Category Archives: Random Commentary

I am in a funk and I cannot find my Velcro[TM]

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Tis totally beyond me why I should have a massive case of the blues today, but I do. Perhaps because I pinned a bunch of hopes on having lots of things done this weekend, and next to none of them were done (note the impressive use of passive tense in that last phrase). I need a day or two where I can get a massive running start on doing things I don’t necessarily want to do. If there’s somewhere I need to be in the middle of the day, it pretty much ensures I won’t get anything done before, and I’m not so likely to do so after, either. (Note lack of agency implied by phrasing here, too.)

Yesterday I did some volunteering that completely sucked dry any social energy I had. I’ve long thought of myself as shy, but as I’ve gotten older I think it’s more that I have a finite amount of social energy. In small groups or one-on-one, I can go for quite some time, but big parties where I don’t know many people deplete that energy faster, and going from one thing to another can mean I don’t get the recharge I need. So last weekend I was at Wiscon, where I did tons of socializing (though not as much as in previous years, as the art show prep kinda wore me out), and then I slammed right into the work week, then Saturday I made phone calls for a get-out-the-vote drive. This is completely outside my comfort zone. Three hours of that was enough to send me home to bed at 4 pm instead of to the party I’d been planning to hit. I told the campaign volunteers it wasn’t in my comfort zone, and they were awesome to coddle me and ply me with sweets and say I was doing great. Still, I think I’d rather have a root canal.

It’s interesting, considering Friday I did another volunteering gig, my Meals on Wheels run for the season (we have enough volunteers I don’t get to do more than 1 or 2 runs per season). I was having a morning that, to say the least, lacked in awesomeness, but I was looking forward to the meal deliveries. There you’re knocking on doors, but people are so glad to see you and the smiles you get are so genuine. It makes me happy that I am contributing to older people being able to live on their own, and to know someone checks on them every day (or nearly so). I don’t know if it gave me energy, but it gave me a mood lift, which I needed.

This doesn’t have much to do with creativity, except why I’m just thinking about getting started on something crafty. And I have no idea where my Velcro[TM] is. There was going to be a massive amount of clearing off spaces and organizing and decluttering, but I’ve been spending time with my funk and my laptop most of the day. I did go to a graduation party for an hour or so this morning, and did see the friends who tend to energize me, but I came back to sporadic fits of dishwasher loading, bill paying and piddling away the afternoon online.

I do have a project that’s a hair away from being finished, so I’ll get to it as soon as the cat gets off my arms. Just needed to talk about this energy stuff.

Look! I made a mopey post!

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Your danger-facing crafter is Miss Crabbypants today. I did some work on a DIY project, but some aspects of it look kind of crappy, and I don’t think it’s going to suit the purpose I meant it for as well as I’d hoped. I’m not ready to call it complete, though, so pictures will come later.

I had way too high hopes for this weekend, and all I’d get done, and just blah. And the realization that the project was going to be a disappointment came right at the time when it was too late to make it to the movie I’d decided to skip so I could get stuff done. I will regroup, though, and it will be okay. The project will work in some respect, just not the one I was counting on.

So now I’m trying to figure out how to step up with an actual project for this week. I’m in the midst of a couple of sewing projects, but I don’t want to toil away over either of them like I’m in a sweatshop to get them completely finished. I would much rather spend the bulk of the evening watching the S5 Doctor Who disks I got before vacation. So…something that’s hella fast, or something I started work on a while ago and isn’t too far from finished….

Oh, and I forgot to make note of another reason I’m crabby. I spent about half the day being a grown-up, doing the checkbook and budget thing and writing checks for a TON of bills, and then taking a carload of stuff to the indoor flea market and redoing my space. (Okay, the flea market part is fairly fun, but I would have picked a different day for it, but I can only go on weekends.)

Must make a decision and get going.

I am glad I didn’t go to the movie, because now it is raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. (TM my dad)

ALL UR BASE ARE BELONG TO US

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So sunny and beautiful outside, that I just want to go out onto the deck and sit with my glass of iced coffee and read or do some embroidery or something. But it’s 48 degrees out there. That’s the cognitive dissonance that comes from having an early April vacation in Austin, Texas. All but 2 days of my vacation I sat out on the deck at the apartment I rented for two or three hours, reading or writing posts. Another day I went out to breakfast at Kerbey Lane and sat out on their deck, where I ended up in a conversation with multiple people and stayed quite a while there, too.

Austin was fabulous, full of inspiration and wonderful people to converse with, terrific food and entrepreneurship. So much creativity in so many ways. I should have taken a lot more photos than I did.

Came back to a week that was a bit disheartening, and with a place I needed to be every evening except Monday, so there wasn’t much chance to recharge. Yesterday was the day I planned to plunge back into creativity, and I just couldn’t get things going. And what’s the best thing to do when you’re already beating yourself up about not attending to creative work? Oh, getting into a Twitter argument with someone whose idea of political point-making is “Moron! Ha! Pwned you!” Not that I was stupid enough to try actual substance myself; I just kept pointing out, “That is not remotely pwnage.”

Why do we waste energy on such idiocy when we know that it’s idiocy? Am I the only creative person who pisses away valuable project time this way? Why?

I do have a project. I finished a piece I started a while back, and that gave me some energy to do prep work on art show stuff. I’m not done with that, but stopped to have a snack, and need to get back to it.

Oh, and I bought a Craftsy class on layering and slashing fabrics, as I got a half-price offer. Though the first lesson keeps talking about my fabric stash, which I don’t have much of. I did get some actual garments at thrift shops in Austin that I plan to use for the fabric.

Okay, on to the work of the day. Check this space out later; I will be posting my project.

WARNING: HANDMADE GIFT!!

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WARNING: HANDMADE GIFT!!

Okay, the entirety of the projects on this blog so far are (is?) handmade gifts. And just now I’m beginning to ruminate on the inherent dangers involved? Um. Well.

If the handmade gift is perilous, the late gift is even more so. Because expectations of its awesomeness rise with the length of time you’re working on it (or claim to be working on it). Holy crap, it’s 3 months late, IT MUST BE A ROCKETSHIP THAT WILL TAKE ME TO THE MOOOOOON!! Then if it’s a personal massager made of bottlecaps, it’s kind of hard to come back from those expectations.

On top of that issue, there’s the thing when you are making something for someone awesome who is going to be in the family soon (and pretty much already is, as far as we’re concerned), and you don’t want said someone to think you dug up something you made in Vacation Bible School (back mumbly-mumble years ago) with popsicle sticks. Which was the case for me with Awesome Future Sister-in-Law, who has been an absolute treasure, doing an enormous amount to help the whole family get through some really hard times this year. She’s also funny and pragmatic and fierce and protective. So we all adore her to pieces.

Which means there were several gift ideas thought of and rejected before I remembered a tutorial I found through Pinterest. But I’m going to give that project its own post — mostly because I like the title and it would be a crime to let it go to waste.

The Darkest Depths of Mordor (AKA Second Grade)

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This probably says more about me and my lack of perseverance to become perfectly adept at things than anything else, but I have to say I always thought that artists who intentially weave or build imperfections into their work so as not to seem to be attempting to imitate God are … well, kinda arrogant.

If I ever turn out a piece of work that to me embodies total perfection, I might think, “YEAH, I nailed that,” but I’m not going to go on to believe I’m God or even godlike. I might feel like a rock star for about fifteen minutes. Or until I see someone who rocked the same type of work even harder.

So … yeah. I probably strive for perfection less than I should.

There’s this story I have about my first day of second grade. The teacher, who had a name that would serve some fantasy writer brilliantly as the name of some species vaguely stolen from the Nazgul, handed out little squares of cardboard for us to cut out templates for construction paper leaves. I somehow missed the information that the leaf had already been drawn on the cardboard and we were supposed to cut along the lines. The outline was on the reverse side of the square I got, so I just (as I so often do) dived right in and started cutting freehand.

When Mrs. Ringwraith got the drift of what I was doing, she held up my purportedly crappy leaf template and announced to the class that mine was different from anyone else’s and wrong wrong WRONG, and I’d just have to wait until some other kid got done with his or her template and I could use it to make some acceptable construction paper leaves.

(Way to just half-ass your first-day bulletin boards there, lady. Palm it off on the kids. Don’t think I don’t see what you did there.)

So acceptable art is what’s like what everyone else is doing, and all leaves happen to be maple leaves. All righty then!

Y’know, as a kid I should have been a teacher’s dream. I’m smart, I like reading and thinking, and I want to be liked by teachers, workshop leaders, etc. But Mrs. R continued to be impossible to please, and she loved to call me out in front of the whole class when I did something that wasn’t up to her specifications. Including the only F I ever got. (Which was for the time I had circled the right answers as instructed and then got so…freakin…bored waiting for everyone else to finish that I underlined all the wrong answers for something to do.

But there was one thing this woman didn’t factor in, and that’s the fact that I’m stubborn as hell and have been pretty much since I was born. So Mrs. Ringwraith, wherever you are in the afterlife, rest assured that I still freehand shit, for good or ill.

There’s art that I love that is marvelously intricate or luminous or beautifully drafted — something that makes me feel in awe of the work that went into it, and makes me wish I could do something like that. But I also love art by self-taught artists, works by outsider artists and people with a wild and strange vision that they have to impart. Not that these works can’t be incredibly intricate and beautifully crafted — witness the baseball-card sized scenes embroidered from sock thread by Ray Materson while he was in prison:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ray-Matersons-Artwork-Fine-Embroidery-Images/207733692591347

I love the energy and passion of these self-taught artists. I have some of the same tastes in music — my progression through a genre of music usually starts with what’s current and then tracks back through influences until I get to what’s a little rawer.

You won’t, however, be reading the phrase “spirituality of imperfection” anywhere but in this here post. Back when I was in publishing, I wrote flap copy for a book on this topic. All I had to work with was a ten page introduction but no actual work or outline (which did not even exist at the time), and I did the best I could. Some time later the editor showed me the authors’ response to my work, and it was one of the two snottiest author notes I ever saw. So that phrase never achieved the ring of sincerity for me.

So there you have it, a little manifesto. This probably isn’t the place to be looking for perfection, but I hope to provide some entertaining and passionate pieces, and I do promise at some point that I’ll share some of my crappier creations. They are good for a laugh, I guarantee.

Aside

Amazon Amazon Amazon. You have been holding out on me. You give me suggested books on raising chooks in my back yard, but you don’t tell me about I felt Awesome, Moxie’s kickass book of needle-felted goodness?

http://www.amazon.com/Felt-Awesome-Tricks-Needle-Poked-Projects/dp/B0057DBNB0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330520459&sr=1-1

So so disappointed in you, Ammerz. (And can’t wait until the book arrives.)

Oh Amazon Algorithm Redux

Caution: Falling Stnadards!*

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Many of the writers I know have probably heard this story: The poet William Stafford wrote a poem every day, first thing in the (very early) morning. Someone one asked him what he did when he found himself unable to produce, and he said, “I lower my standards.”

Which seems like a good philosophy to have when embarking on a year of crafts, too. So I’ve lowered my standards for today. The activities I was planning to undertake in a great blur of motion have been postponed for varying lengths of time. It’s not so much I’m lowering my standards for today’s craftiness, but I’m giving up the thought of cramming about four projects into one day so that I can have the most perfectly awesome guest room/craft room when I have a houseguest in two weeks. I went out yesterday and did some shopping and walking around with my friend, and the foot that has been giving me trouble has been hurting nonstop since then (even the spellbinding Ira Glass didn’t manage to make me unaware of the skeletal rebellion going on). So the sanding, priming and painting frenzy I planned is off. I do need to make room for the kitchen table and headboard I’m getting delivered on Tuesday, and I will write a post about my project of the week and I will take some photos to submit to the art show that already has my application. Even that seems like a lot right now.

Fortunately I have some projects coming up that are perfectly doable while lounging on the couch.

*Hahaha, just saw my typo on the header line. I’m keeping it!

Warning: angelic wardrobe malfunction

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The success of my agenda for the day sorta depended on me leaping up the moment I awoke and doing so many things so fast that I am but a blur to common mortals.

Yeah, that happened. (Not)

I’ve been awake for 3 1/2 hours and have had two large iced coffees, organized meds for the week, spent a long time on a site that sells canes (a sign that I am discouraged about chronic foot pain and am taking the family motto to heart: Panic early and often. Plus planning ahead for old age, as I am vain and do not want drugstore canes.)

I was out and about most of yesterday, meeting up with a friend for lunch, some store exploring and then dinner. I had a ticket in the evening for Ira Glass’s talk on story and radio. Two fantastic presentations on creativity in two days — not bad! Ira talked about the things that make up a good story and a good radio presentation, and one of the things he kept coming back to is a sense of movement. This happened, which led to this, and this, and this is what happened next. He talked about Scheherazade and the 1001 Arabian nights, and how it was narrative suspense that not only saved her life but restored her husband, the king, back to sanity, which returned when he began having empathy for the people in the story. Ira described Scheherazade as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which of course I loved.

One of the things he said that struck a spark was that you had to make your story, or creative endeavor, first and foremost to amuse yourself, or it would never have that power for others. I write for a living, and it’s definitely ephemeral material, but I do frequently amuse myself, and I’m grateful that I’m allowed to do that.

A fascinating fact from last night: Everyone knows the story of how Van Halen demanded in their concert rider that there be bowls of M&Ms in the dressing room, and all the brown M&Ms had to be picked out, and this is always used as an example of excess and diva-like qualities. Ira said this was in fact the opposite: that the band’s equipment is reliant on quick setup and teardown, but procedures must be followed to the letter for the safety of the band, the crew, the audience. Brown M&Ms are the band’s canary in the coalmine — if there are brown M&Ms in the dressing room, they know the venue didn’t read the rider or half-assed it, and safety measures may also have been laxly followed or not followed at all. LOVE that story.

Speaking of storytelling, I’m not sure I did that evening justice, but it was full of terrific info and cool counterpoints to the Elmo documentary. It’s great to load up on creative explorations at the beginning of this year-long project.

Now I have to go do some creative stuff. Be back later today with a project.

I leave you with a random picture, which I guess could illustrate creativity gone amok: a hot mess o’ angels from the House on the Rock.

Angelic Hot Mess: the House on the Rock

I’m made of felt…and my nose comes off

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Just got back from seeing the documentary Being Elmo, which I had been wanting to see since I saw Kevin Clash interviewed by Jon Stewart. It wasn’t a disappointment — anyone who’s interested in the creative spirit definitely should see this film. I’m always fascinated by people who knew what they wanted to do from a very young age, when it’s not one of the more typical kid ambitions like astronaut or firefighter or cowboy. Like my friend Erin, who knew she wanted to be a dictionary editor from the moment she learned there was such a job. And Kevin Clash, who saw the Muppets when he was 10 and knew he wanted to be a puppeteer, and immediately started doing it. His parents were amazing, so accepting of his ambitions from the moment he hacked the furry lining out of his dad’s trench coat to make a monkey.

It’s about the joy of doing the thing you love the most, which you can see in just about every shot of the Sesame Street team doing their work. And the generosity of those who mentor others and open new worlds to them. There are scenes of Kevin meeting the man who built Big Bird and other big puppets and getting the grand tour and answers to all his questions about how the Muppets were constructed (I love the old film clips of people explaining this great new material they’re working with: FLEECE. Cue heavenly choir.) And near the end of the documentary we see Kevin showing a young girl all the exciting stuff in his own workshop and quizzing her on what she knows about the puppeteers on Sesame Street (a lot).

And we learn how Kevin took over the character of Elmo from another puppeteer (who didn’t like working with the character, who was quite different) and how Kevin re-envisioned Elmo and made him the embodiment of love. You see it so strongly when Kevin and Elmo are interacting with ill and dying kids whose Make A Wish dream is to meet Elmo. One of the people who talk about Kevin in the documentary says when a puppet is true and real, what you’re seeing is the soul of the puppeteer.

Lots of great old clips. I especially loved the ones of teenaged Kevin at the sewing machine , finishing a seam and biting off the thread. And his teenaged efforts are well constructed, Muppet-like, with tons of personality.

This is a lovely film about a beautiful soul and the many people who influence a creative life. (And it got me thinking of the fact that I knew I wanted to write from the time I was 10, and I had mentors who encouraged me and gave me opportunities, and parents who were proud and loving.) It’s a movie that makes you want to come home and create something.

I had a big dorky smile on my face for much of it. Seriously. Go.

Cuidado! Hay pterodactyls!

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You know that Doctor Who episode where time has been borked and there are flying cars and pterodactyls and Winston Churchill and Cleopatra, because history is all happening at once?

Yeah, kind of like that. At this stage it’s not one week, one craft. I have a whole whirlwind of projects I’m in the midst of at the moment, on top of the item I finished last Friday as a birthday gift but haven’t posted yet.

Those items would happen to be (because I know you are burning to know):

• Dyeing several silk scarves as gifts to internet strangers, which I will be posting about soon.
• Finishing a “sweater surgery” knit scarf I keep fiddling with and rethinking
• Working on funky and functional storage for my craft room/guest room, which I hope to have finished before I have a guest soon, and which may account for more than one project
• Infinity scarf/necklace project
• A geek craft project, which I shall not describe just now
• Birthday present I should be working on this very second.

Plus I need to:

• Send photos for the art show I’ve applied for.

Plus I want to:

• Experiment with a cool new idea for that art show.

I expect things will sort themselves out eventually and time will become unborked.

I feel like I ought to post a picture for you all, though. Chosen at random:

You can never go wrong with a cat picture.