Archive for the ‘Creative Habits’ Category

Fresh Start Day Retreat

August 29, 2014
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It has been awhile since my last post, but I have been busy – sending my oldest off to college, making quilts for clients, helping consulting clients take their businesses to the next level, and exploring new directions to combine my quilting background with my consulting work.

Here is one of the fruits of my labors that I am excited to announce: On September 12, 2014, Margret-Anne Cummings – a professional life coach, certified yoga instructor, and certified Creative Insight instructor – and I will be co-leaders of the Fresh Start Day Retreat on the beautiful grounds of the St. Francis Woods & Retreat Center (the Portiuncula Center) in Frankfort, Illinois.

As anyone who makes knows, at times we can get so lost in the flow of our work that hours go by before we realize how consumed we have been. At other times, it can be hard to tap into that flow – especially with all of the activities of summer. And that is the whole idea behind this retreat, to refocus and reconnect. While we won’t be making quilts (that’s another project in the works for January), we will be doing creative exercises aimed at getting your creativity flowing.

Please join us for an inspiring day in a beautiful setting!

For additional details and to register, click here.

Registration and early registration pricing has been extended till Monday, September 8th, at 2 pm!

 

 

 

 

Doodle, Reflect, and Plan

January 3, 2014

If you typically throw your calendar into the recycle bin at the end of the year, you may want to reconsider … 

A Playing with Fabric post about doodling on calendars and reflecting about the year past and thinking about the year ahead

The other day, I walked past my daughter’s room where she was quietly embellishing her 2013 wall calendar using a magenta Sharpie and a ruler; she has continued to work on it over holiday break, taking her time and carefully considering how she wants to fill in each square.

While it is a wonderfully simple creative exercise – treating each square as its own canvas, each page as its own gallery is a nice scale to work on (I say having just completed a full-size bed quilt) – it is also so meditative.

So go ahead, retrieve your 2013 calendar and pick out your favorite Sharpie color, then find a quiet place to think about the year just past and set intentions for the year ahead. And for my readers who quilt or embroider, you might just discover a new pattern in those doodles!

Recalibrating the Creative Self

October 10, 2013

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The intention was to take a few weeks off this summer from writing here but once out of the habit, it has been hard to get back into the routine. (My visits to the gym have suffered a similar fate.) As I sit down at the keyboard on this beautiful fall day though, I realize the time away has been good – necessary really – to re-calibrate where I am going on several levels including my quilting work.

Spending time outside growing a vegetable garden, meeting friends for coffee or simply a walk, visiting family, and really focusing my business on work that I most enjoy has all been good for reinvigorating my creativity and professional life.

So, some excellent reads if you need to take a mental pause to figure out what’s next  …

Is there a particular book you have found insightful, inspiring as you decide what’s next in your creative life? Share it here by leaving a comment.

Can I Actually Be a Student Again

March 4, 2013

The answer to that headline is “yes.” Last fall, I took the plunge and became a student again. Okay, it was low risk, virtually no cost, and oh so fun! In other words, very different from my college experience years ago. The class, “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society,” offered by Cousera.org, was my first big venture into online education and it far, far, far exceeded any expectations I had. The professor of the class, Karl Ulrich of the University of Pennsylvania was phenomenal and was conscientious of the varied backgrounds and circumstances of his students in this class. Another plus, I was able to handle all of the simple technology requirements (e.g., uploading files), complete my homework on time each week and receive an almost perfect score (if I had only uploaded that one photo I debated about, it would have been a perfect score).  Of course, it also helps to have school-age kids in the house who turned the tables and told me to “go do your homework!”

While I missed the face-to-face interaction with my fellow students, it was so inspiring to read comments from others around the world, people who I was reminded live in vastly different circumstances, like the student who wanted to know if there were any other supplies needed besides pencil and paper because the store was two hours away and she could only get there once a month or so.

The outcome of this class will be a future post and product but for now I suggest you enroll and make something – it does not have to be a tangible product, it could be a service, too. The class starts up again on April 29th. FYI, there are many other Coursera classes that sound really interesting, but pay attention to the time requirements for the class when deciding; I have since taken another class and would have to say the time estimates are fairly accurate. I still have to juggle running a business, raising a family … so despite my tendency to want to sign up for two or three classes, I have limited myself to one at a time for now.

P.S. I love the idea of Coursera and how it allows people throughout the world, including those in remote regions, access to some of the top universities. It also opens up a new world to high schoolers who are looking for classes that challenge them in new ways in an area of interest and others who want to keep learning but have limited choices because of  budget, transportation, and/or  limited mobility challenges. I had been looking for a class like this for years, but could not find one in the Chicago area, so when I saw this, I jumped.  I do worry how this will affect traditional colleges and universities and I think many are looking at its impact.

Remembering the Art and Craft in What You Make

January 24, 2013

The fast-paced world has changed forever the way we communicate, access entertainment, travel (I still insist my kids know how to read a paper map and train schedule), work, and the list goes on and on. For many of us who quilt and sew, our tool kits now include glue guns, Steam-a-Seam interfacing, and other items aimed at making light work out of our craft. I admit while I own a roll of Steam-a-Seam for certain types of projects, one primary reason I make is to slow down. I rush through enough aspects of my day – like shelving the idea of making a from scratch pizza and instead stopping by the local grocers to pick up a “hand-made” one a few nights ago – that when it comes time for making, I want to take my time, think it through, play “what-if” with my ideas, and then decide how to best tell my visual story. I do all of this to get the most out of my craft, to get to that point where even though I may have spent way more time than I budgeted, stayed up much later into the night than I intended, I sink back into my chair satisfied with my output – what is now before me on the design wall. I know when I wake up the next morning, I may be tired, but I will also be energized by my “creating time” and am ready to pour that energy into helping my business clients develop their ideas and tell their stories all with the intention of growing their businesses.

In preparing for a presentation later this week on Ansel Adams to my daughter’s 6th grade class, a class that collectively probably snaps more pictures in one year than Ansel Adams could ever imagine, I want them to learn a bit more about this great artist certainly, but also about the art and craft that goes into taking a photo that draws you in, makes you want to learn more about the situation, makes you stop and think, or just makes you feel differently.

Here are some great video clips from interviews with Ansel Adams on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art site. One of my favorites:  “Ansel Adams on Photography and Visualization.”  Gina, a friend and one of the Partners-in-Art co-directors, sent me the links to these interviews but there is much more to explore on this website so beware that you may get lost here for a couple of hours!

Enjoy the links but why not grab a camera of your own (or your phone) and head outdoors to capture some images of a favorite tree, an icy pond, an old building, or something else that helps define where you live. Slow down, though, and really think about what you want to convey in that image and how – maybe you want to head out in early morning light or at dusk; maybe you want to shoot it up close to show off a favorite branch; maybe you want to print it in black and white rather than color … you get the idea, take your time, put some thought into the project. Other considerations: do the project solo, with a friend, or with your kids; share your work with a neighbor who may not get out to walk around as much as they once did.  And remember, you can always order the pizza or have cereal for dinner  if you get caught up in the process!

Creative Habits: Illustrating a Favorite Book a Page at a Time

January 15, 2013

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In 2011, Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page by Matt Kish was published. If you missed it, go to your local library or bookstore today and pick up a copy.  Why? Because if you are looking to establish a creative habit, this is so inspirational on many levels …

  • Matt Kish is a self-taught artist (day job – English teacher).
  • In 2009, he began producing one drawing every day for each page in the Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  That’s 552 pieces of art.
  • He uses a variety of materials and techniques, including pen and ink on found paper,  ballpoint pen on found paper, watercolors on paper … In other words, he did not go out on a buying spree to get all the materials he needed (at least I don’t think he did) and instead looked around at what was on hand for the most part and got onto creating art and experimenting with techniques. I have to believe he felt like a kid again, especially as he got into the flow of the project.

The end result is a wonderful, captivating book that is exciting to look at – I finally stopped counting which illustrations were my “absolute favorite” in the book! If you’ve been trying to get a family member or student to read Moby Dick, this might be the way to entice them to pick up Melville’s classic. They will get a taste of the story from the illustrations and the quote included with each drawing that inspired the art.

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So this book got me thinking, what book would I most like to illustrate? My choice, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of the first books I fell in love with as a kid (besides Nancy Drew).

What book would you like to illustrate? Well, get going!

To read more about Matt Kish and see what else he is up to, visit his blog here.

A side note: If you are a fan of Moby Dick and like to be read to here is another very interesting link to check out – The Moby Dick Big Read Project. Unfortunately, you may have to put everything aside and just listen because this ends around January 29th or so.

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Building Creative Habits in 2013 and Beyond

January 8, 2013

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Can I just say I do not think I have ever been so sick with the flu in all of my years, but I’m back – just moving a bit slow still – with lots of ideas flowing for another busy good year!

As 2013 gets under way, many of us have been feverishly setting goals that we hope to achieve in the next 12 months. While everything seems doable on this 8th day of January, somewhere along late spring, early summer, the list looks daunting – that is, if we can find the list of goals! Although these goals – professional, wellness, personal – are important because they give us direction, what I often coach my small business clients on, however, is that the goals are just one aspect of laying out a 12-month, 24-month, etc. plan. Another important piece is to look at your habits – are you investing the time and energy into changing bad or unhealthy ones and putting in place habits that will help you grow and fuel your ideas, in other words, creative habits.

Creativity is not strictly the domain of artists, musicians, and actors. It comes into play across professions and in your personal life. When we start giving the time consistently (i.e., daily or weekly) to think about a problem we want to solve, how to be a better parent, or how to perfect our art, and then experimenting with ideas, the momentum just builds. You are aiming for that place where you get lost in the flow and start looking at things from different angles.

A couple of books that drive this idea of creativity and habit home are:

In the coming weeks, set aside some time each day (or a few hours once a week if you can’t commit to a daily creative practice) … For people who draw, buy a fresh sketchbook and commit to adding a sketch a day, maybe even giving yourself a time parameter  (e.g., draw something but it must be finished within 30 minutes); for people who write, choose a topic to explore and write about it each day for a week, then move onto a new topic; for people who craft, choose  something to explore during the month (e.g., expanding your knitting repertoire); for people who are at a crossroads in their business life, take a step back and begin examining what is working, what is not, and then put in the time to address each aspect. In this latter case, I suggest spending time on a hobby or allowing yourself to take some field trips to places that have been on your list but you never seem to have time for – this opens up thinking and helps create those “aha moments”.

What will your creative habits look like in 2013?

An Inspiring Visit to the Studio Gang Architects Exhibit

December 10, 2012

I had the opportunity to visit the Studio Gang Architects exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago last week for a second time … so very inspiring. The exhibit is on view through February 24, 2013.

These woven seats are incredibly comfortable and the experience of sitting in this “bubble” of sorts and soaking up all the creativity was quite delightful!

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Just some of the prototypes on exhibit. (This photo is a bit out of focus but it is still kind of cool in a way.)

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A peek into some of the inspiration for one project.

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See and learn more about the exhibit here.

Slowing Down to Make

November 25, 2012

My kids will likely never know the days when stores are closed all day and night on Thanksgiving but we managed to keep the shopping frenzy at bay for the most part during this long holiday break beginning with participating in the Bonfield Express Thursday morning, playing games and catching a movie. (The Bonfield is a 5k named in memory of Jim Bonfield a favorite teacher, coach, and counselor; it has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many in our community with the proceeds funding college scholarships for area seniors.)

Feeling totally inspired from meeting with my quilting group on Saturday morning, today, my daughter and I set aside some time to make a new pair of fleece pajama pants. We used a pattern we had used before from Heather Ross’ book, Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching, but added a few inches here and there to accommodate her growing frame. Altogether, we probably spent about one hour on the project. I also made a silent promise to her that in the coming weeks when life can get quite busy with shopping lists, parties, work deadlines, homework, etc., we are going to carve out some time each weekend throughout December to make something.

Making the pattern a bit bigger.

Pieces are cut and ready to sew.

Adding a ribbon loop to hang the pants from on the door hook.

Ready to wear!

Next on the list: a fleece t-shirt for Audrey, our Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. For fun, my daughter put a t-shirt onto Audrey this weekend and she actually really likes it; in fact, she seems a bit sad when it comes time to take it off! We think that she believes that if she wears clothes like ours we will soon invite her to pull up a chair to the dinner table. Stay tuned – if it turns out well, I will post the how-to here next week.

Happy making with your friends and family this holiday season!

Creativity Gets its Groove on at Downers Grove North High School

November 14, 2012

This  great video, produced by the Fine Arts Department at Downers Grove North High School (in the town where I live), will have you singing along and maybe even dancing!

Enjoy!