Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cathartic Destruction

Now I’m not a destructive person, but I never knew destroying an unfinished tapestry could feel so cathartic! To be clear, it’s been on the loom for a couple of years too long, and I just wasn’t loving the design. I’ve learned some new tricks since I first began this weaving, so it was time to take the sharp scissors to it and inch by inch remove the old weft…

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Single weft interlock? I don’t even use this technique for my signature anymore!

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I only cut one warp too, so I’ll take that as a big success!

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And those rare earth magnets we tapestry weavers love? Turns out if you leave them on your weaving for too long (ahem, a couple of years) they leave a permanent indentation. Who knew? I certainly didn’t…

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Maybe a little steaming and some careful fluffing with a brass-tipped bobbin or a tapestry needle would help. Someone else will have to try that out because all evidence of my mistake is cut off the loom now.

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I’m kind of in love with this colorful pile of yarn fluff…

So now the loom is upright, the broken warp replaced, waiting for that new design to grace the cotton warp. Tomorrow, my old friend…

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The Gifts of Visual Therapy

“Have you ever heard of poetry therapy?” read my text to a good friend about an ad I had just seen. My latest copy of Spirituality & Health magazine advertised a poetry therapy retreat. As I got in my car to run errands, I marveled at the many modes of therapy available to us today.  With wilderness therapy, art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, and now poetry therapy, there is a method of healing and rejuvenation for just about everyone!

One kind of therapy that really helps me (and it’s practically free) is visual therapy, which I don’t even know if it’s a real thing. Google only gave me medical “vision therapy”  and a personal shopping and wardrobe organizing blog as my search results! To me visual therapy is the therapeutic benefit or result of seeing something of great beauty and wonder. I often feel joyous, inspired, motivated, moved, or at peace when I see something beautiful, like a colorful sunset, an exquisite piece of art, or just looking out over an expansive ocean. When I really stop and think about it, there are countless moments of this kind of splendor all throughout a single day, even at work (which naturally can feel so mundane at times).

With the small amount of research I’ve done on art therapy, I think this visual therapy differs in that one is experiencing positive feelings as a result of seeing a piece of art or a breathtaking landscape, rather than creating a piece of art with the guidance of a professional. Art therapy can bring a greater understanding of one’s own trauma, challenges, struggles, and life experiences through the art making process.  And like art therapy, visual therapy is a balm for the soul.

In no certain order, here are my top modes of visual therapy:

1. The tapestry collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston

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2. The Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

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The Portland Japanese Garden

3. My mom’s garden in summer

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4. Squam lake, especially Church Island

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5. The colorful process of making vegetable soup

6. Photos of our beautiful planet and its many inhabitants, both human and animal

7. Ancient architecture… i.e. the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, the gothic and renaissance cathedrals of Europe, Machu Picchu, Buddhist monasteries and temples, etc.

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Photo by Jake Young on Pexels.com

8. Watching a ballet or theater performance

9. Waking up to the enchantment of freshly fallen snow, especially when you don’t need to go anywhere.

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10. A library with rows and rows and rows of books

11. The stars

12. The ocean

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13. A smiling baby

14. Horses grazing in their pastures

15. The first page – and the last page – of a very good book

I think that one thing that completely gets in my way of experiencing visual therapy is simply not being in the present moment. Worry and stress, over past or future, are most certainly killjoys to the rapture right in front of us.  Any kind of overthinking or over-analyzing is also sure to distract us from noticing these simple yet glorious moments.

I hope that this is a year of inspiration as we all experience the many awe-inspiring moments of this beautiful world we live in. What would you add to this list? And if you’ve heard of a term that describes this “visual therapy”, or any books on this sort of topic, please leave me a comment below. I would love to learn more!

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In the creative spirit,

Laura

 

Weaving from the Heart

Was it my muse, or my imagination, or some other sort of divine message that woke me up the other morning?  I can’t say for sure, but I was given a beautiful spark of a tiny tapestry design.  I felt an intense calling to get out of my warm bed and warp that second little loom I just bought that’s been sitting there, waiting to fulfill it’s purpose.  The blizzard roared outside my window.  My feet hit the floor.  I meditated, washed my face, tidied my wild hair, and settled in for a day of weaving.

And that’s usually how all of my ideas come; a flash of an image, equivalent to turning on a light in a dark room.  In fact, if the idea isn’t fully formed in my mind’s eye, I wont have the inspiration to start.  That’s usually how I can tell when an idea is ready to come into the world; I will feel an itch, a kick in the pants if you will, to begin creating it.  I’ve tried sketching out ideas and designs, mixing the elements together that I want to work with.  But if the idea isn’t there from the get go, I simply wont have the dedication to complete the weaving.  Usually I have to just let it go, give it some time and space, go for a walk, do some knitting.  And when I least expect it, it just seems to drop from the sky.

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So what I mean by weaving (or creating) from the heart is this; I’m not forcing anything.  As artists we’re told to make what sells, to be on trend, to find your audience and market, especially if this is how we’re making a living.  I really don’t want to put that kind of pressure on my creativity, although I would LOVE to just be a stay-at-home weaver and weave the bazillion designs I have in my head instead of working a full time retail job.  That job, however, has it’s perks, and allows me absolute freedom to create for my heart and soul.

My ideas will probably always be whimsical and have a slightly cartoony design to them.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.  It’s my personal style, what I see in my imagination, what wants to be created and brought into the world.  And when I create in this way, I know I’m working with my hands and my heart, and staying true to who I am as an artist.

How do you create from the heart?

I hope this inspires you to keep creating!

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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