Week 9 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. For todays entry I painted my sewing machine – my mother’s old cast iron white rotary, the machine I learned on. I’ve always found it beautiful – other old machines too – elegant lines- so much thought put into the aesthetics of it. I saw it’s twin at a flea market a couple years ago – regret not getting it.
I spent last weekend in Philadelphia teaching at the sweet Paul Makerie. I came home equally spent and inspired. The whole Makerie experience was fabulous – fascinating people, spectacular class line up (I would have loved to take all of them) and it had Sweet Paul all over it – every detail thoughtful and exquisite.
I taught Stitched Botanicals – seed pod forms in textiles. Teaching is new to me and I feel my feet under me more each time. I had wonderful, generous, open students – willing and enthusiastic about trying stuff – I was blown away with what people made.
Getting out of my cozy bubble once in a while is so good for me, this was, among other things, a gathering of like minded women, there was such a feeling of belonging and I learned a ton. I came home with a bunch of new ideas and feeling like my world got bigger.
I’ve been a huge fan of Sweet Paul since he began way back in olden times (I make this mushroom dill sauce almost every week). Before the magazine there was a blog and then a digital magazine and now the gorgeous quarterly print magazine.
It’s exceptional – the kind of thing you save. Paul came to visit last October and I’m featured in the current edition. I couldn’t be more excited – there is an interview and pictures of my place and work. It was shot by Colin Cooke whom I loved. I’m terribly awkward about having my picture taken and he taught me a fabulous technique I call “laughing to the side” – check it out in the feature or see it employed on my about page.
Week 8 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. Sketchbook will be back to it’s regularly scheduled Saturday posting time this week – I was teaching in Philadelphia last week. I was super stretched and would have loved to blow the whole thing off but I’m glad I didn’t. Getting it done the second half of the week was a little torturous and it feels pretty awkward to share things I don’t feel good about but it’s part of the exercise and this exercise has been incredibly good for me.
I took the day off yesterday, for reals, like I haven’t in a long time. I didn’t set an alarm and erased my agenda for the day. I had coffee in bed and got up around noon. It was not not exactly by choice – I was just useless.
I came back from teaching at the Sweet Paul Makerie in Philadelphia late Sunday night and I was completely out of gas. Even this morning my brain and various other important parts are just starting to work again. The weekend was fabulous and I’ll post about it after I get caught up on things – like getting last week’s sketchbook scanned, formatted and posted. This week is pretty discombobulated because of being away, and so very, very busy while I was away, but things will be back to posting at their regularly scheduled times next week.
For this week’s Big Creative Year post a couple thoughts on something I need to pay attention to: down time, rest, real rest. My inclination is to fill every space with something to do and ignore or under value the need for rest. It feels good to spend it all once in a while, to exhaust myself completely like I did this past weekend and it felt good to spend a day doing nothing yesterday. It was glorious, I had the afore mentioned lazy start and I hung out in the big chair, drank tons of licorice tea and looked at magazines for hours (I can’t recall the last time I did that).
My bigger concern is my chronic need for some downtime – I don’t really take significant breaks – relaxing will happen at some undetermined time in the future when I’m less busy. That idea doesn’t work. My new plan, my new experiment is to find a way to take one day a week completely off. To plan for it and make it mandatory. It’s alarming that at this moment I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I’ll tell you more about how I plan to make it happen in next weeks BCY post on a subject I’ve been understanding in a new way lately : margin.
While I sew I listen and learn. I love a day with a big stack of sewing to do and no other distractions or obligations and a days worth of podcast’s, interviews, ted talks etc. to listen to. There are some episodes I return to again and again. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites to share with you below and I’ll add to this list - please check back for more and if you have favorites to share please do in the comments. And listen with me today – at this very moment I’m packing kits for my Sweet Paul Makerie workshop this weekend and I’m about to tune in to Abby Glassenberg’s interview with Rebecca Ringquist. I’ve been looking foward to this one! I’m a huge fan of Rebecca and her work.
The Unmistakable Creative – writer Esme Wang - Diagnosed with devastating mental illness as teenager Esme talks about coping through writing – her story is powerful and she tells it honestly and beautifully.
Ted Talk – writer Elizabeth Gilbert - on genius, success, creativity, work and inspiration.
While She Naps – Jess Brown – I love Jess Brown’s rag dolls and enjoyed listening to how they came to be and the challenges, twists and turns in nurturing and growing a very personal business.
The Unmistakable Creative- MacGuyver creator – Lee Zlotoff – on creative work, ideas, and the power of your subconscious. I use the thinking tool learned here everyday.
The Unmistakable Creative- Founder of the 5 Minute Journal- UJ Ramdass – on the power of gratitude.
The Good Life Project – artist Debbie Millman – serendipity, fear and creating happiness.
Week 7 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. I had a really good time with my sketchbook this week. I painted my favorite upstate houses, I got super into it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was all the time in the world to spend driving around in the country looking for forlorn houses and painting their portraits. That’s my new escapist fantasy.
I ran into a snag with my lamb pattern, a major do over, so it won’t be out this week but when it is ready (hopefully next week-ish) it’s going to be pretty deluxe. There will be a basic standing lamb pattern as well as a collection with a couple other sleepy four legged creatures. I’m also working on a reclining lamb – it’s something I’ve been playing with for a long time and I think I’ve just about got it. I’m pretty excited about my progress – it’s been driving me crazy but it finally started to come together this week.
One of the biggest challenges for me in creating patterns is getting the shape that I want while keeping the templates as simple as possible. I’m great at unnecessary complications and the lamb needed some rigorous editing. I also wasn’t happy with his butt – the result was just a little bit inconsistent - my last draft fixed that and now the pattern produces a consistent, properly round, lamb butt result.
I also finished a wedding party last week: mr. and mrs. and ten little attendants.
It occurred to me while I was making this set that this is the 10 year anniversary of these little birds. I first started making them in 2005. The original birds were made for a shop holiday window display - I wish I had pictures. I can’t even begin to imagine how many of these little creatures I’m made over the last decade.
Momentum is crucial, and when you’ve got it, you’ve got it and when you don’t, you don’t. Lack of momentum is why the wheels come off most New Year’s resolutions by February, why projects get abandoned and ideas get filed permanently in the someday folder. I started this blog 9 years ago – my first official post was titled momentum because I felt like my creative life, my personal creative life was in the someday folder.
9 years later I still work hard to maintain my momentum and occasionally I lose it and find myself in the doldrums. It happens for lots of reasons, failures, discouragement, disappointments, obstacles or plain old fatigue but most often it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed, overwhelmed with tasks, or choices or possibilities, overwhelmed with indecision, overwhelmed with all that isn’t done. When I lose it the only fix is action. Easy to say, so hard to do. Inertia is so heavy and oppressive, but there are a couple things I say to myself that do help when there is no wind in my sails:
it’s easier to keep going than to start
Just telling myself that helps immensely. And it means two things for me – it’s smart to make it part of my day to do things that keep momentum alive, basic things like structure and habits that support forward motion, even very small things, done consistently help a lot. And when I do find myself dead in the water I need to take some small action (it can be really small) – just start – bust out of the inertia. I posted a while ago about getting stuck and ways to get past it here.
my best work is ahead
I believe this and it saves me, I just need to remind myself once in a while. It makes me not quit and helps me live and act in uncertainty. It pushes me to let stuff go, take the next step and try new things. I feel like I’ve barely gotten started and I’m so curious about what’s next, its a powerful reason to keep moving, to get through storms and doldrums, to see what’s around the next corner. If I quit I’ll never know.
Week 6 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. I get a lot of information about myself as I make these little experiments. I notice the grooves and paths in my thinking and impulses – colors and shapes, lines, moods and ideas I gravitate to. Sometimes that feels familiar and good, it feels like my natural vocabulary, and other times I try to push myself out of those grooves, just to see. The older I get the more interested I am in the murky uncharted places.
I love fabric. I do – I think I’m genetically predisposed and I’m attracted to the possibilities. I use mostly found and salvaged things, garments, quilts etc. but I get pretty excited about a good solid fabric store too. My favorites in New York are New York Elegant Fabrics on 40th St. and Purl in Soho. Purl is so pretty – I stopped by yesterday for supplies for two of the new patterns I’m working on.
I could have spent the whole day there and I wish I had taken a couple photos – the shop is beautiful, they are truly masters of display – the place makes you want to make stuff and buy stuff. I’m working on a lamb pattern that will be out next week and something new – that’s what the metalics are for – I hope I can show you the prototype for that the end of next week. And I’m building ships, I always build ships in the spring.
It’s a pearly grey day in Brooklyn – perfect for twinkle lights and twirling ships. This one is the large ship from the ship pattern collection – I modified the sides a bit – made it dip a little lower on the sides in the middle. You can get all kinds of interesting effects by playing with the side templates. I’m putting together a post of ships and boats made from the pattern- if you’d like to be included you can email photos to me at ann at ann wood handmade dot com.