Understanding My “Why”

I love ideas. I like the strategic and efficient use of resources. I deeply value connectivity and relationships. I love words and people, eye contact and “aha” moments.

I pour these passions into my pursuits. I do it through listening, observing, considering, creating and sharing.

It comes out in all sorts of ways. Some of them, you can find here.

The Fountain That Never Ends

Serenity Always

Emergent.

Self Portrait in Triangles

Moon

Current Work

Scaramouche, Scaramooch, Can You Do the Fandango? Also, Thank You Jane Kenyon

The same week that Apple programmed Siri to answer iphone users who said, “I see a little silhouetto of a man,” with, “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, can you do the fandango,” followed by the rest of the song’s lyrics by Queen, Anthony Scaramucci was hired to be the Communications Director for the White House. In his first interview to hit the press he mentioned cock-blocking and firing everyone who didn’t agree with him.

The dictionary defines a scaramouche as,

“a stock character in commedia dell’arte and farce who is a cowardly braggart, easily beaten and frightened.

and a fandango as,

1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine.

2. a foolish or useless act or thing.

I recently began a formal break from social media. I did it to lessen the pain in my eyes from scrolling motion, to self-protect from the radical undulations of news suggesting our democracy is failing, and to satisfy a blood desire to meet a writing deadline. An occasional peek to see what a few loved ones had posted revealed the scary “mooch” (he referred to himself as The Mooch) and also a speech given at the Boy Scout Jamboree, which seems to be have been mistaken as another campaign rally to a crowd of his voters instead of a bipartisan organization made up primarily of children. Someone posted the speech Obama gave at the same event a few years ago and I felt my ears bleeding.

Remember the days when the administration of the free world spoke in complete sentences and kept their use of profanity within a professional decorum? I wonder if those who voted this situation into office remember these words:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

I sometimes want to add, “Ye shall know them by their vocabulary. Ye shall know them by their sentence structure. Ye shall know them by their education.” But who am I to do so.

I kind of like a world where a communications leader knows how to communicate well. And also, kindly. I also like a world where leaders lead from a position of intelligence and discretion.

Good fruit, according to the bible, which a majority of Republican voters say they revere, is:

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • gentleness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness and,
  • self-control.

I heard one of his voters once say they didn’t expect him to be a pastor. They expect him to be a leader. Good luck getting grapes from that thorn bush. Or, maybe it’s the other way around: he’s the fruit from the tree of the voters.

Either way, Queen already said it. “Scaramouche, scaramoosh, can you do the fandango? Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening.”

The remedy to this, a tonic offering temporary sanity during these troubled times, came from Jane Kenyon’s Advice to Writers.

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

July sunset in Florida, unfiltered.

 

 

Hearing Myself Think

After a week of rain

I’ve had a lot of negative self talk lately.

A lot of negativity, period.

When I decided to eat gently

without a scolding diet,

and to move around gently

without punishing my form,

some things began to shift.

 

I remembered I no longer have a garden.

Sometimes I stay inside all day,

sitting in a chair

scrolling to no end

farther than a short term task list

getting something (and also nothing) done.

 

I heard myself tell myself,

“You’re too fat for food.” That

I don’t deserve to eat because

I’ve become so soft and round.

That conscious cruelty to me, by me–

I don’t remember hearing it so loud.

 

We’ve had a week of rain;

a terrible fight on our anniversary;

an awkward coupling and too much wine.

And then the sun came out;

it’s sixty-three degrees in June.

I came outside to listen and learn.

I think some things are boiling out.

  • Defensiveness
  • Labels
  • Incongruent Truths

Grace is like a slotted spoon,

Gentleness, a gear in my transmission,

slowing me down long enough

to hear.

After a week of rain

Jacksonville had a record breaking cool snap of dry air and lower temps, unheard of in June.

Makerspaces: Designing an Art Room and Writing Studio

used book store jacksonville

Macaroni stuck to construction paper. The minty taste of glue paste. Rows of crayons with perfectly smooth conical tips and that that little flat end on the tippy top.

Those were some of my first art supply memories. I was born to makers and raised in a creative environment so when I imagine school, those experiences are already late in the game. I don’t remember learning to read because in my memory, I always did. But by second grade I was struggling with math. If it weren’t for oily modeling clay kept in our desks for busy work and Mr. Hedman’s Art Cart, I’m sure I would have come to hate school a lot earlier than I did.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of STEM education, makerspaces are becoming the new trend for libraries and classrooms. In fact, when I searched, “school libraries”, one of the top results was a pinterest page full of project ideas and art supplies to stock a creative makerspace for kids. That gave me a little pang of sadness, remembering the old brick library I first visited as a kid and the many skylit, carpeted book spaces I took my own children to for years…I like BOOKS in my library. But a perfect world has room for both. Making things requires space and supplies.

According to Makerspaces.com:

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.  These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.  A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a makerspace.  If you have cardboard, legos and art supplies you’re in business.  It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.  These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need the critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  They provide hands on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence.

When I designed my own makerspace, I had multi-media work in mind. For one thing, that’s my day job, which I do from home, and work hours will be the dominant use of my space for the several years to come. This meant my desk, it’s position, lighting, computer and related technology had to top the list of priorities. By itself, that’s an office. So what makes my space a studio/makerspace instead of just a boring old grown up office in the back room of my house?

 

  • My large work table. One end is a desk. The other 7 feet is spacious enough to accommodate a sewing machine, drafting mat, and scrapbooking area. I can remove all that and lay out a large canvas. As a table, it can be as versatile as it needs to be.
  • Giant whiteboard. We bought ours from Amazon and it’s classroom size. I carefully plot out my novels and screenplays and had been previously trying to do this on large sheets of paper that came on a roll. Effective but not ideal if I needed to erase and modify anything. The white board is perfect for how I use it now and like the table, if I want to do something else, it’s versatile.
  • A very large bulletin board. Ideas come in bits and pieces. I usually transfer these to post it notes and photos, which make a work space messy fast. The bulletin board is a good solution and gives me an excuse to buy really cute push point pins.
  • 4 large Ikea book cases. Because, BOOKS. They are my friends. I needed them close by. They are also reference material, memory storehouses, and educational material.
  • Lighting. I went with floor lamps, also from Ikea, that can double as video spot lighting. Another example of the power of versatility.
  • A bathroom. Sink, shower, tile…all of these are essential for messier art projects
  • Easels. I have a large one that stands near a window and a smaller one for the table top.
  • Camera tripods
  • Green fabric “green screen”. I got this from the local fabric store. Bright green fabric that can be stretched flat for video projects.
  • Supply closet: acrylic, water, and oil paints; crayons; charcoal and graphite; stack of canvases; a variety of papers; jugs of gesso; sewing notions; costume props; musical instruments
  • Rolling art cart. Also, from Ikea. The top on serves as a “desk drawer”. The bottom two hold paintbrushes and palettes, masking tapes and large clips.

There are a few things on my dream list, like sound panels for better audio editing ability and a recording studio set up. My primary use of my space is computer related and writing, so my makerspace differs from my mother’s (primarily sewing related, with irons and machines and large tables) and my dad’s (primarily wood working, with machinery, rows upon rows of tools and and a spray room for finishing). My children would all prefer tools in theirs and some versatile work counters for cutting stencils. One of my sons dreams of a dark room. While there are several features that can be common, makerspaces have an element of the personal to them that is unique to the artist using them.

The most valued aspect of my makerspace is actually the door. A boundary between the ordinary world and a personal creative space can’t be over-emphasized. Room for thoughts and ideas, room to explore, room to work…that’s defined as much by what it is not as by what it is. This room is not a family room (although family is welcome to visit). It’s a classroom. Not the kitchen. Not an office. Walls and a door are vital. Creative souls will persist in finding ways to carve out space in communal areas but they aren’t ideal.

Here’s some cool additional reading:

The Most Interesting Makerspaces  in America, by Make.com

Very cool makerspaces for kids, by Fatherly.com

This photography feature in the New Yorker on What Goes On in the Artist’s Studio?

This beautiful collection of Famous Workspaces on Tumblr

used book store jacksonville

Photo taken at Chamblain’s Bookmine in Jacksonville, Florida

On Making: Ancestral Creativity

My grandparents in the 50’s, near the start of their adventure of living an ordinary, hard working, creative life.

Heading out my front door as a child I had great choices.  I could turn towards the right through the yard and maze of rose bushes, to the tree house, back fields, or tiger lilies. If I went straight ahead I could climb the pines, skip down the gravel drive, or jump the fence to the horse. And if I turned left I’d pass or enter the barn… the scent of woody of lumber in my dad’s shop and mill and also the concrete cavern of my uncle’s metal shop. If I passed by the barn it would be because he was running the saw (never come up behind a craftsman when the saw is running!) so I was headed for the windbreak, the sawdust pile (a small mountain bigger than the barn) or the dump hidden in the woods of the back pasture. Staying inside meant I’d likely hear either the whirr of my mother’s sewing machine or of her baking in the kitchen.

I come from a family of makers.

I remember pencils behind ears, clipboards on the side tables, the click of my Grandmother’s needles, and rows of triangle eyes on the faces of Raggedy-Ann dolls lined up for sale. I remember meals and clothes made, not bought, the scratch of someone sketching, the rhythmic sound of scissors… harack-harack-harack on the table when she cut out a new pattern. I remember finding my mother’s poems printed out and placed in scrapbooks, her heavy SLR camera, and hours hiding behind bolts of fabric in the store while she shopped.

Every day of my childhood I knew where to find wood scraps, fabric and metal scraps, sewing notions, paint, crayons, glue, paper, hammers, nails, work space, and help. I knew that if you needed something, it’s best to see if you can make it first. I knew that when you have a really good idea for something that people need, they will pay you to make it. If you have an excellent idea that a lot of people will want, you start a business and maybe even get a patent. But also, that most ideas won’t result in profit and that’s not the only reason to pursue them. I learned that work weeks have seven days and that it more than okay for the shop lights to be on after dark. Whatever it took to get the job done. This also included a sacred set of minutes we referred to as, “break time.” I learned that ideas are endless; if one doesn’t pan out, another one will. Just keep going. Yagottawanna.

Making requires space, supplies, time, and ideas.

Making things is a lifestyle, a philosophy, and it’s embedded into my family’s DNA code. I’m not surprised when my sailor-son tells me he wants both an education in higher math and to take over the wood shop. I’m not surprised when my daughter sets out to sew the perfect bra. Yesterday, another son started shopping for welding supplies and the youngest changed his art major. I began a new screenplay, continued work on a pastel and learned a filmmaking trick for work. Pick a minute and I can promise my mom and sister are probably quilting, my dad is probably building, and all of us are juggling more ideas than there is time to explore.

Side note: maybe the reason why we also all have genetically bad necks is because our brains are developed too far to the right. Hmmm….

When my daughter moved out a few weeks ago, I got her room. This space is the first dedicated creative space I’ve had since I started having babies; our houses were always too small and the babies too many for a Room of My Own. But seasons change and in here I now write, draw, paint, dance, research, work, film, edit, dream, think, and plan. Every morning when I come inside, I feel I’m coming home.

It’s nice to no longer vie for space at the kitchen table or to have to pack up mid-project to make room for something else, although that’s better than not making at all. I did, after all, make 5 humans and raise them; motherhood requires creative energy unlike anything else in the world. Those babies were my tribe and I miss our little adventures. Even as demanding as those years were, a creative mind never really stops. Ideas would wend their way through my mind only to be left on scattered scraps of paper, the fallen leaves of thoughts never fully brought into fruition soon composting down into the soil,  becoming food for the next fertile moment I could sneak into the years of responsibility.

I can feel the fertility of ideas in this emptying-nest time.

When I think back on how I was raised, I don’t remember lots of words. I don’t remember lectures, team practices, schedules, screens or even silence. I remember the sounds of industry. I remember shared ideas. I call back to play that looked like work and work that felt like play. I hope I’ve passed it onto my kids…even though as millennials they will remember lectures, schedules, screens and silence. Those great-grands who came for the railroad, who built houses and everything that went inside, those people are in our bones and blood.