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Posts tagged ‘wool’

Molly: Honoring Your Creativity

Molly Tinsley recently posted several comments here at Studio Mothers, and I was intrigued by her creative process. I knew you’d enjoy hearing more from this Australian, home-schooling mother of three. Enjoy!


My “studio.” I did have one in the garage, but it got engulfed when my parents moved house!

My “studio.” I did have one in the garage, but it got engulfed when my parents moved house!

I double-guessed my creative impulse for far too many years. I’ve always been “crafty”; always decorated the edges of my school notes with complex designs that were far more interesting than what I was writing down. I studied art, particularly ceramics, all the way through high school, but was told quite seriously at the age of 15 that creativity was something that I would “grow out of” and so being a good girl I shelved it away and studied to become a lawyer. (That was an absolute disaster — its own saga.)

But now, 25 years after that unhelpful advice, I find myself struggling back towards that creativity — back towards a creative life, a life in which I take my creativity seriously, in which I listen to it and honor its impulses. This is how I found Studio Mothers — looking for someone who could help me with this re-focusing while homeschooling three energetic little boys! I found the advice to do something creative every day, even if it’s just jotting down an idea on an index card, to be incredibly helpful and inspirational. I find it very hard to find and honor my creative impulse and this is a way of acknowledging this part of my life on a daily basis.

“Gum Leaf” bowl. Stoneware, underglaze and underglaze inks.

“Gum Leaf” bowl. Stoneware, underglaze, underglaze inks.

I often liken my creativity to listening for a faint sound of music on a windswept beach. I need to turn carefully to hear the thread of sound and to follow it. I’ve found that the second I try to force something — to do what I “should” — the sound dries up and I have to start at the beginning again.

Some people are born with the equivalent of full-blown marching bands: they’ve always known what they wanted to do and have never doubted their calling or their path. For the rest of us, particularly those of us who have had our creative leanings deliberately discouraged, the process is a little more tenuous. I’d like to add that that discouragement isn’t necessarily cruel. It’s simply that most people don’t understand how a living can be made from artistic pursuits, and so assume it can’t be done and try to discourage the budding artist “for their own good.”

Leonie Dawson has a wonderful, and quite different, way of describing the creative process. She calls it Riding the Wild Donkey. Actually, being Leonie, she calls it “Riding Ze Wild Donkey” and it’s a much more robust way of framing the issue than “Listening for the Windsong of the Universe.” 🙂

“Bushfire Sunset.” Acrylic on MDF.

“Bushfire Sunset.” Acrylic on MDF.

Her take is that a Wild Donkey of an idea shows up in your paddock and you jump on and ride that thing until it’s done. She has periods of intense creativity and yeehahs her way through until the project is finished, then has periods of recuperation. She calls the stuff she’s tried to do slowly “Mount Project” as it’s piled up into a heap on her desk and slowly gets bigger.

I think that the key to this approach is that you just go at it until it’s done. This may well work better with e-books and courses than with 15-foot canvases or epic photography series. In those cases, you have to find a greater depth of stamina and commitment to see the project through. Or, alternatively, you may need to find some way of chunking the project down so that you can throw yourself at each part with mad abandon.

This approach also has echoes of The Cult of Done Manifesto, which is, as it sounds, about finishing work. I don’t agree with all of it. Number 5, for example: “Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.” That wouldn’t work for me. I tend to pick things up, do them for a bit, put them down again, then pick up something else. Eventually, I work my way back around to something that I put down and finally finish it. This is where the bit about honoring my creativity comes in. The urge is to finish at all costs, but I just don’t work like that and I need to trust in my process — that I *will* circle back around to those pots and finish them; but right now I’m sticking seashells to my collage (isn’t acrylic medium AMAZING?!).

“Gum Leaf” platter. Porcelain, underglaze. ceramic inks.

“Gum Leaf” platter. Porcelain, underglaze, and ceramic inks.

I’ve also found it unbelievably annoying that the second I try to monetize my art, the creative impulse just dries up completely. I have an Etsy shop that has held the same scarves for the last year. I have a studio FULL of art that I keep putting off photographing and popping up for sale. I have a wide selection of rather cute ceramic dishes (if I do say so myself!) that have been waiting for 4 months to have their bottoms waxed and to be dipped in clear glaze and given their final firing.

I’m lucky in that my family is not dependent on my ability to make money from what I love. I have the opportunity to experiment widely both within and across genres and media. In the last year I have experimented with photography, stamp carving, reduction lino printing, ceramics, acrylic and watercolor painting, needle felting, and collage. In the past I have also experimented with papier-mâché, mosaics, garden design, acid etching, dying, and sewing.

Without a supportive partner, I’d currently be working as a librarian and checking out craft books from the library on the weekends! When I was working fulltime, I had absolutely no time or energy left for my art. Homeschooling has its own set of challenges, but I can set the boys up with paints and paper and they can splosh away while I try to get some painting or glazing done.

Actually, while I have my librarian’s hat on, I can highly recommend the book “Creating a Life Worth Living” by Carol Lloyd. It’s not a quick read, but the book is worth dipping into and out of as Lloyd covers a huge number of the issues to do with both having a creative life and paying the bills at the same time.

Needle-felted Fairy Tree with Bluebird of Happiness & Zombie Pig & Rabbit. Wool.

Needle-felted Fairy Tree with Bluebird of Happiness & Zombie Pig & Rabbit. Wool.

She’s also a great believer in daily creativity — whatever that may mean to you. I find Morning Pages a bit daunting these days, but can always find time to do a Zentangle. I also find needle-felting in the evenings while listening to documentaries (I MUST get into podcasts!) to be both relaxing and a good way to express my creativity. It’s turning to winter here in Australia and so I suspect that I will circle back around to my knitting needles and start again on the Bolero I put down last October.

Its difficult to trust in this process — to accept that its not an efficient way to get art done, but that it’s *my* way to get art done and if I don’t honor it, the desire to make art at all just dries up completely.

I’d be very interested to hear of your approaches to honoring your creativity. Do you work slowly or do you get things done fast in a fury of inspiration? Does getting paid for your art change the way you approach it? If you get paid for your art, do you approach paid and unpaid work differently? If you are a mother, how does caring for your family impact on your ability to honor your creativity? If you work, what affect does that have? We all have so many roles to play that it can sometimes be difficult to honor our creativity and still get everything else done! I’d love to hear how you do it!

1/21 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

A fun assortment for this week’s creativity contest prompt: “wool.” And not a baa-d entry among them. (Sorry!) Our winner is Kelly Warren, for a creative project she and her daughters sent in. Kelly writes: “I was stumped on this one until I started going through a pile of sweaters I was taking to Goodwill, and then the perfect little mom and daughters art day idea hit me. The girls and I were home for the MLK Jr holiday and created these pieces. The ‘wool’ came from the purple wool sweater I felted and then cut flower petals from. The girls followed my steps as I created my piece, each putting their own little spin on it. They actually added the rhinestones to theirs before I added any on mine! I love the freedom of their pieces! Makes mine look a little boring! We had paper and glue everywhere and had a great art day together. This morning, the girls wanted to take their pieces to school to show their art teacher, Ms. Haddon. When we showed her and I told her about our process, she literally had tears in her eyes. She said it meant so much to her to know that at least some parents were making art at home with their children and asked me to please bring in any other pieces we make together for them to share. Very sweet.” Nice work, Kelly, Livvie, and Sarah! (Shown in that order.) Your $10 gift certificate is en route.





From Bec Thomas: A photo of her sumptuous collection of handspun yarn. Don’t you want to curl up in that pile, face down? Although if you closed your eyes, you’d miss the spectacular colors. Bec writes: “There is a lot of different fibers in that lot, wool, mohair, alpaca, camel, silk, yak, and feathers. Many of my yarns are a blend of various fibers and are usually one of a kind.”



From Cathy Coley, a poem:


I used to live in wool
the smell of it damp against my face
scarf breathed warm
a shield against New England winter wind

hat scratchy pulled low on my forehead
sweater over turtle neck under coat
I even had a wool poncho, hooded
great for fat flaked snowy days
and gloves
all of it wool

wooly knickers or tights under my jeans, too
one last pair of socks with a hole in one heal
all that remains of my wooly days
before Virginia

no fat flakes hover suspended
upon my shoulders or top of my hat
no shoveling the heavy plump,
heart pumping big
breath of wool warm and damp
against my raw cheekbones
no comfort in this unusual cold.


From Karen Winters, a painting entitled “Yorkshire Pals.” Karen writes: “I painted this in watercolor a few years ago using two different copyright-free reference photos. I liked the picture of the sheep but the background was poor. So I found a background landscape from the same region that I preferred. When I am painting, whether en plein air or in studio, I don’t let reality get in the way of my creative vision. Just because a tree is growing THERE doesn’t mean we have to paint it. And if the sheep are lovely but on an uninspiring background … well … we can make it different. Creativity is the process of inspiration plus innovation. The late Milford Zornes, watercolorist, once said ‘Don’t paint it how it is … paint it how it could be.’ So these Yorkshire pals are how they could be.”



From me (Miranda): A scarf. A mohair scarf. A very long mohair scarf — considerably longer than it needed to be, largely due to the fact that I don’t know how to cast off and I needed my mother to assist me. So I just kept on knitting while I waited. I think I waited, and knitted, for a few months before she finished it off. Last year I thought the thing looked a little loose-knit and I decided to wash it for that boiled-wool look. Uhm, didn’t really work out like I’d intended. Still, I’m proud of my poor straggly scarf, because it’s the first thing I ever knitted, and it’s actually a finished project.




This week’s prompt: “Hope”
Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, January 27, 2009. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

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