Tag Archives: fiber art

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 Social Media Detox

It’s been a while since I was on Instagram, even longer since I took a peek at Facebook, and you know what?  I’m still here, and all is well.  In fact, my voluntary social media detox has made space for the very thing I’ve been longing for: more time for creativity.  But it’s not easy to remove oneself from a community, especially one that is filled with excellent and inspiring people. My fellow fiber artists on IG are wonderfully supportive folks from all over the world, many whom I’ve never even met, and yet we have all spun an interactive web of sharing and networking that can keep us all updated on who is weaving what and where the next great art show is.  I can see how for some, social media keeps them humming along, nose to the grindstone, posting a photo of their latest masterpiece to share with their community.  The scrolling newsfeed of inspiration can keep the imagination flowing, and everyone benefits from the participation and consistent updates of the other artists. For me, however, it ended up turning into a distraction, an excuse to not finish – let alone start – anything, and I only felt worse when I saw all of the beautiful work that others were creating and sharing and I didn’t have anything to contribute.

On top of that, I was going through a dark night of the soul, and my muse seemed to have disappeared beyond my reach.  I counted the months since I had finished my most recent artwork on the big loom; 10 months.  I’m used to doing about three larger pieces a year.  I began to create more excuses; my day job was taking up too much time, I had to make dinner, I needed to knit a new hat, and there was my long Instagram feed to scroll through.  I continued to play piano and thoroughly enjoyed that creative outlet, but I was secretly worried that it was the end of tapestry weaving for me.  My imagination was blank.

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I decided that since I wasn’t making anything, and I was checking IG way too much, I would do a detox from the app and Facebook and just see what happened.  Around the same time, I began to pack up most of my things and temporarily live with just the necessities in the upstairs guest room in my parents house until I found a new place. The abrupt change in my physical space, along with the freedom from comparing myself to others on social media, resulted in the perfect recipe for returning to my own authentic creative voice.

In an article for Mindful magazine, Hugh Delehanty shares his experiences of getting back in touch with his creativity at an artist retreat.  After several days of struggling with painting what he felt he should paint, what he would usually paint, he reached a point of awareness to what was holding him back from expressing his genuine creativity.  I’ve read this article several times, and am continually fascinated with how so many artists share the same struggles of censorship, guilt, and trying to create what the world wants to see, instead of the visions that are stirring in their imaginations.  I’m particularly in love with a quote from the retreat instructor, Barbara Kaufman…

“Everything leads us back to ourselves… Sometimes we have to go too far to see that.  But what we usually do is play it too safe and close up.  Once you start opening, you get a sense that you can stretch more, and then you begin to realize the potential that’s available to you at any given moment.  The invitation of creativity is to move beyond the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves.  To allow life to permeate those thick walls that we think are so secure.”

I can see now that I was attempting to create within a very rigid mindset.  What would get me more followers and likes online?  Instead I should be wondering, what is it my soul wants me to create?  What images inside of me do I need to bring to life?  What wants to come forward and play into my work? I got so caught up in posting content that I forgot about the process.

While I was working on my thesis in undergrad, smartphones had just come out and cost, like, a million dollars and I wanted nothing to do with Facebook.  I instead stayed close and honest to the images and artworks I was creating for my thesis.  I had no filter for what I thought the art world wanted to see and instead followed the inspiration and beauty that resonated most within me. My passion and dedication to this vision resulted in a moving body of work that was a hallmark of my college career.  At times, I even surprised myself with what I was creating, and I know that it was because I stopped caring what other people would think. I instead opened up to the vast expanse of my own imagination, and followed it through the whole whirlwind process of completing a large body of work.

This isn’t to say I don’t think that social media is a useful and necessary tool.  As I said earlier, it can bring like-minded folks together to share stories and ideas, and therefore add more beauty and culture to our world.  I do think, however, that there are times when a break is imperative and healing for the soul.  It allows us to get back in touch with who we really are beyond the walls and boundaries we’ve set up for ourselves, and even to dissolve the stories of who we think we are.  Am I leaving social media for good?  Probably not, but until I return I will be putting my energy into getting back in touch with that authentic creative force within me, and creating the artwork I long to make.

Stay tuned, and keep creating!

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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The End and the Beginning

Hey, remember how I said a while back that I was going to finish this tapestry by the end of January?  Well I did it, I just forgot to tell everyone about it!  While I was out for a walk this evening the bright full moon shining down on me reminded me of this piece, and how happy I am that it’s finished…

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Compass, 2015, 14.5″ x 22″, cotton, wool

This piece embodies my own inner journey of finding and following my inner light, my “compass”, to wherever it may lead me.  Often times the voice that keeps me small and safe overpowers the soft and steady whispers of my intuition.  Ever notice how fear and worry sound so big and loud and commanding inside your head?  “Don’t do that!  You’ll never succeed.  Stay right where you are or you might make a big mistake!  What if you fail?”

But the voice of truth and wisdom is delicate and heartfelt, like bird songs in the morning.  “Why don’t you give it a shot?  You never know until you try.  This opportunity might be just what you need,” or even, “you can do great things.”

By finding and following our own inner compass, we find what our truth is, what our goals and dreams are, what we want to bring to the world, and the courage to follow that through.  This tapestry marks the end and the beginning for me, a time to get more in touch with the art I want to create.  I realize I want to work more with the symbols and stories in my own imagination, and for my own sense of personal and creative satisfaction.  I’ve been trying to design and weave tapestries to fit the demands of competitive juried shows, and while I’ve certainly had some success, it hasn’t felt authentic.  I don’t enjoy creating something to hopefully appease the aesthetic tastes of the jurors, just for the hope of tacking another show onto my resume.  I want to make art for myself, and let it reach out to those who are meant to be touched by it.  I’m not a contemporary conceptual artist, at least not right now.  My interests lie in nature and animals, mythology and storytelling.  Once I get back to the loom, it will be to weave the stories of the world into life.

A Few Steps Back…

Time really flies, especially when I get into the rhythm of weaving.  I fall into just the right state of calm focus and inspiration, and the colors and shapes flow from my fingers.  It can be hard to stop and take a step back, view the work, and take note of the progress, but this is one of the most important aspects of art making.  I first learned this from my painting instructor in college.  He would always remind us during class, while we were deep in the process of painting still lifes, to step back from the easel and view our work.  Up close, you could only see the tiny details, but from ten feet back, you could see the whole picture.  The sculptor, the painter, and yes, the tapestry weaver, need to get some distance between themselves and their work to see how it’s coming along.  How do the shadows, light, contrast, and colors look?  Is the composition still working?  Are any shapes or forms slightly off?  When your face is a mere 14 inches away from the canvas, it can be hard to take in the bigger picture.  Viewing our work from a distance is also how our audience will see it, and it gives us a chance to admire our hard work.

This design is an element from a larger tapestry that I will eventually make…  when I have a bigger loom.

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The cartoon and a colored pencil sketch of the design

The main design it’s taken from was partly inspired by my summer hike up to the alpine meadows of Mt. Jefferson near Bend, Oregon, and partly inspired by many late night moon viewings from my fifth floor apartment.  The moon/star symbol makes an interesting composition without the mountain and trees in the original design.

CompassWIP1So far, I’ve had to take two sections out, about four hours of work, because the areas weren’t following the cartoon (the white paper behind the weaving).  Eventually this “small” error would have thrown off most of the overall effect of the design.   Sometimes I don’t have to follow the cartoon exactly, and I enjoy the spontaneity that comes with improving, but I don’t have that freedom with this design.  Again, another great example of the importance of taking a few steps back to get some perspective!  I can’t emphasize it enough.  *If you’re an artist, take a break every now and then while you are making (not just at the beginning or end of your studio time) and get some distance between you and your art.  Soak in your progress and what you have learned, take note of what looks great and what might need to be improved.  Then pick up the paintbrush, or bobbin, or carving tool, and keep making.

*Even if you’re not an artist, this technique still applies to you; the artwork that you are looking at is your life!