Podcasts and Lectures and Classes…Oh My!

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, continued education is a must.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, we’re not born with all the information and skills we’ll need for the rest of our lives.  If you’re not growing, learning, and exploring, everyone around you will leave you in the dust.  The same goes for our physical, emotional, spiritual, and artistic lives.

Truth is, we can’t know everything about everything.  I know a lot about textile art, but I have limited knowledge about other mediums. Listening and learning from others gives me insight into the lives of other artists, while giving me ideas to translate to my own art.  Here are a couple of examples to punctuate my thoughts.

The other evening, I went to a lecture by a photographer who takes people on safari in Tanzania.  He takes those interested in photography on safari shoots.  I’m not a photographer, but I was looking for that one tidbit to add to my creative toolbox. He didn’t disappoint.  He was giving examples of different shots and he said, “Edit before you click”.  Brilliant! His point was too many of us take one hundred pictures, come home and plough through the truckload of shots.  It made me think of Coco Chanel.  She is known for saying (directed to women), “Get dressed and before you leave the house, edit, take off one thing.”

I listen to podcasts every day.  I’m hooked on Daphne Cohn’s The Creative Habit.  After I subscribed, I went back to the beginning and I’ve been listening to them in order. I want to hear the progression of the interviews.  I think of it like collecting building blocks.  The artists she interviews come from all walks of life.  They have different educational backgrounds.  They work in different mediums.  They have unique business models.  The one thing they all have in common is the love, desire, and commitment to creating art.

Last year I decided I wanted to take a class to learn something I’ve never done before.  I have a friend I met in graduate school who is a phenomenal weaver; thanks Sarah Haskell (www.sarahhaskell.com).  I decided to take a weaving class, not with one of those gigantic looms, a small handheld loom.  I wanted to understand the motivation for an artist working in fiber, but differently than me.  I wanted to explore texture.  I wanted to experience something aside from sitting at the sewing machine.  I enjoyed the class and may continue to create weavings, but I’ll stick to art quilts.  What the class did do for me was reinforce the desire to take other classes and expand my repertoire.

I know there aren’t enough hours in the day to explore every class, podcast, magazine, book, exhibition, etc.  Be selective! Be mindful of your priorities! Have an idea of what you want to achieve giving you a direction to expand your interests, abilities, and vision.

How will you apply these ideas to your own areas of expertise, interest, or desires?

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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?

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?

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)

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!

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?