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Bottled-Up

What brought me here today:

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about the most recent group of dolls that I’ve been creating. Their collective name for the time being is ‘bottle dolls’. The three largest are Eugenie, Phyllis, and Sondra. I then created three additional dolls, Clarisse, Nadia, and Doreen. These three are slightly smaller dolls. Georgie, Liza, and Jane are close to completion. And I’ve decided that they too shall have a base, with a clear, plastic drink bottle as a cloche.

There have been some questions regarding my use of the clear, plastic drink bottles as cloches. One commenter felt as though the use of the plastic bottles detracted from all of the work I put into the dolls themselves. Another very kindly sent me links to businesses where I could purchase a wide variety of cloches, both plastic and glass. The suggestions offered to me regarding my choice to specifically use plastic bottles as cloches for my artwork were all taken in the spirit of kindness that they were offered.

That being said, I do want to make sure that not only I can explain my materials usage to viewers and patrons of my artwork. But also to help me make sense out of my choice other than a it-felt-right-so-I-did-it kind of way. After all, my artwork is not only my therapy, but a means for me to make money.

Expense:

My use of the recycled plasic drink bottles as cloches is cheap. Free, to be exact. I’ve saved the plastic bottles that I thought would make the most interesting cloches for my artwork. The lables were removed. And the plastic cleaned inside and out. A little measuring and cutting was required to remove a small portion of the bottom of each bottle so they would sit flat on a base. It took me around half an hour to get the cloches for the three large dolls measured and cut.

I could choose to purchase newly manufactured plastic cloches. But I feel as though I’d simply be helping to create more plastics that won’t/cannot be recycled by doing so. There are jobs for people that I would also be supporting if I bought newly manufactured plastic cloches. The people who make th cloches, pack and ship them, etc. Then there are the shop owners that I would help to support as well. But that kind of seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Someone will have to pay for all the plastic use at some point.

Recycling:

My husband and I recycle. I’ve been a recycler since my early 20’s living in Indianapolis. O’Malia’s grocery store downtown had glass and metal recycling bins that were super-convenient to use. It was my father who first told me that I needed to start recycling. He was an avid recycler who kept his recycling bins neat and organized. I still remember him hollering at me because he could tell by the sound of the metal clanking together that I’d put an aluminum soda can in the steel can bin!

His interest in recycling came after he read some articles and research about modern landfills and how they do not allow the refuse (that will break-down, like paper) within them to actually biodegrade. There’s not enough air for the organisms needed to do the breaking down of the trash. My father showed me photos of core samples taken from landfills in the 70’s showing completely readable newspapers, packaging, etc.

Recycled, plastic drink bottles are everywhere. I know that some plastics are recyclable. But let’s face it, not enough of them actually are recycled. You can take a look at this information from the EPA to see how much plastic ends up in landfills in the US alone. It will take a lot more action by the government to change this. But until the corporations decide to change what they sell, and how they package it, plastic recycling will be a problem.

Influence:

Explaining the meaning of using a clear, plastic drink bottle cloche is either going to make me sound like a pompous self-centered windbag. Or it may end up sounding like much ado about nothing (in particular). Either way, here we are. And I need to make some bit of sense out of it at least for myself.

I’ve talked previously about some of the dolls that have influenced my artwork as a doll maker. Liddle Kiddles were a series of dolls marketed in the US during the mid 60’s to beginning of the 70’s. I don’t know if I was given my first Liddle Kiddle dolls, or if I simply took them from my older sister. As a toddler, I had some pretty sticky fingers. But I also know that dolls were never a big deal to my sister. She may have just given them to me to get me out of her hair.

There were different series of Liddle Kiddle dolls. The one that I absolutely adored were the Kola Kiddles. Shirley Strawberry was my favourite. I’m not sure why I became so mentally and emotionally attached to these tiny dolls. The ability to adequately explain myself here 48 years later still eludes me. To me, these dolls were just the whole package. They were tiny, cute dolls that had their own little bottles (homes, displays) that kept them safe.

Art school:

When I was in art school, I remember creating a series of drawings and prints (etchings) that were bottles with corks in them. I drew bricks or a cinder blocks inside of the bottles. Granted, it wasn’t incredibly subtle, unique, or even mildly interesting imagery. But for some reason I created quite of few finished pieces utilizing some version of the bottle, brick, and cork.

I think that the reason I created these pieces was due to the fact that I was listening to Reggatta de Blanc a lot. If memory serves, it was glued in the tape deck of my car for most of a summer. This coincided with my (as yet to be diagnosed) clinical depression becoming a larger and harder to ignore component of my mental state. I was beginning to understand how my depressions cycled. And how it made my relationships with friends and family difficult. Any S.O.S. that I might manage to send, might as well be a brick in a bottle. Sending for help was a useless endeavor for me.

Hunting and gathering:

I’ve already talked about how the happiest I remember myself in the past was when I was around 6 years old or so. The world hadn’t gotten it’s hands on me yet and made me loathe myself completely. But even as I write this, the world and all the people and things in it were getting their icky little lingering finger prints all over my sense of self when I was that little girl.

But even while I was in the midst of the not-so-fun-stuff, I still had these little precious pieces of who I was before everything changed. You know, the parts of yourself that you don’t share with anyone. They’re yours and yours alone. And the insanely weird thing is that those precious pieces and their happiness exhisted within the same exact space as the not-so-great-stuff. Which doesn’t seem at all possible. How can a good and bad thing exist within the same space with in my memory? It doesn’t make one part better or worse either. They simply coexist.

My creation of the Bottle Dolls is my attempt to make sense of how the good and bad within my own life can have occurred at the same time. Perhaps I reached out to find something that would be a means to keep my head above the water? That’s a large job for a set of such tiny little dolls to accomplish.

So…uh…

It should be noted that these Bottle Dolls are a long way from being finished. I’ve been working on the text that will accompany each of the dolls. And how I plan to finish the cloches as well as the bases as well. In fact, when I’m finished with this blog post I need to place a wool felt order so I can keep working on them.

So, now what?

I know that my small efforts to be more knowledgible about the tools, materials, and supplies that I use in the creation of my artwork will not make the tiniest dent in this world-wide plastics problem. I’m also completely aware that my artwork, in the long run, isn’t of vast importance in any way that visual art can be important. I know how completely and utterly insignificant I am. However, my artwork allows me the ability to generate a modest income, while keeping me mentally healthy, all without making my carbon footprint larger. This makes me able to sleep a little better at night.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Hello 2022!

What brought me here today:

Today is the first blog post of 2022! It begins the new schedule for my once a week, Friday blog posts. There’s a part of me that feels a little out of practice writing blog posts right now. The words are a little harder to squeeze out of my brain turnip, if that makes any sense!

I enjoyed my holiday time off of regularly scheduled work. There were accomplishments during the holiday. I made some artwork. And I attending to the plans and scheduling of the two big projects that are starting the new year off. Those who follow me on Instagram know that I created a large bulletin board expressly for the implementation of a new website (and online shop) as well as a Patreon.

A place for my plans:

I’m beyond pleased with how my homemade bulletin board turned out! Purchasing one from a store wasn’t an option. Not because of price, or even transportation factors. I made my own because of the walls in our apartment. Our apartment is in a house that was built in the 1880’s. It has lath and plaster walls that we cannot put a nail through. This meant that there was no way that I could hang a commerecially made bulletin board.

I created my bulletin board from two large corrugated cardboard (double thickness), clear packing tape, sticky backed cork sheets, and some sticky backed velcro tape. The size of the board was determined by the size of the sticky backed cork I purchaded. The construction took about an hour. And I used simple tools to make it: ball point pen, tape measure, triangle, metal straight edge, and a large craft knife.

The part of the project that took the longest was applying and then attaching the board to the wall. Removing the protective tape from the velcro was a bit more arduous than I thought it would be. Tweezers were needed to find the edge and pull it up. Then a pair of jewelry pliers were required to separate it from the sticky part of the tape.  I did do some measurement on the wall to make sure the bulletin board wasn’t hung up crooked as well.

Artwork created:

In addition to creating a plan-of-action bulletin board, I also created several dolls. Clarisse, Nadia, and Doreen. They have received stands with cloches made from recycled drink bottles. Larger stands, with larger recycled drink bottles were used for Eugenie, Phyllis, and Sondra. These larger doll stands are covered with felt, while I still need to cover the smaller doll’s stands.

There were three additional dolls created just in the last few days. They only received their names last night too! Georgie, Liza, and Jane. Georgie is the doll with pink hair and sticky-outtie pig tails. Liza has short blue braids. And Jane has mint green, braided buns. My intention is to make tiny poofy pants for all three of these newest dolls. They too shall be receiving a stand with a recycled drink bottle.

I’ve already had some viewers inquire as to the use of a recycled plastic drink bottle instead of a cloche. There are two reasons why I chose the bottle over a more traditional cloche. First, the bottles are part of a the design of the completed piece, i.e., ‘I’ve got artistic reasons for using them’. The second reason is because choches can get stupid expensive. I may use pre-made cloches in future artwork. But for now, I like the recycle plastic drink bottles better.

Events outside:

My husand Berin and I stayed isolated during the holidays. One of the biggest reasons for this is the increase in cases of the Omicron variant. We’ve both had two doses of vaccine. And we’re scheduled for our booster shot in the next week. Neither one of us wants to catch Covid in any of it’s variant forms. So, we’re isolating and keeping our contact with people to a minimum.

Our last outing was on 30 January. I think it kind of ‘sealed the deal’ with regards to thinking about isolating again. I’m glad we did have that outing. Much needed art supplies were purchased, along with other items we had carefully chosen to purchase. We’ve also returned to placing orders for our groceries. The weather has turned cold, windy, and a little snowy. So I’m not bummed at all not to have to slog through it to the grocery store!

I feel like isolating will be for the majority of the month of January. Again, this works no hardship on either of us. We are fortunate to each work from home and can pay our bills doing so. We’re also both a little hermit-like. Prefering to submerge ourselves in our own specific flow states and lose ourselves in our creative work.

Nesting:

Speaking of which, I’m feeling much more connected and nested into my new work space. I’m just calling it “The MIdden”. I wish I had some kind of super-cool name for it ala Kurt Schwitters Merzbau. But Midden seems to work for this specific space at this specific time. Adding elements like the bulletin board have helped me feel like I’m making the space my own.

I’m also finally going through much of the artwork I brought with me. It all needs to be organized and photographed properly. The larger, paper mache pieces also require some repair work as well. Berin surprised me with a new tripod and ring light a few days ago. The mobile phone tail-spin threw me off to such a degree that I haven’t gotten a chance to get thing new light out and take pictures.

“Mobile phone tail-spin”

I love technology. Rather, I love it to a degree. Computers, mobile phones, printers, scanners, digital cameras, etc., are all tools that I need to create the artwork I want to create. It should be known that I see myself as a person who has one foot in the world of technology, with the other foot planted firmly in the realm of ‘not technology’. Perhaps, technological and creative  would be better descriptors of these realms.

I sew and do embroider by hand. My mind is happiest when it’s engaged with my hands in the creation of artwork. It’s the place in my life in which I am most completely myself. I’m also in complete control. Technology is something that I understand (a bit) , but am not in complete control of it. My technological efficacy is somewhat lacking. Therefore technological challenges can frustrate me.

The mobile phone tail-spin occured when my phone (purchased in FInland) three or four years ago began to fail yesterday. It’s old and out of date. I know this! The profits from the holiday pop-up sales were intended to purchase me a new mobile phone! However, between the panic of my phone getting progressively more and more flakey and the INSANE number of mobile phones to choose from, I tested my limited technological efficacy.

What happened?!

After two hours of sifting through mobile phone listings and the endless details of features, I had to have an impromptu nap. I was frustrated and close to crying. It seems like something that would not warrant this kind of reaction. A new mobile phone would cost a chunk of money. I didn’t want to make the wrong choice! Berin came to my rescue. Before crawling under the duvet to escape, I sent Berin a list with some links of phones that I liked.

Berin went through the list and then asked me some questions. After a bit more searching. And a little more questioning, he found me a refurbished, unlocked mobile phone for my needs. And that was within the budget. Long story somewhat longer, my new phone will arrive next week. However, my work day was half gone and I felt like a toddler after a crying jag and a long nap.

So, now what?

What do I always say? It’s time to get back to work. There is so much work that I have to do that it makes my head swim a bit. However I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about the new mobile phone anymore. The rest of my day today will be spent sewing and embroidering. Technology, but from way back in human history.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Holiday

What brought me here today:

This blog post is the last of my regularly scheduled blog posts for this year. I honestly did not realise how close Christmas was getting until the last in-person holiday pop-up sale on the 18th. The on-going pandemic, and my working alone and from home, makes the days just fly by. Once I’m at work, there isn’t a whole lot that distracts me from my work. I wouldn’t eat on a regular schedule if I didn’t have a husband who did all the cooking telling me to come and eat something.

Holiday break:

I had intended to continue writing regular blog posts until the end of the year. But that’s just not going to happen. No one is going to want to read a blog post of mine on Christmas Eve! And I can tell you, I need some time away from certain parts of my work load. There is so much that is coming in the new year. I want to be rested and ready to devote all my time and energies to my two big projects.

I mentioned in last Friday’s blog post that I will be taking a holiday from regular blog posting for the remainder of the year. The first of the new once weekly blog posts will begin on 6 January 2022. This new schedule will go a long way in streamlining my overall work load. The first few months of 2022 are going to be packed with so much work that needs to be done. I want to make sure I’m up to the challenge.

Other bits and bobs:

I’m not only taking a holiday from regular blog posting, but from my regular social media postings as well. Long-time readers know that I post every day on Instagram. Posts are created for my personal account, and for the Go Marielle account. Insta-Stories are also created and posted. There are also Twitter accounts for myself and for Marielle that need to be tended to daily. And then there are my Pinterest and Imgur accounts that require my attentions.

Posting and attending to these platforms usually takes about two hours of my morning every day of the week. That’s on a good day. If there are posts that have to be built it can take longer. I try to work one week out for the Go Marielle daily posts. The same can be said of Insta-Story posts regarding online shop updates and other announcements. Sometimes a file becomes corrupted and I have to recreate it. These are the days when just making my regular daily posts can take three or four hours.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’:

Regular posting to social media and my blog posts are just a small part of my working day. I try hard to keep my social media presence regular. We all know how much the Algorithm likes that! That all being said, doing the computer-based portion of my daily work is not my favourite. I’d much rather be physically creating artwork. Or planning and designing new pieces that I would like to create.

My holiday break from daily posting will give me some much desired, uninterrupted time to work. Even though I sell some of my artwork, the creating of it is still my daily therapy. The current pieces that I’m working on I would like to finish during this short break between today and the 6th of January.

Sporatic is the correct term:

That all being said, I will be posting here and there on social media. I also know that I will be writing one more blog post before the end of the month as well. Whatever I post will be done because I want to. Not because I’m sticking to my usual daily work schedule.

So now what?

After I post this blog post, I will return to working on the three newest dolls (in pinks and greens) I started yesterday. I need to get their faces embroidered. Then their arms and legs put together. OH! And their hair sewn on too! These three newest dolls will be receiving plastic bottle domes and stands like Eugenie, Phyllis, and Sondra.

I also have some things I want to do in my studio. Organising and decorating mostly. These tasks aren’t exciting, but they need doing. And I’m strangely looking forward to them.

Thank you for reading! Happy Holidays, and I will see you again soon!

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Experiments

What brought me here today:

Regular visitors to my Instagram (katie_kinsman_artist) know that I’ve been working on three dolls since the 5th of December. Part of the impetus to create them was the sale of Honey. She was another 12 cm doll with a stand. Honey was the last doll I created in Finland before we returned to the US.

I missed Honey’s presence in my art midden. Or at least I think so. There were some ideas that I’d been wanting to try out for quite some time too. I didn’t start out to specifically created three dolls. It just happened that way. The only colour I specifically chose was the light blue. The peach and buttery yellow coloured felt were chosen because they were not blue.

Experiments:

It may not look like it, but there is always something that’s experimental within each of the dolls I create. It’s rare that I continue creating a series of pieces without experimenting. Some experimentation is simply for fun. I wonder what will happen if I do this? There are times in which I find an interesting material. I want to see how the new material will interact with my current techniques for construction, so I try it.

There have been some experiments in which I’m combining techniques in a new way. This is evident in the wings I created for the Niittykejuja dolls. I used a printmaking technique called dry point. The image is scratched or cut into the surface. Those scratches hold the ink that is transferred to the paper during the printing process.  For the niittykejuja doll wings, I scratched the lines. Then daubed on paint. I removed some paint. Then allowed the plastic to dry. I did this several times to achieve the desired affect.

It’s important to remember that not all of my experiments actually work. There are times in which I can disguise the failed experimental portions of my work. At least enough so that they don’t bother me very much. I so dislike wasting supplies, materials and time though. Sometimes I just need some time away from a failed experiement so that I can see how to fix or disquise it.

Multiple heads:

It’s easy to see the experiementation with the number of heads of the three dolls I’m working on. Eugenie has four heads. The heads are stacked so that they all face forward. And range in size from large to tiny. I could have made each of the heads face a different direction. Or have a different expression. I thought about a different set of hairdos for Eugenie’s heads. But I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it without first attaching the heads together. This will make creating the hairdos difficult.

Sondra also has three additional heads. I had a much different configuration in mind when I started. I landed on the one that she has because I just wanted to see if it would work. Because I changed the way in which I attached the heads, I also needed to change the hairdos. I decided on the sticky-uppy pigtails in the end. Again, I just wanted to see how it would look. I like it much better than what I originally had planned for Sondra.

Phyllis didn’t have much experimentation with the heads. Her hairdo was the experiment. Creating multiple, stacking heads with two hair buns each is something I’d not tried before. Eugenie has long braids that were wrapped into side buns. They’re easy. The hair buns for Phyllis required me to create some of the tiniest hair buns I’ve created for any doll. They also required me to make sure that the way in which I stacked and attached the heads left room for each set of buns on the head below it.

Wire:

There’s no way to see what I’ve changed on the inside of each doll. I don’t seem to take any pictures of the adding of the wire process for my Instagram either. Perhaps it’s equal parts not exciting, and wishing to keep a few construction details to myself. There’s also the fact that the way in which I create the wire inserts is something I feel as though other artists would find clunky. Or perhaps super-crappy and cheap.

I’ve tried different types of wire in the past. I like armature wire a lot. However, it’s a little bulky for what I want to use it for. I’ll know I can find something smaller. As much as I hate it, Amazon has smaller gauge armature wire. Armature wire is easier to bend. It’s not as hard on my hands either. But the biggest plus is that it’s aluminum. This means it won’t rust or corrode.

Painting:

I’ve been wanting to experiment with adding paint to the surfaces of my felt dolls for quite a while. While living in FInland, I just couldn’t afford wool and wool-blend felts to work with. I used acrylic and viscose felts instead. The Thinner viscose felts can take paints and dyes. I did experiment with thinned acrylic paints. I created abstract compositions using cardboard and plastic recyclables to ‘stamp’ designs onto the viscose felt. This was done prior to piecing the felt for the doll. I liked the end results very much.

Acrylic felt is essentially plastic. This means that the felt doesn’t ‘take’ the paint very well. I guess I should really say, acrylic felt doesn’t ‘take’ the paint the way that I want it to. I found my previous experiments with acylic felt and acrylic paint not to my liking. An oil paint might have worked better. But I didn’t have any. Nor any inclination to spend precious resources on something that “might” work.

For Eugenie, Phyllis, and Sondra, I painted the surface of the dolls after I’d sewn them together. This was more like working in the round. I used watered down acrylic paints to add the different splotches and slpoots of colour on the surface skin of each doll. Because the doll parts were already sewn together, they soaked-up the watered down paint like a sponge. I used at least three colours on each doll. I liked the effect of depth I got with Eugenie’s blues and violets.

What’s next for them?

The three dolls are almost completed. What that really means is that thier outfits and hairdos are almost completed. I’m itching to get started on their mounts and displays. All of the pieces for the mounts and displays are on hand. Hopefully I can start them next week. As much as I’m looking forward to creating the mounts and displays, I wonder how they will be recieved. But isn’t that the way it goes when creating and then showing artwork to an audience? Will people like it? Or will they just be ignored?

House-keeping news:

A reminder to those who read my blog;  my last regularly scheduled blog post of the year will be on 21 December. I will be posting on social media, but not regularly. I had intended to only take a week off, but I really want some completely un-interrupted time to spend with my husband enjoying the holidays. It will also be nice to just sit down and work on some projects as well.

Last holiday pop-up sale:

I’ll also be participating in my last in-person sale of the year tomorrow! I’ll be at Books & Bagels from 1-4 pm with all kinds of different dolls and holiday ornaments for sale. All of the items I sell during these pop-up sales have a discounted price too! If you’re in the area, stop by and see me!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again on Tuesday.

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Art Museum

What brought me here today:

Last Sunday, Berin and I went to the Delaware Art Museum. It was our first trip to this museum. It’s free admission on Sunday. The busses don’t run on Sunday to that particular part of Wimington, so we walked. It was around 6 kilometers (approx. 3 miles)  round trip. It was a nice sunny day for a walk. It was a little windy though. My windbreaker kept me nice and warm during our time outside walking.

I didn’t realise how incredibly convenient the centrally located museums were in Jyväskylä until now. The Jyväskylän Taidemuseo and the Suomen Käsityön Museo are both less than an American city block’s distance from where the #12 bus would let me off downtown. Fridays were free museum days. With the central location, Berin and I were very frequent museum visitors. We didn’t have a lot of money, but many times purchases small items, like postcards, from the gift shop. This helped us feel like we were contributing at least a little to the museums financially.

The Delaware Art Museum is a lovely museum. It’s beautifully situated and has had larger, more modern wings (galleries) added. I was quite impressed with the exhibits that they had to offer currently. As well as the other fascillities, like the gift shop and cafe. The staff were all welcoming and helpful as well. Free Sunday admissions continue through the end of this month*. Berin and I will be walking to the museum for the next two Sundays to re-visit exhibitions and to see what we haven’t gotten to see yet.

Amazing exhibit:

There were exhibits that Berin and I are eager to see again. One is Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks. I don’t think I can adequately put into words how incredibly amazing this exhibit is. There’s an array of styles and mediums that are so, so, so impressive. I’m personally drawn to the more modern styles, of which there are just breath-takingly sublime offerings. Humbert Howards work in particular evokes a physical response from me. I would like to purchase a poster of his painting Black Orpheus (1969) for our apartment.

This exhibit is a recreation of the Wilmington Armory show in 1971. Originally, Percy Ricks approached the Delaware Art Museum to show the exhibit in 1971. The museum didn’t even respond to him. The exhibit went ahead and was shown at the Armory in the Little Italy neighbourhood in Wilmington. Here’s an eye-opening  article from NPR with more of the history of the exhibit. I recommend reading it. The amazing contributions to visual art that so many Black MUST be acknowledged. And made part of the historical artistic record!

Belonging and separation:

I cannot remember a time in which I didn’t feel at home in an art museum. From an incredibly early age, I went to museums with my parents and family. These trips were integral in helping me to become the artist and art teacher that I am today. My eyes opened to different places, people, and time periods. All in a way that was unique to visual art mediums. I love strolling through galleries filled with artwork made by other artists. Getting to see what’s inside their creative minds. I’m surrounded by kindred minds and spirits of fellow artists.

As I’ve grown older, the feeling of belonging has becomed tempered with a feeling of distance. A feeling of belonging and separation at the same time is hard to explain. I don’t know that I can adquately explain it even to myself. Sometimes I think it’s merely the venue of the museum that’s creating these conflicting feelings. But I’m not sure.

Experiences will differ:

Being a visitor to an art museum is a different experience for every individual. Dewey’s Art as Experience covers a lot of how individuals react and interact with art. The book is not an easy read. I love Dewey too. But man! This book is a hard chew! I’m more drawn to Duchamp’s explanation of art interaction. Badly paraphrased it goes something like this: art changes according to the person viewing it.

As an art creator, I have working knowledge of many different artistic mediums. When I look at a lithograph I have practical experience. Stone lithography is something that I’ve personally done. I have the ability to actually feel what it’s like to grind a stone down. The sweet, oily smell of the ink. How the press feels when I turn the press wheel. The little ‘thunk’ noise that can happen when you’ve cranked a little too far, and the roller comes off the stone. All of this adds to my overall personal experience of the art before even considering the image or object I’m looking at.

All of these viseral reactions are a part of how I personally experience that art in museums. It can help me connect with an artist and their work. While at the same time making me question why my own art work will never be considered good enough or relavent enough to be be displayed in a museum. OH! Then my imposter syndrome kicks into high gear. All these emotions make me feel like a fat, whiny baby. And then I want to go home and crawl into my art midden to hide.

I should have gone left at Albuquerque:

I’m a person who has made art history and the creation of art a central part of my life. It should be no wonder that I do think about how or even if I become at least a very minor artist footnote. Maybe. Perhaps. I don’t know. Then I get thinky about what will happen to my artwork in the future. This is when I become mentally axle-wrapped and write a blog post about how going to a local art museum has given me a tiny existential crisis.

So…now what?

I’m sitting in my art midden right now writing this blog post. I’m surrounded by my artwork and art supplies. My chair is comfortable. I’m wearing my super-cute teddy bear socks to keep my feet warm. There’s a sunny day outside of my window. When I’m finished with this blog post, I’ll return to working on Eugenie, Phyllis, and Sondra for the remainder of my work day.

I will continue to think about my recent trip to the Delaware Art Museum. And how much I’m looking forward to walking over again this Sunday. Where I will stand in front of amazing pieces of artwork that make my heart and mind each sing two different songs that sometime clash and sometimes harmonize.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

*  The museum is located in a part of town that is quite wealthy. As much as I enjoyed my trip to this museum, I think it’s strange that the one day a week in which the museum is free is on a day in which no busses runs anywhere near it. I cannot help but interpret this as a means of keeping the museum and it’s artwork for people who don’t live on my side of town. And by ‘my side of town’, I mean a much poorer side of town. This is my own personal observation. And even admitting it to myself made me feel the incredible socioeconomic divide between the part of town where the museum is and my own apartment.

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Organizing Chaos

What brought me here today:

I’ve started creating new pieces to sell at the holiday pop-up sale. Creating artwork in larger numbers (+8 or more) is not something that I’ve done in a long time. One of the hold-over parameters from the Creative Experiment is that I work on one piece until it’s completion. Then I can move forward and create a new piece. This method of artistic creation doesn’t work when I’m in need of greater amounts of finished work to sell.

The majority of the new pieces that I’m creating are using patterns I’ve used previously. This makes the process of creating greater numbers a bit easier for me. The whole process of creation is closer to an assembly line process. I’ve made some slight changes to how I’m using my patterns too. This trims some time of creation, which is nice.

But how am I going to get all this new work accomplised? There will be at least 50 new pieces created for the upcoming sales. Maybe more. How am I going to be ready for the first holiday pop-up sale on the 27th of this month? Creating new artwork to sell is just one portion of the preparation required. Where do I start? The following are the things that help me the most in prepping for an art sale or show.

Dedicated notebook:

I always have a notebook for large projects. They’re simple, saddle-stitched pamphlet style notebooks. Nothing fancy at all. You can see examples of them here. The notebooks are just large enough for me to compile the many lists I employ to help me acheive my goal. Sometimes that goal is a display of my artwork at a venue. Other times it’s navigating the steps in the creation a larger, more complicated paper mache doll’s construction.

Having a notebook may not be for everyone. I was a young adult before the computers and the internet were in everyday use. Writing things down is second nature to me. It doesn’t depend on electricity to be operational. Writing and drawing are the primary ways that I make information stick inside my own mind as well. For those who prefer working with a computer, this notebook keeping can easily be done with a variety of different platforms. Physical or virtual, a space is needed to create and retain the plan(s)!

Lists:

I’ve already created a list of pieces that I will create for the upcoming pop-up sales.  There’s a list with numbers on the wall in front of my desk. I placed it at eye-level so I can’t miss it. I also enjoy checking items off the list as I complete them. Never under-estimate the motivating power of a list that’s being completed!

Some list items are easy to check off. “Buy table” was an easy item to check off as completed. But a related item like, “Table Signage” is a bit more complicated. It requires me to design and create, or design and have printed signage to display on my sale table. The cost involved in printing them may be an additional expense. However, I need to think about how much time it will take to create these signs by hand. It may be benefical to pay for printing, and use my creative time elsewhere.

As I work and prepare, the lists will sometimes change according to the directions I choose. For instance, the print quote I received was much lower than I thought it would be for artist cards. Adding in my table signage to this order looks like it will be a better choice for me in this instance. I’m sure my hands will thank me too!

Organization of work:

The workspace that I have here in Delaware is actually larger than what I had in Finland. I’ve been enjoying this larger space a great deal. There are still some inexpensive shelving units I would like to acquire. (This one and this one.) They’ll fit nicely into the smaller workspace I have.

I’m currently creating very small pieces. This makes the chances of losing any of the tiny parts of them a very real possibilty. Heck! I could lose the finished pieces as well! I use upcycled plastic trays (from ground chicken), washed and sanitized, to hold the pieces of my artwork while it’s in process. The trays are plenty sturdy enough to hold the tiny felt dolls I’m creating. They also stack very nicely.

I know that I could go out and purchase trays of some sort for this purpose. The Dollar Store is a great, low-cost source for them. Two of the biggest reasons why I prefer the recycled food trays are: they’re free, and it further reduces my use of ‘new’ plastic. For me, this is a no-brainer, win-win kind of thing.

Flexibility:

What happens if I decide to switch things around and change parts of my plans and items on my lists? Even though I try hard to plan for every contingency, there is always a need to remain flexible (like Gumby) within my overall plan. If I don’t, then when and if things don’t go according to plan, I have a harder time dealing with the outcome I’d not planned for.

I’m a person who naturally attempts to be prepared for all possible outcomes. Basically, I’m creating one of those “if not, then...” kind of flow charts within my head. This can sometimes be a liability, especially when related to my mental health. But when it comes to planning an sale or show, it comes in hella-handy.

So, now what?

As always, I need to get back to work! I would like to make some money from the holiday pop-up sales so that I can purchase the shelves I mentioned above.  And more art supplies and other items I need to grow my small art business.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Personal Artistic Efficacy: Part 2

What brought me here today:

This is the part two of my personal artistic efficacy post. If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here. The original post just became too long to be read in blog post form. I’m not a spring chicken age-wise. The amount of accumilated artistic knowlege and experience that directly relates to my personal artistic efficacy is much more voluminus than I thought.

Edit: This post got longer and longer and longer as I edited it. This kind of seems like it goes against the whole editing process. I could have cut this post in two again. But having a part three to this subject just seem a little too much

Book binding:

I began to learn about book binding while still in art school. One of my instructors created a course in book binding. It was a awesome course too. We used this book. I loved getting to design and then physically create books. In this course, my education in graphic design, printmaking, and illustration all began coming together. A friend of mind at Herron took the course and wrote his own book about book binding!

I spent a large chunk of time creating handmade books. The coptic stitch quickly became my favourite way to create journals and sketchbooks. In my middle 20’s I was selling the books I created. I never made much money at it though. There were workshops that I taught at a small art paper store. And I did help the owner to create some packaging for some of her products. But the relationship soured and I stopped teaching for her.

What serves me now:

I still make my own sketch and notebooks. They’re incredibly simple saddle stitched little books. But they serve my purposes. There are times in which I do get a little more creative with my sketch and notebooks, but not often. The books I make for myself are much more utilitarian than my previous creations.

I do think that the time that I spent working with a needle and linen thread has served me well. Creating folios and precisely placing the holes, along with careful stitching, taught me a lot of patience. I had to be in the right fame of mind to put a book together. Rushing could result in split papers and warped book covers.

Jewelry:

I have only ever taken one jewelry making course. It was a silver clay workshop many years ago. I had a fabulous teacher who was certified in the teaching of the techniques of silver clay jewelry making. The course was so good that I bought my own tools to create more silver clay pieces. Some of the tools and materials were a little pricey, but worth it. I even managed to work with a small hand held torch without burning my house down!

The vast majority of my jewelry making knowledge comes from watching online tutorials and reading books. There was a lot of trial and error involved in my accumulation of knowledge regarding jewelry making. I also had an excellent friend who is way more talented and knowledgable about jewelry making that helped me when I had questions. The efficacy I have isn’t anywhere near what a professional has in this art form.

What serves me now:

One thing jewelry making taught me to pay close attention to the details. I had made up my mind to learn how to create a beaded chain. The kind with loops and wraps. Here’s a good tutorial for it. To create decent chain required a lot of practice. Even with the tutorials, I had to come up with my own way of working so that the beaded chain looked the way I wanted it to.

The other thing jewelry making gave me was the tools. I use my jewelry tools on a daily basis as a doll maker. My needle nose pliers come in all kinds of handly when I need to bend wire parts for the insides of dolls. Or for pulling a needle through a thick part of material. I also use my jewelry making tools while constructing my larger, paper mache dolls. Knowing how to use these tools has been a life-saver for me many times while creating artwork.

Ceramics:

Like book binding, I do have some professional instruction in this art medium. I didn’t take any ceramics while at Herron. The first ceramics course I took was when I was getting my art education degree at the University of New Mexico in the early 2000’s. I enjoyed the course and began connecting with that part of myself that enjoyed making little dolls and animals again.

During the last year of the program I was required to complete a year of student teaching. One semester was high school, and another in elementary school. A classmate and I were assigned to the same elementary school. We had agreed to help each other with firing the kiln. I didn’t feel like I was knowledgable enough to do it on my own. My short stature made it almost impossible for me to prep and load the kiln myself as well.

On the day that I needed to prep and load the kiln, my classmate bailed on me. She said she was busy. I attempted to get the kiln turned on and loaded myself. Long story somewhat shorter, one tearful call to my professor accompanied by one flash-burned right hand and arm later, I managed to get everything done. After this incident, I was terrified of kilns.

Baby-steps:

While still teaching art in the elementary school, I was fortunate to be assigned to a school that had a licensed therapist who was also a special eduction teacher. He had asked me if I could fire some of the work his students had created in class. I told him about my fear of the kiln. He came up with a series of exercises that would help me through my fears. It took an entire semester, but I did it!

I cannot adequately convey to you how scared I was of kilns at this point in my life. The teacher who helped me said he could see me start to shake when talking about using a kiln! Being able to use a kiln was such an important part of my job as an elementary art teacher. I had to try and get past my fear.

The next year, I took a ceramics workshop with a retired art teacher. He taught me even more about how to work with clay and kilns safely. This means, safe for the students and safe for me! During this ceramics course, I actually participated in a raku firing. The instructor made sure I was comfortable and felt in control during the entire firing.

What serves me now:

Up until my trauma with the kiln burning me badly, I had never had a powerfully scary experience creating art. Making art was a space in which I felt completely safe. Getting burned so badly made me suddenly unsure and unsafe. The teacher who helped me work past my fears, and the teacher of the ceramics work shop helped me to work through my fears. Then I had no problems working with ceramics and kilns.

My own fears highlighted for me how some students might feel in my art classroom. I could better recognise when as student was in a place of fear, and help them to work through it as well. The fact that my fear was specifically related to a kiln, helped me to see that a student may be fine with drawing, but painting may scare them.

Polymer clay:

I had been messing around with polymer clay since Sculpey became widely available in the early 80’s. Before Sculpey arrived, I would make and use salt dough to create little pieces of work. As a miniature hobbyist, I delighted in how easy it was to create realistic foods for my doll houses with it. The early form of Sculpey only came in white. This meant that all the finished pieces required painting. I didn’t mind. It was nice to be able to create tiny objects for my doll houses.

When I was much older, I did a great deal of experimentation with other polymer clays. Mostly Fimo. It was a little harder to work with. The clay took a while to warm up. But the colours were fantastic! Everything that I know about working with polymer clay I learned from a series of books whose titles completely escape my mind right now. But again, I am self taught.

I did make a lot of polymer beads that I used in my jewelry making. Several techniques that I learned from the aforementioned books created some amazing beads. While living in FInland, I didn’t do any work with polymer clays. Polymer clays should always be baked in an oven that is dedicated to non-food use. And I wasn’t comfortable with the off-gassing that would occur within our apartment oven.

Time to burn the house down:

While I was at UNM, I took a puppets and masks course. One of our assignments was to create a puppet show. I wrote a small skit, and then created four rod puppets. The heads and hands of the puppets were sculpted using Sculpey. I created all of the parts. Then turned on the oven to bake them. I remember sitting down on the sofa to watch something on TV. And then woke-up to my upstairs neighbour banging on my front door.

The entire apartment was filled with smoke. Black smoke was accumulating at the ceiling, and pouring out of my cracked kitchen window. My polymer clay was on fire in the oven. My upstairs neighbour saved my life. Once he was satisfied I was okay, he helped me open the windows and set up some fans to pull the smoke and smell out of my tiny apartment.

The happy ending to this was that I actually used the burned puppet parts. There was a lot of sanding and a tonne of paint needed though. After this scary experience, I never have put polymner clay in a regular oven. I bough a toaster oven. New Mexico is a warm, dry place. I used the toaster oven to bake my polymer clay in a well ventilated classroom or outside on the patio at home.

What serves me now:

Not falling asleep while baking polymer clay is one of the biggest lessons. Sometimes, even the simplest steps can go horribly sideways. In addition to using a dedicated toaster oven for all subsequent ploymer clay projects, a timer was also implemented as well.

I do love the colour and detail that polymer clays can offer. But I’m also aware that they are plastic. Plastic use is something that I’m trying to reduce within my art practice. In Finland, I began experimenting with creating my own paper clay. It was much more economical. I could use recycled paper and just a few items from the store to create the clay. The end product is biodegradable as well. Win-win.

The paper clay that I can make, or purchase also works much better in conjunction with paper mache. It’s light weight and sands well. I usually add several coats of my own homemade gesso to the surface before paining. And sand after the last coats are applied. That way I can get a more cohesive surface layer to the entire piece.

Crochet:

I started learning to crochet in my middle 30’s. There had been several previous attempts to learn how to either knit or crochet. They ended in a lot of knots and extremely sore hands and wrists. When I had to have some major surgery that would leave me in bed for an extended period of time, I decided to give crochet a try again.

There was a fantastic store called Village Wools in Albuqueruque, New Mexico where I bought yarn for doll hair. I picked up some beginner booklets, some yarn and a few hooks. The first thing I tried to crochet was a square. I made a triangle because I forgot to add the extra stitches when I turned the piece. Eventually, I figured it all out.

I didn’t really crochet in earnest until moving to Finland. It’s a very knitting and crochet friendly culture! So many people knit and/or crochet too. I learned how to create more intricate squares and then join them all together to make large afghans. Among the few things I brough back with me from Finland, includes several warm, crocheted hats and scarves.

Sewing:

I come from a family of women who sew. Most of my clothing as an infant, toddler and small child was handmade. All of my clothes were tailored to fit my body as a kid. Going to the ‘yardgood store’ was something I enjoyed a great deal when I was little. It always seemed to be quiet and weirdly good-smelling, or so I thought. The pattern books were so much fun to look through too!

There was no sewing machine that I could use in the house I grew up in. Which was probably a good idea. I would have probably broken it if given the chance. So I didn’t take a sewing course until I was in the six or seventh grade. And I hated every single second of it. Every. Single. Second.

An ill fit:

There was some kind of animal shaped pillow that all the students were supposed to make. My mother bought a pattern for a skirt and made sure the teacher taught me how to make a skirt instead. I hated how it singled me out from the other students. It made me feel like a freak. The fabric was nice, but the skirt I made just…was not good. This experience coloured my view of sewing machines for the decade or so.

Detente was achieved in my late 20’s with the gift of a Kenmore sewing machine from my parents. That machine was a tank! It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. The Kenmore machine was used when creating some of the larger, fabric and felt dolls I made prior to 2014. When we moved to Finland, I gifted the Kenmore machine to a friends daughters. I hoped that this solid, easy-to-use machine would help them learn to sew.

Embroidery work:

I create a metric tonne of embroidery work on a weekly basis, but I have never taken a single class, workshop, or online tutorial to learn how to do it. There was a book that I picked out of a public library discard box, published in the 60’s that I read. It had a lot of history of Nordic needlework traditions in it. Alone with some good pictures of what the stictches looked like.

I’ve only actually done needlework in front of a person once in my life. She was a skilled needle worker too. Her advice to me was to make sure that the back of my embroidery projects were as neat and tidy as the front.

Patterns a no-go in sewing and embroidery:

I concider myself to be an idiot in several distinct ways. One of the ways I’m an idiot regards my complete and utter inability to follow a pattern that was created by someone other than myself. I can sit down and create a set of patterns for a complete outfit for a large doll. While at the same time, I cannot understand a pre-made pattern for doll clothing that I might purchase.

The same goes for embroidery work. My sister is very good at creating counted cross stitch pieces. I gave it a try once and did not last more than a few minutes before I was completely disinterested with the whole concept. The pictures that I could create with the technique did not appeal to me in the slightest. Creating my own pictures. That appealed to me.

How has this served me?

Not being able to use pre-made patterns means that I can create my own unique artwork. I’m not using someone elses creative output as a starting point for my own creative expression. If I want to make a green doll with three heads, four arms and tremendously long legs. I can do that. There’s not fiddling around trying to retro-fit an existing pattern with my own ideas.

Creating my own patterns leaves me beholden to no one but myself. If a pattern works, that’s great. Sometimes a pattern doesn’t work. But that’s okay too, because I learned something while I was making the mistake. There have been some patterns by talented creators that I’ve been able to follow. What I’ve noticed about these patterns is that they all use the same materials and techniques that I use. So I suppose these patterns put me at ease from the start.

What does all of this mean?

Efficacy is built over time, practice and accumulated knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge comes from direct instruction. Other times, it’s self-guided. I’m naturally an intrinsically motivated person. Especially when the subject matter is of interest to me. If there’s a technique or material that I want to know more about, I have no problem seeking out information or people who can assist my learning.

I don’t easily give up on learning a technique either. More often than not, once I’ve learned a technique, pysanky for example, I move on to a new technique that I want to learn. Each subsequent technique adds to my overall artistic efficacy. This adds to my skill sets as an art teacher. Having working knowledge of a wide variety of tools, materials, and techniques gives me greater freedom to create my own artwork as well.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Personal Artistic Efficacy Part: 1

What brought me here today:

The artwork that I’m currently creating around the theme of dolls is not what I intended to do when entered art school. My current creative output seems to have very little to do with any of the subjects I studied. Art related or not. Long time readers of my blog know that the doll as subject matter is intertwined with my childhood that developed into a livelong love for dolls in all shapes and forms.

I recently overheard a conversation that made me ask myself questions about my own art education. What has my formal education in art has had on my current production of creative work? Has the time spent teaching art had any kind of impact on my artwork? These things have an influence on my artwork. But how much? And to what degree? Is the transferable knowledge be understood by those who view my artwork?

Graphic design:

When I was accepted to Herron in the early 90’s, it was small art school. It had about half of the students it has today. And a different location. I knew when I enrolled that I intended to study visual communications, i.e., graphic design. My intention after graduation was to work as a graphic designer. I progressed through the four-year program and felt as though I was a competent graphic designer upon graduation.

I had some jobs as a graphic designer. There was also a lot of freelance as a graphic designer. To be honest, I made steadier pay as a clerical temp. That’s what I would do while still doing freelance here when it came along.

Bad fit:

I may have been a competent graphic designer, but I was not emotionally well-suited for the career. Not in any way, shape, or form. I’m was too attidudinal with many of the coworkers that I needed to work with in advertising and graphic design. It was demeaning to me to have some manager with no art experience tell me that my work was bad. Then there were the clients who I never could please with my work. It was a horrible job fit for me all the way around.

What serves me now:

I enjoyed the hell out of my design courses at Herron. Even though at the time, I may have been less than pleased with my course work, myself or my artistic out-put. I worked very hard in my courses, and learned a great deal about design and typography.

To me, the evidence of an education in graphic design is so obvious in my artwork. But there are still some people who are surprised about this. I’m not sure if it’s the seeming incompatabily of graphic design work and my personal artwork? I apply the same design principles to my artwork that I did to any of my graphic design projects. After all, the elements an principles of art and design aren’t different for 2 and 3 dimentional artwork.

Today, my sense of colour, shape, and rhythm are used in the same manner that I used them as a graphic designer. I don’t question myself when working with these tools of art and design when creating my personal artwork. Nor did I question myself much about them when I was working as a graphic designer.

Illustration:

I took as many illustration courses as I could while at Herron. And while I think I was a competent graphic designer, I was in no way talented enough to become a working illustrator in the real world. The work I created in my illustration courses was timid and lackluster. Perhaps in with much more time and practice I might have gotten better. I just don’t think my heart was truly in it, if you know what I mean.

Bad fit?

I don’t like being told what to create. There is something inside me that just completely rebels against it. Again, I think with a lot of time and practice I could have been an okay illustrator. But I don’t think I ever would have been content as a professional illustrator. Or perhaps, I would never have been very good at illustrating other people’s thoughts and ideas.

What serves me now:

Those illustration courses introduced me to a wide variety of artisic media that could be utilized for illustration. Although I do remember absolutely detesting the work I had to do in one introductory illystration course in which I had to use Berol Prismacolor markers. The smelled awful! They were also pricey. And I could never get them to do what I wanted them to do either.

I learned a lot about how to use different drawing media, and how to use different media together in the same illustration. My illustration courses also taught me the importance of research for my creative work. One of the supplies I was required to have was a library card. Finding visual reference was expected of us.

In both my illustration and graphic design courses, we were expected to do a lot of preliminary sketches in preparation for our final work. Yeah. I learned to do a lot of sketches during my time in these courses. One strange lessons I took away was that my best ideas were usually in the first five sketches.

Printmaking:

I began taking printmaking at the beginning of my junior year I think. The first course I signed up for was Lithography I. Printmaking seemed to dovetail nicely into my graphic design major. It was the head of the graphic design department who recommended I take the course. This was one of two memorable interactions with him. Huh. Come to think of it, he and I didn’t have a lot of interaction period.

Printmaking fulfilled a natural inclination for me; making multiples of things. After my first lithography course, I went on to take etching and woodcut courses as well. Part of me felt like there was the possibility of becoming an illustrator using printmaking as my medium of choice. However, attempts at bridging the two while I was still in school fell soundly flat.

Not bad at all:

Fine art printmaking was the first area of artistic study and practice since my freshman year core curriculum courses. It was in these courses that I began exploring creative expressions that I couldn’t utilize within my graphic design and illustration courses. In my printmaking courses, I was making personal art that I was actually happy with. It was fabulous and messy and sometimes slightly dangerous. I still have a scar on my right hand from a chemical burn.

What serves me now?

If you’ve seen my artwork, you know I am constantly creating new pieces. The dolls I create can be similar, but they’re never exactly the same. It always seems like in each successive doll, I change something. Each change is an attempt to get closer to what I want to say creatively.

Study and practice in printmaking and illustration allow me to see the entirety of the piece of artwork that I’m creating. And how that piece fits into the larger body of my creative output. I change something a little. Create a piece of art. Then assess it. And make more adjustments before creating the next piece. All with the hopes that the body of work I’m creating fits together and tells the story that I want it to tell. If that is at all possible.

There’s always more:

My natural talkative nature has made the blog post that I wanted to post today exceedingly large. I’ve decided to divide it in half and publish Part 2 on 19 October 2021. I’m aware that not everyone who reads my blog posts wants or needs to sit down and read a gigantic blog post!

There is still much more to this particular subject for me to write about. My creative life doesn’t seem to travel in a straight line. And this may seem confusing to some people. While there may be a few things that I would change regarding my past. My education and experiences with the arts and creating art is not one of them.

My current artwork is a combination of myself as child and the artistic media ancy gained through years of artistic practice.

So what now?

Back to work! I’ve almost completed five imp dolls that I want to have in my online shop in the next few days. The boots for the dolls were finished this morning. And I have some additional details to add to each doll. Oh. And then I started the clothing for two additional imp dolls. Because I couldn’t resist trying out just one more tiny alteration to the embroidery and applique on their dresses.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

PS: There is something going-on with the spell check that I’m using for my blog. There may be some spelling errors that I didn’t catch. I’m a rotten speller. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Background Noise

What brought me here today:

I know that there are people who prefer to work in an almost silent environment. They find noises not connected to what they are working on as distracting. On the other hand, there are people who much prefer a more cacophenous work environment. With music, movies, people talking, etc., going on around then while they complete their tasks.

I’ve worked in both types of environments. As an elementary art teacher, I was once told by my boss Janet that I “tollerated a high level of noise in my classroom”. She also noted that the children were all actively engaged in their work and explorations. Janet chalked-it up to this tollerance being my own personal work style as an art teacher.

When I was much younger, and doing a lot of clerical temp work, the levels of noise would vary. Some offices were quiet as the grave, while others were a hub-bub of voices and office machinery. I was not encouraged to bring my own headphones or music to listen to while I worked by any of the agencies I worked for. And the office radio would never have been something that I would have touched either.

At first:

While we were still in Finland, my husband and I worked in very close proxilty to one another. My husband tends to ‘run hot’ temperature-wise. This makes wearing his large, sound-dampening headphones difficult. Especially during the warm parts of the year. I usually put my headphones in and attached them to my laptop. That way I wouldn’t bother him with whatever I was listening to.

I must admit, I rather liked wearing the earbud headphones. They were lightweight, and it helped to get me into the frame of mind to work by wearing them. My only complaint was that they had a very short cable. Sometimes I ripped one or both earbuds out of my ears when reaching for something just a little too far out of my grasp.

Wireless earbuds that would work with my MacBook were something I couldn’t justify spending money on. My MacBook was old. And I had no plans on replacing it with another Apple product. I did purchase an inexpensive pair of bluetooth headphones to use with my mobile. They worked well in the winter when my cap kept them snuggly in my ears.

Music:

I have a metric tonne of music on my old MacBook Pro. When I first started wearing my earbud headhones to work, I mostly listened to music. That didn’t last long. I have the irritating habit of singling along with the music I’m listening to. This includes keeping the beat with my hands, feet, and whatever is on my desk as well. My poor husband tried t see if he could get used to it. But in the end, the music had to be changed to something else less noise-provoking on my part.

Somthing different:

I turned to YouTube to find something else to listen to. At first, I listened to a lot of documentaries on subjects that I wanted to learn more about. Many of them history documetaries. I discovered some presenters that I enjoyed and listened to their entire library of videos. I listened to a lot of American Experience documentaries as well. That is, until YouTube took a bunch of them down.

There were also old television shows I found, like Fireball XLR and Supercar. Then there was Captain Scarlett and Thunderbirds. While I thought these shows were immensely cool, they all have terrible instances of misogeny, racism, and blind nationalist furvor that are just so wrong. Sometimes I was blown-away by the fact that these shows were for children!

I then discovered that YouTube had all the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes. As I type, I’m listening to one right now, The Solitary Cyclist. From there, I worked my way through all the Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple  and the Hercule Poirot series. The majority of what I’ve listed above are things that I’ve listened to once and have been done with it. (with the exception of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes)

Watching or listening?

You may have noticed that I say I’ve listened to these videos instead of watching them. Yes. I listen to them instead of watchinging them. Some people might think that I would be better off listening to audio books instead. No. For me reading is something I enjoy doing with a physical book. I need the physicality of the book to get into reading and processing the information.

What I’m doing by listening to videos while I work is creating a sufficient and comfortable level of background noise. This background noise allows me to concentrate on what I’m creating. Having the background noise also lets me slip into a nice flow state as well. My own thoughts simply become one of the levels of noise, albeit closer to the surface.

Two sides to a coin:

There are two large categories that I’ve divided my background noise into: murder and humor. Perhaps more aptly put, comedy and tragedy? These two categories are filled mostly by any kind of true-crime. Even the really horribly produced ones from the early 90’s. Now that we’re in the US, I’ve been plowing my way through all twenty-three back seasons of Dateline on Peacock TV. Prior to moving, I’d already devoured every crime documentary that YouTube had available.

There always comes a point during the day in which I find myself completely disgusted with the actions of the criminals on Dateline. I have to turn it off. This is when I switch over to the humor category. And back to YouTube to listen to Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I’ve also added Rifftrax, Cinematic Titanic and The Mads to the rotation as well. All four are part and parcel of one another. Sharing creators and writers.

I’ve been a huge fan of MST3K for a long, long time. I think it’s interesting that I know the dialogue of these shows so well. Sometimes when I sit down and actually watch the movie I’m surprised at how much that can be missed when only listening, instead of watching. After watching how wantonly cruel humans can be to one another on Dateline, MST3K is a great palate cleanser.

Present day:

The apartment that my husband and I have moved into is rather long. His office is at one end, connected to mine via a hallway. The construction of the building is such that if he tries to talk to me from his office, while I’m in mine, I cannot hear him at all. For the first month we were here, I continued using the earbud headphones with my laptop. So I didn’t disturb my husband. The temperatures were in the middle 30’s and he was having a rougher time than I was. There was no way I would make him wear his headphones!

Once I had my desk set up and started working in my little studio, he told me that I didn’t have to wear my earbud headphones anymore. He couldn’t hear anything that was being played on my end of the apartment. This meant that my talking back to the computer during the time I listened to my “murder shows” wouldn’t bother him. Many times, I’m saying “Get there faster.” and “That’s because you’re dumb.” to the people who thought they could get away with murder.

What does any of this have to do with creating artwork?!

I’m not actually sure. It does help me to generate names for the pieces I make. Which I suppose is rather macabre when looked at from a certain point of view. It’s much easier to see how MST3K and Rifftrax influences my artwork. Thinking that my “murder shows” have any kind of influences on my artwork is a little disturbing. Perhaps if the influence was to show me how not to be a horrible person would be okay I guess. However, I figured out a long time ago that murder was really super-wrong and icky. And had no plans to embark on some sort of career in murder anyway.

So…yeah. Hmm. Not gonna murder.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

Posted on

Creative Boredom

What brought me here today:

I recently watched an episode of Bill Making Stuff on YouTube that I thought was very well done. In my opinion, all of his videos are well done and funny. Plus I learn something new in almost every video he produces. But this video dealt with what to do when you have no idea what to create. Everything that Bill suggests in his video are the things that I do if I feel creatively bored with my artwork. There are a few things that I do a little differently. Those differences are just a matter of personal tastes though.

I’m extremely fortunate in not having creative blocks, or running out of ideas. What I want to create always seems to exceed my time to create it. There are times in which I find myself mired in the ‘creative blahs’. I attribute this to creative boredom concerning ideas and techniques mostly. Sometimes I just plow through it and keep working. While other times I just want to stop working entirely. This gets me into a weird grey area of knowing when and where to just sisu myself through a piece or project I’m working on.

Put a finger on it:

It’s hard sometimes to know I’m in the creative blahs until I’m up to my rear-end in them. Sometimes it’s just a creeping suspicion that something just doesn’t feel right to me while I’m working. This can mean that the work I’m creating isn’t going the way that I thought that it would. There are other times that challenges keep getting in the way while working. I may be missing a material or tool that would make the entire process easier.

There can be times in which I just want to push the unfinished artwork off my desk and start something completely new. I rarely, if ever, do that. I hate wasting supplies and materials. The finished piece may not be what I would consider acceptable, but there may be important lessons to learn in the completing of the piece. These lessons can be applied to future artwork. And it makes me feel just a tiny bit better when completing sub-standard artwork.

Moving forward:

Okay. Now that I know I’m being creatively jammed by a severe case of creative boredom (blahs), or incorrect materials, or my own poor planning, I can do something abou it. Assess the situation. Can I even keep working on the piece? Is it a total and complete lost cause? Perhaps I can set it aside until I can lay hands on the correct supplies or tools?

It’s also important to remember that my own emotions can affect how I create my artwork. I don’t mean that I’m being adversely emotionally affected by working on a piece of artwork. Most of the time, my mind is wandering all over the place while I’m working on a piece. Sometimes my mind stumbles around and stirs up thoughts and emotions that cause me useless agita. In those cases, I just need to let it pass. Then I can get back to work.

During the past nine days or so, I’ve had a head cold. It was super-annoying. And it prevented me from working as much as I wanted to. Working myself to a nub while sick isn’t doing myself any favours. I gave in and took naps and tried to take it easy so I could heal up and get better. Forcing myself to work on a piece while coughing and sneezing isn’t good for anyone.

It’s not that:

If I’ve gotten through all of the above and am still at a loss as to why I’m just not wanting to work on a piece of artwork, then I need to try some other remedies for the creative blahs. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Bill from Bill Making Stuff had some good suggestions in his video.

Sketchbook:

I keep a sketchbooks and notebooks. The sketchbooks are for the ideas I want to create. The notebooks are for how I plan and design installations of my artwork. As well as useful information regarding materials and supplies. When I feel as though my artwork is getting stale, I just start drawing shapes. Then move on to forms. And then the forms are combined to create something new. I more or less just let my mind take me where ever it thinks looks interesting.

More often than not, new ideas start banging around in my head. They get me curious and excited about new ideas. Sometimes I combine older ideas with newer ideas to create something completely new to me. I use different media in the sketchbooks too. Watercolor paints, markers, chalks, crayons, etc. Whatever I have on hand. And most importantly, whatever excites my imagination.

Clean:

I’ve talked before about my ‘art midden’. There are times in which I’m tripping over my recycled materials and supplies. If I’m creatively bored, cleaning and organizing my materials, tools, and supplies can spark enthusiasm for me. When I’m cleaning and organizing, I’m taking inventory of what I have to create artwork with. I try hard to have a neat and organized workspace. But no matter how much I try, it gets messy and cluttered.

Along with the cleaning and organizing, I sometimes change-up my work space so that I can use it more efficiently. I’m currently still getting used to this new studio work space. A few weeks ago, I did do some shifting around of some tools, supplies, and materials that I use on a daily basis. This did help me a great deal. It also made me decide that I do need some very specific shelves for my work space. Now I just need to find them!

Daily journal:

When the creative blahs are firmly entrenched, I just need to work on something that won’t take-up a lot of bandwidth. Organizing the upcoming month in my daily work journal can be just what I need. I’m still working on something that will benefit me. While at the same time not stressing my brain out too much.

My daily journal is an important tool in my business-building machine. Because of this, I use it in conjunction with the sea of post-it notes I have on the wall in front of my desk. Giving myself some time to work within my daily journal and on my larger business plans can also spark some creative interest for me. Especially since I have specific places to add now ideas for projects and pieces of art.

Distance:

Sometimes nothing seems to work. I’ve cleaned and organized my supplies, materials, and studio space. My daily journal has been worked in. There are three new ideas that I’ve added to the giveaways section of my Patreon plan. Heck, I’ve even tried just pushing through it, and just kept on working on a piece. Nothing has worked.

This is when you have to get away from your work space and go elsewhere. This could mean taking a walk, running some errands, or doing a different activity. Sometimes that distance can be in reading a book, or meditating. I’m not particularly good at meditating, but I do try on occasion. Mostly connected to yoga and relaxation techniques.

Other creative outlets:

If I feel as though I’m creatively bored with working on physical artwork, I sometimes just switch-up the art that I’m creating. There is always work that I could be doing for the Go Marielle stories that I create. This ranges from taking pictures, to writing stories, to organizing the files. I’m working on a house plan for Marielle and her friends at present.

Another creative outlet is my twice weekly blog posts. I can always brainstorm and plan topics that I want to write about. In fact, this blog post today has been just that. Me exploring a different creative outlet in the hopes that I can pry myself out of my creative blahs. And look! At the end of this, I have something creative to show for it!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!