We left our home the day after Christmas 2016. We spent the last 3 months planning, packing etc for our year long adventure. We decided to keep our small home in Seminole, Fl and rent it out via AirBnB . With no experience in this we were somewhat hesitant but we have found the site easy to use, the support staff excellent and we have much of the spring completely booked.
After spending 4 days in Naples with our good friends, we took off, and haven’t looked back. Our first big stop was New Orleans. Weather in Naples was beautiful! But we knew some colder, wetter weather was in our future for sure! Our week in New Orleans was very wet and cold. We managed one day of sunshine while in NOLA and spent that day visiting the French Quarter. We parked in Bayou Segnette State Park. It was a very clean, easy in and out park and want to stay here again hoping for some sunshine and warmer weather. With all the rain they’ve had recently, we feel like we are parking in the swamp. I’m sure the area is very pretty in the spring and summer but hey…in the winter, no bugs! (Unlike the million chiggers in Naples!) I can always find the sunny side of life.
At the moment, too much rain and cold weather have taken a toll on our fire pit and the park grill is struggling to stay above water!
The swamp keeps inching closer each day with the constant rain. And, it’s cold…cold… cold…cold….did I say cold??? The first night there it was 25 and we couldn’t figure out how to get the furnace to come on….what newbies we are!! (electric blanket at Walmart….$80….wow I didn’t know they were so expensive…that’s what Florida living for the last 15 years will do.) We finally did find the right button (the next day) for the furnace and that night it ran all night long. I’m starting to get used to the noise of the furnace.
The next day, we discovered we had the original batteries in our truck we purchased in March when our truck batteries decided it was time to take a hike. 3 hours later, and $300 bucks, we have 2 brand new truck batteries! Can it get any better??? How about 3 solid days of wind and rain….no internet and no tv. We could connect, but the constant wind/weather just made the station come and go. (Seriously rethinking dish network right now).
On to the fun day in the French Quarter! We started our day by taking the ferry from Algiers across the Mississippi to the French Quarter. Parking our truck in Algiers in a small lot, we walked to the Ferry…it looked deserted to us…maybe the cold, maybe the “off season”….but we soon paid our $1 and boarded and arrived on the other side of the Mississippi in just about 12 minutes!
First…off to Cafe Dumonde…yes…it has great beignets and strong coffee! Not expensive and worth the walk. Too bad we ate them all before I thought of taking pictures.
Next, we went walking through the Market and I found this little gift shop of local art called The Artist Market on Decatur St. Lots of local art NOLA style and I found some voodoo dolls there…made from polymer clay.
Being a polymer artist myself, I had to find out more about these unusual voodoo dolls. Little did I know that I would find such a personable and interesting person. After seeing her work, and getting her name from the store, I found the artist, Jeanette Myer by searching Facebook. She has no web site, she says, all her time is spent creating and she has a large business which does entirely herself. Her art can be found in all Fleurty Girl Stores and there probably isn’t a Carnival person that doesn’t know her name.
We decided to meet and talk and I’m so happy about that! She started saying to me that polymer saved her life! Turns out, Jeanette comes originally from New York, spent quite a bit of time traveling while airbrushing and etching custom cars…she settled in New Orleans and loved it. Then….Hurricaine Katrina happened. While weathering the storm up north with friends and family, Katrina was destroying everything she owned. Her compressors for airbrushing, supplies etc. Three weeks later, her home and everything she owned was still under 8 feet of water. She lost everything and returned to New York. While there, a woman brought her a gift…she was hoping for a pair of shoes or jeans, but when she opened the box, she found a collection of tools and polymer clay. She put the box away and didn’t think much about it, but one day, it must have called her name, because she says when she opened it and began to explore…she just could not stop! In the first months, she made enough money from making Carnival items to pay for her tip back to NOLA for the first Carnival after Katrina! There, she found a market for her style of art and she decided to move back. Today, she is known in the French Quarter for her clay creations. A large part of her time is spent making and adorning hats for the multiple Carnival dance troupes and others. Jeanette is a master of production. She must have had more than a hundred voodoo dolls she was working on that day. She has a mold for the basic shape and then adds polymer canes, beads and pins and my favorite part…the wild bristly hair! She told me she started out making huge canes and reducing to get the thousands of slices she needed to keep up with requests. Now, she states she purchases quite a few of her canes online. ( I didn’t even realize that people made canes to sell!) She says this has made her work much easier and allows her to keep up with the demand she has for her voodoo dolls and flour de lis.
After moving back to NOLA, she now lives in a typical row house in a part of the city that didn’t flood out with Katrina. Her house, if you have never seen one of the old row houses, is one room wide, and seven rooms long. She invited me to visit and I counted at least four of those rooms as part of her studio! You enter in her living room and then begin a journey through her studio rooms…engulfed in feathers, fabric, beads, garlands…anything you can imagine that goes in to making the flashy Carnival items! One for hats, one for making polymer clay items, several for supplies and finished production items. A visit to her studio is full of color, full of life and full of fun! The day I visited, was actually the first day of Carnival. It’s the day everyone finds out what their theme will be for this years hats. After our visit, she was off to her vendors to get inspired! I can’t show or tell what that theme is going to be for 2017, but you can see one of last years hats below, along with her voodoo dolls and other fun items she sells in local stores.
I loved meeting Jeanette and seeing how polymer is a part of her life. She is definitely one of the modern folk artists of our time! If you would like to know more about Jeanette, she is on Facebook. Thanks so much for sharing some of your precious time with me Jeanette! Definitely one of the best highlights of my trip so far.
We also managed to fit in 2 museums…The Cabildo and the The Presbytere. These 2 museums were inexpensive and informative, covering everything from The War of 1812, the history of Mardi Gras and even a very moving and educational exhibit of Hurricane Katrina.
Ending the night, we wound up….where else??? ….Bourbon St….dancing the night away! If only I had written down what bar we were in and who was playing…gotta get better at this for blogging!!