Tag Archives: creativity

Talking turkey with my creative self

DSCN0748At the prompting of Jen Louden, I recently asked my creative self what she was hungry for. I told my creative self I was ready to listen and I wrote while she dictated.

Boy, did she let fly! I confess to being taken aback. My creative self barely stopped short of swearing at me. Let me quote her (removing the more colourful language):

For months without end you’ve been utterly immersed in [various worthy things! Ed] …In all this, I may have got an hour! A scatty distractedDSCN0815 hour if I am lucky!! … You came back here and I was hopeful I’d get some quality time. But what did I get? Nothin’!  When do I ever get that focussed, dedicated time you give [various worthy things. Calm down creative self! Ed]? When does the unhurried dreaming happen?…Wendy, I want to tell you that all that other stuff will totally wait! If you give me a day, just one day, that other stuff will all be there the next day. No-one will have eaten you. No-one will have died.  Pretend the line was down, the power cut…whatever. Just do you and me the enormous good favour of a date! A joy date! A creativity date. VERY SOON! Tomorrow even…what I hunger for is your wholehearted, committed time. [Bold hers!]

DSCN0899So we had a date, myself and I. Four hours.  I turned off the computer and put the phone out of checking reach.  I said aloud to my creative self, OK baby, it’s just you and me. Alone. The two of us. I’m yours.  And we played.  We had a ball.

For an embarrassing number of years I have wanted to make a cane inspired by my handbag* so I did. It was a blast.  I made more pendants than one woman could use.  And the next day when I went back to work on all those waiting things, things flowed. Grace abounded. I achieved more than I had for ages.

I think I heard my creative self muttering ungraciously about how if I divided that one day among all the months she’d been bloody waiting there were still some dates owing blah, blah, blah…. but I can forgive her.  I say the same sort of thing myselExif_JPEG_PICTUREf.

*My elder daughter gave me a handbag by a wonderful Argentinian artist Graciela Fuenzalida for a special birthday and it never fails to bring a smile!  Her faces remind me of Picasso’s Les Meninas!  Her bag inspired my canes.

Connection

The regular reader will know that I got greedy and had several Words of The Year and  (here comes another one for those watching!) one of them is connection.  This year I have been so aware of connection at many levels:

image006Connection with my place (like running in the Living Desert and doing lovely walks in Mutawintji NP); connection through my yoga and meditation; connection with friends and family; connection with people I meet who seem to often have just the thing I need to hear or learn….

There has also been connection in the form of teaching, buddying, mentoring and creating. At the moment, the work I am making is connecting ideas that seem quite disparate and I am absorbed with the link between seed pods and reliquaries.  Steve Jobs said Creativity is just connecting things. And Maria Popova in brainpickings writes about the role of connection and creativity here.  She quotes Paul Rand who says, The role of the imagination is to create new meanings and to discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection. Imagination begins with intuition, not intellect.

Some of the loveliest connections lately have come from students! Only this weekimage021 two students sent me some real treasures. In response to a conversation about colour, Carol sent these fabulous photos of birds (she didn’t know the source. Ideas anyone?) and after we talked about the importance of creativity in life Clem sent this fabulous quote from Helena Bonham Carter which he displays in his workplace for all to reflect on:

imagesI think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.

I think the pod photo was taken by Cynthia Mooney of this site but I am checking!  Soon I hope to connect properly with our new grand baby. Obviously I will need to wait until after the birth but I will be doing some preparatory connecting this week when I drive over to let it know that grandma is ready now!  At least you are all used to sporadic, irregular blogging.

Here’s a sneak peek at my polymer ponderings on pods and gaus – the Tibetan Buddhist amulet containers:IMG_0050

Teach Now, she said. So I did….

I can’t say what the impact of doing Jen Louden’s Teach Now course was on my IMG_0018students* but for me, it was profound.  Yup, that good.  And let me say right now that I don’t get commission nor am part of any plan when I rave here. This is pure I really loved it raving!

I’ve taught quite a lot in different capacities and love doing it.  I teach for months each year in Nepal and am doing more and more teaching here in Australia. Teaching/ sharing is becoming more and more part of what I do and I want to do it as well as I can.  As a chronic over provider and an introvert, I also wanted to teach well without feeling very anxious and exhausted afterwards.  And without exhausting or overwhelming students with my excitementIMG_0026 and passion!

When the 2014 Teach Now course started I was in Nepal with unreliable internet, no hope of being around for phone calls and months of travelling ahead of me.  Was the timing right I wondered? And yet, inside me I knew it was and even when Jen Louden sensibly replied with Only you know that to my Is this timing crazy? email, her realistic description of expectations and time required meant I knew I could embrace this.

I’d spent some money previously on some on line training and was very underwhelmed. This made me fearful to spend more but Teach Now was a great investment. It’s worth so much more than you pay and the results far IMG_0019exceeded my expectations.  It helped me so much as I prepared for perhaps the most ambitious teaching I have done (the 6 week course) and some of Jen’s thoughtful questions have revolutionised the way I prepare and determine what to include.  And…in my case very pertinently…what not to include.

From my perspective, my teaching was so much more joy filled and energising rather than draining. I knew how to replenish myself after a class but did not have that utterly spent feeling I used to get.  I came home with more and more ideas and I grew to love using my creativity in preparing classes.  I could go on. And on. Suffice it to say, anyone wanting guidance about how toIMG_0023 effectively communicate something they are passionate about should have a look at Teach Now.

*I am blessed with cracker students and they all made gorgeous things and humoured me when I did my raves about creativity. The photos are from the most recent one day workshop! Ola and Tracey, you were blurry sorry.  So nice to have a bloke there Clem!!!!

Something to remember #4

DSCN3727There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness. . .

 

Anne Lamott

In a recent Studio Mojo, Cynthia Tinapple featured the the work  of Ellen Langer on Mindfulness (five points that help are summarised here).  Dr. Langer says:

Beginning an artistic activity is one way to help us move from excessive mindlessness to a more mindful life…engaging our creativity more fully, giving itDSCN3885 a a form that holds some innate interest, ought to be a part of every day life for each of us. (On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself through Mindful Creativity)

Look at what happens when Genevieve Williamson looks mindfully here.

 

Something to remember #2

There is no such thing as creative people and non creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t…the only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity…If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter.  As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning…

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

DSCN2903

 

Beautiful pieces from Thimi Ceramics, Nepal.

Creating art, being art, wearing art

I am reading and listening to the thoughts of Parker J. Palmer.  Good stuff. Here, he recently wrote:

“Artistry” is not confined to folks who create verbal, visual, or musical forms of beauty. I know people who are artists at parenting, friendship, gardening, manual labor, teaching, leadership, problem-solving, care-giving, peace-making, or just plain living!

(Hear, hear!!!  It’s always nice to read something you have thought so well expressed!)

Therefore ALL of us can heed, he said, these wise words from the wonderful Wendell Berry about the value of obstacles in the creative process:

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

 DSCF0403Oscar Wilde apparently said, and I have regularly quoted him saying, One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art. I took this to heart for my daughter’s wedding. (Yes, funny how that wedding comes up regularly now.  Don’t worry, it will be the baby soon enough.) Until a couple of weeks before the wedding I had not really had a chance to think about my dress.  As luck would have it, on my travels I came across Aventures des Toiles. Each season, they choose seven pieces of art to inspire seven lines of clothing. They talk about the concept for inspiring young designers here. The dress I wore to the wedding was inspired by a painting called Les Almandiers by Isabelle Merlet. And I love wearing it. Thank you Isabelle. Thank you ADT.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, I didn’t decide on jewellery until theExif_JPEG_PICTURE night before (I know…what was I thinking) and at the very last minute selected a piece I made over five years ago in my little studio corner overlooking the jungle in Nepal.  I was inspired by the magnificent colours of the sunsets in the Terai that I witnessed so many times on the bus home from Birtamod.  Intense peaches, Exif_JPEG_PICTUREoranges, pomegranate tones. A dramatic and beautiful sunset gift followed by a magnificent ultramarine night sky.  This necklace was an early outing of the beads that subsequently became the sari beads made by the Samunnat ladies. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. But I guess it wasn’t all about me.

Tomorrow, we start our long drive home.  Aaaaaah. Home.

It was VERY REMISS of me, especially in light of all the gorgeous comments, not  to credit darling Tony Byrt for the great family photo. He gets a proper thank you here! The crappy topper photo was by me!

 

An authentic and colourful life….Katwise

It’s hot here now.  When I was struggling to learn Nepali in the early days*, I got confused between pasina ayo (I’m sweating-lit. sweat came) and asina ayo (snow came). Now I remember P for perspiration and P for pasina and boy, oh boy….pasina ayo!  I realise this may be too much information here but I am not telling you the half of it.  I could go into details about my eye…but I won’t. No selfies though.

images-2Instead of doing Samunnat’s Eurosynergy activities (an inventory and preparing our presentation) I did some …research (sounds so much better than browsing online!). Productive procrastination.  Mum encouraged it. You can always blame the mother.  I found the website of Kat O’Sullivan who describes herself as a free spirited girl who makes funny patchwork coats out of old sweaters.

She is magnificent**!  Kat lives in a wonderfully colourful house and travels the world, often in a images-4psychedelic bus.  In her blog she talks about a lot of things relating to creativity…the value of not following every whim; of working with constraints.  She discovered how much style and whimsy you can spin on your business. I am looking forward to that!

house_079She makes some fabulous observations about copying.  People began to blatantly copy her and she felt very vulnerable. A friend talked to her about weaving her art into the narrative of her life.  Her sweaters ceased to be just objects to wear and became little fragments of her charmed lifeauthentic manifestations of her whimsical world…souvenirs of this whole crazy life …[she has] been gifted with.  She realised that her work was imbued with her magic- unique to her.  She realised that by sharing more of her world, the sweaters became like bouquets from her garden. What a fabulous metaphor.  I connected with this because I consciously try to imbue everything I make with a kind of generous, positive energy.  We know that at Samunnat too, what we make is part of a much bigger and profoundly special story.

Infused through it all was her commitment to authenticity and living and creating wholeheartedly.  She writes:

I never take myself too seriously – and I think that keeps my work flowing freelyimages-5 and my expression genuine. A lot of times when people are trying to make art a living they end up trying to meet others expectations, or getting so self-reflective that they lose perspective. I think I have a healthy sense of humor and detachment about what I do and the ability to embrace my many shortcomings as an artist. It is my hope that when people look at what I do they can feel that it came from a genuine place. I want the intentions I put into things to resonate with people, so they aren’t just buying an object, but a little chunk of happy energy.

Brighten your day by reading about Kat.  She would LOVE it here at Birtamod where a riot of colour is almost a mundane everyday event!

*I eventually stopped struggling- my still pathetic Nepali is a source of great amusement here!  I am pretty exceptional with colour, food and jewellery related terms and almost useless in daily conversation!  I can tell you when I am sweating though.

**She even answers emails! All photos and quotes used with kind and personally emailed permission. Howzat!?

 

A week of favourites….starting with Luann Udell

photoYou have to love a woman who uses the phrase a whole nother in her book! Well I do!  I adore that Luann Udell uses a phrase that is one of our family in-jokes in her thoughtful book about How to Get People out of Your Craft Booth.  And I love a woman who talks about getting people OUT rather than IN! She writes with a refreshingly different approach.

I write about Luann because I have decided that each day this week I will write a brief post about a site I love.  In no particular order.  This does not mean I only have 5 favourites, but there are very few I subscribe to, or visit regularly and I am choosing 5 of them to let you know about this week hoping you might enjoy them too!!!

Luann Udell is a mixed media artist who writes so very well that I would read one ofudell her shopping lists really. She writes with authenticity, humour, compassion, wisdom and vulnerability.  She writes about making her art, her family, her fears, her joys, her bereavement work, her business.  She subtitles her blog Muddling Through Life with Art and so many of her posts have resonated for me, or challenged me, or inspired me, or set me thinking differently.  Recently, she wrote a post called Sipping From the Fire Hose about the blessing/ curse the internet can be for creative souls.

The aforementioned book is an e-book and I got it thinking it would be a good but perhaps irrelevant read.  I was so wrong. I loved it.  Such sensible, practical wisdom. Wry observations, realistic advice, really good.  I could see applications to MANY things, even development work but hey, that may just be me!

Enough from me but here are links to five I’ve valued. Explore, ponder, enjoy! And look at her magnificent art while you are there.  I hope I have been able to work out how to put some pieces in this post!

Luann’s thoughts on time management for Creative People

Her thoughts about when you can call yourself an artist

She wrote about Ten myths about artists-here’s one. Explore the others.

Comments I found liberating about who I created for

Some thoughts on anxiety and fear that I remember really got me thinking.

Another Wendy Moore Favourite tomorrow! Strap yourself down!

 

Dancing around Deadlines

Gosh I love Art Propelled.  Robyn Gordon’s blog is unfailingly inspiring and thought provoking.  I don’t subscribe (mainly as I haven’t Apron and coloursworked out how!) but I have her in my favourites bar and visit regularly.  Today, with two weeks left before Installation Day*, I am feeling a bit vulnerable and exposed.  The comparing critic voices are upping their inner chatter and I am wondering if I have been a bit silly to take this on. Robyn quoted Chogyam Trungpa in a post called Your Own Way of Looking at Things and it really resonated for me:

In order to accomplish an experience, you have to have a chance to dance with it. You have to have a chance to play, to explore. Then each style of exploration that takes place is a different manifestation, we could say. Nevertheless, it is all part of one big game.

I  haven’t been making things easy for myself.  After returning from Nepal, I decided that I would only include polymer necklaces (not those made with beads I had purchased) inBlock the Year of Necklaces installation; and that I would separate necklaces that were a collaboration with Samunnat and display them in their own area.  This meant making several necklaces to replace those that were culled (along with those polymer ones that were made during the Year challenge but not deemed art!   By the way, for some interesting thoughts on art necklaces and examples of her own beautiful work see Erin Prais-Hintz’ blog here.  Erin creates wonderful, almost narrative necklaces, often inspired by themes, or literature, and encourages others to as well. Two of her necklaces are featured in a new book Showcase Art Necklaces which sounds tempting…

Table blogI didn’t want to fall into the trap of making a necklace for the exhibition!  Usually, the creations I like best come from play and exploration, from dancing with ideas, from following through the I wonders and I didn’t want deadlines (read Indigo Kate’s gorgeous quoted deadline quote here) to send me scurrying back into a mindset I work hard to avoid.  I wanted to yield to the I wonders.  The I wonder what would happen if I did this, or pulled that, or scrunched up this.  I wonder how doing this makes a piece work; how will it sit if I do that?  Alice Stroppel is a master at the I wonders. For inspiration read her I wonder if I can combine brass buttons, rubber cord and polymer to make something interesting post and her I wonder if I can makeFloor blog something bigger and more complicated than I usually do post (Titles mine!)

I wanted to use a silk apron (called a pangden) I got in Tsarang in Upper Mustang as a source of inspiration. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to incorporate the fabulously coloured stripes and the technique of lining up the three panels of  fabric in different directions.  I wondered if I could do that in a piece of jewellery.  And again I am not making things easy for myself…16 different colour,s would you believe, and NOT a straightforward repetition, my wordy me no!  Here are photos of the first stages of the I wonders.  More to come!  Still, I’m having fun wondering and hearing that deadline swooshing up!

*Installation Day for my exhibition of Collected Works.  They used my Mutwintji Necklace in the publicity on the website!

 

Thoughts on a creative life

Creativity is how you choose to respond to what happens in your life:  Your choices generate – Happy Shobhacreate – what happens next in your life….creativity is a process that we are engaged in every minute of our lives.

I can still remember the quiet thrill of excitement I felt reading those words by Tory Hughes in her Creative Development Manual.  These words seemed to confirm a discovery I was (somewhat slowly!) making for myself.  Creativity was not just what happened when I sat down in my little room and mixed colours and made something.  Creativity was how I responded to everything – joys, obstacles, challenges, unpredictable events in all of my life.  Creativity was really seeing, questioning, adapting, changing, recognising and DSCN0861avoiding default responses and useless habitual behaviours, learning, playing. In ALL sorts of situations.

Creativity didn’t just happen when I had polymer in my hands.  It was a very liberating thought.

That same liberating realisation had a profound impact on my journey with the ladies at Samunnat which was starting at around the same DSCN0849time.   As Cynthia Tinapple said in a recent Studio Mojo:

Jumping into another culture, country, climate is a good way to rediscover what’s in front of your nose.

When I first started working with the ladies (but not for long I’ve got to say) I had very clear ideas about what WOULD NOT happen.  There were a whole heap of WOULD NOTS which really came from my preference for (perceived!) certainty and feeling in control all those years ago.  There would not be risks taken, that was for sure. We would be doing all we could to NOT MAKE MISTAKES. We would not look like we were stuffing up. We would only do the stuff where we knew what we were doing.  We would be taking THE SAFE PATH, my wordy me yes.  And where did that get us? Just the same place as that approach does when you areExif_JPEG_PICTURE making art, it got us big fat nowhere.

Luckily for us, being told that the SAFE, SUSTAINABLE items we’d made were not going to sell, coincided with what we were learning from playing with polymer.

Quite separate to our SAFE STUFF, we’d decided that it would not be a disaster if we just had some fun – played around with some of my polymer as respite from pretty awful situations that many of the ladies were in.  This would be OK we bravely thought!  It seems incredible to me now, years down the track to think I did not recognise the profound value of that fun.  Of that play, of that respite. Of how that playing would come to shape these ladies’ sense of self!  How it re-awakened their capacity for joy!  How it created a powerful and dynamic sisterhood that has changed my life.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAs a result of that playing we re-connected with our innate knowledge that play was valuable; we discovered that we learnt more from our mistakes than from playing it safe; and that sometimes our mistakes looked beautiful.  The ladies learnt that pulling on their earlobes, bobbing up and down and repeating I am stupid (a standard Nepali educational strategy) was not the way we were going to respond to mistakes here.  Instead, we asked what worked; what didn’t; what we’d do differently next time (thank you precious Mark Ylvisaker!).  We saw mistakes in a new light.  We became less afraid of exploration, of asking questions, of trying things out.

For me, and this is the moment I was totally hooked I think, the most amazing moment was when one of the ladies looked up and, with a voice filled with wonder and joy, shared that she no longer saw herself as a victim because she had a new identity.  She had claimed a new identity. From that point on, she was an artist.

Our shared passion about the power of that creative energy that we all possess infuses the retreat that Tory and I are running in September.  We know we can know that energy and use it effectively, or that we can inadvertently smother it, block it. My dream is that tapping into the power of creative energy can be just as profound for the people who join us there as it was for me those amazing bahini haru* in Birtamod. As it still is, every day as we respond to what happens in our lives.

(NB: The photos show the *little sisters with some of their creations.  The photo of Shobha at the top, smiling with delight at HER necklace which she owned and would be wearing home, is a favourite. The lady to the right had just been referred to Samunnat. She is now one of our core artists!  She smiles with joy, fulfilment and pride rather than cowers with fear.)