What I Tried: Macrame

As a product of the 1970s, I’ve seen my share of macrame. So many dangling plant holders. So many different types of apparel. Then there was the gigantic owl with bulging bead eyes, perched on a piece of petrified cactus—he hovered over my family’s hi-fi during most of my formative years. Many may consider it kitschy or even a bit of an eyesore, but macrame has made a comeback in recent years.

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I decided to give it a try. I bought a cheap kit with a relatively simple pattern and spent a Sunday afternoon with another curious and creative friend. In two hours time, I finished one small section and there are five more to go. In the end, I’ll have a four-inch-wide and twenty-inch-long wall hanging. It’s definitely not an enormous project, but I do value the learning experience of it. Here’s what I’ve discovered about macrame so far:

Prep time is important
This never occurred to me before pulling out my supplies and instructions: there’s some preparation involved in macrame. There’s the matter of cutting the string to precise lengths. There’s the attaching of them to the base. I was eager to begin making knots, of course, but proper set-up is necessary for the more gratifying next steps.

Keep your strings straight
My project involves ten strings, which means I have to manage twenty pieces hanging from the base. I feel like Rapunzel’s hairstylist, manipulating those long blonde cords into tidy knots and braids, setting to the side or over the top what I’ll work on later. At first, it all felt like a big tangle, but I eventually landed on a system that helped make the whole process more manageable.

Rely on your own logic
I spent the bulk of my first two hours of macrame-making simply studying and trying to make sense of the project instructions, including detailed diagrams. It wasn’t until I put the instructions away, and began to experiment and understand the logic of the knots on my own terms, that I made some progress. But isn’t that the way it is with everything artistic or otherwise? I don’t know about you, but I find that, in this kind of transition, I enter the zone of true creativity.

I admit gravitating toward boho-chic decor and anything boasting interesting texture. In turn, macrame seems of natural interest to me. I look forward to mastering the basics through this first project, then considering how I could grow my skills further, perhaps in a creative work of my own dreaming. It’s worth a try.

 

 

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What I Learned: Watercolor Painting

I dig free stuff. Even more, I dig free stuff with priceless, life-changing rewards. Such is a free online watercolor video series by Maria Grossbaum. I swear I learned more about watercolor from its mere forty-ish minutes than I did from a lifetime of experiments in and exposure to the craft!

Also, I so appreciate instructors who see the beauty in happy little accidents and the element of surprise, versus those who adhere to the rigidity of the “right” techniques and “must-have” supplies. Grossbaum presents a class that definitely advocates for the former, thus I was pulled in and remain eager to try watercolor painting as she presents it. Thanks to her, I know exactly what I need:

Water, water, water
Before applying any color to the paper, Grossbaum puts gobs of water on it, front and back. Then, throughout the composition, water continues to be used liberally to get the translucent tonal effects that are special to successful watercolor paintings. “WATERcolor”—I certainly get the complete meaning of the word now!

Gradients
Grossbaum offers a couple practice exercises before instructing us on making full-fledged watercolor landscapes. One exercise is on gradients done in one color, then two colors, then more. Gradients become the foundation of her particular brand of watercolor painting—and her style seems doable for me, too.

Calligraphy nib
Grossbaum uses this untraditional tool to put the finishing touches on her works of art. What a brilliant idea compared to messing with teensy-tiny, less controllable brushes. I’ll make sure my studio is stocked before pursuing my own watercolor project—I’ll get back to you soon on my progress!

What I Read: “In Her Studio”

IMG_3490My friend Tami and I often exchange creativity-related resources. In a delightful package of goodies she sent to me recently, I discovered In Her Studio, a quarterly periodical by Stampington & Company.

The magazine’s tagline? Its whole premise is “spaces and stories of creative women.” The magazine features fascinating testimonies—and the coolest photography—on how female artists think, organize, work, and live. I look forward to borrowing a few pieces of their stories to shape my own…

Getting organized
Many of the artists seem to have a designated place—both pretty and functional—for their tools, supplies, books, etc. I hope to organize my own studio so it’s less like a storage closet and more like a sanctuary for all things creative. Even better, I hope to do so on a shoestring budget. I love the challenge of repurposing what I already have on a hand and hunting for funky baskets, jars, and bins on a dime.

Setting boundaries
I admit I’ve allowed my studio to become a playground for my daughter and her friends. Though I love seeing them explore their own creativity in that space, I need to set some boundaries in order to maintain its refuge-like qualities. I also need to devise a system for my undisturbed work—I hope some hanging paper art that I made last winter, hung on the studio’s doorknob, will alert passersby that Mom is “busy” in one of the best senses of the word.

Celebrating my studio
Last year, we invested in a Murphy bed so that our guest bedroom could become a creative studio. The room remains small and a bit crowded, but I’m taking to heart the words of artist Amber M. Jensen (page 114 of In Her Studio, Summer 2019): “I think we do some of our greatest work under limitations. If you can only carve out a small space to work in, perhaps that limitation could be an advantage. Be open to letting the space speak to you. Maybe your idea has to change a little, but that could allow for something really exciting and unexpected to be created instead.”

In turn, I have a new goal: To share my own story and to be among the women featured in In Her Studio. Who knows how my ongoing attempts to claim my artistic identity will inspire someone else to do the same!

Blog Posts 3.0: Reading, Learning, Trying, Seeing

I love blogging, but my approach to date has been a bit inconsistent. I began with writing little anecdotes related to the writing practice. These contributions were short-lived. I returned to posting after about five years of parenting and getting through the demands typical of infancy and toddlerhood. My inspiration for Take 2? A renewed sense of creativity upon reaching middle age—a more profound attention to and appreciation for art in all of its forms. 

I fell off the grid again last winter. I don’t really know why. I didn’t check out from engaging in creative pursuits and adventures. I didn’t stop reading and learning and trying and seeing. Aha! Perhaps the method to my creative madness is method indeed—that intrinsic method of how I ride the current of my creative flow. Reading. Learning. Trying. Seeing. This revelation gives me new motivation. So, today, I’m going to recommit to blogging and to posting regularly, probably weekly, on those very topics:

What I’m reading
I fell in love with the non-fiction work of Madeline L’Engle over the past several months. I discovered other authors, books, periodicals, instruction manuals, etc., that have enlightened my artistic knowledge and experience. My nightstand always features some kind of art-related read. 

What I’m learning
Earlier this summer, I invested in a three-month ninety-nine-cent Creative Bug membership. Through that resource and other online videos, I’ve watched people paint watercolor landscapes, stretch canvases, make collages—you name it! Such learning prepares me for the things I eventually take the time to try…

What I’m trying
Over the past year, I’ve dabbled in pour painting, poetry writing, graphic design, woodburning, etc. It’s fun to try new things and, as a result, I further discern my creative calling. I look forward to sharing my experiments here. 

What I’m seeing
I’m blessed to live in a city with such a rich offering of museums, exhibits, performances and all things creative. Such visits often spur what I read, learn and try next! 

I’m excited about picking up the ball of blogging again and approaching it with some more intentionality. Thank you for joining me on the journey!

The Advent Project 2018

baby-21990_1280It’s the first Sunday of Advent, an annual season of waiting for those of us who believe in the sacred origins of Christmas and believe in Jesus as Son of God and the sent Messiah.

I love this time of year, especially as a Minnesotan. Our surroundings take on a quiet, more expectant nature. No more rustle of leaves—the trees are bare. No more long days of summer—dim comes before dinner. Our homes take on a different, warm glow by firelight, candlelight, tree light.

I mentioned The Lent Project out of Biola University last spring. Now I’m excited to dig into The Advent Project, which “[t]hrough the layering of Scripture, prayers, and the arts, offers a wonderful opportunity for daily reflection, an occasion for us to pray with our eyes and ears as well as our hearts and minds.”

Like The Lent Project, The Advent Project weaves together personal expression, creative endeavors, and powerful stories of faith. Truly it’s the most beautiful experience I’ve encountered through a digital platform. I invite you to enjoy it with me as a special way to follow your artistic interests and scratch your creative itch. I invite you to join me in celebrating and welcoming the coming of Jesus!