Ceramics & Custom Urns by Laura Bruzzese
As any manager or small business owner like myself knows, it’s really important to make sure the hired help know they’re appreciated — a happy team is a productive team! And time is money. In that spirit, this week I thought it would be nice to honor my 3 part time studio helpers with special recognition.
I decided that nothing conveys a sense of dignity, respect, and value like a paper certificate that can be framed and hung on the wall alongside family photos. With tips from my brother’s skilled management style, and bits & pieces of expertise gleaned from my designer friends, I made this.
The sloppy graphics, poor print quality, and tediously long, Mad Libs-derived text are designed to communicate corporate indifference; laziness; nostalgia; and yes, “you’re special”. I think it’s pretty successful! Printed at home, it’s a simple–yet hopefully effective–tool to inspire them to keep working hard for years to come while I come and go as I please.
Yesterday at our Helper Appreciation Luncheon, nouns & verbs were flung around the table at a local cafe as they filled out each other’s certificates (I couldn’t be bothered to come up with nice things to say about all 3 of them). It was delightful. There were even a few unexpected outcomes (in addition to the obvious gratitude for both the recognition and the free lunch):
In the spirit of generosity, I’ve made this certificate (low resolution) available for download> (use pdf editor to change the name(s) at the bottom, or just scratch those out and write your own). You’re welcome, and thanks for reading!
TIP: A little gold paint on the seal goes a long way toward making the certificate feel extra-precious and authentic.
It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write to let friends & fans of Rufina that my nightmare of the past eight years has come true: my beloved hen was killed by raccoons last night. This amazing, resilient, gentle creature’s life came to a violent end because I forgot to lock her hutch. The same night that f-ing marauding raccoons were on the hunt. I even heard them screaming, the raccoons, sounding like cats in a fight … I got up in the middle of the night, turned on the yard lights & didn’t see anything. But the lights don’t go as far as the back of the yard where Rufina’s hutch is.
After all she’s been through — shot in the head, adjustment to the loss of her eyes & life as a blind hen, losing half her body weight because of some kind of fungal illness 2 summers ago (successfully treated), two episodes of almost dying of heat stroke when she wandered too far away from shade and water — I just wanted her to have a natural death in her own time. I didn’t want her story to end this way and my heart is broken at the thought, at my failure, and at the stillness and silence of the yard.
I might have the energy to write an obituary at some point, but right now I’m just too sad. Here are a few pictures of my sweet girl, 9-yrs-old at the time of her death (and still laying a few eggs a week, which is truly amazing).
Beautiful girl with her strange scaly legs and feet damaged by frost bite.
Sunning herself the way she like to do on a winter afternoon, lying down with wing out to soak up the warmth.
Shiny and black but not really black at all.
And here, buried this morning at her favorite sunning spot with a handful of flowers. I love her so.
Dog park racer of trucks & motorcycles, hoarder of shoes, chaser & catcher of pigeons, survivor of mysterious black ball bowel obstruction, neurotically devoted, constant studio companion, chooser of us as we chose you, sneaker of cat truffles, trembler at fireworks and thunder, joyful roller in the grass.
Funny old lady wish you well with our overfull and broken hearts as you join the great circle of otherness elsewhere. We love you so.
I found this gem during the Great Crap Purge of ’17 last weekend. A strong argument in favor of pack-ratism. Translation below.
I am writing in response to your Wednesday, August 19th’s ad (for Hot Models Wanted – No Experience Necessary) in the Albuquerque Tribune. I would like very much to model for you.
I am 5’9″, and way (no way!) 115 pounds (is that even possible?). I have lights kin (star quality, as you can tell by my alabaster, bulb-shaped kin), blue eyes, and black hair. I have very long legs (no idea, but I’ve been told this is a modeling must) and am relatively thin (relative to a piece of wire, I am not thin). I noticed in the ad that it said you must be 18-35 (because the porn industry has an insatiable appetite for youth). I hope very much that you won’t let my age stand in the way (no way! Please skyrocket me to fame and into the hearts of every envious teenager on the planet). I have modeled (paid too much for cheesy classes) at Plaza 3 Modeling Agency (scammers who feed on the desperate dreams of adolescent girls and their gullible parents) before, and have (not a day of) expirience (except for that time my sister, friend & I posed on the corner just to see if we could get cars to honk, and possibly crash). The fact that I am only 15 shouldn’t make that much of a difference (my relatively thin legs are still long and I’m still a virgin), because you can’t really tellll (unless you actually read this carefulllly typed letter). I want to get into professional modeling (a recurring fantasy of gangely girls everywhere who are inept at sports and can’t find a boyfriend), and I need as much expirience (and spell-check) as I can get. I would be very deligted (=“delighted” = full of light) inif (pronounced, “ifin'” — a nod to my hillbilly coal mining ancestors) you would consider me as a model for you (and your pervie audience), and not disregard me be-cause of my youth (LOVE ME NOW!!! Just be-cause).
My portfolio isn’t completed (started) yet, so I sent some pictures of myself (and my pet turkeys), for you to look at (perform lewd acts in the company of). They ar m(mmmmmm)just so you can get an idea of what I look like (I know you’re ready to hire me sight-unseen, but just in case). I will be happy to come in (no comment) if you like.
As you can see, I am already a star, a luminous plasma shining so brightly that I obscure my own features. I very much hope you won’t let this stand in the weigh of my modeling career.
There is a dark presence in my yard, slowly eroding my sanity and longtime commitment to not engage in the eating of animal flesh. Or murder. Why is it there? I’ve asked myself this hundreds of times over the past year since I willingly opened my life and yard to it.
Yes, I invited the evil. I felt sorry for it.
As you may recall, after the untimely death of Yellow Legs Garcia, White Legs was lonely so I decided to get her a companion. And you can’t have just one chick, so I chose a second, a little black fuzzy one of indeterminate breed (against my better judgement, which told me to stick with Buff Orpingtons — friendly, affectionate, docile). Because I felt sorry for it, hanging its head through the bars of the “drawer” where they were kept at the feed store, trying to sleep. No sunlight, no ground to scratch, nowhere to run. Rescue.
Hello little demon, well played.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring liontiny, innocent-looking chicken searching for someone to devourpossess. 9 Resist him (her), standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings* (Peter 5:8-9).
*True, but most of the world is also willing to kill and eat them or at least let them live miserable lives in tiny cages.
I once read a story where the author described a character as looking around “with the uncomprehending gaze of a chicken.” Clearly, that author knew nothing about chickens. They are smart. They learn. They adapt. They will ruin you.
Let’s face it, anything that’s one of the closest living relatives of dinos, evolving for more than 10 million years, doesn’t stick around that long for being stupid. I suspect they commanded much more respect before the advent of modern poultry (torture) farms, where they’re treated like commodities rather than relatives of the wild SE Asian jungle fowl, formidable creatures with complex social structures, intelligence and curiosity. But I digress.
Organic food, treats, a huge run, supervised daily ranging … I take good care of my hens in their chicken utopia. Even the wild doves wish to partake.
And let’s not forget daily servings of their ultimate favorite treats, grapes (cut in half so they don’t choke. I’ll say that again: I cut grapes in half for these boobs). And what do I get in return? Routine escape. Mess. Huge holes dug in the yard. Poop everywhere. Dirt on my patio. And, yes, eggs (devil ovum) that I don’t even like, so I mostly give away.
The demon is especially smart.
She’s smarter and more ambitious than the Orpies, who once-upon-a-time gave me little trouble. They respected things like low fences and shadecloth barriers. They were afraid of the pond and wouldn’t dream of trampling the planters. But that was then. The Orpies have watched the demon, who fears nothing and wants everything, and learned her wicked ways. They are completely ruined.
I’ve had to clip all of their wings (demon still has a 3′ vertical jump thanks to her muscular, cloven legs) but this does little to curb the escapes and destruction. The only one who never gives me any trouble is Rufina. She’s perfect.
Oh, and then there’s this: I GOTS A RACCOON IN MAH HOOOOOUSE!!!
Imagine the terror I felt one night not so long ago when I discovered that the dog food crunching noise at 3 a.m. wasn’t Velma (who in her old age was passed out next to my bed). ?? Imagine the terror as visions of a lunatic, dog-food eating crackhead flashed before my eyes. !! As I lay there frozen, with nothing but a geriatric dog to protect me. !!
Only after reconsidering the likelihood of a crackhead intruder stopping to fuel up at the dog food bowl did I work up the courage to turn on the light. And this is what I found. Sitting in Velma’s water dish. In my downtown Albuquerque hallway.
I told raccoon to leave and surprisingly, it did. Back through the kitchen and out the dog door, leaving little wet footprints in its wake. I now have to barricade the dog door at night and hope raccoon (or its skunk friend, also attracted to chicken utopia) don’t acquire a taste for hens, as some of my neighbors have unfortunately experienced.
The few times I’ve forgotten to barricade the dog door, raccoon returned and our exchanges went something like this:
[crunch crunch crunch]
me: [flip light on, raccoon continues to eat, undisturbed] You must leave at once!
raccoon: [maintains eye contact, hand in food dish] I’m gon git me sum fud
me: you cannot do that in my house!
raccoon: [maintains eye contact, keeps eating] I’m gon creep in yo kid’s bed
me: You must leave at once!! We’ve been through this before!
raccoon: [turns to leave, reconsiders, turns back] Not leavin without mah fud
me: GET OUT!!! [assumes Charlie’s Angel’s pose]
raccoon: [finally leaves, mumbling] I’m gon steal yo stuff…. devil chicken told me how tuh git in… [smirk]
So, this is my life.
I work. I spend too much time wrangling and cleaning up after chickens (except for Rufina, she’s perfect). I match wits with a raccoon in the middle of the night. Oh! And I almost forgot — as of about 2 years ago, I do Ashtanga yoga! Not because it’s fun or so athletic or cool blah blah blah.
No. I do it because one day, I will have an Instagram devoted exclusively to me posing in exotic locations.
But my traffic-stopping poses are years away. So in the meantime, I’ll settle for exotic chicken pictures and hope for a simpler tomorrow: a good night’s sleep, a house without wild or bedeviled animals, doves that keep their anchor babies to themselves, and a few more years in the company of a loyal old dog.
Hello. My name is Laura and I’m an urn maker.
There. The first step in introducing Paper Turtle, my new business specifically for cremation urns. I’ve been meaning to write about Paper Turtle for almost a year, after I opened shop last May. But I simply had no words, probably because every drop of energy was being sucked into coming up with new designs, befriending spreadsheets, and stocking shelves.
I think there’s a common misconception about artists — that we mostly lounge around in our studios wearing comfy flannel jumpsuits* drinking chamomile tea and listening to NPR while awaiting the tender muse bearing the next great idea: beautiful, poignant, and inherently marketable. But no; for those of us who make part or all of our livings from our work, we know that along with being creatives, we’re small business owners. And like any small business owner, we wear many hats from creator to accountant to janitor.
*ok that part’s true
The only difference, at least for me, is that I have to balance running a business with the compulsive need to make things. It’s a lot of work but also a lot of fun, especially when studio successes outweigh failures, and I get to see the pictures in my mind come to life in just the way I was hoping. It’s all the more thrilling when other people like what I do and are even willing to pay money for it. !!
Imagining Paper Turtle, I had an idea of how I wanted it to look and feel but needed professional help to manifest my vision. So I hired the best branding firm ever, Ripe Inc., who did a fantastic job creating the beautiful design & website,
and awesome photographers (thanks JAK Media!),
and then got busy making inventory.
A few months after I opened the online store, I developed a line of cat & dog urns, which are now some of my best sellers.
Part of Paper Turtle’s mission is to help bring our experience of death out of the proverbial closet — viewed in this culture as an unpleasant inevitability relegated to dark corners, spoken of in hushed tones and managed by medical and funeral professionals. I believe there is distinct need for cremation urns that, like any handmade object, are special because they bear the maker’s life energy and have been carefully considered: the shape, weight, silhouette, functionality, colors, texture, how it will look in a room, reflect light, or feel in your hand; in short, they have been loved.
I’m happy to be the part of slow but exciting changes happening in the funeral industry and the way our culture perceives and relates to death. I’m also honored to know that my urns have helped enrich my customers’ experiences of grief with beauty, joy, creativity, and even humor; rather than reminders of sadness and loss, they are engaging works of art that help keep family members and pets present in their lives. Art really does have the power to heal.
I hope that none of you needs an urn anytime soon; but if or when the time comes, please keep Paper Turtle in mind, as it’s only with your support that I can continue doing what I love for a living. I also invite you to spread the word — connect with Paper Turtle on Facebook and Instagram, and visit paper-turtle.com to learn more. Thanks.
APRIL 21, 2016 Yellow Legs “Cuddles” Garcia was laid to rest today in a shady enclave in the back yard that she called home for the past three years. Yellow Legs passed shortly after being admitted to a veterinary clinic for weight loss and an indeterminate abdominal issue. After being diagnosed with what could have been any number of reproductive ailments, the prognoses for which were universally dire, the difficult decision for euthanasia was made. Yellow Legs died peacefully in the company of a compassionate vet and her assistant, with her head resting in her caretaker’s hands. She is survived by her sister, White Legs “Jumpy” Garcia, and her blind coop-mate, Rufina, for whom she had recently developed an almost affectionate tolerance.
Yellow Legs was born in 2013 in an anonymous hatchery along with thousands of other chicks. Hours after hatching, she was placed on a conveyor belt where she was sorted according to size, sex, and stamina, treated with antibiotics, and dispatched within 48 hours via Fed Ex to a local Albuquerque feed store. From there, she was adopted into the Bruzzese family where she remained until her death.
Although Yellow Legs never knew her parents, she nonetheless matured into a well-adjusted, if sickly, backyard hen. In her youth, she was known for steady egg laying, adventurousness, and an insatiable curiosity that inspired her to traverse all manner of fencing so that she might dig through garden beds, often destroying the drip system in the process. This trait, coupled with her progressively delicate constitution requiring three expensive veterinary consults during her short life, caused her caretaker to lay her own sanity open to question on more than one occasion.
Yellow Legs’ favorite leisure activities included sunning herself in forbidden areas of the yard; dirt bathing; and hiding her head under pieces of cloth. Her professional career began with a film debut in 2014’s The Contest, a performance central to the production and one that delighted “winner” and “loser” readers alike.
Yellow Legs enjoyed almost everything in life. Her presence will be missed and her death honored as that of one lucky hen among thousands whose brief and miserable lives will end today in slaughter houses, without ceremony, care, or compassion, never having had the chance to live as chickens or even touch their feet to the ground. Rest in peace, Cuddly.
6:30 a.m.: A beautiful morning. Sit by the pond with latte. Observe that one of the Garcias is looking unwell.
Diagnose Yellow Legs with inoperable cancer based on the following pathogonomic evidence:
Prepare myself emotionally to say good-bye to Yellow Legs while mentally composing her obituary: RIP Yellow Legs: Beloved Sister, Entertainer, Friend…
Spend 2.5 hours looking for a vet that treats chickens, just to confirm diagnosis and perhaps offer palliative care and/or euthanasia. Locate four poultry vets in the City of Albuquerque, all of whom are “off rotation” today. Conspiracy?
Find vet willing to see chicken this afternoon. Try to get some studio work done though distracted by the knowledge that the rest of the day will be spent grieving.
See vet at 2:30 p.m. Vet diagnoses Yellow Legs not with cancer, but with a common intestinal parasite.
Weep a little after I’m handed the bill.
Drive 15 mi. to feed store to buy medication which is only available in large, “calf strength” bottle.
Drive home and ponder the task of converting dosage in mg to Tsp, if solution is 9.6% and the chicken weighs 5 lbs. Refuse to admit that the math you swore you’d never needin school might be helpful here. But ah! The internet:
“It is necessary to know the density of the material being measured to convert its amount in milligrams to teaspoons. For example, the density of water is 1 gram per milliliter, and 0.2 grams of water equals 0.2 milliliters, which is 0.04 teaspoons of water…”
Eggs owed by Yellow Legs @ $5/doz (fresh, organic, parasite-free): $95,646.
8:30 p.m.: Craft the first of many martinis to be consumed in silence, accompanied only by a pile of unfinished studio work and a medicated, $43,041 chicken roosting happily in the coop; garnish with my own bitter tears.
The other day I was in an antique/thrift store looking for a vintage light fixture when I came across this picture.
I thought it looked old and cool and might be worth something. So I bought it and started researching. I was ecstatic to find that a similar image sold at auction for $45,000 last month. Woo! Would I be one of those people on Antique’s Road Show whose retirement was earned off a $5 thrift store purchase??!
Long story short, this picture isn’t what I thought it was. Know how I felt when I found that out? Relieved. Physically relieved, like Dracula had just removed his fangs from my neck. Not sure why, but I think it was the pressure: if a thing is something, something “valuable,” then it becomes an obligation. Restore? Conserve? Insure? Keep? Sell? How? Auction? Private? Who to trust? How much? On and on.
The joy of nothingness and the burden of wealth are conversations for another day.
For now, I’ve decided to sell this picture on ebay >here to hopefully recoup my investment.
For your convenience, I’m publishing the listing here too (enhanced version) so that you might enjoy the opportunity to be next in the noble provenance line. The auction just started so, yay for you, the current bid is still the starting bid of $6.32. Good luck!
PS The first person to correctly answer the riddle at the end of the listing (below in Comments) wins a Toad Love™ cup! Happy spring!
This is most likely a newspaper ad for the 1931 Dracula Vampire Thriller film.
It’s been lovingly glued to cardboard (painted blue) and vigorously sprayed with varnish in indiscriminate swirly patterns of varying thicknesses.
After several days of intense research and consultation, it is my unprofessional opinion that this is NOT a title lobby card. I base this authentication on the following criteria:
1. It appears to be newsprint
2. It appears to have been cut with bluntish scissors
3. Professional assessment:
So, moving forward.
Overall Grade: D+
As stated, this picture is in terrible condition. The D+ rating has been given because it has every conceivable type of damage possible to printed media EXCEPT the following:
In other words, when you place the winning bid for this item, you will be purchasing a picture with approximately seventeen (17) pin holes; forty-two (42) wrinkles; three (3) tiny tears; five (5) eddies; fading; yellowing; water (or urine) stains; cardboard backing (adhered); missing bits (upper left); handwriting (bottom); raggedy edges.
But let’s not dwell on the negative.
What You Will Be Purchasing
In addition to the Dracula picture, check out the “surprise” I found on the “verso” of this item.
That’s right, side-by-side Daisy Rifle and Tarzan ads!
And how about the mysterious hand-writing?
Know what I think? I think this was written by the original graphic artist, overwhelmed by a violence of achievement at seeing his/her first-ever printed newspaper ad. He was inspired to clip it, touch it up
and do it all over again. Sixty-six times. As Christmas gifts for his friends & family. Sixty-six of them.
Each ad was numbered and dated by the artist (adding value) because in the 1930s color newspaper ads, especially large unfolded ones, were rare and collectible. Neither he nor Debby Cloud should be blamed for the fact that at some point prior to 2015, she (Debby) chose to sloppily affix her gift to cardboard and varnish the hell out of it, intending to preserve it for all eternity. Essentially ruining it.
But ruin is a relative term.
In my opinion, considerable value has been added to this item by the artist, Debby, and me. Because now it’s not just a damaged picture, it’s a story. One that you will think about every time you see it hanging on your wall. One that might even bring you joy.
How much is that worth?
Last week, a magazine published by the art school I attended arrived in the mail bearing news and highlights of various exhibitions including this upcoming BFA show:
“…[the artist] draws on the paradox of simultaneous hypervisibility and invisibility within critical race theory and her own lived experience as a “brown femme queer woman occupying the deviant body of the ‘other.'” Through a combination of video, photo, sculpture, and installation, she explores the construction of the other by responding to the imagery of a “standardized body” enforced by capital-driven industries.”
I’ve never been clever enough to write such
incomprehensible intellectual descriptions of my own work and processes. And I’m not trying to bash my fellow artists here, it’s just… WHAT?
[the artists] collaborate to present Womb, a large-scale 3D animation with the sound developed to incite a dialogue about the connection between digital bodies and human emotion. Drawing from reality to fabricate an invented one, the content and installation of the animation emulates the interior of the human body while the sound element is modulated live based on the vibrations traveling through the physical gallery space. The exhibition creates a metaphysical loop that evokes the human desire to return to the womb.”
Do you have a desire to return to the womb?
I think it’s time I had a retrospective of my own. Since I don’t feel like waiting for the invitation from a major gallery or museum to arrive,* I think I’ll do it here, myself. And I think it will be much more efficient to
plagiarize appropriate text from my art school magazine than to come up with my own pretentious third-person drivel descriptive prose. So, enjoy (and you’re welcome).
Biodegradable Funerary Urns contend with themes of death. The works emphasize mortality, and the process of creation and display to honor departed loved ones and defy traditional commercial funerary practices that rely on the underpaid labor of brown people in other parts of the world to satisfy the traditional 400% industry mark-up.
Sustainable, affordable, non-toxic, and fair-trade, Biodegradable Funerary Urns allow families to explore nuances of death, celebration, and impermanence for several seconds before they (the urns) sink to the ocean floor and eventually disintegrate or are consumed by sea life, thereby expanding Biodegradable Funerary Urns into a collaboration with ourselves.
Botanical Motif Ceramics are inspired by garden life. “One time I took a Plant & Animal Illustration class at art school. It’s been pretty useful.” –Laura Bruzzese
The Screaming Toad™ series investigates the complex layers of selfhood and phony trademark usage in the context of taxonomic background, breeding preference, and personal displacement. Simultaneously satirical and sincere, the works operate in paradox: both seductive and foreboding, they are embedded with the politics of hearing and being heard, loving and being loved — among ourselves, amphibians and unsuspecting neighbors.
Recent praise for Toad Love™ mugs: “My coffee will never be the same.” –Bob
The critically-acclaimed Jumpy draws from reality to fabricate an invented one, creating a metaphysical loop that evokes the insatiable desire of gallus domesticus to eat grapes.
Dia de los Muertos works: “As we artists living [in] Nu[evo] Mexico like to [say], ‘Put a skull on [it] and it will sell… [H]ear[t]s too…'” –Laura [Bruzzese]
Bruzzese has recently extended her masterful range of talents to collaborate with world-renowned wildlife photographer and one of her personal heroes, Nick Brandt.
Although Mr. Brandt has no idea Ms. Bruzzese exists, that might change when his Big Life Foundation receives the first of (hopefully) many donations from the sale of Elephant wares in her Etsy shop. These works espouse hyperbole, creating confusion around lines drawn between “us” and “them,” ignoring categorical limitations of cross-species empathy, innocence, and exploration of permanence: extinction vs. human greed vs. stupidity vs. inexpensive decals.
In Buy My Kid’s Crap, Ms. Bruzzese expanded her internet-based multi-media work beyond Etsy into the wider and more depraved ebay auction audience, examining our relationship with the material world as both a container for, and disposable manifestation of, our childhoods. The ebay store was itself the artwork, including the carefully written item descriptions (more valuable than the objects for sale) as well as marketing materials. This graphic was printed on 6″ x 4″ gold leaf tickets and included with each sold auction item, forcing the recipients to contemplate the implications of “winning,” “admittance,” and the responsibilities of possession/consumerism, while simultaneously suggesting that Bruzzese is, perhaps, insane.
Seeking The Essence of Womb
Friday, March 12, 2014, 2pm
Rufina is recognized as one of the major figures in the artist’s back yard. For more than two years she has been discerning boundaries between industrial sounds and wilderness sound environments, proposing a blind, profound, and transcendental listening freed from the imperatives of knowledge and open to sensory and spiritual expansion. She will present this lecture as performance, a series of movements informed by the unique perspective that only an eyeless, overweight chicken engaged in a largely sedentary life might render. Free and open to the public.
No Instagram images were found.