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Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

I’m still not sure exactly what happened to me this winter. A part of me would like to slough what I perceive as my lack of professional progress off on some variation on seasonal affective disorder. Another part of  me would be happy to chaulk it up to creative and emotional collapse that follows a year that was hard personally, emotionally, professionally, physically and financially. I’m sure sleep-deprivation was in there somewhere, too. When all is said and done, though, I’m not sure that any of these reasons paints the whole picture, nor does it really matter any more other than as something from which to learn for next time. Suffice it to say that I slacked off more than I intended and let myself wallow in failure for a goodly time, despite having plans and goals set for myself and having determined the means of achieving them.

I have recently been doing a great deal of soul searching and thinking, as well as picking myself up and dusting off my bruised ego and flabby creativity.  For those who find themselves either simply falling out of doing the work they have committed themselves to, I provide the following links from Christine Kane’s wonderful blog (which has helped me no-end):

Sabotage and Persistence

How to Get Anything Done

So I am now working again, this time at reasonable hours. I am renewing my commitment, ignoring self-doubt and following through. I have been going through my studio and sorting out projects, finishing off orders for shops for the summer, finishing off workshop plans, writing up stuff that needs writing and doing inventory. One step at a time and off we go…

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing markedly less of the studio hands-on portion of my job and a great deal more of the paperwork, proposals and organisation aspect. This is normally not the part of my job that I prefer, but recently I’ve been taking a rather strange pleasure in it. Most artists and craftspeople are creative first and business-wise second and I’m really no different than the rest in this regard. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred I’d rather dye fabric than do taxes; working through the creative process on a new piece or series usually seems far more appealing than does revising my contact lists, promotional literature and business plan. Lately, though, I find myself drawn more to the database and spreadsheets than the design wall, so I’m going with it.

February is never a good time of year for me personally and I suspect that winter is hard on many artistic types, especially those who get their inspiration from landscape, light and the outdoors. Simply getting the energy to do anything can be a bit of a trick, which is why I’ve been allowing myself to switch gears and do paperwork for a change.

The book-keeping and proposals are necessary parts of the whole picture, of course, but they always seem to be needed right when I’d rather be designing or working on new pieces. Having a bit of breathing room now, before the rush to fill orders for shops in the spring, allows me the opportunity to do the following:

  • finish off any outstanding book-keeping from last year (done)
  • do taxes (done)
  • write up proposals for shows (ongoing)
  • plan submissions to shows (get prospecti and entry forms) for the upcoming year and budget time for them (done)
  • review bio and other promotional material (done)
  • update C.V. (done)
  • review website content and design (ongoing)
  • update contact lists (ongoing)
  • finish up any outstanding correspondence (mostly done)
  • plan workshops (ongoing)

Last year was a busy year and I think I’m only just now feeling able to pick up fabric again with any sense of purpose. There are deadlines approaching and I have pieces that have been started for them, pieces that I can now bring myself to approach with enthusiasm. Or, for some of which I’m not entirely enamoured, with something more than grudging tolerance.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the aspects of one’s job that are less than inspiring can actually serve a necessary function. They allow us to step back from the creative, hands-on portion when weary while still moving forward with our plans and career. Switching gears and allowing the artistic impulse to lie dormant or fallow for a while can often stimulate a burning desire to get back to the drawing board.

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No, I’m not being sarcastic. I mean it.

VibrantArtists and craftspeople are a strange bunch. We tend to work long hours, are very wrapped up in our work and quite often we came to the business of craft or art through a pastime that grew. When your hobby becomes your job or profession, it ceases to fill the function of “hobby”. Ergo, you need a new one (even if you don’t think you do).


bob on topsail beach

Side interests or extracurricular activities are an important part of a person’s life. At some point as you grow up, you realise that your university degree alone is not what will get you a job or make you good at it. What actually counts is the personal experience that you bring to the degree and the way in which you use your cumulative education to perform your chosen life’s work.


cozy toes (colourful, too!)

Artists and craftspeople (artisans, if you will) are no different. A mastery of skills and an ability to transform concept into tangible object needs to be supplemented by a vision or ideas that require transformation. An artist without side interests and curiousity creates their own artistic void, the kind of void that gives rise to the, “I need to create something, but I have no idea what to do,” conundrum.

Quite apart from sources of inspiration, side interests (I actually rather dislike the term “hobby” as it sounds superficial) can allow you to fulfill other aspects of your persona. Being isolated in a studio for long hours is a personality trait that many artists share, but most of us still reach the point periodically of needing to talk to real, live people. Don’t underestimate the virtue of simply getting out of the house!
A miracle of construction, 2001

Finally, and this is the real point, they get you doing something other than work. This is why your hobby or pastime needs to be different from how you spend your working hours. Many people have overlaps between them (a landscape artist whose hobby is photography and hiking, for instance), but they should be different enough that you switch gears and forget about work for a while.

To improve your work in the studio, try getting out of the studio for a bit consistently. The results may surprise you.

 

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A tactile nature

I discovered something rather interesting about myself the other day and, being that all-to-common combination of altruistic and narcissistic, decided to blog about it so that others might benefit.

I’ve been trying to take better care of myself as of late. This breaks down into exercise, food and water. Sleep is great when I can get it, too. During my revitalisation, I’ve noticed that certain types of words keep appearing; appealing words like crunchy, solid, cool, “felt good” and negative ones like “bundled”. Sensation and touch words are important to my perception of activity. If something doesn’t feel good, I will not keep doing it long-term.

Exercise

One of the hazards of any sedentary job is that the better part of your waking hours are spent…. well…. sitting still or moving minimally. Throw into the mix trying to get basic housework done, sleep and mealtimes and suddenly there’s rather little time left over for exercise.

Optimally, I’d be constantly on the move all day long, gardening or walking or whatever, but that just doesn’t happen to most artists who spend any consistent time in their studios. Let’s face it, when you spend ten hours a day in the house working on stationary projects, you need to get your exercise in more intensive spates. So I’ve been walking/running for an hour every second day and doing various strength-building exercises daily. Must remember to start stretching more, too.

As I progress, I walk faster and run more. I’m being careful to progress slowly as I have had knee problems in the past and (touch wood) they’ve not been back again in several years. By working up to running hard and long gradually, I intend to forestall any resurrection of ligament and cartilage pain.

I have come to grips with the fact that I avoid exercising outdoors in winter and have taken to using the high-tech rubberised university track, which is available to the general public at $2 per drop-in (bring indoor sneakers with you) for as long as you like. Hours are posted here. I’ll probably move back outdoors when spring comes along, but for now, the field house track is a godsend.

Food

We’re actually pretty good about food in this house most of the time, but when things get frantic for both of us at work, food is one of the first short-cuts we take. Instead of eating out or cooking nuggets and fries, though, I’ve started planning for frantic times and have been gradually making casseroles, pies and soups and putting them in the deep freeze in the correct portions for three people for supper. No time to cook properly or shop? Haul out a chicken pie and throw it in the over. To this end, I’ve been amassing a few casserole dishes that are the right size (flea markets are great for this sort of thing).

Stir-fry veggies and rice are the majority of our produce now. I keep sauce ready-made in the fridge for faster suppers. Katherine is also a big fan of curry, quesadillas and pasta, so those frequently make the list, too.

We also don’t keep junk food in the house, apart from the odd treat. Popcorn has become the crunchy food substitute for us and it works great!

Water

If you’re trying to eat less, exercise more and generally increase your energy levels, increasing your water intake is perhaps one of the more productive moves you can make. My particular problem was that I wasn’t interested in water. Then I bought a new set of glasses (they were on sale for half price) and suddenly I’m drinking water all day long without a struggle. What gives? Well, for starters, the glasses are cool, solid, heavy and fit my hand. They also look nice, but that seems to be a side point to how theyt feel to me to use.

This was what triggered my revelation. I finally figured it all out. I’d been going at the whole healthy lifestyle thing from the wrong angle for me. I was quantifying and analysing my workouts, caloric intake and rationalising drinking water. It wasn’t working on a long-term basis. My rational approach was being thwarted by my tactile nature.

I knew I should drink water, but until I found glasses that felt good in my hand, it was a constant struggle.

Not snacking in the evening is great in theory, but my hands get fidgety and I frequently want something munch-able. To counter this, I’ve been knitting socks and, when I get a craving for something crunchy, I make some popcorn (sans butter).

I like exercise, but hate the feeling of being bundled up in sixteen layers while battling snow and cars to get it. The track works wonders and is easier on my pocket than a gym membership. I can also listen to music safely and be in my own little world for a while, with the added benefit of people watching.

I wonder if other textile artists and craftspeople have found that their lifestyle habits (exercise and nutritional intake) are heavily influenced by their predisposition to texture and feel?

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