Wales to London, Day 6

Bizarre girls. Who knew? Well, BBC Four did, evidently. Miss Clarice Cliff and her Bizarre Ware, making pottery and feeling that she was a part of the process and just as important to the process as the end product. Susie Cooper, who wanted to create and to use her creativity to create things both of utility and beauty. While BBC Four indicates that the were rivals in the early years of the 1900s, working the area known as The Potteries and then beginning their own businesses, what I think I’ll take away those aspects Mr. Wilson, speaking now, whose father was a potter and directed the factory, speaks of: the community of the creators, mothers and fathers teaching daughters and sons how to make the objects. I’ll take away Susie Cooper’s attitude that everyone, not just those who are wealthy, can have taste and discernment, an eye for beauty and the usefulness of the everyday object. And Clarice Cliff reminds me than my own hand and head and heart have impact on the things I make and give.

It seems pretty fitting that this documentary is the first thing I saw when I turned on the TV in my hotel room tonight. Big giant thanks to everyone who made my weekend in Pembrokeshire so amazing.

Now, off to wander the night stress of London, in search of my hotel.

Pithy, also known as succinct.

A friend of mine has begun a blog (no, I won’t link because I don’t know if she wants me to) and right now she is challenging herself to write posts that are 100 words long. No longer or shorter. Counted as 100 words by WordPress. I decided to give it a try. On the Sundays to come, I’m going to try writing my posts in 100 words. I don’t know how long it will last, but I like the idea of using one night a week as an opportunity to explore a writing exercise. So here goes.

100 Words: Status Report
“Make” has been a successful word for me in January. I’ve found that seeking out opportunities for expressing creative energies is becoming a habit. I feel like I’m stretching after a long night’s sleep. I’m not painting the Sistine Chapel. I’m weaving, or planning a project, studying diagrams and using colored pencils and daydreaming with pen in hand. I’m planning a piece of applique art. I’m drawing and painting more. I’m writing more. And I’m seeing more in my everyday to inspire me. I’m scaling the biggest hurdle: it isn’t the Sistine Chapel, so is it worth doing at all?

First week in review.

Observations taken from the first week of my Make pledge to myself include:

1. There are only so many new projects that can be successfully begun in the midst of an otherwise normally busy week. After a while, the existing projects have to be attended to.

2. Interestingly enough, a mental back-and-forth ensued regarding at what point creativity meets the sheer labor of completing a task. So, for instance, designing a knitted garment like a sock (which was not one of the projects I worked on this week) might be extremely creative and challenging; actually knitting the sock, perhaps not as much. Then again, it could be just as much or more so;

3. because the project could end up being one in which you expected it to be very straightforward after the initial design was done only to find that every night over the course of several days you were drawn to working on it for at least an hour, not going to bed until midnight or 1am, and making, debating, criticizing, and/or analyzing each step of the creating process far more than ever was done during the initial creative process.

4. This then brings to mind the art-versus-craft debate, in which I’ve never really held a strong opinion. Nightly forays this week into extended creative efforts have sent me into spiraling mental paths that have planted the nascent opinion (oo, an opinion!) that what matters in the process is the interpretative energy, intention, and decision-making that go on during such.

5. This is good for me. Because I tend toward forms of art and creativity that involve fiber work, they tend to dovetail with some of the more-or-less “traditional” forms of domestic creativity, like knitting and weaving. It is very easy and normal to fall into a pattern of using a formula to make something that has already been created many times over by others. But if I were to, say, weave a kitchen towel but I questioned and debated the placement of each yarn, what it means, what it represents of me, whether I should replace it with that handspun over there (and what does that say in this piece?), isn’t that then venturing into the world of art, where a kitchen towel display can become a medium for a message about domesticity?

I have been very proud in sticking with my pledge to myself. Every day has included at least 10 minutes of focused creative energy (to be honest, each day has included a lot more than 10 minutes). I’ve sat and designed a quilt; meditated on and then completely unwoven a section of a krokbragd/tapestry piece; created SoulCollage cards; worked more on the krokbragd/tapestry piece; worked on the design of a woven article for a guild project; worked more on the krokbragd/tapestry piece, ripped more out, thought more about it, woven more, drawn on the warp in the dark, laughed at myself in derision, felt derivative and shallow, and attempted tapestry when I should have just gone to bed. Then there was some hope that what I was doing meant something, resentment that I was falling over sideways and my knees had fallen asleep, and laying awake with visions of tapestries, rocks and book art dancing in my head.

That was week one.

6. I feel amazing.

Movin’ right along, dug-a-dunk, dug-a-dunk

Holy cow, this bus is rolling.

So far, so good. Fourth day of the year (this was posted a few hours after it was written) and I’ve done some kind of focused, creative work for myself every day. Last night was the test: I found myself doing dishes at 11:40 p.m. and had to stop and reevaluate the use to which I was putting my time.

Seriously. There was actual thought involved in whether I would do something interesting and creative, or do the dishes. Despite the zen/meditative quality of certain household tasks, this really ought not to have been a difficult decision.

But once I sat down and began sketching, I worked for a solid half hour before bed. Time just flew and I found myself looking up, blinking, thirsty, and amazed it wasn’t only five minutes later. I make no claims as to the importance or relative greatness of my activities. My only criteria be that they require real creative efforts on my part, for some stretch of time–five, ten, twenty minutes would be fine, but it can’t be absentminded doodling and it can’t be while I’m doing three other things.

Which is why I now bid you good night.

Happy. New. Year.

Last year I wrote about how a friend had recommended choosing a word to describe, or define, or broadly direct (they all had to start with “d”, though) the coming year. I really liked the concept; I chose “embrace,” because I was facing a year in which I had volunteered for a lot of responsibilities and I had a feeling that once the rush I felt with saying, “sure, I’ll do it,” and being fawned over for being so capable was gone, and the actual work was facing me, I’d resent it. I’d resent it and not feel the love of doing a good job, only wish it was gone so I could go read a book. The idea that “Embrace” held for me was to embrace those moments, remember what they meant to me, remember why I had chosen them, and choose to experience them as positive rather than as drags on my life, my head, my time.

“Embrace” turned out to be exactly right, and fitting, and it worked. It was my mantra during those times when I had to be a grown-up about doing things I said I would do, and it helped me to find the enjoyable in the frustrating, just like you always hope you will with homework. It also helped me to see those responsibilities that were frustrating without reward, and that while I didn’t like admitting I didn’t want to do those things (because it might look like I couldn’t, which is Bad), there are some jobs for which the emotional drain is not worth the reward. I did resign from one position, gracefully, I think, and with just a little (but only a very little) wistfulness. Another I put a deadline on. Another I agreed to take on once the current position’s deadline was reached, and not before (though that little voice that wanted the accolades that taking on volunteer work gets you, for about ten minutes. I had to slap that little voice. No embrace for you).

So “embrace” worked as the word for 2010. But what about 2011?

This is NOT the year for embrace. Well, it is, in that it will continue to be my mantra during those times when I just would rather be picking up a book that answering email at 11pm. But “embrace” had more of a job to fill than just being another word for “resignation.” It helped me begin to see where to draw the line between busywork and worthwhile work, between the work that is for them and the work that is for me, and…

And when it’s time to make “me” work just as much a volunteer position with accolades as any other. Even more so, really. And to make the accolades I give me worth far more than those I accept from anyone else.

Big talk. Whoa, baby. So what?

I’ve made a pact with myself. This year, 2011, the word is “make.” My pact with myself is that every day will include some kind of focused creativity. Last year I signed up with the “Creative Every Day” blog and I loved the idea. But it quickly devolved into whatever homeschool creativity I happened to be expending that day. I love homeschooling. I love that it is Geeklet and me and we do awesome things by the score. But it isn’t just me, and the energy expended is fueled my love for him and my drive to help him explore the wonders of the universe in the Imaginationmobile. Sometimes, the Imaginationmobile eats my overnight bag and only Ben gets pajamas that night. Also, I never got over to the blog to post my weekly proof-of-creativity, and that inspired Guilt. While Guilt and I are old friends, she’s the kind of friend who never gets it that you wish she didn’t hang out so often, and she kind of smells bad.

So. Daily focused creativity. When, you may ask? In the evenings, most days. Let’s face it. I can’t freely turn on my imagination and cruise in the ‘mobile if I am suddenly grabbed by the arm and informed that I am Yoda. Suddenly, the Imaginationmobile is waylaid for errands. Much chocolate is bought at the grocery store but my stops are not on the itinerary. When the Boy is asleep, we can cruise. Daydream. Even set ideas to paper. Perhaps it’s only for 10 minutes before brushing my teeth. But it has to happen, because I am not getting any younger, and while I plan to live at least as long as my grandma (and that gives me 57 more years), creativity is a muscle that needs me to work it now.

Enough of the metaphors. Today, I wove on a krokbragd piece that was begun about a month and a half ago and has been languishing because, while I kind of thought it would be a runner, what it wants to be is an art piece about my mothers and how we don’t have a connected heritage. Or maybe we do? I wove about 10 inches and sketched out plans for more.

Happy New Year.

* TMotH says that “2011 means work.” I guess I don’t disagree with him.

Kind of creative every day

A few days after the new year began I was directed to a site encouraging readers to pledge to be creative every day, in some way. This brought up mixed ideas for me, because in some ways I try to be creative just about every day (often involving food, for some reason, or presentation of educational material in such a way as to make it not seem like “educational material”) and in other ways I feel that these attempts are not valid because they are creative interpretations of activities I choose to do anyway, not truly independent or innovative thought. For example, I want to knit TMoTH a hat. I could follow a pattern, but having a creative outlet is exciting, so I knit him a cable hat that was all mine from cast-on to cast-off. Every row was a new adventure because the cables weren’t charted and so it was very organic in its growth. I was very happy with it. But it was a hat, a knitted hat, and I knew how to make knitted hats already and it was just a matter of making it. It wasn’t like I created an elbow-warmer from first principles.

But I guess this kind of thinking is what leaves one curled up in the fetal position crying on a Tuesday night. Ahem, might in theory leave one curled up in the fetal position crying on a Tuesday night. So in the spirit of our pioneer ancestors finding creativity in the basest of activities and materials, I will attempt to find the creativity in the days as they occur. I won’t always do this–I do actually look for times in which to interject my own creative endeavors–but the fact is that lately, I haven’t had the chunks of time I need to begin a big creative project, nor the mental space to play with it. Once it’s begun it can play and I can play with it and use a few minutes here, a few there. Until then, I make do, I suppose, as our foremothers did. So,

On Monday the 3rd I worked on said cable hat, as I also did for the rest of the week. (Pictures will eventually show up here, once there are any.) I also explored a little watercolor painting with Geeklet.

On Tuesday, baking day, we painted a gingerbread house with sunflower seed butter and nuts, and put it outside on the front porch for the birds. Also practiced sketching. We instituted Family Drawing Night, where after our evening mean we all drew in notebooks for 15-20 minutes. Awfully fun.

On Wednesday, more cable hat.

On Thursday, more cable hat.

On Friday… what did I do? I’d finished the hat. Hmm. Need better record keeping.

On Saturday, I was nice to myself. I bought Japanese notebooks emblazoned with inspirational Engrish in which to keep all my notes for whatever volunteer jobness I have going on (I bought several notebooks). This is Step A in my Plan To Find Ways To Be Nice To Karen (part of the whole “Embrace” program). Crying ensued. Seriously. A little notebook with “Fruit Train: Welcome to the country of the fruit. What do you see in this fruit? It is a train that carries your dream” made me seriously emotional. Call it a creativity breakthrough. Or a be-nice-to-me breakthrough. I’d been using 12-year-old half-shredded notebooks that were losing pages as I used them. Not anymore! Ha!

On Sunday I was too tired to be creative. I took G to the farmer’s market, where we explored the world of the asian pear and wondered whether there are asian apples as well. We made up stories about eggs and music bands and dogs and potatoes. I was too tired to be much creative after that.

So, the lesson, we see, involves better record keeping and a greater effort to be truly creative each day. I honestly think I was more creative than this but lacked sufficient record-keeping skills. (Should that be spelled with a “z”? Surely not.) I know that there was certainly more making involved. I drew a cow at some point.