Coming Home

This girl has been trying to maintain not one, not two, but three blogs for the past few years. Needless to say, it got a bit overwhelming, especially since I tried writing on at least two of them every day. It took longer than expected, but overwhelm eventually hit, and I sort of crashed and burned. I couldn’t simply cut back, so I stopped writing altogether. A few previously scheduled posts kept my websites on life support until I was ready to wake them out of their literary coma.

But I did not stop creating piano art. In fact, here’s a sampling of the latest work to come from my studio.

And there is so much more still waiting to make the leap from idea to icon.

Not only am I happy to be working in the studio, I’m also very excited to be coming back to the blog after an extended absence so I can get my finger back on the WordPress pulse and reenter this society which I’ve come to know and love.

This past week, as I worked on reviving the writing mode within, I began by setting more reasonable goals for all three blogs. Yes, after much deliberation, I’ve decided to resume all of them, but I’ll bring a little common sense to the table this time.

What can you expect here at Encore?

The plan is to write once a week, on Tuesdays. I’ll continue my two series, From the Studio and Piano History, generally alternating between the two; and I’ll also share more curated posts from others. Curating does two things: (1) It helps my fellow writers expand their audience, and (2) It motivates me to spend nearly as much time reading as writing. After all, if we aren’t going to mingle with one another, why do we bother to write?

During my absence, WordPress changed. A lot. But change is good. Granted, in some ways, I feel as though I’m starting over again, knowing little to nothing about blogging. But it isn’t really true. I have a foundation upon which to build. And I’m truly excited about the new ways (or at least more accessible ways) to turn the blog into a platform for earnings. This makes my husband happy too, knowing that I now have the potential to see a return on the many hours of effort going into this endeavor.

I speak for many artists and small businesses when I say that the Covid-19 pandemic has robbed me of several opportunities to reach my audience face to face. Online sales are up, but they have not yet reached the full potential that was there with in-person craft fairs and art shows. I think it’s because the real me does not get to connect with the real you. That’s one reason why I’ve written this down-to-earth article. I want to speak candidly with you, take the mask off and be real with you. The financial aid available to other small businesses does not apply to me because I cannot state with certainty just how much income I’ve lost because I don’t pay myself a salary. The best I can do is estimate based upon historical sales, but that isn’t enough to slice through the red tape. No, I am dependent upon the love and concern of family, friends, and followers like you who are willing to say, “What you’re doing is important. It matters. And I want to help you keep doing it.”

How can you help?

There are four ways you can help Encore! Old Pianos to stay in business:

(1) Make a one-time or monthly donation. I recently added a donation button to Encore’s home screen. This is something new that awaited me when I returned to WordPress, and I decided to jump on board. That said, if you have found my site helpful and/or interesting, I’d appreciate your showing the love with a one-time or monthly donation.

Your donation will help me be able to dedicate more time to painting, creating, and writing. I’m currently working a part-time temporary job outside the house, but I have no desire to work permanently for someone else. My heart is here in my studio, and my passion is making people smile by providing them with unique piano art to celebrate their own talents and contributions to society. I’d love nothing more than to be able to stay home and keep doing what I’m doing—saving old pianos from the landfill—and to keep getting better at it by means of study and experience.

(2) Make a purchase. Do you see something here that you just can’t live without? Why not make it yours?

And what about the musicians in your life for whom you typically purchase a gift? Your child, sibling, parent who sings or plays an instrument? And don’t forget the teachers. Most of my items are actually purchased as gifts for music students, music teachers, choir/band directors, etc. Sometimes the entire band/choir will go in together to purchase a substantial gift for their leader.

(3) Spread the word. This is the most important of all, for the best advertising is word-of-mouth. Have you enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look at how my piano art comes together? Have you been able to make an informed decision on the purchase of a piano after reading one of my history articles? Or perhaps I’ve helped you identify the year your piano was made. Have you been delighted with the gems I share from my fellow bloggers? And have you been the giver—or recipient—of a piece of piano art, or perhaps a key chain or home décor item? Do you simply appreciate the fact that my end goal is to help protect our environment by repurposing old pianos that others throw out? Then tell your friends because maybe what resonated with you will also resonate with them.

(4) Donate your old piano and worn-out pieces. This last option is rather exclusive, but no less important than the rest. Perhaps you’re a piano technician, or you know one, who grieves each time you have to burn or otherwise discard the old, worn action parts. Why not send them to me? I can make great use of them.

Or maybe you own a piano that was destroyed in a fire or other disaster. I have traveled as many as 200 miles to retrieve a load of discarded pianos and sundry action pieces. And do you know how I learned about them? Through word-of-mouth! Someone passed my name along, and before I knew it, my sons and I were traveling two states over to meet a wonderful retired technician and his daughter and grandson. In fact, that’s how almost all of the 20 pianos came to me, through word-of-mouth.

And if the piano has special significance to you, I can give you a gift in exchange for your donation. Many a donor now has a piece of their cherished piano in their home, serving a practical or ornamental function while also reminding them of the many memories made while seated at those keys.

So, yes, I’m home. . .back home with my WordPress family, and asking you to receive me with open arms as I reach out to you. As I click the “Publish” button, I can almost hear you say, “Welcome home!”

The Story Behind the Art

Lyon & Healy upright grand piano

In 2010 my children and I drove to Lakeland, Florida, for my grandmother’s funeral. The trip took us directly past my birthplace. At the time of my birth, my dad was in a Navy school. We left that place when I was one week old, and I had not been back since. So I decided that on the way home from the funeral, we would stop in this little town and see the place where I was born.

As it turns out, a typical Florida rainstorm slowed our travel down to a crawl, and most of the places of business were closed by the time we got there, including the museum of history. But the art gallery was still open. My sons were not interested, so I left them in the parking lot to play in the remnants of the rainstorm (now a drizzle) while my daughter and I checked out the art gallery. In the gallery we saw some amazing things, but the most pertinent part to this story is the figurine of Don Quixote mounted on his trusty steed Rocinante. Why? Because it was made from piano parts. I was intrigued, but I couldn’t afford to buy it, so I took a photo of it. I have no idea what happened to that photo, but I logged it in the back of my mind somewhere…..

About a year later our church burned down. We lost the entire sanctuary, and all the rest of the building was destroyed by smoke and water. Someone kindly donated a very old Lyon & Healy upright grand piano to the church, but it would have cost thousands to restore it, and the pastor preferred to put that money toward a new piano. So he announced, “Whoever can take it can have it.” Suddenly I remembered the figurine made of piano parts, and I knew this old piano had a purpose, and that I held the key to unlock it. Thus it was that our family became the happy owners of that beautiful Lyon & Healy.

The Lyon & Healy manufacturing company was established in 1864, and by tracing the serial number, I’ve been able to determine that this piano was made in 1906. We spent several days disassembling it, then cleaning, separating, and sorting the pieces. Right away ideas began to flow of things I could make from them. I would hold the pieces in various positions and let my imagination soar. Like finding shapes in the clouds, I saw people, giraffes, and chickens in the piano. I also saw circles—lots of them… and flowers, and music….

As the business continued to grow, I realized that I needed a logo. I had a vision for it, and I called on my children to help me bring the vision to light. My daughter Mary Beth drew out the first sketch. Then Matthew embellished Mary’s original idea, and I took what the two of them had formulated and put the finishing touches on it. (Bobby’s field of expertise is in moving the pianos. That boy has the strength of Samson, and I thank God for him.)

 

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“Harnessing the Energy”

The story continues, as I have used nearly every piece from that first piano and have reclaimed twelve other old pianos besides… and counting. Truly there are still a few songs to be played from these old pianos. It has been a rewarding and enjoyable task to find them and deliver them to you. I make creations of my own imagining, and I do commissioned work as well. If you have an idea for something unique for yourself or a loved one, let me know, and I’ll see if I can make it happen for you.

To view examples of my art, please visit the Gallery of Piano Art on this site.

And by all means, please stop by my Etsy shop. You are more than welcome!

 

 

The Story Behind the Artist

Pentax film camera with flash

As a teen I had a sketchbook in which I would draw with ordinary Number 2 pencils. I drew pictures of stuffed animals belonging to my sisters and me, of the Tennessee mountains as we traveled through on family vacations, and of my friends. I also copied pictures from magazines…. I still have that sketchbook.

In high school I continued to draw a little, but photography became much more important to me. A dear friend gave me my first “grown up” camera, a Pentax ME Super. I read the manual from cover to cover and took hundreds of photos, keeping track of my settings in a spiral notebook so that when the film was developed, I could see the impact the settings made on the shots…. I still have that camera.

While photography was my passion, I did not necessarily see it as my calling. Several teachers greatly influenced my life, most of them English teachers, so I went to college to prepare to join their ranks. In 1992 I graduated with a BA in English and began teaching right away. As I mentioned yesterday, most of my teaching career was invested in the teaching of Spanish, algebra, and music. Spanish was my minor, algebra my hobby, and music my other passion. 🙂 Oddly enough, I taught English only one year—my final year in formal education—and I must say that eighth grade class was my crowning joy.

In 1994 I married a handsome sailor whom I had met at church, and by 2001 we had three precious children. I loved teaching—pouring my life into the lives of my students—but there wasn’t enough of me to go around, so in 2006 I left the traditional setting for good to teach my own children at home.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine offered art classes to the homeschoolers at our church. My children all signed up, and my friend let me audit the class as well. In Art I, she introduced us to drawing in 2-point perspective, charcoal, pen and ink, 2D and 3D wire sculpture, clay sculpture, color pencil, acrylic, and watercolor. My fascination with art was reawakened. I was drawing again, and painting now too. And I learned that color pencils are not just for children!

color pencil drawing of a bunch of peppers
My first color pencil study, “One of a Kind,” on red Canson paper

That same year our church hosted its first craft fair to raise funds for teen mission trips, and my teacher/friend and I rented a table together to sell her paintings and my photographs. I created a line called Scenic Scriptures, in which I combined original photographs with Scripture verses. I presented them in a variety of sizes as prints—mounted, matted, or framed—as well as trinket boxes, trays, greeting cards, and refrigerator magnets. I made a small profit, but more importantly, I made a big impression on many friends who encouraged me to continue learning and developing in the area of art.

2Cor 4v7, 4x6
Many of my photos come from the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina and Virginia.

For four years I sold my art at craft fairs, and slowly a vision grew within me of doing this full-time. At the time, I was spread pretty thin, with my time and attention divided among several responsibilities and ambitions. But I had a burning desire to paint and make piano art, so I took steps toward that end. Slowly I phased out the Scenic Scriptures and devoted all my time to making piano art. This was not because I didn’t like the work with photography, but because that field is already saturated, and precious few people are making art with pianos.

Conductor 2013
“The Conductor” was the first piece I ever created from piano parts.

All my plans and dreams came to a screeching halt, it seemed, when in August 2016 my husband received a job transfer. After 35 years in Virginia, we were moving 900 miles away to a place where we knew almost no one. I was sad to leave my dear friends and church family, but happy for the chance to make a clean break from my other endeavors so I could focus more fully on art. The first few months were dedicated to settling in so the feeling of transition would not hang around indefinitely, and then I got busy with my dream of having a prosperous art business.

The transition proved to be more difficult than any of us could have imagined, and the dream nearly died. Between confusing state regulations, insufficient workspace, and tuition payments for three college students in private schools, the demands seemed more than I could handle. But it was not too much for my Abba. The Lord graciously showed both my husband and me that it was He who gave me this vision and the ability to draw, paint, and create things. I can do nothing less than give it all back to Him with a heart full of gratitude and faith to believe that He will meet all our needs according to His riches in Glory. In spite of many obstacles and setbacks…. by God’s grace I still have the vision!

 

 

The Story Behind the Writer

Holly Hobbie diary

My first diary was a small, hardbound book, adorned with a Holly Hobbie picture, and fastened with a lock that clasped on the front cover. Over the years I wrote my deepest, darkest secrets in that diary. Today it’s interesting to see not only how my handwriting evolved over the years, but also how my interests and writing styles developed. When did I write my first poem? I’m not sure. The earliest one I still have is from 1982, when I was 14 years old. I remember loving poetry and writing, but until college I only ever wanted to be a teacher, and an English teacher at that. As it turns out, in all my years of teaching, apart from teaching my own children, I only taught English one year. The other years I taught Spanish, algebra, and music. I enjoyed them all, but the crowning glory was that one year of 8th grade English. My teaching career would not have been complete without it.

In my senior year of college I took as many writing classes as I could fit into my schedule. After graduating, I enrolled in a correspondence course to study children’s literature, and learned that it was not for me. Later on I took another correspondence course, this time in poetry—and it clicked! This was my niche! I began to write profusely. The year was 2002. I was married and had all three children by this time, but they were small, and I made time to write.

My writing came and went in spurts over the years, but I had put together a collection of poems and anecdotes that I dreamed one day would be published. And then one day I met a lady who just happened to have editorial experience, and she asked to see my work. Long story short, she worked with me, and together we have gotten the manuscript ready for publication. Now the only thing holding me back is fear, I suppose. But that’s another story for another day…. At about the same time, this friend and others encouraged me to start blogging. And here I am.

As a writer, I maintain two blogs. The first is The Abundant Heart Blog, where I post devotionals, Bible studies, occasional poems, and Songs for Sunday. Also, most Fridays I like to participate in the Five-Minute Friday challenge hosted by Kate Motaung.

My other blog exists exclusively for poetry. Here, at Dark Side of the Moon, I write under my pseudonym Abigail Gronway (previously Linda Luna). On the Dark Side I focus on encouraging my fellow poets to try new and old forms of poetry, both rhymed and unrhymed, to broaden their horizons, as I do the same. I have an Incremental Poetry series, in which each poem is one line longer than the previous week’s entry, a themed challenge, a short poem on Sundays, plus I try each week to participate in a challenge by the hosts of d’Verse Poets Pub.

Believe it or not, with all the time I spend writing, I still consider it my avocation, and art I consider to be my vocation, although if my life depended on either of them, I would starve in a week! My sweet husband truly is the breadwinner of our family, but he allows me to follow my dreams, and I am thankful.

 

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

My website has been around a few years now, but for the past few months I’ve been transitioning from another host to WordPress. This is now my very first post on WordPress, the first of many, I hope. And you, I trust, will be one of many to join me on this journey. Unfortunately, I learned too late how to move my content from one to the other, so please bear with me as I painstakingly rebuild my site from scratch. 🙂

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

So who are you, and what do you do?

I’m glad you asked. My name is Angela Rueger. I am a daughter of the King of kings, having accepted God’s free gift of salvation through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ at the age of 21. Everything else I do is colored by my relationship with Him. Additionally I am a happy wife in my 25th year of marriage, a mother of three college students, an artist, a writer, a tax professional, and a caregiver to a dog, a cat, and a turtle. The dog and cat belong to two of my children, but the turtle is mine.

Over the next few days I’ll pull back the curtain little by little to reveal a little more about who I am as a writer and an artist, and then I’ll also introduce you to my art, including the story behind my smiling piano logo….

Thank you so much for stopping by. I look forward to many more visits!