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Breakfast with Angela

Breakfast time again! This week, meet Angela Dosebeadmaker, blogger, and mother of two. Angela’s exquisite glass beads are absolute gems. Just ask our own Kelly Warren — she uses Angela’s beads for her Happy Shack Designs. It’s not hard to see why! So, take a quick break from your last-minute holiday preparations, and enjoy.

angelaCC: Please introduce yourself.
AD:
Hello! I’m Angela Dose — wife, mom, dental assistant, glass beadmaker, and all around caretaker! I have been married to my husband for 18 years and we are the proud parents to two wonderful children (son 14 and daughter 12) they are the light of our lives!

CC: Tell us about your creative endeavors.
AD:
I began making handmade glass (lampwork) beads in 2004. Originally I had a small, home-based artisan jewelry business, purchasing lampwork from other talented beadmakers on eBay. image002As time passed, I decided that if I knew how to make my own beads it would be a positive move for my business. Making my own beads would allow me complete control of the design process and I wouldn’t have to wait for someone else to think up the color combinations and shapes that I wanted to design with. Well….since I began making my own beads I haven’t designed or created a single piece of finished jewelry for sale yet! Glass is my passion! I opened my Etsy shop in March of this year, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I mainly sell loose lampwork bead sets to other collectors and designers for use in their own creations. Let me tell you, there are so many wonderful, creative people out there who make fabulous handmade jewelry! I am so fortunate to have found this sales venue and these people!

image003CC: What inspired you to start a blog?
AD:
In August of this year I reluctantly decided it was time to blog. Now…don’t get me wrong, I love blogs and blogging but it was a leap of faith for me as I usually like to fly under the social radar! After many years of working with my customers, and having them ask me “what I do” ~ “what I look like” ~ “what’s your studio like” ~ “how many kids do you have”…I figured it was time! I am glad to finally BE the face of my business, and I have been warmly welcomed! I look forward to sharing my goofy thoughts, hobbies and creations with my blog readers, I have met so many gracious, friendly people along the way and for them I am grateful as they continually amuse and inspire me both personally and creatively.

image004CC: Do you feel that blogging keeps you creatively “accountable”?
AD:
I think my blog keeps me accountable by keeping me grounded. It has taken me a long time to actually feel like I have earned the title “artist.” When I sit down to blog it really reminds me that I am “me” ~ Angela ~ just Angela and not some hotshot beadmaker! I just try to keep it real and blog about things other than beads too…my life is about so much more than just my glass!

image008CC: Where do you do your creative work?
AD:
Funny thing is…I had to bargain my studio space outta my husband. You see, it’s kinda hard to tell your husband the “firefighter” that you would like to steal a corner of his beloved woodshop to start a large fire and melt yourself some glass! Now wouldn’t that be a kick if you burnt down a firefighters garage! Yikes! Anyhoo, after much debate (ahem…more like begging!) I had myself a space to call “my studio” and I was so pleased that my husband even helped me set it all up! Though, I’m sure it was “so it got done right enough” for him! Along with my studio space I have a small office where I take care of the nuts and bolts of my business…stringing, photographing, editing, listing, packaging, and mailing. I’m always accompanied there by our big fuzzy cat Ollie, he’s a great sidekick! Personal space…it’s a good thing!

image010CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
AD:
By day, I’m a dental assistant in a fairly large, two-doctor practice. I count my blessings every day that my art has made it possible for me to work less at the office and still make a living while being there for my kids. A typical day when I’m not at the office involves getting the kids up, fed, and out the door to school. When that is accomplished that leaves me with about 5 good hours two days a week to create! My children have a fairly light activity schedule (compared to some kids around our neighborhood!) but I still manage to spend quite a few hours a week on the road being “taxi mom.” Not a big deal really, I’m just glad to be able to have that time with my kids. Sometimes the best design ideas come when I’m sitting in the school parking lot all alone in the quiet waiting for the kids.

image006CC: Has motherhood changed you creatively?
AD:
I don’t think motherhood has significantly changed me creatively. I have always been allowed to express my artistic side with my family and they’re my biggest support system. Well…there it is in a nutshell and I didn’t even know it…motherhood has afforded me an awesome, unconditional, and steadfast support system! In all my hair-brained artistic endeavors my family is there to support and help me. Before I was a beadmaker I was a wedding cake designer with a home-based business. My kids could come within an inch of a huge cake and not disturb it one bit ~ then turn right around and help me deliver that mammoth creation like pros and they were still just young kids! Yep…they make me a better person, no doubt about that!

image011CC: What do you struggle with most?
AD:
Well, I’d like to say that I don’t struggle with anything BUT…I know most of you out there are moms too! So, I guess I would have to say balance. There are days that beads come before dinner, dishes, or the vacuum! There are days that everyone else has to come before beads. There are days when I hate to tell anyone “no” whether it be my family or my clients. I’m such a “yes” person that sometimes I create my own misery, but I’m working on that one! I have to remember that I’m not a superwoman, and that’s okay…now just remember to remind me of that, would ya?!

image007CC: Where do you find inspiration?
AD:
I’m inspired by many things in regards to my art. Though I’m not a scrapbooker I have an enormous stash of beautiful paper. I LOVE paper! There are days that I can’t think of a color combo for beads to save my soul, so I dig out the old paper collection and bingo, it sparks something for me! Inspiration at its best! In addition to paper and color in general I would have to say that nature is another one of my major inspirations. I have a huge love affair with perennial flowers and bulbs. I have a blast getting in the dirt and planting, mostly because I can’t wait for the result! There is just something so magical about blooming plants; they are the most beautiful and delicate works of art ever!

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
AD:
Geeze Louise..let me think…hmmmm that’s a tough one! I read quite a few blogs but I would have to say that some of my favorites are Allsorts, The Glass Slipper — Sarah Hornik’s site — and Watch Me Create.

image005CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
AD:
My greatest indulgences: new glass, Starbucks, and paper of course!

CC: What are you reading right now?
AD:
One word — TWILIGHT. I have totally been caught up in this book — I’m just finishing up the first one and have the second book on deck! It’s been a long time since I have sat down to read anything other than bead-related stuff…I’m enjoying it!

image012CC: What advice would you give to other mothers struggling to be more creative?
AD:
My advice would be to get your family involved! My kids love to come into the studio with me and try out new color combos by pulling rods. Sometimes the most mundane days can be brightened by someone else’s creative point of view. Start up a new crafty project with your family — dishes and laundry can so totally wait. Making art and memories with the ones you love is priceless!

CC: Thank you, Angela!

Breakfast with Lori

We’re off to Portland, Oregon, this week for “Breakfast” with Lori Wahl: apparel designer, blogger, and mother of two. Lori is also a friend of Bec Thomas‘s. (There sure is a lot of creative mo-jo in the northwest corner of the US! What do you guys have going on up there??)

loriCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
LW:
I am a married, 38-year-old mother of two — Elsie, 6 years old, and Ewan, 2 years old. I am a freelance apparel designer working for various clients who need design and product development work. My sister and I own a children’s apparel company called Mister Judy. We are still trying to get it off the ground, but will not be able to devote a lot of time to it until all children (hers and mine) are in school. I also teach a couple of web-based classes at the University of Idaho for the Clothing, Textile, and Design degree program.

CC: Tell us about your design work and your other creative endeavors.
LW: The Mister Judy line is a lot of fun since both my sister and img_2927I like kids’ clothing with a retro vibe. We do a more subtle retro feel…and really look for good prints to use. I love to knit…and now with winter coming I have more projects planned. I sew as well….and then every once in a while I get the urge to redecorate a room…and out comes all the magazines and design books that I hoard.

[At left: Here is one of my Christmas projects...leg warmers for all the little dancers in my life.]

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
LW: I started my blog as a way to foster my creativity. I saw so many bloggers regularly doing crafty things and posting them that I thought a blog would help me to more creative things on a regular basis. img_1196Unfortunately I don’t always have a creative post, but when I do post something that I’ve made or seen, I receive great comments from my friends and readers. It’s my regular readers that keep me posting regularly. Early on I participated in some online craft exchanges. You had to have a blog to participate as a way to learn about one another. I have made some really great on line friends through blogging.

[Above right: I knitted these mitts last year.]

CC: Do you find that your blog keeps you “honest” creatively? Meaning that you have a place to state your intentions — and that you need to keep producing work in order to have something creative to blog about?
LW:
Yes, the blog does keep me on track. If I announce that I’m going to do something, I will follow through. Sometimes not on the original timelines, but eventually I will finish the announced work and post it.

studio-spaceCC: Where do you do your creative work?
LW:
I have a studio in the basement. I needed my own space for my freelance work, but also a place to leave a project-in-process out while it was in-process. For some reason, if I put a project away, it never sees the light of day again and therefore does not become complete.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
LW:
I wish I did have a regularly scheduled block of time for creativity. I fault myself for that. It is my own time-management issue. It is an excellent idea to have a regularly scheduled time and gives you something to look forward to. But I do get inspired at odd times and want to jump into a project.

CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
LW:
Motherhood has definitely reduced my creative time. There are no more days of staying in my pajamas drinking mimosas for breakfast and sewing all day long. I sort of have to cram it in where it fits. My 6-year-old is old enough to participate or to occupy herself while I’m working. My 2-year-old is not quite there yet, so I have to have an elaborate distraction strategy planned. OR I work while the 6-year-old is at school and the 2-year-old is napping OR at night…but by the time night rolls around, I usually tuck myself in on the couch for some knitting rather than heading to the basement for sewing. This goes back to the time-management point above. I feel like I am still creative, but my output has been greatly reduced after having children.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
LW:
I struggle most with work/life/creativity balance. My spouse is unemployed and has been for the past year, so I need to work to pay the bills. He has been taking care of the kids when I am busy with freelance work and teaching, but he also needs time for job hunting/networking. The creativity gets shoved to the bottom of the list sometimes.

vintage-inspirationCC: Where do you find inspiration?
LW:
Inspiration comes from many different places…from other people’s blogs, from my stash of vintage clothing, magazines, a trip to Anthropologie, or just general web surfing. When I was working full time, I bought a LOT of books, so I have an amazing design library to reference when I need an injection of creativity.

[Above right: A vintage scrapbook put together for my grandmother when she was a young girl. Her aunties that lived in Victoria, BC made it for her.]

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?

… and there are more that I check regularly.

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
LW:
My greatest indulgence is jewelry from Michal Negrin jewelry, home decor, fashion items…although I’m going to have to cut back for a bit.

"My vintage enamel pins sort of look like embroidery."CC: What are you reading right now?
LW:
I’m partway through Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
LW:
Find creativity in places that you wouldn’t expect it. I may not get to sit down and make a new stuffed animal or new garment or even get those prints framed, but I can sit and build fairies with my daughter, Elsie. It is creative and imaginative and I get to spend time with Elsie….and then, of course, we come up with a long list of other items we need to create as accessories for our fairies.

[Above left: My vintage enamel pins...it kind of looks like an embroidery...]

CC: Thank you, Lori!

Breakfast with Anne

Breakfast time! Back to the UK we go. Brew a fresh cup of tea and meet Anne Pettigrew, mother, knitter, spinner, designer, teacher, and blogger. And she’s a friend of Emma-Jane Rosenberg‘s, so you already know Anne is one of those cool creative types that you want to hang out with. (One lump, or two?)

01headshotCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
AP:
I’m Anne, married to John, with two children, Adam (6) and Ruth (4). I teach maths part-time at one of the local sixth form colleges.

CC: Tell us about your knitting and other creative work.
AP:
Since rediscovering knitting (sometime around the end of 2004) I have had at least one, usually more, knitting projects on the go. Prior to that I stalled (for 20 years) on a sweater knitted entirely in moss stitch using fingering weight yarn. Ripping it out and rejecting project monogamy was immensely liberating. I longed to learn to spin for years — it’s a kind of magic to convert fluffy stuff into yarn which has strength and purpose. I had the chance to learn at the SkipNorth retreat in March 2007, and although I don’t do as much as I would like, I did make a cardigan from my own handspun. I have also started crocheting.

13daisiesCC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
AP:
I started reading other people’s blogs and, having scoffed at my husband for writing one, realized that I could have one of my own. I love having a space which is mine. I can write about whatever I choose to write about, so long as I remember that ANYONE could be reading it. As for what keeps me going — being able to “blog without obligation.” I generally post very infrequently now, although I am attempting NaBloPoMo — posting every day for the whole of November. It’s been hard to start with, but the discipline of having to write something every day is making me consider everything as potential blog-fodder, which is making me more reflective generally.

05whereiknitCC: Where do you do your creative work?
AP:
Mostly I knit or crochet sitting on the sofa, while watching television at the end of the day. This photo shows the clutter I cannot keep under control.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
AP:
Not really — I feel guilty when I do any during the day, as there is always a huge list of things I should be doing.

07bakingCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
AP:
I didn’t really knit until after my children arrived. I like making things for them (partly because small things knit up faster), but I think that the day-to-day tasks of being a parent call for a lot of creativity. When a little girl arrives home from her grandparents and announces that “It’s not FAIR. I wanted to play a game, but there wasn’t time. And I’ve never been on a sleepover. And I’ve never been on an airplane. It’s NOT FAIR!” it’s probably not the time to reason with her, it’s time to coax her through to the kitchen to nibble bits off the chopping board as we finish preparing dinner together.

I love doing creative things with them, although I find it hard not to act as a total control-freak. Letting go and letting them make a mess doesn’t come easily. We do do a range of things together though — from making stained-glass windows using tissue paper, to baking, to finger knitting…

06stainedglassCC: What do you struggle with most?
AP:
I find the day-to-day things hardest. Adam and I are both celiac, which means that I pretty much do have to cook from scratch every day. (I know that’s good practice anyway, and yes, we do have a couple of gluten-free ready meals in the freezer for days when it all falls apart.) When things are going well I love menu planning, and I enjoy cooking. But whereas the creativity needed for knitting isn’t essential (I don’t *have* to knit, I just enjoy it), we do need to eat, and finding the inspiration for a nutritious balanced dinner after a long day at work when I’m getting a migraine and my back is playing up can be a distinct challenge.

03shawlFrom a fibrey perspective I think I find it hardest to stick with each project to the end. Partly this is because I get seduced by new patterns and yarns which cry out to be tried, but I also generally find finishing a garment rather disheartening. Until that point I view my project as the Platonic ideal. Once all the seaming is done (and I do enjoy seaming — mattress stitch is another kind of magic) all the flaws are revealed — the bumpy seams, the uneven tension, that point where the stripes don’t quite meet up… and I often lose the love I’d been feeling.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
AP:
Ravelry! I try not to spend too much time idly pattern browsing (see above — they’re too seductive). I think I feel slightly guilty about process knitting. I should be aiming at a product, my hobby should be producing something beneficial. (Or at least, this is how I feel.) So I try to start by thinking about what would be useful, and either find a pattern which satisfies it, or design something appropriate.

12surpriseCC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
AP:
Oooh — only 5? I think I’ll go with Yarn Harlot, Dooce, The Sartorialist, Bad Science, and What Housework?

CC: Just for you: What is your greatest indulgence?
AP:
A long hot soak in the bath with a good book.

CC: What are you reading right now?
AP:
The Problems of Mathematics by Ian Stewart.

08fingerknittingCC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
AP:
Take the moments when you can. Recognize the creativity you are using for everything you do, and remember that the “tiny baby” stage doesn’t last forever. If you feel that your creativity has left you, don’t worry, it hasn’t, it’s just being channeled very differently for a while.

CC: Thanks, Anne!

Breakfast with Anita

We’re off to the UK for Breakfast again this week, so I hope you like your toast browned on one side! Meet Anita Davies, prolific artist, poet, writer, blogger, and mother. I first encountered Anita’s work on the EDM SuperBlog. A year later, when Emma-Jane Rosenberg recommended Anita for a Breakfast guest, I could instantly bring to mind Anita’s work. She’s that good — as you’ll see for yourself. Chin-chin!

meCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
AD:
I am an artist. A published poet. I have held a monthly column in the Fenland Citizen focusing on local artists. I have held a weekly illustrated column in the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard where I spotlighted pages in my daily journals. I am a tutor, currently running a weekly adult workshop, giving private tuition and giving a weekly workshop in a village school with children.

I am also now an author, having recently published my summer project entitled Close to Home where I focused on the homes in three neighbouring villages, painting plein air sketches. The book is available for purchase through the Blurb bookstore.

My family and I live in Cambridgeshire, England, UK. Not in the city part but deep in the heart of the Fens where the skies are huge and the fields change with the seasons. I have two boys aged 10 and 17. It’s a big gap, I know, but after holding my first beautiful baby boy I didn’t believe I could love anyone so strongly and didn’t think it fair to try. Seven years later I felt I was ready and changed my mind. I was wrong…it is possible to love that deeply twice.

icedreflectionsCC: Tell us about your artwork and what you sell in your online shop.
AD:
I started to paint in 2003 and I paint anything and everything really. I love a challenge so there isn’t really a subject or medium I would turn away from — I dabble with everything. I am fairly well known for my paintings of roses and my glass works and enjoy painting both. My commissioned work seems to revolve mostly around portraiture and pets where I try to capture the subject’s character along with a good likeness. I’ve been fortunate to have sold pieces worldwide via my previous website, my blog, and word of mouth.

Everything I paint is for sale if it isn’t in my journals or commissioned and I am currently trying to get around to updating my Etsy shop with some pieces — it’s been on my to-do list for some time but I will get there. I’m also currently making some ACEO art to list in time for Christmas. For the past year or so I have been keeping a daily illustrated journal that has helped to ensure I am creative every day. It’s been a while since I worked on anything else, besides commission work; it’s too tempting to take my journals on location through the summer months but winter is approaching fast so the studio is looking most tempting!

cranberrywhip-eyecandy-soldCC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
AD:
I honestly can’t remember what prompted me to start my blog, my memory is a little erratic like that. I think I just visited one once and thought…I could do that!

My regular visitors keep me going, without a doubt. It is wonderful to have their support and feel I am speaking to someone rather than vacant airwaves when I type out my post for the day. I post EVERY day without fail; this actually works for me, I am best under pressure and knowing I have to post something each day urges me to do something creative even when I have very little time or energy…It’s a daily kick on the butt pushing me to be productive. I love blogging and I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I have come to know through my blog.

max-soldCC: How did you become involved with EDM? What do you enjoy most about your affiliation?
AD:
Emma-Jane Rosenberg told me about EveryDayMatters [EDM] when we met for a sketch crawl date and I joined as soon as I got home. I have met some great people there. I think it is a wonderful spotlight for bloggers to unite and feel they have an audience to blog to. I have visited blogs before that have no comments at all and I admire that they still continue; I’m not sure I would post day in day out if I thought no one was looking. I’m sure this would effect my productivity too. Knowing someone will look encourages me to create and EDM provides a friendly and supportive platform.

dscf4491CC: Where do you do your creative work?
AD:
I started by working at the end of my dining room table. Lack of space prompted an outside studio, which was a huge building project and looks wonderful BUT it killed me to make the choice between my family and my art in the evenings — leaving them was very difficult for me. So, now I have a conservatory next to the open-plan dining room, kitchen, and lounge, smack bang in the heart of the home and I LOVE IT! I get so much more done and often create a journal page between peeling the spuds and basting a beef joint.

dscf4475CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
AD: No. In my opinion, schedules create disappointment when they aren’t met so I simply ‘live’ art. If I get five minutes while the kettle boils, three hours while the house is empty or three minutes before darting out of the truck to run up the school and collect my youngest…I make the most of them. My journal goes EVERYWHERE with me.

If you threw a penny away each day throughout your life because it was worthless by the time you reached the ripe age of 70 you’d be over ¬£25,000 worse off. I try to make the most of every moment, however insignificant it seems at the time and I am always pleased I did, no matter what the result, I feel I did something.

25may07-harrybCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
AD:
Motherhood has made me whole. I feel confident and loved enough to be myself, faults and all, which has opened so many creative avenues for me to explore!

CC: What do you struggle with most?
AD:
Hmmm, struggle…there’s a word! I guess I would have to say that I struggle most with my own creativity and the speed and abundance of it. I have a hundred ideas a day and I want to do them all.

lounge-29may07CC: Where do you find inspiration?
AD:
I am a thinker and a dreamer…Nothing is uninspiring to me, Everything holds an emotion…mystery…hidden beauty!

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
AD: That’s like asking me my favorite song…I have hundreds all for different reasons and moods. The most useful is the EDM SuperBlog because it gives me a variety of creativity in one single link, a quick fix with my morning cuppa before I head off to take Harry to school.

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
AD:
The midnight hours, they are all mine! The house is silent and I can start to unravel all of those voices, ideas and notes in my head and file them into some kind of order. The earth is still and I am aware of my place on it and all the wonderful ways in which I am blessed. I can work and keep a single chain of thought and open the gates for ideas to come flooding through. I’m a night owl, always have been, it’s normal for me to climb into bed at 3 a.m. and be up again at 7:30 a.m. to start the day…although getting out of bed is a problem (I love my snooze button) and I am useless before black coffee hits my lips!05july08

CC: What are you reading right now?
AD:
(BLUSH) I’m a child at heart, I don’t read so much as look at pictures. I could look at pictures all day but my attention span is challenged by text…However, I love to write.

gs-final-soldCC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
AD:
Don’t mentally separate the two: It shouldn’t be a choice between motherhood OR creativity. Combine them and be a creative mum. Okay, so you may well want to paint a realistic rendition of the Mona Lisa but if the day doesn’t allow for it don’t mope, excusing lack of creativity to time or the children, just be creative in a different way. Kids love to join in and offer some great inspiration and ideas.

Believe you are worth it: It may seem like just a few sketches or another long scarf to everyone else but it is i27october08mportant to you and you should be important to those you live with. Don’t be afraid to take time out, space alone to clear your mind of daily chores and allow yourself moments to be you, not Mum, not Wife, not cook…YOU!

Wanting time to yourself now and then doesn’t make you a bad mother, taking that time will make you a happier one!

CC: Very well said, Anita — thank you!

Breakfast with Laurie

Halloween greetings! You won’t find anything ghoulish about this week’s Breakfast visitor, however: meet Laurie Wheeler, intrepid fiber artist and mother of two. You will find more than a skein’s worth of inspiration here though — so brew a fresh cup of whatever you like to drink in the morning and enjoy.

CC: Who are you?
LW:
What an interesting question! The conventional answer is this: I am Laurie Wheeler, a woman who is mother of two, wife, fiber artist, and would be author/editor. The more interesting answer is that I’m a woman with a degree in international relations who has lived, loved, and worked in 23 countries and four continents. As an expatriate I always chose to live in the local communities and never behind the compound walls with other people from my own country. I love people, observing their lifestyles, cultures, and philosophies. In summary, I am the sum of my total experiences, minus those I have yet to experience.

CC: What do you do?
LW:
When I’m not homeschooling my 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, I’m leading the charge at the Crochet Liberation Front HQ on Ravelry.com and on our website and blog. They call me fearless leader. My kids think that’s really funny. (“Geez Mom, they’ve never seen you run away from a bee!”)

CC: What do you do in the creative domain?
LW: (Have you ever tried homeschooling a teenager?) Crochet, hand spinning, needle felting, wet felting, and the occasional foray into mixed media (nothing I’ve been satisfied with yet, but hey someday!), oh yeah and I just finished putting together a 194-page, full-color collaborative work entitled Crochet Liberation Front, First Ever Book. I also have a rather nice herb garden and enjoy cooking and making home preserves. I also play around with an intuitive painting technique.

It is my belief that the axiom “I think therefore I am” is only part of the story for human beings. “I create, therefore I am” is a far more accurate statement.

CC: How did Crochet Liberation Front (CLF) come to life?
LW:
The story of how the group came to be can be short or long. The short version is that I was tired, suffering from insomnia, and being silly; in other words it was a joke. The long version mirrors my own creative journey as a fiber artist.

I learned to crochet after I learned to embroider, which means I was somewhere around 6 or 7 years old. I know I was crocheting at 8 years old because I made a hideous granny square (pink/purple and red) for my great-grandmother. My great grandmother taught me to crochet, and treasured all of my awful first creations. I crocheted off and on throughout my childhood and teens, even though it was not the cool thing to do. I put the hook down when I went to college in England, but picked it up again when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my oldest child and was forced into bedrest. Faced with a month in bed I spent my last free day scouring the country of Bahrain for hooks and yarn or thread. I couldn’t find any yarn, but I found thread and a lace hook, and with those supplies I managed to survive the bedrest and make lots of “pretties” for my daughter-to-be.

Fast forward: I came back to the USA in 1998 a single mother with two kids and not a lot of money (that’s another story). I crocheted all of our Christmas ornaments that year because I couldn’t afford to buy anything. In fact I made many of the presents for friends and family that year as well. I didn’t think what I did was art, I didn’t think too much of it at all. It was just something you do. Art is painting and drawing and sculpture — my brother’s the artist; I’m the “brain.” In short, art was something I couldn’t do.

In 2000 I got married a second time, to a wonderful man who happens to be a park ranger. He was the first person to really make me take a second look at the things I made with hook and thread or yarn. “How do you take that stuff and make it do what you want?” he’d ask. I hadn’t really thought about it, my answer was, “You just do it.”

In 2001 we moved to Camano Island for Jeff to run two fabulous Washington State Parks. Deciding we would remain in that area until he retired, I set out getting to know the people in the community. One day I met a woman in the local craft store and my world changed. Ann Hopkins, a local art teacher and fiber artist, declared that she was going to teach me hand spinning. I don’t know about you, but ever since I first read Rumpelstiltskin I wanted to learn how to use a spinning wheel! I jumped at the chance to learn a dying art.

It was in taking up spinning that the early kernels of the CLF were conceived. As I learned to spin and found books and magazines on the subject, almost all the information revolved about yarn and knitting. There was almost nothing about crochet in the literature. I don’t knit (not for lack of trying), and couldn’t understand why no one had information for spinning and crochet.

When I started attending larger fiber arts gatherings, hand-spinning events, and competitions I repeatedly got told, “Your yarn will work for you, you crochet.” The word “crochet” being said in a snide tone of voice. It really started to annoy me, because all of these people who had crocheted only edging or doilies (nothing wrong with either of those things, but I crochet everything out of necessity since I really am terrible with pointy sticks) kept telling me what I could and couldn’t do with my own yarn.

I have this kind of contrary nature, so the more they kept saying what couldn’t be crocheted, the more I endeavored to make the very things they said couldn’t be done. From sweaters to socks, bags, hats, and scarves, I used stitches they said didn’t exist, and made 3-D wall hangings.

The official story: The Crochet Liberation Front (CLF) came to life at 3 a.m. sometime in late July 2007. I had watched Monty Python’s The Life of Brian one too many times which is how our name became what it is…and was annoyed at how crochet is viewed by the fiber arts world in general. We’re really treated poorly by the industry, and often considered inferior by those who do other fiber arts. Initially the CLF was a cartoonish and sophomoric response to a craft world that was taking itself way too seriously. (As IF one craft could be superior to another other?! Pushaw!)

I turned the CLF into a real organization after we gained over 100 members by fall 2007, and saw that we really did have the potential to do some great work together.

What work? Well, liberating crochet, crochet hooks, and the hands that wield the hook! Liberation takes several forms:

  1. Busting really tired myths about what crochet is and is not. We do this by sharing our projects on Ravelry.com, and by me awarding really cool items on our blog!
  2. Supporting crocheters around the world to get out there, show crochet for what it is, be proud of what they love to do, and to form groups if they can.
  3. Encouraging people to design, or write articles. (This is how the book concept was born!)
  4. Taking on the publishing industry and craft yarn industry in the USA and abroad. They have all these things they like to say about crocheters. My personal favorite is, “They are cheap, they don’t use good yarn.” As a hand spinner I often raise an eyebrow at the yarn manufacturers because very little commercial yarn is what I would consider good…so I write to companies (and encourage others to do so as well) and ask them to clarify what they are saying. What they mean to say is we don’t buy expensive yarn. And, I do not think that is true in the least. I think they have not marketed to crocheters. When they do, crocheters will know about their products. You can’t buy what you’ve never heard of.
  5. Liberating our creative selves. We in the CLF do not think that the whole of crochet’s designing potential has been tapped. So we’re one big support party for opening our creative veins and pouring out our hooking souls to make one big creative soup together!

CC: What prompted you to start a blog?
LW:
Well, it seemed like the right thing to do about 6 months after I founded the CLF. That’s when I started to award crocheters for outstanding, phenomenal, and well-made items. The blog was the easiest way to go. I occasionally rant on the blog just to stir things up a bit.

CC: And what sparked you to launch a podcast?
LW:
Um…it sounded like a good idea at the time? And the idea of having a “mock” news show amused me…

CC: How’s it going so far?
LW:
LOL…um…I put it out when I can. I still love to do the recording, but it’s one thing that gets put on hold more often than not. I do like the podcast because people can actually hear my voice, and actually hear that 90% of the time I’m not really “angry,” but sarcastically self amused.

CC: Where do you do your creative work?
LW:
I crochet anywhere and everywhere! That’s the great thing about crochet — it’s super portable. I crochet in the car, waiting in offices, all over the house, when I meet with friends. When you are kinesthetic it actually helps you concentrate on conversations to keep your hands busy. Spinning and needle felting happen at home in my room, and at the fiber arts group I host monthly in Stanwood, WA. Other creative endeavors happen on the deck outside or in the kitchen. When working on the CLF website or book I can work wherever I can find a wifi signal, so that means the local library or my best friend’s house.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
LW:
Yes and no. I crochet all the time; if I’m sitting down I have yarn and a hook in my hands. Hand spinning happens a couple times a month (especially after a shoulder injury). Crochet Liberation Front activities happen from Tuesdays through Saturdays (the library is closed on Sundays and Mondays). I try to get a few hours a day in online. Felting? Intuitive painting? That’s a totally spontaneous deal — that happens when the muse strikes me.

CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
LW:
Before I was a mother, I wanted to be creative. I was musical, but that wasn’t my passion — I was just born with a set of good pipes. I wanted to create visually but I tried too hard, and had too many inhibitions. When my daughter was 18 months old she drew a smiley face for the first time. So I bought her crayons and markers to encourage her obvious talents, one problem; she wanted me to draw with her. So I learned to doodle. She and I would spend hours making scribbles together. I would say my children liberated my spirit, taught me to play, taught me to observe nature and forms in a new light, and most important taught me joy. All of this gave me a fresh perspective, and so I found my creativity.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
LW:
Tough question. I would say that taking time for myself, time for my work without feeling guilty. Being a child of the 1980s I was socialized to believe that you could be “superwoman.” I learned in my mid-20s that there was no way that could work, at least not for me. Even though I was told, “You can be anything or do anything” growing up, I still was socialized with women being in a role of organizer and social secretary, not to mention housekeeping and child rearing specialist. When you’re doing all of that it’s hard to have creative energy left. I used to grumble about this and tell folks, “It’s not fair, no one can do all of this and have time left for themselves…” But taking the responsibility for myself to make time for what I need to do to fuel myself was the biggest challenge. I feel less guilty now, maybe because the kids are older now, or I’m pushing 40. What’s funny is that I realized I was repressing myself, that no one else was doing it…Not that there wasn’t a little resistance from children and husband when I chose to take more for me, but that was just in relation to change…they’ve really found “When Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy” to be a very true statement.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
LW:
Everywhere! Everything! Everyone! From the past and present, I often mix color schemes and patterns from places I have lived in Africa and the Middle East. I take a lot of solace from my garden and the way the colors and textures play through the seasons. I love to create things for young people, and so I ask them what they want to have. It’s amazing what you get out of kids. Oh and recycling and repurposing things is a big thought in my mind now, I find myself looking at “garbage” and wondering what I can do to transform the items so they don’t end up in a landfill.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?

CC: Just for you: What is your greatest indulgence?
LW:
Buying, spinning, and then using exotic fibers to make myself something. I make myself something special once a year. I have a glass crochet hook that I use — it’s a uniquely indulgent sensation to put a cashmere/silk/beaded yarn to that hook…it’s almost better than really good chocolate.

CC: Library: What are you reading right now?
LW:
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (I’m re-reading the whole series).

CC: Soapbox: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
LW:
OK, you asked for it, I got a soapbox and I’m not afraid to use it. First of all I think most times when people say “mothers” they mean mothers of young children or babies…You know we stay moms for the entirety of our kid’s lives, it doesn’t end. What happens are stages. If you have babies, there are things you have to adapt. Your creative energy is often going into mothering. But you can sit them on your lap and do things. I watched a young mother of a month old put her baby in the sling and sit and spin at her spinning wheel at our group. It was great to watch!

For creative pursuits that have toxic elements (paints, dye, glues) you have to make space for it where the kids won’t get into it. It may mean you have to wait awhile to get back to it. That’s OK too, it’s just seasons in life.

I can say that I did far less crocheting when the kids were toddlers than I do now. I was too busy running after them (especially my son who was like quick lightening!). It feels like the little ones will never grow up, but they do and fast. I would get in what little creative activity I could when they were sleeping. I was really excited when my son slowed down at about 5 and I suddenly had far more time to be creative!

Understand that your creativity comes and goes with your energy expenditure and life stages. The other thing is, make time. Just make time for you, even if that means a soak in the tub by yourself. For me, that soak can just get it all revved up again!

I would encourage mothers to share their creative pursuits with their children. I began sharing so the children felt less deprived when I did need time to do what I needed to do. It’s kind of what Dr. Christiane Northrop says about mothers and the people in their lives, we’re like the “cat dish,” nobody’s interested in what we are doing until we’re doing it!

When my daughter and I were struggling through the pre-teen/early teen stage it was awful. In fact I lost a lot of my creative juices because we were constantly in conflict. Then I taught her to crochet. It became a needed common ground; now we share a passion (and she does occasionally raids my yarn stash and hooks, but you know there’s worse things teenagers could raid!) and enjoy creating together. Likewise my son enjoys helping me dye yarn It’s the ultimate chemistry lab!

Have some boundaries on what you do. As much as you are sharing with your children let them know it’s an invitation to your world, and that your world has limits (such as “Hands off the cashmere, Darling, that’s mine!”).

CC: It’s been a treat, Laurie — thank you!

Breakfast with Liz

You may not be looking for a new best friend, but after you read this week’s Breakfast installment you’re going to want one — and you’re going to want her to be Liz Hum. She’s a writer, designer, mother, and the blogger behind My Other Car is a Tardis. Liz is smart, funny, and plain old nice. Plus she’s a FOL. (Friend of Lisa. As in Damian and Guidarini.) Eggs Benedict for everyone! (Just make mine with veggie ham, please.)

CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
LH:
My name is Liz Hum and I will be 30 years old next month. I am the proud mama of (so far) two wild and brilliant daughters, ages 4 and 1 1/2, and wife of the best man that could ever have happened to me, my beloved Viking, with his long red beard that stretches nearly to his navel. (I’m married to that too — by now it is practically like having another family member.) I am a writer, photographer, filmmaker, editor, designer, painter…a jack of most arts, really. But, being a stay-at-home mom, I find so often that I am a master of none.

CC: Tell us about your creative endeavors.
LH
: Right now, I have a side business, Lotus Pictures. I put together video slideshows, and documentaries and design books that center around personal tributes. I cut together demo reels and things like that. I also have done design work and invitations for weddings. I belong to the Algonquin Area Writer’s Group, serving as the Membership Coordinator, where I collaborate with the other members, like your own Lisa Damian, to think of new ways to keep our writers motivated and creative. I’m also supposed to be working on a novel and a children’s book, and I am if you consider surfing the net and beating myself up about wasting time “working.”

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
LH:
I started my blog for two reasons: One, being that I desperately needed to talk to someone. I used to work for a video production company in the city before I had my eldest and I missed talking to the diverse, intelligent, funny, and sometimes plain crazy people that came in and out of the office. They used to joke that I needed my own soapbox-inspired show, because I could often be heard saying, “Let me tell you about that…” to some hapless sap waiting in the reception area. Or to anyone else who happened to be passing time by my desk, be it the FedEx guy or a local celebrity. Reason number two is that I wanted to record some anecdotes of family history for my daughters. Every year, I create a yearbook where I print every blog post from that calendar year and intermingle them with family photos so that one day the girls can look back and laugh. This way, too, if I drop dead, I have shared my stories and my thoughts with my children who will one day be hungry for them. (Not to imply that I am not doing everything I can to prevent myself from dropping dead in the meantime.) Recording our history and having a sense of community with other bloggers keeps me going.

CC: I’ve found women who are most satisfied with their creative lives watch little or no television. You are an unapologetic fan of TV, and also seem to be highly productive. How do you avoid the brain-drain byproducts of TV that sap many tired mothers at the end of a long day?
LH:
DVR, my dear Miranda. DVR! This fabulous invention allows you to record shows and watch them at your leisure, sans commercials. It is the only way to fly. No, but seriously, we save our TV viewing until after the tots go to bed. We don’t watch many brain-draining type shows, so Darin and I are always engaged. Most nights we end up laughing about something, discussing plot points or conjuring up wild fan fiction or hilarious crossovers. If one of us is motivated to create, we save our shows for another day or we just say to ourselves, “Meh. I don’t need to watch Real World verses Road Rules, anyway.” If Darin wants to watch a show that I am not interested in, I go to the computer to work on my writing…and surf the net instead and beat myself up about wasting time. THAT is what I have to work on avoiding…getting sucked into the brain-draining BS on the net.

CC: Where do you do your creative work?
LH:
I have no personal space. My writing, editing, and book design work is done at our shared computer and my fine arts and crafts are done wherever I can keep them out of prying hands, usually the dining room table or a fold-out banquet table. My only true creative space is in my head.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
LH:
Schedules: Do you mean those things that I keep making and having to crumple up and toss out the window because the kids aren’t cooperating, my husband got sick, and the laundry won’t wash itself?

CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
LH:
I had to hone the ability to tune out a lot of noise. Before I had kids, I would crank up my stereo and dance around my apartment in my underwear while painting. I had long silent spaces to think coherent thoughts and write them down. Now, it’s like being constantly under assault, with the yapping and the squealing and the toys being thrown over the gate we have erected around the perimeter of the computer desk. I think in fragments and rarely have the time to write them down. So I put on my “tune out” helmet and now find I can Zen-out amidst chaos…most of the time.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
LH:
Guilt. The guilt of not creating when I try to be a mom. The guilt of not being a mom when I’m trying to create. The guilt of feeling like a crappy artist when I try to rush through a creative project just to get it done. Not to mention the guilt I feel for not being able to be all things at once. Marketing makes it look easy to “have it all,” doesn’t it? We can wear our babies to the coffee shop after yoga class where we can bang out another chapter on our novel, take them to the park, whip up an optimally nutritious meal, teach our children some brilliant skill or new language and then have them delightfully fingerpaint on the floor next to us as we finish our own masterpiece? Did I mention we’re supposed to be cool and stylish at all times as well? I’m in awe of creative moms who can crochet a sweater while breastfeeding or create their crafts while rattling off their kid’s math problems, but I don’t know if I have fully forgiven myself for not being one of them.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
LH
: When I see women older than me actively involved in life. Anytime I see a mom with kids say she just finished her novel, or went back to school. It reminds me to slow down and take the toddler years slowly. Creative life is not over after kids. It just takes a backseat for awhile.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
LH:
Most of the blogs I keep up with are personal blogs of family and friends. I always check the Algonquin Area Writer’s Group, Damian Daily, (thanks again for the nod, hon!), and Bluestalking Reader (the latter two are Creative Construction participants and members and heads of the AAWG). For a laugh, and a little guilty pleasure, I check out What Would Tyler Durden Do too — he makes fun of celebrities. True or not — who cares. It’s often hilarious.

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
LH:
I always (by always, I mean once a week) buy a few bottles of 2-buck Chuck Shiraz and a chocolate truffle bar at Trader Joe’s.

CC: What are you reading right now?
LH:
I am reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert to offset the emotional damage I sustained while reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. My book club’s November selection is The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
LH:
Give yourself a break. When you find you have free time, go for it! But you know what? If you don’t, don’t sweat it — you will. If you live in the present instead of fretting about all the projects and dinners you’re trying to juggle, you’ll start enjoying your time with your kids more and you’ll be able to recognize and utilize your pockets of free time. Sometimes you have to put your art on the back burner and take care of your kids while they need you. Baby & Toddlerhood is a temporary condition, mommas, remember that. They’ll all be in school soon, right? And we’ll have a few hours every day in which to get to know ourselves again. Eyes on the prize, ladies…eyes on the prize.

CC: Wonderful advice, Liz. Thank you.

Breakfast with Carmen

You’ve seen her at this blog before before: artist, mother, and blogger Carmen Torbus. Sit down for this week’s installment of Breakfast and enjoy getting to know the lovely and talented Carmen!

CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
CT:
My name is Carmen Torbus. If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “dreamer.” I currently wear many hats. I’m wife to my wonderful husband of 9 years, Dan. I’m mom to my little monkeys, Morgan (6) and Colin (5). I work fulltime as an admin/personal assistant in West Palm Beach and I’m a college student, studying to become a licensed clinical social worker. My passion is in development… I’m an artist. I’m finally comfortable saying that sentence.

CC: Tell us about your creative work and what’s on the offing in your Etsy shop.
CT:
My art is continually evolving. I love learning new techniques and ways to incorporate them into art. My artwork is often a collage of texture, quotes, words, paper, fabric, and lots of paint. The focal point in my art lately has been girls with a whimsy, folksy, funkiness to them.

I’m embarrassed to say that my Etsy shop is a little bare right now. There are currently two paintings listed. One of them, “Personal Growth” [at left] is one of my very favorite paintings. It represents my growing, evolving heart.

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
CT:
I picked up a copy of Artful Blogging at the book store one day and started flipping through it. I was mesmerized by the artwork of Bridgette Gurzon-Mills. Her artwork on her blog, Contemplating the Moon, drew me in and when I got home, I jumped online and started reading. Her blog lead me to other blogs and I was hooked. I knew I just had to find a way to become a part of this amazing community.

I’ve never considered myself much of a writer, but my blog gives me a place to document what I’m up to, share with my family and friends as well as serve as a journal that I can go back to and see how far I’ve come.

The inspiration I get from bloggers across the globe keeps me going along with the connections I’ve made with some of them. The comments, e-mails, and thoughtfulness are truly amazing.

CC: Where do you do your creative work?
CT:
Right now, I work in the corner of our master bedroom in the condo we’re renting. We just bought a house though and when we move I’ll finally have my own room to serve as my studio. I’m so excited to have my own creative space.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
CT:
I don’t have a schedule for being creative. I fit it in whenever I can. My life is so full with work, kiddo activities, support groups I attend, and school, that it makes scheduling time for art difficult. I do most of my painting late at night or on the weekends.

CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
CT:
That’s an interesting question. When my kids were born, I stopped being creative and I didn’t even realize it. It wasn’t until that day that I picked up that issue of Artful Blogging that I realized how long it had been since I had painted.

What I find really amazing is how much my creativity affects my kids. They want to do whatever I’m doing. My daughter is a very talented little artist. She is so creative and I get a lot of inspiration from her.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
CT:
Probably believing in myself and thinking my work is “good enough.” I think that’s probably a common theme with artists. Developing a style all my own is a struggle as well, but it’s coming. I just have to remind myself to slow down and be patient with myself.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
CT:
Oh gosh, everywhere. I live in paradise. South Florida is just beautiful. I sit at my desk at work and literally stare out at the ocean. It is incredible. I’m truly blessed.

I also get a great deal of inspiration from other artists that blog. Especially the ones that share themselves and their journeys openly. The raw emotion that can be felt by looking at someone’s work and reading their truths inspires me like nothing else.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
CT:
Only 5? That’s tough!

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
CT:
It’s a tossup between art supplies, books, chocolate *wipes drool from chin* and big ole Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks.

CC: What are you reading right now?
CT:
A book by Dr. Brené Brown called I Thought it Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
CT:
Just do it. Get the supplies and sit down and do it. Don’t worry so much about all the “stuff” on the to-do list. Get your fingers messy in paint, dump that old box of pictures out on the table and get to it, dig out the tools and beads and make that jewelry. If it makes your heart sing, don’t put it off. You deserve it.

CC: Thank you, Carmen!

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