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.

a BFO strikes again!

I was aware of an earlier BFO (a Blinding Flash of the Obvious) being brought to my attention once more – it was around a line in a meditation that went ‘each day passes whether you participate or not’, Deng Min-Dao, 365 Meditations.

Let me tell you, I think far too much.  Sometimes I write just to see where it will lead me and it helps to quiet everything down.  You see I’m an ideas person my mid is constantly in top gear and I like this about myself.  My ideas are often creative approaches to problem solving or for unusual projects – I have far more ideas than I can possibly carry out.  Or could I?  That’s the thing, that perhaps I could and just don’t because of why?  Because of fear?  Of what?  Of my own criticism?  That it won’t be perfect?  That because it may not be ‘useful’ it is of no use?  These questions plague me, they stymie me and stay me from action on all but the simplest of projects – the ones I know I can do immediately or in one sitting.  I need to break out and try something completely new.  Completely new.

I have an idea of how I would like my life to be.  There I am in my house, light, open, airy, spacious rooms suited to their purpose.  Not making do and wanting something better, it’s simple and well planned.  Sunshine, a garden with flowers and vegetables, trees for shade.  Or rain beating on the roof, the wind howling outside, a cosy fire and music.

And what am I doing in this environment?  I’m . . . I cannot quite see what I’m doing.  I think I’d like to be making, creating, painting, sewing . . . all for pleasure.  But there you go, I’m not certain what I want to be doing.  I know I’d be gardening, talking and eating with friends, relaxing and reading, but with hands busy making things in a workshop/studio that spills over into the rest of the house which sounds pretty much what happens now because the ‘studio’ is more of a large cupboard for storage.  But if I’m too scared to start doing what I think I’d like to be doing, and don’t really know what it is anyway what hope is there for me?  I don’t want to grow old with too many regrets and I’m afraid that if I don’t start now I will – but I do believe I have started by just confronting the issue.  One thing I do know is that I won’t be doing one thing – I’d get bored . . . I think.

Is that what those dreams are about, where I am using my last ounce of strength to save myself and knowing I should care more for myself so I’ll be stronger?  Where I know that I am entering last-chance territory?   You know the dreams, out there on the rocks, the tide is coming in, have to get back to shore.

To continue I need to look at what I have and think about William Glasser’s three Choice Theory/Reality Therapy questions.

  1.  What do I want?
  2. What am I doing to get it?
  3. Is it working?

I need to make a plan – and I do not need to get everything done and dusted, completed, out of the way (of what you might ask), to make all perfect before I start because if I start all will be perfect, unpredictably perfect.  I need to not wait until I have a definitive answer to question 1.

All those photos that need to be sorted, that ephemera from my travels including the 110+ boarding passes, the family photos and family tree – they can be part of it.

I can work out what I cannot move on without doing (finish painting the laundry and bathroom for a start).  Do it and move on simultaneously – the rest can wait or go.  Moving on fearfully is better than staying stuck.  Oh, that’s a BFO!

Dream the I’m possible dream.   Trite but true.

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?

nailing my colours to the mast

toi toi

apropos of nothing – toi toi against a clear, cold winter’s sky.

Those of you who have followed my blog will know that I recently went back to work full-time after a few months of unemployment.   Having that gift of time on my hands, I began to rediscover play and although I have the attitude that it’s never too late, I was becoming daunted by all the fabulous work I saw on the web, often by people half my age.  I need to remember that they have begun by making it their life work whereas mine has been in education.

Yes, I’m one of the many who have looked too much and done too little and become overwhelmed in the process.  Two people who are very dear to me and who know me well, lovingly let me know that the big difference between the artist bloggers and me was, that they did and I didn’t – and they’re right.

While I know I have a creative streak, can be really inventive and have courage, I was starting to think how these artists whose work and writing I admired, had been at it for years, homing their skills and developing their own style – I felt I had little of either yet what I did do was admired by the few who ever saw it.  Logic and emotion were having a difference of opinion.  I was also aware that I was making this shift, this run at a deeper self-discovery, in my 60s.    Was it too late?  Again, head and heart, head and heart . . .

I talked to friends and family who helped remind me of all the skills I have, of all the times when creativity has erupted like a joyous bubble to save me in one way or another.  During lean times – Christmas presents bought from the proceeds of macramé dog leads, vinyl cowboy jackets, rag dolls, or painted plant pots and how I made a living for myself and my son by sewing for clients.  And again during times when I was depressed and the act of creating something lifted me, and my hopes for the future returned.

Yet still, spontaneity and creativity took back seats, being a parent and provider took over.  As a classroom teacher I still managed to inject some art into my life – it’s amazing how much of the curriculum can be taught to young children using art!  Out of the classroom now, I use intellectual creativity to help others problem-solve.  Unfortunately this is only enough to keep a small spark going.  I’ve been doubting my skills, talent, and I guess, myself – and feeling I will never get up to a standard that I know in my heart I’m capable of.   But I also know that if I don’t do anything, I will never achieve what I want.  I sometimes feel a bit like a voyeur in my own life – looking, but not doing.  Imprisoned by perfectionism!  Do you know that big one too?

After sinking into this fug, I’ve heard or read things that have caused me to take some action.  Some were in posts on favourite blogs, some were words of encouragement and support, words of understanding and words that jolted me awake – BFOs, Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.

As an example, one day I opened Daisy Yellow and there it was, the quote I use under the heading of my blog with Tammy Garcia’s blessing, “You don’t need to catch up, just start.”  It felt like ‘permission granted!’

I’ve not been in the habit of doing something until I was sure I could do it – and I knew that that perfectionist procrastination wasn’t going to get me where I want to be, so I challenged myself and started the blog just following instructions and working it out as I go along.   As a now recovering perfectionist, starting a blog before I knew how to set it up or what it’s purpose would be was a really big step – I can highly recommend learning as you go.

There must be so many men and women out there who have poured themselves into their work and families and forgotten how to play, who have squeezed their creativity into a small box to open later, only to find it rusted shut.  Or, like me, have used it in other ways, creatively solving problems and finding practical, yet creative ways to express myself.   Still, it’s a struggle to find my own style so I’m spending time working in the style of . . . as recommended by Jill Berry when Ricë Freeman-Zachary interviewed her.

I’m going to listen to more podcasts, and look at less images because words often spur me into action. And the podcasts I’ll listen to?  I’ll start with any of Ricë’s.   She made a podcast Tammy Garcia recently and I heard her say “ . . . if you set out to make it perfect then you’re not going to be satisfied with anything.”   Yes, another BFO.

I’m going to openly work in the style of the artists I admire, giving credit to them as I go, and then maybe, I’ll find my own.   So what if I don’t have so much time available?  If I really want this, to be able to say, even if only to myself, “I’m an artist” I’ll find time.

And I do believe I have now found the purpose of this blog, to share how one woman is striving to express herself freely, with child-like creativity, and to show that you do indeed just have to start – even if you’re a bit late.

There you have it.  Watch this space!

Creative Queue Challenge

Tammy Gracia over at Daisy Yellow started the challenge and the idea of getting all those started but incomplete projects out to finish off was seductive.  Sometimes a project may be little more than the germ of idea or perhaps all the materials may be there just waiting to be used or assembled.  The latter was how it was with me.

If you look back over the past few entries, you’ll see what I was up to.

Creating a quilt with someone in mind is a labour of love – and I’ve been blessed with good reasons to labour.  My first Chinese brocade quilt was for my daughter, the second for my daughter-in-law’s birthday – I’m going to have to work full-time to get it completed in time!  I bought the fabric in Sampeng Lane, Bangkok in early 2010 so it’s taken a while to get under way.

You might have noticed the quote I use as a sub=title to my blog, “you don’t need to catch up, just start.”   Tammy usually begins her posts with interesting quotes from a variety of people however this was one of her own and for me, it was a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious).  It was one of those messages that caused me to stop putting things off and start putting things into action. Take that first step whether it’s a new project or completing something you’ve already begun – it doesn’t matter if it’s late – it just matters that you take it.begin now

Creativity Queue Challenge

Tammy Garcia over at Daisy Yellow has a Creativity Queue Challenge going – a great way of getting all those part-completed (even if it’s just an idea), out there into the physical world.

My particular challenge is a Chinese brocade quilt.  Now I know that once I start it will be addictive and I’ll find that it’s 3:00pm and I’ll not have eaten lunch.   The  actual starting is the problem.   So how late is this project?  I bought the fabric in Bangkok in 2009 (there are those who would say I should lead shopping expeditions in Bangkok).

3 years isn’t too bad is it?

Okay – table cleared, equipment out, procrastination over!   There’ll be an update of progress tomorrow.

doors opening and shutting

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door – Milton Berle

Rombuk, Tibet.   June 2007

Rombuk, Tibet. June 2007

Sometimes doors are opened for you however the doors I’ve opened for myself are the ones where I have gained the most out of what was on the other side.    I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel quite a bit and I often took photos of doors and windows, sometimes it was because I could glimpse something through them but often not -I was always fascinated by ancient doors and windows.   Who had been through them, looked out of them?  What were their hopes and dreams?

With a door in front of us we have a choice to make.   Do you choose to create opportunities?

 

why a late start?

Truth to tell I started when I was just a kid mucking around – never able to settle on one thing, trying everything.  I could swing a hammer, use a drill and saw, and I sewed clothes for myself without a pattern from the age of about 10, my first commissioned drawing was from a boy in my class when I was 11 – it was a girl in an itsy bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini so I think it was my artistic skills that were the attraction!  And the subject matter of the drawing will tell you I’m in my 60s.

After reading Diana Trout’s March 14th, I thought I needed to say a little more about why Late Start Studio.

As I approach retirement and experience unemployment, temporary I trust, I have the opportunity to start again, to learn how to play again.  So here I am, living just a few houses from a beach, able to put some serious effort into learning how to play again – how to just muck around for the sheer creative joy of it and learn about life in the process.  Isn’t that what play is all about?  There must be millions of unremarkable remarkable women and men in the same position as me – I’m unique yes, but my situation isn’t.

Serious effort into play, serious play or playing seriously?  Either way it’s a challenge after a lifetime of working, making the most of creative opportunities as they arose however they were for practical purposes for the most part – to add to my single income and two kids to support, lifestyle.

Christmas presents were bought using the proceeds of little vinyl sheriff jackets, variations of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls, painted terracotta pots, or beaded, macrame dog leads, the occasional dressmaking commission.  You get the picture – it had to pay for itself and I had to fit it in around teaching and parenting.  I had to be pragmatic.

In the meantime I’ve found my inner critic has been quietly gaining strength and needs constant redirecting or gagging.  My critic started off by thinking it was keeping me safe and then becoming to big for its britches and trying to take over!   What?  Just do it for you own pleasure?  Who do you think you are?  No-one will give a damn!  I will win – it’s a no-contest – there’s no question about that.

Now I have the opportunity to make, play, to just muck around again, so I carve pumice stone, make driftwood stamps, the occasional journal page, sew dress-ups and dresses for my grand-daughters, quilt, doodle, make MUKKA creatures, grow vegetables, walk the beach, and generally find there are not enough hours in the day.   Mucking around is to be recommended as an antidote for just about any emotional ailment.   Heartsick, lonely depressed, anxious?  Muck around – preferably with others!

Quite how I will manage when I get a full-time job I have no idea!   Perhaps I could find an anonymous benefactor to sumptuously support my lifestyle?

A beginning . . .

I have always liked beginnings – driving out of a city in the dawn with just the open road ahead of me.  But a blog?  What do I have to share that anyone else might be interested in?  Sometimes nothing, and at other time, maybe what I write will resonate with you and you’ll have a small ah-ha moment or even a BFO, a Blinding Flash of the Obvious.

When I was first considering setting up a blog of my own, I was somewhat overwhelmed by what I saw others producing.  Would I be able to do it?  Did I have anything to say?  Would I keep it up?  Would I be able to produce content that would appeal?  When I read on Daisy Yellow, Tammy’s quote “you don’t have to catch up, you just have to begin” I realised I’d never be able to answer my questions until I did.   Resist the critic, embrace the muse!

What I do in the Late Start Studio is ponder life and muck around . . . please join me as I begin.