What I Am Doing

I finally used my Schuler’s gift card and bought One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects.  Love it! Now I need fabric. Apparently not much fabric though!

I read Occult America hoping for juicy stories about weird occultist meetings and happenings behind the scenes of the American Government in the past 100 years. But it was an American history of ouija boards, ghosts, new age, mysticism, eastern thought, Christian science, and self-acceptance. Not a bad disappointment at all! So interesting. Now when I see the dollar bill, or The Secret, or even those vampire movies, I realize this fascination of ours will never die. Perhaps it is an unconscious search for life after death, or truth, or God.

I’ve been working on my novel, re-writing it in the present tense. When I hear authors talk about their first, second, and third drafts I get so overwhelmed, but it’s actually nice to rewrite. It beats brainstorming new scenes. I don’t know what I’m doooinnnnggg!  But it’s fuuuun!

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Is Creativity Dying? or Everything that Happens Will Happen Today

I sense that in the long run there is a greater value for humanity in empowering folks to make and create than there is in teaching them the canon, the great works and the masterpieces. In my opinion, it’s more important that someone learn to make music, to draw, photograph, write or create in any form than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol or Bill Shakespeare — to say nothing of opry. In the long term it doesn’t matter if students become writers, artists or musicians — though a few might. It’s more important that they are able to understand the process of creation, experimentation and discovery — which can then be applied to anything they do, as those processes, deep down, are all similar. It’s an investment in fluorescence.

his is from David Byrne’s Journal, an installment about how much money goes into opera and how private funders would rather pay for glamorous, self-indulgent stuff than things like education.  I was really surprised to read this paragraph. I didn’t think Byrne would feel this way about education. I guess I always felt that my writing classes weren’t as effective as my reading the classics. Some people can write poetry or a novel because they’ve read so many. They have an innate sense of how things should sound and feel because they have immersed themselves in the works of others. But Byrne’s last sentence about experimentation as a skill applicable to anything really makes sense to me.

We attach creativity too much to Crayola and kids crafts. It’s a childhood thing, and we are not supposed to think outside the box unless we want to be regarded as ten year olds. Maybe this habit of educators to teach what has been done instead of how to do something is more destructive than I thought. Personally, the works in which I have tried to emulate another writer’s accomplishment have fallen flat. I wanted to say something with my writing, to grasp ideas too big for my abilities. I was forced to read Candide before I was taught to understand what it was doing. After my grammar class, where I learned half I know about writing, I understood literature, nonfiction, and even poetry a thousand times better than before.

When I paint something or sew or crochet or draw, I feel kind of immature and the comments I get don’t help against this. I just feel the need to create, and I know other people have creative talent they are not tapping into. Just try. People are so afraid of sucking at what they do, or they are so convinced they have no talent, that they think creating is not worth it. It is so worth it.  It’s alarming the low self-esteem I’ve encountered in almost everyone I talk to.

A similar situation was with my boyfriend, who has started an incredible blog, finally. He was so convinced he couldn’t do it, but he has more to say than anyone else I know.

Nothing I’ve created has been fantastic. Everything is mediocre by most standards. But it’s a gift and a skill to dive into something and just try it and to boldly make mistakes. I am thankful for every creative soul out there. David Byrne is one of them.

The real problem with our economy right now is not that we don’t have enough money to do what is necessary. It’s that we’re not doing what is necessary. We have so much potential that we’re robbing from each other by sitting in front of the TV. There are solutions, you can think them up, you are worth something to the world around you.

I wanted to post about the absurdity of our society, how at 12:30am when I’m driving home from work, I have to sit at a red light, by law, even though there is not another soul on the road. It just struck me as a symbol of what this country’s coming to. We created all these laws that made sense at the time but they have no flexibility for when the situation changes. What if someone did get creative and wanted to open up a store or an art exhibit in an old warehouse? Too bad. Zoning says they can’t.

It’s more than just having faith in a system, it’s letting the system be an unnecessary prison around you. People have found ways to work around laws, to manipulate them to their favor, with good and evil results, so it’s still very possible to fix things without proposing a bill to the House.

My main point: we’re sucking at living right now. And we totally don’t have to. Once you realize you have things to say and do, that you’re not a talentless piece of crap, that people like you and even love you, that you have nothing to lose, you can do a lot. That’s my Christmas Wish for everyone. (“And damn anyone who calls this sentimental” to quote Jack Ridl.)

My Top Ten ArtPrize Entries

We in Grand Rapids are waiting to hear who made it in the top 10 in Artprize. Voting ended last night and the B.O.B. was buzzing with last-minute viewers. I wanted to post my top 10 personal favorites–of what I’ve seen, mind you, which isn’t half of what’s out there.

10. The Car Chase – It makes you feel like you’re part of a Fantasy-Action movie scene. The women in the water are surprising and the flying insects are delightfully scary.

9. Triangle by Deborah Hyde – This piece is a quilt. I have never seen a quilt like that. Not only is it a beautiful image, but it’s intricately done. I don’t know. Something about it strikes me.

8. Clasp of Hands by Suzanne Jacobs John Forsythe – I love seeing a bronze sculpture that isn’t a bunch of kids saluting the American flag or reading books on a bench outside of a library. This one is just beautiful. The hands found throughout are mysterious and the angel-woman at the top is gorgeous and broken, her wings out of place. Love it!

7. Loss by Tad Mckillop – This one got an emotional reaction out of me. I have no idea what hydrocal is but the statue was life size and unmoving, just as the concept. How many of you have felt like that woman? I guess I love sculpture – especially the ones that look mythological and human at the same time.

6. Saugatuck Portrait Collection by James Brandess – This choice might seem unlikely to you, but if you went and saw this while a certain woman was there, you got to experience an overwhelming explanation of how interconnected all of the people in these portraits are. She started explaining the project and then went into a 15 minute spheel, pointing at a person, explaining them, pointing at another person, explaining their connection, and so on, while knowing all of their names and life stories. And when she was done, she said “So, you can see that everyone in Saugatuck is connected and it’s quite remarkable” as if she had only given 2 examples instead of fifty. I was amazed. And I love Saugatuck. It’s a great little town.  I love the Red Barn.

5. Time Cannot Exist Without Memory by John Magnan – We sat on this oversized bench the other day and I felt like a little kid again. Exactly the point. I like the concept behind this art. I like it when artists use simple concepts and let you sit on their pieces. Haha.

4. The Secret of Three Dimensional Ultraviolet by T. Mikey – He had two pieces in the B.O.B. and the first one I saw was the Wizard of Oz, which of course won me over immediately. I like these pieces because they use an unusual medium and frankly they look trippy. It does Alice in Wonderland justice by making it trippy/creepy, which the book totally is.  And then I think of Wizard of Oz, and I realize Baum may have been on drugs.

3. R. Temus by Norma Randazzo – This one had beautiful detail and I like the homage to Artemus–and that she wears a fur coat. Her arrows are beautiful! Reading the artist’s statement and, well, everything she wrote, she seems like an interesting person.

2. A Line through the Center of Space by Gary Pennock – In the basement of the B.O.B., one corner was really dark and surrounded by a partition. I went into it and looked down a tube and was sucked into another reality, never to return. Or, that was my experience. I loved this piece, it played this constant noise and made you feel like you were experiencing infinity. If I’ve ever told you about my infinity dream, this was the closest thing to it. Quite an accomplishment there.

1. The Sharing Tree by Michael Glenn Monroe – I met this artist and he gave me a children’s book he illustrated and his wife wrote. It was adorable. I am forever partial to children’s art and felt it needed to be on here. The tree isn’t necessarily children’s art, but it definitely accommodates them.

AND

Rise Up Grand Rapids by Charlie Brouwer – I had to put this one on because it’s my great uncle’s work!  I love that the ladders are borrowed and that from a certain angle, my church looks like it’s growing out of a nest of ladders. I love the mindfulness of the state of Grand Rapids and Michigan in general, the hope it embodies, and the truth it speaks that we can only get out of this mess by helping each other. It is not sentimental or Barney-esque or mushy gushy or “gay,” I won’t let it be. It’s vital to our survival.

Both of these works are in Cathedral square and were the first ones I saw. This is by far the best thing to ever happen to Grand Rapids. It’s like a miracle. Grand Rapids has felt like a real city this past week, and now that we’ve seen what it can be, we can work toward the reality.

Repurposing

I have been addicted to Etsy.com ever since I found a gift for my sister on it and only had to pay 2 dollars for shipping. It’s a place to sell handmade or vintage items and supplies, and it gives each seller their own shop. This website is insane! There’s so much stuff on it!

It seems every woman on it selling stuff is an artist. There are some gorgeous bags, necklaces, crocheted flowers, etc., and a lot of it is made from other stuff. A popular trend is to redecorate Scrabble pieces and make them into pendants. The project may be simple enough for most, but one person thought of it–and that’s how art works.

I wanted to buy 500 things from that website but I don’t have an income. Instead, I got inspired to make my own stuff. I used to do it all the time when I was 11 and 12 and I guess that drive is back now.

For some reason it never occurred to me that the stuff I already have can be repurposed. That stuff sitting at Goodwill for 50 cents can be repurposed, too. Stacy and Kelly encourage people in What Not to Wear to buy the clothes they like and alter them if there are minor fit issues. We’re in such a mindset that what we buy has to be complete, ready, and perfectly suited for us at that moment. And the moment it’s not anymore, time to throw it away.  Corduroy pants can become a handle for a home-made tote bag.  Newspaper can be made into beads.  My elementary school art teacher had bins and bins of scraps, and it was a nightmare to the janitorial staff and the principal, most likely. But that stuff got used. Mrs. McKenzie was right!!!!

In Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, machines have taken over most jobs, even folding laundry. All that’s left to do for the people is to watch TV. Without any purpose, the characters not only suffer with issues of self-worth, but they clearly miss having things to do with their hands.  What a luxury it is, that I could be doing nothing all day, but I have the resources to express myself.

Amigurumi. Crocheted Stuffed Toys.

Amigurumi is quite the microtrend. Unlikely for me. I used to hate any trend that tried to make crochet or knitting “cool” again. Like those atrocious scarves that were all furry and scratchy. Ick. Anything that’s well done is nice, and you are the coolest person if you can knit a nice-looking scarf.

Anyway. Amigurumi creatures take about 2 or 3 hours to make. I didn’t even know how to crochet, and still don’t know how to crochet a scarf or anything that requires squares. I learned from a YouTube video how to crochet a ball, and the rest is history. YES I’m 22. I had an amigurumi apple, snowman, chick, and meatwad on my desk all semester at Hope College. My roommates were likely weirded oooouuuut. They were juniors and I was a senior. They were so eager to be mature, especially the one getting married.

I can’t seem to choose hobbies that are normal. Every hobby I pick up alienates me more from everyone else. Bluegrass? Amigurumi? Knitting? I was in knitting club at Hope. Last semester we met in a very public lounge where people would walk through to get to the snack bar or the ATM. We had a lot of sneers, rude comments, and weird looks. Dear me. For a college that celebrates spring by pushing each other in shopping carts around campus, and getting all emotional over a tug-of-war, they were sooo judgmental about a productive and age-old craft such as knitting.

What is up with people? So quick to call people weird. To question what people are doing. It’s not going to stop us weirdies. It’s just annoying. They look at us strangely for knitting and then turn around and read Twilight? A series about vampires? College girls watching High School Musical? Do these people really have anything on us?

But anyway, I know somewhere over the Rainbow, or across Lake Michigan, there are cities with hip 20-something women going to amigurumi classes and making their own greeting cards and buying vintage clothes simply because they like them, not to be “indie” or hipster. Life. There’s so much you can do. You can make curtains out of sheets. You can write a blog. You can write! You can learn to crochet from YouTube. What a world, what a world.

I made a frickin’ owl out of some yarn and polyester fiber fill. What did you ever do?

Owl.

I pretty much copied the owl from Amigurumi World even though I’d love to own that book and I don’t. I still don’t know how to follow patterns, I just kind of wing it. Sorry for the pun!

MeatwadThis is a cartoon character, if you’re wondering why I made this weird ball-dude.

Amigurumi PenguinThis is Tacky Kitsch the Penguin. He’s missing a wing. I cut them out of felt and have yet to sew the other one on. I’ve been using black round beads for eyes but apparently you can buy eyes that snap on and are only half-spheres online. These would work a lot better, since this poor penguin has kind of bug-eyes.  If you want a free pattern for a legitimate penguin, go here.

For more of my projects and patterns, visit my Craft Site!