Start Up


What's been the toughest part of the summer? As we slide down the month toward September, its easy to see that my time making art has been the first thing off the cliff. I'm not complaining too much, after all, three fabulous trips -- Italy, Connecticut/Southampton, LI, Colorado -- certainly have filled the artist inspiration file folder. The image banks are at the max, and my fingers are itching to get into some really big projects.

However, I still have freelance work to finish, and, strange but true, the creative juices may be dripping, but a concomitant edge of fearfulness accompanies the desire to get back to work. Why this happens, I'm not sure. But I know from talking to other artists and artist/teachers who spend a good time on the road, that this kind of fearful tentativeness is not an issue unique to me.

One strategy that helps, and one that I used this week, is having something in progress that's relatively easy to jump back into. I had started working on a small kitchen altar before the last trip and used a half day earlier this week to finish it up -- and by the way, got a chance to break in my new-to-me Bernina 1000. Wow, I didn't know one could sew without the accompaniment of a washing machine sound track. I revere my old Singer, a legacy from my seamstress grandmother Edith, but it was time to invest in a better tool -- the Singer's footpedal controller is on its very last legs, and in order to use it I have to disassemble and reassemble it with each sewing session. And that noise! Not to mention the rather unreliable tension control that makes me cringe every time someone wants to look at the back of any of my machine quilting.


Kitchen Altar, 2007


My friend Donna offered me the machine, one she is unable to use  at present -- at a smidgen of the cost of a new Bernina and mostly in trade for workshops at El Cielo. What generosity! And, I confess, having a new tool certainly helped get me back behind the thread spindle. I think a little generosity with materials and tools never hurts in getting past start-up trepidation. While it may not always mean a new sewing machine, even a new color of textile paint or a new carving block can do the trick.

Another strategy I've used to get started on several larger projects (read, intimidating)  is to use what I call the 15-minute rule. The general concept comes from Barbara Sher, the author of Wishcraft. In another of her books, she suggests that any project that seems threatening should be attempted by doing the absolute tiniest non-scary task that is next on the list. My take on this means doing anything toward a project's realization for 15 minutes. I set a timer and at the end of the 15 minutes I can quit or keep going if things don't seem quite so scary. Usually they don't.

Another still-to-be-realized-this-time strategy is the one that really works best for me -- block out an entire day and night to hit it hard in the studio. Enact a blessing ritual; light the incense. Head straight to the print table or the dye bucket. Turn off the computer, the phone, the email interruptions. Put meals and housework on the back burner; post signs if needed. Do not run errands (from El Cielo that is a 2-hour trip anyway). Approach work and art with intention and confidence, no blame, no critics -- inner or outer -- allowed.

What about you? Any good strategies for getting back to art after work-and-play away?