Thursday, May 9, 2019

52 Weeks of Play: Weeks 1-4

Week 1: Water Soluable Fabric

I have always been curious about water soluable fabric after seeing the work of Amanda McCavour. Amanda creates environments with her thread painted installations that are breathtaking and all encompassing. See her work here.  I have tried the technique in the past with no success but I decided to give it another try! By experimenting, I learned some tricks and was happy with the results! I think I will come back to this again in the future!

Week 2: Freestyle Embroidery

Since I was working on a piece for a collaboration project that had a deadline, I decided to incorporate my "play" into my piece. I used embroidery to free draw flowers into the piece. The flowers were not pre-drawn so  I just trusted my stitches.

Week 3: Abstract Painting

I am definitely not a painter but I love working with painted backgrounds.  I have been playing with abstract painting to create some interesting bases for collage and stitch. Some have turned out better than others, these are a few of my favorites so far...

Week 4: Gel Plate Image Transfers

I love playing with Gelli Plates to make monoprints but I had recently seen artists using their plate to create image transfers! I decided to try it out for myself. While I had some success with it, I think it will take more experimenting. There are a lot of factors which can affect the outcome such as the best image to use, the amount of paint on your plate, rubbing pressure and the surface you are transferring to. Since I like to work with fabric, I was trying various fabrics and all of the artists I had seen use this technique were working with paper.

It has been a fun first few weeks but I need to remind myself that the goal is play. The goal is not finished results. Since my last year long challenge was all about creating a finished piece each week, I need to remember that the focus this year is process. To try new things, to explore things more fully. My true reward from this year is hopefully adding new skills to my arsenal to pull from when a piece I am working on needs it.

Monday, April 1, 2019

52 Weeks of Play

It has been over a year since I completed my 52 Collage Project. After I finished up with the year-long challenge, I thought about starting another challenge for myself but I needed to take a break. Not very long into last year, I realized I missed it. I missed the self imposed discipline of a weekly challenge. I started to dream up new challenge ideas...

Coming up with new year-long challenges were not hard for me. My creative brain mixed with my regimented habit personality loved this kind of brainstorm! I had a whole list of ideas to choose from but the holidays came and I got tired. And my new challenge idea fell by the wayside. Anyone in retail can especially identify with the pure exhaustion that comes with the end of the year. Heck, anyone who isnt even in retail can identify!

Due to my "Upholder" personality, (a personality type coined by Gretchen Rubin's 4 Tendencies Personality Types of which I am 100% a perfect match for), I had a hard time starting a year long challenge when it was not January 1st. I'm such a creature of habit that I felt that I needed to wait until New Year's to start a year-long challenge. I've decided I am going to go against my nature and start one now. Last week's blog post on the importance on art without expectation reminded me of a challenge idea that had been brewing in my mind since my project brainstorming session.

52 weeks of play. A year of play. For the next 52 weeks, I will create art for the sake of PLAY.  Unlike my last project where I ended up with 52 completed compositions, this time I will not end up with finished pieces or projects.

This year I plan to:
- try out supplies that I have always been curious about
- delve deeper into a technique that I have not fully explored
- take classes to play with art
-doodle, paint, stitch, knit, yo yo, print and create my heart out in whatever direction it leads me!

My only criteria is that I spend a minimum of a few hours each week on a technique that is different from week to week.

Follow along or join in! I will be posting my journey on instagram @the_meditative_stitcher and  #52weeksofplay and will update my progress here on the blog. Remember to have fun- that's what it's all about!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Art Without Expectations

The very reason that I love art journaling is the exact same reason that I had no interest in doing it in the first place. I thought, if you can't hang it or wear it, what was the point of it? With limited time to make art, I thought doing something so frivolous as creating art that no one would see was a waste of time. It's not that I never "played" in the art studio but usually in the back of my mind I knew that some day the piece I was playing with could be over-dyed, collaged, or used as a background for my "real" art. 

A few years ago, my perspective changed when I met Colleen Attara. I bought myself a birthday gift of an art retreat which turned out to be a life changing experience for me in many ways. I wrote a blog post on it here.  One of the most amazing experiences was taking Colleen's class. Through her stories of how this form of art transformed her life and how it helped her deal with difficult experiences, I could see how it could help my own life. As I spent the day playing with transfers, paints, inks, ephemera, typewriters and sewing machines I got lost in the process of play. I was completely free to make mistakes and create without fear which was exactly what i needed. 

Last month for my mom's birthday, I took her to Colleen's cottage art studio in Yardley PA. I wanted to share with her what had been so important for me. Spending the day with my mom and watching her learn new techniques along side of me was a gift. The day could not have been more perfect and one that I will always treasure. 

And now as I am in between projects, it is my art journal that I go to when I need to clear my head and work things out. I know my body needs to create to find peace and this kind of no-expectation art is exactly what I need.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Getting Quiet

Maybe it's the dark winter nights, maybe it's the aftermath of the holidays but it's likely a combination of both... January is always a creative time for me. On most nights I can be found hibernating in my studio. There is always a stash of unfinished projects, a few lit candles, sometimes a cat or two and the quiet hum of the heat fan. After the hustle of the Christmas rush, I want nothing more than to be alone and quiet with my stitching.

After learning to knit two years ago from my dear friend Laura, I have found it to be a huge source of relaxation. I love the tiny clicking of my needles as I make each stitch and the comforting feeling of the yarn in my fingers.

More recently, I participated in a class with my friend Margaret where she taught the art of mending, Sashiko. I have always enjoyed this process and even wrote an earlier blog post about the meditative act of mending (see blog post here) However in this class, I got to see how the other students also had a similar response. During the class, the room went from chatty to quiet as people worked on their sashiko stitches. The rhythm of the running stitch has a way of slowing down your breath and relaxing tense muscles.

The more I allow myself the time that I need to engage in the meditative craft of stitching, the more I see its emotional benefits to a healthy well-being. I feel strongly that everyone can benefit by spending some time in a meditative craft whether it be doodling, coloring in a coloring book, painting, or a needle craft. You don't need to be good at it- you just need to do it. Over time, not only will you find your skills getting better but you will be surprised to find how much more fulfilled your life will become.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Enough- Pinky Swear

Growing up, I was never the best student. But I really wanted a phone in my room. These days middle schoolers walk around with cell phones but when I was growing up the goal was to have a phone of my own in my bedroom. I made a wager with my parents that if I got on the honor roll for all four semesters, they would allow me to have a phone at the end of the year. Knowing that I had never even come close to the honor roll, they thought it was a safe bet. Not only did I get a phone, I got one after just a single semester because the girl who had never even gotten honor roll got Distinguished Honor Roll.

I work well with goals. Being a type A personality has helped me achieve many of my dreams and often has led me to success. I enjoy pushing myself hard, learning new things and trying to be better.  But what happens when you're always searching and striving for more? When you feel that you can never be satisfied with where you are right now? 

Enough. That's right- enough of the promises to be better, enough of the podcasts on doing more, enough of the books that make it all seem easy. Enough. Because right now, we are enough. Each of us are where we are supposed to be at this very moment. Thich Nhat Hahn tells the story of The Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy. The basic moral of the story is that the most important time is now. The most important person is the one you are currently with and the most important thing you should be doing is what you are doing now.  My natural instinct is to always push for more and while I can keep working hard towards a goal, I need to remember that the most important time is now. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Empty Baskets

Two and a half years in the making and now it is finished. When my second and last dog Jasper passed away nearly three years ago, I was devastated. Anyone who has lost a pet can understand the huge emptiness that I was feeling. Although I could not find the words to express the loss, I remember taking a picture of his empty toy basket. That visual echoed the words that I could not find.

As I do, I tried to heal myself with art. It was working....but it wasn't. Struggling with the piece, I wanted so badly to express what I was feeling through stitch but nothing seemed to work. I put it aside for quite some time. Last year I kept busy with my 52 Collage Project and the basket piece sat...waiting. Recently I came back to it. I really just felt the need to finish it, to put it behind me and to move on. Even though I am still not completely satisfied with it, I was having a hard time starting anything new until that piece was complete.

The basket is once again filled with toys. Rather than chew toys and bones, it has been replaced by little balls with bells and catnip mice. Although the basket is not as full as it once was, I find comfort whenever I see one of our new furry family members fish out a toy from the basket that once held Jasper's prized stuffed animals.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Reflections on 52

A month behind me, I feel like I have had some distance and can now reflect a little on my 52 Collage Journal Project. While writing my 2018 goals, I found some old notes and goals that I wrote before beginning on the 52 for 2017.

"purpose: have a goal, strengthen composition skills, strengthen confidence in decision making, create a cohesive body of work, show all 52 in 2018"

There were several keys to making a project like this work. The first was accountability. If you have a goal, declare it loud and clear! I wrote about it in my blog and made a habit of regularly posting it on Instagram with pictures from each week. As people began to take notice, my accountability grew. During more difficult weeks, I kept going...there was no way I wanted to let myself down and with people watching and expecting a piece a week (or at least in my own mind they were), I had to pull through.  Another major factor was forcing myself to go into the studio even when I was tired or uninspired. I found that just being in there surrounded by fabrics and papers eventually led to a shot of inspiration.

So did I achieve my purpose? Midway through the project, I was getting much more efficient in my pieces.  There were some that were more labor intensive but the general idea and overall plan came together more quickly.  In the past I would agonize over every little decision which would ultimately cause a paralyzed creativity block.  Now there was no time for that.  I learned to follow my gut and just do it.  I began to trust that once I made a decision, I could choose my next move based on the result rather than double or triple think each move. I grew confident in my compositions and my decision making. My final goal was to show all 52 in 2018. Currently I have three shows lined up! Writing out your goals, declaring them out loud, and doing the work leads to positive outcomes.

When the 52 came to a close, I gave a lot of thought to a new project for 2018 but decided to give myself the year to dive in and explore the lessons learned from the 52. There were subjects and areas that I touched on that I want to go back to and work through on a large scale. Since each piece was worked in only one week, there were times when I felt like I wanted to do more with a technique or carry through on an idea but there was not enough time.

The ultimate lesson learned was the importance of practice. I know that I am a better artist after this year. I know that if you put in the time and effort of doing something nearly daily, you will get better. It's a freeing concept really...this can apply to anything. There is nothing you can not do.