Tag Archives: Women Writing for (a) Change

When your passion becomes work (and what to do about it)

I had a conversation recently with a friend who is a professional musician. She mentioned that she doesn’t listen to music at home. “It feels too much like work,” she admitted. She usually opts for television or non-music radio.

This observation resonated with me. There are times in my life where I need some sort of creative distraction to relax and alleviate stress. Because my visual art practice is what I do for a good part of my day – and is sometimes the source of my stress — I have been looking for other ways to be creative.

glimpses of the elipse

I am thoroughly enjoying reading poets who write about the natural world, and trying my hand at some writing as well.

Trying something different

I recently signed up for a writing circle with a local nonprofit writing group called Women Writing for a Change. The topic of the six-week Thursday night writing circle is “Listening to Mystery: Writing, Presence and Poetry.” Each week, we begin with a poetry reading from various spiritual traditions and have a time of meditation. We do “fast writes” where we write furiously about whatever comes to mind. Sometimes we share our writing in small groups, and sometimes we read to the entire circle.

I am thoroughly enjoying the experience, in part because it is a creative practice that I am doing just for me. For two and a half hours my cell phone is silenced, and I am present to myself and my circle-mates. I have no ambitions to become a published writer. Creation for creation’s sake is a gift.

This class has also encouraged me to have a morning ritual to get myself into creative time. For years I have fought against the Morning Pages of Julia Cameron. Thanks to my writing circle, I have been beginning my creative time by emptying my monkeymind on the page and writing any thoughts about what I want to accomplish in the studio that day. Then I read a poem (my favorites are Mary Oliver and W.S. Merwin) and spend some time writing about something I hear in the poem, or something the muse brings me. After that, I am in a place to begin my studio time.

cat on fabric color chart.

My cat Gingersnap relaxes on a color chart from custom fabric printer Spoonflower. Apparently she has a fondness for purple.

Dabble in something practical

I have also begun dabbling in designing fabrics using some of my patterns that I have simplified. I have no idea where this practice will take me, but I will at least reupholster my sagging dining room chairs and get some new pillows.

I find that with these new additions to my creative life, I am finding my studio time to be more energized and fruitful.

What do YOU do to enhance your creative practices?

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New installation is stretching my brain

A collaborative installation. This is what I determined my solo show in April needed. I will be collaborating with Bloomington writers who will be writing in response to some of my latest cloudscape linocuts. (See UPDATE at the end of this post.)

How hard can it be? If our family had a coat of arms, this would be inscribed in some obscure language. My idea was to take some of the words generated by area writers, carve them backwards on linoleum, and combine the words with cloud motifs on Japanese banners that will hang from the gallery’s twelve-foot ceilings. This week I embarked on my part of the installation…

Remembering what I’ve learned

I have done banners once before at First United Church. You can read about this installation at this blog post. As with any of my projects, I learned many things to do, and not to do, as the project progressed. I decided I needed to create some test banners before I began carving and printing my cloud-motif blocks.

Materials matter

Because I will be using a more diaphanous paper than my usual Rives BFK, I knew I needed to test inks. Luckily I had a selection of leftover inks, so I could test how different transparencies and chromatic intensities would look when printed on the paper and hung up. When light goes through the paper, the color can look washed out if it doesn’t have enough chroma.

sample inks and brayers

Sample inks and brayers, ready for the test.

I laid out all of the leftover inks with my many small brayers. To act as a record for later, I drew a small amount of ink across some scrap paper with my putty knives.

ink draw downs

I think I learned that this technique was called a draw down. You squish a tiny roll of ink on paper with the putty knife.

Papers were another variable I tested. I tested both rolls of Kozo and Thai Unryu papers. Each paper has both a smooth and rough side, and I found I preferred the smooth side for my purposes.

Printing on a banner

My previous banners were actually halved sheets of paper that were then joined in the middle. They wasn’t nearly long enough for this project, and I remember the taping process as extremely problematic. I initially thought I would have to print by hand with a spoon, but after doing this with two small blocks, I nixed the idea completely. I am addicted to my press.

So I took a deep breath and had the exciting task of troubleshooting how to print on the long rolls of paper using my press. I used the two blocks from last summer’s Solar Flags project (read about that project here) in my experiment.

Immediately I learned that I had to keep the paper rolled up at both ends, or it liked to creep below the press on either side of the bed and get crushed. Two Carrie Newcomer CDs from my studio playlist came in handy, and no, they do not go under the rollers.

printing on roll of paper

Keeping the other parts of the roll from sneaking under the press bed was challenging.

I worried that the ink would smudge as it was gently rolled up, but it did not offset at all if I rolled up the paper loosely. Certainly this process will not allow for any reduction printing, and all of the alignments will be approximate and fluid. Somehow this sounds appealing to me.

rolls of paper drying over press

Time to relax as my press bed becomes a drying rack.

Testing my creation

After printing five or six blocks on each banner, I unrolled the papers and let them dry completely over my press. The next day I put a dowel on the top with fishing line for hanging, and set off to climb a ridiculously tall ladder to hang up my tests.

Check back in a few weeks for the next stage of this installation…

UPDATE: Sadly we did not get enough sign-ups for the class, so the installation was cancelled. I hope to find an installation opportunity in the future so I can use what I’ve learned.

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Not just an aspiring artist, but an artist

In a previous blog, I wrote about the pleasure I had of talking with a group of young women about my art, and about being an artist who is a woman.  When asked for some advice, one of the things I mentioned was that they should practice saying into a mirror “I am an artist” or “I am a writer” — and leaving out those qualifiers like aspiring.  It is hard for most creative women I know to do this.  Why? (more…)

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The true gift of words

How long do people look at your art?  Do they ever give you some feedback that goes beyond their liking it?  Real, thoughtful reactions to an artist’s work can be rare.  I had the profound experience last weekend to have young women actually write with my work as an inspiration during A Day of Writing and Art.

The event was sponsored by Bloomington’s Women Writing for (a) Change, and funded by Indiana University’s Arts Week.  Young women (4th through 12th grade) were invited to come to a downtown venue to view a show of local artists.  Participants were introduced to a technique called Ekphrasis, literally “writing to art.”  They spent time viewing a piece, and then began to put their ideas into words.  They would periodically gather in small groups, and then in a large circle to share what they had written.
Young women write during Women Writing for (a) Change’s  A Day of Writing and Art.

I spent the morning taking photographs and helping the facilitators, and at lunch had an opportunity to join a panel of artists discussing with the young women about our creative processes, our experiences with successes and challenges, and why we made our art.

(more…)

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