December 18, 2013

To scoop or sew? Scrub or paint?

I often wonder if my son inherited his easily distracted nature from me.  A cat walking by or the sight of something shiny is often all it takes to get him off task.  What's my excuse?  There's that magazine that came in the mail that I started to put with all of the others, realizing I hadn't read it and looking through it instead of putting it away.  Time wasted.  I see the cat barfed on the carpet.  Again.  Gotta clean that up.  Someone put their dirty dishes on the counter instead of in the dishwasher.  Pick that up, see that salt is spilled around the stove, clean that up, see the trash is full, take it out, pass by the litter they do anything other than barf and poop?  Clean that up.  Uh oh, it's nearing 5:00 and I haven't got anything planned for dinner (because I hate cooking), so now it's time for a quick trip to the store.  On and on and on come and go the distractions and excuses and the wasted time.

The call to be creative has quieted in my head and that worries me.  Does the urge to be creative wane as the act of being creative becomes less often exercised?  How do I get motivated to be creative again?  Is creativity akin to playing an instrument, so that the more I practice the better I get and the more ideas flow?

Next week family arrives to celebrate Christmas with us, visiting our new home for the first time.  I've spent days trying to get better organized and tidy so that they see the house, not the contents.  While putting things in their proper place (or just trying to figure out that proper place) and tidying up, I stumbled on a tiny object that my cyber mentor and friend made for me, and it got me thinking about the choices I make in terms of how I spend my time.  In response to my frustration with a damaged snoot on one of my sculpted faces, Debbie told me about an epoxy clay I could use to mend said snoot.  She sent me a bit to try, in addition to this little sculpture about the size of a dime, two faces made of the two colors, as a demonstration piece.  I treasure this little piece of art and have it at my work desk as a reminder that even something as small as offering a bit of information can be done creatively and something can be created in a short amount of time.  How I wish I had her talent and creative soul!  Inspiration strikes again. 

Now to do something with that inspiration.

It's time to put the plan I've blithered on about into action.  Make something.  Schedule art time.  Pick up a piece of clay and start a new art doll.  Bind a quilt.  Do something.  Make something.

In an effort to do and not just talk, I'm cancelling plans to attend a party tonight.  When people ask me what I do, I want to be able to say I'm an artist, not a time-wasting wanna be.  Gotta go get my hands dirty.  Gotta channel the spirit of Debbie.

November 4, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

I just had the most wonderful and refreshing vacation in Hawaii!  It was such a shock to come home to people wearing jackets and boots (Wimps!  So Cal isn't THAT cold). 

For the first time ever, we found ourselves at a relatively empty resort on the Big Island of Hawaii, about a half hour drive north of the airport on Kona.  The day we arrived, we zipped into Kona to rent prescription snorkle masks (we're blind as bats) and those snorkels that keep the waves from washing down and gagging you on salt water.  Then, we made our usual trip to the big K-Mart store to get a full sized coffee pot and a few other things.  The prices the resorts charge for a single carafe of coffee is equal to the purchase price of a Mr. Coffee machine.  We're no dummies!  We brought our own Starbucks espresso and were ready to go.  We got some Halloween decorations for the room, some silly touristy coffee mugs, some wine and a bottle opener.  As we were about to unload the cart at the cash register, the power went out.  The store went dark, and their backup generator wouldn't kick in, so after a bit of a wait, everyone just abandoned their carts and left.  Oh well.

How exciting to find that the spot I'd tagged on Facebook as "my spot," a photo I'd snagged from the hotel web site, was actually available for the entire week!  I have never seen a resort so sparsely populated.  I met some awesome people, made nice with the hotel kitty, Aloha, and had a spectacular time snorkeling.  The first day, we swam with at least 15 green sea turtles, as many as four at once.  Beautiful!
This is me sitting in "my spot" at around 5 p.m.  We had the beach to ourselves every evening!

The view from our lanai in the morning.  
The trip ended with a good laugh.  The poor tourists that come from Japan for the first time didn't seem to notice the flocks of myna birds at the roof edge, watching for people to abandon their tables with food on their plates.  They brought the first plate load of breakfast, turned and left to go get more, at which time the birds bombed the table.  Several of us were waving the birds off with our napkins, laughing as the biggest myna bird grabbed a blob of ketchup-covered scrambled eggs the size of a tennis ball and tried to fly with it.  We were all laughing that the guests had to be "first day newbies."  The waiter came to the table, chuckled and said, "rookies" under his breath and cleaned up the mess.  The look on their faces when they came back to the table was priceless.  They didn't understand a word of English when everyone was trying to tell them what happened, but the waiter knew the Japanese word for "bird."  They understood that one.  I don't think they'll do it again.  This scene plays out pretty much daily, but everyone has a good sense of humour about it.

My husband was wonderful and threw a little private party for me.  He had managed to pack a tablecloth, my birthday gifts and gift bags and set it all up with an ice bucket and bottle of wine while I was getting ready for dinner.  I received a few goodies from my "wish list" and enjoyed a glass of wine during sunset before we zipped off to dinner at the restaurant you can almost see behind him.  Our table was located at the edge of the seating area, right near the beach where we could watch the sea turtles come up onto the rocky shoreline for bedtime.  What a beautiful way to end the day.

We returned home the day after the terrible shooting incident at LAX, grateful that it wasn't any worse and feeling particularly lucky.  It is so much colder here, but we still have a bit of a tan to remind us of our relaxing week.  Life is good.

October 6, 2013

Getting Down to Business

In an effort to take more control of my life and my own happiness, I have been trying to do things that are my version of pushing myself just a bit.  Last week I went walking with a newish friend and agreed to continue on every Friday that I have free (her only day off).  Another friend sent me a message saying she had a good time when she and her daughter came for a visit before her daughter left for college, inviting me to get together again so that I could teach her how to use the sewing machine she received from her father.  Right up my alley!

Beyond trying to expand my social circle and try new things, I am committed to set up an Etsy shop.  I should note that I started to type that I was going to "try" to set up the shop, but backspaced and corrected myself.  It's time I stop talking and start doing.

Etsy has a lot of helpful information in terms of a sellers handbook and tons of blog entries about all aspects of setting up an online shop/business.  I have just started reading and am already intimidated!  One of the topics addressed is that of market need.  I read, "No market need = no need to market your product" and I instantly think, "Oh no!  What NEED is there for art dolls?"  Now what?  Then there's the advice to ask customers what they like about my product or think about what I'd say when someone asks, "What do you sell?"  My answers, at least today, are 1) no one needs an art doll, 2) I have no customers to ask why they like my product and 3) I don't sell anything yet.  Again, now what?

I watch shows like Shark Tank where people take their ideas and have their products manufactured and wonder how they do it.  I can't be the only person that has no idea where to start.  More Winnie-the-Pooh "think, think, think" time.

I've donated a few art dolls to the Boys & Girls holiday auction.  While my husband bought them, I know there were others that indicated an interest and asked if I was going to contribute another piece again.  There's got to be a way to find those people and inquire.  Bad manners?  Or desperate move.  This is going to take more nerve than I feel I have, but I have to try something to figure out the business end of things like my target market, figure out who is my competition and figure out how to market.  The business end of it sounds so boring and scary at the same time.

Baby steps!

October 2, 2013

I have become "that old woman"

I try really hard not to watch much television, a habit that could easily become out of control since I am home alone so much.  There are a few programs that make me laugh, so I give myself permission to have those programs on while I do other things.  Yesterday I was listening to Wendy Williams.  She has a segment called "Ask Wendy," where audience members ask her for advice on personal matters.  A young lady in the audience remarked that she is dating a man that wants her to stay home and "put on a few pounds," and does not want her socializing with her friends.  Wendy's immediate response was that "sitting around the house is for old women!"  OMG.  I have become that old woman.  My big adventure today was a ten minute round trip to pick up my husband's shirts at the dry cleaner.  I cleaned off my studio desk, I checked in on Facebook a lot (shoot me now and make me stop!) and piddled around with the contents of my desk drawers, tidying up, gathering the few loose quilting pins and putting them on the magnetic pin holder.

Doesn't this all sound like the most exciting life ever???

I talk big about making friends and getting out, but I don't.  Trying to figure out why is the issue I really have to focus on.  Why don't I take a quilting class and improve my skills?  Why don't I follow up on the threat to join one of those "find a friend, already!" groups?  At this age, am I still so afraid of failing or looking stupid that I'll sit home alone, talk to the cats - again - and reorganize my magazines and quilt patterns?  This is SO DEPRESSING!  I have the time to be creative, and I'm just throwing it away.

What next?  Scoop the cat's litterbox.  Make dinner, watch birds, read a book.  I don't want to be that old woman.  I'm back to feeling like Winnie the Pooh - "think, think, think......"

September 26, 2013

It's the RULERS fault!

Frustrated with the flaws in the quilt I created this week, I decided to explore possible causes and solutions for all of the problems I had so that I don't repeat them.  I'm such a cheap date, getting all excited when I found a quilting blog where the blogger provided a tip on stacking the transparent quilting rulers and throwing out any that didn't look like the lines were accurate.  Whaaaat?  The lines weren't all as they should be?  They are manufactured with crooked lines or wrong measurements?!?  I thought I was nuts in the past when I'd cut what I thought was a perfect square, only to find it wasn't square, and it was happening frequently using the same square measuring device.  Woohoo!  I can blame it on the ruler.  Of course, I must now toss it and declare it to be flawed (and I did use it on this recent project) and buy a new one.  If the new one makes for a crooked cut, I'm going to have a harder time blaming it on anything other than "user error."  For now, my story is it was the RULER'S fault.  That, and the stupid clunker of a move not to pay attention to the placement of the needle on the sewing machine.  Whoops.

Last night I received word that the stroller and cradle I painted sold for $185 at auction.  It isn't a huge sum, but given that these auctions are usually all about getting something for a bargain suggests I should consider a little swerve on the career path.  Maybe I will repaint the chair that was intended for my friend's daughter (now 16 years old - another whoops) and offer that next year.  Better yet, maybe I'll paint that and set up the etsy shop I keep honking and wheezing about, yet never manage to get done.  For goodness sake, I helped my son's girlfriend set up a shop for her high school senior project, and she's still selling the bracelets I taught her how to make and for which I purchased the supplies.  Something's not quite right here.

Time to make good on the promise to manage time and commitments to art.  I think project #1 is to sit down and schedule the creativity time and stick to it like a dentist appointment.  We'll see how long this lasts ;-)

September 24, 2013

Keep it Moving...

Whenever I discover that there is a chip or smudge in my rarely painted nails, I figure I can just keep  my hands moving and no one will see the goof.  The same goes for when I let myself go too long between salon visits and the "snow on the roof" is visible in the part of my hair.  With a rub of brown eye shadow and my hair down and moving with me, no one notices the flaw.

Then there's my recent quilt.  I'm not quite sure how much I can flap that sucker in the breeze so that no one notices the flaws.  Can you see the mistake?
There's no such thing as a project in progress without a cat involved in it somehow.  Charlotte wanted to be sure there remained plenty of wrinkles as I tried to smooth the quilt on the floor.

 I'd like to think I'm being to hard on myself, but what a bonehead move on my part.  This photo explains it all...

This note was added AFTER I realized the mistake I'd made, having put the blue tape on the machine the last time I made a quilt, about two years ago, without a note as to why.  Oh my.

Having a new quilt pattern and all of the fabric I thought I'd needed got me in a great and creative mood.  Well, as creative as you can be when you are working from a pattern someone else designed with the fabric matching that used in making the pattern sample.  Just the act of measuring and cutting and assembling requires a lot of focus, leaving the brain unable to fret about other things in life that may not be going so well.  For those who don't sew, this won't mean a thing.  For those that do, I'm sure there will be a lot of chuckling going on in a minute.  This fancy, shmancy Bernina my husband bought for me a few years ago has a great new feature - the hole in the foot plate is a full 9mm wide and with the push of the little white button on the front, the needle can be bumped left or right of the usual center position and remain in place until the machine is turned off (it re-centers when the machine is turned back on).  Since I was using a wide presser foot and quilting with the usual 1/4" seam allowance, I wanted to use the right edge of the presser foot as my guide so that I could clearly see it.  In my infinite wisdom, the last time I made a quilt I simply dropped the needle and tapped that little white button until it was positioned so that it created a perfectly placed 1/4" seam with the fabric lined up along the right side of the foot.  Follow me?  Of course, I was brilliant and put down the blue painters tape, with the left tape edge marking the 1/4" seam edge IF the needle were centered, and the drawn line marking the 1/4" seam edge if the needle were bumped to the right twice and the fabric lined up with the edge of the presser foot.  Only this time around, I forgot the part about bumping the needle over (thus this new note to my goober self).

When I started to put the first pieces together - the black and white horizontal striped section stitched to the vertical coloured and white stripes - I was horrified to see that the colored strips were significantly more narrow, by about 1-1/2 inches.  How could that be?  I thought, "dumb directions!" and double checked the math.  The math added up.  My quilt squares didn't.  I flipped the quilt over and started measure the seams and realized they were larger than 1/4" because I, the nitwit that forgot why the 1/4" mark isn't at the left edge of the tape, had used the foot as a guide without moving the needle to the right.  Every bloody seam hogged up another 1/8" more of less of fabric.  Lots of strips meant the loss of lots of fabric.  O.M.G.  I could either take apart (how many components are there?  Thirty?) every assembled square, or just cut the black & white segments to fit the width of the thirty that were too small and call it a flippin' crib quilt instead of a lap quilt.

Lesson learned.  I learned how to make a crib quilt.

There were other mistakes and errors along the way, but I am simply going to consider them as learning experiences, make notes so that I don't repeat those mistakes, and consider this is just part of the re-learning curve. 

While I'm looking at these photos again, I should point out that Charlotte is not a poodle as her tail would suggest.  She is usually a long haired cat that suffered with the most miserable knotting of her fluffy fur, so she was subjected to what the vet refers to as a "lion cut."  Alas, the lion's cheeks were trimmed a little lopsided, so she looks like her head is tweaked a bit toward the right.  Her cut also provided a stunning view of her need for kitty Spanx.  How can a young cat that has never had kittens have cleavage like that?!?  She puts most dairy cows to shame.  We are trying to exercise her and help her with nature's tummy tuck, hoping she doesn't notice things like my son spotting her for the first time after she got home, doubling over and laughing so hard that he merely bounced with no sound coming out.  Poor Charlotte.  The indignity of it all!

Tomorrow I start on the back of the quilt.  At this point, I don't see any point in continuing the silly practice of skipping wine while I sew.  Clearly, it couldn't have hurt.  You just can't tell from this photo that the top row of black bars is narrower than the others.  I need to flap that quilt a little faster, THEN I'll take a sip.

September 16, 2013

Friendships End, Art Idles

My posts, like my artwork and my mood in the studio, have been melancholy of late.  There is a huge hole in my heart and soul as I realize that a decades-old friendship has come to an end.  I'm not sure if the other party realizes this yet as I've been unable to have that final conversation.  After really thinking long and hard about the situation for the past few weeks, I've realized how great an impact my emotional state of mind has had on my ability to be creative. 

How do adults cut off friendships?  There was no big fight, no huge misunderstanding.  There were just slap-in-the-face signals that our friendship clearly didn't mean the same thing to her as it did to me.  I realized she just wanted me to say what she wanted to hear at the moment and I obliged, even when I felt it was the wrong thing to say and do, but because I was her friend and she needed to hear it from me.  I began noticing the pattern of every conversation always being about her and the drama in her life and she never, ever asked about me, my life or my family.  I would volunteer information, but with a brief nod of her head and little comment, the topic would turn back to her drama.  Worse, her drama revolves around issues that suggest that her rulebook of life for herself is filled with blank pages, and she doesn't want to hear anything more than, "You go, girl!"  and "You deserve to do whatever you want, right or wrong, if it makes you happy right now."  I can't do it any longer.  I just can't.  I see her family suffering and she appears to believe the problem is theirs alone or someone, anyone, else's fault, and to which she doesn't contribute at all.  I watch a relationship developing that I fear will eventually no longer serve her purpose, but I won't be there to say, "You go, girl!"  But I'll be thinking, "I told you so."  I won't say it out loud, but I'm already thinking it.  For now, I go through the baby steps, the sophomoric stuff that I have the courage to do like removing photos from our shared social media site.  I cried while I did it, but the gesture spoke volumes - I'm at that point.

Why does this effect my art?  Or my ability to be creative?  I've never thought of my being creative as being tied in with my personal happiness.  When I worked full time, I spent so much time fretting that I was dying to be creative and miserable that I didn't have the time to exercise those demons.  Now I have a lot of time to be creative, and I sit at my studio desk surrounded by the materials I need for literally dozens of various projects, but my mind is blank.  I resort to pulling out fabric, seeking comfort in the distraction of having to measure and cut precisely.  If I have to cut 28 strips of 1-1/2" white fabric and make sure they are identical and flawless, I can't also think about how sad I am.

While my artistic self is idling, I have to figure out how to wrap up these sad loose ends.  Maybe after I do that - just RIP off that bandage - I'll be free emotionally to invest in creativity again.  I just have to find the courage to rip off that bandage.  Sooner would be better than later.  I am so incredibly sad for both of us.  For many years, she was a true, wonderful and giving friend.  The scales are just too out of balance for me to be able to say that any longer.

September 13, 2013

On to the Next Project...

After a number of bumps in the road, I finished the doll furniture.  Alas, I had to turn over the finished projects before I could take better photos, so this is all I've got for now.  Again, I am not a good photographer and truly need to work on that skill set!

The color in this photograph is a bit closer to "true" than the one taken indoors.  The little bees inspired by Mary Englebriet were requested by my friend that asked me to paint these pieces for the auction. 

Every time I finish a project that really tested my patience, I return to the basics like sewing.  For a while I worked on more soldered jewelry today, but gave it a rest after a bit, frustrated that I knew I was doing SOMEthing wrong, but didn't know what.  I took a break, did a little internet research, and have figured out some problem areas I need to work on like going over the same spot so many times that I melt the adhesive on the copper tape or I'm loading too much solder.  This is going to take a lot of trial and error, clearly.

I decided to work on a simple quilt project when I'm too frazzled to do anything else, starting the cuts today for a quilt called "Traffic" by Jaybird Quilts.  I met the designer and bought the pattern at the Road to California Quilt Show last year.  I still have to get a bit more of some of the fabrics, but have enough of the basics to get started.  There is something very therapeutic about just cutting strips of fabric.  If only I hadn't discovered that my cutting mat had been used by my son for a school project, the back of which was covered and lumpy from the plaster he mixed up for a science model.  Ugh.  The cutting came to an end and the scrubbing began.  Since I'm cutting 28 strips of snow white fabric, I don't dare take a chance and resume the cutting until I'm sure the mat is perfectly clean or I just buy another and hide it when not in use.

All of this is going on while I hear football on the television and hollering in the background.  I am certain that I have suffered at least a little bit of brain damage just from having to listen to the hissing and roaring noise of the crowd that is watching a bunch of grown men play "dog pile!" for hours.  I'll never understand.

September 3, 2013

The Invisible Woman

As I transitioned from full-time mother to full-time housewife and artist, I expected change.  The one thing I did not expect was the eye opening realization at just how invisible I have become and the need to fix this "nothing" that I have allowed myself to become.

My epiphany occured last week when I happened to have the television on just to hear voices other than mine, and Katie Couric's show started.  Working in the library, I could hear the topic from a distance, something about the value of female friendships.  It caught my attention, so I went to the family room to watch and listen for a bit.  Author Shasta Nelson appeared on the program, talking about her book and her web site that focuses on creating a meaningful circle of girlfriends.  As I half listened for a while, I started running through the mental list of my close friends.  I couldn't even fill one hand in the count.  Then I started thinking about the towns and cities I've lived in for the past 35 years and realized that it was the same story in each one - I had maybe one close friend at a time and, even then, I think I'm being generous when I describe the friendships as "close."  The exception was when I worked at a graduate school and many of the students working in my office were my peers and we really hit it off.  Those friendships lasted for as long as we lived in the same town.  Does that even count?  My oldest and most long-term friendship is coming to a very sad end, and it is overwhelmingly sad for me.

Wallowing in this increasing emotional downhill slide, I went to Shasta's website where I read every part of the site from top to bottom and took advantage of the free guest sign up.  In the process of signing up, there was a questionnaire about me, the point of which is to match up personalities for these small "group dates" of women in my area that are also seeking friendships.  Oh my gosh, I am so boring on paper!  In reality, I'm quite the talkative comic in a group.  But when it came to answering questions about what kind of outdoor activities I enjoy or what activities I enjoy doing in my spare time, I realized I have just fallen into the habit of doing very little.  I sort of exist in each day, waiting for the next day, and doing it alone until someone comes home from work or school.  I've allowed myself to slowly disappear, not going anywhere or doing anything unless someone else (almost always my overworked husband) has the time, energy or interest to do something.  Do I really just go to two quilt shows and a few nights at the comedy club a year?  That's it, other than one of his work-related parties or dinner with one of his co-workers or subordinates?  What has happened to me?  On paper, I look like I'm barely conscious, much less fun company.  When I get in a group, my husband teases that I AM the party and I have a blast.  It's getting there that just isn't happening.  Ugh.

I see this disappearing act happening in my artwork as well.  As I've fussed about ad nauseum, I am just dragging myself through the doll furniture painting project.  This does not look like me, but I'm having a hard time figuring out "me."  My identity has just been loss and I have to stop being so afraid to find it again.  Too much of what I do, or don't do, is driven by fear.  There's the fear of failure at the top of the list, failing at being able to maintain a friendship, failure when it comes to sharing art.  I would certainly never advise a friend to just sit in their house alone and live with it, but that's what I'm doing.  I have allowed the fear of failure to stop me dead in my tracks.  I don't want that fear of failure to stop me from making art, from making friends or from finding out who I am as an individual. 

Now what?  I really have my work cut out for me.

August 22, 2013

The Empty(ish) Nest

On the mom front, this was a HUGE week for me.  We moved our son to college.  Granted it's just 5.2 miles from the house and both my husband and daughter work there, but he's still gone.  It feels like a sleep-over with no end.  We had a little talk before he left, demanding that he not act out just because I wanted to take a few pictures.  You can see how much he loves having his photo taken as he begins to unpack in his dormitory.

Right now, he just has one roommate, though the room is currently set up as a triple.  Kevin and his roommate "D" were told that the 3rd bed remains for a while in the event that a new student transfers in over the next couple of weeks.  They are plotting what they are going to do to discourage an additional roommate - dress funny, leave funny notes on the door suggesting they go to the next room - and are having fun getting to know all of the other students on their floor and in their building.

The signs on their doors were amusing.  These kids are all studying in the university's college of science and technology and their doors had name tags on them made to appear like excerpts from the periodic table of elements.  Fun stuff.

I took this next photo standing in my husband's office window.  The university staged multiple areas for families to enjoy one of their last dinners together before they leave their son or daughter behind to begin college.  We found students whose families weren't there (I just don't get it) and invited them to join us.  At first I think it was a little awkward for them when they found out that my husband is a senior executive at the university, but they got to know him (he's very funny) and relaxed and we all had a great time.

I've made the trip back to the university a couple of times now, taking the forgotten pajamas, forgotten lap top and phone charger cords and enjoying attending events as a parent for a change.  Kevin seems to be adjusting really well and has additional new friends with him every time I see him after just two days.  Things are good.

On the art front, I just LOVED the soldering class I took last week with a local artist.  What a difference the right tools and good instruction make!  Photography skills continue to elude me, but these will do well enough to show the before and after.  The larger piece on the right was the first piece I soldered in the class.  It's not perfect, but I didn't bleed from being stabbed with solder spikes like the ones I made with the lousy, cheap tools I bought last month at the craft store.

(L) My first try on my own and (R) a piece I made in class
There were only three other students in the class, which took place in the garage studio of the instructor.  As a group, we all decided to return for another class to make a crown (well deserved, if I do say so myself :-)  This is the one she showed us in her studio that we'll use as a sort of template.

For the next three weeks I will be creating the various sized soldered pieces, then we take all of our bits and pieces to the class and learn how to "build" the crown.

Finally, I remain swamped and frustrated with the projects for the Boys & Girls Club auction.  The deadline is earlier and earlier every year and the flaws in the furniture alone make it SO hard to paint!  The little stroller has wheels that simply cannot be removed without destroying them, securely and overly-glued on.  Trying to paint the body of the stroller with little wiggle room has forced me to be creative.
None of the parts can be removed to make painting in nooks and crannies manageable :-(

Painter's tape protects the wheels from the red paint.  Now how to paint the back of the wheel and not the body of the stroller.  Sigh.

I have yet to break the news that there was just not enough time to make a quilt.  I've only made four quilts in my life, so it's not something I can do in my sleep like some quilters can!  It took forever just to find all of the right fabrics, so maybe next year.  Between my class, problems around the house like no hot water for two days, broken sprinklers, and the marathon of appointments to get Kevin off to school with a bank account, a haircut, an official State ID and more, I'm amazed to have managed to get laundry done, much less make a quilt.  Do I sound like I'm making excuses?  OK, but they're legitimate excuses.

Today I am appreciating the emptyish nest.  I still have the older one at home, but she's gone so much it's like being without kids.  Finally, I have time for art.  I'm going to go make more mess now.  :-)

August 14, 2013

Make It Work

Yesterday I was working on the two painting projects for the Boys & Girls Club auction, grumping in my head that I dislike both projects, fretting that the furniture is poorly made, struggling to make a paintbrush fit in the nooks and crannies shorter than the brush is long, when I thought of Tim Gunn on Project Runway.  He'd stop in the workroom to check on the designers on Project Runway and after hearing about their plans, maybe sometimes their dilemma, he'd tell them to "make it work."  Even with the flaws in the furniture, I need to make it work.  Time to think outside the box and consider something other than just my typical painting designs.  Maybe I should consider decoupage or some other means of embellishing the furniture.  What the heck, at least it will detract from the "ick" factor of it.  Bahaha.

With my son home more than not, I am finding more time to work in my studio space, but still feeling guilty about not cleaning house.  Will there ever be a balance?  Two of my three cats continue to explode fur as they walk, leaving behind enough to build a new cat, and I'm stuck with a newish vacuum cleaner that can suck up lizard tails (thank you kitties for THAT little gift under the sofa), but mechanically chuckles to itself while I make pass after pass over the poofs of fur that remain stuck to the carpet.  Their is a conspiracy afoot to prevent me from getting artwork done.

Today I feel the pressure to work on the furniture, fret that the last of my fabric hasn't arrived for the quilt I intended to make (that I just can't imagine getting finished on time), and still have to collect old photos, clip art, etc. for the soldering class I'm taking this coming weekend.   Am I really such a procrastinator that I feel I get so little done with so many hours in a day?  My plan for time management isn't quite finely tuned just yet.

Another day in the battle with the clock.

August 6, 2013

Making Lists

Time management is not my forte.  A few years ago my boss encouraged me (with no real option on my part) to attend a session being offered at the hospital on time management, run by a consultant that I knew well and who knew what a mess my office always was.  The one thing I took from that class that I still try to use today is list making.  If there are just too many things to do and no way to remember them all, I make a list of the top 3-5 "to do" projects, mark them off as they are completed, and only have on my desk what I needed to tackle one project at a time.  It really worked.  Of course the monstrous pile that had been on my desk was simply moved behind me, but I met more deadlines with less pressure employing this technique.  If only it worked for art projects.

One blog that I stumble upon now and again is that of a painter and has been preparing for an art festival where her work will be available for purchase.  I think in a recent post she remarked that she had complete over 30 paintings in a month, at one point producing nine paintings in two days.  Huh?  Why am I so slow?  I labor over choices so much that I spend more time thinking than doing.

Today I just had to get started on a quilt if there is even the slimmest chance of getting it done in time for the auction.  Of course, I also have the teen son asking me, "When can I get my hair cut?  When can I get an eye exam?  I'm almost out of contacts!" while I also have a cat that needs to get her knotty-furred self summer shaven (for which I need a tranquilizer dart just to get her in a cat carrier).  So I just stopped everything, made quick copies of the pages with the fabric requirements for two quilts (because I still hadn't made up my mind when I would make) and headed off to the local fabric store.

Yuck.  The fabric store is now trying to compete with Michael's craft shop, so there was very little fabric to choose from.  I stood in line to purchase one whopping item, a new quilt square for cutting, then took off for the over-priced local quilt shop.  It was hard to find what I needed - 11 tone-on-tone drab fabrics.  Doesn't that sound like a lovely finished project?  It took forever and I think I got most of what I need to at least get started.  Then of course there's the one fabric that totally distracted me and I just had to buy a pinch.  All I could think of was that Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...."  Guess which one doesn't belong?

After I bought most of the fabric I needed, I still had to run to the grocery store, pick up the dry cleaning and pick up the family room before I can justify sitting at a cutting table.  I think I need to schedule time for creativity much like I schedule visits to the eye doctor and the vet, or I'll never get anything done. 

Item No.1:  Get off the computer!

July 31, 2013

Paint, Stitch and Worry

I'm warming up, falling back on comfortable.  When my mind is a big empty cave filled with nothing in terms of creative thought, it's easy to go to what I find simple and easy - painting, sewing, and quilting.  Am I dumb for saying yes to donating work to the annual fundraiser auction?  Not this time.  My creativity brain cells have been on hiatus and I need to wake them up.

During our July 4th celebration (and after a bit of wine), my wonderful friend Deb asked me if I'd be willing to paint a piece or two of furniture AND make a quilt.  I must have had too much wine because I said yes.  What was I thinking?!?  At lunch last week, Deb reminded me that I had agreed to paint two pieces, a cradle and a stroller.  A stroller?  Who paints a stroller?  I was SO relieved to find that not only was she providing the furniture, but it is doll furniture.  Whew!  I can do this.  I am a little concerned because the furniture is not of good quality.  It was put together with one of those hydraulic staple guns, peppered with the little holes on the surface, gaps in the joints and poor wood surface quality.  My name is going to be on it, so I want to be sure I make it clear that I painted donated furniture.  I may make a small quilt to go with the cradle to distract from the flawed wood.  When in doubt, distract!

When it comes to the larger quilt, I am not going to make myself nuts trying to resize and redesign a quilt pattern or make one that is so complicated that I barely make the deadline as I did last time.  This week, I went to the local quilt shop (a luxury that I did not have in my old town) and was immediately overwhelmed.  My mind was buzzing as I took in all of the patterns and colors.  How does anyone look at all of these bolts of fabric and know what to take home?  After cruising every short aisle at least four times, I made a decision.  I bought three yards each of both black and white solid cotton.  What a dork.  But I also found a couple of books with great designs that I want to try, so it wasn't a total waste of time.  The book "Transparency Quilts" has wonderful information and quilt designs that I appreciate because they are non-gender specific.

This quilt entitled "Small World" really caught my eye.

This weekend is the last year that the International Quilt Show will be here in Southern California, slated to move to Portland next year.  What distressing news!  My husband "H" has insisted that we go early, make a day of it (for as long as we can stand the growing crowd) and then enjoy lunch at the beach, taking in a bay cruise (if I remember to bring Dramamine for sea sickness because I am a total weenie).  Sounds like a great day.

We are trying to keep ourselves busy on the weekends and distracted from worries.  H is a diabetic.  When work stresses him, which it does all the time, he stops taking care of himself.  I got a call from his doctor this week, concerned about abnormal blood test results.  The worrying begins.  He did a "do over" and the results came back better, but glucose levels are running higher than usual and we don't know why.  Is the insulin bad?  Are the test strips bad?  Is the meter in need of replacing?  Is the insulin just not working so well all of a sudden?  It's hard to be creative when mom & wife mode kick into gear, when life and health are more important.

Today I am going to try to enjoy having time for art, even if it's spent painting doll furniture, maybe even play with fabric for a while and paint or stitch away some of my worries.

July 14, 2013

Fearing Failure, Staying Safe

Today I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas for an upcoming project.  Gathering my sketch pad, I cruised through the pages looking for a good sized blank spot.  The homework assignment at the end of lesson one in the online class I took was to start thinking of an image for the fiber collage using clip art or coloring books, and clipping images from magazines or other imagery sources for inspiration.  My notes are voluminous.  My  Does the doodling of ideas count as art or even starting art?

Next I found myself looking at ideas for other projects like Teesha Moore's fabric journals (would I even use one?) which incorporate a lot of the same basic techniques as Susan Sorrell's work, layering fabric, embelishing with embroidery stitches or beads.  Still, I have nothing but notes on paper to show for the day.

So why don't I get past this step?  Thinking back on many other things I've always wanted to try but didn't, I finally have to admit to myself that I'm still afraid of failure, afraid as being perceived as a joke or as an insult to other artists by calling myself an artist.  When my husband and I went to the Laguna Arts Festival and visited the booths of artists at each of the three venues, he would often mention that I am an artist and I was immediately horrified and tried to brush it off and change the subject.  No matter how much I try to talk myself into believing in myself, I just don't.

My lack of confidence does not squash my lack of desire to be better.  However, it does squash my ability to just get started.  Now what?  My inner critic is saying that I SHOULD be embarrassed and should hide what I make.  If I never have to show anyone, will that give me the mental permission to go beyond planning a project and allow me to get my hands dirty. 

If I don't do something now, I'll never do it.  I have had a long stretch of time now to get dirty and make something, but I use the laundry or bursts of cat fur (and yes, I do think they blow it off in bursts to amuse themselves, the rotten furballs that should be bald) to be too busy to make something, thus safe from failure.  I'm beginning to think I need therapy more than I need art classes!!!

Step one:  Put away the darned art books and magazines.
Step two: Sit at the studio desk SOMEthing.

It's time.

July 8, 2013

Finding a Fix

These past few days I've been feeling very depressed and angry, bored and uninspired, disappointed, sad and emotionally stagnant.  At the end of the day, I feel more and more like I'm becoming all of the things about my mother that I despised.  She was miserable around the family, but clearly able to perk up and have loads of laughs and fun around others.  Why not at home?  Now I find myself in the same position.  I have grown weary of my own hurt feelings.  I am worn down by feeling so unhappy at home, finding happiness in the company of anyone but my own family.  I think back to those days of avoiding my depressed mother and my angry father, trying to remember positive things about them and my childhood, though it is a challenge to come up with much.

I remember that my mother had a beautiful singing voice.  She talked about painting, but I could only vaguely remember seeing one watercolor she created of a little bird back when I was in high school.  I mentioned this to my sister recently, and she surprised me by telling me she had the painting and would send it to me.  This is it.  This is the one and only piece of art left by my mom prior to her death in 1996 at age 63.

I found it odd that she dated it '86 because I left home in '78 and saw the painting about two years earlier.  She also signed it P. Carter-Carlson and while her first name was Patsy, she never, ever answered to that Patsy, and never used her maiden name.  Her family referred to her as Patty, but the rest of the world referred to her by her preferred middle name of Carole.  Odd.

Today I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how I was going to find a fix to my mood, my lack of motivation, and stop the self-pity party.  Trying to cheer oneself is not easy!  However, I can't stand my own company, so something HAS to be done.  Today I received an email for art classes being taught fairly close by, some of which I wanted to take a couple of years ago but couldn't because of my mom/driving/kid school schedule.  Now I'm free.  I'm actually free to take a class, free to pretend to be more artist than mother.  As luck would have it, the single-day class being offered on what was the day I would have been taking a friend to the airport (she had to tell me today that she had to cancel her visit due to work vacation freezes) is an all-day course in simple soldering.  Given my most amusing and dangerous soldering results, this was perfect timing.  I signed up for the class, paid for it (no backing out now!) and emailed the instructor about purchasing one of the few supplies kits she is assembling for sale.

While I've wasted a good portion of the day feeling sorry for myself, I did manage the first, albeit gentle, kick in the behind to fix what is ailing me.  It's not dark yet.  I have time to start collecting bits and pieces, photographs and papers for the class next month.

Onward and upward.  If this doesn't make me feel better, I'm going to give the cat a haircut that will give me chuckles for a while.  That always works ;-)

June 12, 2013

The Last Ride, A New Journey

It sounds like a cowboy movie title.  This morning, I woke up the computer to check traffic conditions for the earlier-than-usual trip to the high school with my son.  My Facebook page was open and I saw a comment posted by my cousin whose son is graduating from high school today.  She was debating how much tissue she'd need, knowing she would be a sobbing mess, saying goodbye to the years of watching him grow up, watching him play baseball, and now moving on to real adulthood.  I shouldn't have looked at it.  I got in the car with Kevin, we started driving and I glanced over at him and told him, "Well, this is it.  This is the last morning drive to school together.  Ever."  He pointed out that we have graduation tomorrow, but that's not the same thing.  I tried really hard not to let him see my eyes well with tears or my chin quiver; the kids make fun of me for how easily I cry over things like that.  It hit me harder than I'd expected.  Trust me, I won't miss the miserable drive.  Yesterday, I experienced a 4 foot long piece of 2x4 lumber whirling like a helicopter blade toward my windshield on the freeway, both of us traveling at high speed, and managed to slam on the brakes without getting hit from behind so that it hit the lower front portion of my van and exploded into toothpicks instead of smashing into the windshield and killing me.  I can happily say goodbye to road hazards, fools that run red lights, and endless construction zones (I must have passed 1,942 orange cones today in roads that were made narrow and crowded due to road construction).  Life changed for me today.

Having time for art is going to be great.  That's what I keep telling myself.  This is what I've wanted for years, and now here it is.  Excited to dip my toes into the studio for a while and blow off laundry (OK, I did two loads at the same time since the machines are in the "studio"), I thought I'd give soldering another try.  I don't want to say it was a total flop, but BOY was it a total flop!  However, I will not be deterred!  After trying the solder that already had flux in it (what a mess), I tried the fatter solder and the flux paste.  Hmmm.  Was it supposed to need stirring?  There are no instructions about how much.  Did the copper tape wrap over the edges enough, or should I have used wider copper?  If I get flux on the glass beyond the edge of the copper tape, will the solder stick?  Clearly, THIS is what "self taught" means.  It means making messes, having absolutely no idea what I'm doing and just learning by trial and error.  If only I could get to the trial and "success!" part.  Here is today's debacle...

<- -="" and="" be="" front="" the="" this="" would=""> is the goofy back made from doodling with a pen and watercolor paints.  What a hot mess!  I think there was too much flux and I do believe I have proven that flux can be fried.

So before I set everything on fire with blobs of molten solder, I unplugged the iron and let it rest and cool.  (Of course, I'm totally paranoid and thought I smelled burning, but I think it's a neighbor grilling burgers - whew!)  This would be a good time to get out my old sketch book and look at old ideas and see if anything triggers a creative nudge.  I look at a long list of words on one page and realize I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking.  Really.  What was I thinking?  How bad an art journaler (is that a real word?) can I be if I don't know what the heck I was thinking?  I'll just make something up.  That's creativity!  Bahaha.  I think this was my brainstorm for an online class I signed up for with Susan Sorrell.  Good grief.

So tomorrow, I'm a full-time artist-wanna-be.

Mom When They Need Me, Time for Art at Last

June 5, 2013

Teach, Learn, Teach, Learn...

As my son and his girlfriend wind down their last days of high school, I found myself playing teacher in the studio.  Kevin needed to create a visual example of a possible future species of plant, calculating how this imagined plant species would evolve over one hundred million years and create a model.  All I heard in my head was the Scooby Doo noise, a sort of "Huh?"  It was fun to sit at a restaurant at the beach after a visit to the aquarium, sketching ideas on a napkin and brainstorming about the materials he might use to create this faux tree and vines.

We went to the craft store and wandered the aisles grabbing bags of moss, mesh wire for form, paper clay mix and mini grape vines for his project.  His girlfriend wanted to make a "survival kit" for a classmate who will be moving across the country for college, having been admitted to MIT (Go Robbie!!!) and found a wooden trunk to paint.

The studio was jammed with teens and their stuff.  Kevin and I mixed up the paper clay, I helped him figure out how to use the screen and bits of wire to create a tree trunk form, and taught Shawna about the joys of gesso.  For such simple projects, I was really excited about getting my hands dirty and helping them learn.  Ah, I miss my days as a Girl Scout leader!

Kevin continues to take over my studio on day 3, I think, of his project.  Todays lesson was about the use of a hot glue gun (don't put in on the desk, don't set it down on my sketch pad, don't burn your fingers, yes, you can apply paint over it, but use a little gesso first...).  I was reminded of a couple of rules myself.

1.  Don't try to take pictures of your teen.  It makes them grouchy.
2.  Don't photograph your studio when it also serves as your laundry room, or all of your dirty laundry and related equipment will be made public.  Oh well.
3.  Teens can multi-task by talking on their cell phones, snarling and attaching phony vines to a phony tree all at once, all while the mom's IQ drops by double digits as is proven by the fact that she thinks she can take a photo of her teen without making him grouchy.

The multi-tasking king

I jest.  He only growled a little, but didn't actually snarl.

The next big lesson today was more of a confirmation than a lesson.  I definitely, positively stink at soldering.  The soldering iron I bought (the only one I could find) came with a solder that had a bit of flux "built in."  It spit and sputtered and looks like I parked my piece under a tree dripping sap.  Yuck!  I also think I actually drew blood in at least three fingers handling this spikey mess after Round II of attempting to solder.  Sheesh, I need to take a class.  Maybe two.
Back, using papers I made in a monoprinting class I took with Traci Bautista
 Seriously, I drew blood!  I'm not even sure how this works.  I *think* I can use the soldering iron to melt down the spikes and smooth them to a less dangerous surface, but I'm not sure.  Windex would probably remove the tacky splatters of flux, but I'll have to check with Uncle Google on that one.

In any event, I have been making art.  It may suck, but I don't care.  While at the craft store with my son, I bought a new little pack of water colour paints and have been doing painterly doodles with those as well.  Those doodles also suck, and I don't care.  This is progress!

My newest goal remains to rediscover the joy of creativity.  There will be no test, no report card and no critic's review of my work because I am going to make art when I can for the sake of making art.  Exactly one week from this very moment, I will be watching my son, my baby, walk the stage and graduate from high school, ready to move on to college.  My days of having to struggle between time in the role of a mom and time in the role of an artist will start to dwindle.  I may even regret that new found freedom and time to create.  Another lesson.  Appreciate what we've got when we've got it.  I wouldn't trade the mom time for anything in the world.

Good grief, now I've made myself woofy.  Time for a glass of wine and a trip to the studio with my camera to torture my son while he's still available for torturing ;-)

May 23, 2013

Introspection = Procrastination

Today was another free day for making anything I wanted to make.  Instead, I read blogs, looked at Pinterest, cleaned out all of my sons baseball caps and empty soda cups from my car, cut down old cardboard boxes with which I filled the recycling bin (and found the legs to a new chest that were accidentally thrown out as part of the packing material - whew!) and glanced through my sketchbooks.  I've come to a few conclusions.

First, while I have made myself nuts wanting to get into art journaling and looking at a million books and web sites for help getting started, I realized that all of my sketch books are actually art journals.  OK, they're a bit drab and could use some colour, but I've been doodling down thoughts and ideas for art projects for years, making notes of some of my fabric paints, and making laughable attempts at drawing objects.  I even found five pages to which my now 18 year old son contributed. The theme is consistent: 

He graduates from high school three weeks from today.  I miss the days of creating such simple art together.

While wasting art time, I did stumble across some advice from Alisa Burke's blog.  She wrote a post about how to improve blogging skills.  One of her tips was more about art than blogging and I can appreciate the message.  She noted that there is just so much copying and "idea-borrowing" as a result of all of the images available on Pinterest, blogs and the internet in general.  She searches to see if an idea she's got has been done already and if it has, she moves on to something else or finds a way to make her idea more unique.  Too often I am looking to outside sources for ideas and it's time to stop.  Thank you, Alisa Burke.

Today I am commiting to working on art for a while before I give myself permission to scan the internet, Pinterest or my zillions of art and inspiration books.

Right now, I am obsessed with tiny drawings and paintings.  Mind you, I know that I stink at it but I don't care.  It's a great day when I can move ahead with doing something I like to do even when I know it's not good.  My new mantra is going to be that it's about rediscovering the joy of making something, anything.  For now, it's my silly little paintings about the size of a postage stamp.  One of these days I'll like what I do enough to encapsulate it between glass and make some jewelry with original artwork in it like this one, inspired by a tiny photo my mother-in-law's cousin took in college in the 1930's of their music teacher.

It's just me and the cats today.  Time to go make a mess.

P.S.  It's a couple of hours later and I had a great time painting and working on making a pendant with one of those Tim Burton-inspired water colors, just to experiment.  That stupid glass is really thin!  I had barely started playing with my brand new and just-out-of-the-package soldering iron, proud that I had neither burned or cut myself, when I turned the piece with my little pliers and heard a tiny crunch.  Sigh.  Time to try again.
Notice the crack that is on both the front and back bit of glass.  Good grief.

April 25, 2013

A whole day for art!

Today was unusual in that every member of my family is either busy away from home until late tonight or out of town.  The car has been able to rest in the driveway for the entire day.  Woohoo!  Like every day, I come home after the morning drive to school and immediately see every bit of mess, every glass or plate that was delivered to the kitchen after I had done the dishes, and the unfinished paint job in the family room.  After a couple of hours of picking up, washing, vacuuming and reorganizing, I realized I was wasting a rare gift - a free day.  I put away the sponges, the cleaners, and the vacuum and got out my watercolors.

Once again, I cruised quickly through my book of Tim Burton's work and started playing around with pencil, pen and paint.  Let me point out again that I have no idea what I'm doing.  As I've said before, I quit after a single day in my one and only art class after having the instructor take my sketch pad out of my hand and write a big, fat "F" across the page.  Day 1.  What a jerk.

Learning to play around and shut up my internal critic is getting a little easier. Making more time for art will be easier when my son finishes school (I have one of those widgets on the computer that is counting down the days).  I'm not sure I'll know what to do with myself that next day :-)

Back to the fun stuff.  So this is the silly stuff I did today, all of it inspired if not flat out copied from Tim Burton.  They are about 2" square.  Initially, I was thinking of artwork that I could sandwich between glass and solder, making a pendant.  There are a lot of soldered pendants on sale online, but they all appear to be prints or copies or clip art, but not original artwork.  I thought it would be fun to make something with an original piece of art.  Of course I wouldn't try to make and sell something that was a sad attempt to replicate another artist's work - this is just practicing with painting. 


Today's bit of wisdom for me came from the fabulous Debbie Fecher Gramstad who told me it's all about the journey and the daily practice.  Every day that I play around and work at making it more mine and less influenced by someone else's work, it will become more of MY art.  Today was a good day in terms of turning down the volume of my inner critic.  I think I managed to actually mute her today.

Today I am also going to resume another practice Debbie reminded me about, the gratitude journal.  Today I am grateful for a day to paint.  I am grateful for the space to play and for the opportunity to create without a clock or a watch ticking and poking me to do something I "should" do.  I am grateful for not having to wear shoes for nine hours.  Woohoo!

This was a good day.

April 10, 2013

Today's Muse: Tim Burton

In 2011, I attended an exhibit of Tim Burton's work at a museum in Los Angeles.  I marveled at his prolific creativity.  The man must have visions of art buzzing in his head morning, noon and night.  He doodles, draws and scribbles all the time.  How I wish there were a way to make that kind of stuff happen in my head.  Today I picked up the book of Burton's work that I bought that day at the museum and was inspired to just goof around with water colors and pen.  Oh my goodness, do I have work to do!

While I am trying to find time to be creative, I have found that I struggle with what I want to make and create.  Haven't I fussed about this before?  I continue to spend a lot of my spare time working with my son's girlfriend as her senior project mentor.  In trying to come up with creative ideas, I thought it would be fun for both of us to learn how to solder and make jewelry like the piece I had published in Cloth Paper Scissors (which was not soldered, but easily assembled) as well as try sketching and painting.  Now I had a reason to paint.  This is my attempt at playing around for something to sandwich between glass for a necklace.  We'll just call these practice and a source of chuckles.

This is where we learn what happens when we put too much paint on at once and then touch it.
This is what happens when we try again and DON'T touch it

All I can do is just keep trying.  I'm going to put a little sketch book in my car so when I'm waiting to pick up kids from school, I've got no excuse.  I hope to continue to be inspired to just give various types of art a whirl, improve my skills and more importantly, get back to having fun being creative regardless of the outcome.

April 4, 2013

Brain Freeze

The work in our new house has slowed to a crawl, so I have a little more time for art IF I blow off housework.  I can live with that :-)  My husband is traveling a lot, my daughter is in Asia for weeks, so it's just me and the teenager.  This means less cooking time.  Woohoo!  With mess-makers reduced to half in numbers, I may have time to do something!

The problem is what to do when I am having a brain freeze in terms of ideas.  Prompted by the high school senior project for my young mentee (is that a word?), I bought the stuff to solder pendants.  Looking at the pendants so many other artists have for sale, I do NOT want to do the same thing.  Today I pulled out my folders of papers for my collage journal (that's been dead in the water for a year) and started looking at old photographs.  I tweaked, cut, doodled and made nothing.  Nothing.  Trying to stay attentive to the task at hand, I put on a Harry Potter movie I've seen a hundred times so that I had voices for company, but wasn't distracted.  No help.  I tweaked a few old photos, made a few more notes, and managed to cut two pieces of paper.  Good grief.  I'd like to blame my lack of creativity on the hideous green carpet we've not yet replaced (during spring break!) or the blah color on the walls I just had painted and need to repaint, but it's just being out of practice and out of my mind.

Regularly working on art has got to become a greater priority.  If only my life, my schedule and the calendar were more cooperative.

March 5, 2013

Urgent Crafting

It's been much longer than I thought since I posted last.  Working on our new house prompted the creation of a second blog, my method of keeping family informed on our progress.  My efforts to keep track of whom I had told what made me realize I needed an easier method than email.  Most of my energy has gone into hovering over contractors, driving my son to school and back (21 miles each way in Southern California traffic - ugh) and frantically trying to help him get caught up on his required-to-graduate senior project that was JUST approved (other students' projects were approved in October and November).  The requirements and deadlines remain the same.  O.M.G. 

In order to squeeze in some art time, I am happy to be working with his girlfriend as her mentor on her senior project, creating and stocking an Etsy shop.  The problem is that she lives quite a distance away and I've got to teach her how to make whatever she wants to make.  We went from, "Wouldn't it be fun to learn how to quilt?" or "Want to learn how to make neat stuff with Friendly Plastic?" to "OMG, what you can whip up quickly that doesn't require costly supplies or challenges in shippin that we can get online before the deadline?!?"  And still have fun.  And have the project meet the requirement of "a stretch," something that the school leaves us to figure out by means of ESP or osmosis or anything other than just telling us.

So I started out teaching her the basics of sewing.  She made a small stuffed figure that she has started to paint.  OK, that's not going to work.  If it takes two weekend get-togethers to get this far, we are definitely going to run out of time.  We decided to just crash a Michael's craft store and brainstorm.  They no longer carried the materials to make the charm like the one I made that was published in Cloth Paper Scissors (darn!), and the other materials were way too expensive.  Then we spotted the hemp rope, and then the coloured nylon cord.  I remembered learning to macrame in my elective class in middle school in the Philippines, and I still remember how!  So we're going to craft up some bracelets, some with colored or dyed cord, some with simple beads, some with just one lovely glass will be fun, and I'll get some artsy time.  They are very popular with the teens these days and we know a lot of people are making them, but desperate times and all that rot.

It makes me happy that my young mentee still wants to learn a lot of the crafts that I know, and I will be delighted to share studio space and teach her.  That is the most fun part for me. 

February 7, 2013

Dirty Hands are Busy Hands

While the ground floor of my house is being painted, I'm trapped in my studio space.  I can get in and out through a door to the back yard, but the door to the house is covered with tape and plastic.  Yuck.  This is what I'm living in right now.

The kitchen under wraps
The living room, finally with lights, but weeks to go on the plastering

Being stuck in the studio space isn't a bad thing (I can do laundry at the same time), but being forced to sit in here without a plan has triggered a little bit of fretting. With time to kill I always hope for ideas other than just a tornado of cluttered thoughts about creativity in my head leave me like a deer in headlights, making nothing.  Once again, I sat at my desk, looking around at all of my supplies and not having a single productive thought in my head about what to do.

While rummaging through shelves and bags to organize more (always a good time killer), I did manage to find the torso of a new figurative piece that I started working on before we moved.  In the last few days, we've had so many people in the house related to our renovations.  A number of them have seen my earlier work hanging on the wall.  I didn't observe a single look or comment that was positive.  My lack of courage and confidence in my skills is creeping up on me.  Now what?  Time to silence the inner critic.

I decided I needed a prompt/kick and I just Googled something like "art prompt too many ideas in my head."  Brilliant, I know.  That didn't work.  So I Googled "Teesha Moore journal tutorial" because her work gets me rolling a bit, but I've seen it before and felt like I needed something fresh.  On the side bar, I saw a video by "jenniebellie" about a 15-minute art journal page.  I could do something for 15 minutes.  A recent article by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer suggested starting an art journal to get the creativity juices flowing, but NOT to start with a fresh, clean all-white pages journal.  That produces too much anxiety and pressure.  I remembered having a pretty leather-bound little journal, dug it out and started to play the video while I just painted and printed, rubbing pan pastels, smearing paint, and sponging over stencils.  It's not a finished page and it only took a few minutes, but it was great to get my fingers dirty and not feel pressured to produce art that someone else would find fabulous.
The beginning of a two-page journal spread
We'll see where this goes.  I am going to try to do something like this as many days as I can get into the studio (sometimes I'm trapped upstairs, depending on the work going on in the house).  I will try to draw/sketch a little every day, hoping that the practice doesn't make perfect, just better.

January 31, 2013

Sneaky Art

My son, along with every other senior in his high school, is required to complete a "Senior Project," in order to graduate from high school.  The students are required to "research a topic of (his) choosing which will be developed into a research paper."  After multiple attempts to get his first idea approved and multiple rejections, he has thrown in the towel and is back to square one.  He wanted to learn the ropes in terms of becoming a professional musician from real pros, put together a jazz band and get a gig.  I have a wonderful friend who is a professional musician that talked trumpet players/recording artists Wayne Bergeron and David Washburn into agreeing to help mentor my son on his project.  It's now so late in the term that it just can't be done within the time constraints imposed, so he's starting over and very worried.  He needs to find a project for which he can write a lengthy research paper, conduct a minimum of 15 hours of field work, all of which must represent a learning stretch.

They want a stretch?  Here's a stretch.  Take an 18 year old boy that plays the trumpet and is obsessed with online computer games and teach him how to quilt.  He can make a quilt for donation to a service organization like Project Linus or The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) Raising Awareness & Funding Research Through Art.  I'm thinking, "Momma's going to get some art done and have company doing it!"  We'll have tandem sewing machines (I get the Bernina!).  He actually has another (unrelated) project idea that he hopes will be approved (creating and implementing an emergency preparedness plan since we live in an earthquake/wild fire zone).  Personally, I hope the quilting one is approved ;-)  It would do him good to learn to sew, to break out and do something completely foreign and even contribute to a wonderful cause.  He cringes every time I remind him how much he begged me to let him sew when he was little.  He can make a mean bean bag and whatever that blob of fabric scraps stitched together was supposed to be.  He had so much fun.

About 1999 or so, before renovation of my dining room and before having a real studio.  I had one happy little boy on my hands, making bean bags from fabric scraps on my old machine.

Maybe I'll get some to sneak in some creative time while Kevin is working on a quilt in my studio.  What is more fun that creating art with someone else?  Even if we aren't working on the same project, working side-by-side would be a lovely way to spend time with him.

January 28, 2013

The Road to Inspiration

This weekend, my husband and I attended the Road to California quilt show.  The mood of the attendees was contagious, starting all the way back in the parking lot.  There is something about this group, this hobby, that is so unique and wonderful.  I saw total strangers striking up conversations with each other about quilts, moving on to where they are from and tales of travel adventures just getting to the show.  At one point I heard a woman ask a group of ladies if she could tag along as they toured the show because they kept bumping into each other on every row and striking up conversations.  They all cheerfully welcomed her to their gang, introducing themselves to one another and just having fun.  I saw this over and over again.  I talked to quilter Vickie Lynn about her beautiful applique work, and she told us about how she did it while recovering from treatment for cancer (she is now cancer free!) and how therapeutic the process was in her recovery.  We were stunned to hear that she only made her first quilt in 2006, noting that she felt that her long history of garment and home sewing gave her a great foundation for quilting.  There is hope! :-)

Being surrounded by so many creative people at one time was such a joy and so inspiring.  My goal isn't to win a prize or entry into a show, but just to get going on creativity.  I found so many things to inspire me - awesome fabric, great books, and artists' stories of their creative inspirations.

My favourite vendor was there - Pamela from Treasure of the Gypsy - and it was a good thing, because I found out that she is not going to be at the International Quilt Show in Long Beach this summer.  I was able to add to my stash of her awesome fabrics for projects unknown and yet-to-be determined project.  If this kind of scene doesn't inspire, what could?

Today I will spend a little time working on my personal resolution for this year, an art journal, and look forward to making a mess.