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Posts tagged ‘studio’

How She Does It: Liz Pike

Liz Pike lives in Shropshire with her husband and three young children. She writes short stories, fiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in the Guardian, Third Way, and Fractured West, among others. She creates hand-lettered poems and commissioned work. Liz also teaches creative writing to children. She previously worked as a bookseller and librarian and earned a master’s in creative writing from Goldsmiths University, London. She likes long train journeys, old photographs, and earl grey tea. You’re going to enjoy your trip to Shropshire!



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SM: Please introduce yourself and your family. Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
LP: Hi, I’m Liz Pike. I live in Shropshire, UK, with my husband Joel and our three children, ages 8, 6, and 4. I am a writer and hand-letterer. I recently completed a novel, which I’m currently submitting to agents. I also just finished hand-lettering a collection of 34 of my poems about motherhood called There You Are. I sell that at my Etsy shop, along with prints of my poems and take commissions for custom hand-lettered prints. I teach creative writing to 7- to 11-year-olds at afterschool and Saturday clubs. This year I have plans to write another novel, hand-letter some other poems, build the hand-lettering business, and write a graphic novel about the experience of living with Type 1 diabetes (my daughter was diagnosed when she was 2). I’ll probably get about a quarter of that done, but you never know!

SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
LP: Ooh, that’s a good question. Ultimately, I would love to have my novel published. I also would love to make a living from my work (as opposed to a side living, which is what I’m making now!). I love The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and was thinking the other day about my “true north.” I think a lot of it has to do with my writing being out there and for it to resonate with people. That’s why I write; to connect with people.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
LP: Oh, so much! At first, I thought it robbed me of time and energy, but it has made me love more deeply and care more deeply. I think motherhood has helped me to grow into a real human being. I was so self-centered before. The first few years of motherhood were so overwhelming but now there are days when I have the house to myself and I can claw back a little time to make sense of the whirlwind. Motherhood has also given me a good chance to step out of work for a few years and to carve out a creative niche for myself.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
LP: In my bedroom, I have a corner that is taken up by two cupboards full of writing resources (storytelling dice, ink stamps, typewriters, first lines from novels, all sorts of things that I use when teaching creative writing). I also have a nice big desk, made by my husband and father-in-law, that I do all my drawing and writing on. I have a wall with lots of great quotes pinned on it that is ridiculously messy but gives me comfort. There’s also a lot of stock for the shop and random bits and bobs.

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SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
LP: I write and draw whenever I can. My littlest isn’t at school yet but goes to preschool three days a week. So those are my work days. I don’t make other plans so I just sit and make to-do lists and get on with whatever feels most pressing at the time. I tend to have a chaotic mind as I’m often juggling different things at the same time; drawing commissions, planning lessons, submitting writing, etc. So, to-do lists are my friends.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
LP: Hmm. It always feels elusive doesn’t it?! I think I would like to earn enough to not keep thinking I should go and get a “real” job. Also, a clear path to getting my writing out there and an audience that wants to receive it. Something I’m writing around at the moment is the freedom of being an artist as opposed to being a writer. As an artist, you can create something you’re pleased with and then sell it. As a writer, sometimes you can work for years on something that you’re really pleased with but it must be validated by someone else for it to exist in the world [if traditional publishing is the goal]. This is why I went down the zine route for my collection of hand-lettered poems and published it myself. I just wanted to get it out there.

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
LP: I don’t know if I feel successful; that doesn’t feel like the right word to me but it feels great to watch the children thriving and enjoying life, and also finding their niche in the world.

SM: What do you struggle with most?
LP: Lack of time. It’s fine during term time because I have a nice balance, but I really struggle during school holidays when I can’t find the headspace to be creative as I’m so exhausted!

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SM: What inspires you?
LP: Reading great books. I got some great books for Christmas: I’m reading Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I just discovered her writing. I first read Bird by Bird and am now reading everything else I can find. I’m also reading Lynda Barry’s What It Is, a blow-your-head-off graphic novel about creativity.

SM: What did you do in the last month that felt hard?
LP: I’m not very good at surviving winter! We live in an old cottage that’s always freezing cold, so I’m finding it hard to resist the urge to hermit. My poor laptop also suffered an injury just before Christmas and had to go in for repair. It felt awful sending away this baby and all the years of work that are on it! But I just got it back today so life can carry on.

SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
LP: I would love for me and my husband to feel that we have arrived. He is a musician (Tiny Leaves) and we still kind of feel we are in the uphill struggle. I would love to travel more with our children. As our daughter is Type 1 diabetic, everything a bit more complicated when it comes to travel.

SM: What are you reading right now?
LP: As mentioned above, those are the ones I’m reading right now, but am also partway through the stack of books that are teetering on my bedside table. I’m halfway through All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (which is amazing) and I’ve just ordered Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual as I have half a plan to try to extend a short story that I’ve written into a novel this year — it’s about a bunch of different people living in a terrace of houses and I thought it might be interesting to see how he did it.

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
LP: I’m finding Instagram really great for finding fellow hand-letterers and other creative types — and I love how people discover my work through hashtags. I seek out great sites like Studio Mothers that highlight these fantastic, creative women, juggling motherhood and creativity. Ella Sanders has a fascinating Instagram account, merging poetry with image — and I’d love to find more people in this field. I also love Popshot Magazine for its fresh dose of positivity and questioning whenever it arrives on the doormat. I feel like I’m out on a limb a bit with my hand-lettered poetry because I can’t find anyone else doing what I’m doing. It’s not a graphic novel because it’s not sequential, and it’s not visual poetry. I don’t even know what to call it but I feel happy that it exists.

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
LP: To get my work out there instead of waiting for external validation. It has been the source of a lot of frustration! Also, to like myself a bit more and to be patient with myself. But maybe they were things that I couldn’t have known 10 years ago because I had to go through the journey that I’m on to get where I am now. So that’s OK.

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
LP: I love Quiet by Susan Cain. One of the encouragements she offers is that it’s ok to have a niche and to go deep into that one area. Be a specialist. Concentrate on what you do best. And don’t rush. There is so much pressure to rush with social media. I am noticing that for the last three years, I have had one major output per year. And when the kids were really little, it was like zero output per year. It is only now that I have the time and I look back and find all these treasures that I created when I didn’t have time that can be worked on again.

The year before last, I spent all my time redrafting my novel. Then last year I was submitting it, but also working on my hand-lettered collection and the business was starting off. This year, there are lots of things that I’d like to do. But headspace and finding a balance is important too. I also think that times change. There are different seasons when we want to concentrate on different things. The year before last, I was doing a lot of teaching but now I find I am doing more hand-lettering. I like the variety though, it keeps it fresh.

Find Liz!

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How She Does It: Kimberly Wachtel

Happy 2018 — and welcome to the first “How She Does It” post of the year. It’s a delight to introduce you to Kimberly Wachtel. Based in Western Massachusetts, Kim has more creative mojo than than we can really fit into a blog post. But we tried. Enjoy!



Kim_WachtelSM: Please introduce yourself and your family. Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
KW: Hello! I’m Kimberly Wachtel and I’m a painter, singer, gardener, wife, and mother of a 5.5-year-old boy and an almost-3-year-old girl. I have a design business, Where Earth Meets Sky Designs, where I make and sell paintings, paper cuts, and embroideries as original pieces, greeting cards, and archival prints. Where Earth Meets Sky Designs also includes my garden business: I work in clients’ gardens doing design, plantings, and upkeep in the warm months.

I sing and perform with my husband as Radio Free Earth. We present rare gems we’ve unearthed from the tremendous heritage of American and world music during the past hundred years, along with insightful, incisive, humorous, and moving originals. Radio Free Earth forges a coherent repertoire from diverse elements. At once irreverent and serious, humorous and instructive, acoustic and electric, political and spiritual, Radio Free Earth takes you on a musical journey that illuminates the human condition along with possibilities for transcending our present circumstances. I’m involved with other musical projects in my community as well.

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SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
KW: My dream is to have my life be my art and my art be my life. I have always loved singing, music, creating, and appreciating art — and a little later I fell in love with gardening. Slowing down to look carefully, listen fully with my heart, smell intently, taste the products of my and others’ labor, and to feel with my whole body is what brings me the most meaning and joy. For me, art, singing, music, and creating is about deeply connecting. I try to take moments in the day to do this even when I’m not in the studio or I’m not officially “working.” I pull the car over to take a photograph; enjoy the aroma, color, and textures of the plants I’m working with or the food I’m preparing for dinner; turn the music up loud to fully enjoy a song and let myself look out the window and get lost in a daydream.

Orange_and_Turquoise_Folk_FlowerThe year before I became pregnant and had my first child I grew interested in and passionate about looking back to traditional methods, particularly the folk art and practices of Poland, Hungary, and Eastern Europe, as a point of inspiration for my life’s work and art. In 2011, I spent six weeks in Poland and Hungary. I was part of a summer program at a university in Krakow where I studied, in particular, Polish folk arts. I spent quality time with my family in Poland and Hungary as well. My art, gardens, and cooking especially connect me to my ancestors who worked the land and had trade skills there. My goal is to learn more and return to Eastern Europe with my family to meet others who are the keepers of traditions, conduct a research project, and write about my connections there.

Humankind has taken a turn towards living a polarized, disconnected life. Often in our contemporary, capitalistic, consumer-driven culture we lose touch with our connection to the more basic and beautiful natural world and rhythms. The old peasant ways show us the natural life cycle rhythms that create a real and sustainable connection to our place on Earth. Learning from and practicing folk ways may be an antidote to what ails contemporary society: mentally, spiritually, politically, and socially. People who work the land are deeply connected to the seasons and their immediate landscape: plants, animals, weather, seasons, and life cycles. My goal is to reflect this idea in the images I create, in the gardens I tend, in the food I make, the songs I sing, and the research I want to do in future when my children are a bit older.

I’m happy that my desire to be an artist, a desire I’ve had my whole life, is reality.  As I grow my card business throughout the year, make new art in the colder months, and work in the gardens during the warmer months, I see that my work is connected to the cycles of the seasons of New England. Doing seasonally appropriate work helps my business become economically viable and keeps me engaged physically and creatively to the seasons and cycles. Along with my above-stated goals, I hope that my art and garden design work creates sustainable income for me and my family in years to come.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
KW: Motherhood has been mainly a blessing to my creativity. At the same time, being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom with my kids while they were infants and young toddlers. For about four years I stopped working for other people. I spent some of that time working on my own art business. This period, as I learned how to be a mother of two children, gave me space and perspective to reimagine the kind of work I really want to do and how I can do it. Being home with my kids during their young years really pulled me away from my studio practice and my ability to take on regular garden business clients. All of that began to change last spring when I found regular, full-day childcare and preschool for my kids 2-3 days a week.

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Before kids, I was really good at wasting time and putting others’ needs before my own. Now, as a self-employed mom with art, garden, and music projects, I can’t waste my time. All the extra tasks and attention that came along with motherhood definitely made it harder for me to waste time. I still struggle with work/life boundaries and get pulled out of my creative time to problem solve a family task, like putting away the toys littering my living room. I’ve become better at really using the three six-hour days I have to myself each week to get into the studio or out in the gardens to work. I am extremely gratified to see that getting clear on my artistic vision and abilities, taking risks, and slowly putting one foot in front of the other have added up to much meaningful, creative work and a meaningful, creative life with my family.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
KW: I do my art in my home studio, a lovely room we made out of a three-season porch the spring before my son was born. I had been working in our second bedroom but that had to become our kids’ room. I feel so grateful to have this beautiful space (with doors!) that is fully mine. I work outside in my gardens and others’ gardens. I practice music from my home and others’ homes and perform out and about, mostly locally. I travelled to Poland and Hungary in order to understand and connect with my creative muse.I plan on doing more of my creative work and research while traveling with my family when my kids are a bit older.

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SM:
Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
KW: Yes! Monday, Tuesdays, and Fridays my son is in kindergarten and my daughter is in daycare/preschool. I work best in the mornings. I try to get into my studio by 8:30 am to 9:00 am after driving my kids to school. I work for a couple of hours then take a break. Then I work until I need a walk around 1:30 pm — or I skip the walk and work straight through until I need to be with my kids around 3:00 pm. Daytime hours are best. I’m too tired and mentally foggy at night to do good work. I’m not good at working while my kids and husband are home. The threat of being interrupted looms large and is too much to bear. Sometimes I steal time on the weekends when my husband can be with the kids for a few hours. Music practice and performing is year round and mainly done in the evening after the kids are in bed. We practice music in the living room or in my husband’s “music shed” in the backyard so a babysitter is not needed, thankfully. However, having relationships with a few really good babysitters makes gigging out in the evenings possible.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
KW: Creative success means never giving up on your creative dreams and practices. Sometimes I have to accept that I will not get a lot accomplished or completed. This is hard. For example, in the three years since my daughter was born I have not made a new painting. All of that is changing now and I’m beginning to paint again and make new designs. Putting one foot in front of the other and making even the tiniest steps towards fulfilling an idea or meeting a goal adds up and eventually leads to completion or accomplishment. I feel most successful when I’m able to complete a project or fulfill a goal. It also feels really good to see my card business growing and my designs being enjoyed in stores. I’m happy that my art and garden business are able to bring in some money for my family. Creative success is engaging with myself and others to bring something beautiful into the world. The beauty shared may be a moment in a song, a sound or lyric sung, an image that reminds one of someone or something that is loved, or planting a beautiful garden that pulses with life and color.

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
KW: Laughing, smiling, cuddling, talking, teasing, reading, playing, and connecting with my kids. The moments truly connecting with my children make me and them feel really good! Growing and making healthy food and feeding it to my family also feels good, although I’m not sure how much the kids appreciate it yet. As I work on having clearer work/family boundaries I think I will more fully enjoy time with my kids and time with my work without feeling guilty, like I’m always pulled to do other than what I’m doing in the moment.

Kim_Wachtel_kidsSM: What do you struggle with most?
KW: I struggle with the endless tasks, messes, noises, to-do lists, and attention my family needs from me. These things pull me away from where I feel most at peace and happy, the quiet moments reflecting, appreciating and/or creating something beautiful. I struggle with feeling angry with myself and my family because I can’t always figure out how to create clearer boundaries and more space for myself, my work, and time to just enjoy playing and engaging with the kids.

It is hard to have so much work, so many ideas, and so little time to myself. Since my husband is the main breadwinner, his job and work responsibilities come first. At any time my work can be interrupted by a snow day, illness, holiday, or an absolutely must-do task.

SM: What inspires you?
KW: Beauty, beauty, beauty! Authenticity, imperfection, nostalgia, the handmade, nature, plants, desire, horizons, warmth, love, the sky, bright colors, folk traditions, seasons, life cycles, mystery, the moon and stars, passion…

My card designs are especially inspired by the folk-art traditions of my ancestors. I love the colors and patterns found in embroidery from Poland and Hungary. I love the designs that decorate pisanki (decorated Easter eggs), woodcarvings, paper cuts, and folk paintings.

SM:  What did you do in the last month that felt hard?
KW: The past month or so has been an exercise in me letting go and accepting that I can’t control my schedule. I had some health issues come up, out of the blue, that made it impossible to work for a few weeks. Then my son was home sick, we had a snow day, and finally the holiday schedule made it difficult to get momentum going in my studio. I’m working on new card designs and am preparing for two art openings in the spring. I have deadlines looming at the end of February so I feel the pressure to get things done. I find it hard to be the person in the family who constantly needs to adjust to changes in schedules because of health, weather, and holidays. This reality eats into my already limited alone hours for work.

SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
KW: In a coupIe of years both kids will be in school fulltime. As this happens, I want my art and garden design to be a source of sustainable income. I want my body to continue to be healthy and strong so that I can keep up with strenuous garden tasks. I want to live in Poland with my family for a year and perhaps travel back and forth regularly to continue my study of Eastern European folk traditions. I’d like my children to see how other cultures live. I’d like them to learn another language by living somewhere where English is not spoken as a first language. I’d also like to learn Polish well enough to get around easily and converse with family, friends, and others I meet on this journey. I’d like to bring our music overseas and play out while we live and travel. I want my kids to be healthy and engaged, in a kind way, with the world around them. I want to share the beauty found in this world, firsthand, with my children and others through my art, music, and work. I’d like to engage in all this over the next 10 years.

SM: What are you reading right now?


SM:
What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
KW: I just started up my Instagram account and I’m a bit obsessed. I love posting pictures of beautiful things that I see as I go through my days. I also seek out the beauty that other people share from around the world about their lives and creative pursuits.

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I have a complicated relationship with Facebook. I love and hate it. Facebook is great for keeping in touch, even if superficially, with family and friends near and far as well as social and cultural events. I use it as a tool for posting my own events. I hate Facebook because it sucks me in and I can easily waste time. Facebook can really feed the things I find so ugly about our contemporary world. I must be mindful of what I read and post. I don’t want to feed my fears on Facebook’s extreme negativity and polarization.

I used to blog regularly and follow other blogs on Blogspot. I miss it and the relationships I made with fellow creatives around the world. Since my daughter was born, I no longer regularly write posts and read those of others. I have a “Musings” page on my website and think about writing more regularly there. Instagram feels like a shorthand version of what I experienced when I blogged, and is more doable with the time I have available.

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
KW: I wish I’d had more confidence and believed in my artistic desires, pursuits, and abilities 10 — heck, 20 — years ago! As a young adult, I put other people’s ideas, projects, and dreams before my own. In my 20s I was not super clear on what I wanted. I’ve been working on music and performing regularly with Radio Free Earth since I married my husband 16 years ago. I taught art, continued adult painting classes here and there, and never gave up on learning about and making art as a young adult, although I didn’t know then that one day my art would become a business. Luckily when I was 34-35 years old I was able to sort out some things for myself, get clear on my artistic vision, and begin to more deeply pursue art and creativity. This happened right before I had children. In a way, my creative self was born through maturing, preparing for, creating, and giving birth to my own children. When I look back on the last 20 years I see that I’ve been on a creative path all along. Everything that happened and that I chose was and is part of the evolution of becoming. This is the path I continue to walk. I’m not there yet and I still have a lot of work I want to do.

SM:  What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
KW: My advice is to quiet down and listen to that deep inner voice/pull. Make time to connect with it. Listen to your deep knowing and follow your intuition. Things happen in mysterious ways. Take risks, do the work, and make your needs and work important enough to give them proper attention and energy. Don’t push your creative desires aside for too long. It’s ok to hire a babysitter, find a suitable and loving daycare, send your kids to school, and ask for space away from your family. Something always has to be ignored in order to give full attention to something else. Just try to keep it all in balance. Even when your children are young, it’s OK to claim space and time for yourself, even though it can be very hard to do. Continue putting one foot in front of another, even if baby steps, towards goals. You’ll be happy and surprised that in a week, a month, a year, or 10, you’re able to get things accomplished and make your dreams become real.

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Creative reader! Would you like to be featured at Studio Mothers? Send a note to Miranda at ideas@mirandahersey.com.

How She Does It: Michelle Templeton

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Michelle Templeton, a visual artist and writer living in Seattle. In the studio, she paints and makes woodblock prints. At the keyboard she writes fictions and is at work on a novel. She has exhibited work in a variety of Seattle venues in both group and solo exhibits. Her literary work has appeared in Firefly Magazine, Lunch Ticket and Helen: A Literary Magazine (forthcoming). See more of Michelle’s work at www.michelletempleton.com.


Michelle Templeton

Michelle Templeton

SM: Please introduce yourself and your family.
MT: I am a visual artist and writer in Seattle. I live north of the city in a woodsy spot with my husband and ten-year-old son.

SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
MT: I paint in acrylics and mixed media on canvas and paper. I also make woodblock prints, carving images into wood and printing the image on paper with ink. The themes of my visual art center around the world of childhood and family life. I like taking small moments that might not seem meaningful at the time and capturing them on canvas to tell their story.

I am also a fiction writer. I just completed an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. I’ve had a few stories published and I’m working on a novel. The novel is the story of three generations of women from the same family; their struggles and successes. It’s about grief and learning how to make your own life.

Woodblocks

Woodblocks

SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
MT: For a long time, I believed I had to sell lots of work to be successful. It’s very gratifying to sell work and have that validation but I’ve learned that the real success is being able to spend my days doing work I love. That’s a luxury many people don’t have and I feel really fortunate to do it.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
MT: Motherhood taught me to make every minute in the studio count. It feels like I never have enough time there so when I do have a block of time to work, I make it matter. I have no internet in my studio; nothing to distract me from working. When I’m there, I’m intensely focused. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to get things done when you don’t have the luxury of unlimited time.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
MT: I have a studio away from home, about a ten-minute drive from my house. When my son was a baby I worked at home but there were a lot of distractions. It’s so easy to stop working to do a load of laundry, clean house, waste time on the internet. What I love about my studio is that it is my safe, distraction-free place. No kids, no household chores, no internet. It’s a place dedicated entirely to my creative work.

TempletonStudioTable

Michelle’s studio

SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
MT: This question made me smile. I try hard to have a schedule but my son’s schedule is my top priority. I schedule blocks of work time for myself during his school hours, but I also have to balance that time with time spent on my bread-and-butter job. It’s a challenge, and that’s not including the days my son has no school, gets sick, or has a dentist appointment. It’s not easy; flexibility is a requirement.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
MT: My primary definition of success is that I get to spend my time making art and writing fiction. Having said that, sharing my work is important to me too. It’s deeply gratifying when someone loves one of my pieces enough to spend their money on it; to make space for it in their home.

Templeton_watercolorportrait

Watercolor portrait

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
MT: My son’s happiness. It’s important to me, of course, that he does well in school, that he learns what he needs to know to become a successful and contributing adult. My bottom line, though, is that I want him to feel loved and to enjoy his life.

SM: What do you struggle with most?
MT: Never feeling like I have enough time. Doing the multi-tasking mom-thing makes it a challenge to have long, uninterrupted blocks of time for my work. It can get frustrating at times.

SM: What inspires you?
MT: Other women. They are managing careers and full family lives and making it work. Everyone is working so hard and with incredible grace.

Portrait

Portrait

SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
MT: By then my son will be in college and I think my daily schedule will have opened up. I look forward to having more sustained work time.

SM: What are you reading right now?
MT: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. I’m only about 75 pages in but it’s wonderful so far.

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
MT: I love art supply websites like Daniel Smith and Blick’s. It’s fun to drool over all the fabulous paints and tools. I also love writerly sites like poets.org, Brain Pickings, and Lit Hub. My steady go-to is Facebook where I’ve built a strong network of other artists and writers.

Easel and prints

Easel and prints

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
MT: Feel the fear and do it anyway! For a long time, I felt I had to feel ready (unafraid) to jump into a creative life. Eventually I realized that there is no such thing as feeling ready so you have to take the plunge in spite of the fear.

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
MT: Persist! Even if you have tiny children and you can only manage ten minutes a day of creative time, keep going. Whatever you are able to do will be enough to keep the spark alive inside of you. Don’t give up.

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The Importance of Making Space

A favorite from the archives of 2011!

home_office_CCMaking space for your creative work is almost as important as making time for your creative work. When you have a work space that feels inviting and inspiring — even if it’s just the corner of a room — turning to your creative work feels like a delightful retreat, rather than just another item on your endless “to-do” list.

In her fabulous book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp notes: “To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit-forming.” When you have a space that calls to you, it’s easier to go there regularly. Regularity, as Tharp points out throughout her book (as the title would suggest), is the heart of creative output.

We all know Virginia Woolf’s famous dictum that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf was speaking about the feminist need for independence in order to create. Most of us probably feel comparatively liberated, despite the fact that we have children and Woolf did not — but her point is well taken.

Many of us don’t have the luxury of our own room or even the corner of a room to call our own. We take over the dining table when the muse strikes and then have to dismantle the work area when it’s time to eat. If this is the case for you, brainstorm ways to make this process as user-friendly as possible.

It’s also possible that there IS a nook or cranny lurking in your home that you could claim for yourself with a bit of re-thinking. Bring your creative skills to finding a space in your home that helps you return to your creative, authentic self as seamlessly as possible. And if you’re fortunate enough to have your own space, you might spend a bit of time in the coming month editing out anything in this space that doesn’t work for you anymore. Clean it up, organize, bring in a few fresh visuals that speak to you. Make it yours. Then, dig in.

What works for you?

“Without the studio, however humble,
the room where the imagination can enter
cannot exist.” ~Anna Hansen

This piece was reprinted from the Creative Times, our periodic newsletter. Click here to subscribe!

Photo courtesy Hiné Mizushima.

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Monday Mojo: Beck Metzbower

Hello there, creative powerhouses! I’m thrilled to reinstate our regular interview series by introducing you to Beck Metzbower, a visual artist based on the US East Coast. You’re going to love Beck’s no-nonsense approach to being a fulltime working artist and reaching her goals. Find out what Beck has in common with Eleanor Roosevelt — and how she once found inspiration in a vending machine. Enjoy!



2017-05-13_09.03.04SM: Please introduce yourself.
BM: Beck Metzbower, contemporary artist.

SM: Tell us about your artwork and other creative endeavors.
BM: I make formal, highly textural work. And it’s abstract — meaning I can hide all sorts of lovely topics and statements within the work. I have a terminal master’s degree in visual art and choreography and, of course, a BFA in fine art. Both degrees were awarded by Wilson College. I exhibit nationally and internationally. I curate one yearly solo exhibit and I am so excited about a fall 2018 exhibit currently in the works.

SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
BM:
My career goals are very similar to anyone else’s — to expand, to create a strong brand, to accomplish several specific projects, to acquire more assets, to build a stable and working network of other creators and industry-related individuals. In addition to the exhibit scheduled for fall 2018, I’ve authored a book to be released in March of 2018. Those are two of my short-term goals in progress. Read more

Miranda: For the Love of Books, Before and After

During August, I’ll be sharing a few choice tidbits from the archives. Enjoy!

Warning. This post contains an unusually intense degree of navel-gazing and otherwise raving on and on about one’s home library, books, and related minutiae. If you find such material nauseating, turn away now. 

Recently, I posted this on Facebook:

I’m staging a serious overhaul of the home library/office today, with Mom’s help. The question is — and please don’t cringe, fellow bibliophiles — shelve the books by author last name, or by jacket color? I know, I know….but I peruse and admire many design blogs and must admit that books shelved by color look fabulous. Although I’m not sure I can bring myself to mix genres…..help!

I was amused by the considerable volume of responses. People feel VERY strongly about how to organize their books — as well they should. This is serious business, people!

rainbowWhen I first heard of organizing books by color, I thought the premise was among the most ridiculous things I’d ever heard of. Not to mention sacrilegious. The whole idea sounded like “book as prop,” in the way that a professional decorator might buy small decorative things for a client’s room simply because they look nice against the wallpaper; nothing whatsoever to do with the item’s meaning or symbolism or its emotional value to the owner. Just “stuff.” Books, of course, are not “stuff.” Ew.

But over time, I came across more instances of books organized by color that really looked beautiful. Not just a stack of three yellow books next to a yellow vase, but shelves organized wholesale by color. Still, how would you ever find anything if you didn’t organize all of your books by genre and then by author last name?

When we moved into our new home, I was thrilled to unpack my books and various possessions into our new library. I very vaguely segregated the books by nonfiction and fiction, intending to properly sort out the shelves, alphabetize my collection, and arrange all of my non-book items in the near future. Eight months later, the time finally arrived. My mother had given me a birthday coupon for a day’s worth of organizational help (and, most importantly, moral support) so I booked my sitter for an extra day, and on Friday my mother and I tackled the library. (It seemed indulgent to pay for babysitting in order to overhaul my library/home office, but considering that my mother and I worked all day long on Friday, and then I spent the better part of the weekend finishing the job myself, I know that this never would have happened if I hadn’t paid for the extra help.)

So, alphabet or color? I was intrigued by the color principle, and I had to try it. (Obviously, by the photo I ran above, there isn’t much question about which way I went.) I can’t believe HOW LONG it took to sort all the books, but we did it. (All those “taupe” books — are they gray? Are they brown? Are they off-white?) It was a LOT of fun, I have to admit. And I came to realize fairly early on that finding a specific book was not going to be a problem. But more on that later.

I also went through ever drawer and bin, sorting out all of my office supplies. I weeded out tons of stuff I don’t need or want. I filed every stack of paper. I found (or created) logical homes for all those little things that you pick up and say “what do I do with THIS?”

I now have a desk that I can actually use! I paid bills sitting at the desk last night, and everything I needed was in arm’s reach. My art supplies are organized in the hall closet around the corner, as there just isn’t room for everything in one place. But it all works.

The basic footprint of the room hasn’t changed (months ago, we tried many different arrangements of the furniture, but nothing else worked). I did change out a yucky fiberboard bookshelf for a marginally better, longer bookshelf made by my ex-husband. (No, you can’t have it back!) Please ignore the hospital-style table on wheels (it’s one of the most practical things I own, and I use it all the time).

BEFORE

B_before

AFTER

B_after

Desk corner before:

Desk_before

Desk corner after:

Desk_after

Considering that relatively little actually changed, aside from clearing out all the clutter, I can’t entirely explain the magic that this room now holds. I FREAKING LOVE IT. I want to be in here all the time. Yes, I’m in here now, typing on my laptop at my desk. I swear, it’s as if Mr. Roy G. Biv turned the room into a bowl of M&M’s. Very cozy at night, too:

night1

night2

So here’s my case for organizing books by color. In the first “after” photo above, fiction comprises the vertical shelf on the far right and the white shelf up the middle. That’s not really so many books. If I’m looking for a particular title, it’s not going to be hard to find even if I can’t remember the color of its spine. This is the only place I have adult fiction aside from my “to read” shelf on the other wall. The books to the left in the same photo are general nonfiction (biography, autobiography, and history). Again, these are mixed together, but it’s not a lot of shelf space for me to peruse if I need something. The fifth shelf is poetry.

On the other wall, books are broken down by genre. I have a shelf for editorial reference, a shelf for art reference, a shelf for books about writing, a shelf for books about creativity, a shelf for parenting, a shelf for self-help & metaphysical (yes, I have that many self-help and metaphysical books). There’s another shelf of semi-mixed nonfiction; a little chunk of current political books, a chunk of animal-related training books, a chunk of sports-related books, a section for gardening. Then there is the to-read shelf, as well a short fiction and plays. And so on.

For each of these subsections, I organized books by color and shape, depending on what looked best for each shelf. Again, I’m not going to have trouble finding anything because I know what each subsection is, and no single subsection is more than a shelf long.

So, now that I’ve dealt with the question of “how will you find anything?” I’ll get to why I think this is such a fabulous way to organize your books. First, a book is so much more than words on a page, or the author’s position in an alphabet. A book is a piece of art — even an old Bantam mass-market paperback — and to my mind, organizing books this way is something that honors each book as art. Positioning each book on a shelf in a way that maximizes its beauty (almost as “paint”) rather than by the name of the person who wrote it seems to me a more potent way to celebrate the beauty of a personal library. The shelves are pleasing and peaceful, without losing the vaguely chaotic and cozy look that is inherent in any library. The color progression is so eye-catching that I think it actually calls more attention to the books, not less — without dominating. What do you think?

The downside to having a dream library/work environment is this: There is pretty much no excuse left on the planet for not coming up with something brilliantly creative. I seem to have run out of excuses. And I DID just use an entire weekend’s worth of “free” moments to finish the room. Time to get to back to the writing 🙂

What do you think?

The Importance of Making Space

During August, I’ll be sharing a few choice tidbits from the archives. Enjoy!

Making space for your creative work is almost as important as making time for your creative work. When you have a work space that feels inviting and inspiring — even if it’s just the corner of a room — turning to your creative work feels like a delightful retreat, rather than just another item on your endless “to-do” list. We also know that one way to dispel resistance is to shape your environment to support your goals. The easier it is to get at your work and get down to business, the more likely you’ll be to actually follow through.

In her fabulous book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp notes: “To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit-forming.” When you have a space that calls to you, it’s easier to go there regularly. Regularity, as Tharp points out throughout her book (as the title would suggest), is the heart of creative output.

We all know Virginia Woolf’s famous dictum that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf was speaking about the feminist need for independence in order to create. Most of us probably feel comparatively liberated, despite the fact that we have children and Woolf did not — but her point is well taken.

How can you change your space in order to better support your creative work? Many of us don’t have the luxury of our own room or even the corner of a room to call our own. We take over the dining table when the muse strikes and then have to dismantle the work area when it’s time to eat. If this is the case for you, brainstorm ways to make this process as user-friendly as possible.

It’s also possible that there IS a nook or cranny lurking in your home that you could claim for yourself with a bit of re-thinking. Bring your creative skills to finding a space in your home that helps you return to your creative, authentic self as seamlessly as possible. And if you’re fortunate enough to have your own space, you might spend a bit of time this month editing out anything in this space that doesn’t work for you anymore. Clean it up, organize, bring in a few fresh visuals that speak to you. Make it yours. Then, dig in.

“Without the studio, however humble,
the room where the imagination can enter cannot exist.”
~Anna Hansen

What works for you?

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