Once again, I am promising myself to use this blog as a sort of private journal, a way to think through my creativity issues and triumphs. 

One great impediment to posting/journaling for the past year+ has been my computer facing a wall.  Like the barroom gunslingers on 50's TV, I get antsy unless I am facing the room I am in, not the wall.  After a near panic attack last week, I made a place in my quilting room for my desk and PC. 

Now, I am looking through the glass doors onto the patio, and think this will allow me to sit at my computer for more than a few minutes at a time.  The laptop didn't work for me because of the very small screen, and constant noise and interruptions.

Of course, the lack of productivity couldn't have anything to do with a lack of plain old discipline!  Oh no, not me....

How do those women who get so much done do it???

 How do I get more of the things that matter to me done, mainly quilting and writing, while not neglecting other facets of life that are also important, like keeping a reasonably clean, organized home, and a happy husband??? 

The sewing and quilting machines haven't been touched in months, this blog in a year or so.  Yet, in all that time I have been so very busy.....something or someone in my face for attention virtually every waking moment. 

There must be a better way. 

How to reorganize/reprioritize?  I am hungry for the satisfaction of creativity - for the quiet, uninterrupted time to get/let the juices flow.
 Posts to this blog have been few and far between this past year.  Somehow, I am too busy living my life to write about it.  Even the wonderful, interesting things haven't been noted.

One such event was attending the MQX International Quilt Show in Portland, Or. last month, where some of the most creative men and women in the world exhibited their works of art.

My daughter, Crystal, and I spent two days walking the aisles at the Portland Civic Center, gazing at absolutely wondrous fiber art wall hangings and quilts.  Each, it seemed, was more lovely than the last.

Creativity was in the air, and we hungrily absorbed it from the many stars of quilting, the first time exhibitors,  the teachers, even the vendors.  Ideas and inspiration were everywhere.

We were Jazzed! We photographed Everything. Our creative juices surged, and by the end of the second day, we couldn't wait to get home to try some of the new products and ideas. The only problem was what to do first! 

For fiber artists, awesome shows like the MQX, and small shows like those at a local quilt guild, community center, or church, are great ways to revitalize creative energies.  The same is true for any hobby, craft, or artistic endevour.  

Mingling with others who share the same passion invigorates and inspires me every time. When I can't get to the live shows, online tutorials and classes also ignite my creative spark.

Please feel free to share what sparks your creativity, and what feeds it long-term.

SOP: Seat Of (the) Pants Creating

An update on our newest family members, Thelma, Belle, and Babe:  they are laying more than enough eggs for our human family of two, and giving us some good entertainment as well.

They are also destroying the tomato plants and succulents in the greenhouse, opting to lay their eggs among the plants instead of in their cushy, specially built nest.  We, my husband, Dave, and I realized immediately that something had to be done right away to give these chiclets their own place, so Dave began sketching out rough plans for a new hen house.

We had some building supplies on  hand, but did have to spend over $50.00 for a few 2X4s and some chicken wire.  (Hmmmm, since we also invested in a fancy watering jug and feeder, plus a 50 lb, bag of laying mash, at $2.50 per dozen, these chickens are going to have to lay a LOT of eggs to pay for their house)

But the cost efficiency of having chickens isn't the point I want to make here.

Allowing the creative juices to guide us after making only rough plans, and allowing the project to unfold as we make adjustments according to new ideas and available supplies is something my husband and I both do all the time.  And, the results are usually surprisingly good; maybe not exactly what we initially envisioned, but oftentimes better.

I have long called this method Seat of (the) Pants, or SOP sewing, SOP writing, SOP cooking, etc.  The idea is to just start! I have found nothing gets created until I start, so after a little planning, and maybe some research, I often just play with fabric to spark my imagination, write a few lines to see what follows, or start dragging out likely ingredients for the dish I want to make, then let my imagination, tempered by common sense, take over.

Dave built the hen house one board at a time, SOP, and while not quite done yet, (he got rained out yesterday) it is looking great.  It will have both open air spaces and a sheltered area for cold winter days; places to roost, and nests in which Thelma, Belle, and Babe can lay their precious eggs.

The hinged roof opens up for easy coop cleaning and egg gathering, and a smart little walkway gives the hens easy access to their new elevated home. The space  under the house will provide shade in the summer.

Dave's research for this project was looking at a several commercially built chicken coops at our local feed store.  Since they ranged in cost from $150.00 to $300.00, and he could make one better built and larger than any of those for much, much less, they were also his inspiration. 

SOP; Seat of (the) Pants is a way to use what you have to make or build what you want or need, and have fun doing it.  Surprise yourself - give it a try.....
Three more girls joined our family today!

Joining me, my husband, and our two four legged sweeties, Shotzie, a darling little Yorkie and Zetta, a very pushy, but sweet cat, are Thelma, Belle, and Babe.

We were told by their previous caregivers (you don't "own" free spirits such as Thelma, Bell, and Babe) that each one has a very distinctive personality,  Thelma is the Queen, tall, lovely and proud; Belle is the social butterfly who loves attention, and her almost twin Babe, the shy girl, prefers to stay in the background and be left alone.

We were also told that, in addition to becoming devoted pets, our new girls would gift us with more than enough eggs for the two of us, and some for the neighbors as well.

After promising these these pets would NEVER become chicken dinner, their owners gave them some last hugs,and carefully handed them off to us, along with various chicken supplies, and some all-important chicken raising advice.

I had not had chickens since childhood, and my husband hadn't had any for many years, so while overjoyed with our friends generous gift, we were a bit nervous.

Our new feathered family members came home in a banana box in the back of our van, sleeping all the way. 
 We clucked like fools making what we hoped were reassuring chicken sounds as we wound around the mountainous corners on the way home.  They seemingly moved not a muscle & slept through the entire one hour tirp.

Once home my husband and I got busy making a proper, if temporary, home for the girls.  With food, water, and a place to scratch, we enclosed them in the greenhouse for the night.

Thelma, Belle, and Babe calmly took to their new environment just as though it had been their home all along. Thelma, in all her white and gold splendor immediately strutted around as if she owned the greenhouse. Belle, true to her nature, spread her lovely black and white wings and wanted to be petted right away, while Babe, also dark and lovely, settled herself in in a corner where she could see, but not be touched.

Come dusk, we crept out to put the girls to bed in their new home.  My Chickens book, which I bought nearly a year ago, hoping to one day have a use for the information therein, advised that one should show a chicken in a new environment where to roost for the first few nights, lifting them to a roosting place if necessary.  We found Thelma and Babe were happily roosting on a low shelf.  Only Belle needed to be shown a roosting place.

After replenishing food and water, we shut the greenhouse securely, and left our sleepy chicks alone for the night. 

Our new family additions promise to be a joy and a delight.

And, breakfast promises to be more nutritious - no more store bought eggs!

Feedback & Criticism

Things that rev-up my creativity engine include getting good feedback about my little creations.

Constructive criticism is always appreciated too, and some of my best work had been the result of someone seeing an improvement that could be made to one of my brain-children, and having the courage to tell me what they think.

One Creativity Killer

One thing I have noticed this past week is how much feeling less than 100% impacts on my creativity.  A bad cold has made me feel sluggish all week, and dampened my enthusiasm for everything but sleep.  I guess we all just have to ride out lows such as this from time to time.

Creativity Quotes From the Greats

 I find the most creative ideas bubble to the surface for me during quiet times, when I can just play with ideas and materials. And, there must be no attachment to preconcieved ideas about how a thing should be for the ideas about 'what could be' to flow.

Here are some quotes about creativity I like:

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

To get a great idea, come up with lots of them.

I can only say "Amen!" to all these quotes.

How to keep Those Happy Mistakes

Let me see what happens if I do this......maybe that...tweak it here....fold it there.....try a different color, or a different shade of the color I am already using.... perhaps do this detail another way....Hmmmm, what would happen if.....

That seems to sum up my creative process. 

Taking the time to make notes, to track the sometimes twisted path taken to achieve a pleasing end result, is the difficult, non-play part of my creative process. 

How many times  I have found a new creation in my hand without knowing exactly how it came to be! Since backtracking is not fun, I try to discipline myself to  note-taking as I go through the process of desiging something new from my imagination. 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

Lessons From the Fly-Fishermen

A river flows behind our house.  There is a fishing hole there that attracts dozens of anglers nearly every day during fishing season. Those fly-fishermen (sorry – I’m not being politically incorrect, I just haven’t seen any fisher-women) are a joy to watch.

I have learned much about dedication, risk, and tenacity, all aspects of creativity, from them.   

They start arriving before full daylight.  Sure, there will still be fish in the river mid-morning, but enthusiasm for their sport makes these hearty anglers roll out of bed before dawn, drive miles through the early morning darkness, and wade out into the cold water at first light.

Some of the lessons they have silently imparted to me, an unseen observer, have helped me in both the artistic, and business aspects of my journey.

First, these dedicated anglers go where the fish are.  They don’t expect a salmon or steel-head to swim up their driveway, & knock on their door! They know they must be out among the fish to hook one, just as I know I must immerse myself in creative ideas for one to take hold in my mind.

Books, magazines, videos, certain TV shows, arts & crafts fairs, quilt shows, art galleries, classes, and the company of other artists all help spark creative ideas for me.
Lesson Two; Thigh-high to chest-deep in the current, anglers in the river behind our house often spend hours perfecting their casting technique.  It is not uncommon to see a fisherman who hardly leaves his hook in the water long enough to attract a fish, he is just working on his casting.

How often might my time be better spent perfecting a difficult technique on scraps of cloth before attempting to use it on a finished product.   

Lesson Three;  Seeing fishermen catch & release fish puzzled me at first.  My husband explained that some of the fish in the river were not legal to keep.The fish must meet certain size requirements, and some, the ‘Natives’ must always be released.  The Catch & Release requirement doesn’t seem to deter our fishermen.  They don’t go stomping away from the river, and drive off in a huff, when a fish they caught isn’t right.  They simply release it and try again.

I think of them when it takes me days, or weeks, to design and create a new item so it matches up perfectly with my vision. 

I think of fishermen when a hot idea, one that really sparked my enthusiasm, fizzles.  There have been hundreds of ideas that didn’t work out; they weren’t practical, they looked awful, the equipment I have wasn’t right to construct them, etc…. The list goes on…..

So, the net is cast again.  Using creativity does not use it up, it merely fine tunes it.

 Sometime a simple tweak, or adjustment makes the idea work.  Sometime an idea must be released, at least for the moment.  Maybe like the ‘too small’ fish, it will grow somewhere out of my awareness, only to come back again when the time is right.

Lesson Four;  Fishing, like most artistic endeavors, is something each fisherman must do for himself.  He may be surrounded by others, and their catches may inspire him, but he must catch his own fish.  No one else can do that for him.

The lesson here is clear.  Others may inspire, but each of us can bring to life only that which is ours to create.

The Napoleon in Me

Compare yourself to Napoleon? Probably not. Most of us don't identify with the little Frenchman, yet it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said "Imagination rules the world".

Whether we are expressing ourselves in such diverse medias as metal, stone, wood, paint, fabric, yarn, flowers, words, or in an infinite number of other creative modes, imagination is our common factor.

Best remembered as a warrior, Napoleon's successes, including eleven years as the on again, off again, on again, Emperor of France, are often forgotten, and his name has become synonymous with the word, Waterloo, his great, and last defeat.

My guess is that this plucky little man's vivid imagination, possibly his most important attribute, worked overtime, plotting and planning a royal comeback during his last six years, while confined on the island of St. Helena.

While most of us will never soar as high as Napoleon, nor have the misfortune of being imprisoned till death on an island, we can learn from his successes and mistakes.

Let's focus on his successes. Number one, he didn't quit when the going got tough. As a military leader, when one opportunity failed, Napoleon thought of another way to achieve his goal. As a political leader, he broke with tradition and instituted civil laws that are still in use today.

Fast forward to the present, to a modern-day Imagineer, as the late Walt Disney called his engineers.

The May 2012 issue of Costco magazine features an article on Sir James Dyson, inventor extraordinaire. He imagined a better vacuum cleaner.  In his quest to perfect what he imagined such an appliance could be, he created 5,127 prototypes over a period of 13 years. (Make that; FIVE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED, TWENTY SEVEN prototypes & THIRTEEN YEARS!)His ultimate success is a tribute to his creative spirit.

Both Dyson and Bonaparte had fiery imaginations, but they had other attributes that ultimately sealed their successes. They had faith in their vision, and they had bulldog-like tenacity. Along with their vision and tenacity, their imaginations did indeed, rule their respective worlds.

As an artist, I know I can toughen up a bit when a beloved project, a brainchild, doesn't turn out exactly as envisioned, on the first, the fifth, or the tenth try, or is not accepted as well as I might like. (Yes, I am talking to myself here) I can learn from Napoleon and Dyson. Instead of sulking, or giving up, I can use that experience to fire my imagination to create more ideas to express my passion.

And, I can hang in there for the long haul. The creative spirits of Napoleon and Dyson were not fragile.  Mine will not be fragile either!