Friday, February 5, 2016

Happy Creative New Year!

How is everyone doing?  After a VERY busy January with loads of travel and teaching, I'm finally in the process of moving into my finished (double YAY) studio space.  I'm allowing myself the luxury of taking my time to do this.  Interestingly, I find it tough to figure out how to transition back in here and get to work because the space is so radically different!
I moved my sewing table, work table, couch and a couple rolling shelves first.

Below are some stills with my artist friends who come annually to an independent study with Jane Dunnewold at Art Cloth Studios.
I purchased this beauty from Jane LaFazio and it
summarizes perfectly how I feel.

Here we stand in the main design area.

This is the wet studio.  Note the new door to the outside!
I have a wonderful and huge new stainless sink, a stackable washer dryer 
that used to belong to my mother.  
Eventually I will have a 48" square stainless table in the center of this room

After everyone toasted the new studio we cooked dinner outside
in the wood oven.  Such fun!

Here is a night-shot of my husband walking through the studio.
He brought his spectrometer to look at the light in here.
Verdict:  not too bad!

I'll be posting more frequently (I promise!) as I get up and running in here.  Suffice it to say that I think this "new" space is going to change my work flow for the positive and I think it will be very interesting to see what the impact of the space has on my work.  Stay tuned!

In the spirit of this post I thought I would share a recent Huffington Post that is applicable to all artists.  

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

 03/04/2014 07:48 am ET | Updated Mar 26, 2014

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process. 
Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don't have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works. 
And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they're complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it's not just a stereotype of the "tortured artist" -- artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.
"It's actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self," Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. "The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self ... Imaginative people have messier minds." 
While there's no "typical" creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently. 
They daydream.
Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time. 
According to Kaufman and psychologist Rebecca L. McMillan, who co-authored a paper titled "Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming," mind-wandering can aid in the process of "creative incubation." And of course, many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere. 
Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state -- daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it's related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity. 
They observe everything. 
The world is a creative person's oyster -- they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom "nothing is lost."
The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind: 
"However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable 'I,'" Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. "We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker." 
They work the hours that work for them.
Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night. Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly. 
They take time for solitude. 
"In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone," wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May
Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming -- we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.
"You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it," he says. "It's hard to find that inner creative voice if you're ... not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself." 
They turn life's obstacles around. 
Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak -- and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and -- most importantly for creativity -- seeing new possibilities in life. 
"A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality," says Kaufman. "What's happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that's very conducive to creativity." 
They seek out new experiences. 
Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind -- and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output. 
"Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement," says Kaufman. "This consists of lots of different facets, but they're all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world." 
They "fail up." 
Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives -- at least the successful ones -- learn not to take failure so personally. 
"Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often," Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein's creative genius.
They ask the big questions. 
Creative people are insatiably curious -- they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.
They people-watch.
Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch -- and they may generate some of their best ideas from it. 
"[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books," says Kaufman. "For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important ... They're keen observers of human nature."
They take risks. 
Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives. 
"There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it's one that's often overlooked," contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. "Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent -- these are all by-products of creativity gone awry."
They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression. 
Nietzsche believed that one's life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.
"Creative expression is self-expression," says Kaufman. "Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness." 
They follow their true passions. 
Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated -- meaning that they're motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity. 
"Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents," write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity
They get out of their own heads. 
Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work. 
"Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present," says Kaufman. "The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind -- I like calling it the 'imagination brain network' -- it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking." 
Research has also suggested that inducing "psychological distance" -- that is, taking another person's perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar -- can boost creative thinking. 
They lose track of the time.
Creative types may find that when they're writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get "in the zone," or what's known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they're practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance. 
You get into the flow state when you're performing an activity you enjoy that you're good at, but that also challenges you -- as any good creative project does. 
"[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they've also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state," says Kaufman. "The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you're engaging in." 
They surround themselves with beauty.
Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty. 
study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians -- including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists -- exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty. 
They connect the dots. 
If there's one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it's the ability to see possibilities where others don't -- or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect. 
In the words of Steve Jobs
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."
They constantly shake things up. 
Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane. 
"Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience," says Kaufman.
They make time for mindfulness. 
Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind -- because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such as David Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind. 
And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked with improved memory and focusbetter emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity -- all of which can lead to better creative thought. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 Quilter's Planner via the Fat Quarter Shop

I've been away from a physical planner ever since I converted to a Palm Pilot (gasp!) in the mid-90's. Most of my "life" schedule has rolled over to my iPhone calendar, but in the past year I have begun to realize that my "quilt life" isn't very organized.  I have a white board up in my temporary studio space and eventually I will have numerous chalk-painted walls in my remodeled studio to hopefully keep me on track.
But I keep hearing all the great things about this new 2016 Quilter's Planner by Stephanie Palmer of Late Night Quilter!  I just ordered mine from the Fat Quarter Shop.  I am copying their YouTube video so you can take a peek and see what you think.  I'm quite anxious to get my new planner and I hope to put it to use right away.

Here are a few of the things this planner contains (as listed by the Fat Quarter Shop blog):
- Monthly calendars
- Weekly calendars
- Project planning pages
- Graph paper
- 8 full quilt patterns from amazing designers
- 52 original quilt block designs
- Beautiful artwork pullouts by Kelsey Boes of Lovely and Enough
- Reference section for quilting calculations and common construction techniques

So here is my question to you:  How do you keep your quilt life organized?  Do you have more than one strategy?  I'm sincerely interested.  I know that I need to change my method of tracking my work flow and I am looking at any and all ideas.  
I feel as though my renovated studio will be part of that plan as it will have a better work-flow.  Does the organization follow?  We shall see!  I am hoping that the new planner, my chalk walls, and a white-board will work for me.  If there is something else that you find helpful please drop me a comment.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Start Out Your Year in Napa: the Craft Napa blog hop stop!


I hope you are as excited about the upcoming Craft Napa retreat as I am!  I will be teaching all three days, but if I wasn't I would be taking workshops alongside you.  I'm delighted to be teaching with so many wonderful and inspiring instructors.  What a perfect way to jumpstart the creativity for 2016, right?

I've decided to offer these three workshops:
"Intro to Improvisational Piecing: Quilt Design with a Modern Spirit"
"Sweet Little Somethings: Mixed Media Paper & Fabric Collage"
and "Geltastic & Printalicious"

I thought I would show you a bit about all three of them, so come on!

Intro To Improv was inspired by my desire to figure out what people might do with those stacks of die-cut fabric, usually called "Layer Cakes".  I wondered if I could come up with something interesting.
This was the first quilt I constructed, called "Fifty Shades of Groovy".
This quilt was juried into the inaugural QuiltCon show in 2013.

I had so much fun making this quilt that I proceeded to make many more using this basic technique.  Each quilt has its own "personality", and I learned some new tricks along the way which I will share with you in this workshop.  It is a really fun process and is perfect if you are a beginning quilt maker or if you have some serious skills.  As long as you can use a rotary cutter/ruler and know the basic stuff about using a sewing machine, you are good to go!

Here is the most-recent quilt using the same general technique.
This quilt is called "Thoroughly Mondrian Millie" and is queen-sized.

Truly, the possibilities are endless so come explore this fun improv class with me.  Most students get the basic central "unit" constructed in the 6-hour workshop.  

And guess what?  We will have our own beautiful stable of Bernina sewing machines to use all day long!  What?   How great is that?! 

Geltastic & Printalicious is a fun and fabulous way to do some mark-making/printing in a few different ways.  First, we will craft our own unique stamps using fun foam.  We will use the stamps in two ways:  gelatin mono printing and stamping!  We might even make a few rubbings using these same stamps.  Versatile, aren't they?! 

I love using this set of techniques to make all sorts of tags, cards, and more.

Gelatin printing is great when used with stencils, too!

Oh, I use all sorts of crazy tools to make marks.  Come play with me and I'll show you!  I'm writing about this one 2nd because I think these could be used in the third and final workshop.....

Sweet Little Somethings is a very lovely, meditative workshop that I think you will enjoy.  I am one of those people that needs to be doing something with my hands when I have down-time.  I love to have a little project to stitch on when I am in an airplane, the rare times I am a passenger in a car, etc..  I love to stitch!   I combine that with my habit of collecting little bits of ephemera along the path of my travels.  Combining the textures of cloth, paper, and stitch is so much fun and I will show you several approaches I use to do this.  
We will create some basic substrates and use part of the day to simply stitch (using Bernina sewing machines and hand-embroidery, so bring both types of thread!).  What could be better?  Plus, you will have some groovy tidbits to continue working on in your hotel rooms or while you are hanging out with all your new friends during the evenings of the event.

Here are a few things I have made in the spirit of this workshop:

and machine stitching.....

And wait!  There's more!

 CRAFT NAPA is being sponsored by BERNINA and Meissner Sewing and Vacuum Centers.

·        Deadline for comments is December 10th at midnight PST.  The grand prize is a $500 Gift Certificate from eQuilter!
Please leave a comment on my blog (and all the others!) to be eligible for the drawing.  Pokey will draw the winner from all blog comments after midnight of December 10th.

Please be sure to visit all the other participants!  Here's the blog hop list:
Nov 30 – Jane LaFazio –
Dec 1 – Lynn Krawczyk –
Dec 2 – Judy Coates Perez -
Dec 3 – Jenny K. Lyon -
Dec 4 – Jamie Fingal -
Dec 5 – Melanie Testa –
Dec 6 – Elizabeth St. Hilaire -
Dec 7 – YOU ARE HERE! -
Dec 8 – Carrie Bloomston -
Dec 9 – Cheryl Sleboda –
Dec 10 – Pokey Bolton -

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Studio Story: Remodeling, Part 5

Since I've been traveling almost constantly since.....wait.....mid-July?  I haven't been great about blogging.  Time for an update about the studio remodel!
The ongoing discovery of poor workmanship on the original build continued with the windows.  The collection of windows on the house, both upstairs and down, were installed improperly which was allowing water to run inside the walls.  Do I need to elaborate on the consequences of this over a 30-year span?  Probably not!
So, the stucco was cut out from around the windows (and other places where wood rot was discovered), the structure repaired, waterproofed, and new windows were installed.

I can't imagine what our neighbors must think we are doing!

The good news:  I have an amazing team on the job and despite all the unexpected set-backs they remain on-schedule with the remodel.  Here are my "morgue drawers", as I call them.  They are heavy-duty!  Each long drawer can hold up to 500 pounds.  I anticipate storing extra sewing machines and other heavy items in these.

A new set of cabinets and a small countertop, and to the left of the ladder is another closet.

The concrete floor in the wet-room has been ground down and sealed.  Now it is covered with protective paper.

The hallway doesn't look like much yet.  We added an area of recessed shelving to house my books and miscellaneous keepsakes

In the main studio design area it appears I am hosting a door convention!  See that big guy close to the window?  That is my sliding "barn door" which will mostly cover up my quilt storage area but can slide to close the wet room if needed.
We have gone from this......

to this.....

Best thing yet?  My orange ceiling beam!  
If you know how much I adore orange you know how I am happy about this!
My cabinets in the wet room will also sport this color on the outside.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Affinity For Improv and Love of the Line

I am exploring some new territory in my recent work.  This is one of those intervals that may appear to be coming out of nowhere, but in reality, this has been on my "list" for some time.

It started last spring when I went to study at the Crow Timberframe Barn with Carol Soderlund.  I got to do two things at once that I had been dreaming of and it was a great experience.  It started me on a path I have been thinking about since the late 80s:  studying with Nancy Crow.

The reaction I get is usually something like this:  "I don't understand. Why are you doing this?  This doesn't seem like a place your work is going...." and on.  Yes, I get that people don't see it as a natural progression of the work I was doing two years ago.  I'm quite fine with that.  This exercise has multiple goals:
To study with an artist whose work I admire a great deal.  
I want her to challenge my point of view.
I expect it to be difficult.
I expect to struggle, and probably to fail multiple times.
My goal is not to make work that resembles Nancy's, rather, it is to see what is possible by adding the information she gives me to my own aesthetic.

I can't wait to see what shakes out of all this!

One revelation:  free-cutting fabric selvedge to selvedge with a rotary cutter to expose the gestural line in cloth.  This really excites me!  I feel so close to drawing when I do this:  I'm pulling the rotary tool toward me versus the traditional method ofpushing it away.  No ruler!  It allows more control and  is deeply satisfying.

I created this quilt which is my curator's piece for the soon-to-be "Affinity" exhibition (for Dinner At Eight Artists in Houston at the International Quilt Festival) using this free-form method of construction and I'm pretty happy with the results.  All the quilts in the exhibition will be 40 inches square.
With the exception of some of the black and gray, the rest of this fabric was hand-dyed by me.

I enjoyed the process of free-motion quilting this piece on my Bernina 750QE.

I hope many of you will be at the International Quilt Market & Festival this fall in Houston, TX.  Please look me up!  I'll be there!  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Late August/September happenings.

Despite the crazy travel schedule I have had this year I really have been able to produce some work.  Here are a few images of life as I have seen it through garden discoveries, beautiful vistas in places I love, and quilts.
Beautiful cicada (I think) wing found in the garden at home.

A wonderful retreat with my SA Mod Quilt Guild friends in Kerrville TX.

Making my curator's piece for the upcoming installation of "What's For Dinner?"
which will be shown at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.
Here is the beautiful cross-stitch embroidery of my Bernina 750QE.  This is the edge of my 
dinner "plate".

A view of my place-setting for "What's For Dinner?".

Quilting my piece, "Bright Light On the Edge of the Horizon" for Oasis,
a regional SAQA exhibition to debut in Palm Springs, CA.

Putting the facing on the quilt....

A trip to Kansas to help a friend who is having surgery.  We drove out into the Flint Hills the day before.  I have a deep connection to this part of the country.

A field of ripe sunflowers.  Gorgeous day in Kansas!