Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Relaxation Techniques: Purge and Stimulate

My favorite quote from my notebook of fortune cookie wisdom

“A relaxed mind is a creative mind.”

This is my favorite quote on creativity. It is attributed to Yogi Bhajan, but I’m ashamed to admit that I
discovered it in a fortune cookie.

While I love this quote, “relaxed” is not my natural state of being. A "relaxed mind" for the most part is a foreign concept to me, but I'm trying to get better.  Like most women, I love to picture myself as superwoman, flying from one cry for help to another, accomplishing amazing feats. It is a proud banner to wear, yet it is also an exhausting one.

No question, things need to get done. The problem comes in when we live every day in high
production mode. You might be "getting things done," but your frenzied mind has a harder time coming up with fresh ideas. And it is also far more prone to burn-out.

Lately I've been experimenting with a two-pronged approach to reviving a stress-damaged mind: first purge it, then stimulate it.

Purge the Mind
You can't cram good ideas into a cluttered head. So rather than forcing yourself to "find inspiration" take a break and clear your head. The closer to burn-out you are the longer the break
may need to be. Here are some of my favorite mind-purging activities.

  1. Meditate: This can be as simple as sitting in your garden or staring into a campfire. Start with 5 minutes and gradually increase the time.
  2. Take a walk: Concentrate on your surroundings. If your mind wanders back to your to-do-list gently redirect it.
  3. Capture thoughts: Find a trusted way of capturing ideas and to-do-list items, so you can get them down on paper and give your brain a break.
  4. Clean: Physical clutter adds to mental clutter. Put on some lively music and clear those cluttered thoughts away.
  5. Fast: Take a short fast from social media and other mental energy zappers. Set aside social media free times to give your brain a rest.

Simulate the Mind
Once your mind is calm, it becomes a powerful receptacle for new ideas. Stimulating your mind can help you see things in a new light.

  1. Seek new inspiration: Does something outside of your specialty catch your eye? Is there something there that you can adapt?
  2. Stimulate the senses: Essential oils are a good source for mental stimulation. A couple drops of peppermint oil in a bowl of water near my workspace does wonders.
  3. Take a mini retreat: When you feel open to some major brainstorming, arrange some dedicated time for it. Sit in your special place and allow yourself to dream, sketch, and jot things down. No computer and no distractions.

All of these suggestions are simple in theory, but it will take some patience on your part before
you see results. Start small and slowly add one or two into your routine and build up from there.

What techniques do you use to purge or stimulate your mind?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No measure of time

Love forever graphic created from vintage dictionary page

Rob and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary today. We went out to dinner out last night and enjoyed a quiet day at home today.

This is the card I made for the occasion. I found the image in an Etsy store called Life's Moments Defined. The owner, Anne, scanned the background from her Original Webster's Dictionary dated 1873.

The page features the definition for "vampire bat" complete with an illustration. Anne digitally added the saying on top. Quite a fitting tribute considering that we will close out the evening watching True Blood.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Storing Ideas

How do you store ideas that hit at inconvenient times? I'm  a big fan of notebooks! I've got tons of them going, each with a slightly different purpose.

Ideas marinating in notebooks until I can get to the creativity kitchen

The big sketch pad in the back is one I've been using for about 20 years to sketch out quick doodle project ideas. The first sketches were of ideas for dog bandanas that my mom and I sold at craft shows when I was in my early 20s. 

The tiny one captures blog topics.

When most of these ideas popped into my head, they were so detailed that the post almost wrote itself, but since I didn't have the time then to actually type it out, I jotted down the essence which of course I would remember later. Yeah, right!

Item Number 74 is "Creativity Lessons Learned from my Cats." I bet that would have been good, but now, as I watch them napping on the couch, I have no idea what the thought was behind that post. 

Many of these ideas, will never come to fruition, some will marinate for years first, and others, like the vampire bunny and the fleur-de-lis light switchplate sketches push so hard at my brain that I create them right away.

If your peak idea time lines up with your available work times, I ENVY you. My ideas hit at 3:00 a.m. on a weekday morning or when I am in the shower getting ready to head off to my day job. That's life I guess.

20-year-old product sketch from my first business venture--doggy bandanas

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Island of Misfit Toys

Island of the Misfit Toys
My studio is looking a little bit like the "Island of Misfit Toys" with oddities in progress strewn about. The bear will eventually become part of a creative flower vase, and the little devil in the back is a jump start on Halloween production. He'll will get some Victorian Gothic finery in the next baking stage.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Coloring Polymer Clay: Cinnamon Bear

That little gray bear head that I shared with you on Thursday now has some color thanks to one of my favorite spices. Cinnamon, combined with translucent polymer clay, makes a great color enhancer. I love the depth that this cinnamon inclusion technique gives the bear's fur.

cinnamon bear work in progress
Cinnamon Color Technique
I've been experimenting with different techniques to add color to sculptures without painting them, but to be honest, I hadn't planned on using the cinnamon inclusion technique on this piece.

I started with a dark brown base of pastel chalks on the unbaked gray form. I tinted some satin glaze to go over the baked chalked head. While it looked nice, it was darker and shinier than I wanted.

unfinished pastel chalks on polymer
To try a different approach, I mixed a batch of translucent clay with some latte alcohol ink and some cinnamon. I gently added a thin layer of the mix over the existing head, rubbing in additional cinnamon with my finger to increase the color before reshaping the fur. After baking, I followed up with some light sanding and buffing to get the result you see in the first picture. Read about my past adventures in polymer clay inclusions.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Work in Progress: Polymer Bear

Starting point of a polymer bear

Recycled inspiration: Crofter's Superfruit Spread jar
What do these two items have in common? They are pieces of my latest project. I'll show you more as it comes together.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blue Ribbon Month

This has been a month of good things on the polymer clay front. First, I got my copy of The Polymer Arts magazine in the mail last week and was thrilled to see my little white "Alice" rabbit opening the "Inspiration Challenge Gallery as the "Best of Spring 2012."

And this weekend, I found out that my Frolicking Pisces bowl was chosen for 1st place slot by non-members voting in the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy's June Challenge. There were so many great entries so I am really pleased and surprised! Check out all the winners:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ode to Migraines

The Cluster Headache by JD Fletcher
This image, along with more "migraine art" appeared on the blog "She Walks Softly" today. I love this blog because the author, Dana, routinely publishes wonderfully weird curiosities.

Thanks to this image, the next time that I have a migraine, and someone asks me how I feel, I am going to say, "I feel like the devil thrust his hand into my eyeball and is trying to tear my eye out of its socket, but other than that things are good :) "

Fortunately I don't get migraines very often anymore. I get tons of headaches, but not migraines. The only thing I can really credit it to is the fact that I cut back on gluten several years ago. I'm not perfect with it, but it is no longer a routine part of my diet. Or maybe it is just the fact that I am learning to let go of things a little bit as I age.

Up until a couple of years ago I had a migraine every month or so pretty much from childhood. In elementary school I was considered an expert at vomiting.

I vomited on the school bus. I vomited in my teacher's trash can when she refused to let me go to the nurse's office because she thought I was "faking it." I vomited every time I ate a nitrate-filled hot dog in the cafeteria. And I vomited in my dad's new pick up truck. Of all the things I've done over the years, throwing up in my dad's truck is the one thing he can't let go.

He never had a migraine. If he had, he would have been more understanding.

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Normal" with a Twist

Humans are complex creatures with multiple personalities living within. Some of those personalities dance happily on center stage. Others hide, unseen by most.

For me John Hughes' 1985 classic, The Breakfast Club, depicts this inner dissonance beautifully as the characters comes to realize they are much more complex than the labels (athlete, basket-case, princess, brain, criminal) that they have accepted from the outside world.
While this complexity is completely "normal," I find myself struggling with how my disparate  personalities fit into my public brand image. As facets of me come out in my work, I often feel like a cat coughing up a muti-colored hairball. And I ask myself, "who in their right mind would want a multi-colored hairball?" 

It is a sensible question. After all, one of my personalities makes a living as a marketing director. This "me" knows that a brand needs to have a focus. One has to live within a niche in order to find the "ideal" customer.

Yet the "artist me" struggles against the marketing box. My fractured "brand" does not know how to categorize itself. Some days it basks in sweetness and sunshine. Other days it dances closer to the dark side. Which "me" represents my brand?

To answer this question, I sought the help of two former higher ed marketing colleagues of mine, Bevin and Tara, who recently launched their own creative agency, Firebrand Tribe. This weekend I spent more than 5 hours with them brainstorming that universal question, "Who am I?" in relation to  my art and my brand.

Lots of great ideas emerged, and I'll share some of them in future posts as things flesh out, but basically we came to a wonderful conclusion. There is no reason try to purge one of my personalities for the sake of "branding."

The dissonance between my outer "Mary Jane" and my inner "twist" is what makes me, well, uniquely me.  And that is where my best art lives.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bowls and Vessels: a Worthy Challenge

Frolicking Pisces Bowl @

Molding a bowl in theory is simple, but in execution it can get tricky. I've molded sheets of clay around the outside of bowls before, but for this month's Polymer Clay Artists Guild Of Etsy challenge, I wanted a different shape.

While perusing my china cabinet, my eyes landed on my seldom used martini glass set. That cone shape was perfect. I started picturing myself wrapping the clay around the outside when I hit a mental "oh shit" moment.

If I covered the outside of the glass, I wouldn't be able to remove the "bowl" because of the footed stem on the glass. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it actually took me a while to figure out that I could mold the bowl on the inside of the glass. Duh!!! 

The finished product is my entry in the Bowls and Vessels challenge.
Please hop on over to the PCAGOE site and vote. Voters can win prizes!!!

PCAGOE challenge entry


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