Category Archives: Creativity

the joy of POD books

Pen and watercolor illustrations for my next Blurb project.

The beauty of the software from the folks at Blurb is that you don’t have to know how to write code, or even have a background in layout design, to join in the immediate gratification of bookmaking. My experience with print production goes back to my early twenties, when I learned how to set type on keyboards that evolved into desktop publishing computers. Bottom line, I love typography and I love the process of assembling images and words into books. Eating Clean was my first formal bookmaking project, but that was in 2002, before the wide popularity of print-on-demand, not to mention digital book formats. There are no wholesale rates for the books made on Blurb, but if you’re not interested in the expense of inventory and relinquishing storage space to boxes of books-that-are-yet-unsold, the 1-by-1 pricing might just work for you. For now, that suits me just fine. I can keep playing and doing, which is where the joy in POD is for me.  Have you tried an online POD bookmaking service? Love to hear about it and hear your thoughts.

Joy Dance: 8 Hours Unplugged

I took a stand yesterday. It wasn’t comfortable but it was necessary. Patty Perfect — that would be my very lively inner critic —  was harping in my mind’s ear, but instead of giving in, I ignored her. In a single bold move to rescue my gasping-for-breath creativity, I barred myself from logging in to work-related email and gave myself the gift of time. What to do? Play with the oh-so-fun online bookmaking application, blurb, and my collection of Nantucket Island photos.

for doodles, dreams…
By Lisa Allen Lambert

I love writing, drawing or doodling on graph paper, so this was my paper of choice for the notebook’s blank pages. Eighteen summertime captures of favorite island nooks and krannies are staggered throughout 104 pages.

Time evaporated as eight hours flew by. Bliss reigned; I reviewed dozens of photo files, cropped, and tested selections. Utterly joyful.

The learning curve for Blurb’s bookmaking software is fairly  easy to overcome. There are lots of formatting choices: ebook, softcover, hardcover, hardcover with wrapped image book jacket. The menu of sizes has something for everyone. Curious? Click the graphic above and browse the results of my day.

It’s a wrap – 2011

2011 in pictures
1. zig zags and dots, 2. Anthony Hat, 3. knitting dots , 4. hope, 5. Pedigree Pooch, 6. wkshp_shawlette, 7. Blanket Squares, 8. Oceanic Hotel, Star Island, NH, 9. Windowsill in Bloom, 10. Benefits of Worm Castings as Fertilizer, 11. Photo Award Button 200×157, 12. Spring, 13. I made it within the deadline!, 14. Creamsicle Smoothie, 15. February Lady FRONT, 16. Friday afternoon, 17. Miniature Holiday Art display, 18. snowflakes in my window, 19. Miss Marple, 20. Snow flakes

Everyone’s talking about it: acknowledge the past year’s accomplishments before looking forward.  Prevailing wisdom advises that writing ideas down facilitates bringing them to fruition. But for a look back, I began with a visual list. Nothing like a bit of photo fun with the mosaic tool over on BigHugeLabs. Here are a few crafty highlights from my year:

  • an afternoon spent under the tutelage of professional photographer, Gale Zucker, during which she taught knitters about photographing fiber objects  (photo #6)
  • a winning entry in Southern New Hampshire’s 24-hour A Day in the Life photography contest (#11)
  • a roaring good time as online voting took my quilted Spring Runner into the top tier (#13) of the sew-along challenge
  • the inclusion of a brief memory narrative and accompanying photo in an upcoming book by friend and entrepreneur (#14)
  • a terrifically successful birthday gift for my mother, a knitted dog (#5). Jacqueline Russell, as I named her, was delivered to the birthday girl with an authentic birth certificate, and I don’t think my mother has ever been so enthusiastic about one of my gifts. That feels like an accomplishment worth noting!
  • Handmade Holiday gift-giving (#1-3) dominated my list this year, with hats, felted bags, and homemade cocoa mix with marshmallows; sadly, I never got around to photo’ing the Cocoa Kits.

My blog host, Word Press, surprised me with a summary of the year’s activity on “My Artful Life.” Thank you – for reading, subscribing, taking the time to comment, and being on the other end of my keyboard every time I click the ‘publish’ button. Here’s to another year — !

One collage closer to work-life balance

Nary a photo or word written in weeks. As rewarding as teaching is, I have yet to master the balance between work-work and personal work.

The holiday season drew me into a handmade mood, though. Thoughts of a holiday greeting had me scouting the internet for a mac- and pocketbook-friendly alternative to Photoshop or Illustrator, with layers, for image and text combining. The free option at Picnik gives generous — but limited — tools. I’ve been using this site for a while and have found it easy to navigate with enough font variety to keep me happy. (Yes, I am like a kid in a penny candy store when it comes to a list of font choices, and forget all the rules of design simplicity.) And who wouldn’t love Picnik’s little messages that accompany a page or image upload? “Mowing the grass” or “picking blueberries,” to name two.

Picnik’s upgrade ($24.95/year) gives access to all sorts of fun tools and effects. I had a ball making the collage above. With a vintage cherub from the Graphics Fairy as my base, I was off and running. Do you remember the thrill of a new box of Crayola crayons? All those colors to choose from? The smell of the wax? I can’t say digital collage is a tactile experience, but I like the immediacy of sharing the results online. And it feels like play. Here’s a short article on the stress-relieving benefits of play for adults.  In fact, I had so much fun I decided to give the blog a new look with a fresh banner.

What are your strategies for work-life balance?

A Thanksgiving Table

I am thankful for the beautiful artistry of my friend Beth.

Her table settings always feature a seasonal centerpiece …

… and a holiday theme party bag at each lucky guest’s place.

Tis the Season to Keep Life Simple, or the Benefit of Unifocus

Mrs. R was a patient woman who coached me through five years of adult piano lessons. Sage quips rolled off her tongue,  salve for my frustration and disappointment. It was her notion that “there is a season for everything” that had the strongest stick-value, and I hope she would be flattered to know that I have since passed it on many times over.

Julia Cameron talks about the benefit of repetitive, mindless activity, in that it seems to invite creative percolation. Without effort, ideas just show up. It’s like a brainstorming party — for 1. My notable moments of cerebral luminescence seem to come while I am either driving (alone) or working out at the gym.

Last week’s commute was 200 miles’ worth of ruminations over the loss of my muse. If this is a game of hide-and-seek, she’s won. But how to explain the abyss? There can be no other explanation than this is the season of teaching; I have yet to learn how to parcel out some, but not all, of my self. Sad, but true.

As I recuperated from three wisdom tooth extractions today, and followed doctor’s orders to rest, the luxury of unstructured time came to my rescue. An etsy.com shop reminded me how much I love vintage fashion, which led me back to the photo above: a corner of my craft room. Although I haven’t left the sofa in hours, I’m enjoying that ‘home at last’ feeling.

Anyone else out there have trouble managing their ‘best’ energy?

Come meet my friend …

Braided SistersThere’s a new gal in the blogosphere and I thought you might be interested in following her Year in the Studio. Her journey has just begun and I think it’s going to be a fun one, with some surprises along the way. She’s super talented, funny, and a dear friend. When you meet her, you’ll understand why I wanted to introduce you. Happy visiting!

New Connections: Chris Postill, Sound Designer

Chris Postill is a kindred creative spirit and sound designer who recently stumbled across my blog. His Sounds Like An Earful podcast focuses on using sound to experience everyday life in new ways. I was intrigued by his artistic point of view and thought you might be, too.
MAL: How does a sound designer keep the equivalent of a writer’s journal or artist’s sketch pad when out-and-about during the day?
CP: It’s tough! I have a handheld unit (the Zoom H4N) that I love and have on me whenever I can. Sometimes I’ll be walking somewhere, something will catch my ear and I’ll stop dead in my tracks, capture it and bring it home. When I don’t have my unit on hand (or I really want the best fidelity) I’ll just write myself a note to come back to that spot later. Every once in a blue moon I’ll force myself out of bed at 4am (when there isn’t a lot of activity on the street to muddy up my recordings) and do a walk around to catch all the things I’ve noted. I have a hard drive full of folders of sounds, sorted by date. I need more hard drives…
MAL: Can you talk about the intersection between sounds (a knock on a wooden door, for example) and music, and how you work with this?
CP: In my ideal world, ‘sounds’ and ‘music’ would collide a lot more often. I love music that uses unconventional instruments and samples. If you listen to some of the music I make (The ConduitsThe Flood of 1924 soundtrack) and the music I love (Tom Waits, Califone, Tune Yards, etc.) they all have a lot of clanging, banging, tapping, stretching, etc. sounds at the forefront. I’ve developed a taste for that.

MAL: Can you recall any favorite childhood activities that offered an early reveal to your current work with sound? What were they? Are they still a part of your life in any way?
CP: I used to love the sound of the furnace humming through the floor. I don’t know why. I don’t think that had any part in me finding interest in music a little later on in life, that was mostly due to my father… But now that sound is part of what I do everyday, I often think about how bizarre it is that, as a kid, I’d relentlessly lay down with my ear to the floor whenever the furnace would come on.
MAL: I was fascinated with the shift in emotional impact that occurred with the sound track you created for an old-time cartoon. Can you remember if you were hearing bits and pieces of this the first time you watched that cartoon?
CP: The scene I worked with was originally meant to be a joke about what women went through for beauty in those days, but when you took away the fun music, it entirely changed what you saw. That was the point, to demonstrate that your ears are incredibly good at informing your other senses without you really being conscious of it.

MAL: Do you ever crave true silence? Please talk about your personal relationship with sound and silence.
CP: Often. I am bad at multi-tasking.  I lose my focus very easily. I’ve also consciously tried to train myself to listen for interesting things in the world, so there are a lot of distractions. Go through today trying to consciously listen to everything you hear. It is brilliant, but exhausting. I’m not sure ‘true silence’ is even possible, but in the infamous words of Rob from High Fidelity,  “Barry, sometimes I just want something I can ignore!”.

MAL: Borrowing from the world of literature, what genre would best describe your sound design style?
CP: What I am doing now with Sounds Like An Earful would probably be best described as creative nonfiction with some satire and maybe even a little romanticism thrown in. I’ve never been one for taking anything too seriously, but I really do hope I can make podcasts that are entertaining, funny sometimes, touching others… tongue & cheek but honest.

MAL: How did your family of origin influence your interest in sound?
CP: My father has always been into music, he always inspired me to explore that a lot. My mum never played, but always encouraged me as well; enrolling me in piano lessons and putting up with all the noise I made growing up.

MAL: Talk about the creative exploration behind the project where you add a sound/music score to someone talking about themselves. (Your friend who has recently moved to India, for example.)
CP: My goal was simply to try and convey a little bit more of my friend Neha’s personality through music.
MAL: Last but not least, anything else you would like to tell us about yourself and your creative life? Like, do you hang out with a lot of other sound-oriented creatives?
CP: A lot 

of my friends are musicians, others are visual artists, some are programmers, some love food, etc. I think everyone likes to be around people who have ideas. I get to call myself a mess because I get really excited about any good idea, whether it is sound or otherwise. So yes, my best friends are the people I collaborate with. I try to feature them on mywebsite and my twitter as best I can.

Photography Workshop for Knitters with Gale Zucker


On the spur of the moment, after reading this blog post, I knew I had found the next-step solution for taking my photography up a notch. (This was on an unofficial summer list of things to do.) But on the Big Day, the temperature was climbing steadily towards triple digits, and the workshop called for photographing handknits in natural light settings. Yikes! I called WEBS, (Northampton, MA) where Gale Zucker was scheduled to give the Photography for Knitters workshop. No, there was no cancellation due to weather! In the infamous words of Tim Gunn, “Carry on!”

Gale took us a through a terrific slide show on color, lighting, and composition. My favorite thing was how she talked us through photo examples from her own files, pointing out what could be improved upon, and comparing these to final images. Very instructive.

wkshp_shawlette
Gale’s only prerequisite was that we be familiar with the manual settings on our digital cameras. In the old days (of film), manual was all that I knew, but I confess that since making the transition to my Nikon D40 I have been lazy and relied on the automatic option. Time to change that! After shifting back and forth between the Shutter and Aperture settings, experimenting  as quickly as I could before the model changed her pose, I realized that perhaps my over-the-counter reading glasses need a custom prescription upgrade. Out of more than hundred frames shot that afternoon, I ended up with only five that I like.

A cool little side note: while introducing myself to Adrian, one of Gale’s workshop models, I thought I recognized her flickr profile name. Turns out we’ve been flickr photostream friends for a while! That was fun.

The workshop was fantastic and honestly, I was so focused on what we were doing while we were shooting outdoors that I forgot about the heat. Here’s where you’ll find Gale teaching next:
Fiber College, Sept. 8-11, 2011. Searsport, ME
Creative Connection Event, Sept. 15-17, 2011. St. Paul, MN

“Keep shooting — pixels are free!”  –Gale Zucker

Waste Land, a movie that has changed lives


This film represents a convergence of so many facets of my life that I hardly know which aspect bears the most weight, or would be most fitting here. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning …

In January 2001 I spent a month in Alpercata, a small farming community in mid-eastern Brazil. When I arrived, my Portuguese language skills  were non-existent, but after several weeks in what could only be called a cultural immersion, I was able to engage in light conversation and make purchases at the market. The details of that month are best saved for another day, but for your amusement, here is a quick peek at yours truly, posing for posterity in Pai Pereira’s dairy cow corral (he’s the gentleman in the white shirt):
alpercata, brasilThree important things from that trip that relate to Waste Land the movie: 1) In both the rural farming communities where I spent the most time, and along the coast in the state of Bahia, I observed problems with trash disposal and management;  2) the lyrical nature of the language was intoxicating; and, 3) the grace, dignity, and hospitality of the Brazilian people endeared me to their country for life.

What happens in the world’s largest trash city will transform you.” — from the Waste Land movie trailer

The photographs that are the result of the creative collaboration between  Vik Muniz, his unique artistic vision, and a select group of catadores (pickers of recyclable materials) who worked alongside him in his Rio de Janeiro studio, drew the second largest crowd ever to Rio’s Modern Art Museum. The catadores’ lives were forever changed. And honestly, after watching this film, I cannot imagine anyone not thinking differently about: art (what is it? why do we make it?) and trash (how can I make less of this stuff? how can I be more ingenious in my upcycling and recycling?) and the people who work in the trash industry.

Four days have gone by since I watched the film and I’m still thinking about it. How often does that happen? Needless to say, I recommend it highly. For those who don’t like subtitles, there are some, but a considerable portion of the film is in English, as well. Please — go see it or rent it from your library. And then share your thoughts here. It will be fun to discuss.