PRACTICE. EVEN WHEN IT'S HARD.
This week I lost two people from my life. One at the start of the week, a very kind man in his early 60s who had been waiting for a heart transplant and was simply too ill to go on. He had been dying for weeks. It was agonizing. When death came, it was peaceful and he was in the presence of loving family. Given his medical situation, I am happy for him. But I will miss him. I spent considerable time in meditation practice allowing memories of him to arise, allowing feelings to arise, and sitting with my feelings.
Then, this morning, I got news that a Facebook friend whom I had never actually met but whom I'd grown to love, died in her sleep yesterday morning. She was only in her 40s. She was diabetic, and mentioned that occasionally in her postings, but I never realized how brittle her condition really was. She worked and was in a long-term relationship with a guy she absolutely adored; she loved her furry companions; she designed and wore a bright red t-shirt that read "Ask me for a tarot reading!" - and people did ask her. And she read for everyone who asked. She was a believer in living out loud, sharing her thoughts with anyone who read her blog. She was truly fearless in the way she lived her life. And although I never met her, I broke down and cried this morning. What a sweetie, and what a hilarious woman. I will miss her so much...
So, it was back into practice--the hard practice of life after loss. I had already done my formal meditation when this news came, so instead I went to the studio and worked on my rug, while once again allowing memories and feelings to arise. I just tried to be present, to honor the memory of two great people who left the world this week. Am still sitting with all this, and holding them in my heart.
Tonight I engaged in a different kind of practice, on a much lighter note. I worked on the same tangles tonight that I had done for the first time earlier this week. Here was my first attempt (posted here on a previous date, and pictured first below):
Just above are the same tangles repeated tonight for practice. And yes, you are correct--I didn't repeat them "in order." They still aren't great beauties, but they are coming along slowly but surely. They were very soothing to do after a hard day.
Meditation is all about practice. Drawing, and Zentangle®, are all about practice. For that matter, life is all about practice, isn't it?
An Irish headstone tells us: "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal."
I send my love and dedication to Ted and Nadine. I will miss you both very much. I will practice remembering your kindness, humor, and courage. I will practice being glad I knew you.
DEALING WITH CREATIVE BURNOUT
At the end of this post you will find a link to a terrific series of videos by artist Alisa Burke, who is sharing her Five Top Tips for "Coping With Creative Burnout" in her blog today. Thank you, Alisa!
There are 6 videos. Note that the first one sets context about how she experiences burnout (I thought this was interesting, but if necessary, you could skip it and just go to videos 2-7), and the other 5 are between 3 minutes and 7 minutes long, one for each of her Five Tips. If you don't have time to watch the videos, there's a brief summary of each tip on the page also.
She knows the symptoms she experiences when burnout is coming on.
This raised a bunch of questions for me: What are my symptoms when I am starting to burn out? (Ask yourself this question. I'd love to see your responses) Do I "see it coming?"
What advice do I give myself when burnout happens? Does this advice work?
What advice would I share with others, if any?
And other questions: Does burnout happen to everyone? Is it a normal phase that we should expect and accept periodically?
What do you notice when you are about to burn out, and how do you cope with it? I've seen many references to this by artists, some of whom go for just a day or a week, but some of whom go for months or a year or more.
Here is the link to her fascinating videos: Coping With Burnout
About 6 weeks ago I wrote a post to say I was a big fan of Lynda Barry.
Today I was really delighted to see that the website Brain Pickings--truly one of my all-time favorite places to go on the web--has dedicated this wonderful post to her. They said it so much better than I could, and they included many photos from her book, Syllabus. She is a genius at fostering creativity in herself and in others. All hail, Lynda! I am a forever fan.
Please check out the Brain Pickings post to see how she does what she does.
Two practice tangles today, my first try at both:
Looks as though I have a lot to learn about both of these; both need practice. Sam Taylor didn't misspell her tangle; she took out the "h" to distinguish it from the narwhal whale that inspired the form.
Next I went outside and noticed it was just as warm and humid as I had guessed, meaning I won't get to the studio today because it will be unbearable there.
So...more tangling. This time I tried a new one called Frost Flowers, starting in the upper left and then scattering the flowers around, finally doing an experimental version on the lower left.
And after that, I decided to see if I could combine all of them in one tile, so here it is. I truly enjoyed doing this and found it quite meditative, and I can also step back and see just how much I have to learn about composition, LOL!
But no matter. It may not be pretty, but I *am* practicing, and that is what counts. It's kind of hilariously awkward.
I've been working so hard on the rug that I haven't had much time for tangling. It appears I am capable of doing on only one project at a time. I have truly missed tangling and now that the weather is about to turn stinky (my definition of stinky = hazy, hot, and humid) I will be able to focus more on tangling and will...alas...have to abandon the rug.
Wool + hazy + hot + humid + no a/c is a dreadful prospect.
What I love about both of these arts is that they are both entirely meditative. One line at a time when tangling. One loop at a time when hooking. Both lend themselves to complete absorption in the moment. Both teach me to focus. Both calm the mind , and although one does eventually get a result from both, the aim of any given moment is not results-oriented.
Contemplative art/craft...along with meditation, these are highlights in any day in which I get to practice.
FIRST THE SELF-CONGRATULATIONS:
Done! I am freaking done with these hellish socks! I am thrilled beyond belief. I have blogged about them before; at that point, I thought I had been working on them for about a year. Which is ridiculously long...so as you can guess, I was mostly NOT working on them at all. But I pulled them out a while back, dug in my heels (appropriate for working on socks), started in again, stuck it out, and now I am done...congratulations to me! Normally, if I'm working slowly and taking breaks on a pair of socks, they might take me about 6 weeks. But not these.
NOW THE GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT BIT:
As it turns out, I was wrong about having worked on them for a year. I went back and thought more carefully about when I would have begun...and reached the conclusion that it has been closer to 3 YEARS. Seriously! I have never, ever spent that amount of time on any project, and this is a testament to how much I hated working with this yarn.
Please understand that I have made dozens of socks with no problem at all. But for some reason, the yarn for this pair made the work very tricky and was big-time drudgery all the way. I cannot count the number of times I ripped out several inches and re-knit them. Many people told me to just throw them out, but dammit, I am stubborn and very persistent and was determined not to let the yarn get the best of me. And so they are done. Done!!!!!
I only wish I knew what the yarn was, so that I could avoid ever buying it again. It looks like regular sock yarn, but isn't. Long ago I made a pair of red socks that had yarn that acted the same way; I also slogged my way through those and it took at least 3 times as long as it should have.
I am done with nasty weird sock yarn. The next time I run across yarn that acts this way, I will indeed throw it out, having proved I could complete 2 projects with it. Nasty stuff.
NOW THE PART ABOUT OBSESSIONS:
And speaking of yarn, how does this look? Everything you see here is yarn. Yarn in a bag. Yarn in the boxes.
My studio-mate K and I did a major yarn buy at an unheard-of cheap price for over 100 pounds of highest-quality rug yarn. I do not imagine I will ever have to buy rug yarn again. I do imagine I will spend quite a bit of time dyeing my share of this yarn. Good thing K just got back from her 4-day dye workshop (see the previous post). Cannot wait to begin playing with color and then punch-hooking my next rug.
colors, geezers, naps
Another wonderful Wooly Bully Rug Hookers meeting today. Even though it was warm and sticky out, in K's condo it was cool and dry and we were able to get some work done on our rugs without being uncomfortable. These are the only pictures I took and they are not photos of rugs. Just look at what K did in the dyeing workshop she took at Pro Chemical and Dye over the last four days:
I could be wrong but I think she said she and 13 fellow students dyed over 1400 colors in just four days, and each student walked away with three huge binders of color samples and recipes. Quite amazing. K spent the entire meeting today just organizing the sample pages into color groupings and then beginning to put them into her binders. In the last photo on the right, you can see the binders-in-progress; but in the other 3 photos you see the luscious colors she and her group produced. And she has the formula for every one!
Conversation at the meeting was rich, as usual. We arrived around 10 and all left at 1:00, and all four of us (everyone else was traveling today, so we only had four present) had a big laugh later when we each found out that all of us took a long nap on getting home. K at least had an excuse, having been so busy at Pro Chem for the last 4 days. The other 3 of us admitted to frequent napping when we can.
Ah, the life of a geezer. I must admit, it's great fun.
As summer comes on, I will find myself unable to work on the rug. Imagine having wool on sweating skin...what could be worse? It will be impossible. So, I plan to spend as much time as possible on tangling and on getting back to Sketchbook Skool. While I am sad the rug will have to wait to be finished, I'm also looking forward to getting back to drawing and tangling.
Here comes Summer Solstice! Enjoy, everyone.
Check this out--what fun! Someone pointed me to this new app, called MarbleCam. I took a few pictures of my rugs and one of my quilts. Gave myself a giggle. It occurs to me that I ought to post the "real" pictures of all these rugs some time, as I don't think that I have done that. Another time. Today I'm just having some well-deserved fun after a difficult morning in the studio. See the previous post.
Before I get to the rugs, I'll start with an old tangle I did:
That was a rectangular tangle from my journal, which the new app has "marbelized." And here are few of my rectangular rugs and one quilt--enjoy!
LESSONS OF UN-DOING
In meditation this morning I was thinking about the importance of not-doing--those times when it is wiser to do nothing, to pause, to reflect. We are an action-oriented culture, and that bias for action is great under many circumstances, and disastrous under others.
It is a good thing I was thinking about this, as when I got to the studio today to work on the rug, it was the importance of UN-doing that came to mind.
The two concepts--not-doing and un-doing--are related. If, for example, I had taken the time to pause and reflect (not-doing) on the rug's defective borders (see my last entry, the Rug Rant), rather than plunging ahead, I would not have had to spend the day un-doing.
Here is the rug today as it was before I did anything to it:
No, no, no. Wonky up-and-down black border, drawn wrong by whoever created the pattern...and the black line doesn't leave enough room between itself and the motifs in the outer border.
I was trying to ignore this and keep going, rather than stopping and taking time to really reflect. I came in this morning after several days away and took one look and knew it was never going to work. I would never feel good about it if I tried to finish it this way. So...
Time to UN-do:
Out came the entire black line, all the way around the rug, PLUS a lot of the previously hooked rows that were near it. In other words, I took out a huge amount of hooking that I've done over the past couple of weeks. Disappointing, but necessary. The two piles show what I have removed. A lot!
If you allow your eye to travel down the photo towards the bottom, you'll see once more just how badly drawn the borders are--check out how many times this border has been redrawn by whoever put this pattern on the linen. SHAME ON THEM.
I knew there was really no other option than to redraw every border on the rug myself, and then re-hook the black line and re-hook the interior spaces that I had already hooked. This will leave me more room for the border motifs. Otherwise, the design will be crushed due to uneven lines. I do not have nice words for the original drafter of this pattern--really there is just no excuse for selling something like this.
After pulling out rows and rows of hooking, I set the rug down on the table and began redrawing the borders, first with pencil and later with a red pen. What was so frustrating was how easy it was to re-draw the borders straight and evenly by just putting my pencil in a linen "ditch" and just dragging it across. Because of linen's even weave, this step is a cinch. How could the pattern drafter have been so unable to do this?
One side, though, has such unevenness that I had to fudge things, jumping from one row in the ditch to another, in order to make the border even remotely straight. So sad that I was forced to do that when it could easily have been done correctly by the original drafter. This meant I also had to redraw some of the border motifs to get them to sit right within their newly allotted space. Then, once all that was done, I had to re-draw the outer border.
Here are a few of the corrections I made, in red. (More to come, alas) You can see where I've removed some of the identifying owner's marks just off the right hand side. Just glance around the outer borders and you'll see the start of all the corrections.
As I said in my last post, I simply cannot believe that the woman who owned this pattern business (she sold the business years ago) would produce something this shoddy. She is known for her quality work and teaching, and I respect her. I honestly don't understand what happened here, unless she hired someone very careless to produce this pattern.
To cheer myself up, I've been playing with a new app on my phone. More about that in the next post!
WARNING: THIS IS A RUG HOOKING RANT
This post is a minor rant about badly drawn rug hooking patterns. When I first got into rug hooking many years ago, I bought a bunch of patterns because I lacked the confidence to design my own. Over the years, I bought a couple of additional patterns...it's taken me a long time to hook my way thru all those patterns, and now I'm impatient to get to my own designs. However, I am determined to finish the patterns I have. After this one, I only have 2 left, one of which I will punch hook. But I digress.
I must have bought the pattern for my current rug 17 years ago, because it says copyright 1998 on the linen. I bought it from someone whose integrity I totally trusted in terms of her business practices. (I'm still a fan of hers) When it came to my house, I was too busy to hook it so I just put it away, thinking I would get to it soon.
As the saying goes, "My bad."
My bad on 2 levels: First, it took me 17 years to start hooking the pattern, and second because I trusted the pattern maker, I never looked at the pattern carefully. That second part makes everything that follows all my fault. I have total confidence that if I had sent the pattern back to her, as I should have done at the time, she would have made it right. But I didn't look at it, and 17 years later it is a bit late to say, "Take this back; it's all wrong!"
So I am stuck with the fact that I didn't check it.
Live and learn from my mistakes. ALWAYS check that patterns you buy (or create) are drawn on the straight of the grain. Always. If they are not, send them back immediately. Any reputable pattern maker will re-do the pattern and sent it back for free.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. On three sides of the rug, the inner border has not been drawn straight. In fact, look at just HOW "off" it is below--you can see that if it were drawn straight, it would have run right through the outer border design! Look at the faint pencil tracing just below the black wool border on the right:
You can also see some holes in the linen (middle of the photo) where I've pulled out what I've already hooked, trying to figure out how best to approach this problem.
Now here are two more photos, the first with the black wool of the border being "stepped down" frequently in order to compensate for the badly drawn design, and the second with a row of the white inner background added; you can see how much "stepping down" is going on to try to make this right. It's terrible! And it is on 3 sides of the rug! And there is another outer border that's just as "off" as this inner one. The entire rug was drawn carelessly on the linen. There is no excuse for this.
In order to make this work I am going to have to cram extra wool in at the step-down points on either side of the border, to push it around and make it look straight. This will not be fun.
Someone was very careless/mindless in drawing this on linen, but to be very clear, I was very careless in not checking the pattern when I got it. Seventeen years later, I am dealing with my own mistake of not checking.
Curious about this--the business I bought the pattern from was sold a few years ago--I went to the new owner's website and noticed that this pattern is for sale, but is half price because of "errant print marks that may not meet our high quality standards." Good for them for being clear, right from the get-go, that there is an issue; buyer beware! Although the new owner sounds very ethical.
I don't mean to imply that the original owner is unethical; I had heard she had a few health problems around the time I bought this, and it's possible that someone other than she drew up this pattern, trying to be "helpful." The person I knew would never have sent out a pattern this badly done. I think I can work with it; it's just going to be harder than it should be.
Check your patterns. Always draw on the straight of the grain. Check even if you know the person you are buying from is totally reputable. Because, let's face it, shit happens, even to the best of us.
Every loop can be a learning experience; that's one of the many things I love about making rugs.
--End of rant.--
I'm really writing this post to myself. Reminding myself: Just try. Never mind the past...just try.
I have a long history of spectacular failures when trying to follow simple directions to assemble things like basic furniture, tv and computer setups. This is one reason I've never set foot in Ikea. If what I hear is correct, when you buy something there you have to put it together when you get it home. Eeeeek!
Years ago when I used to make my own clothes occasionally, I cannot count the number of times I sewed things with the right side facing in and wrong side facing out. Even when following directions carefully. I would screw these things up no matter how many times I checked and double-checked myself.
So when I bought a cheap rolling cart with drawers to hold art supplies at the studio and realized it had to be assembled, I was highly dubious. SHUDDER. But no pain, no gain...right? Assuming the worst, and too embarrassed to ask for help, I gave it a shot.
Of course I did make one huge mistake, despite studying the parts and the directions for quite a long while. But I was able to un-do that and then re-do it, and all turned out fine. I'm now incredibly chuffed about having put this stupidly-simple cheapie set of drawers together. Triumph!
<visualize fist pump here>
After which I went out and bought another one just like it and put that together as well. With nary a curse word spoken along the way.
Ok, that's kind of a lie. But almost nary.
So now I have two of these cheap rolling carts and I can't wait to load them up with pens and art tchotchkies. And as of this morning, I've got my table set up on sawhorses, so I can work on days when it's not horrifically hot.
I really need to remind myself to treat these scary (for me) "some assembly required" jobs as mindfully as possible. To take things one breath at a time, look at the directions--even when they are badly written, as is often the case--and just go slowly. To expect the unexpected. To know I can get better with practice; the second cart went together really easily. I can do this. Really. And to know that I can ask for help if I end up needing it. I'm sure my kindly studio-mate would have pitched in. Fortunately for her, I did this when she was out of the studio.
Finally, yesterday I combined two things I totally enjoy. I worked on my rug for a while, and then did some tarot work with a friend on a dream she had. We were interrupted, so while she was busy with something else I went back to working on my rug, knowing we would finish the tarot work later. At one point I looked up and saw this:
Definitely a fun afternoon.
Is that 3 weeks of every day in the studio? Nope. 3 weeks of very sporadic chances to get in there, but when I did...wow. Would never have gotten this much done at home. Exactly the point I made in yesterday's blog entry. Just sayin'.
"This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be...
"This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen." (Joseph Campbell)
More and more I am appreciating the opportunity to have a studio. There's nothing else to do when I am there but work, and that has made such a difference in my progress on the current rug project.
I spent part of the day today in the studio moving things around, trying to envision how to set up a large table, where to put it, what I need for a base. I will be sad when the summer heat makes the studio unworkable (as I know will happen shortly). Now that I'm finally feeling well again, I am just reveling in this great, unusually cool June weather. It gives me so much energy. What a luxury and a gift to be able to have this space!
I did get a fair amount of rug work done, but a nasty computer glitch I was attempting to fix, and moving furniture, distracted me (Um...didn't I just say there's nothing else to do but work there? That's generally true, but I still have to make the effort to keep the environment work-enhancing). Planning how to set up the space so that I can draw and do punchneedle is also going to take me away from the rug project, but I need to look at the setting up process itself as legitimately creative.
"I always prefer to work in the studio. It isolates people from their environment. They become in a sense...symbolic of themselves." (Richard Avedon)
Once the studio is fully set up, I am hoping to get back to more non-Zentangle® drawing and color work, as well as punchneedle embroidery, and of course dyeing wool and punching rugs with the hand-dyed yarn. I cannot do the dyeing there as there is no access to water or a sink; there's also no access to food, not even a vending machine. If you want to imbibe it, you have to bring it. The bathroom is in another building altogether (fortunately one can make the l-o-n-g walk to the bathroom and still remain indoors, but you better get started long before you need to go). These are all good reasons why it's a highly distraction-free environment. There aren't even stores or restaurants nearby.
At the moment, it's quite messy in there as K and I are just starting to sort things out (we share the space--thank you, K, for inviting me). Things are higgledy-piggledy, walls are largely bare...all a lovely bit of chaos that we will eventually work through, and I look forward to doing that.
More inspiring studio quotes:
"Never apologize for your studio."
"Every time you go into the studio it's like 'chasing a greased pig.' "
"The only thing I know is that if I get to my studio, that means I'm alive today."
Honestly, I never understood the use or value of a studio. I certainly do now.
Rain, rain, and cold...I LOVE IT. So much easier to get work done than hot, humid weather like we had a couple of days ago. Circumstances have conspired to keep me out of the studio until today, and I had only a few moments in there, but I can describe my progress as follows:
In case you cannot spot it, all 3 inner motifs are now done (check progress of the one on the left, at the top). I'm now going to focus on the background in the inner section, then will begin planning the border.
And in the "What's It?" category, I made another "What's It":
Micron 01 pen on cardstock, multicolored pencil. Double-sided scotch tape, and patience.
I still have no idea what to do with this kind of thing, but it was fun to make.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society