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.

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.

IMG_2437

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.

winter, keeping warm

The shortest day is coming and I know after that, the worst of the winter weather will strike.   At the moment, walking on the beach is a weekend activity or on those days when I can get home in time for this . . . . staying warm is on my mind.

IMG_1762When Diana Trout asked the question “How do you feel about your clothing?” and spoke of Fast Fashion, I began thinking about the Slow Fashion movement and began responding about how I thought about clothes.  When I started rabbiting on, as is my wont, I decided my feelings needed a whole post.

Sometimes my attitude to my clothes is that they just cover my body and keep me warm.  At other times, I dress to alter my mood . . . I clothe myself much more carefully if I’m feeling low.  I made my first wearable garment fro myself at 11 and made almost everything for many years after, even earning my living sewing for clients for a while.   My claim to fame is making a strapless wedding dress that was worn by the bride for 12 hours straight without having to be hitched up once!  Sewing now?  Well I have boxes of fabrics I can’t bring myself to part with, and sometimes I’ll have a burst of enthusiasm and make my granddaughters dress-ups or tights (there’s a neat factory shop that sells the fabric nearby) or I might make merino tops for myself for the winter.  I wish I had more time to make more interesting garments than these pedestrian items but a full-time job doesn’t leave me with enough daylight hours.

I’m no more vain that the next person, I like to look good however I don’t really like shopping for clothes.  Fabric, yes, clothes, no.  I get annoyed by racks of clothing that are all the same, racks of clothing cheaply made from cheaper fabrics by someone in India, Pakistan or China that must be bemused by the size of these garments given that they could fit 2 or 3 people into one of them.  I get annoyed when a shop assistant tells me that something is popular, as if that should make me want it . . . it has the opposite effect.  I get especially annoyed when I see women slavishly following a fashion trend that must have been thought up by some misogynistic, money-grasping charlatan (male or female). I get especially annoyed to see young women looking self-conscious or uncomfortable in their fancy-dress (yes I know that’s my opinion but I think that’s how some look).

So from that little rant you’ll know I like good fabric, quality construction and practical yet interesting design that allows me to express myself.  So do I make or buy clothes regularly?  Not really, a few garments each winter or summer: good quality, thoughtfully sourced, classic items that augment what I have . . . and some garments have been in my wardrobe a long time.

It all comes back to consumerism, we must buy, buy, buy so someone else can work in substandard environment and some one else can make more money than they really need (my socialist leanings exposed here).  I try to be a minimal consumer, a recycler, a reuser, endeavouring to have as little impact on the environment as I can . . . I’m not very successful in some areas of my life but I try and I’m getting there.

When I read the following in my book of mediations by Deng Min-Dao recently, I realised how important my efforts are in this respect.   I’m sharing just a few of the thoughts expressed in the daily meditation.

Decadence

How do you know when your life verges on decadence?

When etiquette and morals become more important than righteousness . . . When procedure becomes more important than creativity . . . When patriotism becomes more important than measured governing and enlightened treatment of other nations . . . When the act of eating becomes more important than considerations of nutrition . .  When the opera becomes more important than helping the homeless . . . When style becomes more important than function . . . When books become more important than teachers . . . When expediency becomes more important than the elderly.

When you smell these things happening, you are not far from decadence.

IMG_1699

Recycled and repurposed grocery bags became kites that cost nothing and gave great pleasure.

Does that answer your question Diana?

another late start?

When I read Natasha White’s Grand Declaration post today on Define Your Joy, I realised that if I didn’t want to start slipping backwards I needed to start moving forwards again . . . marking time is not an option!

I was lent a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron a few years back and couldn’t read it, it didn’t seem to be what I needed at the time but later, I borrowed the book from the library and then eventually bought a copy.  Writing the morning pages works for me: they help sort out my head, help me focus on what’s important and head me off on the right direction for the day.  It is in this journal that I started to realise that I could dream and that those dreams are attainable.

So why is the book such a difficult read for me?  God has something to do with it – and there’s quite a bit of God in there.   You see when this God with a capital G turns up and is referred to as ‘He’ I have to do all these complex transformations to fit it to my beliefs and quite frankly it gets in the way sometimes.  You see I don’t believe in the ‘God’ I grew up with, I don’t believe in an interventionist god, but I do believe in the power of love and hope, and I do believe in the connection of all things and that we are just a small part of everything.   I do not believe humans have any superiority, nor that one faith is, nor I am more important that any other form of life – I believe in positive interdependence.   And while I’m at it, I believe I’m here just to be uniquely, lovingly me . . . that’s all.

And then there is the cultural divide – the book’s written by an American and I’m not one . . . I’m a down-to-earth New Zealander and it all needs to be taken into account.  It can be somewhat exhausting really.

So why am I wrestling with this book again?  Because having already found something of value there, I want to dig a little deeper and see what other gems I might find. I aim to respect my skills and talents more, to honour my Self.  I’ll let you know if and why I give up trying to read it again – and what the gems might be.

When I started this blog, I hoped to demonstrate, primarily to women in their 60s, who had put their creative dreams on the back-burner, who had eaten the burnt chop and given the best to everyone else at the table (sometimes literally), that it is never to late to find what you want to do and go out and explore – I just have to want to enough . . . enough to enter uncharted waters and create my own map.

So when I pass this vine-covered tree on my way to work each day, I’ll imagine that it is waving to the other motorists and me and saying, “Off you go, be yourself, be happy.”

The Greeting Tree

The Greeting Tree

Natasha made a pledge, to blog about The Artist’s Way each week.  My pledge is to just blog at least weekly from now – a bit of whimsy (like the tree), some mucking around, and perhaps an insight or two – what ever takes my fancy.

Thanks for stopping by.    Ka kite ano au i a koe . . . I’ll see you again!

 

un-shelving and 3 insights before lunch

Un-shelving is a word, because I just used it.  My blog had been deliberately laid aside, shelved, for a further two months for no reason other than I chose to do so . . . and that should be good enough.  It’s not that I’ve been busier than usual, unwell or not creating anything, it’s just that I make choices to (pretty much) suit myself and being able to do that is one of my most basic needs.

What I need in my life are very simple things: people I love and respect; peace and tranquility within; play, the activity when I get lost in the moment, is essential to my wellbeing; being productive whether at work or play is immensely satisfying to me; and power, the power to make choices.  These are my 5 Ps and I have been thinking a great deal about them over the past couple of months . . . well, years longer if truth be told.  Maybe I will blog some more about each . . . are you interested?

I could have blogged about the pohutukawa tree in my garden that burst forth in blossom in time for Christmas . . . IMG_1345DSC09963the art I have created . . . IMG_1207work inspired by Diana Trout on 21 Secrets, call it emulating or copying if you will, I really admire her style – it was wonderful so I signed up to 21 Secrets 2013 (check out all the amazing tutors) over at Dirty Footprints Studio.Meg's fish carcase and crab Emulating Diana Troutthe beach treasure that has been found and the creativity it inspired . . . Meg's fish carcase and crabJeanne's garden sculpturethe forgotten potatoes, desperate to grow . . . Potatoesthe 20,000 bees that thought the bench seat at my front door would make a great hive . . .Visiting bees my holiday visitors . . . Jeanne with flowersMeg and Elmoor even my new flagpole – you simple cannot live at the beach and not have one.  The flag represents the five elements and I brought it back from one of my visits to Hanoi . . .Flag - 5 elements. . . however I didn’t.  I chose to take a break and today, with the sun shining, cicada’s chirping and sound of the surf in the background, I have chosen to resume blogging partly as a response to thought-provoking blogs such as Quinn McDonald’s. 

I keep a journal, mostly writing, very personal and occasionally a blog or the journal itself will throw up a quote I want to use as a leaping off point for creativity or just to ponder and write another page.   Today I was reading the comments on Quinn’s blog entitled Speaking Up For Your Own Sake, the comments are always worthwhile. There was a quote from Meg Hess, “you can tell the helped by the hunted look in their eyes” and it made me think of how I hope to respond, both personally and professionally.  My success is variable.

And Violette Clark’s blog today had me thinking about balance and the struggle, that perhaps most of us have, in retaining our equilibrium.   Personally I think there is a lot to be said for shaking it up occasionally.

So, my three insights or BFOs (Blinding Flashes of the Obvious) before lunch?

  1. Helping is something I try not to do, even when asked, as I believe the most valuable thing I can do is to make a space where they can help themselves.
  2. I respect my body: we’ve been through a lot together.
  3. Just like a tightrope walker . . . getting the wobbles is fine as long as you know where your centre is.

So there you are . . . I’m back, how often I have no way of knowing.  Sometimes daily, but I doubt it.   Maybe weekly?  It will be irregular and although I’d like to say I’ll provide X posts a week and have a particular focus, that isn’t me.   Yes, there’ll be links to interesting blogs and inspriational TED talks, yes, I’ll posts about my delightful granddaughters, yes, creative endeavours and insights and, goodness knows what else . . . I just don’t like being boxed in.   My need for freedom of choice is way too high!  Ah, the power to choose!

I am content with myself at this point in time.

I’m still here

I know . . . it’s been forever and I will explain it a little but just not this morning.  This is the teaser:

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading – Lao Tzu

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined – Henry David Thoreau

Put your ear down to your heart and listen hard – Anne Sexton (via Quinn McDonald)

Each is true and each is what I am thinking about . . . as well as working full-time and spending an extra 2.5 hours a day commuting in my car.

A recycled jersey, now a dress for my granddaughter – a little hand-sewing (so unlike me) and thinking (too much like me)

Now . . . I’ll be late for work!

a bold move on my birthday

One of the main reasons for returning to New Zealand after almost 7 years of living overseas, was to be in my own home again.  In NZ, home ownership is almost part of who we are, an aspiration we all share, and like everywhere else it’s becoming a more difficult goal to achieve.   Very few Kiwis rent by choice, we want our own place, traditionally, our own 1/4 acre of paradise although most sections are much smaller now.

I have a home at the beach – good luck, good management, whatever – I have it and I love it.  So despite having made this little mid-week rental quite homely I have decided I would rather drive an hour and a bit to work each day and sleep in my own bed, lulled by the sounds of the surf as opposed to the roar of the trains.

So even though the view this Spring morning was stunning and I have made this place as ‘mine’ as I can – I am going home.

While this is a delight to see first thing in the morning, I’d rather wake up to this at my door . . . .It’s whitebait season and until you’ve had a whitebait fritter, you haven’t had one of the most delicious, simple, taste delights ever!  It must be local though – no Chinese whitebait ever tasted the same.

I’ve decided, on this brilliant blue-sky day, my birthday, I have decided.  It is closer to what I want and even just one step closer is better than where I am!

empathy, encouragement and perseverance

Without perverance, nothing will come of my efforts – I’ve been receiving that message loud and clear from many quarters.   Take a step, stumble, fall down, get up, take two steps, trip, fall down, get up . . . . no baby ever gave up on learning to walk!

Encouragement to take the next step is a sure-fire way to get anyone to move on to that next step so thanks for the comments yesterday everyone.    And talking of next steps, watch this little clip One Thousand Steps . . . maybe it should be required daily viewing for me for a while, like medication.    Maybe, because my 4 year-old grand-daughter loves it and watches it when she stays at my house has something to do with my readiness to take on some changes.

Encouragement can come from any quarter, but if I don’t publicise my efforts only I can provide it and that nasty inner critic needs some competition – easy solution, be brave and don’t hide.

Enjoy the clip, it will only take 2:19 of you life.

In her Harvard commencement speech J. K. Rowling said, “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction.  The moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.’  Now along with parents, I think you can lump in teachers, friends, society in general.   Watch/listen if you have 21 minutes to spare while you play at something on your workbench she talks of the value of failure and imagination – it’s full of humour, wisdom and inspiring.

Another quote from Rowling who knows failure first hand and used it to create a magical world and turned millions on to reading for pleasure . . . “It’s impossible to live without some failure unless you live so cautiously that you might not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.”

So what’s the worst that could happen if I leave the well-worn path?  I could trip over . . . and I have the strength to get up because around me I have wonderful friends and family.

Off the pathway

My inspiration . . . a 2 year-old who continues to explore off the established pathways for the sheer joy of it.   May it last for life!

Imagine a big smile here please.

nailing colours?

I was asked why all this carpentry, the nailing of colours to the mast – a familiar saying but what does it really and what’s the origin?

The meaning these days is that I’m giving my opinion, saying what I think, so like it or lump it!    To defiantly display one’s opinions and beliefs.

As for the origin . . . some time in the 17th century in the time when Britain ruled the waves, a British admiral had his mast shot down by enemy cannon fire.  When a flag was lowered it was a sign of surrender and of course if the admiral surrendered, or appeared to do so, the whole fleet was lost, but just because his ship seemed to have been defeated (no means of propulsion) didn’t mean the fleet was.  There was bit of creative thinking, perhaps by the admiral.  A nimble and brave man (reputedly one Jack Crawford of Sunderland) shot off to the highest point of what remained of the mast and nailed the flag to the highest point as a signal that they were still in the battle, still going despite everything – the flag was as a signal to everyone, his own fleet and the enemy.

So how does that apply to me?  I may seem, to those who only look at my outward appearance to be on the path retirement.  The most polite response would be, phooey!   Retirement?  More like advancement!  Look up the meaning of the word – retreat!  I’m not intending to retreat from anything!

And what’s more, I want to show others, by having my colours flying, that they can do it too – it’s never too late.  Or as someone dear to me once said “You’re a long time dead, make the most of it.”

The moral of the story, for me?  A bit of creative thinking, some bravery, and a signal can be sent to many people to keep on working, or playing, towards their dreams.

And do drop by Violette Clark’s blog, Violette’s Creative Juice.  She asked me MONTHS ago to write a guest post and this seemed like a good time.  Talk about flying my colours!  I feel so brave – you know that mix of trepidation and excitement?