leaping in

A mucker through and through, that’s me.  Like a magnet, new experiences in art pull me in all the time . . . I see something different and think to myself, “I could do that!”   Yesterday I signed up for Kawai Ruapapa-Raranga: thie year I am learning how to prepare and weave flax/harakeke!

After a Sunday afternoon with the kaiako/teacher in her studio trying to make up for a missed weekend, I am sold!  In the early evening I went and harvested some harakeke/flax, pulled it into strips and then wondered which big saucepan I could sacrifice to boil it . . . I think I need to visit a charity shop and find something.  And I need some new blades for my knife and rubber bands to tie the strips into bundles, maybe some dye but I like a natural look.  That’s it . . . minimum expenditure, the materials grow wild on my walk to the beach or along the roadsides!

Waitohu Stream

Harakeke flowering on the way to the Waitohu Stream

So busy was I that it never occurred to me to take photos!    But just watch this space . . . there will be some after every weekend!

Oh dear . . . I save the above as a draft instead of posting it so here are images of my very first attempts at weaving kete/baskets.

IMG_2851 IMG_2854 IMG_2855The next noho (a long weekend where you can sleep over) is early May and that’s when I learn how to attach feathers among other things.  Yahoo!

Guess who will be looking for a freshly run over pukeko on the side of the road . . . does that sound ghoulish?  If you saw the sheen of the plumage I’m sure you’d understand.I hope this image doesn’t have a copyright . . . I got it from google images.

pukeko

The pukeko or swamp hen.

My next adventure?  A week of diving into a workshop with the wonderful Jill Berry! 

internal conflict in the studio

Last week Quinn McDonald published The Pull of Inner Critic and Inner Hero and it really got me thinking.   I’ve known for some time that my strengths are also a kind of curse: I guess if you build a strong fortress, then when you are under siege you’re a prisoner in a jail of your own making.

It took a long time to realise that my being a ‘mucker’ (my uncle’s nickname for me), always exploring and trying new things, never settling on anything for long, made me incredibly versatile.   It took time too to realise that being a Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none wasn’t as demeaning as it sounds, because that reframes as being versatile as well.  These dubious titles led to me developing the belief that if someone else can do whatever, the chances are I can.

So this versatility, this confidence that I can do just about anything I want, how is that a curse?  It’s a curse because I want to do everything and I want to do it now and I want to do it perfectly!  And no surprises, that plan just isn’t working out well!

That aspect of my versatile Inner Hero that says “Of course you can!” is countered by the damnable  Inner Critic who provides a smorgasbord of possibilities and as a consequence I’m stunned like a possum in a cars headlights.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Tammy Garcia once wrote ‘much better to start late than never begin at all’ which eventually gave me the blog name, Late Start Studio.  And yes, I’m starting late, and I know I don’t have to catch up I just have to start but oh, I want to catch up!  And I want to be a master of something!   But what?    Here I am, stunned, frozen, telling myself “just to something!”  Anything!  Just pick something and DO IT!  But one day I make some crazy stuffed creature, or a little soft sculpture, or paint a page in my journal, make another stencil or stamp or pencil-case or . . . you get the picture.

Versatile Inner Hero on one hand, Inner Critic spilling out all the options like the contents of a suitcase on the other.    I guess I’ll just have to settle for being a Master Mucker!

Those who wait for every little thing to be perfect before they embark on a project or who dislike the compromise of a partial solution are among the least happy.  Ideal circumstances are seldom given to anyone for an undertaking.

Deng Ming-Dao: 365 Daily Meditations, p.295

Quinn McDonald’s guest!

I started my blog relatively recently however the people who have been the most encouraging have been at it for considerably longer and have a clear purpose.   I’m still looking for mine . . . here with this blog and life in general.

One of the blogs I visit regularly is that of Quinn McDonald.  The people who comment regularly give almost as many thought-provoking contributions as the posts themselves and appear to be a cross-section of people, all of whom seem to want to live more satisfying and creative lives.    My contributions are sometimes stream of consciousness rants and when Quinn suggested one as a guest post I was extremely flattered and, rather than procrastinate about it, the next time I had something to rabbit on about I sent it through to her.   I was thinking about all the poor choices I do, all the automatic, thoughtless habits, that stop me from doing and being the best me I can.  You can read it here or go to Quinn’s blog and read it there . . . I believe in giving choices.

Dirty Little Addictions

Yes, most of us have them and from time to time they get out of hand.  I have one: I knew of it’s existence before partaking but eventually a personal introduction was made by a friend, well it was more like the way a new convert would be indoctrinated into a cult and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  At first it was harmless and I thought I had full control, no one, not even me, was being hurt.  Now?  I can’t quite say the same.  The effect of this energy sapping, mind numbing (most addictions are), debilitating and dirty little addiction is that I am wasting my time, time I can never recover.

Because I have had a month off work and don’t need to clear my mind of rubbish by putting even more in its place (how pointless is that!) I am noticing how much precious time this compulsion robbing away from me.

I’ve tried to ration when I allow myself to indulge but to no avail.  Do I need to go cold turkey?  Is that even possible?  Do I need to find myself a 12-step programme and work through it?    I joke that I have oodles of willpower but next to no won’t-power.  Not funny.  I have to come up with a plan whereby I am accountable for what is wasted on this dirty little secret of mine.

Perhaps some kind soul would come and wave a big stick around, threaten, cajole, encourage by turns.  That might be a fine plan but will hardly empower me to make my own decisions, live my own life.  There’s only one thing for it . . . do it myself.  I got myself into this mess and I know I have lots of company but small comfort that is!

I don’t need to tell you what it is; you might try and experience the initial thrill of it for yourself and so it’s better you remain ignorant.  No, I need to ‘fess up to myself, put on my big girl knickers and get on with living! First SpreadRemember, “Each day passes whether you participate or not,” Deng Min Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations.

in search of a hero

Warning, the inner critic causes the use of mild expletives.  You see I have a copy of Quinn McDonald‘s new book The Inner Hero Creative Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic and I’m working my way through it.  As a first step I let the IC out so we could get acquainted.  If you take a look at the very generous preview on Amazon you’ll see what I mean.  Not that I purchased the book from them . . . Book Depository is a far cheaper option for me, or even Fishpond.

But I digress.  What I wanted to tell you is that, while I knew the IC is really negative and does not hesitate to criticise me, undermine my confidence and reinforce any little hesitation on my part so that it overwhelms me to the point of inertia, I did not realise what an utter bitch it is when challenged!  So if or when you delve into this wonderful publication, be prepared!  Even my digression about book suppliers started a minor skirmish.  “You can’t stick at anything for long can you!”   These criticisms are always said as a statement of fact, they are not posed as questions.

So yes, an utter bitch and there’ll be more on the gendering of insults and compliments at a later date . . . I have made a note.  If I start in on that particular rant now I’ll get it in the ear again.  I will let you know up front however, I bought my copy of the book, I am not being paid to review it in fact I haven’t read it all yet, oh, and I do follow Quinn’s blog . . . I start my day with a coffee and Quinn in bed . . . just the coffee, not Quinn.  It’s not just her posts that are great, the community of people who comment is marvellous.

This fiendish IC seems to not only carry all the negativity and criticism that I grew up with but has some very tricky and slightly more benign company.  Yes!  There are two of the little buggers!  Do I need to point out that ‘bugger’ is not considered swearing here in New Zealand or in Australia?  Check out this ad, there were several of them over the years and although there were complaints to the NZ Broadcasting Authority but they weren’t upheld.   In fact to call someone a bit of a silly bugger is almost affectionate (mental note, write a post about NZ colloquial language) but I have no affection at all for these two.

IC #1.  You would be amazed at what this guy says to me . . . I’m not sure of its gender but I think of it as male, a great ugly, sticky, black cloud of a fellow who is now out on his own trying to fend off my attack.  What does he say you ask?  Well, as the mouthpiece of all the historical criticism,  both real and perceived (my reality Pete if your reading this) he seems to spurt an almost constant stream of verbal diarrhea aimed squarely at my self-esteem.  I’m thinking that I must have a healthy self-esteem or he wouldn’t shout so bloody much!

The tone of his barbed comments is rather predictable.  They’re barbed like fish hooks that stick in to you and can only be removed with some pain but oh the relief when you get them out!  The comments, similar to the one above, are all about how I’m unlovable, undeserving, unworthy, inconsistent and ill-disciplined, just a jack of all trades and have no originality.  What utter garbage!  But of course now that I’m on to him and challenging at every turn he thinks it time to step up the volume.

Want to know what I do?  I laugh!  And say “Yeah, right!” in a very Kiwi way.  No, not the fruit, they’re actually kiwifruit, I’m a Kiwi and a kiwi is the bird.  See IC, my digressions are f-u-n-n-y!  How do you write a word so the reader says in s-l-o-w-l-y? As if to someone having trouble understanding but in this case, loaded with sarcasm.  I can give as good as I get!

I’ve also reframed some of the comments over the years: jack of all trades is now versatile and flexible in my thinking.

IC #2.  Now this character was harder to isolate because it had a purpose but then went rogue on me.  This one is probably feminine but very, very sneaky now because she doesn’t want to be uprooted.  Mind you if she could join up with an Inner Hero (they get the courtesy of full title), she might just go back to her role of cautionary protector and get something of a reprieve.  You see I think this one tried to stop me exposing myself to criticism but very quickly became the perfect squelch to creativity and originality, to taking risks.  Yeah, Squelch is a good name . . . slimy little character.

Ah!  I feel stronger already!  Expose the enemy and highlight their flaws for a change!  IC #1 has absolutely no sense of humour which it why laughing works for now . . . no doubt he’ll disguise his bitchy self but for now, I have the nasty little bugger cornered!  And IC #2 is just a timorous wee beastie.

I have a Warrior Inner Hero who stands up for the misunderstood, the marginalised, the frail and the less fortunate, and now she has armour on and is standing up for me!  Happy hunting Warrior Woman!

Want a pretty picture?   Here you are. I found this piece of driftwood, shaped like a pregnant belly on the beach a while back and it really needed the stud in its navel.IMG_2366

yet another late start

. . . but at least I am starting.   I have no valid reasons for not having blogged for almost 3 months.  If I put my mind to it I could come up with string of excuses but they’d be rather feeble and really, you’d see through them in a heartbeat.  So what if I work full-time in a demanding job?  Others do too, along with caring for their families and countless other responsibilities, yet they manage to blog more frequently that I do.  And besides, I’ve been on holiday for 4 weeks now.

My energy deserted me, me get-up-and-go got up and went . . . it’s as simple or as complex as that.  I didn’t want to so I didn’t. It’s not that I haven’t been working on creative projects or thinking deep, analytic thoughts and my sense of humour didn’t desert me.  It’s just that I didn’t feel the desire to blog about them at the time.

Fortunately, I’m not about to castigate my Self for sloth or admonish my Self for procrastination, it is such a waste of time and energy and will only serve to make any internal opposition stronger.  Aren’t I lucky that my ‘I/you-should-blah-blah-blah-muscle’ can be rested?

It’s not that I haven’t been working on creative projects or thinking deep, analytic thoughts and my sense of humour didn’t desert me.  It’s just that I didn’t feel the desire to blog about them at the time.

This Christmas every gift was to be handmade or be consumable so I made gifts and gave food and music (which counts as a pleasure-giving consumable with longevity).  I slipped up just a tad when I gave Adam and Yo a Corkcicle to keep their bottle of wine cold while they sit out under the trees in the evening sun.

Recycled jeans, acrylic paint and a little imagination.

Recycled jeans, a zip, acrylic paint, a handmade stencil (recycled acetate), bubble wrap and bottle tops as well as a little imagination.

The colours in this photo aren’t great.  The jeans were a pale grey and the red and orange, same as the ukulele inside the bag, looked great together.

Meg's unicorn, complete with false eyelashes.

Meg’s unicorn, complete with false eyelashes.  I was laughed at for buying these ultra-cheap eyelashes in Bangkok but I just knew they’d come in handy!

Meg had asked a while back if I could make a pink unicorn . . . I don’t usually take orders but in this case, how could I say no?  She was one happy camper!

I took a tacket stitch class with Diana Trout and this journal was the first one I made.

Tacket stitch journal

Tacket stitch journal, recycled cereal box, gesso, sprays and handmade stencils made from recycled acetate pages. I used the used the stencils and then printed with them to blot them dry.

Here’s a close up of the stitching.

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Tacket stitch journal #1

And my stencils!  One sheet of recycled acetate, one exacto knife and a pleasant half hour.IMG_1622I found that drawing an image and laying it under the acetate when cutting made the process easier.  I didn’t attempt to slavishly cut on the lines of the draft . . . they were just a guide.  Because the acetate sheet is clear I sprayed a page and placed it behind the stencil when I stored it in a clearfile . . . IMG_2469And then there were the little back-to-back notebooks as bonus gifts for friends and relations.  The covers were left over collage papers stuck to recycled manila folders or printed onto recycled and cereal box cardboard.  There’s quite a bit of recycling happening around here!

So I never really stopped, just a hiccup, we all have them, no need to explain.

squeezing in some creative time

Life has been very busy but still I managed to squeeze in a little time to doodle . . . not a lot of time but at least it was regular.

I often work with teachers and students to develop SMART goals: Specific, measurable, Achievable, Realistic and within a Timeframe.  On this occasion I made one for myself.   Often my goals are achievable but unrealistic so this time I kept to the KISS principle and Kept It Simple Sweetheart!  My goal was to do a very small doodle a day for a month . . .IMG_2170OTD stands for On The Day.   There were only 5 occasions when I was late so I feel really good about the other 25.  Why would I beat myself up about the 5 late ones?

Not long after I began this, Violette Clarke was encouraging everyone to do Messy Art Daily for much the same reasons . . . a little and often is the trick.

I’ve also attended a conference in Auckalnd recently and managed to squeeze in some creative work there as well.  I seldom take notes because I know I won’t refer to them again.  I tend to listen intently, perhaps jot down some key words or references and follow up with reading more on the subject later . . . this time I doodled as I listened, pages and pages in my Black and White Journal!

IMG_2172IMG_2174When I go away I take a minimum of materials.  The Doodle a Day needed just some pens and one Copic Marker (the damn thing bled through the page, most annoying!) however my watercolour crayons and pencils smuggled a ride along with a small Moleskine and spray bottle.IMG_2105The pencil-case is one of several that I made recently after borrowing Alisa Burke’s book, Canvas Remix, from the library.

So, how do your squeeze in some creative time when you’re run off your feet?

kid’s work

Oh I am so slack sometimes.  NO! Not true!  I have been incredibly busy and had a bad back into the bargain that kept me away from the computer to a large extent.   Excuses?  No, reasons.

Another reason I haven’t shared some of the results of the work with students that I wrote about in my last post, playing at work, was that I was unsure of which parents had signed consent forms.  I have permission from parents and students to share work and in some cases permission to share photos of students working.  While parents may sign consent, I won’t share unless the student agrees.  So, here are some examples of student work.  IMG_1949IMG_1951 IMG_1947

These were their very first pages and the topic was their positive attributes.  First I asked what they thought they were . . . oh difficult!  We have a culture of not blowing our own trumpet in New Zealand as the tall poppy quickly gets cut down.  Then I asked what someone who knew them well, their parents, an aunty, uncle or grandparent, the teacher, might say of them . . . much easier!

After their second pages, quite a few students went back to this first one and added detail.   Their concentration was wonderful to see . . . in both boys and girls.  I had fun, they had fun, and some of the conversations were quite revealing about how they feel about themselves.

I set the topic, showed them a few ideas, demonstrated some lettering techniques and they took it from there . . . if they took one of my ideas from the pages I showed them, then they truly made it their own!

More soon . . . I promise!

playing at work

Just because I haven’t posted anything for a while doesn’t mean that I have been idle on the creative front.  Yes I know I was intending to post daily over the school holidays but what with noisy builder’s electric saws whining away and then the bashing of hammers as they replace the cladding part of my house, and the wonderful distraction of my two grandchildren, well, it just didn’t happen and what is more, I have NOT been beating myself up over it.   But since returning to work . . . I have been playing as part of my work.

It’s been rather more than just doodling in meetings (it helps me focus) because I’m working with a wonderful teacher in a class of 12 and 13 year olds creating individual journals about their developing personal identity.  The class teacher is working on an inquiry about careers based on their strengths and skills and I am augmenting that focus by having them uncover at their personal qualities and eventually, setting some goals.

The planning incorporates several areas of the curriculum: the Arts, PE & Health and Literacy.  I am excited beyond measure!  One of the resources I am using is Violette Clark’s Teen Dream Journal DVD and her book Journal Bliss . . . they’re so user-friendly for teachers!

This afternoon I played around with three very simple versions of the same page, complete on the left and incomplete on the right so the students can see how they are developed.  I’ve used just basic script, circles and lines.   I kept to the KISS principle . . .  Keep It Simple Sweetheart!  The letters for the heading for the first spread are cut out of squares and rectangles of magazine pages . . . a technique I will show them tomorrow.  The heading on the second spread, in Big Fat Letters, was demonstrated last week.

Adding circles and dots to text.

I wanted to show the students that the addition of circles and dots to their writing (on the left) makes a big difference to the overall appearance of the text.

Personal Qualities

This time I want to introduce the students to ‘the piano test’ which I first used in a class about two years ago. We were working on some visual presentations and to have the students critique their own work I had them prop it up on a piano and take four big steps back to view it. This page lacks definition and I’m hoping that is what the students will tell me.

Gone dotty

Again I wanted to show the effect of using simple shapes, lines and dots, and the power of a border . . . this one is just a wiggly line. I also left my pencil markings in the circles so that the students can see that just a little planning is helpful!

Any feedback is welcome as eventually, I’m hoping to come up with a resource for teachers of any skill level on art.

good intentions honoured

Knowing that I had two weeks of holidays, albeit with some day-job work to do at home, I got out some books and supplies to start playing.  I will have a few days of granddaughters staying so the house will be completely given over to creativity as they have a tendency to get going before they even get out of their pyjamas.IMG_1835

I got out the pile of journals that I used in a rather haphazard way and was really surprised at how many there are . . . and horrors!!   I even found a travelling journal that the wonderful Quinn McDonald had sent me for a contribution before sending on to another journaler in this neck of the woods.  I cannot believe I have been so remiss!  What was going on in my life at that time that I forgot?  I’ll send it on very soon Quinn, I promise!

But I digress . . . here is the pile I have.

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The third from the top has “Draw you mind before it expires” written on it. As I’ve had it for about 4 years without using it much, I thought the time had come to give the message some serious thought!

The one on top is a duct-tape journal I made after watching a video of Diana Trout‘s.  It lives in my bag and has its innards replaced from time to time.  The zibaldone is my commonplace journal, my ‘everything but mostly writing, daily pages’ journal – read this and you would know my innermost thoughts!  It’s a 2002 diary that somehow did not get used and was put in storage while I was overseas.  While I’m thinking of it I should perhaps see if I can pick up a 2013 A4 diary before they get sent off for recycling.

A favourite for now is this visual journal with alternating black and white pages.

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Black and white journal cover – gesso and permanent markers

I had been thinking about how vulnerable the heart is, that while we need to guard it well, we also need to let others in.  I have mentioned the TED talk by Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability before . . .  do watch it.   I thought that for this serious topic, I’d have a little play with cut outs.IMG_1882IMG_1875Tomorrow, I’ll try for three posts in a row but no promises with the darlings arriving here this afternoon . . . I could be busy.

good intentions

On Diana Trout’s blog last Friday I wrote “Today is the last day of the school term, 2 weeks holiday just around the corner (although like most educationalists I’ll have work to do . . . bugger!) and I am determined to pick up AND USE brushed and pens EVERY DAY! YES!!! You heard it here first. And I will POST every day . . . except maybe when the darlings are here. :)”  I missed on the very first day!   It’s not that I didn’t have some playtime, it that by 11:00 pm I didn’t feel like posting anything.     Yes, good intentions, that’s me.

My day started when I was jolted out of a book by a thump on my house . . . I leapt out of bed to find a dead tui on the deck.    These native birds are beautiful, and have a distinctive sound as they chortle, click, whistle and sing in the trees nearby and I was upset to find that one had tried flying though my house instead of over or around.   I guess with big glass doors on both sides . . . this is the third bird and they’re getting bigger and I’m wondering what will be next.  We have big black-backed gulls aplenty, the odd pheasant hiding in the sand dunes.   Just as long as there’s not an albatross blown in by the storm that’s heading this way!

Tui R.I.P.

The plumage is beautiful, glossy black, gleaning with blues and greens and that little tuft of white on their throats.   It seemed unreasonable to just bury it in my garden so I rang the Maori language university,  Te Wānanga o Raukawa.  My guess is that some Maori weavers will make use of the feathers – I hope so.

Oh my goodness, two entries in a row where a pointless death is featured so just to let you know that play took over for the rest of the day, here are some backgrounds made with homemade stencils (cut out of acetate).

Homemade stencils

I used 2 A4 sheets of acetate and cut the shapes freehand . . .

Homemade stencil 2

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Chalk pastel overlaid with gesso

The trouble is, I get to this point and I’m not sure where to go next . . . I tend to just lay it aside for later and sometimes ‘later’ is a long time away.  For instance, this was a very early background that I just haven’t done anything with . . . yet.

Ah well,  maybe today it’ll speak to me.  I need to loosen up more and not expect to have a final image in my head . . . to just see where it will go if I make some random marks.