faffing around

Faffing around is a bit different from simply messing around, for me at least.   Messing around is a bit like what Tom does in How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen (by Russel Hoban and illustrated by Quenton Blake).  It is perhaps my all-time favourite children’s book.  You see Tom’s fooling around, thought to be a senseless waste of time that looked too much like play to his aunt, Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong (who wears an iron hat and takes no nonsense from anyone), was very useful when it came to challenges.

Similarly my messing around has always been playful but usually has a purpose.  It may look decorative but more often than not has a purpose . . . well the garden sculpture that blew down in a gale twice, not so much, and maybe not the pumice stone carvings although you could use them to get all that hard skin off your heels if you wished.

Small carved pumice stones.

Small carved pumice stones.

And all those stones I covered make great door stops.

A stone from the local river covered in knotted harakeke/flax, embellished with beads.

A stone from the local river covered in knotted harakeke/flax, embellished with beads.

Faffing around is messing around with no end purpose in mind.  So now, having signed up for Swathed in Stitch with the wonderfully talented Karen Ruane, I have this lacy stuff (for want of a better word) and no earthly use for it.  Yes it was a bit of fun and with some practise I could make something rather lovely, but I sort of don’t do rather lovely without a purpose any more that I do tea-stained faux Victoriana.  You know what I mean, all that delicate embroidery that takes forever and looks gobsmackingly beautiful.  Already I’m trying to break some rules in what I’m learning (can’t help myself really) and stretch boundaries . . . and I like it!  But what the hell am I going to do with it?

Machined lace . . .  with a feather

Machined lace with a feather . . . or an attempt at a feather.

I can't take any credit for the starfish, but I do like the foamy, delicate edge I achieved here . . . but what will I do with it?

I can’t take any credit for the starfish, but I do like the foamy, delicate edge I achieved here (by accident but next time on purpose) . . . but what will I do with it?

Until I have a reason to do more, I probably won’t.   I’m sort of thinking myself into a hole . . . actually lots of holes . . . with beads.

Machined lace on muslin with quartz beads.

Machined lace on muslin with quartz beads.  There are another four holes to edge and weave into but why?

You might well ask “Why are you taking the class?”  I’m taking it so I can learn about design, stitches, techniques, materials and watch an expert at work . . . and then I want to incorporate it into work that is more along the lines of Jude Hill‘s yet mine, not a poor copy.   Did I mention I’m doing a class with her?  Small Journeys?   Small Journeys is different . . . it’s like getting to sit beside her and listen to her process, how she thinks about a piece in development.  And have you seen her work? Check our her photostream on Flickr.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of Karen’s work is useful and so is Jude’s . . . it’s just that me and an embroidery hoop?  I used one for the very first time today and it felt weird, like I was channeling someone else.  I’ve just got to face it, as much as I think Karen’s work is divine, Junko Oki is much more cup of tea, sort of messy . . . and I do like to mess around.

So that’s why I feel like I’ve been faffing around for the last two or three days . . . and don’t go and give me the ‘it doesn’t have to be useful’ or the ‘you’re too much of a perfectionist’ lectures.  I’ve heard them before.    If I could just work out how I can use all this prettiness . . . or how I can make it more . . . edgy?   (Insert a very big sigh here.)

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

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 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!