In renovating the cottage, we decided to paint the kitchen's linoleum floor instead of replacing it. I had some crazy vision to paint the floor like a quilt-- in tiny triangles. I chose six colors: light gray, dark gray, dark green, gold, and pink in porch paint. After securing a plan, we cleaned the floor to prepare for paint.
Have you ever wondered about your own creativity? Where it comes from? What purpose does it serve in your everyday life?
For me my creativity and freedom to express it, has been essential to my life. It's not something I'd be willing to live without. Lately I've been wanting to better understand its origins and its value. Perhaps, I'd even like to argue that I think creativity is essential for humans to practice with regulalrity.
As an art educator, I’ve taught 18 month old toddlers through adults, and the toddlers, the under 6, hold zero doubts about their creative selves. They are ready to jump into any endeavor with enthusiasm and without fear. It’s as we grow up that we learn to doubt our own creative urges. We believe that if we can’t do something in a perfect way that it is not worth doing. I am here to argue that like physical exercise, like intellectual learning, we have to practice being creative throughout our whole lives. I’m certain that if we do, we will be living more fully for ourselves and our communities.
Creativity is about nourishment, joy, and sharing. It's also about observation, wondering, and solving prolbems. I am going to continue my quest for creativity, because I want to understand more specifically how it enriches us, why it’s essential to our being human, and what it has to offer the world.
So Far, this is what I believe with regard to creativity:
A Working Creativity Humanifesto
What are your thoughts about creativity? How do you practice creativity in your everyday? Do you want to develop your creative practice further? What would you need to help you develop your creative practice?
Spring Bird is workshopping T-shirt Ideas! Let us know what you think by taking the short survey!
I had one previous experience dyeing with indigo, and it was truly magic because a textile dipped in an indigo bath will actually turn blue when exposed to oxygen. So, after pulling them from the dye bath, you sort of wash them in the air before they transforming blue. It's not the easiest way to achieve blue, but it is a very unique and special process.
Our adventure in indigo was a bit less magical in that we had not grown very much indigo. So, we were only able to dye an ounce of fabric, and the results were a little meh. BUT, Pat's face lit up when the color began to change, and that was worth it. Moreover he is psyched to plant more indigo next year in hopes that we can have better results.
Begin by plucking the leaves from the indigo plant and stuff them into a jar. (pictured above)
Weigh your fabric. This one is an antique cotton napkin.
Seal the jar and place in a pot of water to simmer. Cover with just enough water to prevent it from floating.
Simmer the jar at 170 degrees, not any higher, for a couple hours until the water in the jar turns a maroon or brown.
Empty the contents of the jar into a bowl. Squeeze the excess water out of the leaves.
Then, slowly pour the indigo bath from bowl to bow for about 10 to 15 minutes until the bath turns a yellow green.
Once the dye bath has turned colore, stir in the dye remover.
Meanwhile prepare the fabric by submerging it in the simmering water.
Then, squeeze the excess water from the fabric and gently submerge it into the dye bath. Let it sit for 10 minutes, pull it out, and expose it to air. Watch the magic happen before your eyes. (Note, I squeezed the excess dye bath from the fabric, too. This seemed to help the process along, but the instructions did not explicity say to do so.)
I repeated this process 3 times to try to deepen the color. I didn't seem to work very well, though.
Hang your finished fabric to dry.
In the end, it seems like we achieve a pistachio green more than indigo! Ha! BUT, Pat thinks it is because we didn't have enough leaves. It could also be that we didn't continually stir the dye remover after we added, or it could be the cotton itself being a used fabric instead of a virginal product. Who knows? We will have to wait an entire year to give it a second chance, but we will start growing indigo this Spring--just months away!
There is an artist in Oak Park, IL that makes art from literal garbage. Bryan Northup collects the styrofoam and plastic that often packages our food, reconstitutes it as sculpture of food --such as sushi. Northup literally takes what seems to be garbage and turns it into art that provokes us to think about the mundane objects that fill our lives and our landfills.
Creativity is more than just making a thing with your hands. It’s noticing a toy smushed into asphalt, hearing music in the chaos of traffic, and seeing connections where there doesn’t seem to be any. It’s cutting up scraps of fabric to rearrange in ways that are pleasing to the eye of beholder and soul of the maker. This is creativity at its best, when it manifests a thing from seemingly thin air.
Being creative is being able to see potential, to see into the future and make that happen--to birth it. It’s bringing to life a poem, a recipe, or a garden design.
All of these things moments of creation have power.
And it’s important to not lose sight of this power to practice it. It can pull one out of depression, and it can foster joy. Practicing creativity can be inspiring for another person to follow suit with their own creative project.
Make something from nothing.
The world is hungry for what you have to offer. It’s hungry for you!
Every time that I gave a tour at the Roger Brown Study Collection, the visitors would spin on their heals mesmerized by the myriad of art pieces that Roger Brown had collected. My eyes would always be drawn up to one particular piece, a paper mache jaguar mask, the size of a jumbo pumpkin. It was painted yellow with stylized black spots and accents of red. I loved it, and wanted to be swallowed by it.
So, in redecorating the Spring Bird Cottage, I decided to create some sculptural pieces that reflected that same sort of animal spirit. I chose three animals, a screech owl, a fox, and a buck. These are three significant animals to Spring Bird. The Spring that I spotted the a pair of screech owls launched the beginning of the process of moving to Spring Bird, and the fox is a symbol creative ferocity for me. The buck, of course, acknowledges the presence of the lovely, sweet deer at Spring Bird. BUT, I ran out of materials to finish the buck. So, I abandoned it. (Another time, buckeroo)
If you are interested in starting your own menagerie, it's super simple and easy, and it doesn't require too many supplies. Below is how I made these!
1. recyclables such as plastic bags, yogurt containers, milk jugs, and cardboard tubes. (whatever will help you to achieve the shape of your animal.)
2. masking or painter's tape
3. plaster cloth
5. bowl of water
7. acrylic paint
8. acrylic gloss medium
9. assortment of paint brushes
10. card stock
Build an Animal Armature
Use the recyclable and tape to build the shape of your animal. You can omit any details like ears that might be small and delicate. You can add these later!
Cover your entire armature with plastic bags-- or as much as possible. This will make it easier to remove the armature from the plaster cloth later.
Applying the Plaster Cloth
Cut the plaster cloth into managable strips 3" - 4" wide or into small squares.
Dip the cloth into the water, wipe off the excess, and drape over the armature.
Lay strip by strip --overlapping a quarter inch or so until the entire armature is covered.
You can apply multiple layers to strengthen the sculpture.
Before the sculpture starts to set, you can manipulate the material to create eye sockets or whatever shape and detail you like! I dug my thumbs in to shape the eyes.
Let the sculptures dry.
If you are in a hurry, you can speed up drying in the oven at a low temperature. (Check the plaster cloth package to verify temperature).
Finishing Your Animal Sculpture
Once your sculpture is dry, you can add those details (like ears) using cardstock or whatever materials you want (like bottle caps) to refine your sculpture's design.
Afix details with masking tape.
When is taking time to pause more productive than relentless action?
These last couple of weeks have been intense-- creatively, mentally, spiritually, physically, nationally, globally--really in every way.
And I’m tired. I feel spent, worn, and crispy.
I don’t like to complain because I am not doing actual hard work like digging ditches, managing a classroom of kids, or enduring grueling commutes. What’s more, I am actually being fed by my work. Still, there are moments when I feel empty, dull-minded, and sluggish.
I know that a moment of rest would bring fresh air and new perspectives to my work, but I have this compulsive, workaholic part of me that tells me that either I do not deserve a break, or maybe that the rest period would not feel as good as getting another thing crossed off my list. I think that there lies the crux. I need to switch my motivation for doing the work from crossing something off a list to feeling grateful to do something with thoughtful intention. Being able to be present to my work is absolutely dependent on having breaks from it.
Furthermore, I know that my work suffers from not taking a break. I know that I can get trapped in a tunnel vision world and that resting, getting out of the work, would mean gaining perspective. But I am so willful and stubborn I judge myself for wanting rest. I try to schedule it but there always seems to be another thing to do.
Right now I’m caught between wrapping up a couple big projects and birthing some new exciting ones that are begging for my attention. As a result it is very difficult to focus on what needs to be done today -- in this moment.
So, I am very much still learning how to make rest part of my routine. Any advice out there? I try to get to a movie now and then. I like to walk in the woods and pet my cats.
Do you feel it’s a challenge to build rest into your routine? Do have guilt associated with rest?
What’s your favorite way to recharge your creative energy?
Those of you who are subscribers to Woolgathering might remember my piece in the Fall Issue about stuffed pumpkin. For those of you who aren't subcribers or don't remember, the following is an excerpt:
"A few years ago, we heard about stuffing a pumpkin on an NPR piece about Thanksgiving foods. The recipe, French inspired was developed by Dorie Greenspan for Around My French Table. This elegant dish involves scooping out the seeds of a pumpkin and filling it with stale bread, garlic, bacon, gruyere cheese, thyme, nutmeg, and heavy cream, but you can insert whatever ingredients you have in your fridge like other vegetables, greens, sausage, or rice. Once stuffed, you return the top hat of the pumpkin and bake the entire pumpkin until the squash meat is soft. The outside skin gets a deep orange and is soft and pokable. You then scoop out the gooey innards with a metal spoon scraping the insides to retrieve the pumpkin flesh along with the cheese, bacon, and cream.
It’s delicious and comforting yet elegant and special. For those of you preferring savory to sweet, this is a brilliant way to enjoy pumpkin. Furthermore, it’s a dish that encapsulates quite literally the bounty of fall while embodying the spirit of the season so perfectly. At the very least, it’s an alternative way to consume pumpkin in a more elevated way as opposed to the myriads of products that pumpkin has found its way into such as: cereals, coffee, and just about every other processed product on market shelves. But there is something more than a delicious meal, here. There is something magical about a hollow pumpkin, or perhaps more accurately, something magical in its ability to transform into something else. "
This past Saturday, after a day of soccer games in the cold and wind, we warmed up the kitchen, ourselves, and our spirits by stuffing two homegrown pumpkins, plucked from the kids' fairy garden. This is the actual recipe!
Below, is our interpretation.
The kids planted the pumpkin seeds at the beginning of June. Pat pulled these two from their shriveled vines in the middle of September. They were the first two pumpkins harvested, and we have four more in storage for either pies or more stuffed pumpkin!
We cut the tops off, just as you would to carve a pumpkin. Don't throw them away! Then, scoop out the seeds. (Keep the seeds, too, if you want to roast them with olive oil salt and spices. )
Once the pumpkins are emptied, season the insides of the pumpkins and the caps with salt and pepper.
When doing community art, you build community by surveying a community's assets. Instead of focusing on the deficits, a community sums up all that they have to offer one another -- their knowledge, skills, spaces, gardens, businesses, artists, etc. From there, the community can create solutions for any needs they might have.
These last two years of developing my own business have been fraught with many life lessons, trials, and tribulations. It wasn’t until recently that I have realized (through the help of podcasts and other wise - minded souls) that I have been operating from my own lack instead of my assets. I have been stuck in my deficits.
When I began two years ago, I was in need of healing. For a variety of reasons I was angry, wounded, depleted, and creatively starved. I was desperate, eager, impatient and ready to begin. This neediness meant that I was expecting certain outcomes from my work, which was largely unfocused and exploratory.
I was reacting to the years of taking care of kids, teaching others art, and looking enviously over the shoulders of students wishing I could be making art instead of teaching it. Although I did make art whenever and wherever I could, I felt starved. It wasn’t enough. So, this is where I located my creative business, in this hunger to create -- this desperation to feed my soul.
So, that is what I did. I have been gorging and indulging myself in creative projects (night and day), but there was still on emptiness, a sense that something wasn’t right.
I was still feeling the lack -- lack of sales, lack of time to do all of the things that I wanted to do, and lack of purpose. It felt self-indulgent. There was a sense of entitlement, too. I felt like I was putting in all of this hard work, I should get something in return -- sales, attention, or a pat on the back, and when I did receive these things, it didn’t feel deserved. Even though, I intellectually knew that nobody owed me anything, I was stuck in the lack, the hunger for some reward.
I own my sense of entitlement. I own my hunger, but it is also good to step back and see the expansive view of our culture. We are raised as Americans, in our glorious capitalist society to want - to yearn. To be reared in consumerism means that we are only satiated from external sources. We do not look for our own internal assets. We are taught to dwell in lack, because living with a sense of lack means that we will be consumers for life. The fact that what our soul truly yearns for can not ever be bought ensures us that we will continually consume, forever in search for the thing that will take the hunger away. We live in the lack, because it’s good for big business.
So, I began to wonder what would happen if I operated from my assets. It turns out I have a lot to offer. (We all do!) Instead of asking what the world owes me, I look for what I can offer.
One such offering is my belief in creativity. I believe that we are all creative people. Creativity is a huge part of our humanity. Like anything, creativity has to be practiced, developed, and nurtured. When we have creativity in our tool belt, we can literally create the worlds that we want to live in. We don’t have to buy our worlds, we can make them ourselves. It is truly a superpower that big businesses would love for us to forget. So, I have begun by sharing my own creative process in hopes that my experiences inspire and give courage to others to make and do their wildest dreams.
Moreso, I want to offer further support (to be determined) that will help all of us to do more of what our soul calls us to do. If we all pay attention to that voice inside, our lives will be enriched as well as all of the lives around us.
I want to spread the love that I feel when I make art. I want others to feel the wholeness that I feel. I want everyone to realize their creative selves, because it's in the creativity that we can heal ourselves, heal others, reshape and rethink our worlds, and be full of joy and wonder.
So that’s it! Let’s make and do our creativity until the cows come home!
Thank you for listening!
You are here! So, go forth and create!!
This Summer we got caught up in a beautiful collaborative web at the Renaissance Faire. The Faire's collaborative webs were strung between trees with simple, white string. Visitors and Renaissance residents tied and wove leaves, sticks, pieces of yarn, lost pacifiers, and broken bits to the webs. Over the course of the Summer, the webs caught more and more magic. It was a delight to experience, and immediately I knew that I wanted to try something similar at Spring Bird. So, this past Monday, with the help of cousin Austen, we strung up a web, and I tied on its first bits of magic. I am hoping that over the course of the next months, it will collect more and more pieces of wonder as it becomes a collaborative forest art project! I imagine feathers, notes, twigs, pinecones, and more tied up in the web. Next time you come to Spring Bird, make sure you come and find and add to it!
This week, I’ve been thinking about how sometimes the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories we have heard about ourselves can be limiting. Even worse, the stories we tell ourselves can lead to our getting stuck, like those black dotted squares in Candy Land.
There is great power in owning our stories and rooting our identity in them. Our stories grow in power (for better and for worse) the more we repeat them. I have stories about how I became an artist, how I act as a mother, my role as the youngest sibling, or my relationship to work. It feels secure to know who I am and how to present myself to others. But all of stories, unless they are like the film Roshomon, only tell one version. They are confined to one perspective. What’s more, if we get locked into a story that happens to be limiting, it could become damaging to us.
For instance, I am struggling with the story titled: “I am terrible at marketing story”. I am wondering what would happen if I start telling myself a different story. Maybe, I can write one that goes like this, “I am intelligent and creative, and willing to learn and experiment with marketing. This could be a way to expand my creativity while growing my business.”
The first story might be true, but it certainly doesn’t help me grow my business or get better at marketing.
The first time I experienced this power of changing the story was as a freshman in college. I had matriculated with a sense of dread that I was going to gain those freshman 15. You remember those 15 lbs. from beer, late night pizza, and cafeteria soft serve? They would likely be the first 15 on my way to being an overweight and unfit adult. I had been telling myself this story since I was a chubby child. In fact, my story was informed by another that I apparently asked for a diet coke at age 3. The implication is that I have been weight conscious since a toddler. Another story that was repeated while growing up was that our family joked about being a “fat family”. So, as a result of these negative stories, I didn’t exercise, hated running, and drank a lot of diet coke.
Then, a few weeks into being a first year, while walking through the arched doorway of my dorm, it hit me that I didn’t have to believe that story. I challenged myself to start running. Soon, I was attending fitness classes with friends and eating salads for lunch. In fact, I didn’t gain those freshman 15, and I brought jogging and fitness with me into adulthood.
I realize this sounds super obvious. Maybe everyone has moments like this as we take our first steps into adulthood, but still, I testify that reshaping your stories is a simple powerful tool.
Another story that I’ve been thinking about lately is the story that I am too emotional. This is a story I have heard my whole life. I am easy cryer. Not just at movies and weddings, but at work, at school, and in public. My tears are easy to come by, but instead of feeling like my emotions are a weakness, a betrayal, or a vulnerability, I am choosing to look at them as a superpower.
Listen, my emotions make me feel more alive, better able to be empathetic, and more expressive in my art, My emotions help me to connect with others, too. So I plan on telling my new story of me as emotional superhero on repeat until I have rewritten the whole book, and new patterns have formed in my brain.
When rewriting our stories, It’s good to question the source. So, I might wonder why is being emotional considered a weakness? Where does this idea even come from? Well, that’s another blog post, but realize that if a story is keeping you stuck, try rewriting it and see what happens. Of course there is the danger of ignoring a true story in favor of a superficial one. Superficial stories will also keep us stuck, and they have the potential of hurting others. Unfortunately they are much more difficult to recognize because in seeing the true story we might have to recognize our own pain, but there is hope in being able to incorporate that pain into a new story that involves healing.
Have you had experience with rewriting your stories? or getting stuck in a story?
Anna Lentz blogs about life at Spring Bird, her art making and other nature/art happenings.