Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Being Present to What Is

During my quest for green, I found none on the trees, and little sprouting up from the ground.

Except for the grass. I got down on my knees and took a photo from a worm's eye view. Here was the green. I guess all that melted snow makes for some early lushness in Spring.

I love how sunny the green is in this picture, and how the shadows of the tree and deep blue sky is almost inky. I love even more the awesome poladroid application where I just drag and drop my digital photos, and end up with these cool effects.
Here is the tree outside my family room. I had thought that these were little leaves, that would be sprouting and turning green, but when I went out there after the rain was gone and the sun was finally shining, I saw these were actually red flowers! Well, look at that. Here I was longing for green leaves, and I had flowers, all along.

Michigan blooms late. And no matter how much I stare at the trees, glare, even, they refuse to leaf out just for me.

But I have noticed how late the sun sets up here in this wintery region. 8:30 pm and it's still light, in only March. How late will the sun go down by June, I wonder.

I guess this is a lesson to me. Instead of wishing for a life I want. (NO. The life I WANT, not this one here, this isn't the one I WANT.) I should just pay attention to the life I have.

So I don't have green leaves on the trees. I have red flowers. And green grass that promises to be lush and soft. I love lush soft grass. I think I'll spend some time this Spring having picnics and laying in that lush soft grass.

I'll plan for that in a few weeks, maybe even days if the weather report holds up. But in the mean time, I'll bake my chicken, and take post kid bedtime walks, listening to the birds coming back and getting all excited. And I'll sew my stuffed animals for the kids. (I'm working on an orange snake for the boy, and the girl, ms bunny, has asked for a bunny. I don't know how I'm going to do it.) I'll take my photos and try out new snacks on the kids. Whether or not they eat them.

In other words. I'll live my life and enjoy it the way it is. I'll stop living for something that hasn't quite sprung, and pay attention to the life I have.

This is very hard for me. I have to keep reminding myself, and I don't think I have it down. But the more I think/talk/write about it, the easier it gets. The more I work at letting go of the yearning for the future, for something I don't have, the easier it is to appreciate the now.

What about you.... are you living in your own life? What do you do to remind yourself to be present to what is?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rain and a Tiny Book

Oh a rainy weekend, really. At least after our adventure in the sun. But it's supposed to get warmer and sunnier all weekend, and Easter is supposed to be positively Springy.

I bundled up in sweaters and kept looking out the window. Every time I looked, the grass was greener and brighter. After the coming week of warmth and sun, I am expecting all the leaves to come out and the flowers to bloom.

I hope you're listening mother nature. I said I'm expecting green leaves and flowers. Do not disappoint.

I briefly mentioned that I was starting a job in a restaurant part time. I had forgotten about the dead times at restaurants, and stood around being bored, doing nothing and feeling unproductive.

So this weekend, right before I went to my shift, I whipped up a handmade notebook. One page of copy paper, cut in half, then in half again, then one more time... and yes, one more time, and then stapled in the center, with tape to cover the staples.

But that felt a little shabby to me, so I quickly stitched a book cover out of wool felt.

Boom. It became a book to treasure. It slides in and out of a pocket easily, it hides in your hand, it is readily available at all times.

I used it to make lists. People to talk to. Things to buy. And other lists, projects to work on. I wrote down my schedule in it, so I didn't have to go digging in my bag for my calendar. I wrote whatever was on my mind, like a little journal. It would be great for tiny drawings, or ideas for my novel, and even better for the kind of poetry that comes in those moments between tasks.

I used to write poetry between stops on the subway. Or while waiting for the food to cook in the oven. Or while waiting in line.

I'm very excited about my little book. I like that it's so low tech. This is no texting device. This is just me and a tiny piece of paper and a pen. I also like that when I am done with the one little book, I can remove it, fold and cut and staple a new one, out of scrap paper if I want, and start a new one. I love reducing, reusing and recycling. Last week I went to a store and didn't want to spend money on something that was not really suiting my needs. I'm so glad I didn't, because this is just perfect for me.

I added the orange dot to it later, just because. I've made a few more, and am thinking about adding book marks, or straps to keep it closed, or a chain so it can be worn.

What would/could you do with a tiny book like this. What kind of ideas would you fill it up with?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Early Spring in Chelsea, Michigan

We went brunching this weekend. This is the place we went to eat. It's a rustic kind of tavern with a daily special and not much else. If you look at my kids who seem to be superheroes in this shot, the tavern has a moose head on the wall.

Whatever this place is, it's real. Nothing much studied or designed about it. But I liked it.

Who knows how long this battered table has had patrons sitting down for a beer, a plate of beef and a game of cards? I like the checkerboard linoleum, too.
And on our walk on this cold sunny day, I spotted this sign. I don't do a lot of picture taking of architectural details or signage or vintage design, but this old Pontiac sign struck my fancy. Particularly against the bright sky.
And here, the bright pot of begonias in the window of the gift shop. My kids made me stop and take a picture of this one.
This door opened up about 5 feet above the ground. No stairs. Actually, I don't think the door did open. There's a shelf behind it, holding what looks like salt.
And this is the first time I've managed to take a satisfactory picture of this. The bright sun helped I think. It is the white towers... or is it silos... of the Jiffy mix factory. Jiffy, the cornbread people. A railroad pulls right up to these things. You can hear the whistles blow at all times. I like the sound of the train blowing. It seems like something from another era.

this is another thing I did this weekend. I sewed up a tiny potted plant out of felt and thread. I'm not doing any gardening this Spring, at least, not right now, but I made this seedling. I'm still thinking I might try painting this pot a bit, so I can make it look all beaten up, with some lichen or some of that white powder terracotta pots get sometimes after being used for a while. I almost went with a brown pot, but it really is true that those suckers are orange. So I just went for it. Brighter rather than duller was the mood.

Well, it is Spring.

It's time for things to brighten up a bit, don't you think?

Blogger Difficulties

I've realized I'm not the only one, but I can't upload any photos today. Grrr.

And I had at least a half a dozen i wanted to show.

Now I've run out of time and must do all sorts of non internet things.

I will try again later tonight, if not, I will have some back log of posts for the week.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Presence + Respect = Love

Crayon Tree on Back of Kid's Menu While Working On A Slow Day

The other day, I was working my little part time job at a restaurant and it was dead slow. I drew this picture of the tree in the courtyard, using the crappy crayons they give the kids to keep them quiet while their parents eat.

I was actually quite surprised how it came out. I haven't really used crayons since I was twelve. I guess I always thought of them as an inferior medium. But you know, they are just a medium. What you do with them depends upon how you work them.

I found them to have an expressive movement, able to make very light lines, or make intense lines with very little pressure. I found that they blended well when a lighter color was used over the top of an underlayer. And using different colors in layers made interesting and lively shades.

Go figure.

I also found that I enjoyed just drawing from life. It was almost meditative, paying attention to the image in front of me, and what came out on the paper.

A suppose this is a lesson to me. Don't count something out because you "think" it isn't fancy enough. Be in the moment you are in, and give respect to the task at hand, whether that is a crayon drawing or a job hosting or taking care of the kids or paying attention to where you are.

And also, maybe I should do some more life drawing. It's pleasant.

Attention is love, I recently read somewhere. What is attention? Presence and respect? Hmm. I don't know, that might be a good recipe for attention... and so for love.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Baby Birds and What Grows Inside

Yesterday, Gabriel found a discarded birds nest on his nature walk. He brought it inside, I glued a felt circle to the bottom so it wouldn't fall apart, then made him an egg.

Robins egg blue felt right for the season. Then he demanded another egg and a baby bird hatching. Oh yes, and a mother robin, but I haven't managed that yet. The birdie looks a bit duckish with that bill. Maybe I'll try snipping it smaller. That's a fun thing about felt, you can do that with it.

Why am I doing soft sculpture lately? I don't know. It just feels like what needs to be done. So I do it.

This brings me to the previous mystery.
A felt house. Look through the windows and doors.
There's something inside of that house. Is that a...
Why yes it is. A tree growing out of the empty shell of a building.
and below it, is a carpet of grass, or maybe it's moss. And the insides of the building are the color of the sky. Hmmmm...

What could it all mean?

Perhaps that things grow even when you think it is all wreckage. Perhaps that life will find a way. Perhaps that creation comes out of constraint. I don't know. I felt the need to make it, so I did.

And yes, it does fit in the palm of my little hand.

I'm not sure if it should also have a box/diorama kind of setting, or if it stands on it's own. Or does it need to have something added to it? A miniature something inside? One that you can't see until you get right up close to it and look through the window? I do like that sort of intimacy with art. Maybe I should make a shadowbox frame for it. How would one go about doing that?

Or is it time to stop. That's one of the things about art, you have to figure out how far to go and when to stop.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yearning For Spring... Like for real, with green stuff, not just on the calendar

Today on Design*Sponge, amy m writes about plant propagation, and about being an apartment dweller who gets her garden jones in with her window sill plants.

When I was growing up in Morningside Heights in New York City, my mother was a transplanted farm girl who got her greenery with whatever would grow in little plants in her sunny bedroom windows.

We weren't rich, so these were all propagated from cuttings, or seeds (each of us kids had our own avocado tree grown from dinner's leftovers). They were planted in coffee cans and milk jugs. The curtains that covered these sunny windows were nothing but white cotton sheets hung on rods... but you know what? There is something about the sun shining through the translucent cotton, with shadows of green leaves behind it that still makes me feel at ease and alive.

Right now, I'm living life in a rather gypsy like manner, so I haven't got any house plants really. I like to keep my houseplants for a long time. Let them grow, get to know them, so I haven't risked getting any started. I miss houseplants. I miss green things in general. I even named my daughter Ivy, interestingly. I will probably start collecting ivy plants soon. I had one, a welcoming gift from my college for years. I wonder what happened to that plant? Did I kill it or give it to a friend?

I've been watching the tree outside of my living room window bud red leaves. I'm just waiting for the chlorophyll to kick in.

Gosh I wish Spring would go ahead and sprung already.
Well, until then, perhaps I can make some plants out of fabric, felt and embroidery. (Gosh aren't those cute embroidery scissors?) Here is Geninne, and one of her beautiful birds. Interestingly, just yesterday, my daughter said that her Barbie doll (I know. Barbies. What kind of feminist am I?) needed a book and that I should make one for her. Here I am, working with felt and embroidery. I don't know why I didn't think of making a little book out of that? I wanted also to give a shout out to Geninne for pointing me to a tutorial on doing the chain stitch... because my grandma taught me how when I was seven, but I'd forgotten, and had been trying to fake it... er... recreate it from my head. Thanks Geninne.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Mystery Wrapped Inside of a Conundrum Wrapped Inside of a WIP

A Sneak Peak!

This is what I am working on now. Can you guess what it is? I made it with felt, yarn and thread. I feel very proud of myself for working out the construction.

This is the first sign of green in Michigan. Not grass. Not leaves. Not flower buds.


Old damp and in the shade moss.

But that's okay, I like moss. Maybe my current project is just a little bit inspired by the moss.

Any guesses on what my project is?

I'll give you some hints. It fits in the palm of my hand and it plays on the theme of inside/outside. Plus the previous hints of materials and moss. Come on, you know already, don't you?

I should just show you a photo, I mean, I'm not into the whole mystery thing, but the photos didn't come out quite right.

And besides, I get the feeling that something is missing in the project. I need to add something. Maybe until I figure out what it is, I'll keep it quiet.

I did just start a part time job in a neighborhood restaurant. Trying to save some money so we can move boldly forward. It's taking a little getting used to, after so long being a mom at home with my books and my paints and my pens. But sometimes, when you have other responsibilities, you use your time more wisely, than when you have hours without appointments stretching out before you.

Of course a mom of two under 5 rarely has uncommitted hours, but hey, who knows how everything will come together.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hungry for Color

When I saw this painting, Pole Orange, by Labokoff on the Color + Design Blog, I just about lost my breath.

I don't know why I responded so much to that color.

What do you think about the visceral reaction that we have to color sometimes?

Do you think it means we are hungering for something?

I could imagine that wanting this color might mean I craved warmth, which I do, after such a long gray winter.

Or perhaps it means I am needing the vital energy of orange, that color that looks as if there are molecules zinging around.

Speaking of zing, maybe this orange-need means I want some citrus in my system. Vitamin C and the sparkle of the orange oil that squirts out of the peel when you first stick your thumbnail in the skin.

And there's something about the contrast of the gray that I like here, too. I don't think I'd feel the same if it were more bright colors, like orange/lime green/lemon yellow.

However, I really could manage sitting in an outdoor garden with a fresh key lime margarita, lemon colored sun, and some raw oysters with hot sauce and horse radish.

How does this connect to this picture? I don't know.

But wouldn't it be nice?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beautiful work by Jen Swearington

mixed media quilt painting Bridge with Birds and flowers by Jenny Threads over on etsy.

Sometimes I see something online that I can't help but stare at. Something I can't let go of. This is one of those times.

I am enchanted by the blues and muted skies, the orange yellow flowers, the luminescence. The graphic quality that is at the same time antiquey and tattered. Oh yeah, and the drippy paint. I love drippy paint. I don't know quite what to say but I wish I could do this. I do believe it is all hand sewn. I guess that explains the price.

I think I am heading towards more textile work. It's a totally unexpected creative swerve. I wasn't expecting to be drawn to fabric and sewing, but I am. Where does it come from?

I've been thinking about mixing painting and sewing and have been holding back for I'm not sure what reason. Looking at this mixed media painting/quilt, I feel that much closer to taking some sort of fabric/paint step.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Evolution of a Spider Web

There Is A Pattern or Chaos/Web
Felt and Embroidery Floss Doodle

I wanted to show you a few things I've been messing with in my invisible time away from the computer. One day, I picked up a felt circle and started stitching. It turned into a spiral. It made me think of a spider web. It took a really long time, because I am not a great embroiderer and am basically making it up freehand as I go.
Spinning Spider Web
Felt and floss

This time, when I picked up my felt and floss, I intended to do a spider web... although I didn't use any references. Just my idea of what a spider web would look like. I realized when I got to the outside of the web I needed to make the web less circular and more angular. It's more the idea of a web than a real web. I think I might like to add a spider to this somewhere. Maybe hang one off of the web with a silver chain, even. Who knows.
My Web Looks Like the Unknown
felt, floss, repurposed glass, plastic and silver beads.

This is what I came up with this morning. Yesterday I found this Melissa Loves post with this photo of a dewey spidery web. (sorry I can't post the photos. sometimes technology is beyond me.)

I don't have any finished projects to show... (well maybe there is the crown I made my son, but I can show that later.) I'm still finding may way back to being creative. But I thought maybe it might be nice to show that in order to get into that creative place, you don't have to knock it out of the park right from the beginning.

Creativity is a process, not a product. Yes, we make things, create things, but the most important part of of creation is not what we end up with, it's what we put in to it.

So here I am. Stumbling. Creating. Drawing it out one thread at a time.

Interesting that my favorite web here is actually the one that is the least whole, the least unbroken, the least cohesive. And the most real.

Can we take that as a metaphor for life?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Before Spring

Before Spring...

...looks like flowers and green and warm skies, it looks like this.

Bare branches, icy fog, melting now.

We start thinking about lilacs and picnics and party dresses, but Spring is not all about pastels and sugar cakes.

When you think about it, Spring holds all the brutality of Winter, along with all the gentleness of Summer. It holds its breath. It holds angry storms. It holds waiting. It holds breakthroughs and meltdowns. It holds possibility.

Sometimes I think my life is all about Spring. It's all about transition. It holds everything in the transition. Both the moment before creativity bursts forth and the fullness of things blooming.

Right now, I feel the bloom coming. It's a little painful as I try to get my way from the fallow period of Winter to the growth of Spring, but it's getting easier.

I'm hoping to get back to my blog, too. As long as I don't get another cold/flu/anything else. (Knock on Wood.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

8 Things To Get My Creative Mojo Going

What is this?

No idea. A piece of glass? A tiny quartz? Some half melted rock salt? But it's heart shaped, and it's clear and transparent.

I don't have a lot of stuff to show, or maybe I do, but I don't have photos of it because I have been so unmotivated to be creative or to post or really to do much of anything but take care of the kids and feed people and read and watch some tv.

But, I say, BUT I know what makes me feel better as a person, and despite the dumps in which I find myself, I need to be creative.

And when it comes down to it, I don't think that feeling sorry for oneself ever really makes anything better.

So, strolling around the internet, I stumbled upon Magpie Girl's post about resistance and mantras, and I thought maybe I should start my own 8 things list of getting through the resistance. Because moping about not being creative never helps. So here it goes.

8 Things to Get My Creative Mojo Going

1. Write in a journal. Sometimes it's nice to write about what's bothering you, but that often doesn't get the juices going. Sometimes that just makes you focus on what is keeping you from writing. Better is to write about moving forward. Or write about plans. Or write about where you are right that minute. Write about positive things or things that get you inspired. Keep it positive, get the energy flowing.

2. Get the hands moving and turn off the mind. Sometimes we think too much. We can think ourselves right out of doing. So sometimes I just like to get the hands moving, and not worry so much about what it is I am doing, forget the outcome, forget the perfection, just do. I might be the only person who does this, but I've found my most productive painting time can be after the kids go to bed while I watch primetime tv. Not sure why, but I think it has to do with occupying that "think too much" part of my brain while allowing the creative part to arise. This doesn't work as well with writing. I think because both have to do with words.

3. Make lists of things to do, things youd like to do, things you have to do, things you've been thinking about doing, things you dream of doing, things that help you get to doing. Like this list. This is helping.

4. Start small. A little sketch. Some frosted cookies. A haiku. A ribbon hair clip. A collage in a journal, postcard sized watercolors, a paragraph. Whatever it is, lower the stakes and make it small. There's less at stake this way, less to mess up, more opportunity to explore and take chances without fear of imperfection. Maybe a doodle seems unimportant, which might make it easier to tackle when you're facing resistance, but maybe that doodle leads to the break through you really need.

5. Get out and do it somewhere else. Take the laptop to a cafe to write. Or try writing poetry on a train/bus/airplane. Take the paintset to the garden. Or knitting to bed. Sometimes a change in venue gets the blockages released.

6. Set a timer. This can work in two ways. One, you can set a timer and commit to being creative for until the bell goes off. I find 15 minutes is a good amount of time. It's not too big a commitment to keep you from sitting down, but it's not so short a time that you can't really get into doing the work. And once you're into the work, the resistance has been beaten. And two, you can set the alarm for doing something that has been keeping you from your work, chores and the like. If you can't work because your study is a wreck, clean for 15 minutes before you start work. If you have that phone call you've been dreading weighing on your conscience, take that 15 minutes to take care of it. Use the timer to clear the deck for your work. Maybe it's the other stuff that's been cluttering your creativity.

7. Get together with a friend to talk about your work. Or to work together. Or to work separately, but together. Or to act as a sounding board or critical partner or maybe just someone to be accountable. Sometimes being creative is a lonely job, but sometimes it helps to have someone along. Find a community, take a class, join a challenge. Other people help to get the funk released.

8. Just do it. There is no equivocating. Just get started. Start the painting. Start the revision. Stop thinking about doing and just do. I've always hated that Nike could co opt such a good motivational tool, but those advertisers do know what they're doing. Just do it. Just do it. Just do it. It doesn't have to be great, it just has to be done. Maybe next time it will be better. Maybe. But one thing I know for sure, you can't break through that resistance if you don't just sit down and do it.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Blog It Forward: What Inspires Me

Oh, the irony.

Here I am, snowed in, still recovering from some series of flus and colds, in a writing and painting rut, trying to plan my daughter's 3rd birthday party and not having much inspiration with any of it, and the commitment comes calling to share "What Inspires Me" with the world.

Don't get me wrong, it's and awesome blog mashup, started by an awesome blogger, thank you, Victoria of SFgirlbybay, but the timing is flat out inconvenient. DAMN YOU LIFE!!! ahem. just kidding. sort of.

The whole thing is over here. All 300 bloggers who are participating, big cheeses as well as blog newbies, and everything in between. Well, I'm not newbie, but I'm no big cheese in the blog world, either, so I'm in between. In my group, group 9, I am following Walk Facing Traffic on March 2nd, and leading into Was Eigenes on March 3rd. Check them out.

So. What does inspire me?

Easiest answer? My kids. It may be corny, but it's true.
(Gabriel who never stops moving, unless it is to watch cartoons or read about animals, dinosaurs, aliens or monster trucks. He wants to be a scientist. Or maybe an artist. He likes to tell stories and pretend to be superheroes.)(Ivy and her love of everything pink, fairy like, princess like, or glittery, to the reluctant acceptance of her black and gray clad feminist mom. Eh, she likes what she likes. And she wants a Barbie for her birthday. I got it for her, because she's not me, and that's okay.)

They are creatively inspiring. From their demands for paintings of aliens or ant pins, to their requests for stories-- last night it was a baby pirate story, or wanting me to play guitar (badly) for them at bedtime, or wanting to make cakes and frost them with pink sparkles. Wanting to do things for my kids makes me expand my creativity. Seeing them in the world makes me think of new things. Knowing who they are and wanting them to have more out of life spurs me on to keep going, keep trying for my own dreams, because I want them to keep trying for theirs.

Aside from my kids, I find inspiration in nature, trees, animals, the sky, the ocean, science, plants. I find inspiration in old stories, kids books, mythology, fairy tales and fables. I find inspiration in my own history, my past, people I've known, people I miss. I find inspiration in movies, tv shows, music, poems. I find inspiration in other artists, both famous and not so famous. Etsy is a huge inspiration. I want to be like so many artists on Etsy. My heroes. And the many bloggers out there. Too many to list. I'm also inspired by color. I'm inspired by chance. The random choice of word or concept, smashing it up together with some other color, concept or word.

And when I am in a state like I have been lately, when I am creatively inactive (I do not support the term "creative block" or "writer's block" or any of that. It's a negative way to look at a period that is often necessary to the creative process,) I'm still inspired, even if I don't do anything with my inspiration.

Actually, I think my creative inaction is part of what inspires me. Whenever I have been in a stage of inability to create, it has always been a step towards a new era in creativity. Remarkable, really, when you think about how hard it is to be stuck like that, how painful it is to be unwillingly silent. But almost every time, the silence has led me back to my voice and my creativity.

So I'd like to give a big shout out to nothingness as my inspiration.

Even without big traumatic creative hurdles, even a quite nothingness, and emptiness of mind and space. The kind you get while staring out the window at a cafe perhaps....

Or maybe the kind when you are sitting in a car or train or bus, watching the field roll by in silence, waving dry grass in a cold breeze....
So here's to the downstroke, the indrawn breath, the negative space.

Here's to the inspiration of nothing.
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