One of the things I like best about Etsy Team Game Day is that, not only do I get to feature the beautiful creations of one of my team members (the Crafting in Color team or the Queer Etsy Street Team), but I get to spend an hour or more  learning more about them, peeking into their shops and their blogs and their facebook pages, and sometimes, finding interesting surprises!

That’s the case with today’s featured shop, Galleria Di Giani, of my Queer Etsy Street Team.  John Tozzi, the multi-talented artist behind this shop, makes gorgeous jewelry mostly out of very cool, unique semiprecious gemstones.  If words like hematite, labradorite, kyanite, and kashgar garnet set your heart racing, then go immediately to his shop and bask in the natural stone beauty.

John creates jewelry that is versatile and classic—perfect for formal wear and jeans alike.  As he writes,

Whether you are wearing your little black dress, your power suit, a t-shirt and jeans, or a tailored blouse and skirt, each piece in my shop will go with many of them.

I particularly like his aromatherapy necklaces—sweet necklaces that feature a sterling silver perfume vial with a tiny wand inside.

John is an enthusiastic contributor to the Queer Etsy Street Team.   One of his greatest contributions was a recent blog post, “You Just Have To,” on the Team blog.    It’s a personal response to the recent rash of suicides among young gay men.  He writes,

I am a 45 year old gay man. For those of you not versed enough to do the math and understand, I came out at 22, in the mid 1980’s, when the world was first gripped by the AIDS scare. It was not an easy time to come out. Just hearing the word “gay” made people recoil, afraid they would catch something. It was not an easy time for me. But then again, my teens were no picnic either, for so many reasons.

I was bullied for being smart.
I was bullied for wearing glasses.
I was bullied for being fat.
I was bullied because I was not particularly good at most sports.
I was bullied because I hung out with girls at school most of the time.

He movingly describes the abuse and the rejections of the intervening decades.  But John survived, and he has a message to young gays:

Someday, the whole country will allow us to legally marry. It is coming. You just need to stay around to see it.

Someday soon, we will be able to openly serve in the military. You just need to stay around to see it.

And, most importantly, twenty years from now, it will be YOUR turn to pass on your survival stories to the next generation, so that they can know. You just need to stay around to do it.

You just need to stay around.

You just need to.

For a lot of us in the Queer Team, creating art and things of beauty  is about more than just skills, and more than just a business.  It’s about overcoming years of struggle, abuse, and marginalization.  About lives that “don’t make sense”, and insisting on creating beauty out of the chaos.  Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not.  But it’s always there, in just about everything we make.

And, as it turns out, John has another side of his creativity–photography.  He runs another blog, “Shed Your Inhibitions,” which features his gorgeous erotic photography, combined with wonderful musings on the art and the business of photography.  He is a truly gifted photographer of the male figure.

I am inspired to read his take on creative inspiration, like these thoughts on the artistic potential of cemeteries:

I have done many photo shoots over the years in cemeteries….   Cemeteries are places with a truly powerful aura.  To me, cemeteries are full of life.  No, there is no pun intended in that.   The collected energy felt in a cemetery is an amazing thing.  To be able to combine the life and energy in a cemetery with the powerful nature of a nude human being in a public place can make for strong photos.

I love that he brings his unique aesthetic sense equally to the male body and the female wardrobe.   Everybody wins!

Thank you, John, for everything you share with the world.

Find John Tozzi’s work at these places:

On Etsy:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/GalleriaDiGiani

At his Shed Your Inhibitions Blog:  http://johntozziphotography.blogspot.com/

At his jewelry blog:   http://galleriadigiani.blogspot.com/

On facebook:  http://facebook.com/galleriadigiani

Etsy Team Game Day is here, and although the Oregon Ducks game is over (of course my Duckies won!)  I still get to type to the dulcet tones of LSU and Florida (with 3 minutes to go in the 4th [post-script: and what a game that ended up being!])

I’ve recovered from the dreadful attack of stomach flu that robbed me of my Saturday last week, and made me fill in with just a stop-gap post on my Queer Etsy Street Team comrades.  And now I greet this week’s remedial (?) Etsy Team Game Day Post day with renewed enthusiasm!

Today I’m extra-excited, because I get to feature the splendiferous Queer Etsian, Michelley Queen of Queens! Why do I love Michelley?  Well, first off, how can you not give respect to someone who calls their Etsy shop an “arts and crafts chop shop [and] surreal smorgasbord of whimsical, fierce, fine art.”

 

Lucifist Lucifer--Surreal Fine Art Giclee Print

 

And then she goes on to describe her art:

My art work marries childlike whimsy and feminist defiance as viewed through an absurdist lens. All of it….conceived, designed and handmade, by me, usually in a frenzied state of creative compulsion.

 

"I'm not a Humanitarian, I'm a Hell-Raiser" Mother Jones Print

 

Those of you now reading who know me at all (and some of you have known me since high school [[I’m talking to you, David and Martha]]) will be laughing at this point.  Whimsy, feminist defiance, absurdist lens, frenzied state of creative compulsion….  who are we talking about here?

 

Hysterical Bitch--Surreal Fine Art Giclee Print

 

Hysterical Bitch?  Hellraiser?  Obviously I’m going to appreciate this woman and her art.

Michelley is an award-winning artist who has been creating since childhood.  As she tells us,

I was born an innately dramatic child, in the great state of NJ, in the late ’60s, to equally dramatic parents. My imagination has always been a juggernaut and I began compulsively creating art at a very early age. I was hugely influenced as a tot by fairy tales, psycho-sexual vampire movies made in Italy, the wonders of nature and Bugs Bunny in drag.

It is the Bugs Bunny influence that I find most inspiring.  How many artists’ ouvres encompass the demented, homicidal bunny motif?

 

Some Bunnys Gonna Pay---Surreal Fine Art Giclee Print

 

But beyond all this, I again pay homage to another Etsy Team Leader.  I am grateful and humbled by those generous Boddhisattva-like individuals who devote their valuable time to making our teams run for the rest of us.  Michelley runs the Queer Etsy Street Team blog, and manages the Queer Etsy Collective Shop, which gives all proceeds to a charity working on preventing suicide among gay youth.

I can’t close this post on Michelley Queen of Queens without mentioning her Day of the Dead Soaps.  Day of the Dead is coming up, folks, and do you want to be caught dead without banana-cream scented skull soap?

 


Banana Cream Scented Skull Soap

 

Find Michelle Queen of Queens at these places:

on Etsy:    http://www.etsy.com/shop/queenofqueens

on her webpage:   http://michelle-cartaya.artistwebsites.com/index.html

on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/QueenofQueensArt

Faithful readers will have noticed the absence of my Saturday Etsy Team Game Day Edition.   The spirit was willing, but the flesh was in bed with a ferocious attack of stomach flu (or food poisoning…hard to say).  It came, consumed my Saturday, and was gone by Sunday morning.

I owe my Queer Etsy Street Team a feature!  But now it’s Monday, and the University of Oregon Ducks aren’t playing in the background, and I didn’t have a whole day to dwell on the fabulousness of my team-mates, and I just don’t feel like the Game Day Cheerleader that I like to spend my Saturdays being!

To tell the truth, I’m still not feeling so hot.  And, did I mention I’m at the laundromat?

So, let’s do this.  I’m going to share some of my most favorite items from a few of my fellow Queer Etsy Street Team Shops.  These are things I’ve been coveting for quite awhile now.  And now you can covet them too.  I’ll put the links to their shops in so you can click through freely and enjoy the bounty of queer creativity at your fingertips..so to speak.

And next Saturday, when all my parts are rejoined, I’ll get back on the Game Day Horse and take another, for-real ride over to Queer Etsyland.

Green Alien Bead, from the Fabulous Crowbirdie Beads

Your Must-Have Christmas Skull jewelry by the ever-eclectic BunnyKissd

Subtle woodworking style by Ramshackle Studios

Haunting brushed glass briolettes from Gilliauna

One-of-a-kind take on LGBT Pride jewelry, by Elles Beads

And last but not least…

A demented, homicidal bunny, courtesy of QueenofQueens

Stay tuned!

The Paper Demon does not play well with others.

The Paper Demon does not do team sports.

Things she likes:  swimming, skiing, surfing.  Thinking, inventing, making.

Things she will do when hell freezes over and not a minute sooner:  softball.

The Paper Demon doesn’t join teams.  That is,  ’til last month.  In June, she joined a team.  But it’s cool.  It’s OK.  Because, it’s the Queer Etsy Street Team.  

The Queer Etsy Street Team is a collectivity of LGBT artists on Etsy, who joined together to support and promote one another’s work and creative spirits.  Click our big colorful button on the Paper Demon Jewelry blog home page to visit our excellent Etsy Gay It Forward shop!

This is a team I can get behind.  It’s all about making a supportive and inclusive space for queer artists to be artists and be queer, and think about what it means to be both at the same time!  The team was the inspiration for my Love and the Rainbow post awhile back.

And now, thanks to the efforts of our indefatigable leader QueenofQueens (awesome Etsy shop, btw!), Queer Etsy Street Team scored a feature in Curve Magazine!   Best part: QueenofQueen’s pullout quote:  “It would be impossible for me to create without sprinkling shards of my big gay story on everything I do.”   Two solid pages about just HOW cool we are.  Because, there were apparently still a few people who didn’t know.  But they know now.  And so do you.  Yay Team!

I live a blended life.  It’s assembled from many parts.  We have a blended family–the kids, their bonus mom, and me, plus the rabbit who thinks she’s a dog.  There’s our  bonus extended family in Oregon and then my extended family in Florida and Pittsburgh, and the kids’ family in Japan.  My kids have two homes, one in Illinois, one in Oregon, one all Japanese, one mostly American but with a big dash of Japanese thrown in.  They have an lgbt family and a straight family, go to a Japanese immersion school in Oregon, and a Japanese school in Japan over the summer.  But we love the 4th of July and go all out for parades and fireworks (realized I’m a bit of a pyro when i found myself crossing the Indiana state line to get illegal fireworks last summer)

COTTON CANDYCOUNTY FAIR IN WASHI

LGBT Love in Washi

the Oregon Coast in Washi and Wire

All of these parts come together in my jewelry—the Japan part, the American part, the lgbt part, the 4th of July fireworks, the Oregon Coast…. The rabbit will be in there one of these days; just haven’t figured out how yet.

This week I made these:  CottonCandy SpunSugar Washi and Copper Spirals.  Using fine handmade Japanese washi in honor of county fairs and the joys of an American summer.   Why not?  The beauty is in the blending!

Love is a dangerous and powerful thing.  Love made the world visible to me.    Suddenly I saw colors and shapes and textures that had been hidden inside of the “things” around me.  How to explain it?   The world was no longer full of concrete objects, but of things that were all in a process of becoming.  Process, not outcome.   Walking down the street I see the leaves, against the sky, in the wind, a moment in time.

Rainbows are all about process. They appear in the evanescent space between light and rain.  Their colors blend one into the other without boundaries.    They connect.  They are seen from one angle and not others. A rainbow is mysterious and beautiful.  It comes when you’re not looking for it.  Like love.

Some love doesn’t come easily.  But when it does, it changes the world.

[In honor of love and the rainbow: COLORSOFLOVE Rainbow Bubble Pride Necklace.  Check it out at the Queer Etsy Street Team store:  http://queeretsystreetteam.etsy.com%5D

I’ve come out twice in my life, the first time as queer, and second time as a jewelry-maker.  The second time was (is) much harder.   Nobody except my mother really batted an eye about the whole queer thing.  It’s 2010, and Ellen Degeneres is America’s Sweetheart, the heir apparent to the Oprah Empire (and then there’s Oprah herself.  Dude, she’s gay, ok?  You’re going to find out sooner or later, so I’ll just tell you now).  Anyhow, I digress.  Being queer, amongst the sophisticated types, is really a non-starter in the controversy arena.   And then, there was the fact that I basically took the “you are either with me or against me” line, followed by “if you’re against me I will take your a** down,” so people in my vicinity quickly sorted themselves out into the fine with it, and the gone.  Even my mother came around eventually. Not because she really “approves” per se, but because my partner is just that dang charming.  I mean, who can resist her?  I certainly can’t.

This part was easy

OK, so, coming out as gay, that went fine.  But the coming out as a jewelry-maker?  Oh, that’s another story entirely.  Because prior to making and selling jewelry, I was an academic.  An academic at a pretty prestigious university.  And academics don’t make pretty little things.  And they certainly don’t sell them.  It’s kind of like academics don’t go to church.  Same idea.  Academics, at least in the social science and humanities realms, are just way, way too sophisticated for that kind of thing.  Academics stand back.  Academics observe.  Academics critique.  Academics most certainly don’t set out a little table at the Saturday Market next to the kettle korn vendor and sell earrings made of paper and chat up the customers, including the ones who smell strange.

I didn’t actually know this truth until I set out my little table at the saturday market in the midwestern university town in which I used to live, and then noticed the reactions of my university colleagues who had come down to pick up their organic vegetables for the week and inadvertantly stumbled upon me.  Only one reaction actually—shame.  Shame for me.  Shame expressed in averted eyes and uneasy laughter and hasty retreats.  Shame that I had allowed myself to sink so very low from the elevated realms of the mind.

I was first surprised, then angry, then hurt, then, finally, bemused.  “Oh, I see,” I thought, “academics don’t make cute jewelry and sell it in parking lots.  OK.  I get it.”    But then, after that came the question–why not?  And then the question, why do I?

These are not ironic

After awhile, I began to see the picture.  Academics’ bread and butter is in the observing and analyzing of what others do.  The people of a culture live, and anthropologists observe that. Musicians make music, and ethnomusicologists study it.  Artists make art, and art historians analyze it.  As for myself, I used to really like that.  It’s a fine thing to do, and a really, really cushy   job.  But it’s a job that stopped working for me at some point.  I just don’t want to live that one step removed from life any more.   I’m kind of over the ironic distance.   I feel compelled to make pretty things and see if I can get people to agree they’re pretty enough to pay money for them.

Are these pretty enough?

As in all coming out, it was coming out to myself that was (and is) the hardest.  What happened?  How did I end up this way?  I’m not sure. I know I had some significant trauma in my life, and suddenly life just seemed too short to live it at one step removed.  But what I do know:  I really want to get my hands dirty and be out in the parking lot, talking to the kids, making change.   Turns out, I’m really not an academic any more.  I’m a jewelry maker.   Maybe one day I’ll be an ‘artist.’  But I’m staying in the closet on that one for now.