pencilpress – Art with Susan Shoemaker

Susan Shoemaker, mixed media artist, pencilpress is the guest on episode 27 of Birmingham Shines podcast, released November 20 2015

This week’s guest is Susan Shoemaker, a Birmingham mixed media artist. You can find her work around Birmingham and online. Just search for pencilpress.

Susan markets her work as pencilpress, which explains originated with her college art studies in printmaking and her love of drawing. And she also presses hard with her pencil. Hence, pencilpress.

Susan is known for her animal-focused art and she explains how she conceives and creates animal drawings, paintings and other pieces of art.

In our conversation, we touch on the creative process, art in schools and what it’s like to pursue art while working a full-time day job.

Susan explains how she gave up art for some years after college, while she worked full time, and then returned when she found that art was something that she could not let go.

Susan also talks about a few of the challenges that artists are facing—and they might surprise you. One is the challenge of dealing with bad weather during an outdoor art show. Another stems from the frequent requests that artists receive to donate their work for fundraising events. These are two things the artist community, overall, is facing and working to address, collectively.

We also talk about the challenges of pricing and value and perceptions of price, time, value and quality in the context of art AND food.

Susan’s website is (not .com)

Episode released November 20, 2015. Original blog content released the same date.

Thanks to Chris and Ana Newsome for letting me commandeer a corner table at Ollie Irene at 4 p.m. one recent Friday afternoon to record the interview and thanks to the house staff for being so accommodating with the request to turn down the background music a bit while we were recording our conversation.

Writer T.K. Thorne

This week’s guest on Birmingham Shines is writer T.K. Thorne, author of the award-winning novel Noah’s Wife.

Noah’s Wife received ForeWard Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in Historical Fiction and T. K. has received a number of accolades and much critical acclaim for her fiction and non-fiction works, including Angels at the Gate, another novel in the genre of historical fiction, and Last Chance for Justice, a investigative non-fiction work about the Birmingham Church bombers.

I recently finished reading Noah’s Wife and I can say from first-hand experience that this is a compelling, page-turning work of historical fiction. I literally did not want to stop reading each night when it was time for me to turn off the light.

Episode 24 was released October 1, 2015.

I hope you enjoy this conversation, we start with a look at her early years and then focus on her journey to becoming a published writer and how the characters in her stories come to life.

You’ll probably only get an episode every other week during the month of October. That’s something I’m contemplating. If you want to keep up to date to know for sure, please visit https://birminghamshines.comand sign up for the email newsletter. You can find the sign-up form just below the player on any episode page.

Magic City Woodworks – Crafting Lives Through Woodworking

Lawrence Sheffield knew from a young age that he wanted to work with his hands, his heart and his mind and that college was not in his plans. His love of woodworking inspired a vision to start a training program to help young men learn both job and life skills through woodworking. That vision led to the creation of Magic City Woodworks, a 501c3 nonprofit in Birmingham, Alabama.

Lawrence is my guest on this week’s episode of Birmingham Shines, along with Jacob Pierce who serves as the volunteer coordinator for Magic City Woodworks.

In this conversation, we talk about the importance of doing meaningful work and the life lessons that can be learned through woodworking and other trades.

One of the most important books I’ve read in the past 5-6 years is Shop Craft as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. 

When I discovered Magic City Woodworks through Instagram I knew I had to reach out to these guys and learn more about what they are doing. I’m so glad I did. I think you’ll love this conversation.

Javacia Harris Bowser – SeeJaneWrite

Javacia Harris Bowser, founder of the See Jane Write community, was guest #3, Episode 3 of Birmingham Shines, released May 13, 2015

Javacia Harris Bowser talks about founding SeeJaneWrite-Birmingham when she couldn’t find the writing group she was looking for.

Javacia Harris Bowser, my guest for Week 3 of the Birmingham Shines podcast, is a writer, teacher and entrepreneur. She’s also a successful blogger and founder of See Jane Write Birmingham networking group for women writers that has turned into a business.

As we learn in episode 3 of Birmingham Shines, Javacia moved to Birmingham several years ago from Louisville, Kentucky to teach English at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Before
embarking on her teaching career, Javacia worked professionally as a journalist and she continues to do freelance writing work today.

Do one thing every day that scares you.
Eleanor Roosevelt

That’s the inspirational quote that Javacia shared with me when I asked her for something to inspire others to Discover. Grow. Shine.™

If you want to grow, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, even just a little bit. When you do, you usually find that it wasn’t so bad after all—especially if you’re taking little steps. No
need to take up hang-gliding. Just send an email to someone you admire and don’t know and invite them to coffee. Take a different route home from work. Or maybe do your grocery shopping in reverse order from your usual routine. It’s pretty clear that Javacia is willing to take her own advice.

When Javacia couldn’t find the type of writing group she was looking for, she decided to start one. The first “official” meeting of See Jane Write Birmingham
was a simple dinner meet-up on March 24, 2011 at a Mexican restaurant in Birmingham.

That meet-up led to a “next event,” which was all about using Twitter to network, connect with others and build a blogging audience. The successful Twitter event led to a blogging workshop and into one-on-one consulting and even bigger events. See Jane Write Birmingham has grown immensely in the four years since that first informal meet-up and today Javacia offers consulting and online courses for women who aspiring writers and entrepreneurs. Find out more about the See Jane Write Birmingham story by listening to episode 3 of Birmingham Shines—if you haven’t already!

Javacia Recommends

What to read…..

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Where to eat in Birmingham….


Where to caffeinate in Birmingham….

Urban Standard
Church Street Coffee & Books


Goddess by Banks
Anything by Beyoncé

Where to get fit….

Lakeshore Trail


Birmingham Blogger…..

Jennifer Dome King: Stellar Fashion and Fitness

I love Jennifer Dome King’s blog Stellar Fashion and Fitness. It has such a great message about body positivity.


Life Hack
Get up early.

I’ll echo this one—I got up before 5 a.m. to start writing this blog post. I’m a big believer in “early to bed, early to rise.” If you know me at all, you probably know how I go on all the time about Ben Franklin!

What makes Birmingham Shine……

The Creative Class

I hope you are inspired by Javacia as I am!