An Artful Life Primer

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The topic of this book began to take shape soon after my sickness and surgery in 2013. It was June. I’d been doing a lot of thinking, knitting and drawing as I continued to heal, grow stronger and get used to life without a colon. I stood at the sink washing dishes in the beach house where my husband’s family goes for a week of vacation every year. As I washed dishes, the thought came into my head that I no longer wanted an Art Career. Numerous and varied attempts to find my niche seemed to fall flat and be frustrated by life’s demands. It occurred to me there, with suds and dirty dishes in hand, that what I really wanted was an Artful Life.

An Artful Life, to me, meant that ALL of life would be infused with creativity. Or at least with an eye for seeing the beauty in it, no matter what came my way. An Art Career could be, and was, constantly interrupted by domestic duties and often sidelined by health crises. An Artful Life, on the other hand, would be possible, if I lived all of life as opportunity for seeing beauty and listening to what it had to say to me. I realized there at the sink, that I had already been doing this for many years. I had somehow learned to use my pen and knitting needles to draw the beauty out of my circumstances and knit it into my heart.

After a second, and then a third surgery to deal with issues arising from the first one, I began to pen a very basic outline of what I was doing to live this Artful Life. I realized I had been developing a practice, a daily habit, of showing up to the page, the sketchbook, the wools & cottons, and working out what I encountered in life. It didn’t matter if life was boring or repetitive, exciting or painful…ALL of it could be scoured for beauty. Creating something, ANYTHING, in and through life’s days became a vehicle for seeing, capturing, releasing the beauty that I was convinced was there.

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This little book is all about my practice of creativity. It is very simple, perhaps too simple, in its straightforward three-fold approach. But I wrote this with you in mind. I want you, no matter your creative background or dependence on rulers for a straight line ;), to be able to engage in a practice of living artfully. Indeed, this practice doesn’t even require that you know how to draw or knit! Simple acts of creation are all that is needed. It will change you. That’s fairly bold to say. To practice creativity on a daily, or multi-days-a-weekly basis will transform you in astonishing ways.

Beauty comes to us in many forms and surprising packages. We need to train our eyes to see it, our hands to capture it, and our hearts to be transformed by it. Beauty is everywhere, in everything we do and experience. Even in washing dirty dishes.

An Artful Life Primer: Practicing Creativity to See, to Listen, and to be Transformed

Available on Amazon

Cast On

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Here’s where it all starts. Make a slip knot and begin.

Cast on a desired number of stitches and then work the rest of the piece from there.

There’s no way around it really. You have to cast on. Even if it’s only two stitches. Or two hundred. This is how we begin.

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Yet it can cause a good bit of consternation. Which cast on should I use? The pattern may or may not say. If I’m designing, I must consider which one will yield the desired edge both in stretch and in braid. For folks new to knitting, the cast on, once left behind for rows of knit and purl, is often forgotten when the next project is begun. How did I cast on? If I use Long Tail, then just how much yarn do I need to leave in order to have enough for the cast on? So many questions and uncertainties.

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It is true also in drawing and painting. How shall I begin? Where do I start on the page? What medium will I start with? Do I fill the whole page? or only part of it? If I start here, will I have enough room for the subject? For some, this very beginning part can create such a storm of questions that paralysis sets in all too soon.

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Yet for me, the beginning is perhaps the most exciting part. Two needles, or a hook, and some lovely yarn. A blank page and a pen. Such possibilities. Anticipation. A bit of chocolate helps!

Even if the initial idea gets frogged only a few rows into it, or the sketch needs to be started over again, the fun is in the diving in, the beginning, the start of something new. This is one of the many reasons I love making things. Each and every day I have an opportunity to start something fresh and new and exciting and different,  in yarn or paint, on needles or in a sketchbook, with a hook or with a canvas.

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Looking around at my studio right now I might have to admit to too many beginnings. I know I will finish them. I usually do. All in good time.

But right now, I just have to start a new crochet design that’s been banging around in my head. It all began with casting on another shoulder cozy (first photo) and in no more than four or five rows my fingers knew this yarn was wanting to be crocheted into something else entirely.

Ok. So here we go. Starting something new. Again.

Perhaps you can start something new today! I’d love to hear about it if you do!!

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Notes on the above photos: First photo’s yarn has now been frogged and is being crocheted into a new vest design. Second photo is the start of a brioche cowl I have finished and plan on teaching in October (watch for details about the classes in my monthly Knitterly Arts Newsletter!) Third photo is a line drawing of a recent visit to our Ciener Botanical Gardens. Fourth photo is the beginning foundation chain and first rows in a recent crochet design I hope will be available in pattern soon! Fifth photo is my first foray into embroidering my own drawings. Should be fun!

May Knitterly Arts Newsletter!

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My Knitterly Arts Newsletter for the month of May is now out and about!

Be sure to subscribe to receive it every month FREE in your email box.

Wishing you an artful day!

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Jennifer

Yarned In!

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I don’t know what comes over me! If there’s even the slightest prediction of snow accumulation above one inch, I seem to go into a trance. A yarn trance that is. Creative cogs in high gear, I pull down yarns from various sections of the house, putting them in my big white bowl to see how they get along with one another. It doesn’t make sense…I DO have several, in progress projects that could well be completed if I used the impending snow storm hours to finish them!! My Rhubarb Blanket is just inches away from being done! A pair of socks only needs the foot and toe parts to complete a whole pair! Hitchhiker Shawl languishes midway. Surely I could just sit and knit happily on any of these!!! But no…

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Woolly ideas, like sheep dancing in my dreams, go traipsing through my head. Pattern books are pulled down off the shelf. Knit and crochet magazines get rifled through. Loose leaf printed patterns off the internet are looked at. Ravelry is scoured.

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The search? Tunic. Vest. Cardigan? Not? As is typical for me, I cannot find just what I want. So I shift into an even deeper trance of making it up as I go. I know what I want. I see it in my head. Lots of colors. Bulky yarn leftovers. A warm, woolly something to knit in the coming snow storm…to wear in the days after.

WildHare4 Fair isle. Yes! Who better to guide me than Kristin Nicholas and her expert and marvelous book Color by Kristin. Stitch patterns and charts are poured over, some decided, some not. A desire to create as I go is much more satisfying than having it all planned out at the start. The snow will guide me. The colors and yarn will show the way. I have only to begin.

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And so I do as the first flakes fall. No matter that we only get around 2″ and then some sleet and ice. But schools are closed. Everywhere is white. Snow means knitting. Hours and hours of knitting. Who cares that there are people in this house who need me to get up and go do things for them!? Sorry folks, if you need food or clean clothes…I’m “yarned in”! Quite literally, if you saw me sitting in my corner-of-the-studio chair, you would see me buried under piles of fluffy wool much like the snow falling down all around out the windows here. The only difference is that this fluffy stuff in my hands is sooo colorful!

It’s all bits of this and that. Leftovers from other projects. I feel certain they will be happy together…but I really won’t know until I knit them together. Fair Isle and bulky yarns are a bit tricky…keeping the floats loose enough is a challenge. But I don’t care. The snow trance has hold of me good, and I’m “yarned in”. Hemmed in by wools, size 13 round knitting needles, and a wonderful book from which to pick and choose all sorts of delicacies as I go.

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I’m about half way finished! And it is now snowing again outside, two days after the first “storm” hit us. There is more predicted for the weekend. I think I’ll be yarned in for a few more days! I think I like that! But my family might not. They look over at me, roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders. Then they open the pantry to search for something to eat. 🙂

***P.S. You can follow my progress on Instagram, if you like! I’ve called this my Wild Hare Tunic! It’s a play on words, as in “wild hair” when you get a crazy idea and run with it.

Where Real Women Create

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I have, for a few years now, enjoyed getting my hands on a magazine called, Where Women Create. It is a beautifully photographed magazine showcasing the studios and crafting rooms of women from all over the United States, possibly in other countries as well. It is wonderful to read about how these artists/crafters got to be where they are and to see the spaces in which they make things. I especially like the favorite quote that each woman shares. I purchased this summer’s edition for my post-surgery recuperation time and have loved taking in all the loveliness.

Yet after reading this magazine, I’m always left with a question. “So where do ‘real’ women create?” By “real”, I’m not in any way saying that the women featured in the magazine are not. I just wonder if there would ever be a magazine to showcase where women who are not/have not yet made it big in the crafting world, create. What about the little nooks, the kitchen tables and counters, the under-the-stair cubby or the basement corner where so many women make a creative nest for themselves? Couldn’t we feature the myriads of ways that women, who juggle multiple children and/or full-time work loads, come up with to create?

Years ago, when my children were wee tiny, we lived in a small, 1920’s Craftsman-style Bungalow. It had a built-in breakfast nook with a butler’s pantry. I stowed two tupperware bins under the benches where the table was. These tupperware bins held all my painting and drawing supplies which I pulled out during my kids’ nap time to daily teach myself to draw and paint.

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I have often drawn the space where I create now in our home in Kernersville. The above drawing was made just a couple of days ago. You can see others here, here, and here.  It is the sunroom off of the kitchen, open to everyone and everything that might come wandering in. It has our piano, two chairs, a sewing machine, a big teacher’s desk, a tall set of shelves, and a drawing table, all of which I use excepting the piano…this is where my son plays beautiful music. My oldest daughter, when she is home from college, knits and sews here, creating beautiful quilts. As an art space it isn’t ideal. But it works. It works rather well. Except in the summer when they are all home. 😉

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I often take my “studio” outside…to knit or draw on the back porch, to paint in our yard or neighborhood, to sketch and paint downtown or some other area here in my town. I once read of a studio artist who sold all his easels and large-scale papers/canvases to make his studio the world at large, happily drawing and painting “out there” with only a portable chair and his on-the-go art supplies.

The woman I enjoyed reading about the most in this summer edition of Where Women Create, is Karen Way:

“Creative spaces come in many different sizes and shapes. It’s not the room that’s important; it’s what comes from within that room that counts. I have sewn and created all of my adult life. Over those years, my sewing rooms have been on the dining room table, tucked in small closets, and down in our dark, unfinished basement. My most recent creative space was actually brought about from tragedy.” (pg. 16)

So, I ask you…where do YOU create? If you feel so inclined, leave a comment describing your nook or table or however it is you manage to make a spot for yourself to make stuff whether it be drawing or knitting, clay work or weaving. If you’ve blogged about it before, leave us a link in your comment so that others can go visit and see your space. If you blog, and haven’t ever featured your creative spot, consider doing so soon and then come back and give us the link.

I, for one, would love to see where REAL women create…real, everyday, work-a-day women who simply want to live life a bit more artfully.

“One doesn’t need a huge space for creativity to flourish…one only needs LOVE!” -jpe

I Will Create!

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This is an oldy I wrote years ago, but I’ve been running the words in my head of late. We can so easily be consumed by the sadness in this world: mass killings of humanity, hunger abroad and in our own towns, financial woe, health issues, family matters, work difficulties, etc.

I choose to stand against the looming oppression of these things by making something beautiful. Though it is a small gesture, when we all create something lovely, whether it be in yarn or paint, clay or paper, on a stage or in your backyard, we are fighting the ugliness that rears its head in our world.

Let us stand together today against all that threatens to undo us, and make something beautiful and share it with the world.

P.S. Did you know I like to write poetry? I have a self-published collection of my poetry available on Amazon or a signed copy in my Etsy Shop. It’s sure to bring a smile to your face on a dreary day. 🙂

A Bunting We Will Go

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A bunting we will go…A bunting we will go…High ho the derry-oh…a bunting we will go!

Tee Hee! This little project was so much fun to work on the last few days. It really didn’t last long enough! But I’m enjoying the end result and it seems my family loves it too! A bit of back story: A couple of years ago, I was making a bunch of things to give as Christmas presents to all our cousins, and Maddie was helping me. One day, when Randy walked in, she said, “Dad, we’re making lots of stuff in Genevieve’s Workshop!” Right then and there I thought it would be fun to have a sign or something over the entrance to “my studio”, aka. family sunroom.

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As I’ve run several options through my mind, I was recently captivated by the Granny Square Triangle Bunting Lucy was making over at Attic24. Her tutorials are always spot-on, and this one was no exception. I switched things up only a tiny bit to serve my purpose here, but it seemed the perfect way to add signage to my art space. Here’s what I did:

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I used Vickie Howell’s Sheep-Ish yarn for its bright, bold colors and an H hook. I worked each triangle in two colors, choosing the outer color of the previous triangle for the inner color of the next triangle. For the “space” in between the words, Genevieve’s Workshop, I made a multi-colored triangle. Once I had all the triangles I needed, I strung them together with three rows of single crochet across the top, using a different color for each row. I then followed Lucy’s fantastic instruction for flattening out the crochet (brilliant!).  I used stencils to cut out the letters from a fabric chosen to show up on the bright colors. I simply used Elmer’s glue to glue them onto the triangles. Et Voila!

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Now I’m dreaming of other places in our house that “need” a little bunting love! I really did enjoy this project! So simple, very fast, and it really adds a festiveness to our kitchen/sunroom area.

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You should go a-bunting too! 🙂 And then you must drawcument the result, as I did here. Drawing what you make is a great way to celebrate that you actually completed something and to record the finished product.