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

Where the Light Gets In

I sit here on our back deck marveling at the sunrise. Light creeps into the neighborhood like fingers finding their way through the maze of cars, bushes, mailboxes, trees and houses. Patches of light cover yards and streets like picnic blankets. Golden shafts blaze down and through shrubbery like kids playing tag or hide and seek. Only they would certainly be found by friends if they glowed as the morning sun does here in my back yard.

Already, our yard is showing the signs of high summer – the variety of spring greens have settled into their darker more homogenous hues. A few brown patches where summer heat is sapping the life, are beginning to show here and there.

Yet I am dazzled by this trio of bushes – two red tips and a butterly bush. Right down at the base of these bushes lies the most gorgeous colors. Golden fingers illumine a near-black green dancing beside the pink and burgundy of pine straw. Turquoise, sap green, yellow green is interrupted by these shafts of pure gold. I feel dizzy gazing at this gift of a moment, as if I’ve drunk too much wine. Yet my head and heart are clear as a bell. God is here, reaching out to me in this quiet space of morning light.

I am needing this desperately. Time to drink in the wine of God’s beauty and love for me. I feel that I’ve been living and making art for a long time somewhat disconnected from this quiet center where I can just be. I’ve been making, and stitching, and painting without getting still and quiet enough to connect to where it all comes from. No wonder I’ve been feeling stretched thin like the frantic making is a bit dry and perhaps singed around the edges, even if it all appears lovely to others. I’m weary of just cranking it out. I want this – shafts of light to burst in and through the shrubbery of my heart, igniting and illuminating all within.

Yes. This is what I need today and everyday. Rise, O Son, in the yard of my heart. Spread blankets of love for child-like play. Embolden the dry colors that have sat too long without Your golden fingers touching and illuminating. May I sit in stillness long in this summer yard where the Light gets in.

The Gift of Weaving

Over the years of drawing & painting, knitting & crocheting, I have found insight and wisdom for daily living in and through the process of these endeavors. Much like trail markers, they offer direction and assurance for whatever I’m needing at the time, and they guide me in my personal life. Weaving is no exception.

When I draw, I start with a blank page. Nothing is there and it is up to me to begin to make marks on that page, wherever, how-so-ever I like, to create an image. With knitting or crochet it is much the same…only a hook or needles and some yarn to begin making a fabric. Yet when I weave, there is already a structure there. The warp is set in place. There’s really no changing the warp threads for the duration of that weave.

I am finding in my 50’s that weaving speaks so strongly to what I live everyday – the warp has been set. Indeed they were (and are still) matters of choice at one time. Husband, three children + son-in-law, home, faith, teaching, community. These are the vertical threads that set the structure of my life, over and under which I create. Yarns and fibers, threads and textiles of great or little beauty in and of themselves, are woven daily into the warp of my life. I do have choices to make each day, as to the daily weft. Yet some days I’m given a thread to weave that I may not particularly like. Somehow, and this is the glorious bit, somehow it is beautiful in the mix of a lifetime of woven colors.

I can weave with confidence, knowing that somehow all will be well in the end. I can receive the ugly, unwanted-in-the-moment threads or interruptions knowing that they will add their own depth to the overall piece. I can weave tapestries or cloth that display this truth – that the vertical, earth to heaven warp, is just as much a part of the tapestry, as the daily horizontal yarns and textiles. This has been a gift to me recently. I relish each creative outlet I’m granted for the wisdom it offers, and I look forward each day to the colors that will be woven.

Wishing you an Artful Day!

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.

Spinning My Wheels

I sit at a wheel

running hither and yon over miles

of asphalt ribbon

Some so worn and shredded with potholes my car can scarcely

bear the beating.

***

Mile after mile, driving me from word

to endless words..

I can hardly think, let alone tap into any source

of light, joy, meaning.

I sit at another wheel

wool running through my hands

and meaning begins to soothe my potholed heart.

Fibers – cleaned, combed, carded, and dyed, form

into a ribbon of color and softness

that makes more sense to me

than the asphalt.

Couldn’t I remain here?

Couldn’t I have whole days of fiber, wool, spinning ,

and weaving it into the landscape of my life?

I try. I grow weary in the trying.

That other wheel shreds all sense of sanity and rootedness. Will I ever be free of it?

***

If only I could sit at that wheel

and see a golden thread being spun of all the miles,

the stopping and starting, the car’s cutting me off, the backed-up traffic.

Would that I could spin color and blessing

rather than frustration and cursing

at the wheel of our Mazda.

Would that I could live all of my life knowing

that He who is at the wheel has it firmly in hand

and is spinning something of beauty

with the asphalt and frustration.

***

Can I lean into this thought as I’m spinning my wheels today?

*****

Wishing you a day of beauty no matter what sort of wheels you spin. I’m inspired by this fiber artist – Stacey Budge-Kamison, also known as the UrbanGypZ.  You will want to watch her videos on spinning and weaving, and there are so many others to indulge your fiber love.

I’m also continuing the #100DayProject and loving every minute! I’m actually a bit surprised that my typical flighty creative self hasn’t wanted to jump ship and set sail in a different direction. Of course, I am always doing multiple creative things so it all stays fresh and joyful!

The Many Walks of Type 1 Diabetes

For those who have a child living with Type 1 Diabetes, there are many walks in life that others will never take. For our family, the first of these walks occurred when our youngest daughter, Maddie, was 7 years old. We walked her into Brenner’s Emergency Room, after having been told by our pediatrician that folks were waiting for her there, to take care of her.  After 3 days of learning how to administer novolog and lantus shots, how to test blood sugars and count carbs, among a myriad of other frightening and sobering things to watch out for, we walked her out of Brenner’s Children’s Hospital and drove home to begin our new life.

From there, we began the daily short walks to the spot in our kitchen where all diabetes supplies were housed…test kit, carb-counting book, insulin pens, alcohol swabs, tissues, and a chart for recording all the data. We have walked with her to and from the car when visiting her diabetes educator and doctor appointments every six weeks. We have walked in and out of her elementary, middle, and high school when emergency supplies were needed. We have walked in and out of pharmacies for the necessary medical supplies. We, as her parents, have walked her to soccer games, gymnastics, marching band…always wondering if she will need the extra juice boxes we have brought with us, or if some other diabetes related issue will arise.

Our nightly walks are the ones that have perhaps logged the most miles…a midnight and 3 am blood sugar testing requires walking back and forth from our room to hers. Depending on the number, once we test her while she sleeps, it may require a walk downstairs to get more juice or other supplies to tend to the errant numbers.

We begrudge none of these walks! Indeed, we would walk to the end of the earth and back for her if it meant helping in some way to alleviate the affects of Type 1 Diabetes on her body over the long haul. We are so very grateful for all the medical advances and technology that make her life less complicated than those who have dealt with Type 1 in past years. But there is a long way to go before a Cure is hers. And to that end, we walk another kind of Walk…the JDRF One Walk each year.

Maddie loves the JDRF Walks every fall! We are always amazed at the amount of support from friends, family and folks around the globe who have donated to JDRF in her honor. And then to walk with friends and family on that day along with so many others, truly makes us feel like we are not alone! When Maddie entered high school last year, it was not possible to walk in any other of the fall JDRF Walks, and we tried again this past fall, but  marching band and a high school youth retreat, have prevented our participation each year. She decided a few weeks ago that she wanted to walk in the spring, taking part in the JDRF One Walk in High Point instead of in Winston-Salem, NC. Randy and I were glad for her to have another opportunity to walk with friends and family, raising funds for a Cure for T1D.

But a few days ago, she discovered that her involvement in Show Choir was going to prevent her from Walking on April 28th. She was very disappointed, as this event was rescheduled due to a snow day earlier. She needs to be there, as she is part of a team who has been practicing since the beginning of the school year. Randy and I will walk in her honor and would be honored for your presence with us, and for your financial donation to JDRF on Maddie’s behalf.

The wonderful bit of all this is that the reason Maddie can be so involved in school activities, is because of all the advancements that JDRF has funded over the years for those living with Type One Diabetes. Without her insulin pump, Continuous Glucose Monitor, blood sugar testing kits, etc, participating in marching band and show choir would be extremely difficult. We will gladly send her on to Raleigh for the Show Choir Competition, while walking with JDRF this Saturday in High Point, NC. Won’t you consider donating to this terrific organization as they continue to do research, looking for a Cure as well as other advancements to make living with Type One a bit more manageable.

DONATE TO JDRF

If you’d like to donate, click the link to directly donate to JDRF in Maddie’s honor. Thank you so much in advance for all your support, both financially and in friendship. Maddie thanks you! Randy and I thank you! Your donations and presence with us, make walking this path of Type One Diabetes so much more endurable, enjoyable, and may one day lead us to the Cure we need for Maddie and so many others living with this disease. 

With gratitude,

Jennifer

P.S. The first drawing in this post was made just a couple of days ago, as our silly yet oh-so-studious straight A student sat “studying” her book. I thought this was such a cute way of trying to absorb the information by osmosis, that I had to snap a photo and make a drawing of our 16 year old, sweet as ever, girl. <3 The other drawings have been made over the years of Walking with our daughter.

A Week of Blind Sight

“Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.” ~ Paul Klee

Seven days. One week. The length of a nice vacation or a hike on the Appalachian Trail. Each and every day of creating marks on 10″ x 10″ Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, felt like a blind endeavor. I am not trained in abstraction nor have I an art degree. Each morning as I woke early and eager to begin these pages, I felt I had absolutely no idea what I was doing nor where I was headed. I may have had some vague notion of how I wanted to begin, what marks to put down first. But then it was my intent to respond intuitively to the marks, brushwork, colors and lines previously set down on the paper. In nearly every case i hit a point where I felt all was lost, I had run into a brick wall. But years of experience quickly move me in another direction, to keep going, to hang with it until…I start to see something.

“Look at life with the eyes of a child.” ~ Henri Matisse 

This is not my first foray into abstraction. Many years ago I painted lots and lots of acrylic on canvas abstracts, or non-objective works, full of color and movement. Several of them adorn our walls. Some have been purchased, others sit in closets or sketchbooks. I don’t quite know what made me stop making them, except for the never ending childlike curiosity I have about all kinds of art and creative endeavors. It is likely that some other interest, like knitting or free-form crochet took hold. But I never stopped making little abstracts in my sketchbook. They are some of my favorite pages. Even my stitchworks of late look much like a painted and drawn abstract painting. I’ve only substituted fabrics and thread for the colors and lines.

Taking up the challenge that Tara Leaver presented to use small bits of time to create a painting a day (or really any other creative work) seemed the perfect way to stay with these beloved marks and see where they might lead. Though I have enjoyed every single day of this challenge, I feel I am nowhere near done with this, and so I’m glad I have 90 more days of the #100DayProject to keep making marks. And I will certainly be making more 10″ x 10″ works, as I have today, even after the Challenge is over. Somehow, through the blind mark making, I am beginning to see.

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” ~ Claude Monet

What I’m seeing is not really anything of magnitude. As much as I wish I could see a specific medium or approach to be “my thing”, what I see is a love for and true enjoyment of many ways to make marks on a page. Just when I think I love gray passages of color from acrylic being worked into the watercolor, then I’ll realize how I adore pure watercolor, oozling & wazzling on the page with just a few lines of carbon pencil or oil pastel. And just when I think “Oh yeah Jen, you love the bold bright color”, then I’m longing for quieter tones and lots of white paper. What I’m seeing is that I love it all. All of this resides in me and loves coming out to play on a page, a canvas, a knitted sweater, or a collaged and stitched fragment of fabric. It is a love for life and living that longs to come out in some tangible way. The voices in my head, all discussing and pretending to understand why I do this, are just rubbish. It is not necessary to understand. It is simply necessary to love. Thank you Monet.

And thank you Tara! For presenting a pilgrimage, inviting us to walk it, creating  art in small increments of time, in a series (if the above is really a series?), and to listen as we walk. Thank you for your ongoing encouragement to keep drawing and painting, to push through the blindness until we see through the art to what really brings us joy. I’ll be carrying this week with me for quite a while, and even continuing to make non-objective works of art both in and outside of my sketchbook!

Enjoy the slideshow of this week’s journey into seeing. It includes Day 8. 🙂

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” ~ Auguste Rodin

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New Specs

Change is not easy for me. Not one bit. When it became obvious that my beloved red thin glasses were not helping me to see well either far away or close up, I waited a very long time (about a year) before doing anything about it. I knew that I would have to let go of the shape of those glasses since they were not deep enough to accommodate the graduated lens I needed for close up work as well as long distance sight. Although I really wanted red glasses again, I wasn’t willing to spend huge amounts of time looking for red ones with just the right shape. I decided to be decisive. To take the first pair I liked and which felt comfortable on my face. Of course…the lens had to be large enough for my aging eyes.

The same thing is true whenever I feel the need to take inventory in my creative life. I have at various times over the years, felt overwhelmed by all the creating, all the online sharing, all the many avenues of living an Artful Life that I’ve established over the years. Just as my eye glasses were not fitting my needs for seeing clearly, so too the shape of my creative life was blurring my sight, hindering me from being able to focus in any direction.

I took some time for this. Indeed I’m still working through it all as I journal daily and really hone in on what my WHY is, what motivates and underpins all the artistic pursuits I love. I keep coming back to my sketchbook practice. It is from this daily lens on life…sketching my world…that all the rest flows. And it is this lens that I am once again focusing on, letting it be the One Thing that I keep first and foremost as an artist. Drawing my life. Drawcumenting the Days.

Oh to be sure, I’m knitting and crocheting, and teaching my lovely classes of women who want to learn. I have a commission painting going, and ideas for trying out some abstract acrylics on canvas. But these are secondary to the sketchbook lens through which I can see my life for the beauty that is there. It is this focus that is enabling me to shed a few pounds of extra weight online.

To that end, I’ve trimmed and sorted, weeded and organized it all. Well, most of it. You might like to spend some time browsing around jenniferedwards.com to see what’s here. And please do subscribe to my blog/website as I will no longer be sending out the Artful Lifeline weekly newsletter. Indeed, I haven’t done so in many months. I’ve realized that this blog and website can be exactly as my newsletter was…a place for folks to subscribe and receive encouragement and art news right in their email boxes. So please do subscribe here if you haven’t already! Click on the highlighted link above or find on the Home page the spot for signing up. Thank you so much for journeying with me here!

If you enjoy drawing your life in a sketchbook, check out my You Tube Channel for the Sketchbook Chats and other drawing videos. I have spruced up my Channel and am planning on adding other Sketchbook Chats in the near future.

And I am always active on Instagram. Such a fun place to hang out with other artists! I hope to see you there!

But now…it is snowing outside! Yes people….you read that right…SNOWING!!!!!! IN MARCH! So I must go draw it!! My new sketchbook is calling to me and I can see it ever so clearly now! I hope you are finding joy in living Artfully, following the lines of your life in a sketchbook filled with color!

Draw On my friends…Draw On!

Jennifer

Whoa and Wow

2018. Wow.

Am I just now realizing the magnitude of this? Nearly two and a half months into it, this number, a big one, it tells where I am, how far along I’ve come since 1965. This year, this 2018, I will be 53 and will celebrate 30 years married and will see my children turn 24, 21, and 16. Lord willing. Wow.

That’s all I can say…wow.

Couldn’t I just spend my days marveling at where I am? Could I not just take a moment, a year, a rest-of-a-life to say whoa.  Stop right here. Let’s pause and gather it all in and look deeply into one another’s faces?

For it shall not stay like this. I feel it already, the pull of years to come. Like Marty in the Future photograph, beginning to fade. Or like the moment’s before Scotty beams us up, pixels waving farewell. Can we not stop the world and get off for a moment to hold one another’s faces cupped in our hands and look, really look and say I love you and always shall?

Please do not forget.

Today, let me do just that with my pen and brush. Let me caress these faces I love, the landscape of Backyard, the hay bales of Silver Dapple. Let me hold them even if for a fleeting line to say I love you and always shall.

To say, if only to myself, please…please do not forget.

This act of loving is feeble and flimsy at best. Pieces of paper in a bound book. But it is how I know to say whoa and wow to 2018. It is my way of cupping my hands around the faces I love, the place that I live, the life that I have. There are miles to go before I sleep, as Frost would say, and there are miles of lines to log in my book through 2018 and beyond.

In this way, drawing and painting my life, I will not forget. And perhaps, when I fade from the photograph and my pixels wave their final farewell, these books will remain,

saying I love you…

and always shall.

-jpe

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…