Home is Where My Art is

When I am being creative I feel I am in my place in the world.  Be it writing a poem, printmaking, painting, or creating something out of clay that’s when I feel the most “in my skin” no matter where I am at.  This is my upstairs studio in my farmhouse in rural Oregon.IMG_0524.jpg

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Place in the World

The Joy of “Breaking the Rules”

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“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
[Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996]”
― Nora Ephron

As a child, I tried to please to gain my mother’s attention.  I colored meticulously in the lines and got straight A’s.  As a teen, I strove to have a perfect body but did not have good material to work with.  As hard as I tried, I was not beautiful nor popular.  It all was for naught.  Trying to be perfect did not curry affection.

Around 40 years-old I had had enough of being a perfectionist.  It was making me miserable.  I decided if you can’t be perfect, strive to be interesting. I started breaking free by doing small acts of rebellion. It began with my artwork…..

I quit practicing calligraphy.  Making perfectly proportioned letters gave way to altered, be-creative-2111029_1920skewed forms.  I gave up working on the wheel in ceramics shunning symmetry for wonky, sometimes smooshed,  handbuilt pieces.  The female figure became a lovely opportunity to distort and exaggerate.  There are often holes where breasts Mama Tilly front QEshould be, with huge hips & thighs going counter to what our culture celebrates.

I avoid drawing straight lines preferring to make them wavy or zigzagged.

img_0342.jpgWhen I began teaching (I started late), I changed the Ms. in my name to Mz. Pass.  When students questioned that choice I responded that I really liked the letter Z. It was a horribly underused letter of the alphabet and I thought it worked better in this application.  That explanation seemed to satisfy their 6th-grade minds.Garbo tilly QE

I use a “coffee name” at Starbuck’s or equivalent when I order.  This habit started out since no one could seem to write or pronounce my name correctly.  Zelda became my alias but I am having so much fun having a different name I am considering trying on others for size. Olivia or maybe Ophelia?

My latest is leaving the gender and marital status blank on forms when possible.  For race I check “other.”

These small acts might seem ridiculous to some, but for myself, a recovering perfectionist, they are oddly liberating.  I am always on the lookout for other creative ways to break the rules.  For more on my crusade against perfection go to my post, “Escaping Perfection.”

In the meantime, remember…If you can’t be perfect, strive to be interesting.

You’ll be so much happier!

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Throwing Stuff Overboard

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High School

CHECK

college

CHECK

work

CHECK

marriage,  divorce,  marriage, child, divorce

CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK

Grad school, career

CHECK, CHECK

Child leaves home

CHECK

Retirement

CHECK

?

REALITY CHECK!

Continue reading “Throwing Stuff Overboard”

Just for Play, Just for Fun

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“You could sell those”

a familiar phrase

then watch my passion

turn to drudgery

as I turn out clones of my art

for a few shekels in my pocket

or I could continue to create butterflies

just for the joy of watching them fly

setting them free

without attachment

savoring the delight

as they land

in another’s hands

 

It takes a certain amount of energy to sell ones work- at least as much as making it.  After the New Year, I have given up such notions to just play and experiment with printmaking,  clay, and mosaics. It’s liberating to just experience a process without attachment to profit or outcome.  Play is undervalued in our culture.  It is so rejuvenating.

 

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Courtesy Austin Kleons Blog, “In defense of Hobbies”

 

 

 

Passion vs Profit

There are many ways to structure a creative life.  I admire those that can make a living IMG_0395from their pen or brush.  For me, anytime I have attached profit to my creative endeavors, the business of it all can suck the very joy out of the process. In my experience, it takes at least as much effort to market and sell my work than making it.  Now in my 60s and retired from teaching for over 2 years I am asking myself “How do I really want to be spending my remaining precious time on this Earth?

This dialogue has cropped up again in the wake of my first holidayDSC00500IMG_0397 show of the season.  Yes, I walked away with a few hundred dollars in my pocket but was it all worth it? I could have made that money easily with some substitute teaching (which I don’t mind) and been far less exhausted.  By the time I crunch my time in my studio, schlep my stuff to the venue, sit and sell (hoping for good attendance), make my booth fee, schlep home and unpack, ask myself “Where is the joy in all this?”

IMG_0501Thinking about profit sabotages both my spontaneity and my passion, like a relationship gone stale. I have one more show and then that will be it.  My Etsy shop will remain up.  It will generate a few sales and act as a portfolio of sorts.  After the first of the year, I will be selling my big kiln as there will be no need for it.  If someone wants to buy my work, great, otherwise I will enjoy donating it to others and make just for the joy of making.

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Thinking “Inside a Box”

cell-1496385_1920Gas molecules will fly all over the place unless held in a container.  That’s what I’m like .  Unless I am contained in a structure, I am all over the map.  As a result, I can feel inefficient and anxious. Ironically it appears that in order for me to “think outside the box”, I need to be in one

For most, they have a structure imposed by a job, school, and/or family responsibilities.  That used to be me but 2 years ago I retired from teaching and now it’s up to me to create my own structure.  In other words, I get to be my own parent.  Scary.chest-2648225_1920

I make several kinds of visual art, play music, sing in a choir, and write, plus take care of an aging farmhouse on rural property.  I’m doing a little of this and a little of that.  As a result, my work is all over the place with no real sense of focus & accomplishment. I am “showing up” but irregularly without a clear set of goals. So after bumbling around for a while in this new found frontier of freedom, I realize that in order to function effectively I need to create my own “box” for myself to save me from chaos.

IMG_1647Recently I sent for books on the subject. Currently, I am reading ,  Goal Setting for People Who Hate to Set  Goals.”   This small book by Keith Ellis is helping me prioritize & set measurable goals step by step.  Today I am going to sit down, write out my goals and create a visual flowchart to follow.  For me, unless I write things down and have a visual posted in a place where I see it consistently, all will be a wash.

Some successes thus far: I have started to get up an hour earlier.  That helps a lot.   I also for some months now have been following a modified version of the house cleaning and organization system on flylady.net.  My house is way more in order and clean than ever before by just following her simple systematic approach.   I function much better in a clean, orderly environment.

If you have any tricks to stay focused and organized, I would love to know!

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Just Show Up

wrecker-2061697_1920No matter what rut you’re in, creative or otherwise, the only way to escape is by momentum.  Whether it be a running start with or without an external assist (think tow truck) as in a class.  Here is a free tow truck- watch the Mel Robbins’ Ted Talk.  She is a good motivator.

IMG_1551After a bit of a dry spell this summer (literally and figuratively), I decided to take the sage wisdom of other creatives and just SHOW-UP.  Anything is better than being miserable. So I have been just showing up to my studio with no great inspiration, choosing to do whatever caught my fancy.  “Junk collage” started me off, then I joined an informal mosaic group on Monday mornings that a friend of mine started.  ThenIMG_1549 there is nothing like SIGNING UP.  I have a couple of holiday shows now I need to create for.  Deadlines are a great motivator.  I bought a new bag of clay and I’m ready to go.

IMG_1547Creative dry spells are no fun.  There is a certain desperation and despair about these times.  But just like being physically out of shape, the only way to get in creative shape is to start moving.  It’s uncomfortable at first and discouraging to begin again.  Creative muscles get sore too.   That means baby steps.  Show up 10 minutes a day if that’s all you have in you and work up to more.

I’m not making masterpieces here, but I am making, and making is when I’m happiest.

 

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