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Lately I have rediscovered something which I am sure, if you have ever made a gift for someone will come as no surprise.

Creating art is a pure expression of pure love. My paintings of my cat and dog are wonderful examples. When I am thinking about painting and choose a subject, my pets are by far my favorite subject.  I love them and so by translation I love painting them. Their funny expressions remind me of a moment that we had together and make me smile. And then I get to walk by and look at the painting later on and enjoy reliving that moment again.

 

I would love to be able to paint the humans that I love, but I my ability to paint humans is not quite up to a standard where I won’t get mocked by my teenage boys, who blessedly are not full of the tact of grownups and will say what is truly on their minds.

I notice that even when I am designing jewelry if I have a specific person in mind as the recipient, I will be inspired in a whole

different way than if I am purely thinking about what to make. There was a moment when I was at Haystack school of Craft in Maine and I was stuck. I was purely thinking about what I wanted to make with the objects that I had. When I thought about people I wanted to make things for, my whole approach changed. That is when I started making my enamel cats. They continue to be one of my favorite all time things that I have made. I don’t sell them, I just gave them away and they are the best. They make me happy when I look at them and I made each one with a specific intention of who I was going to give it to.

My encouragement for this week is to consider something you love. A person, a pet, a place. Then think about how you can make that love tangible. You don’t have to give away what you make, maybe it is a picture of your pet that you love and hang on your wall. Or maybe it’s a beautiful handmade card that you make for a friend. If love is your inspiration whatever you make will turn out magnificently!

Who knew that there is an amazing place called Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Area? I didn’t until yesterday. A serene place in Huntington Vermont for cross country skiing, CHN has over 35 miles of trails that range from beginner to expert.

I am a moderate skier, and usually ski in the field and trails near my house. My skiis don’t have metal edges, so I obviously usually stick to flat-ish terrain. I went skiing with my friend Jim today and luckily he lent me some skis that had metal edges. Even the beginner trails at CH nordic didn’t seem all that beginner to me.

Parking is just off to the left on Bert White Road in Huntington. Make sure you have the exact address loaded into your GPS because you might lose service like I did and have to hope that there are people to ask where you are going!

Once you have parked, there is a hut that is unstaffed that you can go in to pay the modest trail fees ($10 a day – $75 a season).

I would suggest taking a photo of the map because there weren’t any maps available and although there are trail signs you need a map.

Another word of caution- the trail marked Stagecoach Rd is actually a road is actually a road. So on a day like today where the snow was soft and not too plentiful, it didn’t work to ski on it- so mapping out a route that doesn’t include that trail would be beneficial.

The skiing is challenging and fun!  Lots of animal tracks, not too swamped with people, and some great views of the Green Mountains!

There are tons of great places to nordic ski in Vermont and this is one of them!

Make the most of the warmer winter weather and get outside, it will do you good.

Here are my friend Jim and me ( I am not bald but I look it) on one of our many stops to check out the map.

 

My husband Adam and I went hiking with our Greyhound, Seamus on Saturday. It was one of the first cold-ish days here in Vermont, and most of the leaves had gone. We have this amazing pack for Seamus that we got a couple of years ago when we took him backpacking, so he can carry his water and other stuff.

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The first time we put the pack on him and filled it up, he almost fell over. With his long skinny legs and already top heavy body, the pack almost took him over the edge. You could see him swaying in the breeze. Fairly soon he got his bearings and we were off.

It had been some time since we used the pack for Seamus so he was a bit rusty. If you don’t know any greyhounds, just know that they look forlorn all the time. And with the pack on he looked especially forlorn.

We had spent quite a bit of time deciding where to go hiking and whether to bring Seamus. A lot of websites have some descriptions but not enough to inform you whether bringing a dog is a good idea.

We got to the parking lot for Burnt Rock Mountain and saddled up Seamus. about 10 yards from our car there was a ravine with a river running through it. No bridge, no rock bridge, nothing. ok…

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We thought about it quite a bit and scouted around for good places to cross. Mind you we have a reluctant dog with us and it is 40 degrees F. We consider going somewhere else but then decide to just go for it. Shoes and socks off we wade through the frigid water. Wow! What a way to start a hike.

Much of the hike was uneventful, aside from Adam having to lift Seamus over many an obstacle.

When we were what I thought had to be close to the summit, we started on a fairly steep incline. Seamus at this point was well worn out, as were Adam and I and we decided to turn back. The flat diagonal rock face and ladder were too much for us. That was a tough decision. Getting to the summit always feels like the reward you get for the work of the hike. Even though we would have made it if we didnDSC_0105’t have Seamus with us, I don’t regret bringing him.

Instead of the reward of the grand vistas we had some really hilarious views of Seamus.  And the water was just as frigid on the way out. 

Enjoy your next hike!

Courtney

I have been making time for hiking which has been really amazing. My jewelry is of the mountains, but I need to take time to be in the mountains to nourish my continued work on my business in addition to working full time. I tend to get stuck in the rut of getting things done. There are always things to do, and with my personality I will NEVER run out of things on my to do list. But taking time to enjoy myself is so important.

In the past several weeks I have hiked Hunger Mountain, for the first time, Camel’s Hump which I have hiked many times and Mount Abe which I remembered only when I was about halfway up.  The hike up Hunger Mountain was a haul. It was hard. My muscles were sore. I felt out of shape. But getting to the top was such a wonderful reward.

Next was Camel’s Hump, which I hiked with my son and his friend. They flew up the mountain and patiently waited for me to catch up. There is a certain kind of fellowship that happens on the trails. An encouragement of strangers ‘You’re almost there!’ that happens that is really wonderful. And at the top it’s like an impromptu party of people who have never met.

My most recent hike was Mount Abe, and on my way up I was reflecting on why I hike. In the moment it can be hard, convincing yourself to continue upwards, and stepping again and again. But it gives me fortitude in other areas. I think in addition to the beautiful vistas I gain a determination in other areas of my life, because it is just as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

If you can, take some time to hike! You’ll be happy you did.

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There’s nothing in the fridge.

I was in college, living in an apartment on Wickenden Street in Providence. We lived above a flower shop. I loved living there. There was a wonderful living room with nice light, a cozy kitchen and two cute bedrooms. Three of us lived there, so whoever wanted to pay the least amount of rent would use the stairwell landing as a bedroom. Mohan used the landing for a while and then we rotated. There were two stairwells, and this one was blocked off. Looking back though, I do wonder why we didn’t use the living room as a third bedroom.

Sushma was my other roommate. She grew up in Nepal, and I was sort of in awe of that. One night we were getting ready to cook dinner together, and I looked around and said ‘there’s nothing in the fridge.’ There were potatoes. blah. But 30 minutes later we were eating the most mouthwatering meal of potatoes. But not just boring old mashed potatoes. These potatoes were cubed and sautéed in the most amazing mix of spices. I can’t remember the exact recipe but I do remember mustard seeds, cumin and coriander, red chili and salt. I was amazed that Sushma could create such an incredible meal out of what seemed to me so little.

Why had I never made potatoes like that before? I had never even tasted potatoes like that before! Wow! I still think of that day and remember that meal fondly. What I took away from that experience was that there actually WAS food in the house. I just didn’t recognize it’s potential.

I think that sometimes we need boundaries and limitations in order to find something good. Or great. Or mediocre even. But without limitations you are like Iron Chef without a secret ingredient. Too many options.

michael-albert-usaSometimes it can be inspiring to get a special ingredient, or new art supplies, but sometimes the best things are made with what’s leftover. I met a guy at Camp Common Ground a number of years ago who made art out of cereal boxes, because that is what he had. He is now a fairly well renowned artist. His name is Michael Albert and you should check out his website.  

 

slinkyship2What is something you have at home that you can work with? Perhaps it is food related, perhaps not. Perhaps it is scrap cardboard, and you can make a cardboard ship for your cat.

Why not? It’s fun. Even if you end up not so happy with the results, you can have fun and learn something in the process.

So I wish you happy scavenging!

Love,

Courtney

Today I think I discovered why I am such a planner.

The reason is because if I don’t plan ahead I am paralyzed by indecision.

In theory the idea of vast amounts of time to do whatever I want is ideal.

No responsibilities!  I can go swanning around this way and that.

But in reality when I don’t have a plan I just end up stuck in a time wasting time warp.

I am embarrassed to admit this, but today I didn’t have a dinner plan aside from my default plan which was to go to Life Alive for every meal this week in Cambridge. (See? planner.)

However, as a food lover I felt that it was my responsibility to try some other restaurants in the area.  So, I went on a run and when I came home I started to think about food. I decided i wanted. Indian food. No, Korean. Nope, how about some good American food. Well actually what sounds good is Chinese. Dumplings? Nope. Indian. No- how about ….

Anyway. You get the point.

By this point I had decided to order in since my run went longer than I had planned and I had already walked miles today. So good. Decision made. I will order delivery from Maharaja. And they no longer do delivery.

Back to the drawing board.

Finally 75 minutes later – I kid you not- 75 minutes- I ordered Indian food from Nirvana. And I was so hungry I had to eat a banana while I ate.

What the heck? Why was I so stupidly paralyzed by indecision?

Too many choices?

Am I just a bad decision maker?

I think it relates to the post I made last week about repetition. I will circle back to that for a minute. The idea is to make the most of something that you naturally do in your life over and over. Or something you want to incorporate into your life.

This food ordering situation is the opposite of that. It is a new experience for me. Not that I have never ordered food for delivery. But I don’t know the restaurants around here, and I am not accustomed to the ability to be able to order whatever I want and have it show up on my doorstep. Wow! So exciting. But also too much for me to handle apparently. I can’t seem to make a simple decision and just go with it. Typically I don’t have such a hard time with decisions. But I simply didn’t want to miss out on what could be a positive dining experience. And I ended up using up a lot of time and decision making power on this one small thing. (We only have so much decision making power in each of us per day! Who wants to use it all on dinner?)

I enjoyed my dinner (Mysore dosa and Malai Kofta in case you were interested) and I even have some leftover- thank god no decisions at lunch time tomorrow. But the point of this whole story is that we need some boundaries in our lives. Not that those boundaries or habits or self imposed rules can’t change sometimes.  But those patterns and habits can help us to grow, whether because they help make room for the other more important things in our lives (think eating the same thing for breakfast every morning) or doing a painting every sunset (You don’t have to decide if you are going to paint or what you are going to paint. You just have to decide what colors to use).  It is important to look at those habits and routines occasionally and analyzing them to make sure they still serve you. But to have no rules or structures or boundaries can paralyze you just as much as too many rules or boundaries can.

Today I sat on a bench in Central square with a gentleman while I ate lunch. I sat down after seeing the bench was unoccupied, and he was standing nearby. He seemed to be watching over his things which were propped up on a metal thing in the sidewalk and watching passersby who he seemed to find amusing. He then sat down with me and started eating his bag of Fritos. I said hello, and he responded in kind. He then peered at my food and asked where I got it. I told him, Life Alive- a couple of blocks away. ‘It is good!” He asked how much it was and I responded with ‘Nine bucks.”  He said he prefers the eight dollar sandwiches nearby. He asked if it was organic, and then went on to tell me that the only thing he can’t eat is brewer’s yeast. We sat in silence for some time and I asked whether he was allergic to it. The brewer’s yeast, that is.

He said it has something to do with hypoglycemia, low blood pressure and low tolerance. Low tolerance to what I am not sure. But I did feel kind of strange sitting there eating this delicious healthy meal while he ate his Fritos. I got the feeling that if he had the money he would choose to eat more of a healthy meal as well. I scraped up the last bits of broccoli and carrots and he fished out the last bits of Fritos out of his bag. 

As I sat there I thought about the food issues that were so apparent in that interaction. Perhaps the man I sat next to on the bench did have the money to buy himself a healthy lunch- who am I to judge? I don’t think so though. Maybe he would have used the money in a different way if he did have the money- isn’t that what everyone always thinks- if you give money to a homeless person they will just buy alcohol with it.

Perhaps yes. Perhaps no.

And why did I choose not to give him some money to get himself something good to eat? I felt guilty but I did not act. Why?

I suppose I justified it by thinking about all the myriad of homeless people who are out there who I can’t feed. Who will go hungry. And how will helping this one person do any good?

That is such a silly justification because it would make that one person’s day much better. To be treated well, to have some good food to nourish himself.

Afterwards, I went back into my workshop at NuVu Innovation school (awesome- one of the next few posts will be about that). We learned about some of their amazing projects. And you know what? Many of the projects that their students do are about making one person’s life better. They make a big difference in one person’s life. That made me really think about my interaction with the gentleman on the bench. It is not a situation I find myself in very often. I live in suburban Vermont. I don’t have many occasions when I interact with homeless folks. So I think about it more perhaps than your average city dweller when it does happen.

I didn’t feel unsafe with the gentleman on the bench. On the contrary, he seemed quite nice. I am not unhappy with the interaction we had. I am simply aware of my discomfort in the discrepancy of what choices we had in the moment. Perhaps how the choices we had made in the past led us to that moment and how different our situations were.

I know that buying that gentleman lunch would not have impacted his life hugely. But it is obviously still affecting me that I am thinking and writing about it hours later. Perhaps I will see him tomorrow.

 

Repetition can get boring. I walk on the same sidewalk every day down the same road with my dog. We often see the same people and the same dogs. We pass the same houses and the same plants.

But things are inevitably different. The weather changes. One day it might be hot and sunny, the next day is windy and cool. Some days there are piles of snow on the ground.

Even within a season there are major changes. The plants grow higher, one day they are budding and the next day they are in full bloom. I see different things- one day it might be a family of turkeys in the field, another a deer off in the distance.

Within the repetition of this daily walk I can see enormous variation if I look closely.

I think about Monet’s paintings of the haystacks. Here are just a few of the myriad of variations that he painted.

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haystack

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Working Title/Artist: Haystacks (Effect of Snow and Sun) Department: European Paintings Culture/Period/Location:  HB/TOA Date Code:  Working Date: 1891 photography by mma 1996, transparency #2 scanned and retouched by film and media (jn) 8_14_06

There are many more, and they are astoundingly beautiful. I do not look at them and think, ‘Wow, I wish he had only painted one, that would have sufficed.’

I think ‘I am so enamored of the fact that he looked so carefully at this scene and captured all of those different seasons and moods.’

What about you?

Are there things that you do on a daily basis that you could pay more attention to?

Perhaps bringing more attention to this would bring more appreciation and joy to your day.

My challenge to you is to choose something that you can do with  intention for the next 30 days. This could be a creative pursuit, like Monet’s paintings of the haystacks. Maybe there is a series you have thought about creating. Maybe it is simply bringing more attention to your surroundings in your daily walk.

Maybe take a few days to think about it. Start July 1. Then see where it takes you.

Happy summer!

Courtney

This quote encompasses the idea of internal motivation. If you love what you do you will naturally want to work harder, because you enjoy the process. You are working on a project because it brings you joy, not because someone else is telling you to do it.

I encountered this quote in taking my students to visit Harry Besett, a wonderful glassblower living in Hardwick Vermont. He has been practicing his art and making a living from it for the past 40 years. Sure, there are parts of owning his own business that he likes less than the actual glassblowing, but he does those in service to the parts that he does love. He makes amazing work and is a natural teacher.

I love making jewelry. I have another job that I spend most of my time doing, but I wake up early in order to spend time doing what I love. No, I don’t love getting up at 5AM but I know that I will be spending that time doing something that I love so getting up earlier is worth it.

I notice for myself if I am doing the things that I love, that feeds me in a way that nothing else does. I feel less desire to do things that I wish I would do less of- overeat, spend money in frivolous ways, waste time surfing the internet, etc. It becomes easier. Not every moment, but in general.

What are the things that you do because you love them? I hope there is something!

If not, I suggest that you find that thing or those many things.

Cheers, and happy spring!

Courtney

 

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything.

I have been quite busy with custom orders over the holiday season, for which I am extremely grateful. I have been challenged and loved every minute of it.

I am excited to be the first educator in residence at the Generator in Burlington Vermont. It is a vibrant makerspace in the South End of Burlington that is a mix of artists, techies, inventors, etc with all of the tools to boot.

My project proposal was to create a prosthetic limb for a pet who from amputation or congenital deformity had only 3 legs. I was inspired for the project by a talk I saw by Sayeed Arida from NuVu school in Boston. They created a prosthetic limb specialized for a person who wanted to be able to draw.

When I made this proposal I had no idea that it would be so difficult to actually find a candidate that met the criteria. To have the best chance to make a successful limb you need 40-50% of a residual limb for the prosthetic to attach to. I didn’t realize that most pets that are amputees have complete amputations and no stump to work with.

My second hurdle is materials. I know that the materials that are used in most medical devices are quite expensive. However, once I started thinking resourcefully I realized that my cousin in law (is that really a thing?) works with carbon fiber in boat building and repair, Beasley Marine. I also have some thermoplastic from a splint that I work after tearing a ligament that is able to be remolded and reused.

I have made contact some wonderful people already through this project who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise in the field of prosthetics.

My class will be taking a field trip to Yankee Medical in Burlington, an establishment that provides medical equipment and devices. We will get to see some equipment in progress and hear about the materials that they use to create prosthetic devices.

I will be posting updates about this project as they develop! Stay tuned.

Best,

Courtney

I write this as I anticipate the Womens’ Festival of Crafts tomorrow here in Burlington.  I haven’t participated in a craft show in many years, partly because the last experience wasn’t that great, and partly because I don’t feel I really have the temperament for it.

But I decided to go for it. Am I ready? Almost! Is everything perfect? Certainly not!

If I waited for everything to be perfect I would never be able to begin. I had to make a lot of decisions and assumptions and just sort of jump in.

Do I know what will sell? No! Is my display perfect? No! Am I ready to face the disappointment that might come if no customers come? Definitely not.

But I am willing to try. And learn something that will help me for next time. And know that I did my best even if my stuff doesn’t fly.

I believe in myself as a creative person and I really love the work I am creating right now (topo jewelry- check it out if you haven’t!). I believe it is interesting, unique and meaningful. That’s the best I can do. It’s not perfect, but it’s something!

What is your version of ‘not perfect?’ I would love to hear!

What is that thing that really fires you up? Maybe it’s hiking on a beautiful fall day.

Maybe it’s thinking about a story you just heard on NPR about equal pay for equal work.

It could be that you can’t stop thinking about that horrific earthquake or other natural disaster.

It doesn’t have to be something ‘positive’ to be an inspiration.

Whatever it is it can be fuel for your creativity.

 

Creative work doesn’t have to be pretty landscapes. It will be more moving to others if it is meaningful to you.

Think about what inspires you. What issues call to you.

What was the moment in your day yesterday that you are still thinking about today?

What can you glean from that experience to feed your creativity?

Maybe you can make an art piece about it.

 

Perhaps you will find enough inspiration to create a whole body of work.

Or maybe you will just incorporate a bit of your experience into your work.

All of our work has pieces and parts of our experience in it. We can’t help that.

But sometimes I know I shy away from those big issues in my life or the world because they are too overwhelming. But I know there is a lot of power in those things that move me.

I bet you have things that can inspire you too.

Some people thing using ideas or images or things that other people have created in their artwork is cheating.

Sometimes it is. If you use an image and don’t give credit for it, or take someone’s idea wholesale without transforming it somehow to make it your own that isn’t right.

However if you are drawing something and you can’t get it quite right it’s ok to use an image as reference. Or even to trace that image. It’s not cheating! It’s helping you expand your skill set so that eventually you might be able to draw without using that assistance.

Are there any new ideas? I don’t think so. I think that they are all recycled and revamped and made new through tweaking. So, if you think about it that way it’s ok to take someone’s idea and put your own spin on it. Recipes are a lot like that. You may make the recipe the way it’s laid out on Eating Well, but you might just tweak it to add your own spice to it, or leave an ingredient out that you don’t like.

In fact, it is very hard to copy someone else’s work exactly. Have you ever tried it? If we go back to the recipe analogy you probably know that when you try to make your grandmother’s fudge recipe it never comes out quite the same. Or at all, in my case.

The same goes for painting and sculpture and any kind of art. Forgers spend many years trying to perfect the skill of impersonating another artist.

I am not suggesting that you go out and try to make a living creating forgeries of masterpieces, but I do think it’s ok to take someone else’s idea and build off of it. Make it better. Make it your own.

This week I want to encourage you to find a fun project that you want to try and do it!

IMG_1061My example is a crayon painting that my son, Oliver made. He found the project online and wanted to try it. He did, and created several versions until he got it exactly the way he wanted it. Then I had fun painting on it. Was it completely original? Not really. I did enjoy creating it though, and now it hangs in our bathroom. It looks amazing, and we had a blast making it.

The other plus was that we took an idea that existed and played off it. We didn’t have to spend all of our creative time coming up  with the idea of what we wanted to create. That is a bonus.

Sometimes when life is busy unless you stockpile a list of projects that you want to do or you just have a million ideas in your head, it can be easier to play off of other people’s ideas. That is why paint and sip has become popular in recent years. Are you going to create original fine art at paint and sip? No way. But will you have a fun time? Sure! Why not.

I think sometimes it’s ok to cheat, and do creative things that feel a bit ‘easy.’

What’s your version of paint and sip?

I encourage you to find out this week!

Courtney

Learning something new is a great way to spark your creativity.

Do it.

Take 5 minutes a day, an hour on Sunday or an hour a day if you can spare it.

Learn something.

It doesn’t have to be related to your current creative practice.

What is something wild and crazy or very very tame that you have always wanted to learn  about? The movements of the planets? The tango? How to set up Quickbooks?

Now is the time to start.

You don’t even have to spend money to learn something these days.  Just look on Youtube.

Or Edx.

Or anywhere on the internet.

You are bound to find someone who knows something about what you are interested in just DYING to share it!

Who knows?

It might become your next inspiration.

Or not! Maybe it will just be fun.

Either way it’s worth it, don’t you think?

I do.

Next on my list is to learn more about arduino so I can finish putting lights on my felted jacket.

Will I wear said jacket? Probably. It’s kooky, but fun.

I will post photos when I am finished.

I hope you go out and explore whatever it is that you are interested in!

Courtney

This week’s post is inspired by my work at the Generator Makerspace in Burlington (check it out!). I have been a member here off and on for almost 2 years. The first time I heard about this place I thought “A place to make shit? Sign me up!”

I went to visit as soon as I could. I was… underwhelmed at first. I saw some cool looking machines and stuff but wasn’t really sure what their capabilities were. Then I started having conversations with people about what they were making.

That’s when I realized that the machines weren’t even half of the equation. Well, maybe they are half- but what really makes the Generator, and so many other places like it tick is the people. You can’t help but strike up a conversation with an interesting person about the cool project they are working on, and before you know it you end up collaborating with them on some crazy cool project. People are often very generous with their knowledge and willing to help you problem solve and trouble shoot. They are also too willing to throw more ideas at you then you would be able to use!

I volunteer my time at the Generator once a week for three hours. I get a discount on membership, but that is not why I do it. I do it because being around other creative and curious people is incredibly nourishing for me.  I love to see what other artists and makers are spending their time doing. It is inspiring to see what people can and do make a living creating.

I encourage you to find your creative community ‘home.’ Whether it is a once a week knitting class, an intensive artist retreat or a maker space like the Generator, you might find that it feeds your spirit too!

All the best,

Courtney

 

This summIMG_0298er I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Haystack School of Crafts in Maine. If you don’t know about it, look it up. It’s an intense, generative, beautiful spot on the coast of Maine on Deer Isle.

I was there for two weeks and the weather was warm, the water an icy 55 degrees fahrenheit, and thIMG_0335e food was incredible. Not only was every meal incredible, but after dinner the big table in the dining hall was laid out with fruit, a giant bowl of popcorn and an enormous bowl of cookies!

I was fortunate to have an incredibly knowledgable teacher, Kristin Mitsu Shiga. The group of 13 other students were from a wide range of locations around the country as well as being very diverse in age. The one thing we all had in common was a love of metal working.

Our studio had the most incredible view of the other coastal islands except when the fog rolled in across the water. We worked hard from 9-4 and often much much later.

At a certain point each of us got burned out. For me it was around the middle of the second week.
Kristin taught us how to enamel and I made an enamel cat head just for fun.IMG_0358
IMG_0292Then I was hooked.

I loved it!
I wanted to make many and give them away to the people in my life that also love cats.

While I felt silly making multiple cat heads- it became a slightly ridiculous production line of cat heads- that was what I wanted to do, and making them for thIMG_0394e people I love was a complete inspiration.

Where I had been burned out before I was completely revitalized by this process and the idea of giving something away that I had so much fun making.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Do you remember the last time you made something for someone just for fun?
You just got such complete joy from the experience that you wanted to share it?
Take a moment to think about it and see if you might be able to revisit that experience.

Happy creating!

Love,

Courtney

 

 

 

 

I have recently been reading a book that I am loving. It’s called “Stopping the Noise in your Head” by Reid Wilson. I highly recommend it.

The book focuses on decreasing incessant worry and anxiety using incredibly simple strategies.

I think that the strategies that he outlines in the book are also applicable for pushing your creativity beyond your comfort zone.

The ideas are that you can push through your worry and stress about trying new things, or old ones that make you anxious in two different ways.

The first is to be able to distinguish between a ‘signal’ and ‘noise.’

A signal would be something that alerts you to take action. For example, you have a big presentation tomorrow that you haven’t started to prepare for, and you get worried. That worry is appropriate, because you should be prepared for your presentation. The worry is a valid signal that you should get going on making your presentation!

Noise, on the other hand is something that can take over the background of your mind and isn’t useful. It might be a thought that plays over and over in your head that doesn’t allow for an actionable response. We will use the same presentation example. Perhaps you started weeks ago getting ready for your presentation and you have gotten feedback and revised it 7 times. You are ready. But there’s this little voice in your head that makes you worry. That is noise. It’s not helpful, in fact it is the opposite. The worry is going to distract you from other work you need to do, sleep or being present in the moment.

Being able to identify the unhelpful noise for what it is can help decrease it and allow you not to dwell on it. On the other hand, you can thank your brain for sending you signals, even if it wakes you up in the middle of the night and you have to write it down. Being able to distinguish between signal and noise can be a super helpful tool for diving into creative work, getting ready for a show, or presenting your work to a client or gallery.

The next step is moving towards your unease.

Say that a client asks you to do a custom piece for them. It is slightly outside of your work and comfort zone, but you would love to do the work and learn something new. Then your brain starts to get in the way and bombard you with unhelpful ‘suggestions.’

“What if you can’t do it?”

“You are going to try and fail.”

“Your client is going to hate it.”

Do any of these doubts sound familiar? They sure do to me!

You can dismiss these unhelpful thoughts as noise, but sometimes they will persist. Another strategy is to think about the worst case scenario.

I had someone approach me with a project that I was unsure I could complete. I knew it would require a skill I did not have. I would need to learn 3D modeling. Was that something I wanted to learn? Sure! Ok. So, I knew I was  at least willing to try. I was upfront with my client that it would take some time and I wasn’t sure I would be successful. She was willing to wait and see, so I went for it. I learned, and tried and failed and persisted. It took so much longer than I thought, and I had to make many many revisions. Finally though I ended up with something  she was very happy with. It had taken more hours than I thought, but I had a new skill that I could use for other work.

What was the worst case scenario?

One possibility is that I tried to learn 3D modeling and failed. But I knew that if I worked hard at it I could learn.

One possibility is that I would make something that the client didn’t like. Well, that happens. Then I have two choices. Take her feedback and revise it or move on. Not the end of the world.

That’s it. Nothing life threatening. No outcomes even remotely negative. I can learn something new and potentially make something that someone loves. Or, I can learn something new and chalk it up to a learning experience. Perhaps the client is disappointed with how the piece turns out or the time that it takes. I took care of that at the beginning by telling her that I would try but no guarantees!

The next time you are confronted with situation that makes you slightly uneasy because you are afraid you might fail, just ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

Good luck! and if you like these ideas, get Reid Wilson’s book, “Stopping the Noise in your Head”
Courtney

 

I always knew I liked making things. That is fairly obvious, considering that is what I choose to do for my job and how I spend most of my time.

However, until I recently lost most of the use of my right (dominant) hand I didn’t realize how essential creating is to me. It is healing. It will get better. I tore a ligament and it’s a long road to recovery. I use my right hand for everything. It is difficult to type, even harder to write, chopping is downright dangerous!

I think I almost had a nervous breakdown when it first happened.  This accident forced me to rethink my usual go-go-go attitude and slow down. Which is hard for me. And I am not sure I see the bigger picture, or ‘lesson’ yet.

What I am hoping that is that in this time of healing I will slow down enough to decide where to put my focus when I do get the use of my hand back. Recently I read Greg Mckeown’s book, Essentialism. The big idea is

Less but better

I love this idea! Less but better. Of everything! Less plans, just the best ones. Less commitments, just the ones you are super excited about. You can’t do everything. I wish I could and for a long time I tried, but it’s exhausting.

The less but better idea helps me to relax into my decisions to do less, and not worry so much about what I am missing.

I hope you find this idea helpful, and if you do- you might want to get his book  or listen to his interview with Michael Hyatt here .

Cheers!

Courtney

I don’ t know about you but I feel really mixed about late summer.

In a way, I am ready to get back to the routine of teaching; getting up early, packing lunch the night before.

Part of me thrives on the rigid schedule of structured days.

But the other part of me revolts.

I want more summer! That side of me screams.

I didn’t have enough fun yet! It’s not fair! (what’s not fair? I don’t know- life?)

The contented part of me is happy to have the cooler nights that come with less have-to-have-fun pressure.

The creative side of me is happy. I tend to make more time to create in the cooler months. And since Vermont is chock full of those, the innovator in me can thrive.

There are also things to look forward to. Apple cider, fires, pumpkins and stews. Being cozy inside of the house, and adventuring through the  snow.

Here’s to slowing down a bit – just a bit- from full throttle to  just cruising – into fall.

Cheers~

Courtney

 

 

Imagine you are in a place where you have too much work. Too much work to have around the house- too many paintings to fit on the walls. Too many candles to give away to friends and family. Too many songs rattling around on your computer!

What do you do with them once you have them?

Maybe you aren’t in this place- yet!

But one day you will be if you keep creating. And it’s a good place to be.

It’s a nice problem to have.

You will need to consider your possible next steps.

  • Stop creating. Hopefully this one is not an option. If you love to create, it shouldn’t be!
  • Keep giving stuff away. This works for a while, but that can be unfulfilling. Art can be expensive to make and it is nice to get compensated for our efforts.
  • Find a market for your stuff. This is what we will talk about today.

You have stuff to sell. Other people want what you are offering. How can you connect with your potential buyers?

There are a lot of options.

  • You can do direct marketing and connect with people directly.
  • You can sell to stores who will then sell your work for you.
  • You can sell online- there are a ton of different online marketplaces to do this.

Start by brainstorming a list of potential markets, or gig locations, or publications where you can be published.

This could be the local coffee shop down the street that has art, poetry readings once a week and open mikes for musicians on Fridays. Maybe it is Etsy, Soundcloud, or a well known writers blog. Make a list of as many places as you can think of.  Then start with one. Make a goal for the end of this week. You will call the gallery. You will email the host of the blog. You will set up an Etsy account. Start small. Make a list of all of the things that will have to happen in order to reach your goal. Each teeny tiny thing. Then just start. Do one at a time. Maybe one a day, maybe one a week.

You will face rejections. That is all part of it. Think of the rejection as being one step closer to getting to your goal. Perhaps you will have to face 10 rejections or 100. Facing each one means you are one step closer to your goal. Celebrate it. Keep moving.

If you are not in a place to start selling your work, spend 5 minutes imagining yourself being in that place. How does it feel? Is it exciting? Overwhelming? Inspiring?  Not everyone will end up selling their work. But maybe you will.

Dream big!