Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It Could Be

I’ve been meditating daily for a while now and boy, do I see a difference  - in well, everything.  It helps me be so much more present and aware of things, which in turns seems to lead to more and more (and more) inspiration.  It’s such a lovely gift to have all these ideas waiting in the background - as soon as I finish one project, I’m super excited to begin the next.  I sometimes feel as though I’m in a constant state of excitement and anticipation because I love what I’m doing so much.  I can’t wait to get to it every day, and sometimes I even neglect other (some might say, more important) things because I just want to get to my studio and CREATE. 

For example, until yesterday I had been fighting crabbiness because I hadn’t been able to work on anything in over eleven days – I was having creation withdrawal!  There was a sort of discontent in the background that I kept having to dispel by forcing myself into the present moment.  It worked though. and I was able to fulfill the other obligations I had and with joy and gratitude.  But boy oh boy was I happy to be back in my studio yesterday! 

I have to admit, though, that I’m starting to wonder whether I’m spending too much energy on the wrong thing.   With all this bliss and inspiration comes a dilemma – how can I be so driven to create, so full of ideas and enthusiasm and joy and energy, with no practical outcome to it?  There is a goal, yes - to sell my art, to have it bring as much joy to other people as creating it brings to me.  (At the risk of sounding arrogant, self-indulgent, or maybe deluded(?) I really, really LOVE my creations .  All of them!  They give me so much delight and wonder, I want them to do the same for others.  I mean, it could be.

I know there are lots of ideas and lots of really gifted creators in the world – I’m  quite grateful for and inspired by them.  If I ask why I would expect to be successful in the face of all this amazing creativity,  my husband often says “Why not you?” Yes, why not me?  If my spiritual teachers are to be believed  - and I think they are - there is enough to go around. Hey - it could be.

I follow a lot of bloggers who seem to have "success" with their art – they are teaching, they are doing pieces on commission, they are getting their art put in galleries and shows, they have sponsors for their blogs, they have thousands of followers…and after two years of blogging I am, well, let’s just say, less followed.  Am doing something wrong here?  Am I too focused on the creating and not focused enough on the marketing?  I suppose it could be

In my defense,  I am trying to develop a web page but find it so tedious and frustrating that I have gotten exactly nowhere with it.   I realize I need some help, because computer stuff just ain’t my thing.  (Computers are great, I love them.  But I don’t like to figure out how to do things on them - not even a little.  I only like for someone else to show me how to do what I want. )  But if I really want to have some of that kind of success, I will have to make this a priority, I think, not just be so focused on creating.

What is success, anyway?  Perhaps I'm looking for something outside myself when I need to go inside and find it.  I know I am certain blissed out (well, most of the time) when I am creating - can't ask for much more that, can I?

The thought sometimes occurs to me that I should just stop all this nonsense and go get a “real” job, sell my sewing machines and give away all my fabric and throw out those Styrofoam heads, paints, and all my other art supplies and let go of this dream of creating art.  But will that stop the flow of ideas and enthusiasm and almost physical need to create that pervades my being?  This cannot be!

Instead, I think it will just direct the creative part of me to other endeavors – I know when I was teaching I had the same experience with ideas and inspiration – it was constant and I loved it and I KNOW my students benefitted and learned from it.
You see, the amazing thing about creativity is that we can be creative with ANYTHING!  Yes, even accountants can be creative (and I don’t mean in unlawful ways) with what they do, if they love it enough and are open to the creative force of the universe.

For me, it comes down to this:  I like – no, I LOVE to create.  It’s so much a part of my being that it pervades everything I do, from cooking to exercising, to organizing, and to yes, art.  I don’t know if I’ll ever enjoy “success” with my art, and I suppose it doesn’t matter.   I’m not quite ready to give up on it yet – I don’t feel like I’ve given it enough time – after all, anything worth having is worth working for, right?  That said, it’s still a considerable comfort to know that creativity abounds and that it can be expressed in countless ways, and that even if I do have to let go of this particular dream, if I remain open to the universe, I can still feel the incredible, miraculous bliss of creating, just in a different way. 

But one thing is certain.  Life is about balance.  And maybe the message I’m supposed to be getting is that I need to balance my life more – not spend so much time on this one thing, but find a better balance between creating art and creating and doing in other parts of my life.  It could just very well be.


Amazingly,  I’m nearly finished with my pieces inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s art - the ones that were the subject of my blog a couple of times ago that took so long in the planning.  Although it took a full day of decision making to get them planned out, as I suspected, the actual creating didn’t take nearly as long.  In fact, at this point, they are sandwiched and ready to be quilted. 

It may take another day to figure out how I’m going to quilt them, though.  I want the quilting to really enhance the design, and there’s a lot going on, so I think it has to be pretty minimal, or at least not prominent, and I’m a little stuck.  I’m going to throw them up on the wall and just stare at them for a while.  I’m sure something will come.  In the meantime, I have plenty of other projects to work on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Gift From a Friend

This week I am in Kansas City visiting my cousin Hoddy.  It's been a great trip for many reasons, one being that my best friend since kindergarten also happens to live here, so I've been able to have fun with both of them although I admitted to them that I felt a little torn between two lovers, wanting to see both of them as much as possible - what a nice dilemma to have!   But the main reason I came at this time was to visit Hoddy and her family.

Hoddy is fifteen years younger than I, and grew up in San Francisco, CA.  I moved to the Bay area when she was eight, and she and her family are very special to me as they were very much supportive and loving during a time when I literally had no friends or money or idea of what the heck I was doing out in the world.  Over six feet tall, smart, fun and beautiful, Hoddy is a powerhouse of positive energy.  When I first moved to California, she spend a lot of time turning cartwheels in the living room of her flat and perfecting her considerable dance moves.  She then went on to play volleyball at William and Mary, attend law school, marry her college sweetheart, land a job at a top law firm in SF, have three children, and then move to Kansas and start two businesses (the BAR Method exercise studios - look it up, it's fabulous) here in Kansas.  In the space of three years, her businesses are not only successful, they are a lovely gathering place with an upbeat, energetic and caring atmosphere where (I can tell) true friendships and bonds are being formed.  That's because the Bar Method is her bliss - and it shows!  Not only does she give it her love, attention, and energy, she gets so much out of it as well.

And at the moment, Hoddy really needs every ounce of energy she can get, because she is using up a lot of her enormous well of it to battle cancer.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma in February.   I came to Kansas to visit, give moral support, and help Hoddy, but I feel I've come away with far more than I have given and I want to share some of the things I've learned from my fabulous cousin.  She is attacking the evil disease on every possible front and I for one, really believe there is no possible chance it has against her aggressive and really, quite creative methods of fighting it.

First of all, she is taking the conventional approach.  She has just finished her sixth (and I believe her last) round of chemo.   I look at her and I am frankly, amazed at that fact.  I mean,  I know she has been through chemo because I sat with her through her last appointment, but she sure doesn't look or act like anyone I've ever seen on chemo.  Her color is great, her energy (while it is lower than she likes and is frustrating to her) is far higher than plenty of people who have never even taken chemo, and yes, she may be bald, but she's still lovely.

And I think I know why.  You see, when Hoddy found out she had serious cancer, she began to research.  The first area she looked into was food  She doesn't eat any inflammatory foods (such as dairy).  She does eat a lot of alkaline foods like kim chee and sauerkraut and she takes a spoonful of apple cider vinegar a couple of days a week.  She also eats no, absolutely no sugar (because cancer likes sugar).  She drinks green tea, she takes oil of cannabis, she eats a ton of antioxidant rich foods, and she is 100 percent organic (although she was already mostly organic for the last few years before the diagnosis, I must admit).  She also takes herbs that really help her with her blood counts, and drinks a ton of water (some of it infused with chlorophyll and lemon for their alkalizing properties).  She also fasts for 24 hours before and the entire day of her chemos, because the rate of absorption of the medicines is much higher when the cancer cells are hungry.  (When people ask her how she can do that, she says "I'm highly motivated.")

The next thing she does is acupuncture.  Not just for the effects of the chemo, but also to help her body be strong and fight the disease.  She does an infrared sauna a few days a week.   She works out and takes walks, even when she is tired, because it makes her feel better.  She spends time with her children - yesterday she took them swimming after school and she gets up early every morning so she and her husband get them a good healthy breakfast and a good start to their day.  In other words, she lives her daily life as much as she possibly can.

Hoddy does rest of course; she has to let the chemo do the work. But let's face it, chemotherapy is hardly therapeutic - it's entire purpose is to poison a person within a hairsbreadth of their life - she has to rest whether she wants to or not.  So sometimes she rests.

Another front she does battle on is addressing the emotional issues associated with being diagnosed with cancer at age thirty-three.  She sees a therapist, she meditates, she's just started going to an energy worker (similar to acupuncture but a little more spiritual).  When she's feeling down, she'll get a facial or a massage or pedicure - something that makes her feel relaxed.  She spends time with her friends when she can, and she lets them help her - something that is not easy for her to do, but she knows she would want to do the same for them and she knows she needs them right now.  She's scared, no doubt, but she is trying really hard to live in the moment, to do what she can do and let go of the rest.  It's possibly the hardest of all the battles, accepting that this is real and dealing with the unknowns, but Hoddy is valiantly staying the course, communicating, asking and receiving.

As I've said, I'd be hard-pressed to imagine anyone who is fighting harder or doing more to beat cancer than Hoddy.  And her energy and moxie and her creative, eclectic approach to this disease is inspiring to me in countless ways.  She is the epitome of giving life one's all.  I hope with all my being that I have been able to give her some comfort and love and joy on this trip but this I know: I will go home forever changed and inspired by what my brave and beautiful cousin has given me.

  So -  thanks from every part of my being for being, Hoddy Potter.  And Namaste, baby.  Namaste.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flying By the Seat of One's Pants

Recently I took a webinar with Cheryl Arkison  It was sooo fun and informational - she's terrific!  I sort of fell in love with her for several reasons - one of which is because she drinks beer while she sews - but also, she's so talented and creative, and - she basically took away my guilt for wanting to work on more than one piece at a time.  She said she has about thirty works in progress right now, and that sometimes a piece is speaking to you at this moment, and sometimes you have to put it away for a while and start something else and get back to it later. And Oh man, I so agreed!  It was so freeing, so now I'm going to work on whatever I feel like in the moment, not slog away until I finish something (unless I have a deadline, of course, or I want to.)  

Anyway, I've had this idea loosely based on Andy Goldsworthy sculptures floating around in my head for a while but being me, I hadn't started it because i was working on other stuff.   Today, however,  decided to take Cheryl's advice and start it even though I'm not finished with my current project.  "This is thing that is speaking to me today and besides, it's so simple," I thought," I can finish the entire top in one day probably, and then I'll go back to my current project..."

 Let's just say I was a little wrong.  Just for fun, I'm going to share my day and the process of improvising this quilt, as it turned out rather differently than I anticipated.  

Here is the original sketch, which was made a few weeks ago.  I liked, but didn't love it. 

Then I did these, which I liked better.

After thinking and staring and drawing some more, I decided to do a triptych - type piece using three different colors for the nests and for the twigs.  Since I knew the rough idea, I decided to pull the fabrics first. 

 I was shocked when I realized this step had taken about two (very enjoyable, fabric-fingering) hours.   No worries - the rest was going to go really fast.  Or so I thought...

Suddenly I realized I didn't have a background color.  I didn't think white would be right.  I toyed with dark brown, dark blue, dark green - but I didn't have big enough pieces of any of those colors at home.  So I went to town and stared at fabric for a while, something which is also very enjoyable.  I found a beautiful sky blue, but I didn't want it to be the entire background, so I added a kind of rough cotton in a beige-y off white that looked great with it.  

When I got home, I went back to sketching.   I decided to have a sloping "sky" with the earthy beige on the bottom. 

This is the final sketch (I think).   Looks pretty simple, huh?  Not so fast.  I now needed to decide how big to make the squares.  Eighteen inches seemed great, so I cut one beige and one blue, made a random cut through the center of each and sewed it together. It looked good!   I then wanted to see how big the nest in the center should be, so I quickly cut some circles. They were too big so I had to cut all of them down.  Did I want them in the center of each block, or randomly placed?  I decided the center, and all the same size, although I still have to decide if I want them perfectly centered in each other or a little off kilter (Later, later, I'm not there yet - see what I mean about many decisions!?).  

I picked up the greens and began to cut snippets from the the edges, just to see how it was going to look.  I still hadn't figured out the exact construction; at the time I was thinking I would do the slice and insert thing and then do appli-piecing for the nest.  But I wanted to see how it was going to look against the background first.  It was rough, but I was liking it.  I actually really liked the unevenness of the green pieces so I decided I want the snippets to be more like branches - not the same width from end to end (they look more nest-y that way).   I couldn't figure out how to do that with the slice and insert (without driving myself mad, that is) so I decided to do rough edge applique, although I am not a huge fan of applique (don't know why, just am not). 

Once I finally got the block set up I really wanted to put the square on my design wall so I could stare at it, but the individual snippets would not stick to the fabric!  So  I ended up putting it on the floor and staring at it from my lofty, almost six-foot height. 

I liked it, but at that point, I realized that eighteen inches was just too small; I would have to make the squares larger. (Don't know why the beige looks so pink in this picture, but it's not pink at all, just fyi.)

Back to the cutting board. 

The new squares are twenty-one and a half inches, roughly.  I almost didn't have enough fabric to do it after cutting so much for practice - that would have really been annoying (If I still got annoyed that is, which, what with my being so zen and all, I hardly ever do!) 

At this point it was five o'clock.   I would have liked to continue working, but dinner had to be made, the garden had to be watered, my blog had to be written...and I was ever so slightly cranky - from having to make so many decisions and not getting to any actual sewing!    The only other thing I got done today was to back the green fabrics with Steam A Seam (a rather boring task - I practiced not thinking, being mindful - it helped).   

Here's what I actually physically completed today, although I see that I am going to have to pull the stitches and fix it as well, so - not really complete, oh well.

So surprise, surprise - my simple design turns out to be a damn sight more complicated in the actual doing.  It turns out that there are lots and lots of decisions that have to be made when one is flying by the seat of one's pants!  I surely do hope it turns out to be the beautiful piece I'm envisioning because it certain is NOT simple and easy to make.

  I know, I know - I'm supposed to be focused on the DOING, not the outcome - but OY!  When I stop and re-read all that and I realize that most of my creating is done in the same manner,  I'm surprised I get anything completed, ever!  I must like it though because, like I said - I kind of do it all the time!

Still, it was a good day.  Although very little sewing got done, at least I know where I'm going with this.  I'm tempted to say the next part should go fairly quickly, but  I learned enough from today not to say or even think it! 

The biggest challenge, of course, was to remain present and calm, which I'm happy to say I basically did.  It's good to know that I accomplished SOMETHING, anyway.