Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Joining, Meaning, and a Shift in Thinking

My coaching class has been discussing two interesting topics recently: joining and meaning.

Joining

When I think about the word ‘joining’ my first thought is to equate it with empathy. Joining, as defined in class, is the act of inhabiting a client’s universe and getting into his/her shoes. Empathy, likewise, is being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes in order to understand more fully what that person is experiencing; to identify with and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives.

Joining is being present in your interactions or encounters with people or clients. This means giving full focus to the conversation at hand, not flipping through a magazine while someone else talks to you about something important to them or not checking your email while on the phone with a friend or family member.

I know how hard this can be, especially when our society has been more focused on multi-tasking than single tasking. I’ve been working on this issue myself for a year. I know how I feel when I talk to someone on the phone and they are not giving me their full attention. (You know the signs: their voice drifts, perhaps they take longer to respond to a question…and not because they are thinking of an answer, that type of pause seems different.) When this happens to me I might get annoyed at first but then I think of how many times I’ve done this to someone else.

Remember that which we dislike in someone else is often because it is something we dislike in ourselves.

Sometimes it is easiest to experience joining with another person when you share similar interests or past experiences. You immediately engage the person, you swap stories, you relate to them. Joining is harder when the person is the complete opposite of you; different interests, different politics, different background. I know they say ‘opposites attract’ and that may be true on some level. But think of someone who, well, irks the crap out of you. How can you join or be present with them on your next encounter?

On the other hand, you also have the option of not joining with someone when all they do is complain, speak negatively, or just seem generally down on everything. Perhaps you have to leave these people behind. If this isn’t an option, try non-reaction. Just listen, maybe say ‘um-hmm’ periodically, but don’t feed into their complaints or negative attitude.

When have you experienced joining?

Meaning

Meaning goes deeper and asks us to think about what constitutes a meaningful project or activity. Instead of asking “What interests me?” or “What would I like to work on?” thinking about a meaningful project or activity requires us to ask what we are passionate about or what do we feel deeply about. Can you sense the difference?

Compare these two questions: “What would I like to work on?” versus “What passionate work would I like to do?” Which one sounds more interesting and fun? Which one is potentially more challenging and opens us to our vulnerability?

I wonder if that is why we have trouble finding meaning in our lives. To be passionate about something makes us vulnerable. And who wants to be vulnerable if that means they could be hurt or ridiculed?

As an artist it took me a while to learn that I need to make my art for me. I remember creating different products because someone suggested it; that it might be a good selling item. And what happened? They were usually poor sellers. I now believe this happened because these were items I wasn’t completely passionate about making.

This isn’t to say I’ve completely gotten over this tendency. I still struggle with this with my spirit messengers. And I believe that is because I have certain things I’m afraid to let go of. I’m afraid of being vulnerable and expressing myself through those creations I truly enjoy making and which I feel passionate about. The fear is slowly being chipped away; it does take time.

Where do you find meaning in your art?

A Shift in Thinking

I’m sure we’re all pretty tired of hearing and reading about the economy. Yet as often as I try to avoid reading or listening to the “dire situation” I couldn’t help but notice my own response to the question “How is business?” My response was “It’s slow” which was usually followed by some negative statement or something supporting the economic climate. In other words, though I claimed to be avoiding the news, I was still reinforcing it with my response.

As Christine Kane has mentioned, when the world wants us to shrink, sometimes we shrink along with it.

However, I finally had an a-ha moment regarding my answer earlier this week. I asked myself why I was telling everyone business was slow instead of telling them what I was really doing. My inner voice simply responded “I don’t know.” (No lightening bolts there.) I then thought “well, no wonder business is slow. You keep putting it out there and guess what you’re getting in return?”

Yep, slow business.

This is when the ‘a-ha’ moment happened. I asked myself how I could answer the “How’s business” question with a positive statement. And that is when I decided to shift my thinking and reply “I’m busy. I’m preparing for two shows and working on two new web sites. I’m selling my art and expanding into new stores and galleries. I’m creating new designs and putting together my first e-newsletter.”

Sounds much more positive doesn’t it?

Postscript: It took me most of this week to put this post together. That is what happens when you’re busy.


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Monday Reflection

For a long time,
it had seemed to me that life was about to begin.
But there was always some obstacle in the way;
something to be gotten through first,
some unfinished business,
time still to be served
,
a debt to be paid,
then life would begin.

At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

-Alfred Sousa


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More Weekend Reading: Link Sharing

I saved some links from last week in order to share them in this Friday’s weekend reading post. Others are from this week’s Twitter tweets. (Say that five times fast. ‘That, that, that, that, that.’) Must be the first day of spring. I’m feeling a little silly.

Unschooling Leads to Creativity and Passion: This interesting article from Ode magazine really resonated with me. I’ve always felt that our school systems often contribute to the stagnation of a child’s creativity. While this article doesn’t speak directly to schools, it does speak to parents who need to encourage their child’s passion and interests by following them and supporting them in whatever those interests are. Check it out here

Creativity Booms During Recession: This interesting article was tweeted by Alyson Stanfield. The topic: putting together an exhibit inspired by the recession on a shoestring budget. A hopeful sign is that an exhibit based on the recession is a one time event. Read on here.

Dialogue: I was recently pointed to the blog Design for Mankind which features dialogues via video on “the realistic side of living a life of creativity.” This particular post features several artists and freelancers discussing the current economic climate and how they are coping. It is one thing to read about commonly shared situations but seeing and listening to the dialogue can be even better. Watch the video here.  And if balance is a frequent challenge, watch the first Dialogue video here.

Why Make Art: Greater Good magazine devotes the winter issue to art: art and education, art, kids and creativity, the healing affect of art, and more. Read Greater Good here.

Using Down Time: How do you make use of these down times? Seth Godin explains on his blog two ways we can use what he calls “slack time.” Don’t just twiddle your thumbs or watch another cat video on YouTube. Use down time to your benefit. Start here.

Juried Art Shows & Transparency: If you’ve applied for an art show or exhibit opportunity you know the outcome: you get in or you don’t (or waitlisted if that is an option.) David Castle writes about the question we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another when we receive a rejection letter, why don’t we know how the jury came to their decision. What do you think? Should the jury process be more transparent? Read David’s post here.

On Ego: The wonderful Patti Digh shared this link to an article by Ron Rolheiser on Humility, Ego and Greatness. Many of us have read how our ego is what keeps us down, keeps us fearful, and keeps us from moving forward by being an inner critic. Rohlheiser makes a good argument that ego is not necessarily a bad thing. We need our ego to cradle our self-awareness and self-confidence because a strong ego is what helps us accomplish great things. The difference is that having a strong ego does not mean one is without humility. What do you think? Can we have an ego and humilty too?


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Antique Finds & Other Goodies

In yesterday’s post I mentioned a wooden potato masher as one source of inspiration for the shape of my exhibit entry. Then I realized I never posted pictures of the goodies I bought last year for use in future projects. Talk about being slow in getting my act together in posting these items. Well, as they say, the best laid plans….

Anyways, below are some items I bought from an antique store outside Stowe, VT.

Wood blocks and casters

Wood blocks and casters

One idea I have is to use the wooden alphabet blocks as bases for spirit messengers or perhaps body components. Wouldn’t it be fun to have them spin? The old casters would make fun ‘feet’ but I’d have to make sure the piece was meant to roll around. Perhaps they’d be better arms?

Masher, doorbell cover, drawer pulls

Masher, doorbell cover, drawer pulls

I fell in love with this doorbell cover the moment I touched it. I envision it as part of a mosaic wall piece, maybe with an eye or someone’s face staring out from the center.  It is a lovely brass piece with a natural patina. How about those drawer pulls? Or maybe they are curtain tie-backs? Either way they remind me of shields for some future spirit messenger. And in the back the wooden potato masher that has inspired my exhibit entry.

The next set of items I ordered from Helga at Art Chix last fall. So many goodies….

Niche and antique doll arms/legs

Niche and antique doll arms/legs

When I saw the niche, I immediately pictured it as the focal point of a mosaic wall piece with something lovely behind the doors. The disembodied doll parts, I mean, antique doll arms and legs, were too irresistible to pass up. Not sure how they’ll manifest themselves in a new piece of art. The small silver pieces are filigree arches that could double as crowns or halos I suppose.

Angel Images

Angel Images

Lovely Ladies

Lovely Ladies

These last two pictures are collage sheets. I enjoy classic images of angels, Mary, and other women from the Bible. I also love images of women from the Renaissance, medieval times, and some of the art deco interpretations. There is something about their strength, spirituality, and independence combined with an air of romance that draws me in.

Mmm, taking a deep breath I can smell the rose the woman is caressing in the collage set above. Ah, to walk around in a flowing gown searching for fairies and drinking tea.


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A Kernel of an Idea

Last week I wrote about the Historic Interpretations exhibit that I’m participating in. The historic artifact I chose for my inspiration is this wallpaper fragment.

phswallpapersample2-version-2

The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about what I want to make for this exhibit. You’ll recall that this wallpaper fragment came from the Bell Tavern in Danvers. A woman named Elizabeth Whitman stayed at the Bell Tavern where she died after giving birth to a stillborn baby. A book written by Hannah Webster Foster, titled The Coquette or The History of Eliza Wharton, was a fictionalized account of this woman’s death.

In doing some research online on Eliza Wharton, I came across a digital copy of the book! The picture below of Eliza Wharton was included.

Eliza Wharton

Eliza Wharton

How cool! Now I have a picture (fictionalized or not) of this woman. Skimming through the book, I learned that some of her personal belongings found in her room included a pair of slippers, a guitar (which she played periodically during her stay at the Bell Tavern) and her letters. Apparently Eliza was also a writer.

I know I want to make an art doll for this exhibit. I’ve had the phrase “the belle of the Bell Tavern” bouncing around in my head which in turned prompted me to think about the shape of the body for this piece. I’m thinking something bell shaped, curvy, representing the feminine. And for some reason a wire cage/skirt has popped into my head as well.

So I pulled out two things in the studio that most closely resemble these shapes: an antique, wooden potato masher and a bottle of Ivory liquid dish soap. And then I pulled out my sketch book and colored pencils.

Below is the sketch I did for my kernel of an idea (thanks Dayle for that phrase).

phsexhibitidea31609

The two cane sketches represent part of the design in the wallpaper fragment. These will become the ‘fabric’ for the bodice of her gown. If I’m patient and focused, I’ll create a wire skirt to attach to the bodice. Now that I think about it, I must be leaning toward this wire skirt as it represents the restrictions placed on middle-class women in early American society, as described by the author Hannah Foster. (Another option is a small wire bird cage. Anyone have suggestions for where I might find a small birdcage?)

Because Eliza was a writer and her story was subsequently written, I think I’d like to mount the art doll on a book. Perhaps a small pair of slippers and a guitar will also be included. I noted in the picture that Eliza wears a shawl. That made me consider adding arms and a shawl but it didn’t feel right adding it to the current sketch. I’ll wait till the piece comes together before I make any decisions about that. At this point I’m estimating this piece will be about 12″ tall.

Finally, I came across a quote which was apparently over one door of the Bell Tavern which read:

I’ll toll you in if you have need, feed you well, bid you speed.

A rather poignant and ironic statement knowing that the real-life Elizabeth Whitman stayed at the Bell Tavern awaiting new life and died there a heartbroken woman, buried by strangers.


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Weekend Reading: Link Sharing

Numerous informative links to blogs and web sites were shared this week on Twitter.  Here are some I thought you might also be interested in:

Daily routines: Ever wonder how other artists, writers, politicians, and other folks spend their day? Check out Daily Routines for some curious and fascinating reading. You might find your daily routines aren’t that all unusual. A two hour breakfast in bed, anyone?

Quick blog posts: Where do you think the idea for this post came from?  Michael Martine shares 10 ways to create blog posts in 10 minutes on his blog, Remarkablogger.

Creative renewal: I recently signed up to receive Dan Goodwin’s newsletters Create Create! He also has a nice blog on creativity, CoachCreativeSpace, and recently posted 7 steps to creative renewal. Some simple reminders that are easy for us creative-types to forget when we get overwhelmed.

Small biz folks unite: I was recently pointed to the blog Modish Biz Tips which focuses on self-employed creatives. Topics covered include marketing, finances, start-up 101, and interviews with fellow self-employed creative types. Check out her new post on ‘When You Feel Like You Just Don’t Measure Up

Artist Statements: Luann Udell has a 3-part blog post on writing artist statements. The impetus for this? Creating a list of 25 random things about herself on Facebook. I love this idea. That list, as an exercise, became the starting point for creating a new, potentially improved artist statement as well as the blog posts.  Pretty neat. Read part one here, part two here, and you’ll find part three here. (And there may be more to come.) Go write your list of 25 random things; me too.

Unsustainable Business Models: A curious blog post directed to museums on their traditional business model: To survive, not succeed. And what is wrong with that? Well, if your goal is to survive and not necessarily succeed, do you stagnate? Do you stop innovating? What is the flipside of this? An unsustainable business model. A great example is given of The Machine Project whose purpose is to do great stuff while it can, and when it can’t do it anymore, it will stop. This post made me think about artists and the current economic climate. Are you still innovating, still pushing the envelope or are you simply trying to survive? Are you using the economy as your excuse? Go read Museum 2.0 and tell me what you think.

Secrets of Gray Hair: Finally, a little insight into those pesky gray hairs that have started to appear. This was an interesting article in the NY Times as a follow-on to the previous week’s buzz about President Obama’s graying hair. Stress related? Possibly. Genetics? More likely. That and a few chemical changes. All parents are saying ‘great, something else to get blamed for.” Learn more about your gray hair here.

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