Advent

I have received word that my dear friend, Marion Gagan Kovach, has gone home to be with her Savior. The following Reflection was written just this morning, knowing that He might be coming for her very soon. While I am bereft, already feeling lost without my friend’s presence here, I wholeheartedly affirm the words of this Reflection and rejoice that she is no longer suffering.

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A dear friend of mine is at this moment struggling for breath in a cancer ICU. We typically think of the celebration of Advent as a happy and lighthearted time. It is not always so. Though I have known and been friends with her for 30+ years, I feel as if I’ve known her all my life. She and I both were dancers in our young girl years and I imagine we would have been BFF’s in dance class, working our plies, tandus, and pirouettes together. She has been valiantly battling esophageal cancer for 2 1/2 years, and it has been my privilege to walk alongside her, trying to keep in touch as best we can through it all.

We speak of Advent as an anticipation of Christ’s coming to us as a babe in a manger. Indeed it is just this. But we sometimes miss the fact that He comes to us in a multiplicity of ways. The entire Christmas story is rife with numerous ways God comes to His people: an Angel of the Lord comes to Mary to bring her the news that God is going to come to her, overshadow her, and birth in her His only Son. An army of God’s messengers come to the Shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Christ. God comes to Joseph in a dream to allay his fears and give instruction for the path ahead. God comes to the Three Kings in a dream to tell them to travel another way. In fact, the entirety of the Scriptures is an unfolding of all the ways God has come to us. Not the other way ’round.

I astonish myself with how I know this to be true, that the King of Heaven comes to His children, but I live as if I’m the one who has to reach, grasp, and work my way to God. There is not a single story in the Bible where people have successfully gotten themselves together, cleaned up their act, been nice enough, smart enough, wise enough, to achieve the status “made it to heaven.” In fact, usually their efforts to earn salvation or God’s approval go horribly wrong. But God…

He comes to us in Advent as a baby, because that is what we are…helpless, vulnerable, dependent babes. He does ALL the work of coming to save His own. He alone rescues. He alone provides. He alone comforts. He alone grants faith, grace, and mercy. He also comes to us in our death. We do not travel that lonely dreadful path alone. Soon He will reach out His hand to my friend and say those precious words…“Talitha, koum”. He will take her by the hand and say “Dear little one, get up and go with me into eternity! Breathe freely, plie, tandu and pirouette to your heart’s content! ” Yes, even in death, He comes to His own. Emmanuel. God. With. Us.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

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The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

Draw & Stitch Together through Advent!

I marvel that it is holiday time once again. Somehow the seasons roll ’round more quickly and I know all too well how fast this wonderful season will fly by if I don’t take time to drink it in. I’m planning on stitching and drawing with the purpose of slowing myself down a bit, taking time to reflect on the season and make something slow and small.  I want to offer these to you as well.

The first is an Advent Shawl Crochet-a-Long. For any who like to crochet, this will be a simple crocheted piece made with a big hook and big yarn. Big stitches will allow you to take each one slowly because it won’t require much time to complete the directions for that week’s section of the Shawl. To read more specifics about this, and begin gathering your yarn, visit my blog A Knitter’s Grace and consider following there so that you can receive each weekly installment for the pattern.

For those of you who like to sketch, I’m offering drawing prompts for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day. You can draw something related to the prompt or just do your own thing. Download the PDF here, print it off and tuck it in your sketchbook. I’ll be posting my sketches on Instagram, so follow there too. Better yet…post your own sketches and use the hashtag #adventdraw to share your daily drawings.

To encourage you in your sketching through Advent, I have a special reduced price on my Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time ebook & video course! Instead of the full price of $45, you can purchase it for $25 from now through Christmas Day! It is my way of saying Thank You for your presence here, for making and drawing with me throughout the years! Just click here for my ETSY shop. No need for a special code or anything. The price has been changed for the duration of the Season! It’s an immediate download…so enjoy!

I do not say this often enough…but I am grateful for you, dear reader! I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings, and I hope to “see” you around the inter webs during Advent as we draw and stitch our way to a slower and more creative holiday.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

 

Summer Uniform

Do you have a tendency to wear the same thing for days in a row? I do! I fall in love with the way something looks and feels and I just wear it over and over again. Folks must think I go to sleep with the outfit on, but I do actually change into jammies and then the next day, on goes the “uniform” again.

The Breasy Picot Poncho, a new original design of mine,  has been just that for me: a summer uniform, perfect for these warm days and air-conditioned spaces. This simple poncho is knitted out of a cotton/linen blend of yarn called Zooey, made by the Juniper Moon Yarn folks. I love this yarn and have knitted numerous garments and scarves out of it! For the poncho, I used large needles so as to achieve a very drapey and lace-looking fabric. Adding the eyelet rows and picots along the edges gives just enough interest to the knitting so as not to get bored with it!

You’re going to love this, if you are a knitter! Or if you know someone who knits, let them know! For the month of July, I’m offering a 50% discount on all my patterns AND my Drawing Ebook & Video. Go to my ETSY shop and use the code: HAPPYBIRTHDAY  (all caps) when checking out! This is my Birthday month…hence the huge savings to you…a hobbit-like gift for the entire month!

You can read more of the details there on the ETSY listing to help you decide. If you live in the area, and want to purchase this awesome yarn, go to Knit One Smock Too in Winston-Salem, NC. They have a large selection of many colors of this lovely yarn!!

I hope everyone is finding something they might like from my ETSY shop this month! It’s not an everyday occurrence for me to offer this kind of discount. But the celebration is proving beneficial for many who have joined in the fun and used the discount already!! So much fun!!

Happy July and Savings and Knitting and Drawing to you all!

And Happy Birthday to me! 🙂

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

 

A Jolly July!

July is here!!

And I’m super excited about this month for lots of reasons. There will be celebrations – the Fourth, our daughter’s half-birthday, and my own birthday at the end of the month. There will be travels – we are driving to Arkansas to pick up our son who is performing with Opera in the Ozarks; and I hope to travel to Virginia to visit with a childhood friend. I’m planning on drawing and sketching my way through the month, knitting up some pretty things, and stitching my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments (my recent obsession:).

To start off my birthday month with a bang, I’m offering a little present to you, Hobbit-style! For anything and everything in my ETSY shop, you may use the discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAY to receive 50% off the price! No, I haven’t gone nuts! Well, maybe I have…I’m setting my intention for this month to be a a jolly one, a true Christmas in July sort of celebration from the beginning to the end.

I do hope you will avail yourself of this once-in-a-blue-moon offer!! For cheap as chips, you can enhance your sketching and drawing practice by purchasing the Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time ebook & video course. For pennies you can knit or crochet a lovely shawl or sweater, wrap or scarf. So go ahead and indulge! Use the above discount code when you check out. From now until the 31st of July! Enjoy!

I just returned from the Ocean’s Edge and I’m refueled and ready for this Jolly month. If you’d like to read all about the week by the Ocean and see some stitcherly goodness, plus drawings and sketches, visit The Silver Dapple, a new blog dedicated to an exciting medium as I stitch my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments. It’s slow stitching, but all the more savory in its slowness.

To catch all the drawings, watercolors, knitting and crocheting, stitching and whatever else strikes my fancy, do follow me on Instagram as that is where I tend to hang out the most. Above all, I hope you have a Jolly July making things with your hands! Indoors, outdoors, on the road or at home, may your month be an Artful one!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Befriending Curiosity

Do you ever look around your studio and scratching your head, wonder…What am I doing here? Not because you have a temporary lapse of memory as to your location (which happens to me on occasion ;/), but because the things you are making are new and different in some way.

I find myself scratching my head a lot. Have done so for lo these many years. The flip-flopping around from drawing to knitting, painting to crochet, realism to abstraction, weaving to embroidery…fairly makes my head spin sometimes. It is a very real struggle that brings not a little consternation to this artist’s heart.

I was listening to a podcast recently whose topic was completely unrelated to art. The person interviewed was talking about “befriending endings”. That phrase sounded lovely to me, a true way to affirm life and it’s many beginnings and endings, directions and switch-backs. I’ve been thinking of all the ways this helps me as an artist:

Befriend Interruptions. Befriend new directions. Befriend busyness. Befriend the curiosity to try new things.

This curiosity leads me down some magical paths. I seem to return to a very familiar intersection where creativity meets all manner of mediums. At this intersection a host of questions begin to fill my head… how can I make images with yarn? Can I create abstract drawings that have movement and feeling? How can I translate my drawings into embroidery? Oooohhh…could I even create abstract  embroidered pieces? Or superimpose line drawings that are stitched onto abstractly collaged fabrics?

These and other curiosities light me up and send me off down new paths, or sometimes old paths with a different twist or a more fervent embrace. I seem to feel the need to create fresh blogs for each of these paths. It may seem silly to you dear reader or perhaps it doesn’t matter a hill of beans that I do this. But my need for each new path to have a fresh, uncluttered page seems to defy what my studio looks like, and affords breathing space for all the questions and curiosities I am currently working out.

With the onset of summer, I’ll be camping out on a new blog created especially for my embroidered fragments. You can read more about them here and here and even follow me there if you are curious to see where this path takes me. Perhaps you’d even like to join me in a Summer of Stitching. But I will also be drawing and painting abstracts. I am particularly interested in seeing if I can create abstracts that are based on actual things/objects/places etc. Above you can see the first of its kind and you can check in with numerous others, as well as the embroidery, on Instagram as the summer unfolds. These two things are not mutually exclusive of one another. In fact, I’ve been creating abstract fabric collages and stitching my line drawings atop of them. I recently made a fabric collage based on an abstract sketch from my sketchbook. It is being stitched and embellished with embroidery, beads, stitched drawings, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

If this is all a bit dizzying to you dear reader, please know that it is for me as well. But I am endlessly curious, and seem to thrive on trying to solve creative riddles and searching for answers to the numerous artistic questions in my head. What is a constant and helps me make sense of it all, is that all roads seem to branch off of and lead me back to my sketchbook. That’s a pretty cool idea –

A sketchbook is an intersection where magical paths await exploration.

Let’s go exploring this summer and befriend curiosity!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Yep. That’s me! Sitting at the intersection, sketching the path ahead. 🙂

Where Are You?

Every day I need to check in. Over the years I’ve wondered if this was a strange thing about myself…this need to check in, to take stock of where I am at a given moment, to breathe in and breathe out, to mark the moment, taking in the sights and scenery around me. Now I’m feeling pretty certain this isn’t strange, it’s really necessary and good. Not just for me, but for us all!

When life gets busy, full to the brim with all good stuff that doesn’t allow much time for checking in, I feel like I need these check-in moments more throughout the day. It’s all too easy to think that just going and going, running through the never ending to-do list without stopping to breathe and mark the moment, is ok for a season. For me, it’s not ok. I’ve got to touch base with where my feet are planted, what my surroundings are at a given moment, breathe into whatever my location is both in body and in spirit. My sketchbook is the best way I know to do this.

Right from the get-go of facing an empty page, I feel myself throttle down a few gears. Empty space. Wow. Just to be able to look at a space that isn’t filled up with stuff for a few moments is helpful. It isn’t scary to face this emptiness…it is welcome and peaceful. I begin to draw what I saw on my walk, or a memory from a day or two ago I don’t want to lose. Slowly, thoughtfully…line and paint working together to drive a stake in the ground as it were:

Here I am, right here, breathing, resting, open and receptive to the peace of this moment.

Sketching in a little book may not be your way of checking in with where you are. It may be sitting with a cup of tea and just resting for a bit, it might be working a few rows of knitting, or perhaps just taking a short walk, considering where your feet are falling and how your heart is beating. However it is you can check in, I hope you are able to carve out a few moments today, tomorrow and ongoing to ask yourself, “Where am I?”

And perhaps you can make a simple sketch of where you are and what’s happening underfoot, pinning and penning a root, an anchor, to steady you for the day ahead.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. If you’re in need of any encouragement for this along the way, consider this ebook & video course for inspiration and instruction.

Sketchbook Chat #5: Ordinary Drawings from an Ordinary Life

It is my desire to resume my Sketchbook Chats, so I’m picking up where I left off and offering you the fifth one!

I was out in my backyard drawing the rhododendron bush that is showing off right by our deck. I had planned to video more outside there, but alas, a neighbor began to mow his lawn, so I came indoors to show more sketches, drawings, paintings, all from my sketchbooks over the last several weeks.

I hope you are continuing to draw and sketch your life, finding beauty along the way!

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Weaving Through Lent

For several weeks now I’ve been working diligently toward a rather extensive project. I got the idea to create tapestry weavings through the season of Lent culminating on Easter Sunday. As I voiced the idea to my husband, we came up with a way to work together with another artist in our church to bring this installation of woodburnings, poetry and weavings to life.

On Instagram I’ve been posting snippets and sneak peaks of this “secret project” for many weeks. It has not been so secret to our church family as they have enjoyed seeing a new tapestry, poem and woodburning each week through Lent. This week there have been three, making 9 weavings altogether.  All is revealed in this episode of my Knitterly Arts Podcast. We created artworks based on themes taken from Lent and Passion Week, culminating in 9 woodcarvings, 9 weavings, and 12 sonnets and villanelles.

You are able to view this installation by employing the pause button to read the sonnets, view details in the woodburnings and weavings, as well as read my explanations of where I found inspiration for each tapestry.

It is my sincere hope that this artistic offering will encourage and bring joy this Eastertide, despite my amateur my filming skills. :/

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*Woodburnings created by Asher McClain.

*Poetry written by Randy Edwards. To read more of his poetry (and hear him read it as well!) visit backward mutters.com.

*Tapestry Weavings by Jennifer Edwards (yours truly:).

And the music you will hear in the video is composed and played by our son William Edwards. You can find more of his music on Soundcloud.

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May you have a beautiful and joy-filled Easter!

An Everyday Outlet

For Day 6 of #drawtheordinary through Lent, I’m to draw a “wall plug”. I should’ve thought about that wording a bit more because what I meant was “an outlet”.  No matter, plug or outlet, they are both ordinary things. (At least they are to those of us fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where electricity is  available.:)

The crazy thing about all this focusing on the ordinary long enough to draw it in our sketchbooks, is that sparks start flying as we do. Each ordinary sketch of an everyday item ignites a world of thought, delight, and sometimes even…transformation.

I sat for a bit just looking at the simple rectangle with two receptacles noting that there’s a bit of form and shape where the 3 prongs of a plug go in. Then I notice that these three holes look interestingly like a face…or a house – two eyes and a mouth OR two windows and a door. All of a  sudden I’m wondering –

What’s inside this thing?

How in the world does it hold energy or electricity that is accessed merely by placing metal prongs (or one’s fingers) inside?

What magic lies inside those black shapes? Is it a colony of lightening bolts? A family hanging out waiting patiently (or not) for the time when they’ll be put to use?

And so on and so forth…

The crazy…and wonderful…thing about this 20 second reverie is that by simply turning my focus to an ordinary object, my imagination was ignited. It was as if by focusing in on this everyday, typically unnoticed thing in my home, I had plugged into a source of creativity that led me to magical worlds were families of electric bolts live and move and have their being.

This doesn’t happen every single time I draw something. No, sometimes a wall plug is just that…a wall plug. Or outlet. But it is in the focus and attention to things I wouldn’t normally engage with, that creativity is sparked. I can fan it into flame by drawing it and having a bit of fun imagining what these electric bolt people look like. Perhaps they need me to plug my lamp in so they don’t get too bored. Perhaps that little guy up in the right window reached out and zapped me as I sat staring into their home. I dunno. Could be.

What I do know is that I’ll continue peering into ordinary places, drawing what I see there, knowing that sparks may fly in the process. Do jump in on the fun! You’re never too late to join the Lenten drawing party! You can download all the drawing prompts through Lent or simply find ordinary things to draw each day in your sketchbook.

Buen Camino friends!

-Jennifer

*The drawing journey through Lent is blogged HERE, and Instagrammed HERE.

*Inspiration & Instruction for drawing your life is HERE. 🙂

Remembering

It’s that time of year when I remember.

I don’t do it on purpose. It’s perhaps the imprint of that crazy wilderness pilgrimage to the hospital for three weeks and then home to slowly heal. Four years ago, my body was in decline, losing a battle with ulcerative colitis, and was eventually required to give up a colon or die. I suppose its ok that I do this remembering each year. Especially since the remembering is full of goodness and love and mercy. Yeah…you read that right…and I’m not just speaking in hyperbole here. I know and remember well the discomfort, the pain, the agony of body leading up to surgery as well as after. But alongside all of that, perhaps in equal portions to the yucky, was a goodness I actually find myself longing to return to.

I won’t go into all this goodness today. You can, if interested, read about some of it here and also here. But what characterizes that time in my life are two words – pilgrimage and unplugged. Even as symptoms worsened despite massive medicinal intake, I knew I was on a pilgrimage of some kind. I had never really been much of an observer of Lent, but that reality of walking into a desert was very real and somehow comforting at the time. I knew I was being led somewhere, though I had no inkling of what all would happen in my body. But I was aware of walking a path marked out for me and had an uncanny sense that I was right where I was supposed to be.

By necessity, I had to unplug from everything that made up my normal life. Teaching art to elementary kids eventually had to stop, eating became a struggle, getting things done around the house and for my family rapidly declined and then went away altogether as I entered the bleakest part of my wilderness sojourn. Walking the halls of Forsyth Hospital post-surgery became one of the truest images of a pilgrim’s walk – painful, humiliating, yet necessary and healing.

I’ve taken to drawing a couple of plugs around our house. Or rather…unplugged plugs. I suppose I’m drawn to what they represent – an unplugging from whatever I typically view as a life-giving source, to pull back and reevaluate what exactly it is I’m plugged into for “life” and consider where I might need to be rightly reoriented or plugged in. In some weird way, I know this attraction to unplugged plugs is because Lent is coming up (March 1) which is rather late compared to last year, and even to the year when my own wilderness walk took place in 2013.

It is time. It is time to walk in memory of past pilgrimages, while also marking the current one. It’s time to unplug somehow from what typically feeds me in order to consider more fully the Source of all energy and how I might plug into that.

I’m quite excited about my Lenten pilgrimage this year. Last year, I walked every day, drawing something each day from those walks and posting the reflection on A Pilgrim’s Draw. I’ll be doing something similar this year with a slightly different focus. I’ve already posted the basic trajectory for this drawing pilgrimage on that blog and am inviting folks there and here to join me! This year’s stay-at-home Lenten pilgrimage will be a blend of walking, drawing ordinary things, and reflection on a book I’ve just finished reading titled Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren.

I’m realizing more and more that my daily practice of drawing and sketching in a sketchbook is a kind of liturgy. It’s a habit that has formed me and “drawn” me to see beyond the ordinary things, people or places I draw. As Tish writes:

“The often unseen and unsung ways we spend our time are what form us. Our mundane moments…shape us through habit and repetition, moment by passing moment, into people who spend their days and therefore their lives marked by the love of God.” pg. 32.

Wont’ you join me in this daily habit? If you need encouragement to develop and/or keep going in drawing your life in a sketchbook, consider walking through my new ebook and video course. Or just come along with me on a drawing pilgrimage through Lent, which you can read about and follow A Pilgrim’s Draw here and download a PDF of daily drawing prompts for Lent. You may want to unplug from drawing “life” via your iPhone and social media and instead plug into drawing your life in a sketchbook. You might also wish to purchase Warren’s book for reflection over the next 6 weeks or so.

It is likely that you have places you remember, either painful or beautiful (or both!). Let’s walk together the path marked out for us, drawing our ordinary lives, creating beauty from the everyday things around us, and remembering the goodness that’s at hand.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer