Posts tagged creativity
Morning Lists

Morning lists

 

A few years ago, I remember reading an American mom-blog, where the writer talked about her daily and weekly goals.  I am 100% certain I rolled my eyes and thought something like "Oh spare me. I would never do something like that*."

Well, a few years on and I find myself doing the same thing.  Amidsts the craziest of shouty, chaotic, busy mornings, without fail, I sneak away to spend 15 minutes making my lists for the day.  

My morning lists are in 2 parts.  First, I fill in my Daily Greatness Journal. Sent by Inspiration Overlord (aka my mother), what I like about it is its overall focus on goals. every day and every week, it is about looking back to what goals you are working towards.  With 2 businesses on the go, I have to remain very focused with my time and actions to ensure I am doing what needs to be done. There is a morning and an evening check in.  It takes no time at all, but I really like how it keeps me on track. Cheesy? Yes.  Does it work? Yes.

Second task is making a practical list for what I need to achieve for the day, in my handy moleskin. This is my catchall notebook with meeting notes, design sketches and other stuff that travels with me wherever I go. On days with children, I limit it to 3 things I am going to do (and housework is never one of them, a clear sign of my priorities, except for today when my Mother is set to arrive tomorrow).  on Fridays and weekends, I expand to a few more, usually no more than 6. They are always 1 thing for each business and then something else to improve our lives.  With book work largely done, I can put exciting things like "Make Ellis bird wings" and "knit" on the list.

What all of this does is focus my mind on what I need to do in those few spare moments I may have in the day.  And for me, that is the key to getting anything done.  I don't really get the luxury of long working stretches, so I have to make every single moment count**. 

*I also thought the same thing about having babies 1 year apart, and look how that ended.  I wonder when I will learn what payback is...

**I hope this post doesn't make anyone else roll their eyes.  If it does, just be warned about the above point. 

On Gratitude

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Truth be told, I have been hiding from the blog over the last couple of days.  I always find that, after a big post.  I never know quite how to fill the space. What does one say after you've said everything?

I guess I should start with thank you. I love my blog so much, the things its given me and mostly the people with whom I get to connect. So many of you who read here are my biggest cheerleaders.  I am so grateful for the support.

And for what it's worth, my deadline flew by, was missed and then met today. And, as many of you thought might happen, no one even noticed...

Photoshoot tomorrow with one of my favourite people and a new pattern coming out this week.  It's exciting. And reminds me of how grateful I am to be living this life.

Corpse Pose

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I am burnt out. Fried to a crisp with nothing left to give.

It happens: the soaring highs and bone crushing lows. I have been here before and know that it is something that will pass.  That meal after meal of "X" on toast will give way to the meals that I normally love to eat and cook.  We will find the floor of the house again.  I will be able to work and parent without feeling like I am dragging myself through mud.

I have learned that that only way to get through burnout/block, is to be still.  I used to rally against it. Fight to push myself to DO, when I barely managed to just BE.

Of course it always comes at the worst time.  I have been pushing myself creatively and loving it.  Learning so much, with so much to do and achieve. This time, burn out feels more like slamming into a brick wall than just petering out.

Perhaps its a sign of maturity that I no longer struggle against it.  I know it will pass.  And so I wait. I do the small things that still excite me. Get out, take pictures, read.  I tick only the most basic things off of the to-do list and look forward to when productivity returns. Danielle LaPorte likens it to Savasana in yoga, the corpse pose, spending a moment integrating and being still...

...and waiting for the upswing.

Ebb and Flow

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I am not quite sure when or where I lost it, but it appears (at least temporarily) that my creative energy is on a low. These ups and downs are normal and, when I look back over the last year, I am surprised it didn't happen sooner. In fact, I am surprised I am still standing after it all.  

Truth be told, I am finding everything difficult at the minute.  When I was pregnant with Theo, I couldn't imagine harder work than a newborn and a 1 year old (plus a 4 year old). I can confirm that a busy (almost) 1 year old and a crazy (almost) 2 year old combined with a very spirited (almost) 5 year old is much much harder.  I calculated the other day I was being yelled at for 23 hours of the day.  TWENTY THREE HOURS. Yes, it was a bad day, but not that far off of normal.  I spend most days counting down the moments until Kevin walks in the door. 2 hours is a long time...8 is longer.  

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I love my children desperately.  They are hands down the best thing in my life. However, the truth is that I can't help but at times resent them. They (rightly) ask so very much of me that I end up giving far beyond my capacity to do so.  Many days, it leaves me so utterly drained that I can barely speak--instead my words come out in sharp snarls and shouts. Empty and grumpy, I drop into my bed for a few hours sleep before the endless cycle of waking begins.

There are days that I have to fight every urge in my body not to pack a bag and walk away.  Get on a plane. Go somewhere where the sun shines.  But of course I stay. Sometimes its because I love them and I know I would be lost without them, sometimes its because I am too tired to walk to the train station.

It is against this tide that creativity must flow and it is hard.  If I can't even hold a conversation, algebra for sizing or energy for making isn't there either. Work splutters along and the seasonal slow down in orders comes both as a welcome relief and a worry. There was a time that I would have worried more.  That I would have thought that this was it...my life, my creativity was just this.  Experience tells me otherwise. In a few weeks, this will be a memory and I will be back on the high.

 

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But for now, I will be grateful for it being Friday:  A day with an empty house and a date with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook (plus all of the cheesy movies I can handle on Netflix). 

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- card by Katie Daisy

 

Inspiration and Originality

 

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Nothing is original.  Every single thing that we make, that I make, has its roots in something else...a picture, a book, a pin on pinterest.  As a designer I take the full breadth of my experience in making and put in into my designs...using them like tools in a toolkit, collected from all of the other designers I have learned from over the years. 

 

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Textile designers can do what they do because they (do I get to say we?) have an ability to think about how something is constructed and then make it. Generally speaking, when designing I stay far away from the internet because I am cautious about "reading" how others made something and getting that idea stuck in my head. In fact, it is much the same for blogging - I tend not to participate in meme's and writting workshops because I struggle to find my own voice amidst other people's words.

Of course, I do make other people's designs and my stance thus far has been quite a simple one: where an item I am selling has elements that have been directly inspired by someone else, I contact them to let them know.  The Herringbone hat and mitts, the Viking hat, the costume wings.  I have had email discussions with all of the designers about how I am using their designs and have had permission to sell. In the case of the Herringbone hat and mitts, a lot of work went into developing and writing the patterns, making the samples and getting to the point of publishing a pattern...but I chickened out at the last minute for putting the patterns for sale as I just felt awkward doing so with someone else's work (even though I had Craig's permission).

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Serendipity is another issue...the owllelly warmers were born out of a gift for a young woman who loves owls.  I had made owl cables before and adapted them along with a ribbing that I thought would  fit a range of leg sizes, as having very, ahem, shapely calves, stretchy ribbing is required.  It wasn't until after I made the first pair and drafted the pattern that I saw there were handwarmers on ravelry with the similar stitch pattern. 

Ultimately, I have to take the perspective that these things happen.  Where possible, I think it is key to be open and honest and hold one's hand up, but the reality is that creativity works in mysterious ways and, we are always going to be inspired by others, be it for new crochet designs, blog posts or dinner ideas. 

And that is where this little work in progress comes in (we are calling him Elmer). He appeared in my studio in the late hours of last night after I'd been dreaming about him for several days.

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We'd been at a friend's house this weekend and Georgia was captivated with their hobby horses. She isn't interested in much other than destruction, so I do tend to jump on any opportunity.  I decided to make one for her birthday in March and wanted to do a tester for another little boy's birthday next week.  Coincidentally, in my daily dig around pinterest, I stumbled upon a range of hobby horse designs. 

And Elmer was born.  He is entirely my own design, crocheted like a sock, complete with ankle ribbing and heel flap, but is very muchinspired by the beautiful ones I saw here.  Of course, I would like to write up the pattern and share the love of his sweet little face and make many, many to send off to homes all over the world, but I hesitate because I want to respect the work of others. It is always a challenge to find balance...

As he is still in the developmental stages, I am comfortable to wait and see what happens as he and his lady love (her name will be Eustice the Unicorn) develop.

 

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I guess I will leave this discussion with a quote from my friend Robyn who commented on a facebook post of mine when I was venting frustration about this issue:

'The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is "her home," nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design.

This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:

"This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating.

"And to be different means 'not like this' and 'not like that.' And the 'not like'--that's why postmodernism, with the prefix of 'post,' couldn't work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one."' 

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Ultimately, I have to believe that we are all better for just making...for putting more of ourselves and our visions into the world.

And, of course, Elmer and his lady love will be appearing in their finished forms soon, even if it is just here.

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I am also excited to be Parentdish's Blog of the Week!  If you have come through from there, "Hello and Welcome!!"


 

Make and Be Thankful
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I opened the etsy and folksy shops earlier this month because I wasn't sure how we would pay for our groceries.

Of course it would be nice to say that it was for some sort of deep urge to create.  The reality is that the situation with American Airlines losing all of our clothing and then not being reimbursed for it, combined with unexpected bills and car repairs meant that we reached a financial position that left me up at night with worry.

I had to do something.

And so, I looked around, rolled up my sleeves and started working with what I had in front of me.

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And I haven't stopped. I get up at 5am and work until Kevin heads off for the day, I work every free minute my children allow (with a few distractions) and then I work in the evenings until 11 or 12. When I am not crocheting, I am writing patterns, answering emails and thinking up new ideas.

I just wanted to pay for our groceries. I needed to sell a few hats to people other than my friends, so I needed to promote myself, hence the pattern and tutorials and the Facebook page. In the last week, I have had roughly 10,000 visitors to the blog (I would normally have 1500 in a MONTH). 4,500 people have downloaded the owl hat pattern. Last night, etsy featured one my designs on their facebook wall and I had 12,000 views of my etsy shop in 6 hours (with a number of orders, many for multiple hats - but I am too afraid to actually download them into my orders spreadsheet for fear of what I might find!). For many blogs, these are small numbers...for a girl from Iowa who writes a little blog...they are jaw dropping.

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I think, (even if they don't readily admit it) many bloggers would like to be 'discovered'. I am no exception. Of course I have occasionally daydreamed about this kind of response, in a guilty pleasure sort of way. In reality though, I am a shy person who really liked my little blog and modest number of readers...my comfort zone was really very cozy. I was happy to stay in it and just write and take pretty pictures.

Now finding myself in this position, I am overwhelmed. I have spent the last few days oscillating between excitement and tears seeking advice wherever I can get it.  The resounding answer has been not to kick a gift horse in the mouth. "Run with it" they've all said again and again.  "See where it takes you"

I am under no illusions.  I know full well that this could be my 15 minutes of popularity. It could be a fluke or a blip or a mistake.  My other designs might not get this response. All of these visitors might not stick around.  Maybe the owl hat is just something exceptional and everything else is just medicre.  It could not last

There are so many things it *could* be.

But the one thing it *is*, is an opportunity...

And I've got on my running shoes.

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Where I Find Inspiration

For Day 4 of Creativity Boot Camp, our word was 'heavy metal'.

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We were also asked to take our cameras out and look for inspiration in our outside world. As I don't drive, my path takes me along the same long road over the bridge and through the leafy road along the river. Walking everywhere, especially when accompanied by a toddler means that I have many an opportunity to take inspiration along the way. Combined with the garden and the parks in our village, I realised that the vast majority of my inspiration comes from the things I see everyday and the time I have to reflect when we are walking and both children are content.

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1. Every morning, I head out for a few minutes in the garden with my coffee.  I love those quiet moments, checking the peas, strawberries, pumpkins and other veg.  Summer is such an amazing time and I love to see what is happeneing and gather my thoughts for the day.

2. As we wander down the street, we pass a red phone box.  A RED PHONE BOX.  I love photographing this stalwart of British design. It remains one of those visual cues that reminds me that I am somewhere special.

3. The river. As it changes with the seasons and the tide. Crossing it on foot everyday gives a sense of adventure to going out...like the village is surrounded by a moat.  Crossing it in the other direction means we are almost home.  And while its ecosystem may not be thriving, the colours, textures, openness and wildlife that inhabit its sluggish waters are all a wonderful breathing space from the business of everyday life.   

4. Puddles.  There is one particularly low dip along our journey.  Usually filled with water.  Always jumped in.  Often photographed.

5. & 10. Stirling is a university town.  While this brings some vibrancy to the city, it also brings a lot of rental and unkempt housing.  As we wander a long the road, we walk past a range of overgrown gardens.  These two are my favourite.  5. has this HUGE posy bush that I look at longingly every time I pass, often taking pictures when they finally bloom.  10. has a red front door that matches the red poppies growing amongst the gravel and rubbish. I love finding beauty in unusual places.  I love the contrasts of it.  I love the unexpectedness. 

6, 7, 11. Red Shoes.  OK.  These are not in the natural world, but red shoes have the amazing ability to make any ground shot interesting.  Plus they make me unbelievably happy.

8 & 9. after the slightly run down rental housing, we come to a row of villas.  They all have beautiful gardens, mature trees and sit above the river, looking out over the fields.  As I walk through this section, I always feel incredibly calm (and slightly jealous).

12. The Abbey.  Through every season, the abbey is the background to our lives and photographs.

Of course, I still get inspiration from the web, from my friends, from books and from other desperate sources, but as I walked with my camera yesterday, I realised that living life at pavement level plays a big role in my own creativity.  It is my time to think, to observe and to reflect...rare gifts in the world of mothering small children. That time to pull it all together probably plays a bigger role than any one thing, even my red shoes.

Where do you find inspiration?

What We Are Up To

It seems that the days are just flying by in that new baby haze of busyness.  We wake up and then woosh, its bedtime.

But of course, its not all new baby centred...we are getting back into the groove of being ourselves, not just Georgia's mother, brother and father.

Ellis has a new obsession with bubbles...they MUST be blown everyday. I am heading off to the grocery story this afternoon to buy the ingredients for this bubble recipe, as we are going through a couple of pints a week!!!

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He also talks all of the time. From the moment he opens his eyes in the morning, until he collapses at the end of the day.  I have to admit that I love talking with him and listening to the things that come out of his little brain. His current obsession is with 'sunnytime'.  This time of year, it never gets dark, so Ellis is CONVINCED he can stay up as long as he wants to, "But I can't go to bed, mama!  Its Sunnytime!"

He also continues to be ever so slightly mad, and spent much of yesterday like this:

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Kevin continues to work away and his may be the only person in Britain looking forward to Big Brother (please note: I didn't marry him for his taste in TV).

I have decided to go to boot camp and get my creativity charged up, not least because I have to take photographs for a wedding in a few weeks and want to do everything I can to take good pictures for my friends. There may be random photos popping up on the blog, like my interpretation of yesterday's theme picnic:


Picnicking, 3 Year Old Style

I have really started cooking again.  Being dairy free really forces me to think about what we are eating and is getting me out of the rut of eating the same things every week.

I am also off to collect some elderflower for cordial fritters.  I have been eyeing the bushes in the park every day for the last week and I think they are about to pop!

Oh and look away now, if you are in any way squeamish. This is the living logic of why this blog is called Slugs on the Refrigerator. This beast was on our countertop to greet us on Monday morning.

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And yes, I am still afraid of slugs.

How We Do Things

::Complex photoshoots take place here...mostly involving yarn and food (sometimes both in the same shot)

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:: A combination of an over the door shoe organiser and old jam jars makes a great children's craft supply organiser (whilst shoes most often lay piled at the bottom of the stairs, making it impossible to open the front door all the way).

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::'Grumpy' is Ellis' favourite new word.  And if he doesn't want to do something, he's "sick and needs to lie down".  Where does he get these things?

::These shelves from ikea make great book display/library book collection so I don't pay Stirling Council even more money in fines (Ok, so that doesn't work that well, but, you know, I consider my library fines charitable donations at this stage).

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:: Seashells are our bath toy of choice (when I am able to hide the sharks).

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Hmmm...feeling a bit grumpy this morning, think I'll go lie down.

A Room of Our Own
Togetherness

I suppose it was inevitable, which is why I wasn't that shocked when I suddenly started sobbing at my sewing machine this afternoon. It had been building for a few weeks, or even months.

I'd just wanted to make a small bag to hold the range of plastic carriers that seem to procreate the minute one crosses our threshold.  Simple.  Pattern found, fabric decided upon.  Easy. 

But sitting down and just getting on with it wasn't on the cards.  First, I had to clear away the basket of laundry, the pile of books, cars and tucks and the bag of roving piled high on my desk.  Then, I had to pick fabric paint off the the work surface as well as the 2 log cabin squares I'd finished for Ellis' quilt.  I then realised my good skein of white thread had wandered.  In such a small house, the wide expanse of my desk becomes so many things to each of us: a play ground, a dumping ground, a viewing point for a small boy. Ellis loves to climb up and go through my sewing supplies.  And they go everywhere.  Unorganised at the best of times, devastation is what usually greets me when I sit down to create these days.

And so I haven't been.  I have ignored my sewing machine for weeks and haven't bothered to crochet or knit anything recently.  I could blame the fact that if I even attempt to make anything, I can't find the hook/yarn/needle I need, because it has wandered away on short, 2-year-old sized legs. I finally start something and small hands come and 'help' the minute I sit down.  I can barely write any more, as the moment my fingers hit the keypad, other hands itch with a burning desire to "push buttons".

Its not his fault, I know.  Of course he wants to help his mama.  We cook together.  He helps clean.  We do laundry together.  Why shouldn't he be a part of this too?

I have tried to include him.  But it ends up requiring so much of my mama energy, I am left without  the creative energy to finish anything.  And energy is on short supply these days, as I struggle through the worst period of insomnia I have ever experienced and a rather uncomfortable and, quite frankly draining pregnancy.

After my tears subsided this afternoon, I spoke to a good friend about it all.  She said, quite matter of frankly, "You know what you need to do, Kat.  You have to move to a bigger house where you can have your own room to close the door to other things".  Essentially, I need a 'Room of One's Own'.

We all know the argument, don't we?  As women, as mothers we need a space to close off to the outside world to just be and create. We can only reach our full potential if we have the time, the space and the financial resources to do it.  Small hands have no place in the realm of art.

I do admit I dream of such a place.  It has white walls, with huge windows that overlook the sea.  There is a cappuccino machine and all the caramel digestives I can eat.  Hell, while I'm dreaming, it has a Chihuly chandelier as well.  I sit on the overstuffed corduroy sofa and dream and sketch away.

Its a beautiful dream, something I see in the very real lives of many of the creative women I admire. But a studio, or even a third bedroom doesn't really solve the problem, does it?  I think of this problem like a tree.  A landscape architect once told me that trees only grow their full potential of branches and height when they are planted alone in a park or other isolated position.  Only then do they look like the pictures in tree identification books.

I bet you can see where I am going with this.  They are beautiful and tall and spread as wide as their genes take them, but they lack the system that gives them sustainability.  The other trees to breed with.  The ecosystem that all works together to ensure a different kind of potential.  One that fits beautifully together, piece by piece.  

For some, maybe the isolation is necessary to create, but I see examples again and again of women who create with their family, in amongst their children, in snatches of moments, with few financial resources. It is not in spite of these things they create, but because of them.  Knee deep in life, they find their drive.

Of course, its not all or nothing. Closing off a bit of my space to make it inaccessible to a curious toddler is needed and a 'studio' clear out is in order.  But, fundamentally, I want him to be a part of my creativity, because he is so much of my inspiration and my drive.  I want him to participate in it.  I want him to learn to sew a button on and darn a sock.  I want him to see the things that fuel his parents passions and that possessions don't just appear out of nowhere.

And so, we have to learn together. To grow as an ecosystem where all of our needs are met and we are allowed to flourish. We have to learn to recognise our inherent differences, which includes realigning my understanding of what I can expect of a 2 and a half year old.  Forests take a long time to grow, but its worth it in the end.