Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reflections on a Life I Love…

I took myself on an Artist’s Date today, after spending some time yesterday evening quietly reflecting on where I’m at in my life. I felt a major shift come over me in terms of the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s of the life I’m currently living. A good and honest look at things revealed to me many answers to my questions of what is my life purpose, what are my goals, where do I find inspiration, who do I want to spend time with, etc. The questions seemed so big and yet the answers are so simple, it’s just a matter of me living them everyday, and also paying attention to how they show up. I think sometimes I can get so caught up in life and what I want to have that I forget that I already have everything I need. It’s all right in front of me. It’s the essence of who I really am, my source of inspiration and joy.

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My favorite view across the lake

This is what led me to the woods today. It’s been ages since I stopped by to marvel at the sweeping limbs of the tall pine trees, to feel the breeze against my skin as it drifts across the lake, to turn off the constant chatter in my brain and tune into the bird songs that fill the forest. It’s all about the present moment and the beauty around me. Being in nature is where I feel like my truest and most authentic self. It’s where all of the drama of everyday life completely melts away, and all that’s left is peace. I can’t believe I haven’t gone on more adventures to the mountains and the forests since I moved back home, but after today I know it’s a priority. I need many more Artist’s Dates to the source of where my inspiration and creativity begins, even if it’s just once a month. My schedule can get filled up very quickly with all of the things I’d like to do (and some I don’t want to do but need to, for instance, adulting), but taking some time away from it all is the one thing that always brings me back home.

Keep creating,

Laura

 

Claim Your Space

A few days ago, I made a new board on Pinterest.  It’s called Studio Spaces and it’s filling up quickly with images of spacious lofts with skylights, white walls lined with cupboards for organizing materials, empty work tables waiting for ideas to be spread across their surfaces, and lots and lots of beautiful fiber art equipment.  Here’s what my studio space currently looks like…

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Inspiring, am I right?

Believe it or not, I actually like nestling myself in among the moving boxes.  It’s cozy and for some odd reason allows me to focus on what is directly in front of me.  While I love seeing where the magic happens for many artists, some famous and others unknown, I’ve also realized that there are loads of other artists out there who, like me, have to make do with what they have, and are doing a fine job at it, too.  Since establishing myself as a tapestry artist just over five years ago, I’ve moved several times and I’m about to move again. When I began tapestry weaving my loom was stuffed in the corner of my little bedroom, so fingers crossed the next place has at least a few more feet of corner!

My mom, before I came along, set up her easel in what she calls a nook, and when she wanted to work on a drawing she spread out into the equally tiny upstairs bathroom. When we moved to a bigger house, she started sewing and set up her sewing machine and fabric stash under the slanted ceiling of her bedroom. I have a friend who sews in her cozy living room, and another who paints in her bedroom, and still another who shares a small, ground level book arts and printmaking studio with a fellow artist friend.  To allow enough space to use her massive floor loom in a tiny studio apartment, my friend from college slept in the little closet under the stairs.  And of course there’s Van Gogh, who worked out of very small and simple spaces when he wasn’t doing plein air painting.  In the same vein, I once worked for a brilliant artist who had one of the most glorious studios I’ve ever seen, and hardly ever used it.

I love these stories about the creative ways we artists figure out how to set up shop. However small or spacious an art-making space happens to be, what matters most is what the artist is creating within that space.  That they are present to the work that their hearts and hands are creating.  Tyarn62017hat they are showing up for, and claiming, their own individual artistic journey, and seeing where it takes them.  I know this can be a challenge for some people, especially those with children, or a tight budget, or a small living space where dedicating an area to something besides the necessities seems impossible, or even all of these things.  I have seen it done however, by people from all walks of life.  And just because one doesn’t have their dream studio now, doesn’t mean they wont be able to create that in the future.

It’s also imperative that we don’t wait for conditions to be just right before we can start on that masterpiece we feel called to create.  You could spend so much time amassing materials and waiting for things to change for the better or the right studio situation to come along, and all the while the inspiration and passion could be slipping right between your fingers.

It’s not about where you create, but what you create.

To begin setting up your space, look around for items that aren’t being used that could get you organized. Thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops can also supply you with vases for storing paint brushes, baskets for yarn, and a simple table and chair for working.  Also, those Michael’s coupons come in really handy! Do you have a corner that’s not being utilized?  Claim it.  Put up a cork board for pinning inspiring pictures, or just use washi tape in fun colors.  Or regular tape, it really doesn’t matter.  See if any of your furniture can do double duty.  Even if your work is confined to a basket or a tote bag that you can carry with you, you still win because now you have a portable studio. Tah-dah! Also, keep your eyes open; as time goes by, you’ll find lovely items through people and places to add to your studio space that make it feel even more inspiring.

Bring in any little objects that help inspire your creativity, like souvenirs or mementos, photographs, rocks, feathers, and tokens of good luck. My personal favorite is a strand of paper stars that I hang across the heddle bar of my loom.  It always reminds me to stay true to myself and my own artistic voice.

By claiming your space you’re also claiming your right to be an artist, even if you only have a little time here and there to work on your craft. 

My mom always says it’s a sign of a true artist when they can work with what they’ve got.  I often sit on an over turned milk crate when I weave, and all of my yarn is sorted by color into unattractive, yet practical and affordable plastic bins.  I store my knitting needles, pens, and brushes in glass jars that once held pasta saucpeony62017e.  I would LOVE to have more beautiful storage items for my supplies and materials, but by working with what I have right now, I’m saving money AND I can dedicate more time and attention to doing what I love: my art!

So let’s start now.  What can you do today to make and claim a space for yourself?  What resources do you have that can help you to work on your artistic goals?  Remember, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and often the simplest shifts produce the biggest results!

In the spirit of creativity,

Laura

 

The Importance of Creativity in Difficult Times

There’s no question about it, we live in difficult times.  Actually, it’s down right frightening.  Yesterday morning I woke from a repeating nightmare to find that the nightmare had come true.  I felt waves of anxiety and adrenaline rush through me.  I could barely cook my oatmeal, my hands were shaking and sweaty, and I don’t even remember getting dressed but thankfully I didn’t go into work still in my pajamas. But there was also a fire in my heart, a calling I now know I have to follow.  The message was how vitally important the creative arts are to this broken and fragmented world. That as artists and creators we are the messengers and the torch carriers, the ones who can help bring beauty and joy into a troubled world.

The news can usually make me want to slip away to the peaceful isolation of my studio, where my imagination can break free from the limitations of reality.  I can sort of “check out” from the pain of the world.  But I never retreat to this space to forget my troubles, I go there to be fully present with them.  Without the sensationalism of the media, I can process these difficult events with compassion and empathy.  With yarn in hand and hope and prayer in my heart, I put my intention into creating something of beauty from the pain. I sort of Rumplestiltskin things; I try to spin straw (or in this case, s**t) into gold.  Handmade wooden bobbins full of yarn clink against each other as each awaits its turn to be woven into a tapestry.  Colorful yarns intermingle and coexist harmoniously in this artwork that is part cloth, part image.  Needle and thread bring the pieces together.  My art is my tool for processing and healing, a metaphor for life, and my gift to others.

The world is full of writers, poets, musicians, actors, healers, painters, weavers, crocheters, jewelers, peacemakers, dancers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, bakers, gardeners, bloggers, dreamers, believers, needle-felted cat portrait artists, and so on.  I don’t believe there is a limit to the different kinds of creators and what they can create.  And the healing power comes from the heart of the one who is bringing that creation to life.  What we focus on grows.  If we lean into fear, we find more to be afraid of.  And if we lean into love, we find there is more love than we ever knew before.

When we do the things that bring us joy, when we work to create happiness in our lives, we are leaning into love. We are leaning into the things that makes us come alive.  We are living with integrity and refusing to stay small and fearful.  You can create hate, or you can create love.  Today, and everyday, I choose to create love.  I refuse to become cynical or to lose hope.  Instead I will stay with my creative spirit and make as many things of beauty as I can, whether it’s a big tapestry weaving, or a pair of knitted gloves for a friend.

The very intention of such seemingly simple creations is what holds the greatest gifts: generosity, thoughtfulness, and kindness.

Whether you’re a parent who’s mission is to raise compassionate children, or a baker who loves to see people find pleasure in a humble loaf of bread, or a painter who seeks out the beauty in the natural world, create from the heart.  Create to heal yourself and to bring healing to others. We may not be able to bring immediate and radical change to such a chaotic and fragmented world, but I truly believe we can start with what we create.  Let’s stand together and lean into love.  Let’s reach out across the divides and pass the torchlight from one troubled soul to another, and watch how love begins to grow.

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A Date with the Creative Muse

In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron talks about “artist dates”.  These are special times that you set aside for yourself to go off in search of inspiration, to be with your creative muse.  When I lived in a city, I would make sure that at least once a month, I would spend some time in quiet contemplation in one of my city’s beautiful parks.  This reset time was precious to my creative energy and inspiration.  Normally artist dates are done alone, but today I went on one with my mom.  I guess we went on a double date with our creative muses?

As a belated birthday gift my mom took me to Boston for the day, and we spent most of it at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  My mom went to art school in Boston, and spent many of her own artist dates here, back when the now roped-off courtyard was open to the public.

 

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How dreamy it would be to stroll through here, like stepping back in time…

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The courtyard was definitely a highlight of the museum, and coupled with the small gallery rooms and furnishings, gave the feeling of a rare invitation into someone’s luxurious home.  I felt immersed in the artworks and in the time period they were collected in, a very different feeling from the cavernous white-walled rooms of other art museums I’ve visited.  The first and only other time my mom brought me here was when I was about 15.  Time sure has changed me.  For an art history nerd like myself with a passion for pre-Raphaelite and medieval art and architecture, this place was a gold mine.  As I walked through the rooms and hallways full of carefully arranged artworks, furnishings, books, and manuscripts, I could sense just how important this collection (and it’s availability to the public) was to Isabella Gardner. And of course there were…tapestries!

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One of several Flemish tapestries with the same workshop initials of B B.

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This tapestry was definitely my favorite on display.  I love how the weavers perfectly captured the folds, textures, and elegance of the ladies skirts, not to mention the gorgeous shimmers of gold throughout the weaving.

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The apparent chaos in this weaving was pretty funny to me, although for the audience at the time of it’s completion, I’m sure it had to do with morals and refraining from sin.  Is that a guy falling on a wasps nest?  What I love most is the stunning mille-fleur in the background.

Unfortunately, the main room I was here to see, the actual Tapestry Room, was closed for roof renovations!  I was pretty bummed about that, but I can’t wait to come back when it reopens…. in January.  It’s a long time to wait, but until then I’ll be dreaming about this place and weaving onward…

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The Myth of Mastery

I’m sure most of you have heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, but a master of none…”  I’ve always wanted to be a master of something, whether it was piano, or guitar, or baking, or drawing, but nothing has propelled me to want to be a master like tapestry weaving.  While I was sitting at the loom working on figuring out how to create a particular effect in this latest weaving, I started to really ponder my drive for mastery.

I began imagining what it would be like to create a tapestry and know exactly how to execute everything.  How would it feel to just weave that design and not have to re-weave a certain area three times in order to get it right?  What would it be like to know exactly which colors to blend and how to use them?  To just magically be able to do it all on the first try?

It actually sounds ridiculously boring.

Yes, I hope to gain skills and knowledge, to grasp techniques and be able to execute them.  I want to be able to troubleshoot and problem solve so that I can one day help others who are just starting out on their own weaving path.  But more than anything, I want to always be learning and growing and trying new things… because that’s the good stuff.  I live for those “Aha!” moments, like working through a challenging design and finally getting it right.  As a self-professed Instagram and Pinterest junkie, I absolutely love seeing the innovative and creative ways that other tapestry weavers and artists are doing their thing.  There’s an endless stream of inspiration out there because everyone has a different approach and a different way of creating.  Some might be more traditional while others are a bit off the wall (that may or may not be a tapestry joke), and it’s all great inspirational material.  Tapestry is both ancient and contemporary, and there’s about as many ways to do things as there are weavers.  That’s what I love about it and why it’s a medium I feel really passionate about.

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My first attempt at weaving the highlights on a tree at the bottom. On top, and after ripping the work out three times, I finally got it right! I love the feeling of success when I work through a certain problem a bunch of times and then discover the solution!

My mom, who is a prolific and versatile artist, has always told me that art should be an adventure.  To me, mastery has meant reaching a level where you can go no further, and that few have reached.  Right now, I’m going to bust my own myth for myself: I think a master is someone who has reached a level of expert skills and knowledge, but they always have the spirit of the student within them.  They continue to play and explore and learn because they know that the creative journey has no end.  They seek out challenges and innovative ways of doing things.  So now, being the master sounds just as exciting as being the student, because it’s all about the journey.

Open Fields and Endless Skies

The last line from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” always makes my heart skip a beat, like a wise elder asking you the quintessential question that has the power to change your whole life if you allow it.

Around the end of this past February, I knew it was time to make a change, and not just a change-my-job or change-my-haircut kind of change, but a true life-altering, get-rid-of-your-stuff, move-across-the-country kind of upheaval of everything I knew and loved.  At times I told myself ‘You must be crazy to give this all up’.  But I did it because I felt there was more out there for me, if only I could trust the guidance of my deep wellspring of intuition.

It takes a lot of courage to listen and trust the wisdom of our intuition, because it doesn’t speak in words, but in hunches and feelings.  It can also feel heartbreaking to follow your intuition as it leads you down your path, because that also means leaving people and places that you love behind just to follow a “feeling”.   I wish my intuition would send me clearly written emails saying “Hey, do this” or “move here” or “you should take that job”.  But instead I have to learn the fine art of listening to and following where my intuition wants me to go, and right now it wants me to be back home in New Hampshire.  Forget what everybody else says and does.  Forget if all the cool young people are packing up and moving out west.  The one thing I’ve learned through this whole experience is all that really matters is where I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  There may be loss and deep grievances along the way, but I believe there are also blessings and miracles to be had as well.

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Right now I need to live amongst trees and birds and summer rain and wide open spaces.  A few days ago my parents and I went out hiking with one of the neighbors in Northwood Meadows.

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These are exactly the kind of views I need for my health and happiness, and ultimately for the vitality of my art.  Open fields, endless skies, wind, bird songs, the sense of limitless potential, my spirit soaring among the clouds.  I really don’t know what I’ll be doing here besides weaving and drawing and painting, and maybe even taking a dance or music class.  But I can say, it feels like the next right step, and that’s all I need to have faith in.

20150411_153935Spring will be here soon, in fact the snow that carpeted the yard is almost all melted.  And the one thing that Spring always brings is new growth, new beginnings, new adventures, new everything.  Change is constant in this life, so whether you’re like me and you shipped all of your most beloved possessions across the country, or you’re stuck in an unhappy situation waiting for that calling, listen closely for that little voice of wisdom.  It’s barely above a whisper, but if you leave your heart open and your brain chatter off, you just might hear it’s deep wisdom and simple desire to bring happiness to your life.

 

A New Year’s List for a New Journey

On New Years Eve, I wanted to write something uplifting and hopeful and inspiring to start the transition into 2015.  I wanted to give you, my dear reader, a message to help kick-start your year on the right path, to help you accomplish your dreams and goals.  But lately I’ve felt like I didn’t have it in me, that there was no way I could write something with that kind of positive energy.  Lately I’ve felt angry and frustrated, and not with anything or anyone in particular.  One day I’ll be angry and agitated, the next I’ll be crying.  My close friends who have done a lot of personal healing know what I’m talking about, some of them call it “deep work”.  If you’ve ever been there yourself, then you know what I’m talking about, and I’m sure you know how frustrating it can feel.   But I was reminded of a saying I once read, “the medicine is in the wound”, and that is where I found the inspiration for this post.

I don’t do anger well.  To me, and most other people, its an emotion that feels dark, heavy, and negative.  Who wants to be angry when you could be happy?  Well, I’m sure we’d all agree if we could be happy all the time we would, but then we would have nothing to compare our joy to.  Instead we’d probably just feel apathetic or indifferent.  I’ve always felt that anger was a volatile emotion, that feeling it would turn me into some crazy, out-of-control, violent person.  So I’ve been stuffing it since I was a kid, and I think now it’s finally caught up to me.  I haven’t been able to work on my weaving much because the anger and frustration doesn’t translate well to delicate and detailed work.  So while I’ve been taking a break from my tapestry, I’ve been finding new tools and ideas to help me work through these darker emotions.

In the dark is where the first stage of new life happens, where the seed first cracks it’s hard, protective shell, and tender leaves reach up towards the light.  It’s where we rest, where dream-time brings us insights, where ideas grow, and new life takes shape.  The time in the dark is never hurried; everything that is preparing for growth needs time and care to be ready to be born.  There is vitality hidden in the dark.  And life is very cyclical, we all go through phases of blooming in the garden, soaking up the sun’s rays while others admire us.  Sometimes the weeds choke us and threaten to take us down.  And there usually always comes a time when we retreat back into the restorative cocoon of the darkness, back into our roots to rest and prepare to be reborn again come our next springtime.

During our time in this fertile soil, its important to actually do our personal work, mend what’s been broken, and remember that the darkness isn’t forever.  We will eventually be called back into the light, and to carry with us the gifts we have uncovered from our sacred wounds.

While I’ve been taking a break from weaving, I’ve been discovering new tools and ideas to help me work through these shadow emotions.  I’ve put together this list to serve anyone who is also feeling overwhelmed, stressed, stuck, or wanting change, now or in the future.

1. Gratitude ListsIf you’ve read anything about living a more positive life or how to manifest your deepest wishes, one of the suggestions you’ll find is writing a gratitude list.  But I use it not to just get what I want, I use it to change my perspective.  Whenever I’m feeling frustrated, grumpy, angry, or just plain ungrateful, I write a gratitude list.  It always, ALWAYS changes my  outlook.  On New Years Eve I wrote a gratitude list for everything that happened to me in 2014.  While it was several pages long, it was also filled with simple things.  Like #12: “All of the magical hikes I’ve been on out here.”  Or #15: “Practicing patience.”  #24: “Learning how resilient I am.”  And #30, my favorite: “All of the chocolate I’ve eaten.”

The little things really add up, and they’re not that hard to find, trust me.  Even finding just one thing to be grateful for, like a kind person’s smile, can start to shift your perspective.  Now imagine finding those little things everyday for 30 days.  Imagine a whole year.

2. When energy gets stuck and needs to be released, it can’t always come out as art, even ugly, dirty, messy art, or beautiful, light, and inspiring art.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  Occasionally it needs a physical outlet in order to be set free.  The mornings are usually when I get fresh hits of inspiration, and the other day as I got out of bed and felt the angry energy rise up in me, I saw myself in a boxing class.  I never thought of myself as someone who would ever want to try boxing, but there I was in a safe environment, able to release my emotions.  I signed up for a no contact, women’s only boxing class.  Thankfully we wont be fighting each other.  I may want to punch a punching bag, but I have absolutely no interest in punching someone else or getting punched in the face!

3.  Faith, and I’m not just talking church or George Michael.  When we find ourselves feeling like we’re drowning in sudden changes, forces beyond our control, shadow emotions, and feeling unable to get our heads above water for long, having faith in something is what can get us through.  I have what I refer to as “a spiritual posse”, a collection of various spirits, teachers, and guides I’ve chosen that I turn to when I need help.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a saint, an angel, the woods, or your cat, just start with having faith that you will get through, and you will get through.

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4.  Have patience.  Sometimes when we’re looking to create change in our lives, or to get through a storm, or to reach our goals, we can lose patience.  Keep in mind that we’re all on different paths.  Keep an open heart to what personal success looks like for you.  Sometimes when I feel like I don’t have what I want, I do step 1 above and I discover that I have everything I need.  What you want will come, just keep an open heart and give it time.

5.  Be easy on yourself.  This isn’t a competition, no ones’ perfect even if they appear that way.

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens

6.  Take inspiration from the success of others.  Seeing someone climb the ladder of their dreams and accomplish big goals can make anyone feel jealous, and wonder when it will be their time to shine.  I used to feel jealous of others’ success stories, but now I use them as a great source of inspiration to follow my own dreams.  Hearing about anyone making a living doing what they love and bringing positive change to the world fills me with so much joy, hope, and motivation.  Someone living their life through the gifts they bring to the world is also a gift for those of us wanting to do the same; it shows us that with unwavering dedication, patience, and a pure passion for what we do, we can also accomplish incredible things.  Usually after hearing or reading such good news, I’ll sit down at my loom and work away, feeling pure inspiration for what it is I do.  I simply love these stories.  Because if they can do it I can too, and so can you.

7.  Have funI don’t wait until the storm passes or things to get better to go forth and make the most of life.  I don’t sit around thinking that because I’m in a funk, I have to stay there and wait for it to be over.  Whenever I’m feeling grumpy, I watch youtube videos of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, or clips from Louis CK’s stand-up performances.  I often find myself laughing so hard I’m crying, and I’ve totally forgotten about my grumpiness.  Like gratitude lists, laughter has a profound ability to drastically change our outlook, even if for a few minutes.  And that’s all it takes to ride the waves to smoother sailing.

8.  Do something nice for others, and something nice for you.  It doesn’t have to cost you a penny.  It can be offering an ear to listen, a compliment (as long as it’s sincere!), or bringing food to an ill friend.  Last night, I decided to do something nice for myself that I know I’ve needed to do to help me grow as a professional artist.  I bought the domain name for this blog! 

One thing I do know is that crossing that threshold from the darkness and into the next stage of life will make me feel more confident, with a deeper sense of faith and trust in the work that I do and the life I live.   And that although there will be more hard days to come, having practiced these steps will give me the strength to keep weaving through the storms with serenity and grace.

My mom took this picture of South Sister in Oregon from this past summer.  My step-dad and I are the two tiny specks on the trail!

My mom took this picture of South Sister in Oregon this past summer. My step-dad and I are the two tiny specks on the trail!

Happy 2015 to you all!  I wish you great happiness, success, and opportunities to heal and let go of whatever is holding you back from accomplishing your dreams!