Pulling Me all Together

Perhaps you have this problem, too. Lots of different people living under one head (or in one).

I've been challenged to tell the story of how and what I do that ties it all together. This book, The Missing Alphabet, my teaching (here and there), art work (big and little), my work with Central American teachers...the occassional foray into designing kid's programs, training teachers at Big Thought in our New World Kids programs or volunteer work in pr for the upcoming SDA conference. (Whew!) What is the strand -- well, perhaps multifiliment cable is a better image -- that ties it all together?

At the core of what I do is a deep and well-grounded interest in the creative process, an interest, and profession, that has 50 years of history behind it. I was one of those lucky kids who found a creative path at a young age, nurtured by a very, at the time, radical children's theatre program. That was not only integrated racially, but integrated creatively. And this in Waco, Texas, go figure. 

What those early experiences in inventing, presenting, working long hours, delving into personal and collaborative visions did was to give me a grounding in both the how and the what of creative work. As a result of that children's theatre I had experiences as a teen, young woman and young professional that took me from, at age 18, running a visiting  children's program for 20,000 participants at HemisFair '68 to the Year of the Child with Erik and Joan Erickson (PS she was also a weaver) at the Smithsonian Institute, to a fulltime model school that won international accolades and a Ford Foundation designation of model educaitonal program, to the Kennedy Center for exhibit and program design, to Cleveland in the era of serious racial disharmony to teach in inner city neighborhoods, from there to Neiman-Marcus with window designs and products that showed up in the Christmas catalog. (again, whew) I am so grateful for such a rich and complicated creative path.

The new book for parents, The Missing Alphabet, is ONE summary of thaat informed inquiry that started when I was twelve and developed through that career in first in arts education, then in journalism, museum exhibit design, writing and art making. This book is what's come of my experiences and those of my co-authors (with similar and diverging paths) as written for parents who want their children to meet the challenge of 21st Century thinking and literacy sklls.

Other summaries have developed into courses I teach to adults, such as Creative Jumpstart, Finding Your Path as an Artist, and the Artist's Journey. But the philosophy and approach informs all of the workshops and retreats that I teach -- even those that are somewhat technique oriented. I always try to move beyond or below or above or inside of a technique or tool, teaching it as a means for someone to find as the ideal expression for her or his story. At the core of my teaching is a deep and abiding belief in the power of individual story and expression. I do firmly believe that each person on this earth has a unique, powerful and absolutely unrepeatable experience to express in some or another medium, be it art, science, music, research, homemaking, poetry or any other field you can come up with. And I make art myself because I am passionately drawn to figuring out what it is I have to say -- and, besides, how could I have any credibility in this world of wonderful artists I find myself in, if I didn't make my own statements?

I've had many ways to express my story and my creativity in my life, in my art, in my relationships, in my teaching, writing and designing. I love having the opportunity to open the doors for other's creative work though example and through nurturing connection and conversation. The personal values I have selected as guiding stars for the next stage of my creative life are: CREATIVITY, CONNECTION (CONVERSATION), ADVENTURE, IMAGINATION, and ALIGNMENT

Post Script: And speaking of conversation between the this and that of our lives, here is another wonderful piece from David Whyte:

What Stories are Just Old Stories?

In an effort to make my story bolder, bigger and more adventurous, I recently signed up with a coach (I'll share more about that as the process processes!) and, as a result, am doing some of that deep-digging internal work that is both exhilerating and terrifying at the same time. Like trying to answer the question: What do I really want in my creative life? And, what do I need (to have, to do, to think about, to change) to make that happen?

And, of course, as often happens when one is paying attention to one thing or another, two smart amazing people whose work I follow came through with related posts. 

First, poet, creative consultant and teacher David Whyte wrote a wonderful "letter from home," and in it he describes this aha moment:

One of the most beautifully disturbing questions we can ask, is whether a given story we tell about our lives is actually true, and whether the opinions we go over every day have any foundation or are things we repeat to ourselves simply so that we will continue to play the game. It can be quite disorienting to find that a story we have relied on - is not only not true - it actually never was true. Not now not ever. There is another form of obsolescence that can fray at the cocoon we have spun about ourselves, that is, the story was true at one time, and for an extended period; the story was even true and good to us, but now it is no longer true and no longer of any benefit, in fact our continued retelling of it simply imprisons us. We are used to the prison however, we have indeed fitted cushions and armchairs and made it comfortable and we have locked the door from the inside.

The imprisoning story I identified by the time the entree was served was one I had told myself for a long time. “In order to write I need peace and quiet and an undisturbed place far from others or the possibility of being disturbed. I knew however, that if I wanted to enter the next creative stage, something had to change; I simply did not have enough free space between traveling, speaking and being a good father and husband to write what I wanted to write. The key in the lock turned surprisingly easy, I simply said to myself, “What if I acted as if it wasn’t true any more, what if it had been true at one time, but now at this stage in the apprenticeship I didn’t need that kind of insulation anymore, what if I could write anywhere and at any time?” One of the interesting mercies of this kind of questioning is that it is hard to lose by asking: if the story is still true, we will soon find out and can go back to telling it. If is not we have turned the key, worked the hinges again and walked out into the clear air again with a simple swing of the door.

Read the rest of the story here to find out what happened when David Whyte took action with that insight. And join me in asking what are just old stories I am telling myself?

Also in my inbox, a newsletter from Lisa Call, another of my on-line gurus. A systems analyst by day and artist in heart and soul, Lisa has a work ethic I admire, and such complex and organized systems for her own creative goal setting that they make my little improvisational soul quiver. I don't even aspire to such a level of organization, but I do really find her inspiring and motivating. She says:

I just received an email from my coach addressed to "Big Rock Lisa". *

What a great reminder to stay focused.  I love my coach!

I've gone through periods of trying to hold it all together without the support of a paid coach or mentor, and I can do it. 

But it's a lot easier with one.

Sometimes it's good to get a neutral party to have a look at my ideas, plans and actions as they often see things that those closer to me do not. 

It was my coach that said "you are always busy but you don't seem to get the most important things done".  Well duh!

And now I focus on the big rocks first. 

Like my studio.  I'm spending more time making art this month - with a consistent and sustainable pace - than I have in a long time.  Woohoo!

To come clean about my coaching commitment, I've signed up with Lesley Riley and even after just a week o work on visioning my goals and how to go about them, the universe is responding in kind. I decided to take this step of hiring her as my coach after seeing an amazing panel discussion that Lesley put together (and only half of it at that) at the International Quilt Festival. She invited a group of successful artists to talk about their work, approaches and how they capitalized on their strengths and talent to get where they are. Lesley has online courses and does one-on-one coaching with her Artist Success programs -- check it out!

Three More Workshops, and That's It for 2013

Artist's Journey, iPad for Artists and Fearless Sketching

Wouldn't one of these upcoming El Cielo Workshop/Retreats make a wonderful gift? If no one you know has asked what you really want, perhaps your inner artist needs a restoration, recreation and renewal gift just from you! 

If you have meant to make it out here to the Hill Country studio before, now's the time to make the commitment --I've decided to take a sabbatical from the El Cielo workshops from May 2013 through April 2014 in order to spend more time in the studio, and to consider other ways to teach and share my approaches to creativity. I will be teaching online, teaching private workshops, and I also anticipate teaching at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2013, but for this year I won't be an instructor at the Southwest School of Art or holding any other workshops here at El Cielo after these next three.

Early spring (and that often starts here in mid-February!) is a wonderful time out here on the ridge, so check your calendar and shoot me an email if you are interested.
Limited spaces, as usual, are available, as each of these special events is designed for a maximum of seven participants. The fee is $180, but I am offereing a discount for all who send a deposit before the year is out.
Out of town participants are welcome to book an extra day or two of private work and consultation for an additional fee. As usual, first come, first choice on accommodations -- there are three private bedrooms ($30 for both nights) and a couple of comfy couches (free) as well as the sleeping porch (also free) and a cot-sized bed and private bath in the studio. The meals are great, the company inspiring and the views spectacular... and the hot tub is ready to go!
 

Artist's Journey/Artist's Journal

How do you make your time and space as an artist work for you? Where are you on your creative path? What do you want more of and what do you need less of? This retreat offers a beginning-of-the-year chance to look at and share your creative accomplishments, make plans for the future and put in place some new tools for reflection, renewal and re-creation of your artist self. The workshop is a combination of journaling with fun mixed media materials, using your own photos for art inspiration, and planning ahead for 2013. All supplies except for a sketchbook or journal are included and you'll take home a large calendar filled with artist dates and your own plans for the year.

Ipad for Artists

If you've recently acquired an iPad, this workshop will help you take it into your world of creativity and art.I've explored dozens of sketching tools, art journaling, collage and photo apps and this workshop will take you through some hands-on work -- then into the studio to print, make thermofaxes and use what you've done on the tablet for fabric printing to use in your art quilts, mixed media or other work. If you don't have a tablet yet (and are trying to decide what or if to buy), you may still want to attend, I'll have a try-out table that one or two participants can share (yes, we are a two iPad family!). This El Cielo workshop retreat will take place March 1-3 (optional Friday night potluck) ending about 3 pm on Sunday. The workshop fee, including most supplies, is $180.

Fearless Sketching

April 12-14 at El Cielo Studio we'll be attacking that sneaky little fear that so many of us carry into our work from early days in school -- when someone else drew the best faces or people or horses. Whether you consider yourself a talented textile artist, colorist or quilter, you may have a secret lurker within who disparages your drawing skills. I know I do! A couple of years ago, I made a conscious effort to address my fears and to start a fearless sketching practice. I'm still not a master draughtsman, or even "skilled" at drawing, but I am no longer afraid to draw, no longer hypercritical of my abilities and that makes me open to improving my skills. 

You can get there, too. And this workshop can be your first step-- we test piloted this workhshop in September and all the participants really improved both skills and attitudes about drawing! My friend Sarah Jones will be co-teaching this workshop. She is amazing and fun and so will be the retreat!

You can find the entire newsletter here at this link.

 

Words to Live By from Eleanor

Roosevelt:

 

 

Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: 'A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.'

But there is another basic requirement, and I can't understand now how I forgot it at the time: that is the feeling that you are, in some way, useful. Usefulness, whatever form it may take, is the price we should pay for the air we breathe and the food we eat and the privilege of being alive. And it is its own reward, as well, for it is the beginning of happiness, just as self-pity and withdrawal from the battle are the beginning of misery From Brainpickings today

Gifts for Those Who Love Shape

Continuing in the vein of gift-giving, I'm working on a series of posts for The Missing Alphabet blog that reccommends gifts for kids who have proclivities and strengths in a particular sensory alphabet element (line, color, shape, movement, rhythm, space, texture, light, sound). You may be interested in that post about creative gifts if you have a child, grandchild or other child in your life whose creative imagination you'd like to spark. But maybe you would just like to honor your own inner artist child who loves shape!

So, I adapted that blog, expanded and edited it here for the grown-up lover of shape. You may recognize yourself or a friend, and find something here that makes for an imaginative gift -- or maybe you just need to gift it to yourself! We all need to do a little encouraging of creative playtime in our lives!

Stencils and stamps

Any shape lover will have a ball with different kinds of stamps and stencils. Find a set of simple geometric shapes, perfect for fabric or mixed media uses from Discount School Supply: set of 14 geometric Easy-Grip Shape Stampers. Though made for kids, these are really ideal for fabric stamp work, and the alphabet stamps at the same company are great, too. 

You can also buy giant ink stamp pads from the same source and use them with thin fabric inks or paints. Discount School Supply also carries a wide variety of stencils, best to use with rollers or foam brushes. Some basic shapes are in this kit

Origami paper and how-to books

SHAPE lovers might be interested in origami and other paper folding crafts. This is probably one of those activities you should “test out” before investing in books or materials. Your public library (and the web) has plenty of origami resources.  Here are some websites to check out: http://www.origami-instructions.com, http://www.origami-fun.com

And if it’s a go, you can find beautiful origami papers, at this site (and others)  http://www.origamicorner.com

A shape collage kit

Fill a plastic shoebox with shapely stickers, glue sticks, double-sided tape, paper die-cut shapes, hole punches that make different shapes, a good pair of craft scissors and colored origami paper (fun because of its two-sided color). Give this kit along with a pad of bristol board or card stock, some sturdy paper that holds up to collage fun and games. Die cut shapes are available at local dollar stores often, or you can find them online, too. 

Great shape collectibles

If the shape lover you know likes to look at shapes, consider a collectible such as a beautiful ceramic piece, a woven vessel, Mexican folk art masks, antique bottles or jars, or any wonderful shap-ey object of beauty. 

I've mentioned some of these apps before, but all of them are good for shape sensitive minds.

Tablet and Smart Phone apps for the SHAPE Lover:

If you have a digital tablet (or smart phone for some of these), there are some great art apps out there with lots of shape fun to be had. Some of our favorites:

Stencils from 7Twenty7  at http://www.7twenty7.com/apps/stencils

Draw Free from David Porter Apps for Ipad, also available for Android. This free app (has ads in a small banner) strikes a great compromise between features and ease of use. 

Hope Poster makes a strongly shape oriented graphic poster design of any photo in your photo file with just a few clicks and swipes. , also available for Android. Poster is a similar app at

Digital Tangram Puzzles can be found with these and other apps: Tangram Mania (non-traditional tangram-style puzzles with different shapes), https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tangram-mania-free/id514992796?mt=8 and New LetsTans Premium, a traditional puzzle set (free version is available, but lower ratings) is at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-letstans-10-in-1/id548830132?mt=8

PS: I've linked up with Nina Marie Sayre's Friday gang of creative posters/bloggers with this post. Check out the site here. 

10 Great Gifts for Artists

Speaking as one, here's what I think any artist would love to get as a gift this holiday season (from big ticket to stocking stuffers). 

1. A handwritten letter that specifically and deliberately tells me what you like, enjoy, appreciate and find interesting about my work. We so often feel like our work is out there in a vacuum. We would love to know what you like about it, what it makes you feel like. I know these things are hard to put into words, but putting them into the words you can really would make us happy!

2. Scratch materials -- what do you see in my studio that gets used over and over? Maybe (for any textile artist, any way) a terrific new set of scissors, even a coupon for scissor sharpening or a sewing machine cleaning would be very appreciated gifts. Quality watercolor pads are expensive and always welcome for the water media painter. A gallon of gel medium or tar gel might make the heart of any mixed media artist happy. If all else fails, a gift certificate from one of the online art stores or fabric stores could be just the ticket. Check out Jerry's Artorama, Dick Blick, Dharma Trading Company, or Pro-Chem.

3. If the artist on your lists likes blank books, just some really functional ones like the black bound ones from any art or book store will do. Different sizes are fun to have.

 4. At the top end of the gift bestowing standard, (if your artist doesn't already have one) a new iPad tablet. Whooo Hoooo! Or if your artist already has one, how about an iTunes gift card for those apps that just need testing out. Another idea would be an iPad workshop for said iPad-owning artist -- there are some online ones, and (modestly, I say) I am teaching one here at El Cielo March 1-3.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Speaking of workshops, another welcome gift might be a gift certificate for travel or lodging to be used at a workshop or conference, or a workshop or conference fee paid in advance. The Surface Design Association conference will be held in San Antonio in June, a great gift to give any fiber, mixed media or textile artist on your list. For an event less directly art related, but inspirational for any artist, see if there is a TEDX event scheduled in your community and offer your artist the means to attend (there might be a fee, parking, babysitting, whatever it takes).

6. At the other end of the supply spectrum from a supply something used everyday, how about giving a luxury, unusual, international or unusual material that you think your artist could use in her or his work. Some treats that I've seen online lately:

Shizen papers -- handmade papers from Asia and elsewhere -- (lots of arts stores online carry these)

7. Something inspiring. For example, an art book of one of your artist's favorite artist. A big beautiful picture/photo book of something your artist includes in his or her work (fruit, flowers, landscapes, shells). A book about creativity, such as my own THE MISSING ALPHABET (yes, for parents, but it's a great book for those of us looking for artist dates for our inner artist kid)  Inspired, How creative people think, work and find inspiration, or The Art of Looking Sideways:

 

8. Travel. Travel is inspiring to most, if not all, artists. Maybe its just an overnight to a nearby city with an art exhibit worth seeing, or a weekend to a nearby spot of natural beauty -- or an extravagant gift of India or Italy. Be sure to package the gift with an appropriate postcards, set of travel tools (book, watercolor or sketch tools, guidebook or tickets!). 

9. A gift certificate for your artist to make a hard-cover book of his or her art  using iPhoto, Blurb or Lulu, or another of the online publish-on-demand sources. You can specify hard cover or soft, size, type of paper (choose the upgrade for better art reproduction).

10. With caution I suggest, A studio clean-up partnership-- just make a little coupon offering your services for a weekend clean-a-thon, and throw in some new storage containers, plastic boxes, filing ideas or other support for an organized workspace. You'll know whether your artist would welcome or reject such a gift -- some of us like our messy ways, others would love some help putting things into order (even if chaos was just around the next corner!) For additional inspiration, add a subscription to Studios, the Interweave Press publication that showcases wonderful artist studios of all kinds, sizes and shapes.

Do you have idea? Post them in the comments section and we'll see how many of us get the gift we really want this holiday season!

 

India Inspired Pillow

http://www.craftsy.com/classes

I hope to offer a class on Craftsy one of these days (you can help get me there by reccommending me as a teacher send an email to courses@craftsy.com). I demo'ed a couple of two hour sessions during the Houston International Quilt Festival and liked their professional attitudes and have enjoyed checking out the website. (Jane Dunnewold teaches a dye class there, too.)

So it seemed essential to actually take a class on their platform and to see how it worked. The lessons here are all video, with supporting print materials -- though I admit, I just went by the video and had no problem with the pillow project I tried. The class was taught by Carol Ann Waugh, Slash and Stitch, and she was great -- easy to follow, not boring, but certainly thorough. I just plowed through in one day with the class, though all the Craftsy courses are taken when and where and on your own schedule. The class commentary and questions to the instructor seem to be easy -- though it definitely must mean quite an ongoing commitment to the class by the teacher, since students start at any time and work at their own pace. Here's my project. I think I'll make more for Christmas gifts if I can work in the time. This pillow took me about 6 hours, but I think the next one will go more quickly as I learned some tricks from the first time through -- like, don't use slippery fabric for your bottom layer! And for less stitching, use more print or patterned fabric on that bottom layer, too. 

 

 

Anyhow, if you like to sew, quilt or make art with fabric, I reccommend Craftsy -- and this course was great!

PS Here I am at the Quilt Festival doing a stamp-making demo at the Craftsty area in the Food Court.

 

 Photo by Lesley Riley

More about The Missing Alphabet

Our book for parents is birthed and we are selling quite well -- would love to make an even bigger splash out there is in the world, so if you know of anyone who might want to feature it on a blog or review site targeted at parents, creative thinkers or others who are interested in supporting the NEXT generation of creative thinkers, leave me a comment or send a message via the contact box on the sidebar. This is the book that distills the information and ideas that have informed much of my career as an arts educator -- frankly, the ideas and activities in it are fun for all ages, including adults looking for opportunities to awaken (or reawaken) their creative thinking and "noticing" skills.

Of course, I hope you'll consider it as gift giveing time rolls around. It's a spendid, helpful, interesting and important read, if I do say so myself! For parents and for artists of all ages. 

You can from Amazon or B&N, both electronic and paperback versions are available.

Here's a bit more about the book, from the website at http://www.themissingalphabet.com:

What is the best way to equip our children for the unknowns of the future?

It is impossible to know what the world will be like, or what our children’s career choices will be when they are grown. The scale of change, largely driven by technology, is unprecedented in human history. And it is change itself, this reordering, this inventing of the new world that will occupy our children’s future.

We have entered a time that calls for innovation across the board. This call is already echoing through all fields. The child’s counterpart to innovation is creative thinking, and creativity is our children’s next essential literacy.

The future will belong to children with innovative minds. But where will they get the thinking skills that build effective innovators? Unfortunately, most schools are focused elsewhere. The Missing Alphabet is a practical guide that helps parents solve these problems.

This team of education experts has drawn on decades of applied research in creativity, individuality, play, and media to craft an engaging guide for parents who understand that creative thinking skills are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for success in the new, grown-up world of work.

Pattern Play

Tile Deck patterns are amazing and beautiful!

Certainly this is one obvious strong suit for most textile artists: PATTERN. Pattern, to me, is the visual rhythm that moves me around a textile, or through the story within a piece of art. I posted a short blog on our new and wow, so cool, MISSING ALPHABET site -- and thought I would expand and make a more textile related post here, as well. 

I've been exploring pattern TOOLs in the world of apps, in anticipation of my next iPad workshops (one in Alaska in January and one here at El Cielo March 1-3). I admit to a combination of looking at referals when I see them (that's where Tile Deck came from -- an online magazine article by Jane Davila in the last issue of IN STITCH) and also just in random app store surfing using interesting search terms. It's become my latest recreation, such so that I think I may have to make a firm budget line item for app store purchases!

Here are the apps I have downloaded recently. Some of them are really easy right off the bat, others take a little bit of learning curve. If you want the blow-by-blow (and fiber art specific applications for the art that these apps help you make) sign up for the March workshop soon. It's filling up fast!

TileDeck -- the best of the lot and an amazing tool for making repeating patterns, then changing them around with mirroring and flipping functions. This one is definitely worth paying for.

Playing around with Stencils

Kaleidoverse -- one of many digital kaleidoscope tools out there, and one that I like most

Doodle Dandy -- particularly easy for little kids to use, but with plenty of sophisticated controls

überdoodle -- an app version of the spirograph, with gears, pen sizes, and other variables to play with. The free version offered enough for me to start with, but there's a paid one with more variable options included.

Amacolor -- another kaleidoscope that makes black line patterns to color in -- the black line patterns will be great for thermofaxes.

Amacolor kaleidoscope design

Stencils -- Make multiples with predrawn stencil shapes for interesting art applications, alter and overlap them, use the letters and numbers for textured designs using the different brushes.

Yes, you are invited.

OK, this is kind of ridiculous, I know. I have done nothing on this blog except ask you to stuff for a few weeks now. So, this is my life, lovely. Busy. And full of flat out get it done.

Sometimes life is like that, and we who are lucky enough to work at what we love get the benefit. I have been a bit crazy, stitching my way into a solo show, getting ready for quilt festival, trying to think about next year with that half an ear on the future. NOTHING, NOTHING,  has been done exactly the way I'd wish it to be.. but it's done (or nearly). I hope to post a link to an online gallery here in the next couple of weeks. If you can't make the opening but want to see the show, call or email me and I'll make arrangements to meet you at Don and Jacob's for lunch sometime before it all comes down in January. There will also be a couple of other parties and special events there over the holiday season.

The solo show opens on Sunday, and you are invited.

Tomorrow and Monday I prepare for the festival workshops and demos. Saturday a dear friend has asked me to "do" a special workshop with him, for a birthday gift of creativity. The book is out. The website launched.

http://www.themissingalphabet.com/

You can order here on Amazon (Kindle version, too).

Please, if you have any desire for this book -- great for kids and parents and grandparents, order it soon, so Amazon reorders! On such, books are made and lost. We have spent money, lots of time and it's kind of a legacy thing for me and my co-authors. You won't regret the purchase -this is the real thing with lots of great ideas for getting kids off to a creative thinking start.Save & Close