2/18/2013 - Online art shop inspired by positive message
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times
For Patti Digh, art is magnificent in meaning.
"Art is a way we make meaning in our lives," the Asheville author noted. "It serves as an identity function. It helps us know who we are and what we value."
Art is also key to who Digh is and what she values. She values art for art's sake, celebrating its beauty and the care behind handmade. She values the artists behind the art: Digh keeps a big binder of notes and cards of artisans she met on her extensive travels across the globe.
She also values the community created through this creative process, the connections made.
Digh, an author best-known for her award-winning blog-turned-book titled "37 Days," has founded a community -- in cyberspace, no less -- to help support the real-world community of artists. In December, she launched Patti Digh Designs for Life, an online store and gallery. A longtime dream, the site offers handcrafted works of art, each closely tied to an uplifting message from her collection of work.
"It just made sense that if people wanted things to remind them of these messages, we should partner with artists to" provide them, she said.
Digh started writing her popular blog after the 2003 death of her stepfather, who died 37 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Digh wrote down thoughts, observances and life lessons big and small. The book and a blog by the same name resonated, and Digh has since gone on to publish "Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally," "Creative Is a Verb: If You're Alive, You're Creative" and "What I Wish for You: Simple Wisdom for a Happy Life." Four of Digh's works are also available for purchase on the site.
"I really think of this project as an Etsy site but one that would be centered around art that supported the message of my books, which is living intentionally and living mindfully.
"I want to provide the things that people really want in their houses. And I was really intent that if I am going to support a group of people, I want to support the people who are helping us figure out who we are." The website features work from a dozen artists and such items as bracelets, paintings, plaques, ceramic art, necklaces and hand-painted works.
Two of the artists, potter Andrea Freeman and illustrator Robin Plemmons, live in Asheville, while others hail from Indiana, Wisconsin, California, Georgia, New Hampshire and New Mexico.
As a further commitment to the art community and the healing power of art, the website donates 10 percent of net profits from the sale of handcrafted products to Arts for Life. This North Carolina nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing arts opportunities to children fighting serious illnesses. (In Asheville, the group supports programming in Mission's hospitals).
"There is a mindfulness in the creative community for something to have meaning," she said. "Asheville has a lot of energy for art here, and we have a climate that supports entrepreneurs."
Digh moved to Asheville in 2002. She was born in Morganton, then went on to college, traveled extensively and spent 20 years in Washington, where she opened international divisions for trade organizations.
She left that job in 1996 to start her own business working as a diversity trainer and on social justice issues.
Digh published two business-related books on international business issues and diversity issues before she turned her pen turned personal. She launched the "37 Days" in 2003 and challenged herself to ask every morning: What would I be doing today if I had only 37 days left to live?
These answers appear in the resulting book, "Life is a Verb," which is part meditation and memoir. A few weeks before "Life is a Verb" was due to the publishers, Digh received a piece of art inspired by one of her essays. Digh was so inspired by these artists' connection -- and resulting visual expression of -- her work, that she decided to included this submitted artwork in the "Life Is a Verb" publication. "I put a call out on my blog for artists to illustrate these messages," she said, noting 125 pieces were submitted. "Someone called the book an artistic barn-raising. When the book arrived, I had this great sense of community."
Artists continue and inspire her. "The classes I teach online on creativity and the writings I do on the subject are informed by the stories I hear from artists I work with on t he site."
And the current crop of artists is just the beginning: Throughout this year, the work of more artisans will be unveiled as well as a wider array of home goods. She's also accepting artist application on the site, so visit www.PattiDighDesignsforLife.com.