“I Will Never…”

I should have known better. It’s happened a couple of times before. I said it years ago…”I will never knit socks.” And then, somehow (I honestly don’t remember what made me pick up teeny tiny needles and start knitting my first sock) I found myself knitting pairs of socks one right after the other.

So I should have known a couple of years ago, NOT to say, “I will never spin.” I was so firmly confident that with the panoply of yarns available, already spun, I would just do myself a favor and stay away from the whole spinning thing. And certainly not bring in another piece of furniture to collect dust in my house. Nope. I will never spin. So I said.

Never say never.

Here’s how it went. One of my students/knitting friends was first and foremost a spinner. Out of a desire to talk to her about her passion, listening to her describe what she was learning, a tiny speck of curiosity took up residence somewhere in my creative world. Of course I told her “I will never spin” and all the whys. Oh a drop spindle? What’s that? Small thing? Doesn’t take up a lot of space? Fun to use, portable…oh really? Hm. Perhaps I could try it. My oldest daughter had recently taken to spinning and was doing great with her drop spindle. So I thought, “Why not?” and bought a spindle and some wool.

Why not indeed?

It’s like a staircase. One step up.  You don’t realize the stair steps are leading you somewhere. You just take that step out of curiosity and voila, another step appears. A fall fiber festival with wool and spindles hanging everywhere, with big neon signs (not really) on them saying Spin Me! More conversations with the spinning friend. A visit to a spinning guild with her on a Sunday afternoon where someone was giving away some of her spindles, demonstrating ways to use them, and ladies sitting at their wheels. Uh oh. Wheels. Those look fascinating. And that lovely sound they make. And look at the gorgeous yarns they spin. Perhaps I could find one that looks compact, not so big and bulky. Oh and maybe I could paint one…I saw that at the Fiber Festival!

Several stair steps later, last summer, I bought a vintage Louet spinning wheel from a local spinner for a super price. Promptly painted it. I kept thinking what if I can’t do it? What if I’m just not able to make this thing work? I sat down to it and began to spin. And wonder of wonders, I took to it right away. A duck to water. That kind of thing. All of a sudden I found the stair step I had climbed was now a broad open field of wool and fiber with little gates leading off to dying wool, eco dying, blending wool, batts, rolags, and braids. A delightful place to spin around in.

This stair step thing is how it goes most of the time. I suppose for some folks, they fall into a new creative outlet hook, line, and sinker, all in one fell swoop. For me, it is often dipping a little toe in and just seeing what the waters are like. Telling myself all the while…”OK, this is alright, but I will never go any further with it.” Ha!

I’m learning…to never say never. Ya just never know! 🙂

Filaments of Light

What is it about spinning? The wonder…the allure? Can someone even explain why? I will attempt to do so here, but at the end of it all…this fascination baffles me. From a certain viewpoint, taking fluff of various kinds and turning it into string seems incredibly strange, silly and perhaps even nonsensical. You know how people say to us knitters…”why are you knitting socks when you can just go buy them, wear them immediately, and spend far less for them?” Well…think about this in reference to spinning yarn. I  mean really. Yarn in all variations, combinations, colors, textures, price points, etc is available to any who might wish to have it. So why spin one’s own yarn?

Well…

(Cue up the grand music, the poetry, the meditation of body and soul…)

And there, right there, I’m lost for words. How do I speak of the fluff of roving, wool batts, braids, sparkly fiber, wooly locks, alpaca, silk, and more? How can I describe the colors, intense and saturated, light and airy, pastel and muted, and the ever-beautiful basic cream of undyed wool? How do I tell you what it’s like to sit at a spinning wheel, fibers flowing through one’s hands and watch it turn into a strand of color and texture, sometimes barber-poling, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, sometimes slubbed and rough, other times smooth and creamy? And oh boy…how do I explain the wonder, the beauty of plying two strands of handspun yarn together? Oh the delight, the giddiness, the sheer bliss of this pastime? Even drop spindles hold a fascination for me that may be beyond description. Twirling dervishes of wooly delight.

The only way I know to speak of this amazing activity is to say that when I spin, with a wheel or spindles, it feels as if I am spinning filaments of light. To be sure many of the combined batts (both purchased and those I am now creating with a blending board…oh the crazy delight of that…but I shall not bore you with a poetic description, at least not today anyway) contain sparkly man-made fibers that glow and glisten as you spin. But even just the plain wool itself, especially when caught in the light just so, looks like tiny strands of light lining up into a cord as I spin, however thick or thin. This fascination with filaments of light is what gets me. I’m not sure I have any other explanation than this. Filaments of Light.

I cannot even say that I spin in order to knit with it or weave with it, though I certainly do both. But I actually spin just to be spinning. Just to enter that little dance (or is it a trance?) of foot tapping, wheel spinning, fiber flowing space. Even if it is only for a few minutes. I love that about it too…being able to just sit down to it and go. So little set up. No faffing about with where I am in a pattern, or decisions about what color to weave with next. Just spin. And spin. And spin.

And once I have the delicious yarn wound into a cake or hank, I love to just look at it, stack them up, sit them around here and there for decoration. Little cakes or twists of colorful Light!

The next time you have a hank of yarn in your hands, look for those filaments of light. Many of the yarns mass-produced today lose that spark of light. It is in the handspun variety that you can see it. Words for it may elude you, as it does me. But it will be there, spun up into the fluff and color of yarn.

<sigh>

Limiting Input

I have whisperings…little thoughts that return, quietly, gently. I am making an effort to listen to a few of them. Here’s one: What would I make, or want to make, if I limited how much I am seeing in the way of what other’s make?

I love Instagram. Well, perhaps I should say that I love seeing all the amazing incredible wonderful inspiring things that humans make in this world. I I am constantly inspired by the designs others are knitting and crocheting, the weavings they create, the paintings, the stitching…on and on and my poor little head is so full of things I want to try, that I don’t know which to begin next. And so I wonder…

What if I limited that input, or did away with it altogether? What would I, Jennifer, make? What would I paint? What would I stitch, knit, weave, etc? To be certain, I create what is original to myself and what bubbles up in my own maker mind. But it is definitely influenced by the wonders I have access to online. And it begs the question.

I am trying to listen more. Right there I seem to have contradicted the title of today’s thoughts. How can I listen more if I am limiting input? It is a rich and wonderful truth that we listen more deeply when we get quiet, set ourselves apart from the fray, find still places to sit and listen where external input is minimal. I am making time for this deep listening each day and even for extended periods. It is delicious. I’m finding help and solace in so many areas of my life. As a creative person, here’s something I’m discovering as I listen:

I myself, have within the creative coffers of my heart, a wealth of ideas, skills, abilities, and inspiration. Right here. Inside of me. (And may I say here…so do YOU, dear reader!) So this little gentle question is asking, “From that wealth, what do you want to make? Setting aside all the fantastic ideas and skills and beautiful things you see online, what do you, Jennifer, want to make today?”

So I am sitting with that question these days. Listening more fully to that sweet gentle whispering and wanting to take some action, little by little. It will be a process. I want to share that process here. And I am committed to these posts being short.  I have already surpassed the length I want to allot myself each day. And since I love sitting with questions, I’ll leave it at that. And let the rest unfold, gently, little by little each day.

Thank you for being here.

Jennifer

Not Much & Everything

I’m popping in to say…well…not much. I just want to post. To touch base here on my blog, to any and all who might be visiting. To say life is grand when making things is heading in directions you love. To say that even when life isn’t so grand, making things makes it more tolerable, adds joy, soothes the rough edges. I’d like to blog more often… just to make it a habit, to touch base, to be present here as I am ever so full in my heart with many things I am making, many things I want to make, and many things I may never have the time or resources to make.

On the other hand, I feel I have so much to say. Not today perhaps. But so much is bubbling and brewing, percolating and stewing. It may not come to any sort of viable, sellable product. This bothers me. I wish it didn’t. I hold at bay a nagging thought that plagues me nearly daily – “What is all of this for Jen?” To what end are you spinning fiber with drop spindles? Isn’t this a kind of fool’s errand? To what end are you weaving segments of cloth, one after the other? Will you sell them? Will selling them make it all feel “worth it”? Is there some other creativity, some other medium, some other thing that will give you that sense that Ahhhh THIS! THIS is the thing! With everything I set my hands to, I have a sense that it is indeed the THING! And with everything I make, I have a nagging sense that it isn’t. How can that be?

In every creative act there exists simultaneously a sense of fulfillment and futility. I’m learning to let this be. To just go with it, make space for them both to exist in the atmosphere of my making world. I’m learning to ride the waves of creativity wherever they take me, whether it is to shores of selling or islands of learning new things or into deeper waters of what I already love to make.

‘Til tomorrow then…

Jennifer

Weaving Gratitude

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”

― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

It seems necessary and good to stop for a moment here in the middle of the #100Day Project and look around me, take stock, and share with you, dear reader, the landscape from here. I am not entirely as Instagram would portray. We know this (or should certainly remember) that behind all the pretty pictures is a human being whose life is likely not so tidy as the feed might suggest. I have recently found myself in a wood of busyness and have stopped to scratch my head and ponder how did I get here and what is the way out?

The month of May always finds me gasping for breath, scrambling to find minutes here and there for making, dreaming of long lazy days to create to my heart’s content. But it is always, every year without fail, a time of intense activity and just plain ole “living”. In scratching my head and pondering how I got so deep in a mire of grumbling about it all, I realized there has been a significant lack of gratitude. Picking up again Ann Voscamp’s devotional of 1,000 Gifts, has served to help center my thoughts on being thankful for even the smallest, perhaps even unwanted, gifts in my days. I’m finding this discipline to be a straight way out of the dark wood of grumbling and resentment.

This is not the kind of thing where you put on those waxy red, smiling lips and go about your day calling every pothole a beautiful thing. No, it is a commitment to getting down on my hands and knees at the edge of the hole and really looking into the lumpy abyss. To ask for sight in order to see. To plead for glimmers of light in and around the edges. To sit with the potholes of daily living, (the things that trip us up, interrupt our plans) and to receive it as a thread, a yarn being added to the warp of my day. It is a discipline of trust. Trusting that what is being woven on the loom of our life will not be for naught. Grateful now, to have set off on this old and familiar road of counting beauties in my day (the pothole variety too!) I’m experiencing a diminished level of grumbling and an ability to just lean into the warp of my life as it is right now. Over and under, around and through. Here in the middle (ish) of May, I can relish the colors, as they mingle on the page, as they interlock on the loom.

The base note of all my grumbles is exactly this: I do not have life on my own terms. Somehow I imagine, that having it on my clock, my design, would grant me a more beautiful, peaceful, and therefore more joyful life. I have only to look back on the previous 50 mark-making explorations to see that despite the busyness, the endless driving, the myriad of things that living requires, beauty was at hand! And though I may not be able to weave as much as I’d like, there have indeed been lovely yarns laid down over the warp of a 52-year old wife and mother who forever fancies that her “true art” is just around the corner.

My ” true art” is actually this – to see beauty in everything. To be thankful for it all. And to lift my hands in gratitude by making things.

There it is. I have found, once again, the “straight way” and can continue into the next 50 of the #100DayProject, weaving marks and colors on the page. And on the loom.

#100dayproject

(Day 1 page)

The idea of 100 days of sticking to just one way of creating is not appealing to me.  I am skeptical of my ability to hang in there for that long. Also, I seem to thrive on variety, having the freedom to create as ideas come to me, leaping from drawing everyday life, to stitching fragments, to knitting and crocheting and many other things in between. To actually pick ONE and say “I’m gonna stick with this for 100 days!” fills me with doubt and makes my eyes glaze over. At least, this is how I’ve reacted each year the #100dayproject posts have rolled around on Instagram. Nope. Not for me. Thank you.

And yet…simmering on the back burner the last few days was a question. Could I find anything I might even remotely like to do for 100 days? Something that feels free, varied and allows for leaps within one vein of making? Awake unusually late last night, a flash of brilliance (or madness) tickled my fancy till I was standing at my drawing table making marks in a brand new sketchbook. (Queue up the Hallelujah Chorus here.:)

At one minute until midnight on the first day of the #100dayproject, I posted a rather poorly lit photo of the first entry (see first image above).  I had recently purchased a random sketchbook with 132 pages of Mixed-Media paper perfect for housing all 100 days. I had only filled the first page with a tulip sketch, testing the paper for its ability to withstand watercolor, colored pencil, marker and oil pastels. I loved the 7″ x 9″ pages and their thick 120 lb. feel. The slick paper allows a lovely hand to swooshing pastels around. I knew this would be perfect for the next 100 days of expressive, intuitive, mark-making pages. Here are some of my own self-imposed guidelines:

  1. Non-objective, intuitive, abstract works. As scribbly and child-like as I want to make them.
  2. Any media, any combination including watercolor, acrylic, pencils (both water media and wax), oil pastels, soft pastels, grease pencils, charcoal, collage (both painted papers and found papers), markers, pens, fine liners, ink, bamboo sticks, calligraphy pens, etc, etc.
  3. Must work quickly without thinking. I love working like this, without critiquing as I go. The only thought allowed will be, “what do I want to put down next?”
  4. Only one per day in this book. But I can, if I want to and if time allows, create more mark-making works in other sketchbooks or on canvas.
  5. Space on the left hand side to stamp the date, write the number for each of the 100 days, and any thoughts on the process for that day I’d like to record. Love this last piece of the process.

I could hardly get to sleep I was so excited about this adventure. I’ll post many of them on Instagram but perhaps not every day. I might just post them in groups of four or a weeks worth of them at a time. We shall see. My aim is to create each one first thing in the day as part of my morning practice of reflection. Simple, short and oh so sweet!

(Day 2 page)

I’m also considering beginning Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Challenge along these same lines. Tara is a wonderful abstract artist I follow and whose teaching and work has been very inspiring and helpful to me. I love receiving her newsletters filled with such helpful advice and encouragement for the artistic path. I look forward to reading what she has to say every week! A 7-Day Challenge is far less intimidating than 100 Days!  I did this challenge two years ago but used Freeform Crochet as the method of creating small fiber paintings. It was a super way to explore all that yarn and stitches can do in creating images. For this year’s 7-Day Challenge, I’d like to create the same mark-making works I’m doing for the #100DayProject but on slightly larger paper or on mini canvases. I haven’t decided which yet. But I need to decide soon since The Challenge  begins tomorrow! What in the world has gotten into me?? A 7-Day Challenge AND a 100 Day Project? Good Grief. I must surely be crazy!

Crazy about art, crazy about color, lines, shapes and marks on a page! Wish me luck! Better yet…join me in one (or both) of these ventures! It will be fun, probably challenging at times, but rewarding to have a nearly filled sketchbook with pages and pages of merry marks!

Here’s to the next 7 Days and on to 100!!

Truly…I think I need to get my head examined.

*****

If you are interested in Tara’s 7-Day Challenge, be sure to read the highlighted post above. There you will find a free downloadable worksheet designed to help you pinpoint what you’d like to try for the 7 Days. We can do anything for 7 Days, can’t we? It’s the 100 that feels a bit daunting. But I’m giving it a go! <3

 

Dawdle

“Oh I can waste a minute or two or hundreds…

that’s not a problem for me,” she says with ease.

Not a confession.

Just a statement of truth.

I envy her this. For I cannot dawdle.

Nope.

Not for long anyway.

I sit to stare out this window

to dream and gaze and wonder…

and immediately lines are dancing in my head,

words are forming into lines

pearls on a string

making hay with all

the wonder, the dream, the gaze.

***

It is all a poem, a painting.

Every leaf trembles with meaning.

Every tree and bush offers revel and rhyme.

Every brook sings sweetly of a tune from another land.

I hear it everywhere.

Under my chair, in laughter, in tears.

It perches on the feeder and roams in the woods.

It calls my name always to come play,

to paint and draw and make much.

This is why I have such a hard time wasting any minutes.

For even while staring out a window

I’m seeing and hearing …

and trying to decipher what I’m to do with all this beauty.

-jpe

*********

I have been making a concerted effort to just sit and stare out a window. Or to sit outside, which is definitely my preference, regardless of the yo-yo weather we are having here in NC. My intention each day is to be aware of where I am, look up, take in the surroundings of what my daily life brings. I’m drawing and sketching more of this in an effort to sink deeply into these moments. Or at least for the time period it takes to draw what I see out the window, or whilst sitting in our living room, or my studio. I’m also coming home from daily walks and sketching something I’ve seen. This is often from memory, but sometimes from a photo. That first drawing was made from a photo I took while walking at Reynolda Gardens last week. Nearly every step was so full of drawable-ness I could scarcely breathe let alone snap a pic with my phone.

All the world alive with loveliness. It is sometimes too much for me. I have to reign it in somehow and just be content with only one drawing, or just a sketch or two. I wish, oh golly how I wish, I could take in all that I see and hear and transpose it into my sketchbook. The doing of these drawings is less about having something to show, and more about grafting into my being all that I see, all that I hear. To somehow tattoo onto my heart and mind these lovely things so that in bleaker times I can remember them. So that when beauty is scarce, my heart is trained to look for, find and record the flowers that are blooming next to the carnage of a dying bush.

Dawdling does not come as easy for me as it does for my dear oldest daughter whose words open the poem. I am drawing inspiration from her and making an effort to dawdle more, to “waste” a few minutes or more (if indeed it is a waste!) by just looking, resting my eyes on what is around me, and holding my hands at bay for a little while before they burst into lines and splattered paint. I know it is not a waste. Not at all. It is the crucial ingredient for an artful life.

I hope you can dawdle a bit today too!

******

For more on dawdling, drawing, seeing our lives, and living with artful eye…

check out…

A practice of drawing your life in a sketchbook.

And…

I’ll Tell You

What happens when so much making comes tumbling out of you that you shy to share it?

What do you do when so many ideas beg and need to be birthed, small, tiny, insignificant ideas yet they must be born?

What if you feel so alive with all the making, the knitting, the poeming, the crafting, the drawing, the writing of stories that, surely you are living in miniature and illustration?

What then?

I’ll tell you.

You let it tumble out.

You do not share it. Not yet.

You birth the ideas as far as they will go no matter how small and insignificant they seem.

You knit, you poem, you draw and craft, you illustrate and write.

You live in your stories for your stories help you understand your story and thereby help you to live…

Tumbling…

Making…

Loving…

Alive.

-jpe

To Sit With What Is :: A New Year’s Surrender

There is something delicious about standing at the edge of a new year! It feels like starting a brand new sketchbook (oh the possibilities!), or casting on a new fair isle project (the colors, designs and so many knits & purls to look forward to!), or setting out fabric scraps with an eye to what could be collaged and stitched into a lovely fragment. It is also encouraging to look back over the year, scroll back through one’s Instagram feed, and see the making, remember the incredible times of drawing, knitting, stitching, writing. Closing out a year and turning my face to another is wonderful indeed!

It is also overwhelming. The above photograph is a current picture of the many ways my creative head and heart walk through life. The older I become the more I realize this is how I deal with life, this is how I work through all that life brings to me, the pretty and the painful and everything in between. If I  gaze out into 2018 for too long, I want to walk a step or two backwards, look away and just sit down. I think I can certainly do that for a moment, for a day at least. Perhaps even for good.

Last year I began the year with the words Slow & Simplify. I wanted them to guide me, to define or focus my intention about moving through the year. It was lovely to carry those words with me, even in the midst of not-at-all slow times and ever-so-not simple ones. There were places in the year, more than I would have liked, that I wished I had not chosen those words, for it seemed that Life was out to contradict them in every way possible. But towards the end of 2017, even in those crazy final two months filled with holidaying, I came to realize a secret to being slow and simple in life…and that is to sit with what is. I’m pretty certain I’ve heard this phrase from Susan Piver whose meditation guidance has helped me so very much over the last few years. I resumed this practice late in the autumn and it continues to root me in my personal life and in my creative life. To sit with what is is not a giving up of dreams and goals. It is not a curl up under the covers, pull the wool over one’s eyes way of life. Rather it is a strong-backed, head up, soft-bellied breathing into whatever is going on in one’s life. It is a way of sitting down and facing whatever is in one’s lap at the moment. For me, this helps me both with what is in my lap in life at the moment AND what is in my lap creatively. Is life going at warp speed at the moment? Ok, sit with that. Be all there breathing into the blur. Is life complicated and confusing? Ok then…sit with that and breathe space into the craziness.

I don’t know how this strikes you. You may not be like me. In fact, I hope you are not. You see, my default setting in life is to feel that I should and ought to be doing, being, making, creating something other than what I’m currently doing, being, making, or creating. Call it driven, call it striving, call it restlessness, call it passion, curiosity, or creative. It is hardwired into my being for reasons I may not fully comprehend. But there it is. Always striving to reach the next goal, check off the next thing on my to-do list, be everything I need to be for excellence in my personal life and in my work as an artist. That last sentence sounds exhausting. Even in a desire for Slow & Simple, it can become a measuring stick that beats me over the head when life isn’t either of them. To sit with what is, allows me to sink into my life, accepting it, breathing into it prayerfully, whether it is slow or busy, whether it is simple or complicated, whether it is pretty or painful, whether it seems productive or not, whether I am accomplishing anything or just running in circles. To sit with what is, allows me to be ok with whatever is in my lap at the moment, be it a sketchbook, or some knitting, or embroidery, or my writing journal. Any feelings of guilt, should-be, oughtta-be, wanna-be , can be let go of, breathing into the creative goodness at hand. Even when I’m being hounded by the be-better, do-more, do-other thoughts, I can just sit with that, breathe space around it, acknowledging that it is there, a part of who I am, but not something I have to give full attention to. It can just sit there, beside me, while I continue breathing, living, creating.

So this is my intention for 2018. To walk into the year bravely, courageously, and creatively opening my hands to whatever comes, whatever falls in my lap. To sit with it, breathe into it, and prayerfully let go of the striving and drivenness that may come with it.  I will resist and let go of the inevitable desire to make “sitting with what is” my new measuring stick. Thanks be to God that there is now no condemnation for those who live in His love and grace. That’s where I want to be…sitting with what is true, good and beautiful.

Thank you so very much to all of you who continue to visit with me here, who read my words, who purchase and enjoy my art-making in all its various forms. You are so appreciated!! Here’s to 2018…a New Year filled with many stitches, sketches and inspirations!!

Happy New Year!

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