The start of any creative project requires something called Beginner's Mind, or Don't-Know Mind, which is also an ideal state for meditation. Since every meditation is different, using Don't-Know Mind is the best way to approach each one.
Just as with wool work, holding expectations at bay until I find out how things actually look and what actually comes up in this moment always works best for me. I learn this lesson repeatedly. Next time you see rug photos, the work will look different. Next time I meditate will be different as well.
Below is a new frame I was lucky enough to have delivered today. It turns so easily. As I said, I have two rugs underway right now. The one above is traditionally hooked and the one below is punch hooked.
Frame is available from Notforgotten Farm.
Yup, I'm starting another rug. This (below) is the first throw-down of possible colors. Who knows how many will be used? The design is a "challenge" my local rug hooking group is taking on--we are all hooking one particular pattern in our own way. Some members are already done; I haven't even begun mine yet but hope to get it underway tomorrow or later this week. I'm getting excited.
I actually introduced the pattern to the group in February and everyone wanted to try it.
The entire phase of beginning a rug reminds me of meditation practice. Every single time one sits to meditate, it's a form of starting over. You never know what will happen. It may not be fun every single time, but it is always interesting.
It's the same with hooking rugs. I always have a hazy mental picture of what I'll be producing, but the final result may or may not agree. Getting to the finish line can be a series of daily, or even moment-to-moment, changes.
My next unpredictable rug adventure is officially underway.
See description of this workshop below. This was the result for me; I ran my black & white photo of the cutouts I did during the workshop through the Painnt app on my phone, with this result. I used construction paper and then parked the cutouts in this arrangement on a sheet of white background. Painnt did the rest. I converted the photo to b&w in order to let Painnt do its job.
I am in love with the London Drawing Group, a trio of women dedicated to doing and teaching art. When I saw this workshop on Matisse's cutouts--only £7 or about eleven bucks, and only 1 hour--I thought, what a great way to stimulate creativity. So I signed up and had an absolute blast. We made a number of cutouts in only 60 minutes, only a few of which I used for this photo. Here's the black and white version from my phone before I ran it through the Painnt app posted above this paragraph:
But I wasn't alone in attending. There were people from all over the globe. Two of them were good friends from my rug hooking groups--I had contacted them to tip them off in advance to the workshop and they both signed up. We all knew it would have immediate uses for rug design. And it certainly did.
Here is the work of one of my buddies, Kathleen K., who also attended. Rather than cutting paper, she cut her shapes directly from wool fabric. I love her results. She gave me permission to post this:
And below is the contribution from Lynda F, another rug hooking buddy who also gave me permission to use her photo:
Construction paper cutouts--they can be arranged in so many different ways. Thanks to Lynda F for allowing me to use her results and this photo! If you notice similarities between our cutouts in these photos, it's because we all worked from the same photo models during the workshop. Only our individual cutting techniques created differences. But the possibilities are truly endless.
"I wouldn't mind turning into a vermilion goldfish."
Sometimes we are dealing with circumstances that beg for a focus on equanimity or calm. (And who doesn't need that these days?)
I've been taking a 3-session class with Alina Smolyansky of Vancouver called Neurographica for Artists. Very, very interesting. Today we did the final class, a Tree of Life with a theme, and my theme was "Calm" or "Equanimity." We had just a small introduction to this method of art and healing, and it was fascinating. While I'm probably not able to take a Basics for Users class right now--just too busy--I intend to at some point. Another wonderful form of art to explore! Eventually.
Equanimity requires some practice, and practice requires time. In order to achieve my own equanimity, I need to cut down on commitments for a while. Otherwise I would have signed right up for her "Basics" class. Thanks, Alina.
This is a short tale of trust and patience. It's been weeks since I've had time to do any drawing at all--an indicator of how over-scheduled I've been. Yesterday I had a scrap of time in the morning and thought I would do some tangling...and then noticed a curious reluctance. It had been so long since I'd picked up a pen that I was losing my confidence and was afraid to try. Not good. So I went to my desk and began with a new-to-me tangle called Avos by Maria Venekens, CZT. This was my first attempt with it. I was surprised at how tentative I felt.
I started with this, below and really did not like it:
Nope, not happy at all with this. I had to force myself to start adding color. Did not feel like I had drawn it well, even though this was a first attempt.
The internal critic was in full voice.
I considered tossing it, BUT I know from experience that Zentangle® teaches patience, persistence, and trust in the process. So I put it aside when I ran out of time and vowed to keep going later.
Last night I went back to it just before bed, and I'm so glad I did. Here's the final result:
I deeply appreciate the lessons the Zentangle process teaches about life, not just about art. A particular result may not be a masterpiece, but it's possible to love it all the same. What I've learned from the process is to keep going and trust, and things will usually work out fine. Perhaps not perfectly, but certainly "well enough."
Meanwhile, this is a lovely tangle and I hope to use it more in upcoming projects.
Whew. The last two weeks have been a blur, and none of it holiday-related. I'm not a holiday celebrator (no offense to those who are--if you enjoy it all, more power to you), so most years, while others may be stressing out buying gifts, sending cards, gathering with family, I am nurturing my introverted self with quiet and reflection--I love it! But not this year. Visitors--welcome indeed but unusual for this month--a few minor health inconveniences, a couple of intensive workshops, and on and off insomnia have combined to create more stress than usual. But it's all good, and it will all straighten out.
Many projects are underway. I have been working to finish my punched pillow. First I had to un-punch and re-punch some areas, and then begin the finishing process. It's a time-taker but I hope it will be worth it. Here's what I re-punched:
I got that fix done (all will be revealed once I get the pillow completed), and now I'm into the messy process of creating and binding the back. This boring looking beige-y broadcloth was the single fabric I could find that would not clash horribly with the front. Hopefully it won't show once it's done. I'm creating an "envelope back" for the first time, and sure hope it works.
Next up: a good friend and I were lucky enough to go to a workshop with the Zentangle® folks at the Kripalu Institute in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the focus was creating a Compass Rose. I had made one before in 2016, and you can find it HERE in this blog. I wrote about the origins there as well. We used a very different method this time (no protractor, just folding the paper). All of us made small Zendala versions first and here was the class mosaic (some are missing from this mosaic):
We then moved on to beginning the actual Compass Rose. I wish I'd thought to take more pictures. I only have one "before" photo, below. Wish I'd taken pics from the folding-stage through the initial black and white stage, then adding color, then embellishing, etc. This (below) was perhaps almost halfway through. I wasn't enamored of it at this stage. That is an understatement.
We then added the North arrow and used the Embedded Letter tangle technique. I liked it a bit better but was still dubious. We added a bit of gold gellyroll as well. Still dubious. However, that was as far as we got in the workshop and I took my tile home, where it sat for over 2 weeks until I had time to get to it.
That happened today. Below is the finished (??) piece.
Yup, working and taking my time on it definitely improved things.
Finally, I took a chance on a product I saw on a Kickstarter campaign and it arrived last night. I haven't yet had a chance to play with it:
Looks like it will work great, but I've yet to take it for a test-drive.
Just too darned busy.
A good night's sleep would also help.
"Last night I dreamed I ate a ten-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the pillow was gone."
Can you hear Elton John singing it? "Saturday, Saturday...Saturday night's alright..."
Actually it was the day that was alright but that's beside the point. I'm testing some colors for possible use in an upcoming oriental rug, and here's what I've got so far. First I had to make some skeins:
"Niddy-noddy, niddy-noddy...two heads, one body.
Tis one, ’tain’t one, ’twill be one soon
’Tis two, ’tain’t two, ’twill be two soon
’Tis three, ’tain’t three, ’twill be three soon …"
This is one version of an incredibly old counting rhyme I first learned back in the 1960s when I was first introduced to the tool (niddy-noddies were in use as early as 800 A.D.). To find out more, click HERE.
I've used the title "Perseverence Furthers" once before, but it never more true than when I did this tangle:
It started out as a hot mess about 3 or 4 days ago. Instead of giving up on it, I kept leaving it and coming back to it, adding a few things here and there until today when I declared it finished. I wanted to keep it all black and white (color can hide a lot of mistakes) and I'm glad I did. I'm also glad I stuck with it. It's no work of genius but it's way, way better than when I started!
"Try again. Fail again. Try better."
Let's hear it for screwing up, flubbing it, being imperfect.
Much of my drawing is like this, and yet, somehow I like it anyway. I will never be perfect. But I'll be "good enough" for me and will have fun along the way.
Below is a practice tile (a Bijou tile, only 2"x2") for a new-to-me tangle called Kaas. I had a rough time with this one and ended up adding a lot of rounding (rounding is a Zentangle® technique which does what it sounds like--you "round" sharp corners) which can hide a plethora of errors.
Convinced I'd do a better job on my second try, I used a regular (3.5"x3.5") white tile for my entry in the Full Moon Mosaic Project for this month.
Nope, just as imperfect, and even more flubbed-up in some ways. Again, I used lots of rounding.
I had fun, however, and I like it anyway. If you have read this far, you probably can relate to what I'm saying.
"My mistakes are my life."
Still in love with and working on learning to draw this tangle, which isn't coming easy for me. Today, though, I think I got it. Finally. There are a million ways to draw a Triquetra Celtic Knot, but I've been wanting to learn it via the easy steps of Zentangle®. Which turned out not to be so easy for me. But in fact, with a bit of practice, it is both easy and obvious. Other people got this one immediately, but I needed to ponder it a while.
Some things are like that.
Being overambitious and then frustrated when I couldn't get the painting to work taught me persistence.
This was my first attempt with this tangle. I actually finished this over 2 weeks ago but am just posting it now. I found the instructions (the stepouts) so hard to follow that I tried it out on a 2" square tile in pencil first, using an eraser. Normally, with Zentangle®, we do not "sketch out" tiles in pencil first, and we don't use erasers. The general idea is that there are no do-overs; if we screw up in life, we don't get to do whatever-it-was over. Instead, we have to figure out what to do about it and we often learn the most through dealing with our mistakes. And so it is in art as well.
However, sometimes if we can't even envision how to approach something, a draft (ie, using pencil to try to sketch something out) is helpful as we try to map the thing in our minds. That was my approach here. And occasionally in life, too, if I'm finding a life task overwhelming.
Speaking of overwhelm, I have hopelessly over-committed myself and am not pleased that I barely have time to turn around in my schedule. At my age, I should know better. This is a mistake I make frequently in life, and I have learned a lot from it...but apparently I still haven't learned how to avoid doing it.
Consequently I have done no tangling since my last post--too busy with textile work which I'm not ready to show yet. And with several other projects, including creating a new website for a group. I love everything I'm doing but I really miss tangling.
As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes. (Mel Brooks)
Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack? (George Carlin)
I took another tangling class today, this one with Heidi Halpern Kay, a talented artist who has been teaching for only one year. She has no website that I can find, but she's active on Pinterest and Facebook. My hope in taking all these recent classes has been that they would inspire me to get back my creative mojo. I think it's working, although I won't know until I begin doing my own designs again.
This tile introduced me to Ecoline Markers, which I had never used before. Very interesting. I'll be doing a lot more experimenting. Tangles: Printemps, Hollibaugh, Pokeroot/Pokeleaf, Mooka. Ecoline Markers, Copic Markers, White Gellyroll, White chalk pencil, White Uniball Signo Pen, Sakura Multiliner pen. That's a lotta art supplies!
The big news for me is that I've begun another hooked rug. It's not at the stage where I can show anything; everything so far is just experimental and it will be awhile until I have something to show. This is one reason I think I'm starting to get back some mojo. Hurrah!
"What art offers is space--a certain breathing room for the spirit."
Well this was tough! I'm not quite sure why. I did notice, though, that when I sat down to work on this, I was not feeling at my best emotionally. In fact I was feeling like s*** emotionally. That's quite unusual, but it's been a tough couple of weeks. Events and politics have been even more challenging (which is really saying something in this country).
I got started and right from the get-go I disliked what I was doing. If I had been working on a single sheet of paper or a tile, I'd probably have abandoned this. Possibly I'd have ripped it up. But I was working in a special notebook, and didn't feel I could leave it and ignore it without diminishing all the other pieces I had done already in the book. So, following a Zentangle guideline, I kept my hand moving and focused on one line at a time. I worked and worked, but really. did. not. like. it.
Following another Zentangle guideline, I walked away from it for a while. When I returned, it still wasn't exciting me but I noticed I didn't dislike it quite as much. So I sat down and kept on. And on. And on!
It's still not my favorite page, but I'm ok with where I ended up, especially given how I felt when I started. Most of all, I'm happy I persisted. There's a lesson in here. My mood had improved substantially when I was done.
There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt.
--attributed to the Buddha
This one is my first try at the tangle called Windmill, by CZT Hiroko Matsuo. That's where the "Testing Testing" title of today's post comes from.
Done on a Renaissance (tan) tile with Micron 01 in black, graphite, and some light chalk pencil. This one has so many possibilities. I did it in one of my Bitty BookZ™ I'd made last month--this book is nearly full now.
I ran the same photograph thru an iPhone app, Painnt, and got this.
Maybe my creative mojo is starting to sneak back? I would love to get some textile projects going, especially a rug.
I finally tackled making a full-sized tile version of Bitty BookZ™ today. It isn't perfect by any stretch of the word but - as usual - it's "good enough" for my first one and I learned what to do and what not to do for the next one. I'm liking this full-sized version. All the interior pages of this are tangled already because I used my "Teaching Tiles," (tiles I've created when preparing to teach a class) and some of my earliest tiles from back when I first learned. This is a great way to store previously tangled tiles.
More life-busyness means less posting. The good news is that I'm feeling better. I've continued to play with art tissue paper, the type of tissue paper that comes in dramatic colors and bleeds when wet. I've been wetting it, then squeezing it above wet Zentangle® tiles to see what it does, and/or crushing it and smashing it around directly on the tiles. This first tile was the result of the "dropping stain onto the tile from above" method:
I still feel a bit wobbly about the Icanthis tangle, so it will probably show up here more often while I practice it.
More tiles below. I switched tissue paper colors and both dropped color on and also mashed it on. This was violet-colored tissue paper and it was interesting to notice how as the staining dried, some pure blue began to seep out. There was absolutely no way I could avoid seeing these backgrounds as moon-and-sky (the first one) and evening sky. So, I built some Moon Bridges and left the tiles as mostly background, minimal tangling. Great fun with this art tissue, as you never know what you're going to get.
I was so surprised by those two.
Well then, of course I had to experiment some more, so I ran Moon Bridges #2 through a mirror app on my iPhone and was startled to see some figures emerge. See the result below.
The destination cannot be described;
You will know very little until you get there;
You will journey blind.
(T. S. Eliot)
Grid-based tangles are not always my favorite type to draw, so I want to practice them more to see what I think and explore that resistance. The tangle below is called "Krokus" but I added so much to it that it's almost hard to recognize. I'm not sure but I don't think I've drawn it before.
And now the same tangle, but presented differently below. The grid isn't so obvious in this one. You can see the pencil lines (the "string") if you look, however.
I was so pleased at how easy it was to tangle with the tile actually part of a book. While I've been making books at the rate that some of us eat potato chips (you can't stop at just one), I hadn't tangled in any of them yet.
Actually, make that utter shock.
I went to Elaine Huffman's studio today for a "Bitty BookZ™ maker event," thinking I would pick up a lot of tips from those more experienced.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered none of the other 5 participants had ever made a bitty book. I was even more surprised to end up in the role of teacher for this group. Without any planning or rehearsal. ("Planning" and "Rehearsal" are my two middle names.)
Elaine could have taught the class--but she gave us her studio for the day plus fabrics and all the other supplies...and while we worked, she was madly cutting things for us in the background. Without Elaine, none of this would have happened. So what did happen? This:
And below is a view from the side, so that you can see them slightly open:
See below for a couple of pictures of the books as they move thru the stages of creation:
And yes, those are chocolates at the top of the photo. Surprisingly, people were so absorbed that I never saw anyone eat one...
On to the next stage:
And here below we have the entire group after their books were dry and we got to un-clamp and un-elastic them. From left to right are: Janeen, Jane, Carolyn, Cheryl, Laura, and the scamp at the bottom in the violet shirt is Elaine herself. Elaine deserves huge applause for enabling this to happen.
Interested? If you'd like to try it yourself, you can get Chris Titus's very helpful pdf describing what supplies are needed and how to do these from start to finish. Click HERE to get the pdf ($10 US funds...well worth it).
You really CAN do this without a class, just from the pdf. Take it slow, expect some mistakes along the way, and don't expect perfection from your first one. But by the time you make the 2nd one, not only will it go faster, but you'll have it totally figured out.
Meanwhile, Janeen (a Certified Zentangle Teacher from Seminar 3!!!) filled her Bitty Book with ten of her own paper pages which she had made using the ever-popular "Shaving Cream" method of coloring and marbleizing the paper. It's all over YouTube--just type in shaving cream + paper. Here are a few of her tiles (now inside her beautiful book):
Janeen had a funny story about wanting to show her grandson how to color papers with the Shaving Cream method. Except, her grandson had been doing it for years in his school and HE ended up giving HER tips and hints.
Of course, you can use plain white or black or tan tiles for your own book, or you can take your already-completed tiles (ones you've already tangled) and use those for your pages. The possibilities are endless.
There is a Facebook page for BittyBookZ (oriented towards people who do Zentangle®); it's a closed group but you can ask to join if you want to join the fun.
THE FIRST THING:
To the left you'll see a Bag of Boobs. Yes, boobs. Breast prostheses, that is. I knit them for the Knitted Knockers organization and supply them to my local hospital's mammography and medical oncology unit. They emailed Friday to ask for another batch because "women love them."
I was so happy to hear it.
I knit in the evenings while I watch the news or a tv program. I cannot watch tv without doing something with my hands, and this has forever solved that problem. Because breast cancer is so common, there's an unending need for these prostheses for women who've had a mastectomy.
THE SECOND THING THAT STARTS WITH B: THE BOX
Here is the back spine of the box (I posted a picture of the bottom of the box a few posts back--you can just catch a glimpse of that underneath the narrow spine above). And above it you can see the as-yet-untangled top of the box. The tangle on the spine is Toodles. Done with white pen, colored pencil, graphite, white chalk pencil.
This is one side of the box (both sides are the same).
So now only the front of the box is left to tangle. Surprisingly, I am not enjoying tangling on this box one bit. The underlying structure is probably chipboard or something equally hard, and the brown paper covering is not porous at all. The combo makes it very challenging to tangle on--it's as if the paper wants to reject the pens entirely. Hard to get the ink out!
Plus tangling on tiny narrow surfaces that don't support one's hand is a real challenge. The combination of pen-rejecting paper and no hand control is making this a difficult project. When I'm done I think I'll love the box, but I sure don't want to tangle another one. Live and learn!
Just what I need. Another hobby. Oh sure.
The only way I can justify this one is to say that I'm surprised at how well these things actually show off Zentangle® tiles. Or would if I ever got good at making them.
Today's version was so badly bungled that I won't even go into the story, but it turned out sort of ok. I made the most of what started out as a "right-royal mess," as my friend Vivienne used to say.
Not only that, but a bunch of cotton quilt scraps arrived in the mail from my kind friend Elaine J. Huffman. Free! And mostly gorgeous batiks. She is clearly enabling this addiction. Thank you Elaine...I have 4 more books in the works already, thanks to your gift. Clearly it pays to know a talented quilter. See below.
On the left here is my hilariously inept first attempt at making a "Bitty BookZ™," a tiny book of Zentangle® tiles, invented by Chris Titus, CZT. Trust me, these can be truly gorgeous. But not this one!
Chris doesn't have a website so I can't link you to her beautiful work with her own Bitty BookZ™.
My aim was to learn the process today, nothing more. The point was to build one prototype in which to make all the errors I was sure I would make, and then from here on I can actually create some nicer books. I hope.
These Bitty BookZs are created with ten 3.5" tiles, so I started by picking out ten of my very earliest tiles from years ago when I was first learning to tangle. These are tiles that show where I was when I was learning, and some of them are...shall we say...uninspired. But it's always great to have my own early tiles to show students when I teach. So I used almost all old tiles for the prototype. See below to see the tiles in their new roles as pages in my finished book.
For some reason I was really apprehensive about trying this. And I did make some hilarious errors. For example, when I glued the paper on the front cover I got glue on the "right side," and then I had to do some tangling over it to cover up the worst of the mess. It's still a mess in some of the blank spaces on the cover, just look.
But the cover paper on the back side was the worst mistake--I didn't look at it before applying glue, and discovered to my horror that I had glued all over the right side and therefore exposed the wrong side, which had commercial printing on it. But...in true "There are no mistakes" Zentangle fashion, I tangled across the top to cover up the printing. That's why there's an odd dark horizontal strip across the top of the back cover.
And then there was the cover-paper in general--I used card-stock for the covers. Whoa, never again! Too stiff. What was I thinking? Fortunately I have thin decorative papers and lots of fabric scraps for the next Bitty BookZs I make, which should render the entire process so much easier.
Live and learn. All in all, I'm glad I worked up the nerve to try this on my own.
"My mistakes are my life." --Samuel Beckett
This somewhat overworked tile (I must admit I like it anyway) is the product of tangling over 3 days. I started it during another night of insomnia and finished this afternoon when I absolutely should have been doing something else, not this. But I couldn't help it.
Below are some of the earlier versions leading up to this finish.
Ever had one of those days when you just don't feel quite right? Nothing really wrong--not "coming down with something"--but just not feeling quite like yourself? That would describe me today. And my hands are shaking a bit. Weird. After a morning balancing my checkbook (yes, I actually do that), I allowed myself the pleasure of tangling for a short while. I was really surprised at this result.
I picked 3 brand-new-to-me tangles and tried them out for the first time. Despite my shaky hands.
I like the challenge of taking tangles that I've found and trying to put them together, whether they "go together" naturally or not. This was the result. I wouldn't say I'm in love with this piece but I loved two out of the three tangles and will use them again for sure. I am always amazed by what falls out of the pen. I couldn't have predicted this, and that, of course, is half the fun of tangling.
I am home for just a little more than 24 hours, then will be gone again. Packing cubes have saved my life and are keeping me organized as I make all these trips--thanks and blessings to the friend who introduced me to them. (If you do not know what they are, google them. Fabulous tools.)
"Returning" feels wonderful. And in the tangle below, I was returning to a tile idea that we explored in a workshop late last year; but this time I used different "fillers." I'm not totally crazy about it but it was peaceful to work on and I do like it overall. That's all I ask!
This is another Zenuari2019 tile, for day 19. The prompt was "Hefty Hack." HUH??? I had no idea what that meant. So I went back to the original instructions, which read something like: "Toss some water on a tile. Then take a plastic bag, scrunch it up, and put some watercolors you like directly on the bag. Then take the scrunched-up bag and daub it onto the tile."
Okay...so maybe it was called the "Hefty Hack" because "Hefty" is the name of a type of plastic bag in the USA? But the person who runs Zenuari is Dutch. Perhaps "Hefty" has a different meaning in the Netherlands? Because here in the USA, my only reference for Hefty bags is the VERY large kitchen or garden trash bags. She can't have meant to use one of those on a 3.5" tile.
It was all irrelevant to me, as--because I was away from home when I did this--I had no access to watercolors or plastic bags. I was able to borrow some watercolor pencils from my friend, and after wetting the tile I applied them to the wet spots and tried to move the colors around. It didn't work well but I did end up liking the effect anyway. I'll have to try it again with real watercolors and a small plastic bag.
Oh how I wish we could find a way to truly and effectively recycle plastics. We have completely messed up our planet with them, and we've done it all in less than a hundred years. There must be a way to clean up our mess.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator, meditation teacher and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.)
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society