Monday, August 24, 2009

Art As You Like It

I had a visit with Ann, Susan, and Judy (left to right in the photo), some of my Vermont quilting friends, this weekend and it got me all fired up!

We talked about breaking free of our inhibitions and in-grained ideas about quilting and art to simply do what we love. Judy, who went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and designed coats for a living at one time, says she’s been going to a group get-together where everyone does their own thing, including one lady who quilts with huge stitches and embroidery floss. It took a while, but Judy screwed up her courage to try it—even though she KNOWS traditional quilters everywhere are shuddering and fuming at her temerity—and finds it not only liberating, but really enjoyable. “I love doing the Libbet stitch,” she says (Libbet being the woman she’s emulating). “I don’t like hand quilting and I don’t like machine quilting, but I do like this.” She finds it liberating.

And isn’t that a key reason we create? Not only to express ourselves, but because it is pleasurable.

Too often I find myself angst-ing and struggling (my natural state of being apparently) instead of reveling in the pure joy of creating. And I’m shyest about what means the most to me—my quilting, my book, and even this blog.

When I think of how often I’ve inhibited myself over some feared lack of talent or knowledge or skill, it just makes me mad. What a waste of time and joy. To steal a phrase from Mary Tyler Moore (and Susan, who said it yesterday over drinks at The Sagamore on Lake George)—:It’s none of my business what other people think!

Do what you LOVE.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How to Think Like a Creative Genius

Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist, sculptor, philosopher, inventor, engineer, scientist. He was arguably the greatest creative genius who ever lived and the “archetype of human potential,” according to Michael J. Gelb, author of a book I just read, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci.

His inventions and interests knew no boundaries--and surely we can learn from that!

To wit, here are 7 Da Vincian principles to start with, courtesy of Gelb's book...
1. Curiosita: Adopt an insatiably curious approach to life and begin an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
2. Dimostrazione: Make a commitment to test your knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
3. Sensazione: Continually refine your senses, especially that of sight, as the means to enliven your experiences.
4. Sfumato (literally “Going Up in Smoke”): Be willing to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
5. Arte/Scienza: Strike a balance between science and art, logic and imagination. In other words, try to think with both the right (creative) and left (rational) sides of your brain.
6. Corporalita: Cultivate grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
7. Connessione: Recognize and appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena (better known as "systems" thinking).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jonathan Tropper's GREAT new novel!

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is to read a good novel. And this Sunday I found a GREAT novel--the latest by Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You ( It's the story of a 30-something guy, Judd, whose life is falling apart--and then his father dies and he must sit shiva with his family for seven days. Hijinks ensue, but the book is more than just clever and engaging. It's heartbreaking and truly funny. And I love that he brings an authentic (I presume!) male perspective to what feels like great chick lit (and that's a compliment since I love Jennifer Weiner, Elinor Lipman, et al). I feel like he brings me just the tinest bit closer to understanding men.

This Is Where I Leave You is my favorite book of JT's, right up there with Everything Changes, which is one of my favorite books of the past decade (along with Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True, Nick Hornby's About a Boy, Jillian Medoff's Hunger Point, and Richard Russo's Straight Man. Good company, huh?!).

I am both envious of his talent and success, and grateful I get to read the fruits of his labors. I hear his books are being made into movies soon...I can just see Jason Bateman or Tobey Maguire as Judd.

And imagine this: His books are shelved next to Mark Twain's in the bookstore. What a kick in the pants that must be!

I have recently started a gratitude journal after a tough month emotionally, and Jonathan Tropper's new book is one of the things I am grateful for. It's hard not to be in awe of such creativity--and he makes it look so easy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Meeting Mary Engelbreit!

I just got back from the Craft and Hobby show—where I met my idol, Mary Engelbreit ( I KNOW you’ve seen her stuff. She draws cute, whimsical pictures depicting life as we wish it could be, or remember it TO BE from our childhoods. People Magazine calls her the Norman Rockwell for our times.

ME is my favorite contemporary artist and an icon in the crafting world. Ironically, she said that she doesn’t consider herself a crafter, but rather an illustrator. But she is a master marketer and has licensed her drawings on all sorts of things—calendars, cards, mugs, boxes, keychains, and even fabric, while retaining quality control. Because of that, she's known far and wide in the crafting world. But she herself says that she is often intimidated by the process of crafting--though it doesn't stop her from buying the supplies!

I like the fact that she is as dedicated to the craft of art as she is to the art of business. She noted that she's always liked to sell things as much as she liked to make them! (The ideal world to me is one where you get to make a living from creating things you've really put your heart into.)
She ended her presentation by noting that creativity is one of the most basic traits we possess as humans. It is problem-solving at its best. "Don't let anyone tell you that art is frivolous," she said. "Make creativity the center of your life, and you'll see how much more fun everything becomes."

Because ME has brought so much joy and inspiration to my life, I wanted to tell her that and give her a little something back—my Craft to Heal book (that's me 'splaining myself to her above!). It was a thrill to share a moment with her, after spending so many years enjoying her stuff, and she personalized a lovely recent illustration of herself bent over the drawing board, titled “Arts and Crafts Keep Us Sane,” for me. How perfect!

PS: My Craft to Heal speech went well, too. Woo hoo!