* Update – The workshop has sold out but please add your name to the wait list if you were hoping to join – cancellations do happen.
Registration just opened for “Natural History” a three day creative retreat with The Makerie in Boulder – September 22nd to the 24th.
Our assignment for our three days together is to create and document an imagined natural history. We will look for inspiration at the intersection of history, poetry and nature, working collaboratively as well as individually to create and photograph a collection of specimens. We’ll use textiles, paper, found objects and a variety of other tools, techniques, materials and inspiration I’m bringing.
I’ll guide you through improvisational (and fun) exercises designed to spark you creatively, help you dig deeply into your imagination and generates ideas. It’s a spontaneous, “yes and” way of working – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up. It’s less about finished works and more about making connections and recognizing serendipity and happy accidents when they appear. We will pull ideas and details from our experiments as a starting point for designing and making our plants and creatures.
On our last day together we will style and photograph our specimens individually and as a group. I’ll share tips for creating compelling compositions and moods, simple lighting hacks and other seat of the pants techniques that I use in photographing my own work.
This is a workshop about experimenting, collaborating, playing and getting out of your own way. That is a life long daily challenge for me and I love sharing what I’ve learned so far. I hope I can help you be a more intrepid explorer of your imagination, reach past the territory you’ve already navigated and expand your skills for sharing that world.
Sounds like fun to me and I hope to see you there! If you’ve got questions please send me a message – I’m happy to help.
*registration has closed but you can still join the wait list here.
(you can find part 1 here)
The more time I give myself for play like this the better my thinking, my connection making and idea generating get. While messing around with these dolls I have had one million ideas. This kind of experimenting is like giving my imagination vitamins. It is not an efficient way to make a doll, and I get frustrated in the process sometimes (it takes a while to shift out of expectations and perfectionist thinking and into curiosity) but it never fails to get me to new places. In trying stuff – stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t – I make connections I would not have otherwise made and connections are where ideas come from.
I experimented with a bunch of stuff for making arms and legs and landed on something simple I like. I’ve made her arms and legs in two sections upper and lower from the paper covered wire. Each section gets covered with batting and then covered with fabric.
I left a little extra at the ends so they would be easy to join and nice and bendy. The legs are made the same way and I added a little lace to the top before attaching by whip stitching to the bottom of her torso with sturdy thread.
I like her spidery arms and legs. I’ll leave her for now and show you progress on the other girl who is no longer a girl. Read More
Its good to experiment – but not easy to let yourself, there is a powerful force that wants you to stay on the well lit path. Experimenting generates ideas and makes you ask new questions. It can shift your perspective, reveal connections and intersections. And maybe most importantly true experimentation helps you work with uncertainty and build a tolerance for trying stuff that might not work. There is no creativity without failure.
One way to make yourself experiment is to create conditions that force you to improvise. I’m going to show you one of the techniques I use. I’m making dolls – from the inside out. It’s a method that is imprecise and difficult to control – in a good way – there is lots of opportunity for happy accidents. It’s a spontaneous process – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up.
If you would like to try you will need:
- cotton batting
- wire (you can find the paper covered wire I’m using here)
- basic hand sewing tools
- fabric, lace and trim scraps
- a glue stick
* you can click on any of the images for a larger view
I start by making a simple wire form for the torso and head – I made three. Next cut strips of cotton batting and begin to build a shape by winding it around the wire form. A little bit of glue stick will help when adding or ending a strip.
Keep winding until you are happy with the shape – you can also add bits of batting in some areas for rounder shapes – like in the center image above – I’ve given her a substantial bosom by adding a scrap of folded batting and winding over it. I stitch through the shape here and there to adjust it and help it all stay together and finally I cut pieces of batting to stitch over the shape.
Next I begin to add fabric – I’m using a very light cotton to cover her face and the front of her chest. I pull the fabric around – stitch it in place and trim away the extra.
I covered the edge of the face fabric with strips of cotton for hair – I’ll come back to that later – I want to make the top of her dress first. Also – you may notice another doll has appeared – I’ll be working on her as well.
Her face and chest are covered in a light ivory silk, I used black cotton for her hair and stitched super simple features. Now I’m adding a scrap of lace because it’s lovely and will also cover some edges and seams I’d like to conceal. Read More
Sometimes focus feels impossible. Sometimes your imagination, your creativity and your drive seem to have vanished without warning. Sometimes thoughts and ideas spin so frantically you can’t catch them.
And, there are moments when it all seems to magically work – the better part of a day slips by without notice while you’re completely lost in a glorious flow state – effortless, creative and productive.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all at your command, to be able to summon deep focus, motivation and drive, ingenuity, and sparkling original ideas as needed or desired. But our minds don’t work like that. Our minds do what they like and so often just the opposite of what we’re looking for. Practice, training and attention help though and I’m always on the look out for ways to improve – stuff to try – ways to reach the deepest parts of my imagination and creativity.
Something I have come across a lot is the idea of alternating focused work with distraction in an intentional way – one example is The Mac Gyver Method – which I love and use all the time.
And Earnest Hemingway talks about the value of letting things percolate in The Movable Feast :
“It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything.”
Last week I heard the term “deliberate day dreaming” for the first time In this podcast episode (If you are curious about why your brain does what it does you will particularly enjoy this episode). I even like the sound of it – deliberate daydreaming – I like the idea of an intentional, daily invitation to let your mind meander and watch where it goes.
My mind wanders off all the time without permission – especially while I’m doing pleasantly (for me) repetitive tasks. I think it’s part of what attracts me to things like hand sewing and paper mache.
So I wonder what the effect of intention and daily practice will be. I’m test driving the idea for the next month – devoting 10 minutes everyday to “deliberate daydreaming”. I will let you know how it goes and if you feel like experimenting with me I’d love to hear about it.
Before I tell you about the workshop I have to tell you that the squam art retreat, where I’ll be teaching it, already sold out in pre- registration – both spring and fall sessions (there is a waiting list and stuff happens in a year so …. contact squam to get on the list). That’s the bad news. The good news is – just today I learned of a scholarship opportunity being offered by Honey & Oak:
We are offering one spot to attend the Squam Workshops either for their Spring session (June 7th – June 11th 2017) OR their Fall session (September 13th – September 17th 2017). You get to choose what works best for you! In addition, we will provide a $500.00 stipend to be used towards Travel Expenses and Extras.
It’s a pretty sweet deal – find all the details on how to enter right here. You must enter by January 3rd.
And also – just so you know – September will be the 10th and last retreat – I’m sad to see it go – it has been a truly marvelous experience.
In my diorama workshop (fall 2017) we will explore the poetry and spirit of things. I’m bringing all sorts of things to play with and we’ll forage the magnificent fall Squam forest for natural elements too. The compositions that emerge might be entirely abstract or tell a story, they might reflect an inner landscape, an outer landscape or an intersection of ideas – intersections are always interesting places.
There is more info on the class and retreat here.
I hope your holidays are lovely,
Meet the Beaumonts, fifth avenue’s most stylish anthropods.
To celebrate Fortuny’s 2016 Micromondo collection (which means micro–world in Italian) I created a miniature world of cosmopolitan, domestic bliss inhabited by sophisticated ants with a taste for midcentury furniture and modern art. They also really love christmas – that’s part 2.
The ants are 6 inches tall and made from the Micromondo collection. I made furniture, drapery etc. – everything a fully appointed ant penthouse needs – from the new wools, velvets and linens as well as many of the classic patterns – the blue and bronze above is one of my favorites. I also made ant art – I got super into the art making – and family portraits – lots of tiny details.