Lately, I’ve been thinking about rhythms and patterns in creating things. I think of them as a metronome that forms a beat to follow. Maybe the beat is for a specific task, like hand sewing hundreds of hexagons to create a quilt top or assembly-line sewing 50 face masks. As the process develops, you start out clunky, but then (hopefully) you develop a beat that runs through your head. First this, then this, then this…repeat. One, two, three…repeat. (Note: Knitting and crochet is also this way and is frequently written in “secret” code: *K2, P1, Sl1,* repeat.)
Rhythms also develop in our daily lives. Wake up, let the dogs out, grab your caffeine…repeat (the next day). When you get a new pet, new job, or start a new project, the daily routine shifts and the beat gets clunky. With luck, the rhythm forms quickly and you find your beat.
For most of my life, I’ve been aware of rhythms. As I write this, I’m hearing (and feeling) the 1, 2, 3 count and I’m finding comfort in the pattern. A rhythm can be like a good song that plays in your head as you go through the day.
This week I realized that I’ve felt out of sorts lately because the rhythm keeps changing. This year has been crazy for this. I’m seeking a beat, but the world around me keeps changing. On the days that I find my cadence, I feel more calm and accomplished. Lately, there have been many days where there isn’t anything to count. This is were rituals (or habits) come into play. You find something that’s repeatable on a daily basis. It’s important to find things you can repeat, because it puts order into your day: “I’ll do this, then I’ll do this and then I’ll do this…repeat.” I’m going to focus some thought on this. Unfortunately, I’ve just never been that successful with forming daily habitual behaviors. Some of the one’s I’ve had (like going to the gym daily) have been broken due to the pandemic. There’s always room to change. We’ll see how it goes, right? Do you see any rhythms in your life?
The gyms in my town have been closed because of Covid-19. So I set up a makeshift place in my house to work out. It’s a little nook in a hallway at the top of my stairs, just outside my studio door (a spare bedroom). Just some free weights, a yoga mat, a TRX strap and … my design wall.
For the past three months, I’ve been working out in this space with my fabric birds on the wall. When I made my “Backyard Songbird Series I” quilts a couple years back, I made 2 sets of each bird applique. The little critters on the wall are the flock that didn’t get used. Looking at them almost everyday has had me thinking about what to do with them. (Ok…actually its not really that I’m thinking about them, they seem to be looking at me and nagging.) There needs to be a “Songbird Series II.”
While I’ve been in lock down, I also took advantage of the great spring we had (note: right now it’s hotter than heck and oppressively humid, but the spring was good). My bird feeder set up attracts some really interesting species. The red-headed woodpecker (RHWO) is a regular guest at Château de Nanette. I’ve been trying to photograph the birds who visit and use the images for the second series. (You can see on the design wall that I did create an RHWO for the first series.) Maybe I need to do something a little more complex this time.
Anyway, my bird feeders are an escape for me. They are positioned so you can see them from any window on the north side of my house. And see them I do! You can frequently find me gazing out a window and looking at who’s visiting. It’s a passion and it translates into my art.
To me this is what finding your voice means, to find an idea or technique that you’re passionate about. Your work doesn’t have to mean anything or speak for you, but it resonates energy. Have you ever thought about artistic voice? Do you have one? If not, do you want to have one? What are you passionate about?
And so…life slowly crawls to a stop with this Covid-19 virus spreading through the United States (and world). I work from home, so things haven’t changed too much. But still, it all seems weird and surreal. Things seem kind of normal, but then again, they don’t. The last two weeks my brain has been in a shutdown. How about your’s?
I’ve talked to a number of friends who just say they’re not motivated. We’re creatives who have been offered a gift of time, but we’re not using it. I’ve been asking myself why. I did spend some time updating my website last week, but art still seems stubborn about appearing in my life right now.
I think part of it is the uncertainty. I had plans to be at a conference in Toronto last weekend…cancelled. I was scheduled to do a meet and greet at Artworks Vass, NC this weekend…cancelled. I was scheduled to teach a class next weekend…cancelled. The gallery where I show my art, One of a Kind Gallery in Pinehurst, NC, just moved to a new location. The first week after the move, things were going great. My artwork was selling and I need to make replacement pieces to fill the empty spaces. Well, they closed this week and will re-open …whenever.
I’m a professional artist and, just like everyone else, these closures change the way I work. The urgency of what I need to do is gone. My drive hasn’t been there. I’m in a serious slump…but I’m emerging. I think sometimes you have to embrace the funk when you’re in it. I realize I’m not alone and there’s plenty of people who are suffering far worse than I am. I am not complaining…but accepting that this really has impacted my thinking.
As I’ve talked to my friends, many of them have experienced the same feelings. We know how to count our blessing, but how do we move forward when there’s nothing to move forward towards? This week I realized that the answer is just DO something. Don’t stop because then, the crisis wins. I’m making progress and feeling the stubbornness get stronger. I must return to a practice of making art every single day. It’s like exercising. When you stop working out, you loose the motivation to work out. But, one day back at the gym and you’re remembering the joy it brings you. It’s the same with your art. If you’re feeling this slump, and it bothers you, then DO something! Anything! It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but with each piece you’ll get creatively stronger. The stronger you are, the more you’ll want to do. So stop looking at your computer and go create something!
Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are a creative spirit. You may not create your own things, but I’m sure you at least admire the creative process in others. Maybe you’re trying to be more creative on your journey or maybe you’re a professional trying to make a living with your art. Since, I don’t know for sure, I’m just going to believe that you have that creative spark.
I speak of being creative, not just making “art.” Art is often interpreted as a final product; a painting, photograph, music, or prose. A lot of people are intimidated about producing, but would still consider themselves creative. Maybe you doodle, sketch, knit/crochet/embroider, or simply have a good eye for home decor. You have a creative spirit.
What does it mean to be creative? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve realized it is the core of my being. I am at my best when I’m making. Through some self-evaluation, I also realized that this creative energy I have is not something I just developed. It is something I was born with. What is your earliest creative memory?
My earliest creative memory was when I was in preschool (back then it was called “Head Start” and Kindergarten). I remember the school, I remember the day the teacher pulled out the easels. I remember when we (see photo) were allowed to finger paint on the “big” paper tablets. I chose red and yellow paint and did my finest abstract rendition. I remember being proud. I remember saying, “I’m going to call it Ketchup and Mustard!” I remember that little girl, who didn’t always have it so easy. I realize my creativity has gotten me through alot and continues to drive me today.
I think of you today. You’re also creative, right? Do you remember the young creative you? Do you allow the creative you to come out and play? Just thinking…maybe it’s time we let the kid inside have a play day.
I am thankful to report that everyone I know in North Carolina is safe and has survived Hurricane Florence. My heart goes out to those who are impacted. We still have major flooding just east of where I live. Local traffic patterns have changed as people navigate to work avoiding flooded, blocked or damaged roads in the area. Even this is minor stuff compared to the devastation in eastern Carolina. How do I write anything about what I’m doing when there are countless displaced people in my state? My worries are minor.
During all of this I noticed a tenacity among the people I know. My quilt guild is holding its biennial show this weekend. The judging (for ribbons) was suppose to happen last Thursday. Because of the impending storm, they postponed until Monday. The storm was pretty bad over the weekend. The venue where they were judging had to close Monday. It was amazing to hear that the coordinators pulled it off anyway. The judges drove Sunday in the nasty weather to make sure they would be there. If the guild couldn’t find a venue, they were willing to judge the quilts in their hotel rooms. No one could even prepare for all the happened this past week, but these tenacious women pulled it off. The show must go on! I’m so proud to know them.
The storm is over, major roads are clear and passable. The caravans of out-of-state utility workers and tree removal services are taking care of what damage remains. If you live in central North Carolina and looking for something to do this fine weekend, please come see the Sandhills Quilters Guild show! I’ll have 3 pieces in the show. You’ll find that quilters in my guild are out of this world talented. You will be impressed. The show will go on!
I’m so excited! In just a couple days PALUSTRIS: Celebrating Longleaf Through the Arts opens at Campbell House Galleries (Apr 6 – see details below). The exhibit’s name pays homage to the longleaf pine ecosystem. Pinus palustris is the Latin name (genus/species) for the longleaf pine tree which is native to the Southeastern United States.
This exhibit includes the work of Brady Beck, Linda Dalton Pottery, Sharon Ferguson, Janette Hopper, Diana Russ, and Caroline Young. My newest artwork “Longleaf Pinecone” will also be part of this exhibit. Each of the artists in this exhibit were invited to participate because we share our passion for the the longleaf pine forest through our art.
In addition to the honor of being selected to be in this exhibit, I’m also very excited about the theme. The entire month of April will be filled with activities which pay tribute to the natural community in which I live. In conjunction with the exhibit, there will be the Southern Pines House & Garden Tour (April 14) and the much loved Party for the Pine (on Earth Day, April 21) presented by NC State Park’s Weymouth Woods – Sandhills Nature Preserve. The Party for the Pines celebrates the oldest recorded longleaf pine tree, which turns 470 years old this year. How cool is that!
If you’re in the area, I hope you get a chance to stop by and see the exhibit or attend one of the other events honoring this pine.
PALUSTRIS: Celebrating Longleaf Through the Arts
Arts Council of Moore County
Campbell House Galleries
Southern Pines, NC 28387
Exhibit Dates: April 6-27, 2018
Opening Reception: April 6 from 6 to 8p
Gallery Hours: Weekdays / 9a to 5p
Saturday, April 14 (10a to 4p) – So. Pines House & Garden Tour
Saturday, April 21 (10a to 3p) – Party for the Pine
Saturday, April 21 (4-8p) – After-Party for Party for the Pine
Just a couple more days and it will be April. Although, spring officially arrived last week, its still a bit cool in my neck of the woods. This has definitely been a brutal weather year for most of us. The forecast here today is finally including temperatures in the normal range with sunshine (another missing element to our spring this year).
The good thing about the yucky weather this past month, is that I’m not tempted to be outside very much. This presents me with more studio time, a plus given that I’m busy creating new artwork for a solo show at Page-Walker in Cary, NC this fall (stay tuned for details).
Another advantage to spring is more sunlight. I’m definitely more motivated to work later in the day when the sun is out in the evening. Yay! for more motivation and studio time!
Dreary days have me moving slow and sunny days seem to provide me with motivation. Have you notice your creativity levels change with the weather? I say, enough with the yucky weather lets get our creative souls hopping.
See my art:
Palustris: Celebrating Longleaf Through the Arts
April 6-27, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday April 6th, 6-8pm
Campbell House Galleries
Southern Pines, NC 28387
There is no lack of things to do in my life right now. Boredom is not possible. However, what I’m finding is a level of overload. It’s the “T-word” again … specifically time management. We all need to juggle home life with our creative journey. And, some of us also have the added factor of outside employment in the mix. I’m interested in a lot of things and want to do them all. I’m realizing, I can’t, especially if I want to do them well. For example, even though I would love to do some wood-working projects a-la Roy Underhill (PBS’ Woodright Shop), that’s just not an option.
I have goals and deadlines on my calendar, they take priority above the creative ADHD I sometimes have. I’m in a good place, but realize I must compartmentalize my life to make it all work. I have to say “no thanks” to some of the things that sound cool and fun, but just don’t fit with my current plan. Focus, girlfriend…Focus. My message (to you) “breathe and achieve.”
Remember, seeking balance is a decision and finding calm fosters creative inspiration. What are your priorities?
I believe we learn lessons about life from situations we’re placed in. We can also learn alot by watching how others handle situations. I’ve been learning a lot the past few weeks as I witness 2 friends battle cancer. They are both amazing women, creative and funny. They make me laugh; I love that about them. Because of their sense of human and strong character, they are both facing their diagnosis with positive and determined ways. They are powerful to watch.
Shortly after receiving her diagnosis, one of my friends made a promise to her husband to clear out her stash before she dies. She didn’t want to leave him with this burden. She held to her promise and organized her things, then invited people to come “adopt” her craft supplies. “Take all that you want and use it,” she told us with a big smile. It gave her great joy to see her things go to people who would love and appreciate what she had. I don’t know that I would be so organized and determined after receiving such news.
I surely don’t need more fabric, but I did go “adobpt” a few things and brought home a mascot. This funky hedgehog is truly special to me. It will remind me of the strong character, grace and humor of my friend. It will also remind me to love what I do, give graciously, and laugh with life whenever possible.
SEE MY QUILT “Soar” at the
Sacred Threads Exhibition
July 7, 2017 – July 23, 2017
Floris United Methodist Church, Herndon, VA
Its the new year, a time to reflect. Its a symbolic time to let go of old baggage and start new. The first 3 weeks of January is a especially thought-filled time for me. I remember the anniversary of both my parent’s deaths and I celebrate a birthday. These personal bookmarks of my life help me reflect on what is and isn’t in my life. The rest of the year is kind of simple, because I just walk the treadmill of life. In January, the bookmarks remind me to stop and think.
Also as I approach a milestone birthday, this year I am aware of what I don’t know. In your 20’s and 30’s, you think you know everything. I’m finding the older I get that is less true. I truly have more life experience, but the bigger picture is much less clear. I am often perplexed by the have and have nots. Why is is that some people have certain things and other’s do not? Wealth, talent, intellect, creativity, and health are few words that describe things that many of us either have or have not. I realize its not always a black line between have and have not. You’re not just wealthy or poor, there’s room for grey in there. It just seems some people have “more” of some gifts then others.
I have been blessed with having artistic/creative abilities. I hear all the time “you’re so talented.” I like to hear that, it keeps me motivated. However, it also makes me wonder “why do I have this built-in ability and others don’t?” In the same thought process, I can think “why can’t I sing and others can?” I don’t even like to sing in the shower because I know I sound so bad.
Stopping and reflecting this time of year is my way of processing it all. I reflect on what I have and don’t have. I stop and think why is this a good thing? I try to find ways to change what isn’t so good. I don’t know why I have all that I do or experienced all that I did, but I do know that it makes me, me. Someday I’ll have all the answers, for know I just don’t know and that’s OK.
Note about the image: “Metamorphosis” by Nanette S. Zeller, 14” x 11”. Life is ever changing. Through each stage may you emerge more beautiful than from the last.