art helps me grieve…

art journaling: grief - susie carranza studio

Friday, October 20th, was the fourth anniversary of my sister Patty’s unexpected death. Four years. Since then, every subsequent October 20th always start out terribly, sadly, sometimes angrily for me. I wake up in the early morning hours and relive … Continue reading

Dia de Los Muertos, 2015…

Gorgeous papel picado, entrance to San Gabriel Mission Cemetery - susie carranza studio

Sharing my Dia de Los Muertos weekend in photos… (Please read my post from 2012 – Dia de Los Angelitos… to see our home altar that year.) ’til next time…

not much painting going on…

the past several days have been very busy around here. unfortunately, no new artwork has been created in that time!

this past week, my mother-in-law ended up in the emergency room. she ended up undergoing another angioplasty to open up a blocked artery. so Lawrence and I have been spending our days at her house, keeping a watchful eye…

on a more positive note, renovations are finally under way at my in-laws’ house. a little backstory on that: when my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in January 2013, Lawrence made the decision that he wanted us to move in with his parents for the time they had left with us. unfortunately, there were other individuals in the house who stood in the way of us doing that in time to live with my father-in-law (we lost him within a month; he passed away February 2013). I won’t get into the details, but I will say that we are FINALLY able to get necessary repairs done to the house, getting us closer to moving into Lawrence’s childhood home so we can live and care for his mom. so we’re also dealing with contractors and renovations! I’m enjoying seeing the work being done – I really wanted to join in and tear down some walls…

so, as you can imagine, I’m not getting much artwork done. today’s the first day I’ve been home for awhile, and it was spent printing out invoices and letting customers know orders were shipped out. I do have some photos to share, at least!

’til next time…

newest pieces: mixed media wood plaques

newest pieces: mixed media wood plaques

on our way to Kaiser Permanente on Sunset Blvd.

on our way to Kaiser Permanente on Sunset Blvd.

lavender hibiscus in my in laws' garden

lavender hibiscus in my in laws’ garden

bougainvillea flower hanging on to Lawrence's shoe

bougainvillea flower hanging on to Lawrence’s shoe

spent most of a hot Friday under this...

spent most of a hot Friday under this…

find the beauty everyday…

life’s been rough. for a while now.

i don’t want to rehash here; you can catch up on our almost buying our first house (so – they say things happen for a reason), loss, and more loss…(my sister patty…) add to that, my husband and i are currently living in my parents’ house (waiting to move into his parents’ house, but that’s a whole OTHER story…) and i’m trying to help my mother heal from a long bout with pneumonia.

and when time permits, i try to further my life as an artist.

i’m not looking for pity here. i know lots of people (in my real life and in my social media circles) who have gone and are still going through trying times. when life seems to suck, your dreams seem dashed, and you want to just stay in bed sleeping or eating ice cream (don’t judge me!)…

what do you do?

one thing not to do –

don’t ever stop seeing the beauty around you.

this morning, i was helping my father roll the trash cans out to the street for garbage pick up. i was pulling the trash can with one hand and talking on the phone with my husband on the other. i was looking down at the gravel driveway when i saw something shiny.  (if you knew me, this would be funny – my husband teases me about getting “shinied” – distracted – all the time.)  i thought it might be just broken glass but my curiosity was enough that on the way back from the curb – both hands now free – i picked it up.

my father asked what i’d found.  it was this beautiful, unbroken, glass flower:


this little found treasure made me so happy! my father and i took turns holding it up to the sun and looking at it.

it was beautiful. and has now found a home in a small box until i decide how best to show it off.

later, i heated up some food and headed to my room to eat, planning on working on the computer at the same time. when i came to my bedroom door, hot bowl of food in hand, i found i’d locked myself out. (i’d locked the door earlier as i was changing clothes, and went out the back door to help my father with the trash cans. thus leaving my door locked.)

i grumbled, then laughed at myself and went outside. i needed to go around the house, go through the washroom door and into our bedroom to unlock the other door. maneuvering around the laundry lines, the air conditioner unit, and our dog, i again looked down.

a tiny yellow flower growing out of the concrete, in the crack between the house and the walkway, seemed to be looking at me…


a thing of beauty. again.

if i had not been looking at my surroundings today – while dragging trash cans, maneuvering around physical obstacles, scolding myself for leaving a door locked – i would have missed it.

it was a lesson to me today. recently i’ve been angry at our circumstances, feeling tired, fed up, put upon even, and misplaced…

these two flowers – two very different flowers! – reminded me to always look around me. it was as if a higher power was telling me “here’s a little gift just for you.”

things of beauty surround us.

treasures wait to be found.

if only we look.

so please, no matter what your circumstances, whatever is happening in your immediate world – don’t forget to look around.

sometimes all it takes is a little thing, a simple thing, to make us smile. and, if only for a while, forget everything else…♥

’til next time…

around here…

i’m not in a celebrating-the-holidays mood.  losing my sister in october and losing my father-in-law in february did not leave me in a party mood. our thanksgiving here was a quiet meal with my parents, my brother, and my nephew. (my husband lawrence was with his mother.)  it was quiet, peaceful, and simple.  we also had a small cake for my mom; that day was also her 79th birthday.

lawrence and i did visit Huntington Library again a couple of weeks ago. (read my other post about the gorgeous library and botanical gardens here.) this visit was more about just clearing our heads and getting some exercise, so i was not concerned about taking too many photographs…

zen garden, huntington library, nov. 2013(i love how lawrence’s shadow looks in this photo!)

huntingtonlibrary_nov2013_2we watched some ducks for a while…

huntingtonlibrary_nov2013_4bridge in the japanese garden…

so – not many pictures to share this time, but we enjoyed the day.  we even finally had lunch in the tea room: garlic shrimp spring rolls with jasmine tea.  it was delicious!

i haven’t been painting as much as i should be, but i did start up again.  funny thing – even though i don’t feeling much in the holiday spirit, i have been painting ornaments for my Etsy art shop – and enjoying it!


i added a pretty metal heart charm on sheer ribbon around the birds’ necks…


birdwoodglitterygreenHOLIDAYWMif you’d like to see what i’ve been adding to my Etsy shop, please check it out – hopefully you’ll find some holiday gifts you can check off your list! ♥

my wish for you…

trio of candles on window sill

tomorrow (thanksgiving day) will be a quiet day here.  it will be the first thanksgiving day without my father-in-law, and without my sister patty

I’ll be cooking a simple birthday dinner for my mom (her 79th birthday) & hanging out with my parents. I do want to wish all of you a wonderful holiday, surrounded by those who matter most to you.

remember what’s important.  life changes in an instant…

i leave you with these words:

          live with intention. walk to the edge. listen hard. practice wellness. play with abandon. laugh. choose with no regret. appreciate your friends. continue to learn. do what you love. live as if this is all there is. – Mary Anne Radmacher

until next time…♥






my sister patty…

it’s Dia de los Muertos time – a time i LOVE. the tradition, the colors, the altars…all the beautiful ways of celebrating the lives of loved ones no longer here on earth.

i  had planned to blog about Dia de los Muertos: share photos from events we planned to attend, share new Dia de los Muertos artwork, create a new altar and share with you…

then, on October 20th, 2013, we unexpectedly lost my sister Patty.

everything stopped.

i closed my Etsy shops indefinitely.  stayed off of Facebook.  retreated.  looked after my parents.

one day i’ll share with you the story of my sister Patty.  she was one of my biggest supporters.  she would go to my Etsy shop without telling me and buy LOTS of items – never asking for a discount, AND paying for shipping. (we live in the same house.)

as my brother Tommy best describes it – “your story is one of redemption, inspiration and love.

me & my sister patty at our old house

me & patty

i miss my sister.  whenever we have our own home and set up our altar once again, and when i’m ready, i’ll have a very special place for her.

rest in peace, patty.


’tis the season – for Dia de los Muertos…

i love this time of year, when there are lots of events and shows celebrating Dia de los Muertos.  i was going to write about it, but realized i already did last year, which you can read at Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead: Honoring Loved Ones No Longer Here.  i also love creating pieces Dia de los Muertos style, like these hand painted & embellished mini wood coffins.  they’re perfect for keeping on your home altars for your loved ones who are no longer here, with space inside for small mementos or treasures.

hand painted and embellished mini coffins, Dia de los Muertos style

hand painted and embellished mini coffins, Dia de los Muertos style

i’m happy to say that the first three sold quickly after i posted photos on my facebook page – so i created more today:

mini wood coffins, hand painted and embellished Dia de los Muertos style

hand painted and embellished mini coffins, Dia de los Muertos style

here’s just a sampling of some of my DOD (Day of the Dead) work on our website:


and some from my Etsy shop:


i learned so much about Dia de los Muertos from Annette Armas (i’ve mentioned her before, Annette of CJ’s Angels and our Arte de Nuestro Corazon business partner).  she creates Dia de los Muertos art like it should be:  beautiful, colorful, culturally-inspired, in a way that honors the tradition of celebrating loved ones no longer here.

check out some of Annette’s work for yourself, and let me know what you think:

work by Annette Armas

work by Annette Armas

Annette and her daughter Theresa also have a gorgeous 2014 calendar out right now, with 14 all new images, all Dia de los Muertos (the calendar is available for purchase right now at Arte de Nuestro Corazon, while supplies last!):


So – do any of you celebrate Dia de los Muertos?  what do you do?  if you have a related blog post, please share in the comments.  i’d love to see what you’re up to for Dia de los Muertos…

healing power of art…

Angel Shrine by Lawrence Aguilar

it’s no secret that 2013 has been rough for us.  end of last year – we were buying a house.  right now – we are living in my parents’ home since the sale fell through.  then – we had planned to live near both sets of parents.  right now – lawrence’s dad passed away unexpectedly a month ago.  we have been dealing with the unexpected happenings as best we can.

which, sometimes, isn’t too well…

like it or not, life does go on and you have to deal with things or stay where you are.  last night, lawrence and i finally allowed ourselves to talk about possible future plans.  one of the highlights for me was that he said he wants to start creating art pieces again.

On the “About Us” page on our website at Arte de Nuestro Corazon, this is what is says about Lawrence:

Lawrence Aguilar is new to art. He was introduced to the art world by his wife Susie Carranza. Lawrence prefers painting on wood and clay. He also enjoys working in mixed media.

Not much information, right?  truth is my husband has a full-time job, with a full-time income which allows me to work from home.  he doesn’t have the time to create that i do.  but when he does, he creates beautiful work.

i first saw what my husband could do at CJ’s Angels, an awesome shop in La Verne owned by the Armas family.*  we signed up for a Day of the Dead workshop – making your own “muertito” (small day of the dead figure).  it was a big step for me – i very much consider myself an introvert, and signing up for a craft class with individuals i did not know, at a business we’d never visited, was a bit overwhelming for me.  lawrence signed up with me for support.

little did we know he’d love it.   i’m sitting there obsessing over my muertito, and when i turn to see what lawrence is up to i see that his piece is awesome!

since then he’s created beautiful works of art, (and sold several) like the angel shrine at the start of this post.  i love that he often uses recycled & reclaimed items: the gorgeous angel piece is a clay figure that had broken off of a Nativity set.  he combined that with a wood nicho (shrine), small clay tiles, and paint, and created a unique piece of new art.

here are a few other pieces done by Lawrence. the cross pieces were also done at workshops we attended at CJ’s Angels.  again, for the larger cross, he recycled clay pieces from broken Day of the Dead figures.  (the clay pieces were available for any of us at the workshop to use.  we’ve learned a lot from the Armas family about recycling pieces and using what you have when creating original work!)

some of Lawrence's mixed media work...

some of Lawrence’s mixed media work…

back to last night’s conversation: i was so glad to hear that Lawrence was ready to start creating new work because it really is true that art helps the healing process.  no, it will not take away the pain of losing someone so important in your life.  but there is an emotional release to breaking clay pieces, hammering pieces of wood, brushing gorgeous colors of paint onto a surface, creating something unique and beautiful out of random items and a few supplies…it’s hard to explain it if you haven’t experienced the process yourself.  but it really does help.

when it came to my work, my father in law was a big supporter.  i know he’d highly approve of his son getting back to his creative work.


*CJ’s Angels deserves a blog post of its own, so look for it in the near future.  You can check out their website at CJ’s Angels.  lawrence and i have become very close friends with the Armas family – Jose, Annette, and Theresa.  that friendship led to our business venture:  Arte de Nuestro Corazon.