Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gazing into space and thinking...the way to be happy.

Neither waving, nor drowning but thinking......

The most often asked question to a quilt maker is: how long did it take you to make that?  and then...."oh you're so lucky you're retired you have all the time in the world! "
Would that it were so!  But those of us who are lucky enough to be retired and to be reasonably healthy (of course many aches and pains and so on of which I shall say absolutely NO more...not wishing to indulge in an "organ recital"!!)....those of us who are retired and energetic are finding that the best thing in the world, the greatest happiness, is having  the time to learn and practice new creative skills.

Winston Churchill wrote:
"The way to be happy is to find something that requires the kind of perfection that's impossible to achieve, and spend the rest of your life trying to achieve it."

Making art and making music are probably the best examples of an activity where perfection is impossible, but trying to reach it is wonderful.
Sport?  well - maybe when young!  For it does require a certain physicality!
And I definitely include arts like cooking and gardening!

So, given that, why are so many artists focused on making things for other people?  Making things to sell (which is a very difficult thing to be successful with), or making pieces to be accepted by a show - with all the constraints therein: size, date, number of layers, where the stitches are or are not, or making things for the latest group "challenge"??  Is this really the way to be happy?  is this is the best use of our art?
And, more importantly, is this a way to improve your art?

I see people boasting on the social networks that they did a "happy dance" ( an overused phrase anyway!! Please, eschew ALL clichés on your way to "nail" it as you "step upto the plate" while "jumping out of the box"!) because they got into a certain show.  But sadly I don't see them telling others of their delight in engaging in learning and developing and gradually improving their art. 
And most show acceptances are so meaningless:  perhaps one third of the art is inspiring,  but two thirds were merely  lucky.
Why do we even think of using acceptance/rejection as a measure of happiness?    

And also...why does how long it took you to make it matter? And why does it matter to the questioner?  What are they expecting to hear?  Well, it took three hours, therefore if you have three hours frree on Sunday afternoon you could make one too??!!
And, yes I know the clever answer of "three hours and 20 years experience", which neither addresses the heart of the matter nor is encouraging to the questioner. It's just clever, and it's been said so often, it's now a CLICHé!!

So please, make it or learn it because it makes you happy to do so and because it's thrilling to progress a little nearer to the dream.

If you have been, thanks for reading!   I appreciate it!   Elizabeth

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Giving presents!


We're getting near the present giving season again...and I've already got it all sorted out!
I decided to give each of  the grandchildren 3 things:
something sensible (clothes usually - incredibly LARGE ones!),
something sweet that they'll enjoy (yes, Mom has given the okay) and then..
.an start their own personal art collection.

When my girls reached 21, I didn't give them jewelry or a bright red sports car (ha!), but rather a painting by the artist of their choice (local, living... not Picasso or Monet!).  Art lasts for ever.   The ring I was given for my 21st wore out in a few years...most people don't even remember what they were given to mark an important anniversary.

Many presents that children get these days are quickly used up - one way or another: broken, out dated, shrunk, eaten...but a good artwork will live on.


 I think it's important to introduce young people early on to the idea of collecting art; it's an important habit to have.  Much more important than collecting shoes, or movies or popular music or having the latest fad thing everyone else has.

There are so many things to be gained from an art collection.

 When you move apartments, or houses, you can be instantly at home once you've hung your favorite art pieces on the wall.
 Art that will not only make you feel at home, but also make you feel good in some way every time you look at it.
It will help you remember a favorite place or person or pet,.
It will add beauty,  it may make you laugh. It will make you feel better!


Now what else but Art (and yes I include music!) will do those things?  Some may say - well "maybe a million dollars.." but in fact studies show that once you've got all the basics taken care of (and, yes, that is important) beyond that more money does not make you happy.  Look at all those miserable millionaires you know!  Does the Trump ever look happy??

Introducing children to beginning an art collection by giving them paintings, or sculptures, or photographs and so about something they already love.. will attract their attention and their joy.  Their love of the object, even if it's a doleful basset hound or a "don't mess with me" cat, will spread  to the art work and in that way they'll begin to see the value of having art.  So many homes I go into have only calendars and doctor's appointments hanging on the walls, it's so sad...when art can enrich our lives so much.  Begin early!!

Comments? I'd love to know what you think.
I'm off to the studio to make more art...after a nice cup of tea, of course.
If you have been, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Time management: Five steps.

On the last day of my live workshops I always have an open discussion about anything people want to ask - some strange things have come up!!  Unexpected things  that's for sure! for example one group that wanted to hear all about personality theory - now what that has to do with quilt design?  I don't know but I was happy to talk a little about that and then segue into how that related to one's art work!

In the last workshop, a student asked about time management.  This really is a key issue these days when it comes to actually producing something as a result of your creativity.  We are all pushed for time!  The number one reason people give for not doing  ANYTHING - is lack of time.

Years ago a book was published called "How to Live on 24 Hours a day" - unfortunately I've not yet had time  to read it!!   Arnold Bennett.  It's actually a free download from Amazon along with other self help books by Bennett.
"straightforward, vigorous, pungent" says  the New York Times!! Sounds more like manure....but!!

Actually I did start it, but didn't really come across anything very new - after all it was written about a hundred years ago.  But it's always interesting to see how the same issues bedevil us across the ages.= - we do have all our modern appliances...but we still don't have enough time!

HEALTH and PRACTICE are the two things we need most to improve our skills - whatever they are - quilting, cooking,  croquet  or canasta - if you want to get better at it, you need to practice.  In order to practice you need time.  To have the energy and creativity to practice you also need to be in as good health as you can manage.

So, time management.......

There are five steps:

1. Take data.  Write down everything you do for 3 days and see where the time is going now. Particularly note where someone else is wasting your time for you!
Also make a note of your diurnal rhythms i.e. is there a particular time of day when you are at your sharpest?  Or mellowest?  Some activities require a clear focussed mind, others only require time.  You don't want to waste your "best time" on mundane stuff!

2. Make a list of all your activities - including those that appeared on the data sheet from step 1 - AND - the activities you would like to do if you had time for them.

3.  Prioritize list 2.  Obviously the necessities of day to day living have to rank high, also those things you do to improve/maintain your health (usually exercise of some kind).

4. Work out a reasonable daily or weekly schedule....and implement it.  Keep taking data so that you can see where things go wrong - maybe your schedule wasn't that reasonable...or maybe other people are needlessly using your time for you.  Make the Most Important things from your priority list as unchangeable events that have  to happen almost every day.  But you choose what they are...don't let anyone else choose for you!

5.  Address the areas where your schedule is not being followed.  Consider each one as a problem that you can solve e.g. phone calls that go on for ages - either you can schedule them when you can also engage in a simple activity, like cooking or cleaning, or stitching.  Or, you can cut them short:  "Well, I won't keep you any longer, I"m sure you're busy" is a very good exit line!

Even if you can only harvest 30 minutes more a day from carrying out the above five steps...that will gain you 182.5 more hours in a year - more than enough to make another beautiful quilt!

If you have been, thanks for reading!  And do please comment with your own favorite time management ideas.  Elizabeth