Saturday, November 12

Creativity Project Week 5: The Columbus Art Museum

       Earlier this week I read a blog post by Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins, an artist and instructor from Grand Rapids.  Hawkins was a presenter at a writing conference I attended in October, and while I missed the chance to attend her workshop, I was glad to learn more about who she is as an artist (and mother) and how she uses her interests and passions to encourage others to explore their own creativity.

    In her blog post she said, "Here's the deal: The arts are a conduit to tell a story about what it is like to be a human being. That's it. If you are a human being, this stuff called art is for you..."

She went on to offer several suggestions on embracing art in our everyday lives, including:

     1.) Trust your curiosity and be willing to follow it in the midst of routine tasks

     2.) Realize that we have all been changed by art in some way (through a concert, painting, photograph, play, etc.) and that we should attempt to make room for more of that in our lives.

    The reality is that this personal creativity project began for me because of the impact of a Broadway play my husband and I attended last month (Finding Neverland). It was a play that profoundly told the story of being human-- of struggling with our own perceptions, limitations and ultimately, even death. Of how beauty can exist in the midst of tragic circumstances-- of how beauty is what keeps our souls alive in the midst of tragic and sad human circumstances.

    I was deeply impacted by the story and wanted, as Hawkins says, "to make room for more of that [art] in my life."

    That play made me want to be a better mother, writer and wife. It made me want to encourage my own children towards their curiosities and artistic inclinations, and to embrace the messiness that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with such endeavors. It made me want to confidently share the strands of my  own story in  bolder ways.

    So, thank you Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins for so eloquently putting into words what I was feeling in my heart, and what I am attempting to do in my quiet spaces and spare moments.

    Last Saturday I meandered through the Columbus Museum of Art.  Scott and I were in Columbus visiting his mom and had a chance to sneak out for the day to do some fun things together while the girls got to hang out with Nanner (Grandma). We had tickets to the Ohio State football game on that night (Go, Bucks!), and had some time to kill before the game began.

    I knew wandering through the Columbus Museum of Art was not on Scott's "want-to-do-list" in the few hours that we were kid-free.  For me, well, I needed to do something "creative" to continue my 52-week challenge and the art museum seemed like the most obvious option.

     I actually told him (kindly!) that I  didn't want him to come with me. That sounds so romantic after  13 years of marriage, doesn't it?!

     "Really, babe," I said. "Stay in the car and just watch a movie or go drink coffee somewhere." I was completely serious.
      He's a smart guy. He asks the right questions.

      "Really? So, if I asked you to go trap shooting with me right now, or said you you could drive around in the car by yourself for an hour, what would you do?"

      I smiled. He knew what that smile meant. Trap shooting would not be my first choice.  I would choose a quiet hour in the car at this season of life.

     "Well....Well...Because I love you...a lot...I would consider trap shooting," I said.

     "Oh, so you would consider it?"

      "Uh-huh....But, ultimately, I'd rather be alone for the hour and a half."

       And, so it was settled. If I would choose a quiet car over trap shooting, he was ok choosing a quiet car over art museum meandering.

      So, Scott dropped me off at the door (lol!) and I walked in and bought my solo ticket, looking forward to what I would encounter in the next hour and a half.

      So much impressed me, inspired me, and moved me. Because my time to finish this post is in short supply I won't bore you with all the details. Instead you can simply peruse a few of my favorite pieces (photographed on my I-phone...sorry about my poor photography skills!):

I thought this piece was crazy cool. I love glass art--the vibrancy of color and the experimental shapes. 
    "Sunflowers on the Windstorm" Emil Nolde
I loved this mixed-media piece. Actual pieces of fishing net were used to depict the net, and buttons  were used to connect the pieces of the mural together (Piece crated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson)

       "A Gust of Wind" by Claude Monet

A dress collection by a current designer (whose name I forgot to jot down!)

My version of a "selfie". Haha. 

"Selfie" #2

     In conclusion, that hour and a half was a peaceful, inspirational and somewhat therapeutic time for me. I found myself re-excited about exploring the  many different interpretations of life through art represented and plan to use that excitement to start visiting some of the museums in my own hometown. Museums and galleries  that I haven't visited in years because I've always said, 'I don't have time.'

     I'm looking forward to making time. 

P.S. For some reason my photo captions will not show up (Bah! Blogger technology!)...Sorry... I'm working on trying to figure it out. 


Tuesday, November 1

Creativity in the Margins of Life

“I wrote this book in the margins of life…it took 6 years,” said Ann Voskamp, speaking on writing her newest book, The Broken Way. 

The margins of life. 

Creativity, for most of us, happens in the margins of life. 

Even for a New York Times bestselling author, creativity often happens in the margins. 

Why? Because for many of us, our art, our creative endeavors, they are not our whole life (even though sometimes we wish they could be). For many of us the things we create, or love to do, do not tidily fall into our formal daytime job descriptions. 

Ann is a mom, first and foremost…to 7 children! And a wife…to a farmer who has a big bustling job. She is a homeschooler, and a missionary and she takes children to doctor’s appointments and out to buy new sneakers and t-shirts when they need them. She makes meals and washes dishes. 

And in the cracks she writes beautiful, beautiful words. She has filled books that have touched the lives of millions. 

Isn’t that amazing? 

I know it inspires and encourages me. I’m a mom too. Sometimes I’m a mom who feels like she doesn’t have even one crack of time for the creative things I’d love to do…but, I do. Really, I do.   I’m telling myself that as much as I’m telling you. Sometimes we have to get creative about finding the creative margin in our lives. 

It’s the late hours, the early hours, the hours in the car waiting for a child to finish one activity or another. The five minutes before you walk into the grocery store. The 10 minutes before you pick your 7-year-old up from school, the 24 minutes your 3-year-old watches Sofia the First. It’s 5:30 a.m. and you decide that even though you’ve only slept for 5 hours (because your 3-year old woke you up at 4 a.m. and you couldn’t fall back to sleep) that you’re going to get up and finish that blog post on creativity and margin despite any more futile attempts at getting more shut eye (true story!). 

My intentional creative endeavor last week was attending an event at our local Chrisitan bookstore. Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts and the newly released The Broken Way, was speaking on brokenness, healing, grace and God's great and gracious love. The truth is, 52 weeks of creativity or not, I would have gone to hear Ann speak...she always has something profoundly moving to say.  This project isn’t about me doing something “new” all the time, it’s also about being aware of the things I am already doing and being grateful for them. And, quite frankly, I need a  grace-filled pep talk. 

There are days when I feel like the vibrancy of the person I once was has become overshadowed by responsibility and duty. Like I’m not doing one gosh-darned fun thing in my life. Really. I have those little temper tantrums sometimes. I'd like to be done with that. Done looking at life that way. It’s not worth it. It's not one tiny bit helpful.  So, this 52 weeks of creativity project is in part an effort to overcome that mentality and pay attention to what, in some cases,is already there. And, in other cases, where I can make room for more. 

Jessica Turner, author of The Fringe Hours, said this:

Creativity isn’t [just] crafting; it is any original expression you pursue— running, playing music, gardening, sewing, cooking and so on are all creative acts. Even activities like volunteering and throwing parties are creative pursuits because by giving of ourselves for others we are expressing ourselves in a meaningful way. Moreover, these are activities that inspire us in an indescribable way. And when we make room in our days to include them, we feel more alive and youthful. 

Yes, yes. Yes! 

So this week, I am thankful to have heard from Ann Voskamp, the mom, wife and writer. I am thankful for that night out with girlfriends. I am incredibly thankful that my mom and sister met me at the bookstore and I got to spend some time with them (the fact that my mom was there is  a bit of a miracle in its own right, but that is another story for another day).

I am thankful for the reminder that creativity, whether it be writing or painting, sewing or singing, running or baking, crafting or collecting, scrapbooking or playing the guitar, can happen in the margins of our lives…and that it IS possible. 

My margins feel small lately. Sometimes non-existent.  I’m learning that finding margin often means ignoring  messes, or laundry,  paperwork sorting projects, or one of the million other things that I should be doing as an adult, parent, and homewoener. If creatitviy happens in the margins then sometimes it means  saying “No” to some of the “shoulds”  for a chance to engage in the “coulds”. 

Instead of asking what “should” I be doing right now, we must allow ourselves to ask “What could I create right now?”  Here’s the reality— the “shoulds” could swallow you whole if you let them. So lets let our creative “coulds” have a voice. Yes?  

So, here’s my challenge, what could you do or create, alone or with a friend or family member, in the margins of your life this week? What would inspire or bring you joy?

If you think of something post it in the comments section! 

This post is #3 in a yearlong project to pursue creativity more intentionally in my life as a mother. To read the other posts you can click on the links below:

Thursday, October 27

52 Weeks of Creativity: Week 3, Crafting With My Middle Kiddo

Hi, Friends! 

Hello from rainy Buffalo (: 

If you missed my post last week, I’m beginning a personal project called 52 Weeks of Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood. 

(It could be stretched to “Parenthood”  for the dads out there. You needn’t be excluded!)

I’m doing a little bit of catch up  here…Last week was Week 3 of the 52 Weeks of Creativity (I still need to write posts for weeks 1 and 2). Today’s post is about my intentional creative endeavor during Week 3 (last week). I will  always be one week behind because of the nature of the project. I'm going to try to get my new posts up on Mondays, but I can't promise that will always happen. 

I am currently in week 4 and had the pleasure and privilege of attending a Q & A with Ann Voskamp last night, which I will write about for my post on Monday! (What an absolute delight she is, and you should absolutely check out her new book, which I'll tell you a little bit more about next week!) 

So, without further adieu...

52 Weeks of Creativity: Week 3, Crafting with My Middle Kiddo

Week 3 ended up being an afternoon out with my 7 year old girlie, Ella. She’s 7 and loves all things creative and colorful. Scott and I try to do one-on-one’s with the big girls as often as possible. It’s not nearly often enough, but we try. We’re trying to get into a new rhythm where we each take one of them out once a month, so this month I had Ella and he is planning to do something with Ava—next month we'll switch! The one-on-one can be as simple as grabbing a cup of tea at Panera and just talking, having an early morning  (before-school) breakfast, or something a bit more adventurous,  like craft classes or rock climbing. The goal isn’t what we do, it’s just that we do it. 

(We’ll fit Aubrey into the mix when she gets a little bit older, but right now I’m home with Aubrey a lot during the day, so she gets to spend time with me while the girls are at school.)  

So, last Saturday Ella and I ventured out to place in Clarence called Creative Essence. The shop offers adult and children’s classes, as well as birthday parties and open crafting. Because there weren’t any classes that suited our time frame last week we opted to go during  their “open crafting” hours (posted online). Open craft hours allow you to choose from a number of projects in a variety of mediums— from soap and jewelry making, to needle felting, paper crafts and polymer clay projects. If you live in the area you should absolutely check it out.

Ella chose to make a  polymer clay fairy sitting on a painted wooden swing. Super cute! 

It was a fun project and I enjoyed sitting by her side, helping when asked. Michele, one of the owners, gave us a quick demo and then left us to do the project, available if we needed any help. Ella and I had a ton of fun picking clay colors for her fairy and learning how to work with the clay, particularly the small detailed bits of her projects (like the eyes, arms and legs). 

We learned how soften the clay to get it ready by rolling it in our hands, how to run it through the clay press to flatten it out, and how tricky it can be to meld some of the pieces together. I had no idea many cool polymer clay ideas were out there, but after a quick online search I have a feeling there will be more clay projects in our future! Once you create your fairy, or bug, or ball, or whatever it is you've made, the clay bakes in the oven to help it set, making the project  more permanent. 

Here is a photo of Ella with her completed fairy project, and some other photos of the process... 

My favorite part of the day was the ride home, when Ella, completely enthusiastic about her recently created project had oodles to say about art and creativity. 

“Mom! That was SO much fun. I LOVE art. I love that you can start with nothing, a blank page, or just nothing and take stuff, like sparkles or whatever and make something cool.” 

She was beaming. 

I love that too Ella! (:

I told her that it reminded me a little bit of the story of creation. How God started with a blank slate and created the world; animals, flowers, vegetables, humans in all of their bazillion variations. He created it all from nothing. Nothing! 

He breathed life into the world with mere words— as a writer, the mystery and miracle of  that reality is comforting, exciting, encouraging and motivating. When God breathed you into creation with His words it was with intention, and to bring a new and unique beauty into the world. What beauty, life, contribution has He written on your soul to bring forth and express--His creativity shown through you? 

Part of the intent of this project, for me,  is to explore that question on a more personal level. 

Be blessed. Be a blessing. Do something creative this week! 

Friday, October 21

52 Weeks of Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood: An Introduction

photo courtesy of google images

This is the beginning, the first post, in a yearlong pursuit to integrate more creativity into my day-to-day life as a mom: 52 Weeks of Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood. 

I’ve hemmed and hawed about whether or not I should make such a big commitment because the type-A part of me will certainly be frustrated if I don’t follow through.  However, after much consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is important, and worthwhile, and will hopefully impact not just mine, but my family’s life, for the better. 

 I’ve always considered myself a “creative” person. As a little girl I could be found drawing, learning to crochet with my grandmother, asking my mom for pottery kits at Christmastime and spending time on needlepoint projects in 5th grade. I loved colors and crafts, patterns and projects. Art classes fueled something inside of me that no other pursuit could tangibly accomplish. I wrote poems to my parents and friends, drew pencil drawings of tigers for family members, and spent hours making ornaments and yarn angels for craft shows.  My dad still has one of my pencil drawn sunflowers hanging in his bedroom.  

In recent years my creativity has been mostly focused on writing projects and craft projects with the kids in the limited free time that I've had. But, in the last two years, I've found myself too tired even for that on some days. 

This parenting gig, you know,  it’s kind of a big deal and a serious time commitment. If you can't "do it all" (and really, who can?!) it's often the things we love the most (after our kids, of course!) that begin to feel irrelevant and have to be sidelined. Children don’t tend to respond well when you tell them that there’s no dinner or clean socks for the next three days because you have a paper mache project begging to be finished.  

I’m kidding. 

Kind of. 

The reality is that when I first became a mom I was incredibly enthusiastic about a lot of things; especially craft projects that helped to pass the long hours at home with toddlers and preschoolers .  I took my creative instincts, marched myself into Michaels, JoAnn Fabrics and the craft aisle at Target and started buying crafty paraphenalia like it was nobody’s business; markers, crayons, paint, sequins, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, stickers, scrapbook supplies, colored paper, beads, yarn, seven different kinds of glue, blank greeting cards…you name it, I bought it. 

The sky was the limit and craft stores offered me an endless array of options for filling what were sometimes very long days.  We painted, made collages, stuck foam craft kits together, attempted homemade bracelets, mod podged things like leaves to the the side of baby food jars to make seasonal votives, dumped glitter and glue onto construction paper, chalk drawings on black card stock…the list goes on. Fortunately, at that point, either Pinterest hadn’t totally taken off or I was living in too much of a bubble to pay attention, otherwise we might have had to declare bankruptcy due to craft store expenditures. 

But then one day, about two years ago, I walked into Michael’s on a random afternoon and was no longer enthusiastic about being there.  As I roamed up and down the aisles that evening,  I realized how tired, unenthusiastic, and overwhelmed I was. Was this the simply a case of the craft store blues or something bigger that I needed to pay attention to? Who knew a case of subtle depression could come to a head in the bead aisle?!  I didn’t want to buy one more thing. Not one more! It no longer represented possibilities, but potential messes. Lots of them. I didn’t want to buy the stuff, store the stuff, or clean the stuff up. I was DONE! 

In part I was just really tired. Aubrey, our third daughter was one and the day-to-day grind of meeting the needs of three kiddos had taken its toll. I wasn’t reading very much (one of my favorite pastimes), I dreamed of writing something more structured than a tired journal entry at the end of the day, and there were unfinished house projects and never-ending piles of mess everywhere I looked.

 I was in a bit of a funk. 

Scott and I have joked that after having baby #1 we eventually found a new normal. After having baby #2 we also, eventually, found a new normal. Can you guys what happened after baby #3? Never found it. No "new normal". Or, perhaps we actually did find it, but weren't sure we liked the pace of it. The no sleep, never ending domestic tasks, around the clock parenting responsibilities. We both got a little cranky for a while. 

Quite frankly, I can’t say that things have changed that much since then, except that we’ve adjusted to life as a family of five and we’re getting a little bit more sleep…well, once in a while we get a little more sleep. Our littlest one somehow finds herself in our bed way more than her big sisters ever did, but somehow because she's the "baby" we can't bear to send her back to her own bed!  

The truth is that despite adjusting to the busier family dynamics I’ve grown much more comfortable, content and confident in my role as mother.  I’ve done a lot of deep spiritual work over the last two years and can honestly tell you I feel a deeper sense of peace about life in general. God has healed places in my heart that I didn’t even know needed healing and I’m humbled by it and grateful for it. 

I’m not sure how all or this ties together, except that two weeks ago, when I attended the Breathe Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan and then several days later  when I had the opportunity to see Finding Neverland with my husband, a sense of urgency for the creative was reignited in my spirit. In both instances I was awed by the power of the creative and compelled to craft a more creative life for both myself and my family. 

This project came out of those moments of inspiration. 

I started a list of “creative pursuits” in my journal and have been reading our newspaper's  entertainment section with a renewed fervor. In recent years I would read through the list of plays, readings, and art shows in a given week and merely think about how it 'might be fun' to attend such outings. Rarely would I make the time to actually do so. Over the next year however, as part of this project,  I am committed to finding 52 creative things to do--basically, one per week, though they may not fall into place with consistent weekly structure. We'll see. 

I decided to cut myself some slack and allow the writing conference and the play (Finding Neverland) to count as part of my 52 things--so, 50 more to go!  I plan to bring the girls alongside on some of the jaunts and other things will be more solitary pursuits. The reality is that some weeks may simply be a coloring page from an "adult" coloring book. Nevertheless, I am committed to spending at least an hour each week doing something creative I would not have otherwise tried. 

I will post photos once a week here and on Facebook. I should probably figure out how to use Instagram, but that’s a conversation (perhaps a creative endeavor!) for another day. 

There are a lot of other things on my mind in regards to all of this creativity stuff; great quotes, books I want to read, and deeper questions I’ve been pondering like “Is creativity a calling?” and “Is it worthwhile when there are so many important matters and responsibilities to spend our time on?” 

I can tell you that my initial answers are “Yes,” and “Yes!” but, more to come on that. 

I hope you’ll join me in the journey. Read along, craft along, decide to do something crazy and creative yourself. I believe that God, in His infinite creativity created all of us with a creative spirit. Not only is the pursuit of creativity, in any form,  a way to discover things about yourself, but it can be an opportunity for fellowship as well. Perhaps most importantly, if our creativity is heavenly and holy minded it can bring a much needed beauty into the world-- a beauty that reflects the glory of God. 

Our world could use a little bit more beautiful right now. 

So, here's to crafting our way to a happier, and hopefully somehow holier, creative life.