Friday, January 30, 2009

Secret #4~ Surrendering to Creative Cycles

It's week four of our online book blogging club, hosted by Jamie of Starshyne Productions, and we're reading The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women. This week's chapter has us exploring voids/darkness and creative cycles in our lives.

The beginning of this chapter really hit home for me, because it sounded so similar to what I've gone through. All through my 20's I really pushed myself-- going to college, assisting in the psychology department with research, working 2 jobs, and volunteering at a domestic violence shelter to boot. I was trying to be the perfect college student, build the perfect resume, so that I could get the perfect job when I graduated. It was during this time of my life that I completely lost touch with any kind of creativity. I was too busy trying to be successful.

I got the "perfect" job after I graduated, doing just what I thought I wanted to do-- counseling at-risk teens and their families. Often I worked more than 9 hours a day, and my days were full of stressful situations and lots of travel as well. I was always tired and this began to take its toll. I think it was around this time that I first talked to my doctor and he suggested that my chronic fatigue could be from depression and perhaps medication would be beneficial. I was mortified at the thought.

Thinking a change would help, I fought for, and got, a job as a social work case aide. I also got married. I left work every day with a migraine. Eventually, every morning, I was crying in the shower and trembling with anxiety the whole time I was getting ready for work. I was always tired. I realized I was very far away from what I really wanted to do, which was advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence. After 2 years of living life like this, I left my job at DHS to return to shelter work.

But by this time, I was a walking zombie. My self-esteem was shot. The harder I tried to be the perfect employee, to say and do the right things, the worse everything got, until finally I was just... done... I reached the point where I could no longer physically or mentally function.

This was the first black hole I experienced. Eventually I recovered and found an awesome job doing behavioral research, which I loved, yet at the end of the work day, I was always absolutely exhausted. I found myself dozing over my work in the afternoons. I was always tired no matter how much sleep I tried to get.

In 2000, my husband got a job in Colorado and we took a chance and moved to a new, unfamiliar state without any family or friends near. I worked a couple of different jobs doing floral design instead of any kind of stressful human services work, but I was always so damn tired it was hard to function. For every day I worked, I needed a day or two to recover. I was also wracked with constant pain and anxiety. In 2002, I was diagnosed with major depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

Since then, I've been learning how to function again. It is taking a long, long time. What helps me manage the void?
  • acknowledging my limitations and honoring them
  • 10-12 hours of sleep a day
  • a daily dose of sunshine
  • vitamins
  • quiet time
  • time in nature
  • music
  • my spiritual path
  • creative work-- polymer clay, collage, journaling, floral design, rubber stamping, crochet-- anything that puts me in touch with color and texture
Its only been in the past 2-3 years that I've discovered the energizing gift of creativity, so I'm not sure I've gone through too many creative cycles at this point. One I can identify, though, is getting burned out by doing too much of the same thing. I was making very intricately decorated boxes to sell and at one point got 3 commissioned pieces to do. While I learned a huge amount about polymer clay and sculpting with those projects, I also got tired of making box after box and I missed the freedom of creating spontaneously. Once the commissioned works were done, I quit making boxes and began to focus more on jewelry.

Well, now its time for a change again. I realize that jewelry is an "easy out" for me. While I like it and find it fun, it isn't the type of polymer clay project that brings out my creative passion. So I've been reading books, collecting ideas, making sketches, browsing tutorials, visiting poly clay sites-- gathering inspiration and information for making larger, more sculptural pieces. I'm still a researcher at heart, I guess.

But I think this may be my biggest key to managing those voids-- instead of pushing myself past my limits, I need a time of gathering together before I can proceed, whether its gathering my energy or ideas or confidence. And maybe that's what all the pain and exhaustion is trying to teach me... slow down, take a good look at what's going on, be honest about how you're feeling, figure out your choices, and then move ahead, creatively.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snugglin'

Husband caught us nappin' together...

I never thought my Moose-man would ever turn into a lap kitty... but he's become a regular snuggle bug lately.

It's taken almost 8 years to develop this level of trust from my Moose-man. I'm honored that he has decided I'm worthy of it.

... that's the power of love...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lady of the Roses

I have an attraction to pear and egg shapes, probably because I'm that shape myself. This is an idea that's been brewing for quite a while now, a series of egg-shaped goddesses.

This Lady of the Roses is my prototype and I'm really pleased with how she turned out. She's made of polymer clay with a patina of venetian gold and stands about 5 inches tall.

She was inspired by a little egg-shaped ivory goddess figure I bought years ago for my traveling altar, and also by La Virgen de Guadalupe, who is often depicted as surrounded by roses as well as a halo of light. I tutored a woman from Mexico several years ago and she shared with me the story of La Virgen and invited me to the festival celebrations in her honor on December 12th. It was a beautiful experience, full of spectacular dancing, mirth and reverence and community, and is a very special memory for me.

I've sketched out ideas for several more egg-shaped goddesses. I wonder if they will be appealing to others?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Inspires & Fascinates Me

This week's chapter for 12 Secrets has me thinking more about what inspires and fascinates me creatively...


My tools inspire me. Having lots of tools to play and experiment with, as well as finding the right tool for the project really helps me. Tools for shaping and texturing and cutting. Its fascinating to play with a tool and see what you can do with it. Its also fascinating that you can find a tool for doing absolutely anything, if you look long enough. Above are just some of my very favorite tools.

Color inspires and fascinates me. Colors from nature and art supplies that are colorful or help create color are inspiring. The more color the better! I love using bold, bright color; its fascinating to mix colors and see what I get, and I love playing with unusual color combinations.

Books, booklets, magazines, brochures and pamphlets. I get inspired reading about new ideas, seeing finished projects, learning through tutorials... I find something new and I'm fascinated. I flip through my reading material endlessly, seeing what catches my attention, making mental notes of things I want to try, looking for inspiration.

The one thing I realize from reading other participants' posts on inspiration is that what I don't have much of is support from others. I realize that I feel isolated in this area. Of course my husband is supportive, but he also admits he doesn't understand my creative drive. He's not a kindred spirit in that sense. Family is far away, I don't really get to share with them much and real life friends don't really get the whole creative thing, either. Most of my support from other people comes from online friends. I do wish I had more people that I could share my creative dreams with, I'd really like to know more creative kindred spirits and have more opportunities to "talk shop".

Friday, January 23, 2009

Secret #3~ Following Your Fascinations

And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.
~Erica Jong
This chapter. Filled me with inspiration and encouragement... filled me with dread. I am not a risk-taker, or if I am, it's a very, very calculated risk and I often find I regret it afterwards. And most who've known me as an adult would never describe me as impulsive; I am completely the opposite. Add in my anxiety and depression disorders and my perfectionism and I become utterly stagnated. I am shamed by this.

But this chapter isn't about what's wrong, its about what's right. It's not about what doesn't work, it's about what does work.
I came back to the dried out work a couple of days later and looked at the crack and said 'Oh, yuck.' So I thought, it'll probably crack again but I'll just smear some of my paper clay emulsion mixture into the crack , so I did.

What did I have to lose, since I'd already lost that piece? I thought, well, if it behaves like normal, which is what I expected it to do, I figured it would crack again as it dried. Then I forgot about it and a few days later I came back, but to my surprise, the crack was gone. The piece was dry and whole.

~ Rosette Gault
This passage in chapter three was what really spoke to me. THIS is the attitude I want. What do I have to lose, might as well try it. Ahhhh... now that would be freedom. To say those words and live by them.

My intuitive voice is trying desperately to get me to try new ventures. Like this one. And oh, how I want to! I'm brimming with ideas. My hands itch for the clay. My fears and perfectionism keep me from even beginning. I've actually been avoiding my creative space.

And yet. Maybe I have begun. I found those vases. I've been researching some sculpture techniques. Searching for a blending tool (which I found just yesterday) that I think will be enormously helpful. Planning themes and designs in my head; need to get them down on paper. Looking at pictures and articles to help inspire me. Thinking about clays and embellishments that I want to use. So I guess I have begun. I'm just moving forward much more slowly than I want to be moving.

But I am moving forward.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Still Sexy at 60

Speaking of inspiration, "The Voice" turns 60 today. Rumor has is it, he is in the process of recording his first album in over 10 years. Hopefully, he'll post his annual birthday message at Fan Asylum soon and he'll confirm it.
Happy Birthday, Steve Perry!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wishcasting Wednesday

Jamie at Starshyne Productions is hostess of Wishcasting Wednesday, when we put it out to the Universe, asking for our wishes to come true. This week's wish prompt:

WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR YOUR SPACE?

Last May, we had a sewer backup followed by plumbing leaks, which lead to ripping out a HUGE portion of our finished basement. That lead to discoveries such as a Very Important Support Beam had been removed by whoever finished the basement, as well as substandard carpentry, resulting in rot, etc.

All the insurance money and our savings went to replacing things that the insurance didn't cover. Here is where we are, and here is where we've stayed since last October:

the Family room

the Guest room

the Bathroom

the Laundry room (although I do finally have my washer and dryer hooked up again!)

But wait, there's more! Over the past several years of drought, our driveway has sunk, cracked and severely buckled. It has become apparent over this winter that tearing out the drive, refilling the areas of compaction/washout, and replacing the concrete is becoming IMPERATIVE. It has to be done before we even consider doing more in the basement. We also need to look into realigning our sewer line, as it has shifted because of the drought, and if it shifts much more... I'm not even going to go there.

We don't have the money for any of it. We are tapped out. We're living in half of a house and I'm tired of it. I want our house back! I want my finished basement back! I want our sewer line fixed! I want a new driveway!

So that is my wish-- I wish for the money, supplies, assistance, contractors, knowledge, skills, energy-- whatever we need to replace the driveway, fix the sewer line and finish the basement so that we can have our lovely house back! I wish for a new, smooth, flat driveway, a straight and true and unclogged sewer line right out to the main line, and I wish for textured walls and ceilings, beautiful, warm, new paint, tile flooring, bathroom tile and a pretty shower door, a lovely new sink and vanity, our toilet reinstalled, new carpeting, wide wood baseboards, new doors and frames, and any other thing we might need to refinish the basement, so that we can have that space back again.

What do you wish for? Join us in wishcasting each Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Will They Become?

Went to the thrift store and found just what I was looking for:


I have a fun idea for these which involves goddesses, hopes, dreams and wishes. Time to start playing and experimenting. Stay tuned to see what develops!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hearts & Swirls

Played with another pendant idea over the weekend. I have a new swirly texture stamp and of course I had to make something with it.

If that doesn't say "valentine" I don't know what does! Husband helped me out by taking photos of me modeling this necklace and the ones I finished earlier last week for Etsy. It's waaaaay tricky being the model AND the photographer all by yourself, although I have done it. Much easier when there's a little help.

So the red, pink and gold heart necklace is listed at my Etsy... but the one below... I made that one for me. I actually made something for myself!

And look, I even made matching tube beads, my very first! I'm quite proud. I know, I know, alot of you poly clayers out there are probably thinking, "Pshaw! Tube beads-- I cut my baby teeth making tube beads!" But I don't do much bead making with PC, so this was all new for me; I'm a little excited.

Don't know exactly what I'm going to do with my own pendant/beads, going to play around with them a while and see how things end up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Secret #2~ Honoring Your Inspirations

When did your creative awakening/reawakening occur?

I've been creative my whole life, but I've awakened to this fact only within these past few years.

When I was younger my creativity was expressed through creative writing, choir, drama and unusual outfits and hair colors. After high school, I was a floral designer for a few years and fell in love with color and texture. Then came the lean years during college and afterwards, working as an assault victim advocate, counselor for at-risk teens and social work case aide. I did learn to crochet during this time and my friend JLo introduced me to rubber stamping, but most of my creative adventures were few and far between.

In my late 30's I began to experiment with creative journaling, collage-- and I discovered polymer clay. And that was when I realized I really want to do something with this. And I realized I have all sorts of ideas of things I could make. And then I had my awakening-- I really AM a creative person. I LOVE being creative. Being creative makes me happy. Being creative is what I want to do. Being creative is WHO I AM. At the age of 40, I finally know this.

Where and when do you create?

Trust me, its never this pristine when I'm working.

I am very lucky because I have a whole room for my creativity. I painted it a lovely twilight shade of purple and made the curtains myself. I have shelves and closet space to organize all my creative tools and supplies. I have bookcases for all my books. I have a nice large desk and comfortable chair to sit in while I work. I have another comfy chair to sit in while I read, research, dream and pray. I am surrounded by altars and Goddesses and ancestors. I have a CD player for music. I am very, very blessed to have such a space for creative work.

My desk altar.

In the afternoons, the sunlight comes in my window and the glow beckons me into my craft room. I go to my altar and light incense and turn on some music. Sometimes I just sit in the sun or stand at my altar and gaze out the window. Other times I sit at my desk with the sun on my back and I begin to play... with clay, with stamps, with felt tip pens, or beads... and often-- hours later-- I find myself in a darkened room, surrounded by a towering pile of supplies and a finished project in front of me. (Or, its time to make dinner and I regretfully leave my project in limbo).

Does nature influence your creativity? How?

It absolutely does! The colors of my room were inspired by the colors of sunrise/sunset. Most of my projects are inspired by a season, an animal, a flower... I'm always thinking of ways to incorporate some aspect of nature into my work. I'm also inspired by my spiritual path, so I also think in terms of the elements-- earth, air, fire, water... more nature influences.

My other big influences are color and texture. I want to create things that are a feast for the eyes, that pop with color and beg to be touched because of interesting textures.

What has been your greatest creative hurdle so far?

The naysayers... "I sure wish I could wander around the craft store every other day." "Must be nice to sit around and play with crafts all day." And so on and so forth. Hey, I've found what brings me joy, not my problem that you haven't been able to do the same. Don't take it out on me.

Also, I am a perfectionist. So I want whatever I make to be perfect, the first time I make it. And of course it never is. I've been seriously thinking about getting a "Wreck This Journal" to work through-- to learn how to be messy, destructive, imperfect, spontaneous and slapdash instead of such a perfectionist. I am my own worst critic.

I'm trying to accustom myself to thinking in terms of "Let's see what happens if I try this or that; what do I like better?" I'm figuring out how to think in terms of "Let's look at this as a learning experience." I've had to learn to leave it, think about it, come back to it later. Most recently, I've been learning to sketch out ideas and play with them on paper before I start my actual work.

So much more from this chapter I could go into... this is good for starters.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hearts & Flowers

New Valentine inspired pieces at my Etsy store!

Its a little bit Victorian, a little bit Goth... Victorian Rose Choker.


A little breath of early spring with an Apple Blossom pendant necklace...


And a 2-for-1 set: it's reversible! Hearts on one side--

... raised art nouveau design on the reverse for two different looks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Crab Lasagna Rolls

Cooking is creative, too! Thought I would post a favorite recipe. It's simple to make, tastes great and looks fancy-- which make it a nice recipe to serve for special guests/occasions. This recipe makes 8 rolls; serving size is 1-2 rolls.

CRAB LASAGNA ROLLS

8 lasagna noodles (cook & drain)
1 jar (26 oz) Italian-style tomato sauce

FILLING:
8 oz. package of imitation crab meat (or real crab, if it is within your budget)
1 1/4 C cottage cheese (drained)
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1 TBSP dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 egg

1. Start with boiling water for the lasagna noodles. It's important that the noodles are whole, so I cook the pasta in a large skillet. Strange, I know, but I've found it works well.

2. While the pasta cooks, mix the crab, cottage & parmesan cheese, parsley, onion powder and egg together.

3. When the pasta is al dente, drain carefully and spread the noodles out flat on waxed paper. Do not over cook the noodles or they will be too mushy and easily split when you try to roll them.

4. Spread approximately 1/4 C crab mixture along the center of the noodle, leaving about an inch bare at one end. Keep the mixture away from the edges of the noodle and not too thick, or it will make too fat of a roll and will ooze out the ends.

5. Firmly but gently, roll up the noodle from the filled end towards the bare end. Don't roll too tightly or the filling will ooze out! Leave the crab roll with the seam side down to keep it from unrolling.

6. Place crab lasagna rolls seam side down in a pan and cover with sauce. Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese and cover pan with foil. Bake covered at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Four to freeze, four for dinner.

7. Serve with a simple salad and garlic bread. Enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Secret #1- Acknowledging Your Creative Self

This week is the first week of 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor. Thank you Jamie & The Next Chapter, for bringing us another book blogging adventure! And HELLO to all you Highly Creative Women!

So much in this first chapter rang true for me. Like Gail McMeekin said, "Claiming my artistic self as a woman became the path to healing and recreating my life," and really, this is where I'm at in my own life, right at this very moment. I've always been a creative soul. I've only recently (within the past 2 years or so) really begun to acknowledge and embrace this fact.

I remember when I was in elementary school it always seemed that the art room was a place of magic. I was disappointed that art class was so infrequent. My favorite thing in the world was when our art teacher, Mr. O'Meara, opened up the large wooden bins that held potting clay and we were able to pull out big, squishy, earthy smelling clumps of it and learn how to make little bowls and sculptures. Its no surprise to find that now as an adult, I'm addicted to polymer clay.

My creative self really has saved my life. Working with color, texture, with my hands-- all of this brings me joy. It lifts my mood when I am depressed, it relaxes me when I am stressed, it fills me with peace when I feel sad. Being creative is my tool for meditation, my tool for emotional release, my tool to connect with my spirit, my tool to help keep myself SANE.

In the book there was a quote from Sanaya Roman that said, "What you love is a sign from your higher self of what you are to do." At the age of 40, I am finally beginning to listen to that higher self. I am giving myself permission to do what I love to do. I am learning and accepting that creativity is a key to my survival. And if I'm lucky, I might even find a way to make a career out of it. How beautiful is that?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pieces & Parts

I've been experimenting with two of my favorite things: polymer clay and rubber stamps. Well, three actually-- can't forget the Pearl Ex powders...

So here are some pendants in progress, using stamping for texture and powders for color and/or embellishment. Also played around with assorted cutters, beveled edge and regular edge. Now for the beads and what not to finish them off!

I have several more ideas brewing, I really need to sketch out more of my inspirations and get them down on paper just so I don't forget them; I swear, my short term memory lasts less than--- wait, what were we talking about? *snort*