30 April 2009

Happy Birthday, Jason!!

Jason's birthday is tomorrow!! So there's a good chance that this week's make will have some sort of baking theme...although, he did ask for confetti cake this year, which means that I may have to find something else to make that doesn't come from a box. I'll keep you posted.

Coming soon: last week's make, which took me back to my ethnic roots; exciting plans for makes that celebrate spring and new life; a make on the theme of beauty to submit to Gordon-Conwell's new journal in celebration of the arts; some thoughts about how the video I posted below is changing the way I'm creating; and hopefully some sweet yard sale finds to celebrate the warm weather.

In the mean time, happy spring!

28 April 2009

A Healthier Way to Create

I saw this video on a friend's blog. (Okay, so we've never actually met, but that's inevitable, and I'm sure when we do finally meet, we will be friends.) Anyway, I wanted to share this video with you because I'm pretty sure watching this has shifted my whole paradigm of the creative process. I know it's on the long side, but when you get a chance, if you have any sort of creative leaning, watch it. I don't know anything about this woman or her book, but what she has to say here is invaluable for approaching the creative process in a healthy way. Enjoy!!

18 April 2009


Meet Pigwidgeon. He is the owl who is given to Ron Weasley by Sirius Black after Ron "loses" his former pet, Scabbers the Rat. He is often described as fluttering around Hedwig being very excitable and quite a silly excuse for a post owl.

Disclaimer: I realize that this is the 3rd Harry-Potter themed make of mine posted on this site. I really wish I had a good excuse for this. I tend to get wrapped up in fantasy stories. I think it's because I feel like so many people that I know (myself included) were made for something more fantastic than what they're doing now...something incredible, something magical. My current obsession is the Twilight Saga, but for a long while, Harry Potter was my world...or rather, I wished it were. The scarf, the pitcher, and even Pig here are all completions of projects I started in my HP prime. With the Half Blood Prince coming out this July, I'm getting excited about the world of Hogwarts again. So I figured I would revive my HP love with some HP craftiness. (End disclaimer.)

Needle felting entered my family a number of years ago when Megan saw a wool nativity at a craft show, which she duplicated for her mother-in-law for Christmas. It turned out so well that my mom started putting her bushels of wool roving to good use by making wool nativities for sale. Then Amy took it to another level. (You can see her work in her etsy shop.) One year--I believe it was for my birthday--Amy made wool felts of the three main pets from the Harry Potter series: Scabbers the rat, Crookshanks the cat/kneazle, and Hedwig the snowy owl. When Scabbers turned out to be not quite what he seemed, Ron got Pig to replace him. So I decided to craft Pig to complete my felted set.
It's clear that when it comes to detail work, Amy is the far superior felter. (Seriously...isn't Hedwig incredible?) But Pig is supposed to be a silly, tiny little thing. So even though he looks more like a miniature penguin than an owl, I'm pretty happy with his quirky, bug-eyed, off-balance caricature.

Just for fun, here is a picture of another owl I made a while back under Amy's tutelage. I haven't named him yet. I guess he could be Errol, but I always pictured Errol to be skinny and kinda distressed-looking. So maybe this is no post owl at all. Anybody have a good idea for a name?

A word of apology: I'm sorry I didn't post a new invitation last week. It got away from me. And this coming week, I will be in Philadelphia for a trip with the youth group. (Don't I sound excited? I bet my enthusiasm is just leaping off the page.) So I don't know how much making will happen...except maybe making the most of it. So for now, I leave you with the lingering invitation of finishing long-unfinished projects. As for me...well, wish me luck. :o)

13 April 2009

Roots and Wings

I have a friend named Steve O'Rear. He is magical. There's really no other way to put it. He has an amazing gift of writing pieces that are not only beautiful but also deeply insightful. He is a master wordsmith, people-watcher, friend, artist, immortal soul, who I am honored to know. This year, he sent me a message on my birthday that warrants publication. He gave me permission to post it here because it pertains to my creative process and exactly names its foundational struggle. Enjoy:

For Robin, in celebration of a new year…

Once upon a time, there was a stitch.
Appliqué on canvas, a touch of whimsy in a world of function.

"What's that for?" asked Expectation.
"A bag should be practical, with pockets and sturdy lining."

"That's not what I'm making," she replied.
"I changed the pattern."

"You always say things like that," grumbled Expectation.
"But unless you follow the pattern,
the whole thing could fall apart in your hands."

I weighed their words as I examined her bit of craftsmanship. Improvised, but with clear intent. Hand-stitched, full of subtle compromises to the fabric that one never finds in machine work. I always figured it would end up a little more rock and roll, but this made sense, this was just as honest.

Not to say Expectation was without merit. A few hasty stitches were already straining to keep the strap attached, and even she could admit the want of a pocket or two.

Then Fancy stole the bag from my hands and, as she is prone to do, turned the conversation to herself.

"I can't imagine why you bothered to make something so traditional," Fancy moaned. "You had such talent, and I feel this isn't the proper medium for you. I would have done something much more dynamic."

"But you don't sew," argued Expectation. "In fact, you never really make anything. You only gush about unfulfilled dreams."

Quarreling, the two old foes bustled down the lane.
I turned to the seamstress, "Do they come here often?"

"Every day," she smiled, a trifle weary.

"She's wrong, you know. You're making beautiful things in this medium."

But to my praise, she only shrugged. "I changed the pattern."

I came back from time to time, to see her work in wood and ink, in sugar and cream. There was treasure here; defiance to make imperfect art, to speak in broken sentences cause you cannot abide the silence. And only after all these things did I understand.

"I changed the pattern," she had said, and I saw this to be true. It didn't look like a bag at all.

She was stitching happiness, as best she could.

Fondness always, but especially today,

Leave it up to Steve O'Rear to know exactly what's going on with my soul from over a thousand miles away. The battle between Expectation and Fancy, Tradition and Discovery, Safety and Adventure. Lately, I've been using the terminology "Roots and Wings." My two most deeply defining desires.

Growing up, I always wanted wings. I wanted to see the world, to discover and imagine impossible things. To dream big dreams and see them through to realities. I scoffed at convention, demanded new and exciting adventures. And when they weren't available, I created them for myself. Freedom and life at its fullest. Wings to reach new heights and dream new dreams and create new creations all in the ever-expanding scope of my imagination! Huzzah!

But I know now that that could never be enough. I also want the roots. Living away from home, starting all over again in a place where people have been settled for generations...They still see me as a new comer. I want to stand on a table and shout, "My family owned land in this country before your ancestors even knew about the New World!" Okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration. Some of these folks can trace their lineage back to the Mayflower, which landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and my family was granted their land in 1637. But my family has been on that same land ever since. How many people can say that? I never expected to miss those roots, but I do. I want to be settled. I want my life to draw its nourishment from a rich history steeped with tradition.

I probably shouldn't be surprised by this. My family still gives me a hard time about one Thanksgiving when we didn't have cornbread, and I threw a hissy-fit because it was tradition to have cornbread at Thanksgiving. Or there's Christmas Breakfast (a heavenly concoction of vanilla cream cheese stuffed french toast with apricot preserves), which I am appalled that Amy makes on mornings other than Christmas morning...just whenever she wants it!

So even in my creative fashionings and imaginings, I am still bound by expectation. And honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. In the midst of a deep desire to break down paradigmical boxes, I still very meticulously cut my pancakes the same way every time. It's who I am. Roots and Wings. Tradition and Discovery. Expectation and Fancy.

I post this here because I am amazed that these traits come out of me in the creative process and that Steve was able to pick up on them from a simple purse. Thank you, Steve, as always, for your incredible insight.
Here is last week's make...another crayon drawing which started out as an idea piece and ended up not quite cool enough to warrant getting out the paints to become a large painting for my newly rearranged kitchen. It has my three most current icons: my favorite doodle tree (Roots), the bird from my purse (Wings), and the rooster from my apron (which I think holds a peaceful balance of domesticity and flight).

I promise that this week will hold something a little more exciting made with more than paper and crayons. I was slightly limited this week by a house-sitting mix-up. I know...excuses, excuses. But really...I received some very exciting, inspirational books and a whole big jar of buttons for my birthday, which I am just itching to play with. So be on the lookout for a new Weekly Invitation to join in the fun!

In the mean time, I'm curious if this whole Roots and Wings thing is universal. Do you experience the conflict of Expectation and Fancy in your creative processes? in every day life? Please do share! :o)

07 April 2009

7752 knits later...

7752: That's how many stitches are in this scarf.
64: That's how many inches long it is.
3: That's the number of years this project has been on the needles.
630: That's how many minutes it took me to make it.
76.13: That's how much I would have to charge to break even on this scarf if I paid myself at minimum wage for the labor.

I am not a very fast knitter. I'm decent at keeping a somewhat consistent tension, but I've never ventured very far into the world of knitting patterns. I have some sweet books with some patterns I definitely want to try. But I can't find the motivation to sit and figure out how to do anything fancy. The 3D nature of knitting makes it so much easier to learn by being shown than by reading it in a book. If I lived a little closer to my mom or to my sister Amy, I'm sure I would get more into it. But as it is, this is about the extend of my knitting skillz: endless garter stitch...knit, knit, knit, knit, ad infinitum!!!

And that's what this scarf is. 19 knits per row, 8 rows per stripe, 51 stripes in all, knit with your everyday, average cotton yarn on US size 10, 6 mm needles. In retrospect, the thin needles with the thin yarn made this an ill-planned project, and had I known how long it would take me to finish, I probably never would have even started. But now that I'm done, I'm glad that I persevered for the sake of my original vision: a tightly knit Gryffindor scarf.

This is my first striped scarf. Rather than ending the yarn at each stripe, I just fed the unused color up the side, which makes it just a touch sloppier than it could be, but all in all, I don't mind it. It has a front and a back, but I like the funky mini stripes on the back just as much as the traditional stripes on the front.I contemplated adding fringe or some other detailing on the ends, but quite honestly, I'm a little sick of staring at this scarf. I started it in January of 2006 for a friend who I have unfortunately lost touch with. Over those three years, it's moved with me 6 times to 5 homes in 3 states, a little ghost of adventures gone by. Casting it off the needles was a bittersweet endeavor, but I was mostly happy to close the chapter on this scarf's production. 3 years is a long time to stare at an unfinished project!

A little note on scarf finishing: I didn't have a yarn needle, so I tried to make one out of cardboard so I could weave the loose ends of yarn back into the scarf. After about the third or fourth time through, my little cardboard needle fell apart. Sad day. But then I had the ingenious idea of using a crochet hook. Why has no one ever told me about this?!? It was so easy and fun and definitely my favorite part of the 10 and a 1/2 hours of making. Crochet hook, people. It's the way to go.

As a special bonus today, I also want to show you something I made a few weeks ago: my Harry Potter pitcher! I made it to go with my Harry Potter dessert set. (Oh yes...be jealous.) Basically, I have the very best sisters in the world. They were my matrons of honor, and for my bachelorette party, they took my girl friends and me out to a pottery painting place, and everyone painted either a plate or a mug in the colors and theme of one of the houses at Hogwarts. (Then we went back to Megan's house and watched High School Musical.) When I finally got home from the hospital after my honeymoon (a long, sad, pneumonic story), the first thing I did was run/wheeze over to my Harry Potter dessert set, which had been fired and was waiting for me to behold its glory. I had 5 mugs and 5 cups and a serving platter. But where to put the butterbeer?? Well, problem solved.Happy [Harry Potter] Holy Week, everyone! (Is that okay to say?)

02 April 2009

Sorting Hat

Alright, so the Sorting Hat has very little to do with this post. It's called "Sorting Hat" 1) to give you a clue about the theme of this week's make and 2) because I was going to name this post "But what to call you." I heard that in my head in a very particular voice, and I could not figure out what movie it was from until I realized the line was "But where to put you." Ah yes...the Sorting Hat.

Anyway, I'm writing once again with a question. Today, I told Jason that I wouldn't play any scrabble on facebook and that I would be super productive. Well, I haven't made a whole lot of progress on my work to-do list. But I have been productive. I've been doing some research and some dreaming about someday when Jason is out of school and I can start my own business. Yup...that's what I want to do. I've finally decided. I often find myself saying, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could start a tea house?" or "I want to get a building and gut it and sell studio space for all sorts of artists and have a gallery where people can sell their stuff, and we'd have sweet events and stuff," or "Maybe I could teach classes out of my house where people would come and make stuff or have that be a part of a whole experience with crafting and food!" (Hmm...does that one sound familiar?) Or sometimes I throw all of the ideas together into one big art-food-teaching-community-awesomeness compound!! How cool would that be!?!

So where does all this come from? Well, basically, I have the coolest mom in the world. Yes, even cooler than Soule Mama. Over the years, my mom has been a demonstrating weaver and spinner at a historic village, an entrepreneur, a basket weaver, a basket-weaving teacher, an artist, a jelly-maker, a fiber arts apprentice, a Sunday school teacher, a shop owner, the head of a Lyme's Disease support group, a worker at a gourmet cheese store, a teacher at a Jewish preschool, a craft show vendor, a dean/counselor/craft lady at Delanco Camp, a sheep farmer, and oodles more. And most of that was just in my lifetime! This might give the impression that she's someone who goes flitting around from thing to thing, but that's just not the case. She's just a person who has so many talents and interests that to leave some unexplored would be a dreadful waste. When someone would ask her about why she's starting some new venture, her answer was always, "Well, I need to do every cool thing." I remember one conversation in particular that went something like this:

Mom: I think I need to settle down. I need to just stick to one thing. Maybe I should just focus on developing my business.
Robin: But Mom, you have to do every cool thing.
Mom: No, I'm done with that now. I've done enough cool things. I need to stop the craziness...Hey, look! That diner is for sale. Wouldn't it be fun to own a diner?

So you can see that maybe this little addiction to brainstorming new things to do, never being so fulfilled with where I am that it stops me from dreaming up my next cool thing...maybe that's genetic. Or maybe I'm just trying to be like my mom because she's just so cool. Or maybe she's just given me all the tools and skills and ideas to do my own cool things and to not use them feels like an awful waste. Whatever the case, I've decided: Jason will get a job that gets insurance for us and our family, and I will build a cool empire of my own. (Sound like a good plan, Jason?) My first step is to make a ton of stuff. My second step is to be a craft show vendor, because that's an easier place to start from than a tea house/studio/school/compound.

I was reading this blog, which lays out everything you need for your first craft show. And my brain started reeling. I've started a list of all the different things I want to make. I've envisioned my displays. I've thought about how I can set up a separate business bank account and keep track of materials and time so I can determine pricing. I've thought about things that will be my trademark. I've thought about promotional ideas and giveaways...

...and now...all I need is 1) a lot more free time (which I can be patient for because even though it feels like it sometimes, seminary can't last forever), 2) some start-up money (anybody know any charitable patrons lying around?), and 3) a name for my business. Tricky. I've thought about building from the Swan Bay Folk Art Center empire, maybe making a sister company to my sister's company (Little Sheep Felt). Little Bird something? Little Frog something? Little Red something? The results of Etsy vendor name searches put those three out of the running. So now, starting from scratch, the possibilities are endless. So I was thinking about going from my mom's model with something like this:
Every Cool Thing.
What do you think? Too cocky? Is "cool" not cool anymore? And I really hate being cold, so should I not do anything with possible cold connotations? Should I find a name with more obvious logo possibilities? I don't want to limit myself to a particular medium. I don't want to use "The Weekly Make." (It would be nice and nostalgic because this blog has been one of the main stimuli of what I want to do, but I don't think it carries over into a good business name.) I just don't know what to do!! I need your help. Any thoughts/comments/suggestions? Get those creative juices flowing, people. I need to get some actual work work done today.