Saturday, February 5, 2022

Kris’ foray into Ella-May

 In 2009, shortly after marrying Kris, she started making gorgeous, beaded sterling silver jewelry, mostly in the form of earrings. As with everything she made, she put so much care and craft into her jewelry work, bending and cutting the wires until they were just right, while choosing just the right colors and combinations of beads. We made many a trip to the local arts and crafts stores to find what she needed - those trips also doubled as dates, and I remember how much fun we had, as she’d break out into dance when a song (usually from the 90s) played over the PA system, or I’d attempt to sing (usually from a song from the 80s). In AC Moore we even had an aisle where we’d have to kiss, with each visit. That was our idea of fun, and we loved it. Her jewelry eventually found it’s way to a wonderful little gallery in Leesburg called The Galleries of South King Street, run by our friend Laura, who I met during one of my frequent walks around town. She was one of the first people who so kindly showed and sold our work - something I’ll always be so grateful for, and it marked the start of Kris’ first foray into an art-based business called Ella-May, named after her grandmothers. She even designed her own beautiful packaging. While Kris had experienced some success with her jewelry, she eventually found that the time, labor, and energy, not to mention the cost of materials, wasn’t enough of an even trade-off to continue pursuing the craft, despite the enjoyment she got from making this type of work. Not one to stay down, Kris moved on to take on another creative endeavor and never quite returned to making jewelry. She said how most people didn’t understand the time, effort, labor, and love put into such work, and were more willing to spend money on cheap, assembly-line costume jewelry. If anything, it was a reminder to the both of us, to support other artists and makers, especially the living ones, as it continued to fuel the fires for them to continue making beautiful handmade work straight from the heart.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

reflecting on Hourly Comics Day 2014

Exactly eight years ago I participated in the 24-hour Comics Day project. It was 2014, I lifted weights, drank power shakes, did NOT listen to Eye of the Tiger, while working out, and dabbled in drawing some comics - something I was never particularly good at but it was a nice challenge, nonetheless. I’m glad I chronicled a day in the life of Kris and I, on that particular weekend, as we were fairly new home-owners and were just settling into a new phase of our life. While Kris and I loved spending lots of time together, we also allowed ourselves the occasional time apart for personal endeavors. I like how I even mentioned Kris making some decent art sales from a little former coffee house in Shepherdstown. I also like that I included us kissing, at some point, and there was not a single day that passed when we didn’t kiss. So much has changed since then, and so much of it we never saw coming. Having her in my life was like having a soft, warm blanket always ready to cover you with love, even on the most difficult of days. I would do anything to bring it all back, but I’m glad I recorded so many of our days together in photographs, in writing, and in this case, comics - memories that were never taken for granted, and will always be cherished.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Refrigerator Magnet People

I think it’s safe to say that Kris and I were refrigerator magnet people, and many of the little magnets on our fridge were made by her, including the little donuts, purses, and glass circles with patterns. Again, she could have started her own sculpey clay magnet business, her designs were so precise and well-crafted. A good artist friend of mine was telling me yesterday how she was inspired by some of Kris’ watercolor work, but soon realized just how difficult the medium was, and how easy Kris made it look. I agreed, and told her that Kris had what I called “magic hands”, but the truth was, Kris loved to learn and practice things, until she got it right. That said, I still think there was indeed some magic in that girl. I know there was. 

Many of the magnets were a reflection of the places we’d go - the “mini-vacations” we’d take. We preferred to explore what was in our own backyard rather than go on big epic trips. Favorites included the beaches of Delaware, Charlottesville, Virginia, Pittsburgh, PA, and the Wintergreen Resort, among many others. Kris’ desire to learn about other people, places, and the world she lived in was insatiable, and oftentimes she’d see the name of a road while we were traveling, and look up information on that name and it’s origins, and before long I’d get a full education on the topic. I loved that about her so much. She was also a big audio book person, and on our trips she’d choose stories about people like Sir Ken Robinson, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bunny Melon, and most recently Anderson Cooper. She loved learning about other people, and their fascinating life stories, as she was building her own beautiful and fascinating life story. Kris’ mother Jan would tell me how curious her daughter was, even at a very early age, sharing all kinds of adorable tales of her trying to figure things out and attempting to verbalize her findings, as a toddler. I’m not surprised at all by this, and I’m so glad that her thirst for knowledge and lust for life carried on into adulthood, as it has made me a much better human being as well.


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Tiny Reminders

There were times I’d find things like one of Kris’ hairs in my toothbrush, or her bath towel hanging off of a door in the house, instead of wherever it was supposed to be hanging. My favorite was finding something we’d jokingly refer to as “colonies”, which would occasionally pop up throughout random areas of the house. What’s a colony, you ask? Well, they were little groupings of cups, or glasses, and sometimes even plates or dishes that would all seem to gather in one space before being collected and placed into the dishwasher. Sometimes they’d gather together in Kris’ art studio, or at her bed stand. Occasionally you’d find them under a lamp, on a stand next to the couch in the living room. It’s not that Kris was messy at all. Quite the contrary, as she was the queen of the deep clean, and I was more of a tidy up kind of guy. In fact, she’d sometimes ask me to go “Steve Loya” on the house right before we’d expect a guest under short notice. I knew exactly what that meant. Despite finding these things, I’d be sure to never get mad or upset about it. Maybe mildly irritated, but never mad, because I’d always tell myself that there might be a day when I don’t get to see these tiny reminders of Kris, and experience the love we have for each other, ever again. Who ever thought that day would have arrived, and arrive so soon? Still, even after my sweet Kris has left, I find these tiny reminders of her presence - her beautiful, innocent, loving soul lingering throughout the house. She always loved stickers, and got good at making her own (of her own artwork). She probably could’ve started her very own sticker empire, and made lots of money, but instead Kris seemed to prefer to make things for fun, often to give away to friends and acquaintances. Her generous personality was just one of a thousand qualities that I loved so much about that beautiful girl.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Crochet Love

 After an early morning of house cleaning, I thought it would be nice to take a break in front of the fire, in anticipation of the impending winter storm. Hot chocolate: check. Marshmallows (jumbo sized): check. One of Kris’ favorite mugs (with Bear): check. Warm crocheted quilt, made with love by Kris Loya: check. I still remember one of Kris’ first attempts at crochet - just after we got married she went to a little workshop at a great art and music space in Vienna, Virginia run by our friend Jen, called The Soundry. I remember Kris leaving the workshop feeling so discouraged because she found crochet nearly impossible, as a lefty. Still, she persisted, as they say, and watched lots of You Tube tutorials, etc, until she could make a whole square. Not long after that, she learned how to attach multiple squares to make a big, beautiful quilt. She even went with a color scheme that she knew I’d like. Her patience and determination, and her unending desire to keep learning and trying new things never ceased to amaze me, and still continues to, today and always.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Beary Wintergreen

 Meet Beary (Beary Wintergreen, Bear Bear, or just Bear). Kris always had an affinity for a good stuffed animal, and I imagine many of us had a teddy bear at some point in our lives. I remember getting him for Kris while staying at the Wintergreen Resort, in 2009, shortly after we got married. We were having brunch and she was saying how she had to take home this little stuffed bear she saw, because he had such a kind face. I remember balking at the fact that he was $25, but in the end, she had to have him. “Whatever makes you happy!”, I told her, laughing. Fast forward to when Kris was first diagnosed. I remember us laying down together at home afterwards, holding each other, wondering what had just happened. “How can this be true?”, we were thinking. I remember Kris then asked if I could get her some tea, and when I returned, she had Beary propped on her chest, holding him in her hands, just looking at him, as if to say, “what do we do now?”. Just thinking of that moment gave me a good cry this morning, as I don’t have time to dwell so much in these thoughts, on weekday mornings when I have to go to work. From that day on, Beary was with her every single day and night, including at the hospital. When Kris’ anxiety got bad, and it got real bad throughout much of her ordeal, she’d put Bear on her chest at night to help her fall asleep. I remember how Kris was so impressed with one of the nurses, who she befriended, who kindly asked where to move her “little friend”. Kris appreciated that nurse’s keen sense of compassion, and how she simply “got it”. Even up to the very end, when things were frightening and terrifying, Kris would hold on to Beary. To the insufferably rational mind, this might all seem so absurd that a grown up would have, or need a teddy bear, but then again, that person could never understand, and most likely not even try to empathize with what Kris was going through. The truth is, any little thing to help her get through the next day, hour, or minute, even, was a good thing, even if it was just a little stuffed bear, who might have costed $25, but whose presence, especially during the most challenging of times, was absolutely priceless.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Jeff Duka art

 I’m in love with this new painting I acquired from Jeff Duka . Jeff posted this piece not long after I lost my sweet Kris to cancer, and it immediately spoke to me, as they say, reminding me of the light that my wife was to so many people when she was alive, and how her brilliant light still and always will shine brightly in the darkness, even long after she’s gone from this world. I’ve always told people that @krisloyaart was the sunshine I never knew I needed in my life, until I met her, and that sunshine will always be with me until it’s my time to go as well. Last night I visited Jeff to pick up the painting, and it was so good to just sit down and talk a bit, and see what he’s been working on, and listen to some great music over a cup of tea. The occasional visit to or from a friend, phone calls and even text messages have been immensely helpful in getting through such a difficult time, and I’m so grateful to everyone, including Jeff for having me over. Please check out Jeff Duka’s art if you can - he’s a truly spectacular painter whose work holds a sublime and mysterious beauty beyond words, plus he’s such a kind and laid back individual, who doesn’t really promote his work much.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Installing Art at Maryland Art Place

Yesterday, David Modler invited me to help him install work at Maryland Art Place, in Baltimore. Him and Sam Peck will be hosting an ongoing, interactive exhibit that will be a work-in-progress in and of itself, inviting visitors to contribute to the show in the form of collaborative drawing. Dave and Sam were kind enough to designate a space to my beloved Kris, in a portion of the gallery, as a way to honor her beautiful, creative spirit and legacy. It is a deeply touching gesture that gave me a bit of chills after I finished hanging some small selections of her art, with Dave’s work serving as a sort of anchor and backdrop, making it a collaboration in and of itself. These photos are just a small segment of the exhibit, which is starting to shape up nicely, and spans a very large amount of space. I am so incredibly grateful to know Dave and Sam, who are a couple of the most thoughtful, creative, and considerate individuals around, and who I’m so proud to have as friends.


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Kris Hat

 Going to run some errands today, while wearing this beautiful hat that @krisloyaart knit for me a while back. As with every single thing Kris made, it was made with so much love, and she chose yellow/gold because I’m originally from Pittsburgh. It turned out the hat looked a whole lot cuter on Kris than on me, so it kind of ended up being her hat more than mine. I don’t care how silly it looks on my head, though, and I think I’ll be wearing it a lot more often this winter.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Bittersweet Snow Day

Today feels bittersweet. We got our first official snow day, and our call(s) from Wayde. Kris would get more excited than me, when we’d get that call and hear “This is Wayde Byard, Public Information Officer for Loudoun County Public Schools…”, announcing in his signature baritone voice that school is canceled because of the snow. Kris got more giddy than most of my students, probably, as she’d rush to the window and stare at the falling white flakes, smiling, mesmerized and always in awe. We’d usually crawl back in bed under the warm covers for a while, before making our way downstairs for a hot beverage and a movie. I’m missing that terribly right now, and while I appreciate the snow day (it’s in a teacher’s dna to appreciate snow days), it kind of feels like having the hot chocolate without the marshmallows, or the cake without the icing. I wondered if I should even put something like this out there for people to see. Kris was never the type to share anything too personal on social media, even up to the end, and I try not to get too carried away myself. That said, I’m going to enjoy this first snow day as best as I can, while wearing some comfy socks that Kris knit for me not long ago (she could do almost anything, really), and watch the falling white flakes while sipping from a cup of hot coffee.