Answer these Questions: Find your Path as an Artist

 

A disclosure – this list of questions to ponder was adapted from one written by my psychologist friend and colleague Dr. Cynthia Herbert about observing children  -- part of our  NEW WORLD KIDS book. We adults need to make and reflect on the same observations about ourselves in order to find our paths as artists, to locate our visual poetry and sweet spots. Of course, what we're saying in the book is that as great a thing it is for adults to discover their passions and paths at age 30, 40, 50 or older, wouldn't it be great if we helped kids find, respect, analyze and deepen their strong suits at age 14, or even 4? It can happen!

Feel free to copy and paste this list or go to my public file to find a downloadable pdf file here.

One-on-one.
One-of-a-kind.
Each of us is absolutely unrepeatable.

How do you look at yourself with new eyes, outside of the daily get-dones and to-dos? It helps to have a certain distance, an anthropologist’s viewpoint even. Step beyond judgment (this is good stuff; this is bad) into a position of value-free observation. It often helps to use comparative information--sometimes it’s easiest to see your own unique combo plate, when its sitting on the table next to someone else’s menu choices.

Here’s a checklist to help you observe, collect and compare. Start with observation. Ask a friend or colleague to use a camera to catch your typical actions and behaviors, or just reflect and write. Or try setting up some self-portraits that capture the real you. Answer the questions from your present life AND from memories of what you were like as a child. Are there parts of the “real you” that have faded from sight? Been dampened by circumstance or age?


How do I sound? What’s my voice like? Do I hear clumping or tiptoeing or trotting through space? Do I have soft or strong sound qualities? Am I talking fast or mulling things over before I speaks? Am I a story always in the telling, or a dramatic announcer of all things important?

 

 

 

How do I move? Am I a whirlwind at the center of any activity or a slow observer who has to watch before jumping in? Do I have wings on his feet and a kinesthetic grasp of each and every movement through space? Or not? Do I have a facility with hand-eye coordination, or am I a person whose favorite exercise is mental gymnastics? Do I fidget and wiggle my way through the day, daintily twirl at every opportunity, or cut through space with conviction, ignoring obstacles and rules at every turn?

 

What is my rhythm? If I clapped a rhythmic score, would it be regular and evenly paced? Or erratic and unpredictable? Would I be a march or a tango? A jive or a three-ring circus? Am I fast, slow, somewhere in between? Surprising or forthright?

How do I use my face and eyes? Am I an open book? Or a mysterious stranger who seldom lets my emotions show? Is drama the operative word? Or is methodical my method? What happens when I meet a stranger? Am I out there or on the sidelines keeping score?

How do I present a public face? Is it different from the private life behind my front door? How do others respond to me?

What kind of roles and functions do I take on? Alpha dog? Follower? Listener? Starring role? Backstage director? Conformist? Devil’s Advocate?

What makes me laugh? What makes me funny? Where’s my funny bone?

What brings me joy? What is sure to bring a smile to my face?

What questions do I ask over and over and over again? Am I a “What?” or a “Why?” a “How do I?” or a “What if I?”

What makes my different than anyone else’s? One-of-a-kind?


Another way to collect information about yourself is to note preferences – the things you collect, choose, concentrate your efforts on. Here’s a second checklist of observations and inventories to make.



What catches my eye? Movement? Color? Light and shadow? Strong patterns? Interesting shapes? Or is it all about touch? Or movement? Or telling the story?

What holds my attention? What things do I do for longer than other people seem to do them? Music? Putting things together? Routine chores or tasks with repeating actions? Puzzles and brainteasers? Walking or running or other movements?

What do I surround myself with? The choices of clothing, of possessions for my home, for regular activities? Is it other people? Color? Music? Animals? Things to build with? Stuff that moves?

What qualities do my favorite free-time activities have? Are they all big or small movement activities? Do they have procedures or linear rules? Do I see strong sensuous qualities, tactile elements or sound and motion? How about emotional or analytic components?

What do I collect, naturally? What gets picked up on the street, from a dollar store? Rocks and shells? Magazines, bugs, or little glittery bits of foil and glass? If I could make a collection of anything, would it be hats or robots, ribbons or sports equipment? Do I find and save magazine pictures, maps or cartoons? Character dolls or jokes? Stacks of fabric and threads or antique lace?

 

What kinds of things -- especially in a new place or space – am I most likely to comment about or remember? The people or the colors? The sound or the story? The size or the materials? The construction and engineering or the aesthetics and theatrical sense?

What do I pick up? Save? Store? Look up on the internet or follow up from a TV or radio show?


What are the qualities of the materials I like best? Track these favorites through the sensory alphabet! (Line, color, shape, movement, space, texture, light, sound, rhythm)

COLOR: Are these materials colorful or monochromatic? What kinds of colors? Bright or subtle? Dark or bright? Contrasting or soothing? You may HAVE to have that new box of watercolors or oil pastels, while another person just needs a big black permanent marker or a Chinese calligraphy brush and ink.

 

 

TEXTURE: How do the materials you like feel to the touch? Are they smooth or nubby, plastic or hard, malleable or rigid, natural or manmade? Is that collection of glass jars on your window a textural necessity or a set of shapes to arrange with little hidden dramas in your mind?

SHAPE: Do these materials – clothes, games, collectables, art media, favorite objects -- have definite shapes? Or are they ambiguous or amorphous? Are they simple in contour or intricate? Do they have structural parts or components? Is a morning in one museum gallery or a day in the sand at the beach the ultimate entertainment?

MOVEMENT: Do my favorite materials move? Or have movement implicit in them? Is there a rhythm to them or to their use? Is the movement smooth, fast or floating? Humorous, serious or unstable? Do I simply have to move no matter what or where?

SOUND: Do these favorites make sounds? Either by design or by my use? What kind of sound quality – musical or percussive, wind or string, whistling or thudding? Is there a definite rhythm to the sound produced? Do I make sounds with things that no one else would ever think to turn into an instrument?

RHYTHM: Are these materials stacked, stackable or patterned? Put in order or grouped? Repeated or reorganized over and over? Put away in categories or lumped together any old way? Is there a rhythm to her play, a beginning, middle and end? Does patterned work or games with words or rhymes have a particular charm?

LINE: Do these favorite materials have a linear quality? Are they curved or angular? Strongly directional, repetitive or meandering? Is there always a storyline going on, a movie in the mind?

 

LIGHT: Is this material one that has qualities of light, dark, opacity, transperancy? Do I like to play with light and shadow?


SPACE: What spatial qualities do the materials have? Are these favorite materials two-dimensional or three-dimensional (ie, given a choice do I choose clay or paper-and-pen?) What’s the scale I like best to work with – a desktop or a playing field, tiny miniatures or large brushes and a 6-ft tall roll of paper? A wall-sized quilt or multiples of mini artist trading cards?

 

 

 

 

OTHER ASPECTS:
What spaces and places do I prefer for my free time? Am I always on the porch or in my bedroom or other private space? Alone in the backyard or in the kitchen with everyone else? Do I need a run in the park to stay healthy and sane? Is time alone essential? Or is time spent with a group mandatory and energizing? Am I always planning parties or trying to avoid them?

When we interact, is it playful or serious? Directive? Organized? Improvisational?

When we work together on a task, do I stay on track or need to come and go? Do I need a process or a product? Do I have to know why, or why not? Where’s the payoff?

When we play, do I want to be the boss of you? Or want to watch and follow? Am I open to coaching or resistant to change? Do I worry about getting it “right”? Am I making up new rules as we go along? Or sticking to a strategy?

Your Path, Content and Themes

I have a cousin who when young would go take on a topic and do it to death -- several years, it was trains -- he not only had a train-themed bedroom, he knew the whistles and engineers on the train routes that went past his rural home. Another year, he decided to dig, starting with a root cellar under the house and then went onto a swimming pond in the front yard. No kidding. This kid had a knack for content and theme. His life, though not that of an artist in the traditional sense, has been rich with exploration and investigation, taking him through careers as varied as archeologist, chemist, political organizer.

For me another part of personal voice has to do with content and subject matter. Many artists who are just starting out jump around from one topic to another, one genre to another --  this is an important part of learning. Sooner or later though the time comes to get beyond the surface of a topic or interest, whether it is rural landscapes or flowers or political activism or portraiture. Or how oil paint goes onto a canvas, or the way couched lines of yarn take on contour.

 

Committing to solving the same problem different ways has a real benefit In the process of finding one’s voice. Perhaps this is where series comes in. (And, to respectfully disagree with artists who defend their unwillingness or disinterest in working in series) have you ever known an artist whose work really took them somewhere who did not have serial work that built one on the other? I don't.

Your series may be connected to content and subject matter or it may be a more formal approach with color or line or a particular attack in the realm of stitching that comes into play. For example, Lisa Call's structured series has a content that not only relates to her perception of land and fences, but a theme of stitch and intersection. Geography can provide a thematic content, as is does with Virgina Speigel's Boundary Waters series. Even a shape takes on a thematic weight if it's used often and explored in depth. Darcy Love's amazing art cloth and fiber art always returns to the animals and plants in her world and in her travels. Jane Dunnewold's work at Art Cloth Studios is often grounded in her study of Zen concepts.

 

How do you pick? Start with something that holds some passion for you – something with enough personal interest that you might have a chance of making it interesting to someone else.

Sometimes the content of one’s work is directly related to “formal” interests (for example, an artist interested in rhythm, might find a study of African mudcloth patterns particularly inspiring and influential, or maybe exploring the visual idea of windows would appeal to an artist who likes spatial concepts.) For others, a theme or content is something important because of experience, story and memory – journaling can help you identify these kinds of themes. Themes and content lead one to develop personal imagery, ways of handling materials and tools, narrative content sometimes.

I have a number of recurring themes in my work -- mermaids, iconic spiritual figures, angels, prickly pear cactus and other plants around the land, my own handprint, the colors and actual materials of Latin America. All of these come and go, layered and justaposed in my work. I come and go with them, with these series, since my particular way of working in one that honors my own need for variety and improvisation. But I keep them alive, adding perhaps along the way, dropping one or another and then circling back around. These do become the elements and approaches that make my work recognizable -- and that IS important to me. Both as an artist and a one who wants to sell my work to collectors and institutions.

What about you? How is recurring content, interesting themes, important to your work? Have you ever committed to doing something more than once?

Finding Your Voice, Your Path

 

We all want our work to be distintive and unique. Really, don't we? No matter how much we admire the work we see of other artists, when we embark on the journey of living the artist's life, we want our work to sing with our own voice. I think there are several parts to finding that voice, that path (if voice in a visual sense seems too mixed a metaphor). I also think the process is similar no matter your medium and whatever the field you pursue, be it art, quiltmaking, physics or cookery. As I've been teaching this past week, and heading into two more workshops this week -- one in Austin for the Austin Fiber Artists and my own recurring Artist Journal/Artist Journey retreat this weekend -- this piece I wrote a couple of years ago -- and revised for the upcoming events -- bears repeating. Today, Part One:

Think about "Pure Form:"

I believe – and my belief is supported by more than 30 years of work with children in creative learning environments – that each of us is born with an innate preference/leaning toward a particular way of perceiving and giving form that is directly connected to what I (and my colleagues in this work) call the Sensory Alphabet. This vocabulary of non-verbal qualities – line, color, shape, space, light, texture, movement, sound and rhythm -- is a way of thinking about and organizing one’s individual strengths of perception and invention. Looking at one’s preferences and natural tendencies through this lens serves as both a way to self discovery and as a bridge to understand other creative work. This vocabulary is not just an artistic one – it can hold as true to creative work in business as in design, in science as in art.

If you think about letters of the alphabet as being the building blocks of literacy (both spoken and read and write) and numbers as the building blocks of mathmatics and physics, then the Sensory Alphabet is what can be a symbol system for everything else (and even math and words, sinces it's more primal, more connected to our bodies and minds in a very basic way.)

Think about which of these constructs is easiest for you to notice, to manipulate, to play with –is it pattern (rhythm) or texture or color? What did you love as a young child? Which of these elements are most important to you in your home, your environment? What artists do you resonate to? Design exercises and experiences for yourself that feed your mind’s natural interests, or find teachers that share your sensibilities (look at their work and see what they say about it) who can provide classes that feed your perceptual strengths.

An understanding of your own creative style in terms of this vocabulary can be the starting place for finding your voice – and even help you find the best and strongest medium for work. For example, if color is my strong suite, I might take time to do dye and discharge samples, study Albers and other colorist’s work, take photos exploring color themes, investigate watercolor and glazing, look at color as understood by chemists and physicists, etc. If movement is a strong suite, I might see how to incorporate moving elements in my textile work, take up techniques that use my body in strenuous and challenging fashion, look at how movement blurs an image and how to capture that sense with dyeing or printing, I might even want to dye fabrics and construct garments for dance performances or architectural installations with moving components.

Most of us have three or four of these strong suites that interact in interesting ways and can pose intriguing puzzles for our work. Tracking down your strongest perceptual elements is usually just a matter of paying attention to preference, to what you notice in a space, to the materials that call your name. Journaling about childhood preferences and doing detective work in your closet, your home, your memory bank can help you name your sensory strengths.

Our book, New World Kids, The Parent's Guide to Creative Thinking includes investigations and invention activities for adults as well as for adults and children, despite the title. We think parents need to nurture their own experience with this alphabet in order to recognize their children's strengths and learning styles. Here's an example for TEXTURE -- since most of us who end up in the fiber arts are almost certainly drawing on some interest and facility for texture, I figure it might spur you own with some Sensory Alphabet play!

From NEW WORLD KIDS, all rights reserved.

TEXTURE investigations to do on your own:

1. Examine your wardrobe and make a texture inventory.
What textures really suit you? What feels good against your
skin? Make a point to buy something with a pleasing texture
the next time you shop.
2. Cook a meal with a conscious plan to include contrasting
textures, as the Japanese do. Do certain kinds of tastes correspond
to certain kinds of textures? Think temperature as well
as crisp, creamy, grainy, smooth.
3. Where can you experience coarse, slimy, mushy, matted,
abrasive, elastic, sleazy, itchy, silky, downy, frothy, fuzzy?
Consciously create one new tactile experience each day for a
week.
4. Listen to different music with an ear toward texture: contemporary
jazz, baroque, chant and heavy metal are a few contrasting
genres to try.
5. Visit a museum’s textile or fiber arts exhibitions or explore
some online exhibitions or galleries. Try one or more
of these key words for a search: fashion, art quilts, traditional
quilts, art cloth, knitting, weaving, wearable art, basketry, fiber
arts, shibori, batik.
6. Study and write a poem about the textures of your body,
inside and out.

A Few Questions for the New Year

 

Just to get the blog going again, I'm taking the easy way out with a link to a short little animation that says "it" (or this particular "it") more better than I have a brain for today.  As I wade through emails, real mails, bills and puddings, piles of file-ables, and the other stuff that has accumulated over the course of a couple of holiday weeks, it's a good reminder for the big sort of sort.

And a happy new 2009 to you all. Coming later this month - a new newsletter, details about my upcoming solo show at North West Vista College, reports on the conference appearance in Dallas for New World Kids and a stack of photos from Bustamante, Mexico -- surely a trip back in time if there ever was one (no big box stores, no rush, no traffic or noise, no disco or late-nights, just big rock mountains and people sweeping their streets each morning, handmade rocking chairs and wood-oven cooked breads).

At the Heart of Learning

Photo by Nan Spring, used by permission of the photographer.

Here I am with my mouth open, as usual.

All is well. The book signing on Monday night at The Twig Bookstore went really well and my appearance at a FASA meeting earlier also found Susan and I charged by an eager crowd of (mostly) grandmothers who bought New World Kids as gifts for their children and grandchildren! And it's been so much fun to see orders roll in from around the ether. Thank you to all who've taken the time, money and attention to purchase! Here's one point in our presentation that really gets to the audience:

We as grownups see the attention and money and resources being spent by folks who are trying to find their true callings, some even having made it big in the world's terms who realize that what they are spending their lives doing has little to do with what their hearts want to do. The What Color is Your Parachute series is just one of the long-running successes that help people figure out what to do next -- Julia Cameron's Artists Way books are another. So why don't we give kids the tools and means to figure this out earlier? Once children know their strengths, know something about what and how they are good at what they are, the whole focus of the educational system makes a shift. Students take charge of their own learning to a much greater degree; discipline becomes less the classroom focus; learning becomes its own motivation. Peter Drucker, the business guru, says, " The most important thing is to know what you're good at."

Learning what you're good at can push one into unexpected skill acquisition: I've spent a good amount of time setting up the NWK website with customized  Squarespace templates and then mastering the ins and outs of Paypal buttons. Valuable skills all. Next, the studio desk and work table became the site for proposal staging. I killed my share of trees sending in the paper work with proposals to teach at the 2009 International Quilt Festival, mostly in the Mixed Media classroom, but also a lecture proposal derived from NWK and the Sensory Alphabet. I hope I can teach there again as I learned so much and this time I plan to do it right.

But it seems that I've had little real art time since Thanksgiving and my soul has noticed. What I do best is make art (and teach it), and all this other folderol is just a means to that end. The little nagging ache in my heart means I've neglected the artist and spent way too much time on the support services. We have such a tightrope to walk as working artists (though I am sure this is a quandary for other sole-proprietors/one-person-offices in other fields). I teach at the Majestic Art Ranch this morning, so at least I'll get my hands into the demos and a few samples, since we're on the wind-down. And sometimes just getting my hands on a dyepot puts the momentum in action. What are you going to do today to get yourself back to the heart of things?

PS. If you'd like to see more photos of the booksigning, check the NWK blog later today.

P.s Just found a link to a nice article online about our appearance at the symposium in Dallas in January -- The Baker Idea Institute.

Seasonal Palette

There is a hint of fall in the air, even here in deep South Texas. We opened the windows last night and slept with a cool northwest breeze -- at least until the neighbor's dog cornered a raccoon or armadillo or whatever under his porch. Ah, the peaceful country life. Nevertheless, like a chef in a big city kitchen, i find my color sense turning to autumnal hues, longing for the leaf turning rusts and reds and golds that are at least a month away from the hillside!

So here's a little visual inspiration, no matter what colors your actual geography is gifting you with today. For me, it's a tiny little look into the future. 

Above: Beautiful rusted fabric -- a great way to get autumn hues --  by artist Adrian Highsmith. She used this fabric in a series of textile collages for a recent art exhibit in New Braunfels.

 

Pomegranates are among the early signs of autumn here. This photo has found its way into a couple of new textile pieces -- one will be part of the faculty donations at the Houston International Quilt Show -- and I just realized that I forgot to photograph it before shipping! But, the piece above, finished just today, uses a similar color scheme and another print from the photo above. Look for the companion piece in Houston.

(P.S. I hope the leaves will at least have a tiny bit of russet by the time of my next El Cielo workshop, October 17, 18, 19. The topic -- Altares: Dias de los Muertes. You'll choose the memory or experience to honor;  a person, place, former self, even the birth/life/death cycle of an idea, creating personal symbols and meaningful imagery. The techniques: constructing a art cloth altar with fusing, machine quilting, hand-stitching and embellishing of fabrics you've created with photo transfer, flour paste resist and hand-painting. If interested, email me at susiemonday@gmail.com.)

Above, Not yet, but coming. This photo was taken a couple of years ago, when our fall produced some lovely hues. That's not always the case, but these early cool fronts bode well for color on the hillsides.

Infinite Variety/Creative Choice

Infinite. Abundant. Words that have both spiritual and material connotations. One of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, speaks of the fecundity of nature in her first book of prose, Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek:

"A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate,without budging an inch; I couldn't make one.a tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling."

And I worry sometimes about having too many ideas. You may worry about having too few, but my experience with artists is that's its always too many. I suggest that for today, just today, you and I take a page (a leaf?) from the elm and just make what needs making, at whatever stage that is, for whatever purpose, and if the caterpillers come, or the shoot withers, or the bud never opens. Well, there are at least 5,999,999 more to come just this season.

The photo that sparked this thought  (and, now my desire to reread Dillard's classic narrative of her year on Tinker Creek) were taken on a campus walk with friend Susan on the Rutgers campus. This little garden must have a horticulture department at its source -- the variety of late summer pods, and blooms and leaves, colors and shapes and textures, is enough for a lifetime body of work. Surface design, indeed.


Does anyone know what any of these flowers are? They were all unfamiliar to me. And If that spiny leafed plant will grow in my climate, I want it. Surely that would be deer resistant!


Teaching with Web 2.0

As I research options for my on-line course -- probably  "Text on the Surface" after feedback from a number of readers on and off the site -- this video by Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist, came across my path. Synchronicity was working overtime -- Linda wanted me to see if because of the implications for her Mass Communications teaching and research, and it opens ups a whole host of possibilities for teaching with the aid of electronic, digital interfaces. He presents an overview of the educational issues of teaching and learning in a web 2.0 world, and says that no one, no matter his or her age, is starting from scratch with this media --"There are no natives here," he says, explaining that most of what is happening of relevance to educators today had been launched within the past 3 years, and that daily hundreds of other interfaces are being created, tested, marketed, and used or discarded. So, no excuses, you aren't too old. Even today's 18 year old is faced with the same challenges of learning these new tools. Most of them, Wesch says, are still working just superficially, with no experience either at actually using the creative potential of these new tools.

It's a fairly long piece -- and specifically directed to university professors teaching young people -- but if you are interested in the landscape of kids, media, information and teaching, it's well worth the time. Although my ambitions for using technology aren't that ambitious, I do think that as a teacher the meta-message about the learning environment is one that must inform my work, in and out of the studio. Obviously, my "learners" are already looking for something meaningful; most of you who might take a course are already self-selected -- no course credit here. You might just try the first 30 minutes, that covers most of the big ideas-- though the remainder is a fascinating look at how his students recreated world history and cultures through a simulation based on "rules" of anthropology and using web-based tools.

One of the key ideas in this longer piece is well presented in a shorter, visual piece, "Information R/evolution." That how we have traditionally thought about information, as a thing, that can be catagorized -- filed -- in one kind of linear way, is no longer the case. Now information can exist simultaneously in more than one category, can be user-defined (rather than "expert" defined) and is no longer defined to a material form. "There is no shelf."

Wesch also produced "The Machine is Using Us," an great piece produced in 2007 that became one of the most-watched videos in the blogosphere ever. If you haven't seen it, the link is here.

If you are interested in creating web-based learning portals for yourself, fear not. Here are a few places I have found to play around. The first two are wiki-like aggregators that you can customize, keep private or publish to the world. Flock is a social network friendly browser that puts Flickr, My Space, etc all on your home page, Ning is a social network site that lets you build pages and whole sites around interests and then lets people subscribe to them. Stumble is a nonlinear "earch" engine that lets you find web pages you didn't know to look for!

Please remember: YOU CAN NOT BREAK ANYTHING DOING THIS. You probably can't even screw up your computer unless you have no virus protection and use a PC and that's only if you start downloading a lot of strange applications. Check the site, make sure it's real and exists with actual content, not just links do other webpages,

No one is going to grade you or make you feel stupid except yourself. Yes, you are entering a public arena sometimes, but you control that. Most of the sites that I am exploring have a "private" function where only you have access to the material, links, tags that you upload or make use of. However, I would also challenge you to release some of your fears about going public on the web. I don't believe that I have opened myself up to harm, to stalking, to any physical danger by having a blog or by participaing in wikis (used authored sites). I have made many interesting connections with people whose ideas and input have stimulated my learning and my life. It is a new frontier, and we all can grow with it. 

I'd love any meta-sites that you like to use. New ones appear everyday. Some last, some don't -- we are in the equivalent of the wild wild west frontier days here -- nearly lawless, but there are fortunes to be made.


Catching Up or Starting Fresh?

I find myself getting back into the blog after nearly a month away. Not even an intentional vacation from the page, rather a retreat from on-line life in favor of a packed August -- between exhibits, deadlines, workshops, and designing several new web-based projects, my calendar suffered a meltdown.

Perhaps more to the point, I've taken a vow to leave the computer in the studio -- or packed up in its tidy little briefcase -- during early morning and post "work hours," in the interest of sanity and domestic harmony. If this (blogging, et al) is important as part of my work, of my bigger picture of self in the studio, of the business of being the artist and teacher I want to be, then its worth doing as part of my work day. Frankly, the laptop was taking over my living room -- even the bedroom --  at all kinds of inappropriate hours. Inappropriate, because, well, live people deserve my undivided attention when I am in the same room with them. In order to step back from the brink, it seemed necessary to just shut it off for a bit, and decide how and when and what was most important to continue.

So we will see what that means. Exactly.

One issue, as I've come back online with the new month, was whether to try to catch up the record and my readers with all that's gone on -- two shows, three workshops, two trips, new art cloth projects and techniques, new classes planned and promoted. Yikes. No way. So we start fresh with today. With what's right now, as I sit here in the University Inn at Rutgers, a day early into town (New Brunswick, N.J.) for the Art Cloth Network meeting.

I have a visceral "new year" reaction to the first week after Labor Day, from 16 years of school calendars (back when schools still started after LD). The month has that new pencil, new notebook, new box of crayons feel and energy, so what better time to start on a virtual new slate. I've always considered myself lucky to have this second fresh start during one calendar year, don't you?

So here, besides the blog, are my fresh starts:

1. More time for just doing nothing. Letting quiet and peace make a space for what's new.

2. Saying "I'll think about it. Let me tell you tomorrow" before I automatically say "yes," to a request, no matter how important or  how much fun it intimates.

3. Take a yoga or NIA class weekly -- I need the class structure to move myself into fitness. The sweets of summer have gone to my waistline.

4. At least two "no drive days" each week. With planning, I can do that. Without planning I spend way too many hours in the car.

That's enough. See number 1. And number 2, even when I am the one doing the asking.