Lately

Well, friends, I hope that you can forgive my failure to blog for the past month or so (I’m pretty sure there are a few of you regular readers out there, aside from my mom:) I’ve been in one of those post-holiday ruts- you know, the kind that happens when the craziness of the holidays ends, and after months of daydreaming about slower days with time for relaxing projects you just can’t garner the energy to self-motivate? I think that this type of dilemma probably afflicts the self-employed the most severely, and January was a bit of a difficult month for this self-employed, super-emotional, highly sensitive person.

As I’ve mentioned before, making books can be hard on my body, and when the new year comes, I like to take a break from that brand of labor. My holiday daydreams included some home improvement projects for our home studio, which has less square footage and holds more than most other rooms in the apartment, and making a quilt (always on my mind these days, it seems), and reading books while lying in bed.

The home improvements and lying in bed reading books did happen in January without much effort. But the creativity and motivation for other projects that needed to happen was just not there. At this time of year, it’s important that I experiment with new ideas and materials that I might not have time or energy for in busier months. It’s also an important time to do my taxes and evaluate the past year from a business standpoint, noticing what was successful and what I’d like to do differently in the year to come.

But whoah, was I having a hard time getting moving. There’s an oft-spoken idea that sometimes we have to get to a dark place before we make a change. And last month, I found myself in that dark place, where I couldn’t think of what to do to get out of my creative rut, to feel useful and empowered, and to do something I could be proud of.

Ironically, for all my talk about making a quilt and how much I looked forward to it, I had to get to that place before I decided, out of semi-desperation, to get started on it. I just needed something to do that felt productive and not too hard. And it worked. It was crazy how much better I felt the first day that I started working on it, and the past two weeks have been easier because I have this new project that I look forward to working on in my spare time.

Now that my head is in a better place, I’m looking forward to sharing some of the other successes of January here, including another wonderful class of beginning bookbinding students and assorted little projects. A friend shared recently that we are gaining about two minutes of extra daylight each day at this time of year, which holds a lot of promise for the days to come. I hope that my buddies all over the land are staying warm, and optimistic, too, enjoying the longer days, and learning what you can from the dark.

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what my mind dreamed up…

What would you envision for a customer who requested a book for an ‘intellectual soul mate’ lost at sea?

It look me a little while to land on a motif for this one, but one of the things that helped my creative process was the obvious passion of the person requesting this custom book, which would be a gift for someone special. He wanted me to incorporate the phases of the moon, and the sea…so after a few weeks of methodical brainstorming, I landed on a big idea, and started to get to work.

I love custom orders because I end up making books I’d never create otherwise. And I loved that I was able to take my time on this one, enjoying all the symbolism that it involved and the subsequent ways that it helped me to make meaning in my own days of late.

A week ago I watched a beautiful Taurus baby come into the world. And though I have wavering interest in the influence of the planets and sun and moon, I appreciated the meaning created around this brand new person’s timing of when to be born and lock eyes with her mama for the first time.

In short, my love of making significance out of circumstance loved this nice juxtaposition of the moon, lost and found companions, and all things beyond our control…each a lovely part of life under the sun.

before and after

I spent several of my early spring Sunday mornings at Malaprop’s, one of my favorite places in Asheville, giving the  old paper mache tree a makeover. It really needed some love and care…

Over the years the poor tree had taken a beating and was covered with scribbles and signatures, and it looked kind of like a late-fall tree, with just a few leaves left. I cut the new leaves by hand, and the inspiration for the paint style came from the Sibley Guide to Trees, which has beautifully painted images of all the tree varieties.

(click photos to see enlargements)

It’s been forever since I’ve painted anything, and I have to say that I was nervous about executing the paint job that I’d envisioned. In the end, it was fun to work in a different medium, and when the tree was done I felt honored to have been asked to work on the project. As I’m becoming more focused on our upcoming move, it’s nice to think that I’ll be leaving a pretty, public work of creativity behind. I love how the tree turned out, and it was great to spend some time with my old buddies at the store!

Feeling proud…

…of my first quilt!

I loved spending all day at my sewing machine, being able to ask my studio mates for help, and the hour I spent with the woman working at the fabric store (who told me that “bees mean friendship” when I finally decided on the bee fabric for the backing). I loved sitting on the couch with Andy and feeling like such an old lady while I hand sewed the binding. It felt great to send it out in the mail to a new mama and a dear friend, but I was sad to let it go, too.  I guess that means I need to make another one.

projects

It’s January, and I’m a little bored of making books. This afternoon I have ideas of learning to quilt, and I’m excited about upholstering. Here’s the chair that I recently finished. I don’t have a before picture, but it was covered in blue vinyl, and looked like an old, beat up seat in a car. I think it looks better now.

 

before and after

Here we have my first adventure in upholstery, and one that I am proud to have done all by myself, with a little bit of guidance from friends and youtube videos.

Here’s the before. I brought this little loveseat home, in its dissembled form, from my grandfather’s house in Greensboro earlier this year. The week that I started working on it, our kitten, Yoko, got hit by a car in front of our house, and we kept the stencil that we made in her memory sitting on it in our living room for a few weeks.

And here’s the after. I also made pillows for the first time ever (and made them poorly, I have to say, but I love them anyway).

I have loved exploring an entirely new medium, and it’s surprisingly exhilarating to try a new skill that I know nothing about, knowing that I may not do it very well at all. To my credit, our living room is much cuter now.

I’ve been taking a little break from bookbinding and sweating in my studio, and spending some time at home, making things at a different pace. It’s been nice.

These refrigerator pickles were really easy to make! And they taste amazing.

And I recovered this old chair with some fabric that Leigh Anne brought me from a fabric sale a few weeks ago.

I have been loving the weather in Asheville the past few days. Autumn temperatures have a lot of power over my memories and feelings and I’m so happy to sit inside with the windows open, cooking and sewing. I also notice that while summer is fun and relaxing, the heat can make me feel unmotivated. Looking forward to fall, I’m ready to embark on a few new adventures that have been in the back of my mind for the last little while.

Hope all are well and enjoying the long days of summer’s end.

.!.!.!.

Considering that I exercise my creativity primarily for the feelings of joy and spiritual fulfillment that it brings me , I generally try to take it easy on myself when I don’t feel like making stuff. Every so often, I go to my studio and just don’t feel altogether excited about making books. And I find that if I put too much pressure on myself, chances are that I’ll make a clumsy mistake (and in the precise art of bookbinding, every little error shows) or make something that I don’t like that much.

So last weekend when I didn’t want to make books, I made some paint blobs instead. I spent a few hours playing around with gouache and colorful paper, and I felt entirely satisfied.


I thought that most of them ended up looking like bugs…perfect for Spring!