic and restful time with friends who could not have been more generous, funny, hospitable and welcoming to us.

Our friends have two teenage children (at various wonderful stages of their lives – we shared first job interviews and acceptances with them) and two Irish Red Setter dogs.

The dogs enabled us to go for numerous soul-soothing walks; locally (at the Arboretum, the Pittock Mansion, Forest Park) and further afield; at Sandy (along the river with the snow-capped Mount Hood watching over us from a distance), at Cascade Locks, the Wahclella Falls, the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, Mirror and Trillium Lakes and so on.

We felt like we saw everything and then some.

We arrived on July 2nd. On the 4th we celebrated Independence Day with their in-laws, in a sunshine and flower-filled garden, eating delicious home-grilled foods and catching up on ‘life.’

The evening of the 4th was spent down by the river-side at the Blues Fest, listening to live music (including the amazing Canned Heat), eating felafel and watching the fireworks exploding high into the night sky. The atmosphere was electric and joyful.

*Please enjoy my images from oregon. Post continues below.

 

 

The following days saw us visiting (in no particular order, as the magic melded into one perfect discovery of all things Oregon):

  • Petroglyphs in Washington State at Horsethief Butte
  • Art (including crazy, wonderful chess sets) at the Maryhill Museum of Art
  • The Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial (yes, it really is a thing. Who knew?)
  • The Columbia River Gorge
  • The Dalles Dam & Bridge
  • Wahclella Falls – an astonishing hike and view and the waters so refreshing that when I stepped into the rushing water (by accident as I slipped off a small rock whilst taking photographs), I felt like I had gone to heaven and wanted to stand there all day long; cool feet on a long, hot summer’s day. Mmm.
  • Thunder Island Brewing Company at Cascade Locks for the most perfect and delicious lunch by the water, who also offered treats for the dogs!
  • The Audebon Society – to see the wild birds they are so carefully and wonderfully caring for and rehabilitating, where possible.
  • Bagdad Theater and Pub, so we could sit and watch a movie whilst food and drink was served directly to our seats.
  • Hollywood Theater so we could see Dunkirk on day one of its release in all of its 70mm gory glory.
  • Salt and Straw and Ruby Jewel ice-cream stores.
  • Mississippi Street Fair experiencing all sorts of original art, music and local energy
  • Nike Biketown bicycle ride (for 16 miles…ahem) along the river
  • Astoria for frozen custard
  • Cannon Beach and the most amazing volcanic rock display in the form of Haystack Rock
  • Fort Stevens State Park and the amazing Peter Iredale shipwreck on the beach
  • Voodoo Doughnuts for a box filled with the craziest yumminess including the bacon doughnut
  • The Doug Fir for a giant Cobb Salad…and one of the very few decaf coffees to be found
  • Laurelthirst for fabulous live music with Lewi Longmire and his band
  • Jesse Reno and his exciting contemporary-primitive abstract narrative art
  • Sauvie Island where I discovered Apple Butter for the first time in my life at the Pumpkin Patch Market
  • The Pearl for a visit to Anthropologie, Oblation and various other wonderful shops and being ‘ladies who lunch’
  • A death-defying walk across the St John’s Bridge (aka Captain Marvel’s Sky Bridge) as trucks thundered past only inches away and we could feel the bridge wobble hundreds of feet in the air beneath our feet. It was terrifying and not something we would recommend (because we are wimps and vertigo is not our friend!)
  • Ate tantalising fare from food trucks
  • Devoured the biggest ever ‘loaded’ hot chocolate at the Timberline Lodge (where they used the exterior for the hotel in The Shining)
  • Drove by the ‘Twilight’ house
  • Searched the Chris Haberman mural in Milwaukie for the nod to the Cleveland Browns…

…and so much more.

The most memorable moments also include the valuable time we spent at home with the family, sitting on the deck, making s’mores on the fire and being bitten by mosquitoes!

Still recovering from jetlag and wondering how long it will take to save up for the next trip.

Thank you Fells for everything!! You have no idea just how much we love you and appreciate you sharing your time, home, family, pets and state with us!

*

If you have a space on a wall, are looking for a gift and are interested in any of my images from our trip to fill that requirement or just want to browse, please visit The Wild West Art Store on Etsy (and search ‘Oregon’). There are so many images that are on my hard-drive that will be edited and added over time, so do check back. If you are after something specific, please do let me know as it may be waiting for a nudge for me to post it up!

 

 

Woohoo!

Last night something amazing and unexpected happened.

We won an award! Our very first award.

We were invited to showcase our art at the Woohoo Achievement Evening and were more than excited about that. Such an incredible opportunity to showcase our photography to an audience of incredibly talented and successful business people.

Then, all of a sudden these words were read out in the category of A Dream Achiever – 2017, “Whatever she sets her mind to, I believe Toula could achieve it. She is caring for her mum who has dementia and remains so positive in life. Toula has changed her career, written books and developed amazingly as a photographic artist. She has recently been recognised by Saatchi Art and I believe she will become a widely acclaimed artist as she sets out to be. It’s a pleasure to collaborate with Toula. I really do admire her positive outlook on life and how socially adaptable she is. She has great ideas and is inspiring to be around. She definitely is a ‘Dream Achiever’ in my world.”

All nominations were anonymous so even more exciting and humbling! You just never know who is watching!

Woohoo!

If you would like to what all the Woohoo is about, click here: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheWildWestArtStore

 

The Boathouse

I had that sinking feeling in my stomach as we set off from my friend’s home – where we are cat and flat sitting – to head off into the Kent countryside. I’d left my trusty Nikon at home and only had my very old iPhone 4 to snap a pic or two and could tell I was going to be filled with regret in the not too distant future.

A few weeks ago when last visiting, we headed to Whitstable for the day and enjoyed fresh oysters and a walk along the coast. This time, however, we were after something greener.

Our first stop was going to be Royal Tunbridge Wells – but as we got there we realised that it wasn’t what we were looking for, even as a breakfast stop, so continued on to the nearest National Trust property only 11 miles away: Scotney Castle.

After a false-start, when Google Maps took us down a very private road towards goodness only knows where, we turned around and found our way to our chosen destination…and goodness me what a destination it is!

The main house gives away nothing of the fairytale magic that awaits visitors along the path. We did the obligatory wandering around with the laminated info – enjoyed the house – and then sat in the sun at the cafe delaying the absolute gratification that was yet to come.

It wasn’t our fault – we just didn’t know.

Eventually, we set off down the path and literally stopped in our tracks. There it was – the castle. A Medieval ruin so magical that it could literally have been designed as the film set for the latest Beauty & The Beast. I almost expected Emma Watson to come singing out of the door as Kevin Kline unhitched his wagon and set off into the distance.

The wisteria and jasmine covered building is just perfect in all of its decay. The empty window frames welcomed in a view of the bluest sky I have ever seen and the creaking warped wooden staircase sang of whispered secrets, in tones only audible to the electric blue darting dragonflies hovering all around.

To get to the castle, a moat has to be breeched and it certainly does delay your progress. You cannot help but stop and wonder at the fairytale scene unfolding before you. The water is covered in blooming lily pads and waterlilies with red-finned silver fish swimming joyfully in the dappled sunlight.

Usually, faced with such untold beauty, I would have the viewfinder of my camera attached to my eye and would be capturing every stunning view. Today, however, with a heavy heart I fumbled in my handbag for my ‘phone and begrudgingly started taking pictures.

Let me confess right here, right now: I have never managed to take a good photo on my ‘phone. Hand me a camera and I just get it. A ‘phone; no.

We started oohing and ahhing as we wandered around the grounds, taking in the castle from every conceivable angle and then all of a sudden, as we meandered down a shady path, we happened upon what I originally decided was Snow White’s House – the one she shared with the Seven Dwarves. You can see why.

As we followed the path around, we could see from amidst the leaves and trees the perfect magical abode from the front.  It was actually a boathouse, seated on the edge of the water with no sign of any Disney characters in the vicinty.

Perhaps Belle was having a tea party?

Poster mock-up

To purchse this image and to view my entire portfolio, please click here:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/536180887/boathouse-artscotney-castlekent

Let Her Eat Cake

You know that that feeling when you know but you are not sure that the other person knows what you know? That.

Whilst the world around me is being blown up, people are being run down and stabbed by terrorists and everyone is crazily trying to convince everyone else about how to vote in the election, I have been visiting a trauma specialist in the hope that I can undo some of the personal horror that has been inflicted on me.

Two weeks ago whilst having the first actual session of EMDR (rather than just talking talking talking), the session ended with me telling my counsellor through an abundance of tears and shock that I had just realised at almost 50 years of age that I know exactly why I didn’t tell my Mother that her husband had just sexually abused me for the first time when I was 5. It was because I already knew that I was ‘the mother.’

The shock of realising that and then saying it out loud for the first time was palpable in the room.

Of course, it wasn’t necessarily true, it was just how I felt but the revelation has stayed with me sitting heavily and shockingly in my chest, making it hard to breathe in without feeling like I had betrayed my mother by revealing too much. It has also had me on the edge of a tsunami of tears.

I haven’t given in. Much.

In the meantime, I have been worrying about my Mother’s care, or lack thereof, from the health unprofessionals in her care home. On their watch they have allowed her to become significantly overweight and pre-diabetic despite taking blood and weighing her at least once a month.

That’s bad enough but when the private doctor we took Mum to (after the care home manager/ owner suggested we took Mum privately if we didn’t like the GP she was paying for an ‘enhanced’ service) called to inform her of her findings and ask her to put Mum on a diabetic meal plan, she refused point blank.

I saw black.

She says that my Mother despite being in the care home because she has dementia says that she wants cake and sugar all day and therefore should have it.

Yes, that’s right. My Mother who cannot retain the knowledge that she is pre-diabetic is being asked if she wants to eat cake and of course she is saying yes.

The same care home manager/ owner also point blank refused to allow my Mother to see a GP sooner than the regular Wednesday when he visits.

We called to inform the home that Mum was complaining of chest pains – she also had a cough – and as two residents had had chest infections weeks earlier (one died and one was hospitalised), we thought Mum probably had the same.

The manager/ owner said that she would ONLY allow Mum to see the GP sooner if Mum personally came and told her that she had chest pains.

Yes, that’s right.

Of course, we jumped in the car and took Mum to A&E immediately.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that we are now looking for a new care home for Mum. She has been given notice by the manager/ owner who clearly doesn’t want to clear up the mess she has made. As if sweeping the crumbs under the carpet is going to make them magically disappear without any thought for my poor Mum, who is settled there and has made friends over the 30 months she has been resident.

Fortunately, we had already contacted the CQC and social services who are on it. Fortunately they are on it because the manager/ owner contacted them after refusing Mum a GP, to complain about us. How dare we try to impose a healthy diet on Mum when Mum says she wants cake and sugar?

Oh, how we laughed. Not.

The social worker visited Mum to assess her capacity and decided (obviously) that Mum does not have the capacity to make the decision because she cannot remember the health implications of her choices. When reminded, Mum is horrified to learn that the care home have been giving her cake and sugar when they know it is making her ill.

Obviously. You’d have to be really demented not to be horrified.

It took a week for the social worker to call me and let me know her findings. I had been waiting with baited breath wondering whether the care home manager/ owner would be vindicated or we would be villified.

“Your Mother understands everything fully but cannot retain the information. Therefore I have found her not to have capacity in this instance. She said that she totally trusts your judgment and that you are allowed to speak on her behalf. She says you are her Mother-Daughter.”

I knew it.

Being right doesn’t always feel good. Knowing from your earliest consciousness, before even being old enough to go to school, that you are the only responsible adult in the house is the heaviest burden to bear.

Never ever knowing security in it’s most basic form – that of being a care-free child in a home where you are certain that your safety and all of your worries are being held by your parent – is not something you grow out of. It’s something you grow into. The more life happens, the more you sink into the quicksand of terror, seeing all obstacles and issues through the eyes and emotions of a child. A child who had to think on her feet and deal with adulting whilst only a baby herself.

Just look at any pre-schooler that you know and wonder how they would cope.

It’s no picnic. Not all of us can have our cake and eat it.

I am my Mother’s-Daughter-Mother.

 

To read other posts in this series, please see: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story-surviving-childhood-sexual-abuse/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Away Is Not An Option

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I love my mother with every cell of my being. 

But.

That doesn’t make it any easier being her daughter. In fact, it probably makes it harder. 

My Mother is beautiful, hilarious and a true free spirit.

She is also now a beautiful hilarious free spirit who has dementia and Alzheimer’s, making it almost impossible to walk away when you realise how vulnerable she is without any short term and very little medium term memory. 

She carries her horrendous and terminal disease with dignity, telling me that she has ‘amnesia.’ We all feel like she has won the lottery when she recalls a small fact. She has no comprehension of what is to come. She has no comprehension that she will lose not only her memory in full, including knowledge of who I am and who she is, but all of her human abilities, too. 

So, why  am I even talking about walking away?

There’s a special kind of hell that most people only read about in books or see in films. Due to my Mother’s free spirit my destiny in that special kind of hell was already set before my conception. Not to say that her free spiritedness made her life any more enjoyable for her because I truly don’t think it did and ultimately, she is now paying the price. 

And so am I.

Is it a personality thing or a WW2 thing? 

My grandmother was a 13 year old living in Greece when the war started. I know next to nothing about how and why etc but somehow my Grandmother and her older sister ended up in Germany during the war. When she was 18, my Grandmother gave birth to my Mother. 

Six years later, my Mother was left in the care of her grandparents and at some point ended up in an orphanage. I have no details and in fact have only discovered this information since my Mother’s dementia because it’s one of the things she does remember. 

Bad things happened. 

She doesn’t talk about what those bad things might have been but they are bad enough that she has kept them locked down deep inside all of her life only to have the irony of life turn on her, as her dementia progresses, those bad things will be amongst the last things that she ever remembers in detail. 

Mum was left by her Mother and so too was I.

Clearly, it’s what Mum learned from her own mother. But was that because of the war? When you see death and destruction all around you, does fear make you grab life by the hand and run away with it regardless of the consequences?

Or was my Grandmother’s irresponsible and selfish behaviour just because…?

My Grandmother eventually ended up with an alcoholic good for nothing with charm aplenty. Without charm, who would want to be with an alcoholic?

Mum, in turn, paired up with a gambling paedophile. No charm evident. Ever. 

Life was hell.

Life still is hell.

(You can read more about that hell here: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/only-dead-on-the-inside/ )

The things is, now that I am middle-aged and have a limited time left on this planet to do the things that give me joy, I seem to be living a life I hate, in a place I’d rather not be so that I can spend valuable time with my beloved Mother. The price is enormous as her choices have always dictated the indescribable offensiveness that has been my life at her and her husband’s hands. 

I feel like I am treading water and every now and then I go under when I look ahead for a time when I can stand on solid ground and I see nothing but more pain. 

Solid ground = no more Mother.

Having my Mother means existing though each long and arduous day until those times that we see her and even then, the abundance of mixed emotions that race back and forth through me as I watch her, oblivious to the intense pain she has inflicted on me and the intense love that I feel for her, leaves me exhausted and confused. 

Mum is disappearing day by day and I cannot bear to watch. But I have no choice. I cannot abandon her like she abandoned me and her mother abandoned her. 

The signs that she is disappearing are so small that most people wouldn’t notice them. But they are there. 

I don’t want to do this any more than I wanted to be left at a foster home by her at 6 weeks of age and then be sexually abused by her husband for 15 years from the age of 5.

Any more than I wanted to leave my polarized sanctuary of ‘make believe’ in the heart of sunshine, celebrities and road-trips in Hollywood. 

Who would?

But what can I do?

As a teenager, my life was like a real life version of ‘Sybil.’ I was Sally Field (but without the multiple personalities and director shouting ‘Cut!”- one complicated personality is more than enough – just ask my beyond patient husband) and thought that at some point in the future, that like Sybil, I would be ‘fixed’ by a therapist and be able to get on with my own life.

One of those Sybil moments came as I went through one of those teenage rites of passage: my first date. 

I say teenage but I was just weeks away from being 20 and I was terrified. My suitor came to the door to collect me. He was wearing a suit and behaved like a true gentleman. He was only 18. We walked locally and found a small restaurant in which to eat. We talked and laughed and then he walked me home, where he said goodbye to me on the doorstep as I opened the front door and let myself in. It was 11pm. 

The house was a converted Georgian building with numerous flats. Fortunately all the other flats had access through the neighbouring property but there was still a front door at my home and then a flat door. 

On this particular evening, I opened the front door with my key but the front door had been double-locked and no amount of banging and calling to my Mother got her attention so that I could actually be let into the flat. 

I counted off the long hours, lying in the cold (it was the end of November) on the lino in the hallway until morning. 

Morning came and I was eventually and reluctantly let in. My Mother immediately backed me into a corner whilst she shouted hysterically at me, viciously calling me a slut and threatened to hit me. 

All I had done was gone for a meal around the corner. 

It seems, however, that a dysfunctional Mother is not just for childhood, she is for life. 

The fact that I am able to have this time with her is a prayer answered but when am I truly going to be able to live MY life? Shocking, I know, but everything I am and have experienced (and will experience) has been shaped by the circumstances my Mother foisted upon me from before birth. There will be no ‘MY’ life as this treadmill of constant stress and pain IS my life and I just have to get on with it.

Those memes and words of wisdom stating that we are responsible for our happiness drive me to distraction, adding more responsibility onto my already over burdened shoulders. Responsible for my happiness – yes, of course – but within constraints. The constraints I had no choice in at all that stifle me like a strait-jacket.

I have no sense of safety, of attachment, of trust….of peace and most likely will never experience those fundamental things.

I don’t know what it feels like to be light. Have I ever even known?

My heart pounds with anxiety 24/7 and always has.

But what to do?

I saw my GP yesterday and amongst the many physical symptoms that have developed due to lifelong c-PTSD, the actual c-PTSD is the one there is no real help for.

The care system where I live goes like this: 

  • referral from GP to Mental Health Services
  • a call from a nurse (supposedly within 5 days but was not) to answer a handful of questions about the situation. I was in public when she called and immediately made that known to her but she continued to ask me very painful and personal questions anyway
  • an interview weeks later (mine was carried out by a student asking very clunky and uncomfortable questions to ascertain my PTSD – which had already been diagnosed by a leading forensic psychiatrist)
  • almost a year wait for 6 sessions of EMDR (where the counsellor acknowledged that 6 sessions haven’t even touched the sides)
  • a further year wait for a letter from the counsellor offering anther session
  • I explained to my GP that the system does not work for me at all and makes my symptoms worse. She replied, “Well, that’s all I have to offer you.”
  • I asked, “What would happen if someone like Elisabeth Fritzl (the girl kept for year’s in her father’s basement) was sitting here – what would she be offered?
  • The GP replied, “That hasn’t happened to me.”
  • “I,” I  answered,”was sexually abused and beaten for 15 years. That’s a lot of hours of terror to live through and I am sitting right here…”

No, really – where do those high profile cases go to get real help? 

I love my Mother with every cell of my being and it is because of that that I cannot bear what is inevitably coming my/ our way, one way or another, and spurs me on to endure another endless anxious and painful day.

These words that have spilled on to the page make me sound miserable. That I am feeling sorry for myself.  That I need to pull myself together and get on with it.

Getting on with it is exactly what I am doing, regardless of the emotional and physical toll that it is taking. 

Looking in from the outside you would have no idea at all that every day is a day to endure. I am tough – life has made me so but I am equally sensitive, carrying my responsibilities squarely upon my shoulders like Tess of the D’Urbervilles carried her yoke and pails.

What else can I do?

Walking away is not an option.

For me, at least. 

Because. 

I love my mother with every cell of my being. 

 

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/