Saturday, February 27, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A usual February in upstate New York is gray and bone-cold; by contrast, this month has been filled with light. You can get a feel for its diffuse, encompassing quality from this post and this at Quince and Quire, whose author is a poet, calligrapher, maker of books and other finely crafted objects, and an actual real world neighbor of mine. She is someone I feel privileged to call friend.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
This post is my 200th, and in about a month I'll be celebrating this blog's second birthday. It's a good time to take stock of where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going with my online presence.
"In this blog I'd like to explore creativity and how to incorporate it into a busy life." That's what I wrote in my first blog post, and it continues to frame the posts I write.
What I have discovered (sometimes painfully) over the course of these two years of blogging is that creativity can't be fitted into the margins of my busy life. It requires a central place. Why? Because it nourishes my spirit. I don't really understand the how of it, frankly. But I know that it helps me look at the people in my life and the world around me with a greater sense of connection and wonder. It urges me to open my eyes and really see. Writing a blog piece or poem, looking through the lens of my camera to frame a photograph, finding the right stitches to realize the details of a sketch--all of these tasks force me to focus and attend. I can't tune out and sleepwalk through my life any more, much as I might want to. The pursuit of a creative life has given me a big kick in the pants, and it isn't always a happy feeling.
I have the tendency in this blog (and in my life!) to sound like I have all the answers. The truth is that this blog forces me to work through the tangle of my thoughts and feelings to find some answers. To marshal all my resources to keep it together. To count my blessings. To counter the occasional downward emotional spiral with something beautiful and positive and life-affirming, like recording in words and pictures the miracle of a fern's unfurling or a skunk cabbage's thermogenesis. And because I have recorded these things in this blog, I will remember them. They will shore me up when I need shoring up. They will remind me of life's rhythms, that the low points will come and go.
So where am I headed? That I can't answer right now, except to say that I will continue to explore creativity as an idea and craft as a daily practice. Since the beginning of the year, I have already written almost half the number of posts that I did in my entire year of posting in 2009. I have completed six handmade items and sold them. The quick explanation for this is that I am no longer working as a textbook editor. It took being turned down for a prestigious job and a year's worth of illness to finally make me realize that I am burned out with editing and need a change.
Without much of a plan, I'm going to continue to use this blog to help me develop my own voice and my ability to communicate clearly. I hope you'll stick around to see what I create and to read about my journey, mostly for selfish reasons. It helps me to know that I'm not alone, that others are documenting their journeys in a similar fashion, looking for ways to use craft to learn more about themselves and to connect with the world around them in a meaningful way. The fact that this blog is fostering a deeper connection with the real world--that's an irony that I am definitely embracing. (These guys understand!)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
In my sewing room, the blue glass of the Perfect Mason jar glows in the snow-reflected sunlight, just as I imagined it would. It holds more than a hundred years worth of simple utility: buttons made of milk glass, mother of pearl, and metal.
This finely curated collection of buttons was put together by Lisa of Lil Fish Studios. Lisa calls herself a "button nerd," though Button Queen would work just as well. She creates artful button bouquets, among many other handcrafted items, and her tutorial for a Vintage Button Bouquet is featured in the book, Button and Stitch: Supercute Ways to Use Your Button Stash, by Kristen Rask. (Margie, the Button Queen of the Resurrection Fern Kingdom, is featured in the book as well.) (See Lisa's vintage button collection here; a glimpse of Margie's here.)
I try not to be greedy when it comes to objects, I really do. When I see something I love, I give myself a little pep talk to convince myself that I don't have to acquire an object to appreciate it, that I can be happy just knowing it exists. But when I saw this perfect jar of buttons featured in Lisa's Etsy shop, lil fish extras (her DESTASH(!!) site), I couldn't resist. Knowing Lisa's fine eye for craftsmanship and her knowledge of button history, I guessed correctly that I would be purchasing a collection that is a work of art itself.
The bone buttons, my favorites because of their shading and what look to be hand-drilled holes, date from the Civil War era.
Lisa reports that the milk glass buttons are from the mid-1800s, while the mother of pearl buttons are likely even older than that.
The metal buttons, stamped with curious patterns, date from the 1930s to the 1940s.
As I sifted through the buttons with my sons, we picked out ones that caught our eyes--diamond-shaped mother of pearl buttons, buttons with metal shanks and flat fronts, bone buttons rounded smooth with holes that looked like wide-open eyes, milk glass stamped with a machine-made pattern. Secreted away at the bottom of a sewing basket or in an old jar, these buttons were treasured for their utility. But put together in a collection by an artist and detached from their originally intended use, they have become mysterious and beautiful artifacts, their carvings runes that convey a lost language not easy to decode. Such a collection becomes a pathway to wonder, concludes art critic Michael Kimmelman. "A collection of things, even everyday things, promises wonderment, . . . as these things become no longer everyday, having been enshrined by a collector,” he argues in his book The Accidental Masterpiece; On the Art of Life and Vice Versa.
What a beautiful thought that the lowly, useful button can come to hold all those qualities. What collection holds a similar wealth of associations for you?
There is so much button love to explore on the web. Here are a few more links:
Sister-Diane's heirloom button collection from her grandmother. Be sure to search "buttons" on the CraftyPod site for a wealth of great crafty tutorials featuring buttons. And check out Sister-Diane's gorgeous book, Kanzashi in Bloom (book+kit=bliss), exploring the craft of kanzashi, a traditional Japanese flower craft made of fabric and buttons. Tutorial here!
Artist/illustrator/stop-motion video animator Hine Mizushima's buttons collected for her camera and iphone cases. Mizushima is also a contributor to Button and Stitch.
Button it Up, a site devoted to button crafting and the book of the same name. Check out this amazing button collection. You could get lost for ages following the button links on the contributors page. This site is a great model to follow for other crafters promoting their books--Susan Beal's passion for her craft is evident in every post.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
This is my favorite tree in the arboretum, sweet Tilly. Her low branches create a green cave in the summer time, sheltering birds and other wildlife. I love how messy and sprawly she looks.
I had never seen the horses active at the Equine Genetics Center barn, but two of them seemed happy to see another creature out in the snowy weather.
I wanted to share a very inspiring quotation from The Accidental Masterpiece; On the Art of Life and Vice Versa, by Michael Kimmelman, which has helped me to open my eyes a bit more to the accidental masterpieces I see around me:
I'm going to keep trying to keep my eyes wide open!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
A piece of the slate chipped off its source, tumbled down a gorged riverbed and into Cayuga Lake, where waves rounded its edges. The obstinate waves kept pushing, pushing until the stone reached the rock-strewn shore. There I admired its flatness and cameo-like shape and took it home to cover its contours with wool. I imagined an ancient sea plant drifting in the warm, shallow sea, at the end of its days coming to rest on the sea floor and imprinting its form on stone. A luxurious silk-wool blend yarn outlines the curving forms of fossil life on the covered Fossil Stone.
Now let's skip across time and continent to Europe, its northern Germanic tribes to be precise, during the early days of the so-called Dark Ages. There they coined the term wundran, to capture their sense of astonishment at the magic they saw in the world around them: perhaps the dragon prows of their strong-hulled ships slicing through the white-capped North Sea; white cliffs formed by eons of tiny sea animals a shimmer on Briton's distant shore.
The Scandinavian notion of appreciating the world's marvels came down through the ages to the English language, to our sense of wonder.
Monday, February 8, 2010
The sky was bright blue. Aimless clouds made white patches on the sky.
Tree branches arched over the trail. They reached out to each other, meeting overhead. I was sealed into a deep green tunnel.
My soft footfalls on the pine needles did not disturb the silence of the forest. Only the wind whispered through the leaves, like dry hands rubbing together for comfort.
I stopped. I stood still under the tossing branches of a tree thick with leaves.
I looked up. I stared into the green. As I stared, I began to make out many pairs of eyes.
They were eyes alight with curiosity, drinking in the wonder of me, a stranger to the Kiki Forest.
I held still and watched the shy Little Kikis slowly emerge from the leaves.
They got used to my presence.
I didn’t see her, but I have heard that the beautiful and benevolent forest spirit, Nanou Kiki, watches over the Little Kikis.
When their happy chatter gets too loud, or their wings flap too wildly, she sings a quiet song to remind the Little Kikis that the wind has a voice that wants to be heard, too.
This little story came out of a happy crafting time with my youngest son. It was inspired by Nanou’s Happy Nut creature (make one of your own here), and by working with the play clay Sonia sent us from France.
My son came up with the name “Kikis” for these little creatures, and I was intrigued by his tree with many eyes. I think I will have my son help me illustrate this story, so that we can read it together at bedtime.
(My apologies to Hayao Miyazaki for borrowing the concept of the forest spirit and the little spirits alive in the trees from Princess Mononoke, which he has based on traditional Japanese animist beliefs.)
Do you have stories that you have collaborated on with your little ones? I would love to hear about them!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
It was a photo from Sonia's Flickr photostream, of her delicate hand stitching, that inspired me to pick up needle and thread again to hand-embroider on wool. Thank you, Sonia, for the inspiration, and for your friendship!
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Standing on a footbridge in the cathedral-like Turbine Hall, it's immediately apparent that the architects didn't just use the structure as mere backdrop for the art displayed. The building has its own spirit and presence, as if it's whispering soft dialogues with the art pieces.