Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cigar Boxes



There are endless possibilities when working with boxes of all sizes and materials. Sometimes I find heavy boxes with broken lids and I attach unusual hardware (junkyard finds) to the top. Other times I apply wooden balls for feet. The sky is the limit. Here are pictures of some of the unusual boxes I have created.

I find boxes everywhere. Happy's Flea Market is a wonderful source for almost any art material. I also look at Black Dog Salvage for old treasures. A few years back, I needed some cigar boxes for a new series I was starting. I couldn't find them anywhere. (As an artist, when I have an inspiration, I find it is essential to act on it immediately because the creative spark sometimes just goes away – or gets put on indefinite hold). At the time, I was exhibiting my work on the art show circuit. This meant that I was traveling all over the country and often found myself in new cities. Each new city meant a possible source of cigar boxes. On this occasion, it was spring, and my friend, Marina, and I had decided to share a hotel room during a show in Columbia, South Carolina. I mentioned to Marina that I was looking for cigar boxes since they were on my mind constantly.

The night before the show, I had one of the strange “dreams” that I have had throughout my life. These dreams are unlike normal dreams and are always precognitive. In them, I experience something like a message in a circle. I call these “knowings” for lack of a better term. I have had many dreams like this that have foreseen some future event or provided me with some useful guidance. (I expect I’ll disclose many of them on my blog eventually). Anyway, on that particular night, my “knowing” dream told me, “You must find a drugstore.” It was as clear as if someone standing in the room had said it. When I awoke, I told Marina that my “knowing” had told me to find a drugstore. She said, "Wow! Okay. But since we have the show all day today, let's wait ‘til after dinner tonight and maybe we can find one then since I need some makeup."

After the show and dinner, we got into the car to drive back to the hotel, hoping to find a drugstore along the way. We turned onto a highway that we thought led to the hotel, but ended up, instead, on a long desolate road that seemed to go nowhere. There wasn't even a place to turn around – and it was getting dark. Finally, we saw a lighted sign at the end of the road. As we got closer, we saw that it said "Walgreens." “WALGREENS!” we both exclaimed. Thinking we were lost, we had inadvertently found our drugstore. With great anticipation, we entered the store. Marina looked for her makeup, and I just stood in the middle of the floor waiting for something to reveal why my dream had sent me there. After awhile, it began to seem that my dream had sent me on a fool’s errand. Marina and I finally started for the door. Just then, a distinguished-looking man entered the store. He saw the name badges Marina and I wore and asked if we were artists. When we told him we were, he asked if he could set up a table at our show. We explained that we had to make arrangements for shows many months in advance and that all the booths at the show were taken. Then we asked him what he had to sell. (You may have guessed it already). He told us, “Cigar boxes.” Cigar boxes! Once again, one of my “knowings” had proven to have a purpose. It hadn’t sent me to the drugstore so much as to the man in the drugstore.

We followed the gentleman back to the garage where he kept his stash of boxes. When he opened the door, we were amazed to see hundreds of cigar boxes from all over the world. I had hit the cigar box mother lode. I bought as many as I thought I could fit in my van with plans to order more in the future.

When I got home, I anxiously began work on my new series. Upon opening one of the boxes, I found that it had once served as my benefactor’s memorabilia box. Inside were the memories of a lifetime. I felt a little like I was eavesdropping on his private life. There was a picture of him as a Boy Scout receiving an award while his mother stood at his side. Other pictures and articles revealed other parts of his life – passing the bar exam, his children, his divorce … a whole lifetime in a cigar box. At the bottom of the box I saw something strange. At first, I thought they were beads. But upon further examination, I found that they were teeth. He had kept all his children’s “fairy teeth.” I called to tell him of my find. As you can imagine, he was more than a little thankful that I had found these treasures to return to him.

I'm trying to think of a moral to this story but one eludes me. Perhaps it would be to follow our premonitions and dreams more often. However, the experience of finding the treasure box has stayed with me more than the precognitive dream. Just seeing an entire life in that one little box – it makes me feel the impermanence of our lives somehow. How quickly it all passes and how important it is to treasure every moment that we have now.

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  1. There goes those goosebumps again! I have the same kind of dreams or premonitions. Sometimes they can be quite scary other times a blessing.
    I think artists are more "in tune" with whats around us.

    I would say you hit the motherload and how beautiful and different each of your creations are.

  2. Ohhhhhhh Cheryl, this is a beautiful truth story. The universe called you there through a dream or whatever higher source you may call it, you were truly touched with what I call an unmistakable touch of Grace. I hope you have many more :)

    That would be great to have those dreams, you must be on a high spiritual level when you sleep girl :) Lucky you!

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