my big creative year : daily practice

The hard thing about a daily practice is that it’s daily. And days and weeks are guaranteedto be weird sometimes. But I think committing to a daily practice – even a very small one – is valuable and fruitful. My practice is to experiment – to do something each day, on paper, to meander, and wander my imagination and try stuff that is entirely separate from the busyness and work of the day.

daily experiment

I chose to work on paper because it’s something I miss – making marks on paper – and I chose to keep it small ( 4.5 inch squares) to keep it do-able – especially in weeks where I’m overwhelmed and / or traveling. I share it here every Saturday and that adds some pressure but I think it’s pressure I need.

Some sketchbook favorites:

sketchbook_favoritesLast week showing up for it was particularly hard. If I was going to bail, take a vacation from it, let myself off the hook, last week would have been the week. I’m so glad I didn’t – I took James Clear’s advice again – reduce the scope and stick to the schedule. I didn’t have my full array of tools but I had a little paint and pencils and my little squares and they came with me to Squam. I got up a little extra early each day and spent time with my experiment before class started. I’m so glad that I did.

I don’t think it matters as much what I do as it does that I do it. It matters very much that I find a small part of each day that is personal and expressive and my own. It should be a priority.

on June 8, 2015 2

sketchbook : week 16

Week 16 in my yearlong sketchbook practice.  Maintaing my sketchbook practice felt like a big deal this week, it felt like it might be impossible. I’m teaching at Squam Art Workshops and the days here and the prep and travel days are very full.  But I found the time, little bits of time, and I’m so glad I did – this habit and commitment is bringing me good things.

sketchbook - week 16

on June 6, 2015 0

my big creative year : books that have mattered

There have been books that have stayed with me, books that inspire me and make me curious, books I just love looking at- over and over again. I’ve chosen a few of those to share with you.

The first is by photographer Arthur Tress, Fish Tank Sonata. Flea market treasures – knickknacks – arranged in a fish-tank and photographed. I love his others too (Teapot Opera especially).

arthur tress

Next is The Grosset Treasury of Fairytails illustrated by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata. It’s a 3-D puppet book- one of many created by this team in Japan in the 70’s. They were magic for me then and they still are today.
fairytails Shadow Theaters and Shadow Films Is a stunningly illustrated instructional book by the master shadow puppeteer Lotte Reiniger.  The scenes are magical and every composition is brilliant. You can find some of her shadow films on youtube - I love the scratchy worbly soundtracks.

shadow theater

The last two were gifts that I loved :

Julie Taymor – Playing With Fire by Eileen Blumenthal. It’s a huge book that chronicles the the history and work of artist and directorJulie Taymor – her beginnings, her process and sketches – a window into her thinking – her imagination is giant and her thinking is rigorous. I refer to this book regularly – especially when my thinking feels lazy.

julie taymor - playing with fire

Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday – Essays by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan and Richard Vine. I love Cornell and his dreamlike, melancholy, poetic boxes, those precious objects and little worlds. This is another giant book with images of more than seventy-five boxes and collages, as well as images of the fascinating source material, his treasures.

joseph cornell

on June 1, 2015 2

sketchbook : week 15

Week 15 in my yearlong sketchbook practice.  The small scale of these was a good choice for me ( they are 4.5 inch squares). It has kept the task managagable – it feels reasonably  do-able most of the time. But it has also made me crave something bigger  in scale and more time to be thoughtful and time to experiment. I’m curious what that would feel like – curious and intimidated.

sketchbook week 15

on May 30, 2015 1

made by you

I’ve put together a little collection of things made from my patterns – I love seeing these – beautiful work and tons of imagination. Thanks for sharing your photos!

A dear lamb by Evie Barrow.

evie barrow lamb

A fantastic boat by Alla  (this boat is made from my free boat pattern).

paper mache boat

The paper mache ships below are by Val – she used chalk paint – I love the pale, matte colors.

val's ships

An owl family! So many wonderful details – they are by Mama with a Needle and Thread.

handmade owl family

A magnificent paper mache ship by Kileen.

kileen paper mach ship Continue Reading →

on May 27, 2015 7

my big creative year : the one task method

At any given moment I have a lot of things started. I bounce around working on something for a bit and then move to something else. It is rare for me to start something and stay with it without interruption until it is complete.

textile art bird in progressAnd even if something is nearly done there might be some small detail avoided in a moment when something else felt more urgent. More and more things end up in the land of almost done and lots of little details, like stitching fox paws, add up to a day or more of work that I’m not really factoring in. I’m nickel and diming myself to death in the time department.

fox paw stitchingFor the last couple weeks, just to see what would happen, I’ve been picking one thing, one project or task and staying with it until it’s done. I check it off the list, clean up the mess and start the next thing. I started with low hanging fruit to get the ball rolling – little projects or orders that were just about done. The choice always feels uncomfortable, feels counter intuitive when so much needs to move forward and it’s hard to get all the other stuff out of my head and focus – but I settle down after a little while and I found lots of benefits to working this way:

* It busts right through unrealistic expectations and wishful thinking – I get a much better sense of how long things really take.

* Crossing stuff of the list feels good, finishing feels good – it puts energy back in the bank – loose ends are distracting and draining.

* It forces me to do some important things I avoid by burying myself in busyness – prioritizing, making choices and planning realistically.

* There is no ambiguity at the end of the day – progress or lack of it is very clear.

* Individual projects get more forward momentum – I’m less inclined to linger unnecessarily in choices and possibilities and I’m more inclined to work through problems efficiently since I can’t escape into another task, it creates a kind of resolve – it’s your birthday owl – today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, today.

soft sculpture indigo owl

fiber art owl

on May 18, 2015 14

on my work table

I’m working on a bunch of things all at once that I hope I can show you finished next week.  That’s the plan anyway – for the last ten days or so I’ve been working differently (p.s. still standing up) and it is having a magical effect….  I’ll tell you all about it on Monday. For now here’s a bit of what I’m working on:

A dastardly indigo fellow made from my most treasured pieces from Sri Threads. I love all the mending, the other hands and the layering and textures – so owly.

indigo owl progress

paper mache ship progress

paper mache ship and owl

And ships and boats and little passengers – spring is always for building ships.  I finished a large ship and owl and photographed them earlier this week – it’s been lingering here captainless and almost done for weeks. A note on photographing ships and boats – they move. They have sails so they twirl constantly  - to help them be still for a sharp photo I tie a spool of thread to the stern and / or the bow and then use the spool to position them at the angle I want and anchor them – the thread is easy to get rid of in a photo editor like  iphoto with the touch up tool.

paper mache ship

Pattern notes if you would like to make your own ships:

The template and pattern for all the ships is here ( I sligtly altered the side template of the large ship for this one – it’s easy to do).

And the owl captain pattern is here.

on May 14, 2015 3

my big creative year : audacious thinking

Thinking outrageously, hypothetically removing limitations and entertaining wild possibilities is a good creative exercise, a good thinking tool and I use it often to get unstuck or to work through an idea. But applying that kind of thinking to my life and work in a larger way has been difficult. This weekend I spent time thinking about this question:

What if I could do anything?

If money was no object, if there were no obstacles, no chance of failure or negative consequences – what would I do? I think truthful answers might be enlightening, there might be signposts and arrows among them but I find the question paralyzing.

I’ve never been good at thinking big about my life, my work, thinking audaciously. Big makes me nervous. And it seems to me that I endeavor in the other direction – so much of what I do, what I’m attracted to and what I create for myself is small, the world recreated at a more manageable and comfortable scale.

forest dioramaI find it hard to turn my practical brain off and I think a large part of me never wants to be caught with grand plans – a deeply ingrained belief that modesty is a virtue. I’m fortunate, one thing has led to another and all sorts of wonderful things I could not invent have occurred, it feels somehow ungrateful to reach and it is incredibly difficult and uncomfortable to really get my head around the question. My answers, my list, mostly doesn’t feel very audacious, it feels quite tentative in fact so I’m going to keep working on it – look harder. Getting myself to write anything at all was like pulling teeth, there were a couple surprises though – here’s what I’ve got so far:

I would paint and draw a great deal

I would learn to surf – nothing crazy- little waves

I would plant a garden

I would cook a lot

I would travel a little

I would wander a lot

I would take a hand built pottery class (that seems pretty do-able – I’m looking into it)

Actually – I would take lots of classes – I could fill the rest of my life with that

I would have dogs and cats and goats

I would make a picture book for children or maybe children and grownups

I would make dioramas

I would buy a very old house

I would swim often

I wonder if you ask yourself this sort of question – if you find resistance in your thinking or spectacular visions – I’m curious – if you feel like sharing please do.

on May 11, 2015 8
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