Tag Archives: creativity

Little Boxes, Filled with … what?

A couple of months ago, my husband R. was diagnosed with Metastatic Carcinoma of Unknown Primary. At first we are numb. Walking around staring at each other, trying not to get teary-eyed, but doing it anyway. Now, a few weeks down the road on this new journey, we’ve moved into another phase. Not acceptance. It’s something else for me. R. has an “attitude of gratitude”, and I’m into some other twilight zone of feeling I have not quite owned up to. I’m dealing with this new circumstance as I deal with most others.

I’m making things, keeping my hands moving. Yes, I’m escaping in a sense. Sometimes escape and denial is necessary to get you through. I’m making tiny houses. What is a house but a place where a soul resides. Little doorways. When I’m stitching, I do not have to think so much about the fact that my husband will gradually disappear from this life. But all these thoughts jump back into my stitches. I pray for him to not have pain. I try not to think about how lonely I will be in the future in this house.
I try not to think a whole lot about what I’m doing and my mind can wander off down the endless avenues of my brain. Every stitch a prayer. Going down one way I think of the beauty of the fall season here in New Orleans, which is the cooler temps. Then my thoughts take off another way and wonder about that hurricane that is forming and heading our way.
But with each stitch, each pull of this deep purple thread tightening that little doorway, I am thinking of what these cancer cells are doing to my husband day by day. And that I can do nothing to stop them, nothing to stitch those cancer cells up in a little box and burn them – and my scissors cannot cut off their threads of multiplication. It’s going to be a long journey.  Over time, about twenty minutes into my little house, my brain settles into the rhythm of my stitching, and I am once again in a meditation zone. I’m not in charge. And every stitch is a prayer.

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Fabric as Art, Art as Fabric

One of our new endeavors here at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks is fabric design. I’ve danced around the edges of this art form for years. I’m a kinetic learner and experience is my friend. I wanted to jump right in, get dye under my fingernails, dye everything at once with intense color. Can’t do that when it comes to fabric design.

One must first learn how fibers absorb color, how to prepare them, and think through the entire process of fabric design and dyeing. Like most things meaningful, it’s a process. When I found the new book Playful Fabric Printing by Carol Soderlund and Melanie Testa, I found my roadmap.

612+8-dgE7L._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_First I read through the volume, underlined, highlighted and added sticky-notes to places that I wanted further clarity or items I needed to purchase. Once I had all the supplies and equipment, making stamps and stencils became my first task. I was in creativity heaven. My first stamp, using craft foam and a square of plexiglas, was  design from my sketchbook – umbrellas. The stamp was designed so that there was a repeat every 6″. Once I had a few stamps prepared, fabrics soaked in the soda ash and salt vat, and a few sample Procion fiber reactive dyes mixed, I turned up my jazz music, printed fabrics, and …. played! And I invited friends! The designs and colors are fantastic.printing4
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STAMPS1     printing6  PLATYPUS.jpg  img_2782.jpg

Want to come play with us? Another class is coming soon!

Jazz Fest is over, now what?

The creative team at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks 
thanks you for subscribing to our newsletter.
YOU’RE INVITED: Don’t forget the Magazine Street Champagne Stroll on Saturday May 13, 5pm-9pm. We will be open!
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The Frannie Baby dress by Children’s Corner has to be one of the cutest baby and toddler dresses ever designed. Summertime COOL! Make it and let Kate monogram it for you!  And, we have a workshop coming up!


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Get your hands in some dye paste! Make your own stamps and print your own fabric. 2-day workshop the weekend of May 20. 

Calling all knitters! Bring friends! Help us make “knitted knockers” for breast cancer survivors who need prostheses, 3rd Sundays.

May 21, 4pm-6pm.

KID’S FIBER ARTS CAMP
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We’re with you every step of the way. 
The team at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks thanks you for supporting our funky little shop. 

Emma, Robert, Kate, Hannah, Kit, Meredith, Jennifer, Rebecca and Grace (our shop dog) hope to see you soon and very soon.
 
UPTOWN NEEDLE & CRAFTWORKS
4610 Magazine Street
New Orleans La 70115
504-302-9434

Brain Pickings | An inventory of the meaningful life.

via Brain Pickings | An inventory of the meaningful life..

[I hope you enjoy these as much as I did – I love these “9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings” – I believe these are essential for the creative life – Emma]
1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right – even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night – and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.

3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.

4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?

5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.

6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living – for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that – a myth – as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.

And here are the two new additions:

8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit – it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.

9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture – which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands – give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” – a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial – in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.


… so from me – What are YOUR learnings from life so far?

Holding Sparklers & Bottle Rockets?

Those of us who are creatives often feel as if there are fireworks going off in our heads. In a good way. Most of the time. I am happiest when I’m brainstorming ideas – and when I’m looking at options for a make – will this embroidered quilt square work with this color fabric? Will this hippo softie be cute made from this print? What type classes will I offer two women from Chicago who want a creative couple of days in The Big Easy?
Planning is not my strongest skill but it is becoming one of my most necessary. That’s when I use those “fireworks” to my advantage. Either by hand or on my laptop, I jot down all those thoughts (well, perhaps not ALL) that shoot out from those synapses and opposing sides of my brain. Of course these words and shorthand descriptions make no sense to anyone else, but to me it is likened to catching fireflies and putting them in a jar to be let loose after I’ve gathered them all together.
Only after I’ve gathered the fireflies can I proceed to a creative process of making something on my TO DO list, otherwise the lights may go out and the ideas may not make it back across the brain screen.
How do you “gather your fireflies” (or fireworks!)?

Getting Lost in the Process: Reclaiming the Freedom to Create

Today I am sharing words from Jonathan Fields from The Good Life Project. I follow the podcast from GLP, and listen to these video essays while I paint or clean or sort or create. Many of these makers say words I want to say to you about why I quit my job and started a new “maker life” in New Orleans. One of my top priorities in opening Uptown Needle & CraftWorks is to share the joy of creating things, and to encourage others to use their hands because, as Fields says, working with your hands “just plain does something to you.”
Whether you write or sew or paint or garden, the mere activity of using your hands connects to your Creator, which reconnects you to your inner maker source.

IMG_0931“When you watch kids create something, it’s like watching an artist who is given complete permission to explore, experiment, and express. There’s no sense of censorship or fear of judgment…at least not until we’re a bit older. Working with your hands just plain does something to you. It drops you into a place of pure creativity and consciousness. You become the process, you get lost in it. And that sensation is pure bliss. But, as we get older, we tend to go to that place less and less. We leave our artist maker side behind. And, in doing so, leave a part of us behind as well.” – Jonathan Fields

It’s time to reclaim the freedom to create, and find your “inner maker”. This is not a sales piece. This is an invitation. Yes, I’d love for you to sign up for a class; however, I’d love more for you to just stop by for conversation. Sit on our deck for a time and think about what you are called to do in life. Look through our shop and see if anything is calling your name. Try something new. Come play with us!

More than anything else, what do you love to do?

The Art of Noticing: Have We Lost it?

I read good words the other day about how our lives have become so tech obsessed in this article  and can’t stop thinking about it. The story in the little book, Sidewalk Flowers, is told in pictures. We have to intentionally notice the graphics to see what the story is about. This is a line I remember:
“How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her magnificent defense of living with presence. But in our age of productivity, we spend our days running away from boredom”
There was a story on the news last night about a young girl killed by a  train. She had earbuds in her ears and did not hear the train. Video taken after the accident showed person after person crossing train tracks. Most were either wearing earbuds or talking on their cell phones. And how many times have you been in a public place and heard someone say ‘hello’, and you thought they were speaking to you when they were answering their phone with a hands-free device? Many people attach these devices to their ears, or the speaker hangs from earbuds and people walk around a store talking as if someone is walking beside them. I know, I could rant forever on this subject. Fact is, we as a culture have become a big blob of “attention deficit disorder” folks.
What would happen if we stopped what we were doing when we received a call and focused only on the conversation?
In my last blog post I wrote about picking up embroidery again. Yes, I know, I’m obsessed. One thing I enjoy is the intense focus on creating the tiny stitches of embellishment on each little animal or doll I make. A chain stitch becomes a conversation with my daughter I need to have, each stitch a word. A daisy stitch brings memories of my grandmother, and our nights spent together listening to the radio and sewing pillowcases. With every stitch a memory I had long forgotten floats across the screen of my mind’s eye.
Sunday afternoon we had a class in the studio making nesting Matryoshka dolls. photo copy 11The finishing touch is the embroidery on their little bodies. As I stitched that afternoon with the other women I had a clear picture of what creativity in community can do. We talked about our lives, our children, our dreams with every stitch. Embroidery is one activity that gives me the pause I need to stop and notice.
What gives your psyche pause to “notice”?