Saturday, July 31, 2010

Explore a New Perspective

Taking a break from a particularly stressful morning yesterday, I stumbled upon this guest post by Melissa Gorzelanczyk on "Live Bold & Bloom" called How to Move Forward When You Feel Utterly Helpless.

Melissa shared some of her favorite ways to keep from being trapped by those helpless feelings that build up when we are stressed. One in particular caught my eye.

Lie in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling. (The goal is to force a new perspective.)

As I read this, sitting in the middle of our cubicle nation, I chuckled at the mental picture of  myself on the floor with coworkers rushing to my side assuming I had a heart attack or something. I chickened out before giving it a try.

When I got home from work, I headed out to the backyard. Yesterday was a gorgeous 70 degree day. After a quick glance to make sure no neighbors were watching, and a double check to make sure the area was clear of dog poop, I reclined in the grass under a huge maple tree.

Melissa was right, the perspective is totally different. The stress melted away. Maybe I'll find the courage to try it at work someday.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do your labels limit you?

We all have labels. Those labels can give us a strong sense of self. For me, some of those are: wife, woman, Penn Stater, and small town girl. They are labels that reflect who I am inside.

Limiting Labels
Unfortunately sometimes our labels can become self imposed limiters. They are labels for a specific point in time, but we hide behind them as if they were “forever” labels.

Take for example the labels I have allowed to become limiting: project manager, team leader, and process guru. In other words organized, responsible, and BORING!

It’s not that any of those things are bad. In fact, I still proudly carry each of those labels. The problem was that I let those labels alone define me, at the expense of my family and my creativity.

As I moved up the management ladder, I traded my writing sweet spot for broader responsibilities. I also began to define myself solely in terms of my job. I let the new labels cover up everything else.

In my stressed overworked mind, I couldn’t carry the “Creative” label and the “Responsible” label at the same time. “Wife” and “Manager” also began to conflict.

I’d love to say that I came to this realization in a wonderful period of peaceful self-reflection. No, that wasn’t how it happened. I snapped. This wasn’t me. I had lost me.

Wearing Multiple Labels

Little rebellions began as a way to loosen the labels; some “orange crush” nail polish and frilly outfits. And I started writing again. Slowly the “Creative” label and the “Responsible” labels merged.

Labels are kind of like your wardrobe. Too much of one color is boring, yet combining different colors harmoniously can be tricky. Some things fit naturally, other parings are harder to imagine. So pull out your mirror and your labels, and see what you can create for yourself.

Future Post: Trying on New Labels

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5 Tips to Avoid the Project Graveyard

Do you finish what you start?
I haven’t met a creative-type who didn’t have a stash of “half-dead,” or more politely referenced, “half-finished” projects. While I think it is in our nature to follow our creative muse to newer things, I think there are ways to try to keep your projects out of the project graveyard.
1. Plan It
Some people respond to a disciplined approach, but frankly if that were my strong suit, I probably wouldn’t have a project graveyard to begin with. That being said, planning can be a useful tool in your resuscitation kit.
  • Check your supplies. An empty bottle of glue can forever derail a project.
  • Make a to-go box. I like to fill a box with supplies so if I feel like working outside I can.
  • Chunk it. You know the saying, “You can’t eat an elephant in one bite.”
  • Dedicate some time. Treat the project as special. If possible take some time off work, get a sitter, do whatever you need to do to focus.
2. Shine It
We all fall victim to the shiny object syndrome. New things capture our attention, but instead of letting new things divert you, let them inspire you.
  • Read articles. Check out ones about knitting, quilting, or whatever you’re working on.
  • Look at eye-candy. Great examples can reenergize you.
  • Re-envision it. Use new ideas to evolve the project if it is still malleable.
  • Buy something new. (such as cool buttons for the sweater you are knitting)
Note of caution: At some point inspiration seeking turns into procrastination. Couple your active inspiration seeking with designated work time without distractions.
3. Master It
I find things start to stall if my skills don’t match my vision. There are a couple of options here you could try if that seems to be your issue.
  • Put it on hold. In the meantime, pursue the skills you need.
  • Simplify the scope. Try finishing it by using a technique you do know.
  • Practice. Work on a similar, but smaller project, so you don’t have the fear of “messing it up.”
  • Get help. I have a bracelet on hold until my next visit to Mom’s house.
4. Flank It
Sometimes projects become die because we try to go it alone. Team up, and you stand a much better chance.
  • Enter an artistic challenge. When I was working on a recipe scrapbook for my mom, I did it as part “Art Every Day” Month.
  • Host a “Zombie Project” party. Invite your friends over to work on projects they’d like to raise from the dead. You could even give a prize for the oldest, most out-of-date project. Read my how-to post on Girlfriendology.
5. Salvage It
Sometimes a project sits way to long. Trends change. Take a good look and see if there is any part of it that could be repurposed. If not, do the humane thing and pull the plug.
Hope these tips help. Let me know how you manage to keep things out of your project graveyard.
About the photo: I'm trying to use more of own work to illustrate posts. This is a miniature gravestone that I created out of polymer clay.

Monday, July 19, 2010

When life pees on your creativity

A couple years ago, I attended a meeting where a department head said every project has someone who feels the need to "piss on it." It struck me as a funny thing to say out loud at a meeting, yet sadly, it also struck me as true, at least some of the time.

That memory popped back into my head today. Not because of anything bad that happened to me, but rather as a result of something good I'm undertaking.

I signed up for the Problogger Summer Challenge with the SITS Girls. It is a 31 day challenge to help you improve your blog. For today, the first day, I had to come up with an elevator pitch. It's what you would tell someone your blog is about about in the minute you spend together on an elevator.

"I blog about creative stuff" wasn't going to cut it. Talk about hard. How do you sum up everything in that short time and still say something meaningful. Without pictures nonetheless.

Fortunately I have been giving it some thought for a couple of months. "What is this blog, and how do I keep from boring your pants off?"

I already had a tagline: "Opening your creative faucet." I decided to explore that. "Do we all have a faucet?" "What shuts it off in the first place?" For me, the answer was people pissing on my projects.

I figure if I have that problem other people do to. And if I can find ways to get myself past it, I can find ways to help you do it too. So without further ado, here is my elevator pitch:

"I write a blog called 'Creative Sprinkle' about opening your creative faucet. Everyone has a creative spark, but sometimes life pees on it. The goal of my blog is to help people reignite it."

Okay, I've put it out there, hoping you won't pee on it. Now, I will begin stressing about the comments, or lack of comments, this post will generate.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Photography: The Art of Everyday Objects

Shooting Still Life Photos

You don’t need to be a professional photographer with a high-end camera to create great art for your home.You just need to see the possibilities in the everyday.

One of my favorite ways to turn photography into art is by creating still-life vignettes of my favorite things. These black and white photos are a great example. The pair grace my newly remodeled 1940s Hollywood-inspired bathroom. The photos feature a Larkin's powder jar that belonged to my great-grandma and an antique cut-glass hand-held mirror in one, and a perfume bottle and my mom's butterfly pearl necklace in the other.

Behind the Scenes of a Photo Shoot

I’d love to say that I saw this exact shot in my head from the beginning; I didn’t. All I knew was that I had a lot of “pretty stuff” that fit the bathroom’s theme. I gathered up the stuff, things like perfume bottles and jewelry, and headed outside with them. I find I have better success in natural light when I don’t need my flash.

I created a backdrop using a velvet wrap draped over some boards. Then I started arranging items and shooting. I took LOTS of photos. Close ups using the “macro” stetting. High angles. Low angles. I added items. I took items away. Then I headed inside and started cropping.

To be honest the original photos weren’t all that exciting. The colors of the different items were competing with each other, and the compositions were kind of busy. To deal with the composition problems, I started experimenting with cropping to bring out a focal point. Then I converted the images to black and white.

Try It Yourself

To start, think about the room where you want to add a photograph. Think about the room’s purpose, its mood, and its color scheme.

Gather objects that coordinate with the room. Some of those objects may already be in the room. Others may family heirlooms tucked away in the attic. Think broadly. Fruits, vegetables, buttons, fabric, anything can become your subject matter.

At this point, don’t get too stressed about what the final image will look like. Just start grabbing things. As you start to arrange the pieces, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes a single item is much more powerful than a grouping. Play with that idea as well.

If you choose items that share a common color scheme, you can create a photo that evokes the mood of that color. Unfortunately, sometimes when you put things together, the colors clash. That’s where converting photos to black and white can be a life saver.

Black and white photography doesn’t need to be reserved for vintage looks. It is can take on a very modern look in the right context.


Here are a couple of ideas that you might want to try.

Nursery: black and white photography of toys or stuffed animals

Kitchen: heirloom dishes, your favorite wine bottle coupled with wine glasses and grapes, a cake plate with your latest creation on it

Bathroom: sensuous lipstick shots, perfume bottles, rubber ducky floating in bubbles

Bedroom: slippers, lingerie, a nightcap on the bedside table

Inspiration Gallery

I asked some of my favorite amateur photographers to share their still-life photos in an inspiration gallery that I just created. The gallery is filled with clever examples of still-life photos that will get your creative juices flowing: mouthwatering food, cat-munched toilet paper rolls, sports equipment.

The Creative Sprinkle Inspiration Gallery is open for you gain inspiration, or you can add your own photos to inspire others.

What still life photos have you incorporated into your home?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Coffee: My Muse, My Addiction

I never liked the taste of coffee. A stolen sip from Mom’s coffee mug confirmed it for me. Yet tastes change: they evolve.
Early in my professional writing career, I was reintroduced to coffee.
After college, I took a reporting position at a small town newspaper. I spent my evenings covering long meetings; exciting stuff like school boards and sewer authorities. And every morning, I hauled my tired self into the newsroom at 7:00 a.m. to type up my story, some police reports, and a couple obits before my 9:00 a.m. press deadline.
Becky, my mentor, started every morning with a piping hot cup of coffee. It transformed her from a surly bear into a one that was just mildly grumpy. She thought it was pretty weird that I didn’t drink coffee. Peer pressure, as it usually does, got the best of me, and I took up the habit. Thanks to her, I will forever associate coffee with writing.
Now more than 15 years and two jobs later, coffee has become an integral part of my creative process. The smell of the first cup, the feel of the hot mug in one hand as I type hunt-and-peck style with the other; they bring my muse. The words don’t flow anymore without coffee.
Many times I have tried to free myself from the grips of my coffee mug. For a short time I succeed. But eventually my muse calls again, and I answer her.
This post was inspired by Tazim Damji’s “The Favourite Things Project.” This week’s theme was “Things to Drink.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Creative Mistakes

Some of my favorite artistic expressions come from “oops” moments. Like these photos from our recent trip to New Orleans taken in the courtyard of our hotel, the Place D’Armes.

For me they perfectly capture the southern climate; hot, humid, and sultry. And they were purely a mistake. Steam from the pool combined with near 100 percent humidity to fog up the camera lens.

I was disappointed when I first saw them. No crystal clear representations of the courtyard. No chance for a do-over with New Orleans now almost 1000 miles away.
Yet something in me paused as I hovered over the delete button.
Sitting in my air-conditioned home, I felt the heat of New Orleans. These “mistakes” captured our trip better than any of the “technically correct” images did.

Side note: I fear the outfit I am wearing is also an “oops” moment. The jury is still out on whether or not it is a good one. I bought the top just before our trip, but when I put it on in the hotel room with the skirt and sandals, I felt like a Laura Ingalls wannabe.

My husband said I looked fine, so I took his word for it, and we headed out for Bourbon Street. As we passed a scantily clad woman in thigh-high leather boots ushering people into a strip club, she said, “Oh, I love your top!” My frail ego was both boosted and deflated at the same time. I smiled and said “thank you” as we walked away.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Favourite Things: Modes of Communication

The Favourite Things Project
Tazim Damji's blog has a really cute "play along" activity called "The Favourite Things Project." It is a weekly visual project where you show the little things that you appreciate. This week's theme is "modes of communication."

Modes of Communication
My stab at the theme combines some of my favorite methods of sharing things that are important to me: love letters, sketching, words, and social media.

Next week's theme is "things to drink." If you want to join in or suggest a theme, check out

Note: I combined my photos using Big Huge Labs "Mosaic Maker."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good Product Descriptions

Some women love buying lingerie. Personally, I hate spending money on things that 99% of the people I encounter never see. But that being said, a good bra is a necessity for forty-year-old boobs.

Recently the “barely there” bras by Hanes caught my eye.They advertise “No guessing games. Just Smart Sizes.” No A, B, C, or Ds. Instead you selected XS,S,M,L,or XL.

They were on sale last month so, I decided to give one a try. Since pretty colors cost the same as white, I picked out a delicate pink one. When I got home, I noticed a “buy one, try one” offer on the tag. So for just $3 shipping I could send away for a free bra.

I liked the one I picked out, but I wanted a thicker fabric. I went online to scope out the choices. Here is where informative product descriptions come in handy. What I really wanted to know is “will the bra keep my nipples from sticking out in public?”

Since I can’t feel the fabric online I have to rely on the product description to help me out. And there it was. Right there in the benefit bullets. “No telling the world how cold you are.” Bingo. Bra identified.

Unfortunately this one wasn’t one of my choices for a free bra. My search continued, and I settled on one that had “foam cups.” Not sure if that is what I need, but I’ll find out when it gets here.

Informative product descriptions are a must right up there with great photos. Etsy has a really good article, “20 questions your buyers are asking” that outlines some ideas for questions you might need to answer if you plan to sell products online.

What questions do you ask yourself when shopping online?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebrating Love in New Orleans

a new marriage begins

16 years of wedded bliss
We have celebrated many of our wedding anniversaries by attending June weddings. Number 16 for us was no exception. But unlike our cold rainy Pennsylvania wedding, this was a sultry southern affair in New Orleans uniting my friend Caroline and her love Scott.
The ceremony was a great reminder of what marriage is all about. The Episcopal priest began with the tale of love as a journey, cautioning the couple that life will have ups and downs, but if you take the journey together your marriage will grow strong.
The priest shared the unfortunate fact that some couples drift apart on that journey. You see them in their twilight years sitting rigidly, miles between them, still married yet somehow alone.
And then he told us about the other couples. The ones that still hold hands. The ones who steady each others' frail bodies. The ones that look at each other with eyes that have shared a wonderful journey. At that point, Rob squeezed my hand, confirming which couple he planned to be.
It was a poignant reminder that every marriage has the potential to thrive or fail. But looking at the love on Caroline and Scott's faces, and feeling the love in my heart, I know our marriages are meant to thrive.


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