Tag Archives: creative life

Funkytown

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Maybe I can say something insightful about art funk today. I’m not altogether sure it won’t wind up in full grousing mode like I did last night, though. (See post that I locked down. Except you can’t. You’re welcome.)

What is it about human nature that there are times you know that doing something — like making things, or taking a walk, or making something fresh and homemade to eat — will make you feel better, but you don’t? Or not doing something — like eating that second giant bowl of ice cream, getting into a Twitter pissing match, or reading comments on any news story pretty much anywhere on the internet — but you do?

Me either.

I really need and want to engage more fully with art projects throughout the week rather than half-ass them at the end — which I’m not doing all the time, mind you, but I have been putting off the multi-day projects and new skills to some degree and doing something quick or finishing up a project I’ve been inching along with. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’d love to get engaged in something I can’t wait to come home to every night — and then have the energy to do something with it when I do get home.

Work is long hours plus a long commute these days, and lately it has been feeling thankless. It’s hard to hold onto the creative spark under those conditions, when all I want to do is eat dinner and zone out, and on weekends I also feel I should be cleaning All The Things or I have social plans.

I don’t know if this post is insightful or not. Not especially, that’s my suspicion. And not funny or entertaining either, which is worse.

But there you go.

I do have a project in mind, so I’ll be back later.

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.

First one’s free, kid…

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First one’s free, kid…

So regular readers of this blog may remember (::cough::) that I was somewhat (::cough::) cranky on Sunday and not feeling the big creative love until sometime around 6 or 7 pm. Then I made a tie-dyed scarf with a new medium, plain ol’ food coloring.

Well, I got all charged up again and ended up making another five in one day, and I am loving them to pieces.

I love when that happens.

Here they are, with the one that started the whole frenzy.

The dye packages have little charts telling you how to make other colors, so I tried my hand. My first attempt was stormy blue. I didn’t stir the color mix up after pouring in the hot water, so I got this scarf that still has separate patches of the color component — and I love it.

Imperfection FOR THE WIN.

The apricot scarf I stirred the component colors better, but due to the small container dye method (which I love), it still has a nicely watercolor effect. Apricot, you may be fascinated to know, comes from mixing GREEN AND PINK.

WAIT. WHAT?

Will try to post more colors another time.

This weekend will be interesting. I’ve got a bunch of things yet to make for Wiscon, plus getting the house in order for a guest in a week. Must also sneak over to my flea market booth and see how I’m doing!

There should be a German word for this…

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And maybe there is.

That feeling you get when you’re in the middle of a project (or six) and you think about it at random points during the day and how the minute you get home you’re going to dive right in. But by the time you get home, all the energy and urgency has been completely sucked away. I often blame it on my commute, but I ended up working from home yesterday due to an eye infection that needed another day of treatment before I wasn’t Eye Goo Mary in the workplace, and I STILL lost my energy.

Though maybe that was due to another factor. I did start something last night, a project that will involve cutting down the front of a tunic I’m making into something else. Instead of doing the sloppy free-hand thing, I measured to the halfway point all the way up from the hem, being super careful about it … and it doesn’t look even! ::shakes tiny fist at the Universe:: So that sapped my will to cut the thing and possibly botch it (also considering the whole eye thing makes me tired and cranky, not the best state of mind for doing irrevocable things). So I contented myself with getting out the seam ripper and undoing the crossover neckline so I can find the center at the neckline.

So I don’t quite know how to proceed. Just find the center at at the hem and power on up to the center at the neck, and ignore the little dots I carefully placed? Or cut along the dotted lines and ignore the ones that seem off-kilter?

I feel like I should rewatch that episode of Farscape with the alien dudes (everyone on the show is an alien, including the Earth guy, which is why I like it) who keep shouting, “WHY SO DIFFICULT?!

Because dude. Why so difficult?!

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.

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.