We had an esteemed houseguest recently, but someone wasn’t pleased. Beware of the calico personality! Our visitor, Ann, is the author of the lighthearted-with-serious-subtext novel, On Maggie’s Watch. Ann makes me laugh more than almost anyone, but Corabelle fails to appreciate the humor. “How long is she staying?” she seemed to be asking.
Before Cora’s patience was stretched to dangerous limits, Ann and I left for New Hampshire’s north country. The MFA winter residency — a week-long gathering of students and faculty for workshops, readings and community — is always intense, and for me, a 24/7 responsibility. Ann’s on faculty; I work behind the scenes and help to keep things running on schedule. There was no time for outdoor exploration, but I managed to capture a few scenic shots from the hotel.
One of the unofficial perks of the job is that on occasion I am able to attend a writing craft workshop, as if I were still a student. Wiley Cash’s session on “place” let loose a watershed of revision inspiration for that manuscript of mine that has been accumulating dust in the closet.
Now that I’ve had a week to catch up on post-event administrative tasks, it’s time to get back to my own projects. It feels great to be back. Happy New Year!
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 — !
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?
1. Sibsey, 2. [workinprogress], 3. My embroidered headband., 4. Denver 30: 23, 5. Sheep heid baby cardigan, 6. Socks Patchwork, 7. Alivia, 8. alpine conditions, 9. Children’s Day in Brazil…, 10. Southern light, 11. Fabric of the Week winner: The Dinner Thief by kayajoy, 12. Untitled, 13. Liberty mug rugs, 14. Strings Attached – pot holders, 15. Linda’s Vintage Baby Hats, 16. Luxury
Every time Sibsey’s mum posts a photo of her, I click the ‘favorite’ button. So who better to lead today’s mosaic than the fluffy beauty herself?!
Meanwhile Corabelle spent the week parked on my lap, purring. Without a doubt, her companionship contributed to my quick recovery from Tuesday’s surgery.
This year’s handmade Christmas gifts are a bit closer to the finish line after purchasing a delicious assortment of Julia, the yarn Kristin Nicholas designed for Westminster Fibers. Sadly, this wool/mohair/alpaca blend has been discontinued, which really amped up the pressure as I labored over jewel-toned colors most certainly inspired by Kristin’s own zinnia beds and field of sunflowers . Continuing to gather project supplies, I hopped on over to Kristin’s online store for the Knit-It-Felt-It-Zip-It bags and Quarters Cap patterns. There is something exceedingly satisfying about shopping in a way that contributes to the livelihood of a kindred creative.
A glimpse into my studio: Fabric, fiber, and handwoven finished objects.
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?