Be the change you wish to see in the world

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Given the shocking events of last Friday, it is so difficult to find the right words – but I remembered this collage canvass I made some years ago and it sums up my feelings about this whole situation.

It was created at a time when I had lots of my girlfriends coming for tea and cake to my studio but they were terrified of doing anything arty, so we began to paint with glitter; it was such an easier fun way to be creative.

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While the top quotation says

You must be the change you wish to see in the world

I wanted to express the transformation that love can bring – so I used words that would also link together to create love.

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Butterflies symbolise transformation I wanted them to look as if they had just rested a moment on the canvass.

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While the swirls of blue and white create movement

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Some might call it childish, I found great pleasure in using the blue tones mixed in with a little purple.

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The butterflies were cut from a lovely birthday card I had received earlier in that year.

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Around the canvass you can also see tiny seed purls – another suggestion of transformation – an oyster changes an irritating grain of sand into a thing of beauty.

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I won’t focus on how much this world is full of hatred and misery

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but instead,  in my own small way, spread love with a smile, a word of thanks or a listening ear. Not world changing but within my power.

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Calm down and get crafting

 

 

Do you spend most of your time having ideas but not following through?

Is there a dark corner of your home that has a mountain of unfinished projects?

Do you find you are so full of ideas that you cannot focus or sleep?

You aren’t alone

To be honest most of the time I find my creativity overwhelming; last week for example, I visited the library to return one book, I came home with several books; subjects were varied from hat making, dog training and gardening. I spent most of this week researching hats and gardening websites, leaving projects unfinished because the excitement for them has waned.

The biggest problem I face is maintaining enthusiasm for a project until its completed without being de-railled by the next idea.

Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, for example I was walking my dog and I came across some variegated ivy, by the time we made it home the idea developed and I taught a Christmas Wreath workshop out of it. I had to go through a process of trial and error (or playing as I prefer to call it) before I could take that idea forward into a course.

I thought I would share simple steps to ride that wave of enthusiasm, enjoy the making process right through to success! 

1 KEEP A NOTEBOOK

Writing down an idea means that I don’t lose it;

instead I can keep it on record until I have the time to pursue it.

Some of my best ideas come usually when I am in the middle of doing something else or on a long car journey. I take a notebook with me wherever I go.

Some projects never get beyond this stage, but others develop in time – I might change the method or the materials or  from a cushion to a wall hanging. Keeping a log of ideas also reduces the fear that one day my creativity cease at the moment I will need to come up with something.

The important thing is that my ‘new’ idea doesn’t derail my project.

2 LIMIT RESEARCH-2

Trying to create my idea while surfing the net – is like trying to be heard at a loud party! 

Learn to search with a purpose and tune out distractions

The process starts with a Pinterest board or  Flickr for inspiration but I narrow my search just on the object I am making. It doesn’t mean that I can’t ever spend time browsing and meandering around the internet, just not while I am trying to do a project.

A while ago I decided to make a vintage apron after a little research I decided on the design I liked most and I had incorporated elements of other aprons I had seen. I did not stray from aprons, even though my Pinterest feed was full of lovely things – I knew if I wandered off the path I would end up wanting to make a host of other things but essentially be too scattered to do anything.

I look at youtube tutorials, see how others have made them and incorporate their methods and ideas. I revise techniques I haven’t used for a while; there is no right or wrong way to make something, but there are a host of tips and tricks there.

Know when to STOP

Its important to decide when I have researched enough – I usually draw or sketch out what I am making, so that I have a fixed idea and then I stop looking. It is essential: otherwise I will find my ideas get muddled or I can get stuck  looking for the ‘next’ apron that might be better and my creative time slot has gone.

From that point on It is vital to stay away from the web until I have finished my project – it calms down the chatter in my head I find I am more focussed on my project idea. It is a relaxing place to be: allowing my mind to focus on just one thing for a while.

“Ignore the helpful voice suggesting I might miss something ..”

I have discovered that there will still be lots on the web waiting for me when my project is complete. It has always surprised me that after a few weeks away from FB it takes me only ten minutes to catch up!

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Taking a break helps you to be productive.

There is a theory that your creative mind is often drowned out by your problem solving logical mind, repetitive tasks such as walking or housework occupy the logical mind enough to allow the creative mind to come forward. That is why some the most creative ideas come while you are mopping the floor or in a supermarket queue. 

Walking the dog is good for creativity, I need time for my imagination to process my research, sift through the ideas and come up with a practical way to bring my idea into being. Walking is meditative and the physical movement oxygenates the blood helping the brain to function – I let my imagination take flight.

If you feel blocked or over stimulated it is really one of the best cures – right now its a real delight to see a snowdrop with its head bent in the frost, or the daffodil buds forcing their way through.

The internet works at a frenetic pace, connecting with nature and the slow rhythms of the seasons helps to slow down over stimulated minds. 

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At this point you may want to simply jump in, but you are missing the fun of developing your originality – take time to explore your project.

Let’s assume I am making a strawberry pincushion, I can find 100 strawberry pincushions on the web – if I jump in now my pincushion will be like a photo copy of a photo copy or 101st strawberry pincushion –I need to make my own original version. I print out some of my research, (but I don’t go back to the web), play with the templates, mix them up – take the elements I like, piece them together to come up with my own design – original designs are what gets published .

I might look at strawberries, the shape, the colour, study them. Draw them. Get a feel for the strawberry, make it my own. I need to be off grid for this – its about my strawberry not the 100 net versions.

Crayons can be tremendous fun, or cut up magazine pictures, collages. I am not doing a work of art I am exploring the object. Even great artists do this, it should be sketchy, scratchy – definitely not a finished article – more about observation – or grown up play.

I might gather materials I might use, is it red velvet? Felt? Am I going to use embroidery? What shades of green do I have for the leaves?  I rustle through my stash – with a sense of purpose. A bead might be just the right thing for strawberry seeds, or I might find just the right shade of red fabric.

buy only what you need

Its so easy to get lost in buying: fabric stores are full of inspiration -in the past I have gone in for a fat quarter and ended up buying fabric for a dress.

Space is finite: filling a studio up with stuff not only reduces space to be creative the stuff saps energy. 

My first studio became a jumble; at first it was a great space but as time went on it became harder to find things, I had to move things around each time until eventually I would waste hours simply sorting through my stash. I would walk away not feeling uplifted as I did when I first had the studio but stepping away guilty at my lack productivity.

accumulating things was not making me creative it was making me feel guilty.

So now I make a list, stick to it and promise myself I will go back for the dress fabric I spotted that is temptingly more exciting than making strawberries. (I can jot it down in my notebook or take away a sample and tape it on a page) but I don’t buy it.

 I remain focussed but open minded -if I were looking for red velvet and I found some beautiful red wool that sings to me; then I am still creating a strawberry pincushion.

After a trip to a shop if I am wavering, it helps me to look at the collages and sketches once more – my enthusiasm emerges and I usually find the tempting other project fades.

 

Making is a journey not a destination

Collage, drawings and sketching will have helped to remain focussed, its time to  gather everything together to create don’t be surprised if you have a sudden desire to clean the windows, or re-order your stash because..

Making is scary! 

I find my ‘helpful perfection critic’ usually pipes up, listing all the things that could go wrong and why this particular project needs to be ‘PERFECT’.

Its helpful to see the making stage as experimentation

This is the journey – be prepared to have fun its not about getting to the outcome as quickly as possible.

Try different versions, see what works and what doesn’t.

If you are making clothes, do a toile first, if its a painting, use a ‘test’ canvass.

Expect failures, disasters or for things not to do what you expected

Sometimes the most wonderful ‘accidents’ turn into some of the best projects.

Be prepared to problem solve try to enjoy the challenge

If you get stuck then ask a friend or a forum or Facebook group.

You might need to look at youtube tutorials again, but stay on track.

Creating is a process – give yourself lots of time and allow for experimentation

It is easy to lose heart if it isn’t working – it is tempting to put it away…don’t give in!

If you have really hit a block,  take some time out usually a walk is the best exercise

Most artists imaginations are far richer than the reality – I may feel that my project has not come up to my expectations, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.

Accept that you may never be entirely satisfied with what you have made – it is ok. 

Show a trusted friend – one that is encouraging, they may love it

If they suggest changes try not to take it personally but use it to direct you, see everything you make as learning

Try not to point out mistakes and accept the imperfections; it is hand made not machine bought.

The Japanese believe that imperfections are uniquely beautiful – imperfections make stamps and coins more valuable.

If its a dress,  no-one will notice the wonky seam line until you point it out! 

I like this quote:

Art is a process not an object

if you would like to find out more about avoiding procrastination, Bekki at the Creativity Cauldron has some fantastic advice, books and tips to help you tackle your unfinished objects.

I would be interested to read your tips, strategies or struggles please add them in the comments box.

most of all have fun

ttfn x

Oodles of Doodles

I bought this lovely doodling book; I can’t always get out my paints – there are times when I simply want to switch off for a while but only have ten minutes to spare. These little pages encourage creativity in bite sized pieces, I find it relaxing because I am not focussed on the outcome. I was told my my friend M that it is the most relaxing activity you can do, she is a fan of colouring in books.

 Doodling is a great way to develop your drawing style; it is often by accident I come across something lovely to develop. Playing is under-rated – as adults we are discouraged to do so – but without it we close ourselves of to discovery and free expression.

Take a simple page of colourful circles, it was really blissful to play with the shape and it is amazing how a few lines can change the shape.  I also enjoy playing with my large pot of crayola crayons, they blend so nicely – because they are crayons there is no pressure to create a ‘work of art’ it is all about play. Picasso says that ‘everyone is an artist, the skill is to remain so when you grow up’ 
Sunrise – crayola crayons

A creative dilemma

The Ego urges you to accomplish, while your soul merely asks you to enjoy the process
I used to follow a wonderful blog it was full of patterns and brilliant links; the blog was updated almost daily but one day there was a short simple post to say that she felt it was time to stop blogging about life and live – I knew what she meant. 
I was initially disappointed that there would not be more of her wonderful posts, but at the same time I realised that this small blog had the potential to become a monster if I wasn’t careful. While it is lovely to write and share things, it is all too easy to look at the blog statistics and want to see more hits or more readers, or even a few comments then the focus on getting more.. more and more. 
I think that is the tipping point, as a creative it is wonderful to make something, a picture, a cushion or a bag, I was simply making something that I liked then I started to share things with the world then the ‘audience’ becomes a vague person that I wanted to please. Suddenly it isn’t about the process it is all about the outcome. 
lotions and potions – I broke one of the candle holders! 

I noticed it when I started getting my projects published, it was fantastic seeing my name in print, but from that moment on everything I focussed on was for the magazine – I found I was making things that were publishable but not necessarily what I wanted. I love hand sewing, but I never did anything hand sewn because it would not be published, and I stopped drawing altogether. 
It took me several attempts before I mastered crochet flowers
Another aspect that I found the cause of stress was that sometimes a project develops, a mistake, or an idea happens while I am in the process of making something, but when you have agreed on a specific idea magazines are not always flexible – after all they are in the business of selling, they have a brand and know what they want in the ‘box’.  Readers expectations come into this a lot and I am one so I know! One day I had a terrible disaster, the cushion that was to be published had got ruined in the wash, the teal velvet had run over the white fabric, the only reason I washed it was for the magazine, I scoured the shops looking for replacement fabrics, and since it was a winter project and I was sewing it in August, there were no winter fabrics in the shops. For me I had realised that I was not gaining enough out of doing it. I thought about approaching other magazines, but that would mean more output. 
I love to live with the seasons, I enjoy celebrating the small festivals that are part of our connection to the changing seasons, but magazines have a three to four month lead time, so I was writing out of sync, it meant that I could not focus and enjoy the moment. 
It is nature that nurtures our creative spirit
It isn’t just me that feels the pressure, I was chatting to a dear friend of mine who makes things to sell because she needs the extra money it brings in. She has found the whole craft fair process a roller coaster of mainly dips. One customer picked up a handmade item that had taken my friend hours to make and suggested she was selling it too high, the customer wanted to pay a minimal amount because she considered that my friend was clearly doing it for fun. How can it be fun to see your hard work knocked down for a few pounds? 
I like a bargain but I love even more the delight of paying a good price to encourage someone’s creativity, I would much rather have that fondness for a lovely handmade item than beating someone down to a rock bottom bargain. 
have values changed? 
I feel that our culture has lost its way a little, we see companies always seeking to make that extra profit regardless of the impact that it has on communities. We ourselves have begun to value what we do only in terms of how much someone will pay for something. In addition we are all supposed to be extra-ordinary, children aren’t told to get a job they are told to get careers, it isn’t enough to simply make things, we have to sell them, and lots of them! Let’s hear it for a life more ordinary! One where we don’t have to strive to be better or bigger, who measures that anyway?
I really don’t know what the answer is, other than to step back and do our small thing.. encourage one another. It is about balance, let us remember that sometimes it is about simply having fun, enjoying the process and forgetting the outcome. Only then can we allow ourselves to play, take chances and let go. That is when I think we create our best work, even if it is just me and the dog who agree!

Girlie Birthday Party – tea cake and crafting!

I bought this lovely basket last year and when it had finished flowering I put it in the garden, last week I discovered the bulbs had pushed through the snow so I brushed it off and put it on the kitchen window sill where I can enjoy it while I wash the dishes. It is a lovely reminder that spring is not that far away. 
I had a lovely weekend, after the gym on Saturday I just hung about the house enjoying having very little to do, and on Sunday I had my Girlie birthday party at Lulamaes in Arundel. Its ages since I had a Birthday party but this was a very grown up affair, with cream tea, cakes and crafting. There were ten of us in all and everyone went  home with a lovely felted brooch or pendant they had made. The cafe itself is beautiful, so delightfully decorated and the cakes are home made and sublime. Everything was provided for us and all we had to do was sit down, chat and enjoy ourselves. I went home feeling thoroughly spoilt with some beautiful gifts – definitely a birthday to treasure for a long time to come.  

Calling Time

We have all the time in the world…. 
I struggle to balance everything, I have so many ideas, I buy fabric inspired by a project, then another project comes along and my studio space fills and fills and fills. The days go by, I read blogs and am inspired, flickr is full of beautiful hand crafted items, ideas flood my imagination until I simply reach saturation point. What I crave is the time to create. 
I have often heard others say the same, they have no time for creativity; usually at this time of the year I make a resolution to spend more time doing.
I am determined to really crack it this year, so I am resorting to a time management technique by doing a time audit. Although for a week it is tedious to write down every fifteen minutes what I am doing, but it will hopefully help me to appreciate where my time goes. (Best done when we have all returned to our normal routine in January!)
As a creative I struggle with schedules, I hate timetabling but housework will take as much time as you will give it. It is hard to spend all afternoon sewing while a pile of washing sits in the corner. Scheduling can be a friend, it means that everything is divided into manageable chunks, so that once the chores for that day are done, the washing pile is not so intimidating because I know that I have scheduled time for it to be done I don’t have to worry about it. 
Another great friend is a menu plan, it saves the constant worry that creeps into my sewing time knowing as the hours tick by that hungry people will be looking to me to be fed. Menu plans not only help with the daily choosing of what to cook, (which can be draining in itself) but it makes shopping more effective as you only buy what you need. It means that your food is not frozen solid hopefully because you can check the menu plan and get the items out of the freezer. If the idea of a menu plan seems daunting, just look back on the last few weeks and you will be filling in your plan in no time. 
One poem that really puts time into focus …

Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with £86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day.
Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course?
Each of us has such a bank. It’s name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no over draft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day.
If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against “tomorrow.”
You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success!
The clock is running!! Make the most of today.
To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.
To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask someone who just avoided an accident.
To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.
Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with. And remember time waits for no one.
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That’s why its called the present.

Happy New Year, I hope it will be one filled with fun and creativity.