Mark's Blog

Archive for the ‘philanthropic efforts’ Category

Carve for the cure

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I was honored and fortunate to be asked to carve a pumpkin that would be auctioned-off to raise money to fight breast cancer. What I absolutely loved about this opportunity was that it was original and allowed me to have fun with my skills and be in excellent company with talented physicians from our community who were also invited to carve! I have to admit that my polystyrene pumpkin sat on the shelf near my bench for a couple of weeks while I attempted to tap into my deep well of pumpkin-carving creativity. I also resisted the urge to climb onto the internet and pull-up cool designs. Unfortunately, no hallowed muse visited me in my sleep. With great angst, I googled “pumpkin- carving” and was rewarded with the most incredible images..but they mostly looked like CNC carvings or photo etched, computer enhanced somethings…not what I wanted. I really enjoy shifting the context of an object from the everyday expectation to one not thought of at all. One of my goldsmiths suggested a “Jack-in-the-box” idea and I loved it! Perfect for a Jack-o-Lantern! Alas, polystyrene pumpkins don’t lend themselves readily to the intricacies of jack-in-the-box mechanics. I decided to retro-fit a real jack box inside of the fake pumpkin and marry the two. Now for the pop out surprise…what to use? Thank you Toys-R-Us for their awesome Halloween goodies. I found a spectacular eyeball that would serve to come blasting out of the top of my gourd-of-horror.
My production staff in our workshop had to listen to me swearing and muttering foul pumpkin things as I tried to retro-fit and carve the damn, possessed thing. Hours of scalpel work, flex-shaft carving and Gorilla gluing tested my resolve and patience. After painting it black and hand-painting the blood red face on, I was ready to hand it over to the committee, only the crank wouldn’t release the poltergeist top lid! Finally solved that little problem and safely delivered the dark, horrific orb to the proper authorities. If I never hear “Pop goes the weasel” ever again, that will be absolutely fine with me. I heard the auction was a blast and Dr. & Mrs. Jon Kagan were the lucky bidders on my possessed artwork.  I thank them for all their support and my staff for all their patience… on to trick or treating!

I LOVE the smell of new school supplies!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Mark Loren Designs is a collection site for The Foundation for Lee Public Schools, school supplies drive. The Foundation keeps them in their office and they will be available for any teacher in the district who needs supplies for particular students who don’t have any pencils, paper, rulers or other necessary items. We have been collecting at the gallery and every person or business (thanks Bank America) that drops-off items, makes our hearts soar. How do I know it will make someone incredibly happy to get that hot pink, pencil box? My youngest daughter and I stopped by Big Lots with our $75 dollar donation budget and went right to the huge school supply aisle. We found fantastic prices on the materials we wanted to get and I noticed that I was getting excited picking out crayons and erasers! I was transported back 40 some odd years to when my grandfather would take us boys to the store to buy our “back to school” stuff. We didn’t have itemized lists then but he seemed to always know what was required and we were always allowed to pick out one “extravagant” extra like a cool pencil box or mechanical pen. I vividly remember getting home and racing upstairs to view and sort through my new stuff…the look of it, the smell of the new notebooks and crayon boxes…and all this was coming back to me in the aisle at Big Lots. My daughter woke me from my reverie, “Dad come on, you’re doing that zone out thing on me again!” When Haise saw all the pencil packs I was buying she asked about picking out pencil sharpeners at 75cents each. I sadly mentioned we were over budget already and she volunteered $5 of her allowance so whoever got pencils would also have a lime green sharpener too.
As we were packing the bags in the trunk of the car I caught her sniffing the bags and smiling….hopefully creating her own special memories.

An incredible gift to FGCU

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Coffee cans and tins of gems

I have been working the past two days, while the gallery has been closed for Memorial Day weekend. Actually I have been working on this particular endeavor for over a year! I agreed to appraise a gem/mineral/rock collection that belongs to Dr. & Mrs. Gil Collings. The late Dr. Collings, was a resident of Fort Myers and along with his wife and family, collected gems, minerals and assorted rocks for over 40 years. He had a classroom business in New Jersey where he loved teaching gem-cutting, faceting and jewelry making. Mrs. Collings approached me over a year ago to see if I knew of someone who could assist her in appraising the collection so she could donate it to Stetson University. It seems that they wanted the collection but did not want to pay the approximate $20-30,000  appraisal fee that would be required. This type of collection is incredibly difficult to value as there are high-end faceted gems, unique mineral specimens, lapidary material in the rough and cabbed as well as assorted gem cutting and jewelry making equipment. Most appraisers do not have this depth of knowledge across so many areas. Many of the items are still in their packaging when purchased over 20 years ago!

Multiple trays of Various gems

I suggested to Anne (Mrs. Collings) that if she were to, instead, donate the collection to FGCU, I would be willing to do the appraisal for only a $2000 fee. I knew that the students at FGCU would be able to put the entire collection to use and it could be the foundation for an entirely new Gemology and Lapidary Department! Most universities would catalog the collection and store it in drawers down in a sub-basement. At FGCU, I could visualize students walking past showcases highlighting these amazing mineral specimens, while hopefully inspiring many to pursue the Indiana Jones adventures of mineral collecting, gem cutting or jewelry making. It has taken me far more time than I had first thought and in ways I hadn’t even imagined to complete this appraisal.  I have spent 1/3 of my time on the internet researching possible prices for material that hasn’t been mined in 20 years. I have researched specimens that I have never heard of and would call friends of mine that are agate lickers (passionate rock collectors) and email pictures of material back and forth. My staff thinks I’m a little crazy because I continually run into the darkened bathroom with a UV light to test rocks for fluorescence.

Even more trays of jewels to identify and price

The FGCU Foundation President and Anne Collings have been VERY patient with me as the process has taken five times longer than I anticipated. I have attached photos to illustrate how much there is and the variation of the material. Boxes, bins, coffee cans (I’m sure some of these are collectible), cigar boxes and cookie tins are part of the storage scheme. Luckily, Dr. Collings was an early user of computer databases and the entire collection is cataloged in a DOS system. The material has numbers on most pieces so it has been a process of identifying, weighing and pricing everything…A once in a lifetime opportunity and research experience. I have developed such an admiration for their collecting and cataloging abilities. My hope is that many future generations will be able to touch, examine, and explore this collection of a lifetime.

Chamber of SW Florida Auction

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

What a fun and entertaining auction! Our participation began when Hannah Pelle (Cameron’s wife) and Lee Golden asked if we would be willing to raise the stakes of their auction by offering a FireLight Diamond ring as the auction’s top item. We had to make sure that Norman Love thought it was as good an idea as we thought and with his blessing, we were off and running. Lee, Marrietta Mudgett and their committee did a brilliant job of pulling together silent and live auction items that were attractive and within most folks pocketbooks. One of our staff couldn’t contain himself and fell in love with the auction puppy, a gorgeous little Llasa Apso female from Pet Kingdom. When the furious bidding was over, Peter was the proud, new Papa. (I finally wound up with her but that is another story) Our FireLight Diamond ring came up for bid and started at 2,500 dollars. The auctioneers Mike Cannington and Jay Severson did an awesome job of talking the piece up and with a little help from Cameron and I, extolling the virtues of the FireLight chocolates, the bidding heated up. The winning bidder promptly turned to his beautiful date and asked her to marry him! I’m not sure who was more stunned, the crowd or her…With a big smooch and hug she said yes to thundering applause from the rest of us. The evening ended on a high note and Hannah even gave Cameron his bidding paddle back..Congratulations from all of us at Mark Loren Designs to the winning couple and may their marriage be as exciting and spontaneous as their engagement!

On being awarded Philanthropic small business of the year

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Sheri, myself and a few special guests attended the “Philanthropists of the year” luncheon at Quail West on Monday. It was an incredibly well organized event and Kelly Burns was our terrific MC. I was amazed at who was in the crowd and how many folks and clients we knew. At our table we had invited longtime clients as well as new clients/friends who have been incredibly supportive of our work. I don’t mind public speaking and Sheri would even say that I love it but, I was not sure how to address the honored crowd who were there to award us with a big “thank-you”. Fortunately, other honorees went first and while their comments were gracious I was still wondering what would come out of my mouth when our turn came. Gulfshore Life had prepared a cool video with the photos I had sent them (not being sure what they were going to do with them) and I was momentarily speechless as I watched the presentation and was simultaneously introduced by our creative PR wizard, Carolyn Rogers. Standing at the microphone and looking out, I felt incredibly proud that  my mother was there to share this with us. I began by acknowledging my parents yet, I felt alone, as if there should have been a crowd standing with me and passing our award back and forth. I realised that my staff should have been there as well and I acknowledged them for giving me the opportunity to further our creative vision in a much bigger way than I could do alone. It’s funny how time slows when you are at the podium, not reading from notes and you have to say something that is appropriate and hopefully gracious, while not being pompous. Luckily, my heart took over and the emotion of joy that we experienced from our Mother’s Day event and all the grateful stories we had heard, choked me up and made me pause. I was able to share how special we felt by not being just a “retailer” but by assisting our clients in communicating their love for another with our jewelry designs. I know that coming from that context in what we do, differentiates us from the retailers in our business who think it’s just about the numbers. I’m so proud to be able to work and design with very creative staff who realise what it’s really about.