Friday, April 2, 2010

Where did you come up with that?

Almost every interview of an artist in any given medium eventually asks the question, "Where do you get your ideas?". They want to know if it is spontaneous or deliberate. Personally I think that the real answer is "Yes". On there is a group called "Ring a Day" that challenges people to create a ring a day (You probably didn't need that part explained). In the challenge you are constantly scanning for new sources of inspiration. It is dead brilliant the things that people come up with. One of my favourites is by a man who created a bezel and baked a brownie in it. He even included a video of himself eating the brownie. That is definite "what box?" thinking.
I think that an artist has a constant eye scanning for colours, textures, themes and concepts that captures their attention. After a while it is a process that becomes second nature like a profiler reading body language. We may not have an immediate home for our new found creative treasure but we know how to access it when the appropriate medium presents itself.
For example, last spring I travelled to the Mediterranean with my mom and one of the items displayed everywhere was the ward against the evil eye. In Turkey it is called Nazar. The idea is to attach it to everything that you want protected. If it cracks it is supposed to have done its job and should be replaced.
The colour of the glass and the stylized eye really catch the attention. I loved the cobalt blue.
Without thinking about this I stored the image in my mind. Fast forward to today and I'm again preparing to go to Turkey but this time for three and a half weeks by myself. I wanted to make items to the trip that might be conversation starters with some of the artists with whom I plan to meet.
As one of my passions is rug hooking I decided to hook a purse. I bought a blank pattern from Jennifer Manuell at Fish Eye Rugs. When I went to design I realized that I was drawing nazars. I ended up with a contemporary pattern in greens, blues and purples. In a previous rug pattern I found myself drawn to circles and everything seemed to come together in this purse.
I know that when I'm in Istanbul and Cappadocia I'll absorb more than I realize. I'll take photos and write down random thoughts and sketch. I may not use any of it literally but I think it will all filter into my future work whether I know it or not. Where do artists get their ideas? Everywhere. How do you become creative? There are a lot of answers to that one but you train yourself to observe, and record your observations. Part of the joy of learning new techniques is the ability to see the familiar in your life with new eyes. It gives us the opportunity to share these new ideas with others. Our ideas come from what we see when we learn new ways of seeing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Deep truths

Saying the "A" word in public

As most of my friends know I am usually not at a loss for words.  I especially enjoy talking to creative people and finding out about what they do.  The place that I often find myself sputtering and turning red is when I'm asked about the "A" word. " Are you an artist?"  There is just something about proclaiming yourself an artist that can leave you feeling like a pretender to the throne.  It seems like such a huge boast.  Often people think of artists as those who draw or paint.  Being a dancer or musician is seen as something separate.  If you are meeting someone new the next questions will be, " Where do you sell?".  Do you have a website?  What about a business card?".  Negatives to any of these questions seem to lower the plausibility of your claims (note: Business cards done on lined paper in crayon don't count. Go figure.).
I know I'm not the only one who finds it difficult to identify themselves as an artist so I thought I'd ask some friends of mine when they first felt comfortable using the term "artist" as part of their identity.  Sari McNamee, a photographer who is internationally recognized, says it was when someone else told her that she was an artist.   For others, they said it was when people started purchasing their work.  
Part of me really rebels against needing outside validation but I do get it.  Art, at its most basic, is a way of communicating and expressing.  It is a language and to have someone hear it and understand is one of our primary goals.  Can you be an artist without selling?  Absolutely.  Whether you are an artist by profession or inclination, I think when we have something to say and our work reflects our message we have the right to use the "A" word without blushing.  
All comments are welcomed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Creative Procrastination

O.K.  So I have less than a week to prepare for our local International Festival.  It is a three day event and I have a table to sell for two of those days.  I should be in a flurry of production.
In my defence I'll say I've been dyeing table cloths and have hunted down a cost effective source of jewelry display units.  I've been crimping cording, attaching jump rings and just received my business cards.  Reading this I'm almost impressed except for the fact that I don't have near enough stock to sell. Did I mention I bought a receipt book and budget ledger?  
With our 34 celsius plus weather I just have not felt the draw of the clay.  Did I mention that we picked this week to get a new puppy (as opposed to an old one)?
Once again I feel like I'm sitting down with the mandate to produce something unique, brilliant and sure to sell.  Yup. No pressure and no new stock.  I was getting restless and worse, I had the distraction of a new book from the library with some killer cool twining and coiling techniques.
I gave in to the dark side.  I turned my back on my work space and curled up with the book.
Suddenly I was hit with textures and images that started weaving all sorts of artistic possibilities in my brain.  The only problem was that none of this had anything to do with what I would be selling this weekend.  I decided I didn't care. See what happens when you become a rebel?  I spent the evening coiling and plaiting metal wire. It was such an artistic release.
By morning my fingers were sore but I had two almost respectable pieces.  I proudly showed one to my husband.  He looked at the it and said,"  That will look really good when you add some of your polymer clay beads to it, or a piece of black clay behind it to highlight it.  Good work."
I was gobsmacked.  Here I was, thinking I was making a hash of things and by going off on another tangent that interested me, I had my answer.  What can I say?  Follow your muse people.  No matter how fickle, it is rarely a waste of time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Capturing the moment

One of my favourite things to do is to hook rugs.
I love to design them, dye the wool and start painting with the fibre.  The obvious place to start is to figure out your subject matter.  The best way is when you see an image and just know you have to give it a voice.  This rug is taken from a photo that said so much to me. 
My husband Rob, our son and myself were up at Christina Lake. It was the place were Rob spent most of his summers with his grandfather. He has memories that most of us only read about in books.  Being able to take his own son up there was so special for him. On that day Rob was out in the lake while Josh and his buddies were jumping and diving off of the dock. The water was sparkling and the air resounded with choruses of, "Dad. Watch me do this!".  My friend Carol took this photo when Josh was in mid leap.  It was one of those perfect moments.  I knew I had to paint it with wool. In order to give it more meaning, I hooked Josh's swim shirt and shorts with a vest that had belonged to Rob's dad. Howard would wear that vest every Christmas.
I wanted to honour the generations that had all loved being up at the lake together.  Through the images and the materials I was able to represent, Arnold, Rob's granddad, Howard, Rob's father, Rob, and our son Josh.  This rug will always be able to communicate a special moment for us.  I wish you all creative moments that speak to what you hold dear.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebrating the Bumpy Ones!

One of my favourite comic strips is “Pearls before Swine”. I was thrilled when its author, Stephan Pastis,  gave me permission to post this strip on the blog.  For me it was so endearing and I wanted to stand up and shout, “ I understand.  I like the bumpy ones too!”  

In my life I moved around a fair bit and the things that I held on to may not have been valuable but they were special to me in some personal way.  Sometimes I had no better explanation about a specific item’s appeal except than, “It was the bumpy one.”  

What makes us hold onto certain items?  What makes the attachments?  Maybe nothing is really apart from connections to people or events, but what draws us to pick the bumpy one instead of looking for the technically superior piece?

When I was thinking about the appeal of imperfection (Really. I promise I was doing that.) I realized that this was in part my answer to the nightmare, “What if my work isn’t good enough?”.  

Pig showed me that I was asking the wrong question (yes the character’s name is pig).  Good enough doesn’t guarantee a connection.  What people are looking for is something that communicates to them and engages them in some way.

How do you make sure that happens? You don’t. You make sure that the things you make speak to you.  If it makes you feel or think or grabs your interest, you have a good chance of doing that with someone else. What do you like? What draws you? Don’t be afraid to collect, celebrate and make the bumpy ones. Enjoy!