Not Everything is Black and White…Or is it?

When you hear a story do you jump to take sides?  What prompts you to make the decisions you do?  It’s interesting that this is what I’m choosing to write about today since I started a class in bioethics last night.  In our small groups, one of the things we discussed was having a framework, a common language enabling us to begin dialogues about important issues.  Having a framework for the decisions you make enhances your dedication to the process.  However, it can also lock out options, just look at the news outlets that stand on one side of the aisle or the other.  Do you do this with your creative work?  It’s interesting how our art can punctuate what’s going on around us!

On the creative front, it’s not uncommon for artists to think in extremes.  If you sent a manuscript to a publisher and was rejected, negative self-talk ensues.  When you’re a visual artist and you don’t get accepted to a show, your negative self-talk kicks in high gear.  Why do we believe that it’s all or nothing?

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Black and white thinking can inhibit the creative process.  It prevents us from exploring what’s between the bookends of thought.  It keeps us stuck in the rut of doing the same thing over and over, even if it doesn’t move our creative process forward.  We find comfort in black and white thinking.  The illusion is that black and white thinking keeps us in a place of knowing, when in fact, it keeps us in a narrow tunnel with little or no options.

Leaving our black and white stronghold doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your creative voice, or the principles you live by.  It does mean that you open yourself to possibilities that will either move the needle or confirm your original thoughts.  If it strengthens your beliefs, then you’ll move forward with stronger conviction.

We live in a polarized world.  Why limit yourself creatively?

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Time “Warp”

If you were thinking this was an homage to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, I’m sorry to disappoint.  As a side note, I’m sure Dr. Frank-N-Furter would approve of my color choices for this project.

As you know I decided to focus my meditation during the Feast for the Soul on the concept of “protection”.   I’m looking at how the concept and protection is experienced in all walks of my life and those around me.  I’m meditating on how I can better protect those in harm’s way.  Harm can take many forms, and while I’ve been meditating, the thought that keeps floating to the surface is suicide.  This isn’t about my suicidal ideation, but those who are experiencing immense pain with no safety net or protectors in sight.

The piece I’m creating will be based on the design of a shield.  To accomplish this goal, I’ve chosen to weave the fabric that I have cut into strips last week.  The warp for those who aren’t weavers are the long, or longitudinal, strips that are affixed the frame.  It’s the foundation for the weaving, and as you know, we all need a solid foundation.

I met Sarah Haskell (www.sarahhaskell.com) in graduate school.  We both were enrolled in the arts and healing program.  I learned that Sarah is a weaver and during the course I got to see some of her work.  I’m mesmerized by weaving and have considered taking it up for many years.  I may learn to weave on a table loom at some point, but the large looms I’ll leave to Sarah.

Why do I bring up weaving and Sarah’s work?  I’ve followed Sarah for ten years and what I have learned the most from Sarah’s social media posts is the amount of patience it takes to weave.  Setting up the loom takes and enormous amount of time and physical exertion.  The biggest lesson, and that’s what I want to focus on is the amount of patience it takes to be a weaver.

Over the course of my meditation, I’ve been feeling, in my body, what patience feels like.  For me, it has become a visceral experience.  It involves some degree of body tension, but it’s counterbalanced with the release when the warp is set.  It shows what time and attention can accomplish.

The tension in my body mirrors the tension a weaver needs when setting the loom.  The warp needs to be tight enough on the loom to allow the weaver to maneuver the weft.  I’m affixing my warp strips to a painting canvas.  It’s sturdy so I can pin the strips to the top and bottom of the frame creating sufficient tension for the design.

What are the takeaways from today’s meditation?  Tension isn’t always a bad thing.  We all need a strong foundation on which to build our ideas and actions in life.  Taking time to focus on one thought, idea, experience allows you to go deeper and experience it on multiple levels.  What are you weaving in your life?

Remove Your Obstacles and Do What You Do Best!

I admit my studio has been a source of pain and confusion.  At the end of last semester, I took on a huge project and created four pieces of art in 9 days.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, as a creative, creating under a tight schedule can lead to overwhelm and anxiety.

When I finished my project, and left the studio and didn’t return for a couple of days as I recovered from the frenzy of creating.  It was an exhilarating time, but now the aftermath of the creativity was chaos.  It has looked like a tornado went through my studio, dislodging and displacing supplies, fabric, and tools.  Unfortunately, that chaos had a lot of negative energy and delayed my return.

Organizing in the house I decided to buy a new piece of furniture.  Previously I had my tools like scissors and rotary cutters hanging from hooks.  It worked for a while until I didn’t return things to their rightful place and scissors disappeared into the abyss.  I was on the hunt for something that would appeal to both my sense of style and function.  Lo and Behold, I found it!

The piece works because it has drawers that are like trays.  I can lay things out and see them all at once.  I’m not digging through drawers hoping to find the needle in the haystack, sometimes I mean that literally.  It has also allowed me to take an inventory of what I have and what I need to continue on my creative path.

It doesn’t matter how you create, finding ways to make creating easier will be a catalyst for your inspiration.  How many of you musicians have sheet music in boxes, in the piano bench, in boxes on the floor?  Painters and colored pencil artists have an abundance of raw materials, canvases, pads of paper, often stacked up in the corner of a room or under the bed.

Your organization levels will free your energy to be directed where it needs to be, focused on your art.  I find this important because telling your story is crucial to our ongoing need to contribute to the world in which we live.  We all have a piece of the “quilt of humanity” and if you’re piece isn’t there our world will be incomplete.

I watched the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards last night and the message was clear, “everyone’s story deserves to be told.”  How will you tell your story?  What can you do to free up your energy from clutter and disorganization to free flowing creative ventures?  I’d love to see what you’ve created to release the chaos and engage your creative energy in an open and fierce way.

Separation Anxiety

Yesterday I shared my venture into cutting strips from a large piece of fabric.  I ran out of strips on my first time through because I didn’t do what they tell carpenters to do, “Measure twice, cut once”.  That was lesson number one today, plenty more on its way.

When cutting fabric to be affixed to a foundation I iron on a fusible web.  It’s like double sided tape, but is used on fabric.  It allows you to iron one fabric to another with a permanent (for the most part) bond.  Even though the pieces are bonded, I still sew the pieces down for a permanent resolution.

Affixing one piece of fabric to another requires peeling the paper off the back.  This is often a time of reckoning because under certain circumstances (older fusible web, not enough heat) the fusible web will not stick to the foundation fabric.  When that happens, it requires the decision-making tree to kick in and begin a process of asking the big question, “What next?”

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Obviously, this is what happens in the fiber world, but in your creative genre the signs and symbols may be different. Think about what may go wrong in your medium, and what actions you take to rectify the situation.  It can be one of the most creative avenues available to you.  When I first started quilting, my teacher told us never buy more than a half yard of fabric because it will force you to exercise your creative muscles.  Don’t get me wrong, the first time I ran out of fabric I felt like I was dropped in the middle of the desert with no compass.  I eventually found my way and have progressed to new and more complex forms of separation anxiety.

Truth be told, we all have scary moments in our lives.  How we handle it depends on our previous preparation protocols.  Think of problem solving in other areas of your life and what your process was to resolve the situation.  This is one of those moments when art imitates life.

Stripping

Now that I have your attention we can talk about my form of stripping.  Don’t worry, there’s no poles involved and nothing exposed except your vulnerabilities as you continue on the journey.  One of the key factors when preparing for a journey like a pilgrimage is preparing for the expedition.  You wouldn’t try and climb Mt. Everest without training, having a complete list of the supplies necessary for surviving this treacherous trek, and having a Sherpa to help carry the heavy load up the mountain.

Yesterday I explored the inventory of my supplies and filled in where I had gaps that would impede my progress if I didn’t fill in the gaps.  When I started on this journey I spoke about the theme for this pilgrimage, “Protection”.  It’s important that I keep the focus of my actions and meditations on “protection” because it will guide my design.  The creative process is an amazing way to give yourself a visual representation of your message.  For me, the theme of protection brings up the idea of a shield.  My design for this work will focus on how the shields I create serve to protect me, and the world we live.

Are you wondering where the stripping begins?  You’re in luck, it starts now!  The fabric I chose for my visual protection is a stripe.  I’ve decided to cut the stripes into strips and will move forward on a design that punctuates the protection theme.  What can I tell you about stripping? Stripping is tedious.  It’s requires focus and accuracy.  It is the starting place for the design.

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Obviously, your work may not involve stripping, but what it represents is breaking anything down to its component parts.  When you reduce things to their smallest components they are manageable.  The pieces give you flexibility to rearrange the components in multiple forms.  You can do this no matter the artistic avenue you choose to follow.

What are the components of your creative enterprise?  It’s like Legos, you can pull the pieces apart and rearrange them in a variety of ways until you find one that works for you.  What’s the theme of your journey?  Thinking about your medium, what are the smallest components?  How is this process moving you forward on your journey?  The Feast for the Soul is a process, don’t rush it! (This is only day three, we have thirty-seven to go)

Preparation for the Journey

Over the years I’ve studied with a number of amazing professors.  Each of them focused on human potential, healing, and making the world a better place.  I owe a note of gratitude to Jean Houston, Lucia Capacchione, and Angeles Arrien.  These three women gave me the tools, preparing me for the journey and the path I’ve chosen.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the key ideas I’ve focused on over the years is The Odyssey and the idea of embarking on a journey that is life altering.  Pilgrimage like The Odyssey start with a call that we often turn down or refuse at first, but the clues keep pouring in and show us that the call is part of our calling.

When starting out on a journey of any kind we need to make sure we’re prepared.  What tools do you need for your individual journey?  I made an assessment prior to the start of the Feast for the Soul about the tools I would need so I can maximize the outcome of this adventure.  I do feel that it’s an adventure because it has any many unknowns as knowns.  It is driving me to begin a deep dive into my consciousness and will show me where it intersects with my community.

I have found that it’s important to have the right tools for the right job.  Recently we bought new furniture for the office.  I measured twice before making the purchase and finally once delivered I realized I’d need to take the hinges off the door.  I tried to use a screwdriver but the hinges didn’t budge.  I watched a YouTube video and the “tutor” used a nail sink to boost the pin out of the hinge.  I went a bought a nail sink, lo and behold the pin came right out.

New Cutting Mat, Two Bolts of Fusible Web, Book of Poems by Nikki Giovanni (things I needed for the journey)

Given that example, I went to the store and bought some supplies. These tools will make the journey more productive, and will keep me stocked so I won’t have to run to the store in the middle of a studio session.  It will also keep me focused on the project, the journey to mindfulness.

What will you need before setting out on your own “odyssey”?  The planning will bring you to the present, help you focus, and as Stephen Covey states, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Obviously on a pilgrimage you won’t know every conclusion, but think about what you hope will be the conclusion.

I’d love to hear about your own journey!  Feel free to share and let’s start a dialogue.

Doing Something Religiously…?

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  Even though it’s the dead of winter here in the northern hemisphere, the Feast for the Soul is a springboard for renewal, spiritual renewal.  It’s a good time to spend time in silence, following my breath, my heartbeat, and my motivation for inspiration.

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Preparation for the journey

Unlike many, I don’t meditate sitting on a cushion, chanting, or burning incense (although I do often burn a candle).  I use my meditation time to work on one piece of art, forty minutes a day for forty days.  I delve into the consciousness of my soul and how it shows itself in my art.  I give myself the space to allow the art to tell a story, a theme that is the focus for the length of the meditation.

I find it interesting that when someone asks if we do something regularly, we’re often asked if we do something religiously?  I’m not sure how this came about, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with organized religion.  I believe it relates to the idea of creating a practice.  Engaging in something with regularity and intention.  Intention is the key because it drives my focus, and in turn allows the release of negative energy.  It gives me the opportunity to allow the energy to guide my actions and provides me with a forum for something that is utmost importance to me, and in many cases, society.

We live in an unsettling world.  The amount of uncertainty is enormous and that provides a state of anxiety for many of us.  We’re hyper-vigilant impacting our sense of calm, perspective, and focus.  The media has heightened our need to be informed.  Our safety is threatened by politics, the environment, and the recent repeal of human decency.

The focus of my forty days of meditation is “protection”.  The desire, need, and right to feel safe in our country, our homes, and our hearts.  The work I’m creating will provide me with a sense of safety because I have the freedom to create.  It will provide me with a sense of calm because I’m choosing to be mindful (anyone who doesn’t think textile art doesn’t require mindfulness has never been cut with a rotary cutter or burned with an iron).  It provides me with a sense of community and purpose because I’m hoping the work will share the common story we’re currently living.

Join me on this journey (www.feastforthesoul.org).  It can have transformative capabilities and will reinforce the feeling of being in community.

Is Not Succeeding the Same as Failing?

I recently organized by studio and believe it or not I threw away some pieces that I didn’t feel were worthy of salvaging.  These works were lackluster and weren’t worth the investment of time and effort to save.  As I watched them disappear into the bin I didn’t have any sense of loss or disenchantment because although these pieces weren’t masterpieces.  I learned something about myself and my creative voice by attempting them.

The piece I’m posting was my most recent attempt at creating small works for experimentation and education (education of my soul and artistic ability).  I had created some works in the past that were simply cut outs of fabric placed on a batting and a backing.  I followed the old recipe and as I began quilting the piece, but the components started to shift and fall off the quilt.  I became increasingly frustrated by this less than perfect creation, and finally decided to stop.

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I took the piece out from under the needle and assessed the errors of my ways.  What I came to realize is that I needed to secure the small pieces of fabric down on the base so I would have a sturdy foundation when it what time to quilt.  I made a commitment to taking a little more time in the preparation so I would have success when I went to finish the art.

This small adjustment made a huge difference in my attitude toward making small works as well as the increased completion rate of the work.  I don’t feel that the piece was a failure.  I made some wrong decisions and what’s most important is I learned.  The learning process is what propels me forward in my creative endeavors.  It also gives me the motivation whenever I reach an impasse in life to see what I could do better next time the situation arises using this information.

I think this is especially important when discovering ways of easing our anxiety, lifting depression, or reducing physical pain.  If we only try one avenue of healing and it doesn’t work we think we’ve failed instead of it failing.  If we assess what didn’t work with this method, then we can look at the alternatives, make new selections, and discover better options that fit our life and our situation.

We’re resilient beings!  I hope you’ll look at what’s not working for you today and then ask yourself what else is available that will improve your quality of life!

I Zigged When I Should Have Zagged

I mentioned in my previous post that I spend a number of years traveling the country for work.  I drove to each location so I spent a lot of time on our nation’s highways and byways. I always wondered why is it that there’s so much space available in the air and yet the bugs and in my case a bird found my windshield.  I was driving home from Nashville when a partridge flew into my windshield while driving 70mph.  It shouldn’t be surprise that it shattered the windshield.

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Why am I telling you about my windshield mishap?  I’m wonder about the choices we make on a daily basis.  When I was working on this piece of art, I reflected on all the times I went in one direction when my intuition told me I should go in another direction.  I’m beginning to focus on interpreting the ideas, thoughts, and feelings that rise during my meditation.

Creating work is a reflection of our stories.  It allows us to explore what’s important to us.  It gives us the opportunity to play with the creative expression of our emotions promoting self- expression and an outlet for negativity while celebrating what’s positive in our lives.

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I’m currently enrolled in a graduate certificate program in Health Humanities and Bioethics.  I’ve been combining my mental health background, work in health and healing, and art to tell stories that reflect my personal experiences and as a means of social justice.

We all have something that gets our attention, makes us think, and hopefully gets us to act.  As creatives, we don’t have to march or picket.  We have the ability to create poems like those by Nikki Giovanni that get the attention of the nation.  We can create paintings like Keith Haring chronicling the AIDS crisis.  We can watch movies like Hairspray that shines a light on segregation in our country (something very relevant given the energy in the country).

It’s time that we pay attention to our own energy and follow its lead.  We all have those whispers giving us direction and when we don’t follow their lead we veer off in the wrong direction.  What would your creative life look like if you zagged when that’s the direction of your energy?  Don’t you think it would turn up the volume on your voice if you followed your creative intuition and energy?

Give it a try and let me know what shifts you’re making in your personal storytelling.  Don’t forget to zig when you zig and zag when you zag!

Crossing Paths

Things can change in a minute as life teaches us each and every day.  I took some fabric that I was going to use as a backing for a mini-quilt.  I proceeded to cut up scraps of fabric and when I put the quilt sandwich together, I flipped the fabric and what was the back became the front.  It’s this type of extemporaneous creating that adds to the creative experience.

The piece I created was originally titled vectors.  I like to name my pieces, but sometimes the work yells that it’s got the wrong name and I need to reconsider both the intention and design.  I went from calling the piece vectors to crossing paths.  The piece was a visual representation of what is coming up in my meditations.

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We just finished a year and it’s usually a good time to reflect on what transpired in our lives.  I thought back to when I had traveled for work and was away from home four to six months at a time.  I lived in various parts of the country, urban and rural areas, highly affluent and socioeconomically challenged communities.  I learned something from each person I had the pleasure of meeting at these diverse locations.

What did I learn?  I learned that small town living is intimate while at the same time being a bit enmeshed.  I learned that economically challenged communities are always looking for new ways of reinvigorating their communities while trying to provide opportunities for those who live locally.  I learned that the foods in western Texas are very different from the foods in northwest Pennsylvania.  What I learned first and foremost is that people are people.  All we want is to be included, heard, and seen.

I wanted to show that we never know who will cross our paths and we definitely don’t know the impact they will have on our lives.  Who has crossed your path that had an impact on your life?  How are you expressing that creatively?  Perhaps you’re writing a story. Maybe you remember a song that played on the radio while you visited a particular location and every time you hear the song memories of that place rise to the surface.

Working in oncology services I met many people who commemorated their last chemo with a celebration, a work of art, and written words.  People and experiences will continually cross our path trying to get our attention and teach us something that will propel our lives forward.

What has crossed your path?  How did you mark that experience?