Patti Edmon Altered Attic: November 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Creative Life, One Scoop at a Time

Aside from a couple of small, gifty projects I haven't worked in my studio since the Red Thread Retreat. If my feet were smaller I'd probably have made more progress on the re-purposed shoe boxes, but there are still four weeks until Christmas. I'm not sure whether it's taking care of sick children, too much on the list, the crush of cold weather on my arthritis, or all of the above. I do know that the more I try to control or balance obligations the more frustrated and impatient I become. And still no finished boxes. And I still can't decide if time away from the studio is simply that, or if triggers a germination of sorts.

An examination of the inner-workings of the creative process often isn't pretty; for me anyway, it's scattered and messy. Preparing pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies seemed an apt metaphor, a labor that involves guts and sorting, scraping away the pulp and seeds, which have their own use, then setting aside the leftover baked shells. I think properly baked pumpkins yield the best-tasting pie and while time-consuming, are always more than worth the effort.

Early on, things can look, well, stringy and jumbled. The secret to getting the spicy, savory results is in holding on to the knowing that it is process and will evolve with a life of its own. Listening to the muse, being open to the universe, "trusting the soup" as Steven Pressfield says in his dynamic tome, Do The Work, are all means to remaining somewhat patient during the sometimes long periods of time when there is no finished product, business model, end result.

I've been making the annual pies for decades but it has only been recently that I realized how little faith I've placed in my own metaphor. Often unwieldy and not resembling what I'd envisioned, I have spent my years dabbling in various endeavors - writing, photography, art - along with a somewhat successful career running a small creative business. It has often felt that each discipline has been an isolated effort to reach the one aha moment that makes the rest of the journey wide-open, easy to navigate, safe maybe? At this age I have plenty of journey left, though I've pretty much stopped wondering what I'll "be" if and when I grow up. The hobbies and passions I've pursued have all been creative and rather than feeling like a dabbler, I realize that each facet - a photograph, haiku, paintbrush - enhances art making. And the disciplines that at times feel separate are the inner-workings of one creative life. I'm not certain the pumpkin analogy is still working for me here... except for the part about the dozens of seeds tucked inside, ideas and hopes and plans for creative days ahead.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

They say cats have nine lives. I believe humans experience endless lives in the brief span of a lifetime. Especially for us creatives willing to remain open to truth, be vulnerable with fragile wings that, like a miracle, are strong enough to send us into flight.
There is risk involved but the generosity of rewards makes it oh, so worth the occasional scrape, the deeper wounds even that cut through the sheer cloth of courage. Little protection is offered but then again not needed, for the layers we paint, weave, wire in our studios build our hearts into a fortress of faith.

It is possible to walk the bridges we stumble upon without owning the tools to judge their stability. That is faith, and, in stepping out onto the wavering boards it becomes evident that many have already traveled there.

I tapped into that and found myself headed to the inaugural Red Thread Retreat, fully aware that I wouldn't know any of the other 14 women - yet - or the instructors. That I would stay in a rural, isolated retreat center and share a house with this group having only gender and the love of art in common.

I got lost within minutes of leaving the airport in DC, of course, but thanks to several incredibly nice folks at different points on the hour drive, I found my way to Knoxville (Maryland). My karma bank must have been full, because I'm still in awe of the kindness I encountered throughout the trip. 
After passing through the lovely Leesburg, VA, I stopped at this lovely market for some supplies.

I only wish I'd been a passenger to afford much more time drinking in the incredible autumn scenery along the drive. Fortunately, after the third "Road Narrows" sign, just when I thought I couldn't possibly wind up anywhere, I arrived at my destination tired but looking forward to the coming days.

 We spent many incredible hours in the workshop building art using new techniques and bonding in the way that is only possible in this setting. Lesley Riley, artist and teacher extraordinaire, created the retreat, she must have known that the red thread was what wound through each of us, secured by the end with a tight knot! 

The chance to live in my version of Heaven - usually Vermont, the lake, now Knoxville Maryland - was almost surreal. The quiet that we don't ordinarily experience... hearing leaves shimmer with color then scatter in the breeze wakens all senses. The rich smell of beeswax melting, the dripping of (caffeinated, thankfully:) coffee, even though it was 7:00 am. 
I shared a room with a perfect stranger. I say perfect because Rachel Stewart ended up being not only the best possible roommate but an amazing new friend (I miss her already)! We both have two kids, love horses and creating. Her jewelry, photography and writing... her blog, Blue Finch Jewelry, pure treasure - well, you'll see.

Claudine Hellmuth led us through the delights of beeswax collage on Friday. Along with looking just like her photo, she just sparkles for lack of a better description. I made several pages, though I didn't have the ideal photos to work with, and being a Clear Tar Gel kinda gal made it awkward at first but what an amazing tool to add to the repertoire! I'm pleased to report that there were no fires, smoking irons or major burns.

Though my workstation did have a 'fire hazard' quality about it, I managed to stay organized enough to plunge into Nina Bagley's Over the Edge class on Saturday. Nina Bagley... sigh. I've been an admirer of her art for so long that to finally meet her was incredible (I hope she doesn't read this because she'll get 'that look' and say she's just human:) 
I got a chance to explore wire-wrapping techniques and a zillion ways to use millions of eyelets and there are two new things on my wishlist - a Japanese screw punch and manual drill - must haves!

To say that I 'fell in love' with Nina sounds a little creepy, but I'm not sure how else to put it... Her warmth, wide-open generosity and humor and talent, well, you get the idea. Where else did I think the depth and range of her beautiful art came from? I wish I could pour her coffee every morning. And when I saw her pendants I knew I had to have one, along with an amazing chain that is a work of art on its own. I have worn it every day since and I'm glad that the beaver-gnawed stick, scraps from treasured fabric, beads and metal go with absolutely everything I wear. It was a talisman during the long trip home, made a day early; instead of dropping the car at the airport I drove it home to Lexington leaving a hurricane and blizzard behind me.

Missing Lesley's class was more than a disappointment; however, given the horrendous nature and destruction of the storm that still has the eastern US coast in a state of emergency, safety first. So I'll look forward to a next time. I'm so grateful I experienced the power of the Red Thread, now safe at home with my family - with power.
For now I'll consider unpacking and getting back to work in the studio!


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