when at first you don’t succeed . . .

I was rudely awakened in the early hours of yesterday morning by an earthquake.  The epicentre was some way off but here on the sand and with a house built on a concrete slab, it was noticeable.  It reminded me once again how, despite our best efforts to build a secure home life, everything can change in an instant.  It brings into  perspective that most of what we think are disasters are merely annoying and that nothing we do can withstand the forces of nature . . . wind and rain will triumph.

Recently I created some maṇḍala out of shells, raised a tepee of flax/harakeke stalks weighted down in the centre with a  net-covered stone that weighs about 7 kg or 15.5 pound.  I thought it would be strong enough to withstand the wind and rain until the flax stalks gave in to time.

Local stones, triangle shells/kaikaikaroro, horse mussels/hoemoana and flax/harakeke flower stalks.

Local stones, triangle shells/kaikaikaroro, horse mussels/hoemoana and flax/harakeke flower stalks.

One night the winds came in from the sea and moved the lot . . . again!   Some of the horse mussel/hoemoana shells and feather have since blown away as well.

IMG_0341So what do I do now?  Plan C, it’s idiocy to repeat plan A or B.  I need to splay the ‘legs’ out further, secure them to the ground (tent pegs perhaps) and bring the apex of the structure closer to the ground and replace the hoemoana shells with stones.

Hardly an earth-shattering disaster, nothing of that magnitude (puns intended), just annoying because I expected it to last the summer . . . when it gets here.

a serendipitous mistake

Learning a new  craft is teaching me more than a new set of skills.  It is teaching me about my attitude to learning, creativity and more importantly, making mistakes.

I set to work making another kete/basket.  Each time I set myself a new challenge while trying to improve on the basic techniques.  On this one I was wanting to make a ridge at the base and near the top with a horizontal twill between.

It all went well until near the top when it quickly became clear that I should have done one less row of twill as I was runing out of material.  As I tried to finish off I pulled the ridge too tight in one place so that when I completed the kete and turned it right side out . . . bugger!   There were the offending tight bits right in the front.    Now aside from saying “bugger” I found myself thinking about what I could do to use this mistake . . . I did not berate myself, the IC (Inner Critic) did not even get a say!

So what to do, what to do?  It should have looked like this on both sides albeit with a wider band at the top.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Using the principle of enough of anything can look good it now looks like this on the front.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Wendy @ Late Start Studio       Beaded Kete

As if it wasn’t enough to add the fringing (shredded harakeke/flax) I broke out the beads that have sat in a bag since I left Thailand 5 years ago and went a little bonkers . . . and I think putting the beads in took almost as long as weaving the kete.

Wendy @Late Start Studio Beaded kete detail

Wendy @Late Start Studio       Beaded kete detail

So what did I learn?  Yes, enough of anything can look good (but I sort of knew than already), a mistake can lead somewhere interesting if you embrace it, time is of no consequence whan you’re having fun and I know to do another round of taki tahi (one under, one over weave) before I finish off.

Often times I’ll ask, “what’s the worst that could happen?”   The answer, in this case was I might need to undo some of it it and the weave up the last few rounds however my mucking around worked . . . a treat . . . even if I do say so myself.

Learning is such a pleasure when we choose to participate.

being transparent

I can’t say being honest because sometimes, like most of us, I lie to myself, however I try to be open so that you can really see me . . . flaws as well as strengths.

Now that I am a Creative Leisure Consultant (my fees come in the form of some good wine and cheese at this point in my career) I am grappling with issues and those aforementioned flaws on a full-time basis.  By the time I have them sussed I’ll be able to charge wine, cheese AND crackers as a koha (donation) for my services!

Seriously though, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up and I’ve had several attempts to grow up . . .  sometimes life events have given me a nudge or a good kick but inside, I still feel like a gauche 11-year-old going on 66-year-old sometimes.

So the questions is, because I know you want to hear the wisdom of my vast experience with this conundrum, what do I do about it?  I embrace it!  It’s a bit shortsighted to reject parts of yourself isn’t it?  I mean to say . . . here I am with almost 66 years experience at living in this big wide world and I reject a 11-year-old aspect of myself?  That 11-year-old had more creativity in her little finger than I have in all of mine!  Sure mine are more skilled perhaps and my logical brain can team up with the creative part and problem-solve extremely well but she was freer, braver, less inhibited.

So I sent in the Wise Crone to stand alongside and tell her that she can take life one day at a time, she can try anything she wants, she can step out in any direction because she’s going to have a strength not available to many . . . she will be versatile.

My first commission was to draw a picture for a boy in my class . . . it was a girl in an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and no, there was no actual payment but I was 11 and I did feel special and that was a very rare feeling for me around that time.

Since then I’ve been asked to make all sorts of things from painted flower pots, vinyl sheriff jackets, beaded macrame dog leads (must make one for Rosie) to Raggedy Andy-type dolls and I sold them as well to fund Christmas presents for my children.

Do you see a pattern here?  They are useful, they were marketed . . . however the thing that gave me the most satisfaction was the drawing of a girl in a bikini.

So I tell that gauche girl to hang on to that joyous feeling, hone her skills, her talent will always be there to be utilised in any way she chooses.  It will be always be there and will be fed by world travels, relationships and ideas from out of left field.  She won’t always have to think of usefulness or marketability.  And the main thing that will undermine her talent is her own criticism of herself.  I tell her to simultaneously to harden up and to be vulnerable . . . to be real . . . to be a gentle warrior!

Kia Kaha Wendy is what I say . . . Stand Strong!

I am trying to stand strong and it isn’t always easy.

Rosie: my new, shy, little sheltie who has perfect manners.

Rosie: my new, shy, little sheltie who has perfect manners.

my wonderful news

I was planning on writing a post about my news and I began wondering about what makes some information news.  I could tell you about something you didn’t know and that would be news to you but perhaps not the rest of the world.  Or some event may be news but insignificant . . . is it still news?  And we talk about breaking the news and even breaking news . . . telling it as it happens.  So if you read about a recent event and are not at all surprised by it . . . is that news?  I digress.  This is news, my news, and while a turning point for me, not important in the great scheme of things.

If you read my blog closely, you may not be at all surprised by my news . . . which being a week old now is not news at all I guess.  It was certainly news from left field when I announced it at work . . . that I would be there for just 6 weeks longer.

Yes folks, I have handed in my notice at the day-job.  I have handed in my resignation before I get stale, before I don’t want to be there at all because I find myself wanting to be doing other things all day.

Most people have assumed I’m retiring becuase I am of an age to do so, or perhaps I have another paid job to go to but neither of those are true.  There is nothing retiring about me or indeed any of the members of my family.  So having no further paid work planned, just working at play, what do I call myself when I fill in a form?  Am I still an educator? Teacher?   Probably but just not employed in that capacity.

I will call myself a consultant.  I am a Creative Leisure Consultant!  And f you would like to consult me about how to spend time creatively . . . feel free.  I shall be liberal in my services.  Payment will be in laughter, for both of us, I will offer extended consultations is you bring wine, I will travel to your town if you provide accommodation and I will bring you a shining example of how to live a sometimes challenging life, and be smiling and, by turns, satirical and optimistic as I begin to contemplate the future.  According to my mother you don’t begin getting old until your 80s and she thought she might be old when she was about 100 . . . maybe . . . so I have a good few years before that happens.

I have good genes, good health, a good attitude and I intend to have few regrets although I may own up to a few remaining dreams.

Reaching out to grasp the furture.  A map completed in a recent workshop with Jill Berry organised by Fibre Arts NZ Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

Reaching out to grasp the furture. A map completed in a recent workshop with Jill Berry organised by Fibre Arts NZ
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

 

a little self-exposure?

I’m very quick to say “Yes!” or “Why not?” and when Natasha White asked me to take part in a blog hop I didn’t hesitate and fortunately, I haven’t suffered from cold feet even though the questions haven’t been particularly easy to answer.

What am I working on?   As usual I’m working on a number of things . . . or should I say I have several projects on the go but like most people with one pair of hands I can only work on one thing at a time: more and more I am convinced that multi-tasking is a myth put about to make us feel like we should be producing more. I cannot do one thing well and be thinking about something else . . . maybe I can think about something else while painting the house or pulling weeds or hanging out the washing but I cannot weave or paint or sew without concentration.

So while I have a quilt started, a set of Inner Hero cards on the go, been messing around with watercolour for a workshop with Tammy Garcia, exploring soft fibre sculptures, darning knees in tights for my youngest grandheART and me, knitting a jumper for my oldest grandheART, painting some terracotta pots for the garden, assembling some driftwood sculptures for the garden, have a project from Jill Berry’s new book Map Art Lab started (buy the book it’s fantastic!), my main focus is designing a pattern for the taaniko weaving on my whatu tauri. The translation for that is, I am designing the taaniko (Maori twined weaving) on a sampler. The sampler is part of a weaving/raranga course I am taking. I need to choose a major focus for the rest of the year and thus far I have at least 6 wonderful ideas recorded! What am I working on indeed!

There is no 'give' in this fabric!

The unfinished Chinese silk quilt

Exploring soft sculptures

IMG_2958

A kete waikawa for my daughter-in-law’s birthday.

Recent postcards

Recent postcards – sorry about the focus.

Creatively darning knees in tights - why not?

Creatively darning knees in tights – why not?

Flax/harakeke boiled and drying . . . still to be dyed and woven into . . . who knows what?

Flax/harakeke boiled and drying . . . still to be dyed and woven into . . . who knows what?

The question assumes I’m working on one thing . . . not possible!  And have I mentioned I have a day-job?  That’s a whole lot of creative problem solving too!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?   A genre? Me? Yeah, unless ‘making/painting/weaving stuff’ is a genre, nah. I do too many things and admire wildly differing styles to settle on one thing . . . and I like it that way.

Why do I write/create what I do?   The answer is easy . . . I can’t not create. It’s simple really, and you either understand the urge or you don’t. I love that feeling of taking raw materials and making something out of them that is useful or beautiful or, joy of joys, both! I get a buzz out of seeing something rise up out of my hands and particularly learning a new set of skills.

How does your writing/creating process work?   I’m not sure I have a process but if I do, it starts with and idea bursting forth in a rush and a roar, a fit of spontaneity and enthusiasm, and I immerse myself in the project. My internal clock is disregarded until I suddenly realize I’m hungry or thirsty or, even more inconvenient because I can’t ignore it, I need the bathroom. If I can’t work until I drop, sleep and then rise and throw myself back into a project because the day-job calls, I might lose focus or worse, the inspiration to do something entirely different might strike.

Does that sound undisciplined? I guess I am but that’s okay.

A question not on the blog hop is what do I want to achieve? That, for me, is by far the hardest question to answer. I love to learn new things . . . for me learning equals fun. That joy of stretching myself and trying a new activity, of mastering the skills without becoming highly competent is fine by me. And I’d like to use my teaching skills to share this joy of making something from almost nothing. I think most of all what I want to achieve is to show my children and my grandheARTs (my muses) that creativity in some form is a life-long, joyous, satisfying, essential ingredient in life.  And one day perhaps, I’d like to take part in an exhibition of some kind . . . even if it’s just a local café.

And now, to whom do I pass on the blog hop baton? I have asked three wonderful women who are not only wonderful artists in their own right but also generous women in their encouragement of others.

Violette Clark’s blog Creative Juice was the very first I began to follow . . . I felt as if I knew her although we have never met.   Her book Journal Bliss started me off on a journey. Violette is an artist, author and an Idea Factory/catalyst who loves helping women brainstorm creative ideas for their business. She lives in a purple magic cottage in B.C. Canada.  Yes, really, you can check it out here on You Tube

Diana Trout is highly creative and generous artist, instrumental in my late start as an artist. Her book, Journal Spilling, began my exploration of watercolours.  She has wonderful workshops and one day, I am determined to attend one in person!  Diana’s blog is another favourite.

And third? Coffee and Quinn Creative starts my day! Her blog with its wise commentary on life and creative adventures provides a venue for community of wonderful people to come together.   Quinn McDonald is an outsider artist, writer, and certified creativity coach. Her book, The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal touches on all those identities.

Of course there are more artists I could have asked because of the role they played in getting me here on the web . . . the creatively prolific, enthusiastic and generous Tammy Gracia is constantly being referred to at the Late Start Studio and her quote is up there on my header. . . Jill Berry who pushed me to explore some colours that I thought I wouldn’t want to use when I took a week-long workshop with her recently . . . and then there’s . . . oh!   I do hate limiting myself.   I had just three choices.

Check out the blogs now and especially again on Monday the 19th of May when these three lovely women will answer the same questions . . . perhaps not the last one though . . . that was a challenge I gave myself.

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

the road to work

A year ago I posted a photo of The Greeting Tree . . .

The Greeting Tree

The Greeting Tree

I pass this tree every morning on the way to work and imagined this great verdant creature waving out to all the passing traffic. It always made me smile.

Last winter there was some damage and it doesn’t quite have the same effect now that it has been decapitated.  I’ve tried to create another image in my mind but somehow it isn’t quite as benign.  It looks a bit like a big-nosed head, perhaps with a horn, emerging from the ground.  Maybe I can train myself to imagine an arm extending up, waving, but it looks more like it’s ready to lurch forward and grab some hapless motorist then disappear back into the underworld.

Greeting Tree

The Greeting Tree – decapitated

Is it time for me to stop working?