A New Year Brings Change…

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Dear friend and fellow creatives!
A New Year has rolled in and along with it a plethora of ideas are swirling in my head! I have so much to share with you! As I noted in my last newsletter, the Knitterly Arts Newsletter will be changing. In fact, tomorrow I will be sending out the first of its kind. It will be called:

An Artful Lifeline
Weekly notes of encouragement…a lifeline…
to keep you inspired on your quest to live an Artful Life!

This new version is intended for any and ALL who like making things with their hands, be it drawings & paintings, knitted & crocheted projects, spinning & weaving, and whatever else your particular love might be. Our craft, no matter what form it takes, is our Lifeline. For me, creative work allows me to take flights of fancy while also tethering me, grounding me to all that is true, good and beautiful in my life. I have a feeling your creative work does this for you too. And we always need encouragement to see our work in this way. All of us, no matter whether we are beginners in our art & craft, or whether we are seasoned artists, need to be reminded of how our art speaks to us and infuses our everyday lives with beauty and joy.

Each week you will receive a short but sweet note in your e-mailbox with the following:
**An Artful thought for the week ahead designed to encourage you to keep on making things and to see your life through the lens of creativity.

This is the main focus of An Artful Lifeline, and may be the only thing sent to you each week. But there will also be, from time to time:
**Links to any of my recent blog posts you might have missed.
**More links to resources, both my own as well as others, for further creative encouragement.
**Shop Updates and discount codes for my ETSY shops as well as my Fine Art America shop!

If you are wanting all the good stuff that the Knitterly Arts Newsletter used to have, you can find it in my video podcast, which I’ll be continuing this year!!

All Episodes of the Knitterly Arts Podcast are now on You Tube
and each episode’s Show Notes are housed on my Knitterly Arts blog.

Be sure to subscribe both places so you won’t miss any episodes!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If this new Artful Lifeline doesn’t sound like something you are interested in, NO PROBLEM! Simply hit the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the newsletter. If you want to receive An Artful Lifeline , and you are already receiving the Knitterly Arts Newsletter, then do nothing at all! I will be keeping you on the subscriber list.

**If you have never received the Knitterly Arts Newsletter but wish to receive An Artful Lifeline, SUBSCRIBE HERE!

But if not, no offense is taken at all. I am grateful for your past support and for any who desire to keep living Artfully along with me!

Artfully yours,
Jennifer

Roadside Word Picking

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New Year’s Eve…I love Eve’s. They feel like that timeless space of hovering right before warp speed takes over. The eve of something begs for preparation, anticipation, reflection… a mindfulness about the next day and all that it will usher in. Christmas Eve feels like that, and so does New Year’s Eve.

The living room Christmas tree, my studio French tree, and all other decorations are down, packed away carefully and the house feels spacious and clear, ready for a New Year. I’m ready too! And excited for what 2017 might have in store. I know, full well, there will be challenges and perhaps even downright difficulties, sad and painful events. But I also know that making will be a huge part of the year ahead, just as it has been this past year and for so many  years of my life. It is what carries me, strengthens me, gives me joy. Creativity is the lens through which I see my life for the beauty that it is. Making things, be it drawings or paintings, knitted or crocheted items and now spinning wool and weaving wall-hangings, sustains me through thick and thin, in plenty and in want. As I make with my hands, it’s as if I’m holding a lifeline, grounding my feet to what is true, good and beautiful. Creativity allows me to take flights of fancy as it tethers and roots me to home and hearth. Living Artfully allows me to see beauty, as well as create it, in everyday, humble circumstances. I need this Artful way of living and I’m thrilled to continue in the New Year!

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This week between Christmas and New Year’s I’ve been spending some time pondering. Pondering and writing go hand-in-hand for me and I’ve logged numerous pages as I’ve tried to make sense of and sort through what felt like a jumble of clutter in my creative life. 2016 seemed to end with way too many irons in the fire, an explosion of too  many directions and not enough time or energy to really do any of them well. As I’ve left a pen’s worth of ink on the page, a sorting has occurred. As I’ve pondered the year ahead, a couple of words stand out to me:

SLOW and SIMPLIFY

Both verbs, they go together well, one nourishing the other. In simplifying my life, it is apt to slow me down a bit. As I slow my pace, things will need to simplify naturally. Much of this is challenging me to indeed clear out a few things. But mostly it’s a call to live present in each moment as if it is the only moment, and breathe into it, slowing and simplifying my expectation of accomplishment. This past year I began working on this in my day to day life. I did not master it (I wonder if that’s even possible) and therefore will continue the work of slowing and simplifying, even if it is just one small thing at a time.

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The shakedown of all this pondering has left me with a simpler way of seeing all that I do as a creative person. My work as a knit and crochet teacher, the video podcasts, blogging in numerous places, as well as  pattern writing, will all continue but on a lessened scale. My hope is that this will allow me to spend less time on a computer and more time with a sketchbook or fiber in my hands. I’m increasingly drawn to spinning and weaving, which hold in themselves this call to slow down and simplify. It amazes me how I’m drawn to certain kinds of craft which hold an inherent way of living with them. In this, in spending time making, I am more in touch with the beauty around me and I learn how to live my everyday life with grace and wonder.

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I do have new ideas I’d like to see unfold in the New Year. But my gut tells me it isn’t now. Later. Perhaps even in the next year. For now, SLOW and SIMPLE is the way forward, relishing life, making with my hands, reminding myself and others that it isn’t about how MUCH you make, but HOW you make it…slow, gentle, and savored.

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All of this talk of SLOW and SIMPLIFY may seem so pie-in-the-sky! Even I myself, have a little scoffer sitting on my shoulder as I type: “Ha! This is gonna last you maybe the next hour, Jen, but wait ’til warp speed hits!” But to this I say that it’s not necessarily about being less busy. Life is full and seems to grow busier with each year. But this is more about a state of mind, a way of being in the midst of the busy-ness. Certainly I will need to pull back on what I say yes to. But I am committed to experiencing all of life with the same attention and slowness I give to drawing, or spinning, the same focus that’s needed for weaving and knitting. To grow in this capacity will be lovely. Yet even in the slowing and simplifying is a need to go slowly with it, simplifying the steps.

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It all boils down to this: I plan on pulling off the daily path to sit each day and ponder. To draw the landscape around me. To knit the beauty into my heart. To weave wonder and grace into my life and offer it to others. I hope you’ll continue to walk with me here. Let’s savor together the work of our hands and the joy it brings us! Let’s encourage each other to go SLOW, to SIMPLIFY our distracted lives, and to live Artfully each day.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Could It Be?

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Could it be, in these small un-arted hours, beauty is wrought?

Could it be, in dishes and diapers, laundry and lunches, heaven is laid out?

Could it be, in lack and leanness, provision is lavished?

Could it be, in faces – not fancies – that fullness is found?

Could it be, as I embrace the small, my life is enlarged?

Could it be, that ART is happening even when I’m not making it?

Could it be, in all I feel as futile, God is fashioning beauty?

Could it be, the big life I long for is found in the little life I live?

Could it be, the constraints of time and money, unleash creativity?

Could it be, the pain of not making is simply the longing to be near Thee?

Could it be, this passion that seems to leak out a sieve, is actually being sifted, refined, made pure?

Could it be, even if I had all the time, energy, and provision to do my art, to live the big life I long for, that it would not be enough to satisfy or reach said big life and big art?

Could it be, that in me – a common vessel – resides eternity?

Could it be, that this side of heaven, I’m to weave my little thread, even if it’s the same thread as yesterday, or a new one I find along the way?

Could it be, my daily work is to draw a line from everyday things to eternity and back again.

Could it be, that contained in my insignificant, small life, the realms of heaven abide and He lives in grace and truth abounding?

Could it be, that the King of all nations would be born in a barn and sleep in a trough?

Could it be, that the Master Artist comes to create in humble, insignificant lives?

Could it be, the grandest art is made on the littlest scale?

Could it be, that True Beauty is wrought in lack, insignificance, and tedium?

Could it be I have it all wrong – instead of this life being about ME being able to do my art and thereby live my BIG life…that it is rather about CHRIST, the high and holy one, coming to live BIG in my humble and insignificant life?

Could it be, that my insignificant life is transformed into a magnificent one through the humblest of events – a babe in a manger, Emmanuel, God with us.

*****

Retuning my heart this day after Christmas, weary from so much merry-making, wondering where the Beauty is, reclaiming what is true and good. May your days after Christmas be magnificently insignificant as the babe weaves His love into your life.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

What I Really Want for Christmas

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The month of December is filled with distractions.  I’m moving from here to there to yonder with increased speed. Lights and tinsel pulling my eyes from where my feet are planted. To-do lists lengthening with each passing day. Longings abound for more provision, more peace, and an ability to make just the right holiday celebration for my family. On top of all of that, my own desires and wishes for things I don’t allow myself to purchase throughout the year seem to bob to the surface waving gleefully at me.

I recently wrote a letter to Santa and posted it on Instagram. It’s a tongue-in-cheek-though-based-on-truth letter from my inner artist child to whomever might read about the visions of sparkly, colorful batts of wool and glittery drop spindles that dance in my head. It’s true. Having recently dipped my big toe into spinning and weaving, I am now being pulled into a colorful, sparkly world (much like the glitz and glow of Christmas itself!) dreaming of all the supplies for this new-to-me craft. In between all the shopping and wrapping, visions of wool and spindles and looms are prancing in my wee head.

It all gets me to thinking though. What is it I really want for Christmas? A stocking full of bright-colored wool and spindles will likely not bring the provision and peace I long for daily. When I stop and breathe and drop into a space of present-ness, I can experience the ache for those good things which cannot fit into a stocking. Healing, wholeness, rest, and provision…in essence Peace on earth and Goodwill toward men. Yes, this is what I want.

And when I sit in this place long enough, I begin to realize that I actually do have all of these things, in some measure (not in their fullness), right now, right here where I am in life. In the midst of all that is going on in my family, in the lives of loved ones and friends, I can see bits of this healing and provision, some small, some big. The deep things I long for are actually afoot as Christ comes to us daily, Emmanuel with us. I just need eyes to see it.

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This week, as these visions of wool and spindles dance in my head, I’m taking an extra moment to breathe and pull back the distracting curtain of holiday hoopla to really look for the presents that are in many ways already mine in Christ. They are yours too! The thing is…even though woolly batts and spindles are not THE thing, somehow Christ comes to us in and through them, as we make things with our hands. This is not meant as a justification for buying stuff. It is merely a recognition that even in the good things that we want in our stockings, glittery and sparkly though they be,  He comes to us and offers something far more beautiful and amazing – His own self, the Christ child, the babe in the manger.

I want eyes to see. Yes, that would be a lovely gift in my stocking this year and every year. A deepening ability to see Him, in and through and beyond all the goodness in my life, as well as in all the pain and hardship too.

A Very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

***

“Lord, purge our eyes to see
Within the seed a tree
Within the glowing egg a bird
Within the shroud a butterfly.
Till, taught by such we see
Beyond all creatures, Thee…”

Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
English poet

Kork Nisses Discovered and Designed

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Every now and then I discover something that sparks a flurry of creativity. Perhaps “flurry” isn’t the word…more like a snowstorm! Over the Thanksgiving holiday I found these little cuties and rushed to click on the Free Pattern links.

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But when I did, there was no pattern to be found. Not even the website. For some reason, the pattern for knitting a Nisse had been removed and I could only find a paragraph written in Norwegian, which sadly I could not decipher.

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OK…so let’s try for a crochet version. Yes! A crochet pattern here indeed! But I wanted some changes…a slightly different single crochet fabric as well as a different shaped hat. So off I went in creating both a knitted pattern and a crocheted version of my very own!! I think my family thought I had fallen down a rabbit hole.

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Indeed it felt very much like being transported to another world. I eagerly looked up the definition of Nisse and this is what I found:

A tomte, nisse or tomtenisse (Sweden) (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈtɔ̀mːtɛ]), nisse (Norway and Denmark) (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈnìsːɛ] or Danish pronunciation: [ˈnesə], Danish plural nisser) or tonttu (Finland) is a mythological creature from Scandinavian folklore today typically associated with the winter solstice and the Christmas season. It is generally described as being no taller than three feet, having a long white beard, and wearing a conical or knit cap in red or some other bright color.

They often have an appearance somewhat similar to that of a garden gnome.[1]

–Wikipedia

How delightful! These would be the perfect mystery make for my knit & crochet students when we resumed classes after the holidays. And yes…they have enjoyed them immensely and now I can share the love with you all!

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Feel free to download either the Kork Nisse Knit pattern OR the Kork Nisse Crochet pattern. Or if you are multi-stitchual, grab both!

And I hope you enjoy the fun of making your own little village of Nisses! Share them on Ravelry if you can! I’d LOVE to see them!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Every Common Bush

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Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God;

but only he who sees takes off his shoes.”

-Elizabeth Barret Browning

I’m waking early these days. I haven’t been able to pinpoint why until this morning. Usually, when I start waking up early, it’s due to worries and cares vying for brain space, feeble attempts to solve each problem. This is not the case lately. I’m awake and alive with a desire or anticipation of something…

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I quietly make my way downstairs, slipper-footed, make a pot of coffee, and assume my position on the floor. This has become my favorite spot for Morning Vespers – a space for listening, praying, pondering, treasuring all that I’ve been given, and all that will be granted today. It is a centering space where I ground myself to what is true, knit the words of Christ into my heart, and draw upon His grace for the day.

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I do, literally, draw. Each morning, at least one simple drawing of something around me, right where I am, here where I live and move and have my being. Ordinary, every day things. I used to think, in my early years as an artist, that I had to find the spectacular to draw. I thought I needed the perfect subject matter, the lighting just-so, a favorable composition. For many years now, it is the common ordinary things of my own small life that become burning bushes. As I begin the day, I re-commit to this practice of looking for the “burning bushes”, taking off my shoes and drawing them (the bushes…and the shoes!), knowing that even here is holy ground.

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I think it is the beginning of Advent that has me up so early with a feeling of anticipation and longing. My temptation is to look for something big to happen, something amazing, something grand. But as I draw the ordinary common-place things of my life, I’m reminded that it is the small and insignificant things that Christ comes to inhabit. It is right here, in small towns, in barns and mangers, in the hearts of ordinary people, shepherds as well as wise men.

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Advent is one of my favorite seasons. It really seems like there are burning bushes everywhere – all of earth aflame with God. I want eyes to see these bushes, a heart peeled and looking for them, and hands ready to draw them into my sketchbook and life.

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As I draw, I hear Him calling my name. And like Moses, I answer – Here I am. (Ex. 3:4)

*****

Won’t you join me this Advent, in drawing the common bushes in your life? I’d love to know if you are doing this! And if you are posting your drawings somewhere, let me know so I can walk with you this Advent.

To view these daily drawings, visit me on Instagram.

Nothing to Prove, Everything to Share

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Just like oozly watercolors on paper, the colorful mind of an artist can turn to mud with the introduction of just one wrong thought. You don’t think of it as a “wrong” color to add in the mix with all the rest. You think “oh I’m just assessing the work”, “I’m just analyzing” or “I’m just being realistic.” But the minute, the absolute second, the tip of your brush touches the paper with thoughts of self, outcomes, worthiness, or value, the brown mud creeps into every color on the page chasing joy right out of the picture.

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. But what also happens, fairly soon after I’ve thrown my hands up in the air crying Uncle, is that help begins to rain down. My hands are then catching the lovely drops of nectar that speak directly to my ailment and soothe my soul.

The first of these drops came a few weeks ago as I was agonizing, for the umpteenth trillionth time, over whether or not to start a video podcast. I won’t bore you with all the artistic angst (and believe me – the angst isn’t artistic at all!) I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from my favorite yogi Eoin Finn, which said:

Nothing to Prove. Everything to Share.

The quote was even in the shape of a droplet of water, like dew from heaven. These words leapt off the screen and lodged in my heart so grandly that within 24 hours I had taped and uploaded my first video podcast for sharing my love of knitting and drawing. Eoin had put a hashtag with this quote, #jenniesallen, who has a book coming out soon by this very title: Nothing to Prove. I cannot wait to get my hands (and heart) on this book.

The next gift was a short but profound Good Life Project Riff with Jonathan Fields. I’ve listened to his podcast interviews for years and love hearing from so many voices about the path their creativity takes them. But in his “riffs” (very short podcasts) he jams on a particular subject. In his latest Riff, I was reminded of a truth that sets me free in my creative angst every time! I won’t go into the whole description of Jonathan’s podcast because you will love hearing it straight from him (only 9 minutes!), but I’ll tell you the main gist:

There is no there there.

There is only here now.

Oh how this sets me free from the tyranny of outcomes and plants me firmly where I need to be, fully alive to the moment at hand.

The last gift, though certainly not the least, was discovering this week the work of Michael Nobbs. I had heard of him through Sketchbook Skool for a while, but only a few days ago ventured to his newly revamped website from the Sketchbook Skool Newsletter. After listening to several of his short daily podcasts and reading his writing on Sustainable Creativity, I fell in love with this slow, gentle approach to creative living that Michael embodies.

Michael’s podcasts and writings, timely and inspirational during this week of Art Show preparations, have felt like a comforting hug. With tea in hand, short bursts of work, followed by times of rest, a bit of homely baking and a generous amount of pondering, I will make it to the Art Show and beyond…one small step at a time.

I highly recommend you check out Michael’s beautiful offering! As well as Jonathan Fields and his Good Life Project, Eoin Finn, and Jennie Allen. This season of thankfulness has me abounding in gratitude for all the fellow creatives valiantly sharing their love and messages with us. They enable me to go forth valiantly as well, with nothing whatsoever to prove…

just everything to share.

See you at the Show! 

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****Note on the above sketch: I have taken to drawing jumbles in my home. These are places where lots of STUFF seems to assemble itself into a colorful mess. They are great places to draw!! Drawing the jumbles of my life helps me see that there is beauty in messes. And it also delays the tidying up…:0

Kaleidoscope Living

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Some days, all I see is brokenness. Everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of my friends, family, community, state and country…things are broken. Marriages and dreams, health and finances, family ties and good intentions, all have some aspect of brokenness – a tearing of the fabric,  holes of emptiness, or just flat-out broken shards of a once beautiful ceramic or pane. It’s difficult to know what to do with these broken, torn, or hole-ridden bits of our lives. At first they engender shock and disbelief. They lie around our daily landscape, sometimes being swept into corners and under beds, shoved behind closet doors as we hope they might go away or at least go unnoticed.

As a child I had a fascination with and love for kaleidoscopes. Any kind, whether cardboard or metal tubed, offered hours of gazing, turning them slowly, facing the light and marveling at the beauty inside. As an adult I have a small collection of these cylinders – tubes of magic, that I pull out from time to time to remember the colorful designs, new ones at every turn, beauty from bits and baubles.

It may seem horribly simplistic, maybe even offensive, to reduce the broken bits of our lives into thoughts of a childhood toy. But it heartens me, shall I say even strengthens me, to view the brokenness in me and around me in this way.

Left in a heap or hidden from sight, the broken bits accomplish nothing except weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet hold them together in a cylinder of Love, one might have an opportunity to witness healing and even beauty.

Yet it requires more than merely gathering our brokenness and hurt into our arms. It requires us to move from one end of looking at the heap of broken bits, to the other end, where we can view them through a new lens. We need a lens that takes the broken fragments and transforms them into wonder-filled designs.

We I need to move from gaping at the broken bits, the shrapnel as it were, and walk the narrow path to a new way of seeing. We I need to make the effort to see it all from a different perspective, an eternal one, but one which has its designs firmly rooted here, on earth, in my town, in my own heart.

Once we have this new lens through which to see, we then need to face the Light, letting it penetrate each broken shard to reveal new colors. As our eyes adjust to the brilliance and warmth, we then need to turn, slowly but deliberately, changing how we view one another, our lives, and all our broken places.

As we turn, opening our eyes and hearts to the Light, our new Lens will transform all that is broken. I need to do this each and every day. I need, every day, to re-orient my sight and thus my heart and mind. I must do this for my own health and well-being but also for my children, my friends, and my community. In a very real sense, we need to be Living Kaleidoscopes to everyone we meet, holding out a new way of seeing.

It is not so easy as simply picking up one of my childhood kaleidoscopes. It requires work on my part —

**to refuse to merely gawp and be shocked by the brokenness.

**to make the effort to view life with the Lens of Love.

**to stand fully facing the Light.

**to do the work of turning, changing my perspective, opening my heart  to others, Being the Kaleidoscope.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Knitterly Arts Podcast!

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A creative life is rarely a straight arrow path. Perhaps precisely because it IS creative, the path is winding and circuitous, with many side trails leading off the main one which eventually brings you back on track or becomes the new main path.

This is how my own creative life has felt for nearly 20 years. I imagine it will continue. My love for all things yarn and all things art continue to be both what fascinates me and what sustains me. I’m sharing these two loves in a video podcast.

Knitterly Arts is a phrase that comes up in my head when I think about what I do. It encompasses the knitting and the drawing, crochet and painting. My intent for this podcast is to share my ongoing love of these endeavors, as well as how they speak to  me about life and living everyday with an Artful eye on everything.

All of the Knitterly Arts Podcasts will be hosted on You Tube and housed on a separate blog, which is actually one I used to post to a few years ago. You can subscribe to my You Tube channel as well as to Knitterlyarts.wordpress.com to receive notifications of each podcast. This will be the home for each episode’s Show Notes, links to everything I make reference to in the podcast.

If you enjoy either knitting or drawing, or just love making things in general, this Podcast is for you!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

Here’s the first episode. Be sure to click on the link above to access the Show Notes. All future Podcasts will only be announced on Knitterlyarts.wordpress.com. Enjoy!

In the Presence of a Tree

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I sat in the presence of a tree today
to lean in, to listen to
what it has to say.

To draw from its lines a story of the tree
with pen and brush in hand,
my sketchbook on my knee.

It offered me a leaf, with limb bent low,
and dindled and quivered
glad for me to know.

It drew itself up tall, proud against the sky.
Then settled for the portrait
breathing out a sigh.

My lines caress its roots, mark each scar around the trunk.
Then out on limby ledges,
each a mystery to debunk.

I hear the breeze of ages past, dance from leaf to leaf.
My pen records the music
on a bark-made sheaf.

-jpe

*****

I hope you get to sit in the presence of a tree today!

(The above is today’s drawing for #inktober!)