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Setting Goals to Learn Skills: Creative Goals

watercolor painting with my girls
watercolor painting with my girls

It’s been 2016 for 3 weeks and now that I feel like I have a good foothold into the year I have set my creative goals. I’m not big on resolutions: they always seem to be unattainable and are easily forgotten/broken. But giving myself a list of goals always keeps me excited to continue learning and growing, and always gives me a place to start from when I feel like I am unproductively spinning in a circle.

I can’t say enough about how important creative projects are to me. They have not enhanced my life: they have saved my life. They gave me a place to focus nervous energy and stress after a day at work, and eventually gave me a place to focus my sadness and anxiety when these emotions overcame me and left me unemployed. They allowed me to turn negative emotions into something beautiful and tangible, and much to my surprise, that others wanted to share in as well. Not every day was motivating, but with some perseverance creating made me feel that my existence was just as important as everyone else. It was a way to express myself when words could not properly articulate my feelings. I believe that in our hectic world of work and schedules (even the “fun” stuff is scheduled!) we all need creative balance; creative voice; creative outlet.

Whether you are looking to advance your skill level or add a creative project to your life a simple list is all that is needed to get started and get motivated. You need not make a fancy vision board – unless you want to. Pinterest is a great way to visually plan your projects and it can always be with you via your smart phone. Let’s face it, they are handy little gadgets – they need not consume your everyday life – use them to your advantage. You will not find me spending much time on social networks. But you will catch me checking my phone often as I work on a new knitting pattern I downloaded or do a web search for some creative inspiration.

My finger after teaching myself how to needle felt: whoops!
My finger after teaching myself how to needle felt: whoops!

Getting Started

Like most things, getting started is the hardest part. I started creating because a therapist told me to 16 years ago. So I just started exploring. In my school days I loved to write. So I bought a nice book and starting writing poems, and did a bit of journaling. But I found this to be a bit intense for me, so I turned to making goods instead. First it was making books that I could write my thoughts in. We’re not talking anything complicated here. A hole punch, some ribbon, and some pretty paper. Eventually this lead to playing around with clay, to making beads with clay, to jewelry making. I forced myself to set some time aside at least once a week to explore what I enjoyed doing.

Jewelry making: my longest - and most successful - hobby
Jewelry making: my longest – and most successful – hobby, enjoyed even outdoors

You don’t have to spend too much money

One of the common excuses we tell ourselves as that we don’t have the extra income to purchase supplies necessary to be creative. We walk into a craft store and are overwhelmed by all the options available. The price tag can climb high if we are not careful, but it doesn’t have to. Thrift stores are great places to find skeins of yarn for only a dollar or two. I am constantly finding unused skeins at my local second hand store. Costume jewelry from thrift stores or rummage sales can be dismantled for jewelry components. I have picked up some great beads for as little as a quarter by buying costume jewelry at a flea market. I’ve also expressed to family & friends creative items I would like to have for my birthday: a coloring book, a how to book, a nice set of pencils or markers, a tool…

Thrift store find: all this for under $50
Thrift store find: all this for under $50

Building on a skill

If you already have a creative skill under your belt but want to expand on your knowledge, You Tube is a great place to start. This is where I am now. At the tail end of last year I taught myself how to magic loop knit by watching You Tube videos. This gave me the confidence to say that this is the year that I would teach myself how to knit cables.

St. Blaise combs one of my favorite tools
St. Blaise combs: one of my favorite tools

Don’t be hard on yourself

If you don’t do every goal on your list, or you feel unsuccessful, be proud that you took the time to attempt it. You made some time for you, and that is what matters. Tomorrow is a new day. If you decide a particular hobby is just not for you, swap your items with a friend for a project they have not had the chance to do. It’s okay to change your mind. Just be open to change, and be open to exploring the untapped talents we all possess.

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Finding Creativity in the Mundane

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We have a 100 year old project house in Nova Scotia. Now, I hate painting. I love the look of a freshly painted wall or trim but I don’t necessarily enjoy the execution. One painting project I was looking forward to, was the back door. Mostly because of the size of the project (small!). It’s a vintage dream: the side that is towards the outside has this gorgeous natural crackle from years of exposure to the elements and layers of paint. The brass door knob from years gone by would take a skeleton key if I had it; now it is secured with the modern day deadbolt. It was dingy white, and it screamed to be blue, to match our new roof. I could not wait to see the final product.

Although a roller would have been a lot faster, I opted for a brush. I’m not sure why, but soon I was enjoying the rhythmic back and forth motion watching the door slowly transform. I realized in that moment something that I had never done before: became present in this mundane task. Normally when I paint I’d let my mind wander & think about everything but, just trying to get through the chore. This time, I was aware of every stroke, every glop and drip, and the awareness that this door will never look “perfect” (brand new) ever again, no matter how much paint I applied. And yet, with every imperfection, the door is a true gem. Probably one of my favorite features of the house. Brand new, and perfect would look totally out of place in a house that has seen so much life in the past 100 years.

Painting the door that morning, gave my creativity a huge boost. Once done I immediately sat down at the sketch pad and to-do list. Problems were solved. Decisions made. New potential products were given its first one dimensional life on paper. I also realized something else. This door is delicious despite its imperfections. It is in many ways like handmade. The skill to create by hand will never be with machine precision but the slight imperfections are what truly make the piece vibrant, alive and soulful.

I hope you find much creative inspiration as you go about your day, and if the whim hits you to do something totally out of the ordinary, take the leap, regardless of your level of knowledge or skill. As the old saying goes, you never know unless you try! 😉

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Artist Inspired: Painting Poems by Steve Skafte & Wally Shishkov

Steve Skafte of Bridgetown, and Wally Shishkov of Bear River, Nova Scotia, have combined their talents to simultaneously create a cohesive piece of artwork called Painting Poems. I was particularly intrigued at how poet & painter can work silently together yet have the end result manifest the perfect mood/emotion – with Wally painting upside down, no less!  Learn more about the artists & their process in this interview with Steve Skafte.

MESMERIZE / 8.5 x 11 inches / unframed / watercolor and poetry

How long have you been creating painting-poems?

The very first piece that we did was on May 20, 2013. We began on a blank sheet, with no preparation or fore-thought whatsoever.

DEATHBED / 8.5 x 11 inches / unframed / watercolor and poetry

What made you start creating painting-poems?

We both survive almost entirely off the income of what we create, so economical reasons are almost as pressing as creative ones. I (Steve Skafte) had been thinking a lot about busking and street performance, and it was just getting into the season where warmth makes that sort of thing possible (or at least comfortable) in Nova Scotia. I came across a TED talk by Amanda Palmer where she talked about the concept of allowing people to give in return for art, rather than the idea of constantly demanding payment. I was already planning to take to the street with the idea of writing poetry live when a conversation with Wally Shishkov turned me in the direction of collaborative creating. There was a real desire to be seen for both of us. Art is more invisible than ever before in rural Canada, shoved into dark corners and only drug out with the notion of group expression or with the drive of government funding. We were tired of waiting to be accidentally discovered, so we decided to put ourselves in the path of passing traffic. There was never any urge for performance, just a nervous and open-hearted sharing. What could we do but create? For all the people hawking their finished products, it seemed to mean so much more for them to see it coming alive.

COMBUSTION / 8.5 x 11 inches / unframed / watercolor and poetry

What inspires your designs?

Dreams, nature, water. Water more than anything, that’s part of working with watercolours, I suppose. Wavelengths, lightwaves, electrical impulses, magnetism. Without waves, where would we be, what could we see? Nowhere and nothing. The images start swirling, and they eventually find their way or dry their way to completion. Geometric shapes, lines and crosses and circles. The patterns of frost, the growth of crystals. We begin every creation live and at the same time, so as Steve writes and Wally paints upside-down, there’s a rush to the end, or at least to discover where the end is. In the end, the inspiration is the word. We pick that word, the title of the painting-poem, and try as best we can to express the full and whole emotion of what that word means to us. The shape is almost always entirely unexpected. It’s hard to know where it comes from.

GRAVITY / 8.5 x 11 inches / unframed / watercolor and poetry

What are your favorite pieces to make/creations you have made?

There’s one called “Exodus” that was particularly hard to part with. A lot of the pieces hang on heavily from the meaning of the words. The images mean a lot to us, but the words are a story, a one-of-a-kind journey to a place we’ve never been and will never be again. The wide-eyed smiles and sometimes tears in the eyes and on the faces of friends and strangers when they see the painting-poem come alive, fully improvised in front of them, just for them, that’s worth a lot. I think of a few pieces where the joy and sorrow was beyond compare, and we were deeply humbled and honored to share it. “Heartbeat”, was one. “Gypsy” was another, for a woman we’ll never forget. One called “Solitude” carried a woman back to the death of her mother, and we didn’t mean it that way, but it was exact to the strangest detail. “Transformation”, done on the street for a friend named Stephanie, was the most personal of experiences. Between the two of us creating, with her and her boyfriend watching, it was almost religious in nature. Nothing has ever felt so right. There’s a line in a piece called “The Gift” that says: “The gift we have is the gift we’re giving,” and that’s the real depth of it, I think. The ones that mean the most to us are the ones that meant the most to others.

SQUALL / 8.5 x 11 inches / unframed / watercolor and poetry

Where do you sell your work?

We sell on the street live when we create, or inside at what shows we can get when the weather is colder. A binder of our 8.5×11 work is available for view at Low Tide Gallery (4 Queen Street, Bridgetown, Nova Scotia) as well as a handful of our 16×20 pieces. Online, we sell all of our currently available work in our Etsy shop, but all sold and unsold works can be browsed on Facebook.

DAWNING / 8.5 x 11 inches / unframed / watercolor and poetry

Do you accept custom work?

Absolutely! About 1/3rd of all our work is requested. Unlike most art, requests are more like conversational ideas than demands. We start with a word (or sometimes a two/three word title) and sometimes a little background of what it means to them, then create from there. If you’d like us to do a piece for you, go to our Etsy shop and click the “Request Custom Order” button.

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I own 3 Painting Poems for my Bridgetown home, & look forward to possessing more.

To see/learn more:

visit Steve & Wally’s etsy shop
follow them on Facebook

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Are you an artist inspired? I’m looking to share your story here and in my monthly newsletter. Inspire me; inspire others! E-mail me or leave a comment below to be considered. All you need is an online presence (blog, website, Etsy shop, etc.) so that the international audience the internet attracts can get to know you & your product better. This is my contribution to the handmade/artist community, & I am honored to do so! Look forward to hearing from you…

Have you been healed by creativity? I am looking for examples to be featured here on the creativity inspired blog of how art/creativity helped you overcome loss/hardship/illness. Did you paint a picture? Get a tattoo/had art created for you, much like the Painting Poems? Plant a garden in honor of a person or event? I want to hear every & all examples of how an outward expression aided you in your process. It is my hope that others will find comfort in these inspirational stories. Please contact me directly in order to be featured, or leave me a comment below. My only requirement is that you have one picture of the finished product to share with readers. Namaste!

 

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“Wings” Tribute piece: Personalized Memorial Necklace

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5 years ago to this day, my mother passed away suddenly at the age of 54. I would like to say *unexpectedly*, but I had a prophetic dream a week prior of her death, & although I was somewhat prepared, it was certainly a trauma nonetheless. We had an at times difficult – albeit honest – relationship, and I developed the “Wings” memorial necklace in her tribute, as a constant reminder that she still walks beside me despite having many moments where I feel motherless.

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I was on the fence about releasing this piece to customers, as it was so personal to me, but I decided by not sharing it I was missing an opportunity to help others heal & honor their loved one as I did. Since releasing “Wings” earlier this year for customizing, it has hands down become my best selling piece. I have had the honor of engraving these with the initials of loved ones for people I had never exchanged words with, yet I felt a connection to all the same. The most difficult request, was for infant loss, and I grieved for this mother even though she never knew of me or that she would be receiving this keepsake.

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Now I cannot believe I ever considered never sharing this piece. It is such a good example of why I create. It keeps me human. It keeps me connected. It gives me a sense of purpose in a world that some days makes no sense.

Love to you, mama: where ever thy soul shall roam…

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Have you been healed by creativity? I am looking for examples to be featured here on the creativity inspired blog of how art/creativity helped you overcome loss/hardship/illness. Did you paint a picture? Get a tattoo? Plant a garden in honor of a person or event? I want to hear every & all examples of how an outward expression aided you in your process. It is my hope that others will find comfort in these inspirational stories. Please contact me directly in order to be featured, or leave me a comment below. My only requirement is that you have one picture of the finished product to share with readers. Namaste!

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Jewelry Inspired: Tribute Charms ~ In Memory of My Mother ~ Blue Zircon Dragon Flies

As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20”. Something that may not make sense at the time will become crystal clear in the future. You have that, “Ah-ha”  moment, as Oprah would say.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Artbeads, looking for an item to try & review. I had no idea what to get, only that I wanted something new to me that I had not seen before in person. So I decided to start browsing their jewelry making kits. Mind you, I am not a fan of anything that comes with directions. I would rather just figure things out for myself, like putting together a puzzle. Ikea is a nightmare for me. 😉

I started browsing the different Swarovski crystal charm kits, and kept getting stuck on these dragon fly pendants. At the time I wasn’t 100 percent sure why, just that they felt “right”. So I went ahead and ordered them.

So fast forward to last Friday, when the kit came in the mail. I remember thinking, “wow, this took awhile to get here”. I was anxious to get working on it but was delayed until tonight.

Today holds a very big significance for me. One year ago today, at this very hour, I was on my way home to Nova Scotia; feeling emotionally numb…sitting next to my then 13 month old daughter in the van, 4 months pregnant again, which at the time was not yet common knowledge. My mother had passed away suddenly earlier that day. She was only 54.

It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by already. I’d like to say today was hard, but really it was okay. It’s hard to be sad with my beliefs on the afterlife, and particularly when you have two little gems to keep you occupied. My eldest daughter is now 2 and my youngest daughter is 7 months.

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So when I sat down tonight to put this kit together, it immediately had a meditative quality for me. The first thing I realized, is that one charm was made with smaller beads than the other: 4mm bicone crystals versus 3mm bicone crystals. That reminded me so much of my daughters, as one is slightly older than the other.

I was also reminded of my mother’s casket. When we went to pick one out, my eyes immediately went to this particular casket. I knew that was the one. Just something about it. There was an embroidered insert in the display, and it reminded me of my mother. I can’t remember exactly all the detail, but that there was a dragonfly. My Dad did not purchase the insert, but I thought how interesting that I would remember this detail, while I sit and put together these dragon flies.

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To me, this final detail is validation to me, that it is no coincidence that I chose this kit. As I went to look up the details on this product for this blog post, I realized that I chose the blue zircon dragon flies. Blue Zircon was my mother’s birthstone.

Call it the power of our subconscious or something deeply spiritual ~ it really put a smile on my face tonight. Regardless of the reason, it was nice to do something this evening that turned into a tribute to my mother.

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In light of this, I have decided to put these charms aside and give them to my girls when they are older. Someday I will tell them all about their Lola and give them these charms in remembrance.

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Now here’s the technical stuff:

The kits are done by Creations by You, LLC and are copyrighted

They come with all the Swarovski Crystal & seed beads needed, stringing material (monofilament) and components to make these cell phone charms, if you so choose.

(Unfortunately – both charms were missing the amount of seed beads required to make the loops: one was missing one, and the other two. This is no big deal, you can easily modify to make a smaller loop).

If you have a basic knowledge of bead stringing, this project will not be challenging at all. They also work up very fast, great if you want that instant gratification feeling. I recommend a pair of tweezers, to help pull the stringing material through the tighter spots. The directions and photos are basic, I admit that sometimes I was a bit confused, but with my knowledge of beading I got the jist of what was being explained.

True to me putting my own creative flair on everything, I modified the patterns/beads slightly. I used Beadalon beading wire rather than monofilament. It’s tougher and I prefer to work with it. I also decided to skip the last step, as I thought it was unnecessary & a pain to get the beads to “lay down” properly. This resulted in extra beads that I then used to modify the pattern of the smaller charm.

The charms are very pretty, feel solid in my hands (probably because of the Beadalon) and sparkle wonderfully as Swarovski crystals do. The photos do not do them justice.

However, at $26.97 per kit I think an investment in loose crystals that can be used to develop one’s own creativity would be a better investment. But that’s just my humble opinion. 🙂


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Artist Inspired: Mother and Child Pendant by Dianne Karg Baron

When I joined the Starving (Jewelry) Artists Etsy Street Team last year, one artist that caught my attention right away was Dianne Karg Baron. Her wire work is absolutely perfect: the attention to detail & craftsmanship is second to none & the designs truly inspire me. I knew that I had to have an example of her work featured here for future reference. Although there are several other pieces that are far more intricate, I was totally drawn to this pendant entitled: Mother & Child.

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I chalked up my intense interest in this pendant as the result of being a young mother, having given birth twice in an 18 month period. Then Dianne shared the background on this design, and it was then that  I understood why this particular piece held such a powerful energy:

“…And sometimes, the inspiration for a piece comes from an episode in my own life. In the case of “Mother and Child”, it was a miscarriage. Back in May, I discovered I was pregnant. It was a surprise pregnancy – completely unexpected. On the Monday I took the test, had a positive result. On Wednesday I went to my family doctor to get the process of finding an OB started and to schedule an ultrasound. On Thursday I started bleeding… After a couple of hours of sitting in Emergency, I had some tests and was sent home with the advice to come back if it got heavier. On Saturday, I started cramping severely, went back to Emergency and miscarried while waiting for a second set of test results.

It all happened so fast that I barely had time to wrap my head around the idea. Originally, I had planned on delaying doing the pregnancy test until Thursday, and then got impatient. It occurred to me that if I had followed through on the original plan, I would have never known I was pregnant.

I knew the chances of going full term were slim: I have underlying health issues that would have made for a very difficult pregnancy. So, the miscarriage wasn’t a surprise, but I was still sad. More than anything, it made me wish I’d met my husband 10 years earlier.

I’m of the opinion that every pregnancy is a soul connection between the mother and the child. That connection continues regardless if the pregnancy is terminated, miscarried or goes full term. Part of my grieving process has been to think in terms of still being “Mommy” to an angel who didn’t quite make it to Earth.

The pendant is my expression of that soul connection: it clearly shows the baby growing safe and secure in its mother’s belly. The foetus is abstract, and to my view, also looks a little like an angel wing. So my hope is that it works on both levels: celebrating the ones who join us, and remembering the ones who are growing up on the other side.”

When I received this background on the pendant, I found myself welling up with tears. I wanted it to remain in Dianne’s words rather than edited as I am sure many women will be touched and even comforted by her story. This piece is a true testament of how we can use our creative abilities to heal & inspire others.

Dianne has been making and designing jewelry for almost 15 years. She finds her inspiration from art, from architecture, from nature, from history – and of course, from personal experience. See more of Dianne’s work, including tutorials, at her Etsy Shop & visit her website.