Category: Reading Nook

Traveling into Uncomfortable Creative Territory – and Finding Gifts!

I am working on a project that is way outside my comfort zone. It is taking me into the world of fabric and sewing, a world that is at once mystifying and familiar.

When I was a girl, I would spend hours tucked away in my mom’s sewing closet. I would pore over every single page of her borrowed pattern books, choosing which cuff, which collar, which length etc., I would pick for each shirt, dress, pant, jumpsuit, you name it. My mom also had piles of fabrics and I would run my hand along each one, taking in the colours, textures and patterns with delight.

What my mom could do with the sewing machine was sheer magic to me. If she and Dad were hosting a dinner party, she’d whip up an incredible floor-length gown in no time. Picture day tomorrow? When I woke up, I would have a fabulous new shirt to wear. She even worked a miracle with my 7th-grade sewing project, finishing it while I slept because I just couldn’t get the hang of the sewing machine. I never did.

Some of you may remember a couple of years back I gave it another go. With support from my sister Shannon, I found a pattern and fabric. My Auntie Laima helped me pin and cut the pieces and showed me how to use the machine. Those pieces of fabric then sat in a bag in our storage room for years!

I was pretty hard on myself for not getting any further. Then I realized the experiment had actually been a success. I had given myself the opportunity to explore sewing. I had help, I had instruction and I just didn’t want to do it. I could let it go.

There are a million creative avenues and we don’t have to take each one.

In fact, with the limited time we have on this planet, it makes sense to focus on the ones that feel like ‘ours’.

Having said that, I’ve also learned not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is so much I can still enjoy about traveling to the creative world of sewing. It’s a world I have tremendous love and respect for, even if it’s not my home. It is a world of beloved women in my life. It is a world of colour and shape and technical prowess, of measuring and math and magic. I give a deep bow of love and respect to those who live and breathe in the world of sewing. It is a wonder.

This week, when my project took me to a fabric store, I still found it intimidating but truly, it is a wondrous place. I could have spent all day with the fabrics, just like when I was a girl, discovering colours, shapes, patterns and textures.

Just look at the few bolts I’ve shared in today’s picture: the gentle joy of soft blue and yellow side by side, the muted vibrancy of pink and teal, the effect of white backgrounds versus black backgrounds, shapes that would be a delight to draw, the impact of scale, the way patterns take us back in time…

Looking at fabrics is like dipping your cup into a well of inspiration and having enough to sustain you for months!

Our creative projects can stretch us into the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. When that happens, remember that you can ask for support, get help and instruction. You can decide what is for you and what you can honour in others as their gifts.

Everything we create transforms us in some way. Perhaps the projects that take us outside of our comfort zone are there not only to stretch us but also to help us see that we don’t have to do it alone.

PS Special shout-out to my sister-in-law who has offered to do the sewing for my project. Thank you, Sylvia!

NOTE: Originally shared in my Letters from the Studio. To receive my weekly missives, sign up here.)

What Does “Fun” Look Like?

When I was a girl, my idea of summer fun wasn’t swimming or picnics or baseball or going to the cottage. What made my heart sing was hours and hours of reading (maybe accompanied by a sugar donut or two), preferably inside.

When I did my summer journaling, I realized I was longing for that again. Instead of lying on the living room rug, I’ll be on my deck with a cup of iced tea and a pencil to underline and to scribble in notes. Yum! My husband will encourage me to do some light reading, to enjoy some fiction. But inevitably, I’ll have piles of non-fiction and memoirs, most related to the arts in some way. That’s my happy place. That’s what’s fun for me.

Over the years, I’ve coached clients who felt a pull to have more fun with their work. Sometimes that’s been about letting go of restriction and perfection but often it’s about simply letting yourself love what you love.

Fun for you might be…

hours and hours at your sewing machine
late nights laughing with your friends
getting messy with your gelli plates
seeing if you can swim that lap faster
going to the dog park (dog or no)
collecting vintage jewellery
learning to throw a pot
playing cards
playing with words
playing an instrument
playing an MMORPG
researching family history
gathering floral specimens
staying in bed all day with Netflix
a romantic night with your honey
birdwatching
learning a language
dancing in your kitchen
exploring a new neighbourhood
planning your next trip
a day at the spa
a night on the town
building a database of your reading
organizing your photos
listening to music

You name it!

Your fun might be boisterous but it might also be quiet. It might be playful but it might also be studious. It might be messy but it might also be orderly. It might be relaxed but it might also be challenging.

Fun is giving yourself full permission to enjoy what you enjoy simply because you enjoy it.

I hope that this week you’ll think about what is fun for you – and then you’ll let yourself enjoy it.

Let the magic of summer begin!

Living on the Luminous Edge

When I first started coaching almost 20 years ago (ack!), I wanted to call my company The Luminous Edge. Everyone advised me against it because it was ‘too scary’. The truth is, whether I used that name or not, that’s where the work of the studio often takes place, on that tender and brave edge that takes us into the next iteration of our work, of ourselves.

No matter our level of experience or expertise, we all have a luminous edge.

It’s that place where we lean into the new and the unknown, expanding our range in every way. Each of us, the seasoned artist and the budding and everyone in between, experiences the discomfort, the resistance and the self-doubt on this edge as well as the hope, the excitement and the expansion that’s available.

To describe this in more concrete terms, I like to turn to yoga. Imagine a room full of students: some have been practicing for years and others are moving for the first time in years, some are limber, some are tight and some are recovering. You name it. Every person in that room (and in any room) has a unique body and on any day that body is having a unique experience.

Now, imagine all of these students doing a forward fold. Everyone standing, bending at the waist and reaching down to the floor. Everyone is doing the same move and everyone will be in a different position. Some students’ hands will not reach the ground, the stretch in their hamstrings registering as soon as they lean forward. Other students will have their palms on the mat, their chest against their knees. Each of these students is likely judging their efforts against the others in the room. We have learned to measure ourselves against one another in order to assess where we are.

But what if we are all actually in the same place?

What if we are all experiencing that sweet spot where our current limit meets a sliver of new possibility: our luminous edge?

When we recognize that each of us in that sweet spot is doing the same work, the work of expanding, of braving new territory, of growing our capacity, something shifts. We can shake off the norms of hierarchy and instead share a companionable experience in a room rich with wild and glorious uniqueness. We can see one another as fellow travelers and treat one another with newfound compassion and respect.

We don’t live on that edge all the time but as creatives, we will come to it again and again and again. And when we do, it helps to know we are in good company.

We are a part of a tradition of brave souls unfurling, creative spirits braving the mystery, artists willing to dance on the luminous edge.

The Little Voice Within: How I Hear My Intuition

Over the years and in so many ways in my creative journey I’ve been tripped up by the same thing: thinking I had to ‘get it right’. The absolute worst version of this has been when ‘getting it right’ also meant being something other than myself.

This year I have recommitted to listening to my own heart and following my own instincts. It’s like getting off the highway and instead following a barely perceptible path. It takes patience. It’s full of wonder, sometimes scary, and it makes me feel magnificently alive. I feel like myself again.

In order to find and follow this path, I’ve learned to listen for and to my intuition. One of the things that has helped me tremendously with this is my current morning practice. I’m going to share the intimate details with you today in the hopes that it will inspire you to create a version that helps you hear your own small voice within. Please know that it doesn’t have to be in the morning. It doesn’t have to include the same components. It simply has to be a repeated and recognizable moment so that your intuition knows you are listening and that it is safe and meaningful for her to share..

My Morning Practice

The first thing I do in the morning is feed the cats. Without that, there will be no hearing anything but insistent and persistent meows! Once my pride is taken care of, my practice officially begins.

First, I greet the day. If it’s warm enough, I go outside and greet the sun, the sky, the earth, the wind and all the directions. If not, I look out the window and do the same. I take a moment to notice the world and remember that I am a part of it.

I make an offering. I might put out a few nuts on a rock out back or light some incense and put it under our lilac tree. This morning I scattered the tulip petals that had fallen from a bouquet of spring flowers. I think the world was pleased.

Then I prepare a cup of tea or coffee, ascend to the studio and plug in my twinkie lights. I light the candle on my altar, setting the intention to listen and receive.

Then I dance. One song picked on shuffle. I trust the music, I move and I listen.

By now both the Universe and my spirit know that I am here and paying attention. I sit down to my journal and write. I follow seeds of ideas or questions that may have arisen. I ask for guidance. I let answers flow through my fingers. I notice what comes easily and feels fresh compared to what feels tight and all too familiar. I write until I feel complete.

Recently I’ve been following this with a simple 3-card tarot reading. I shuffle my deck*, again holding the intention of listening and receiving. When it feels right, I stop. I cut the deck twice with my left hand and I place three cards face up. First, in the centre, a card for ‘me’. Next, to the left, a card for ‘today’. Finally, on the right, a card for ‘guidance.’ I look for illumination on any present themes or concerns. I close with a little more writing to gather my insights and reflections.**

With gratitude in my heart, I blow out the candle and begin my day.

Then (and this is important) I follow the threads.

After spending time tuning into my intuition and seeking guidance, I follow where I’ve been led. I do my best not to slip back onto the highway of habit and the ‘way it’s done’. My insights guide my day. They lead my decision-making. Each day I demonstrate to that wee voice that not only am I listening but I am also acting. I will not take the wisdom I have received for granted.

With this practice, day by day, I am becoming better and better at finding and following that barely perceptible path that is truly my very own.

May you find and follow your path. I hope what I have shared today helps.


PS You might be thinking, “Jamie, all of that sounds nice but seriously, how long does that take?!!  You know, I love taking my time with this ritual whenever I can (it is delicious when it is languid and long) but it can also take about 15 minutes. And sometimes it actually saves me time. Instead of wrestling with questions and decisions, more often than not, I find I already have the answer!

PPS This is an excerpt from Letters from the Studio, which I send out on Sundays. Join the studio and I will send these creative inspirations to you. Plus you’ll get a discount on classes, a free workshop series and more!

*I recently shared that I have a new deck that I have fallen in love with, The Light Seer’s Tarot.
** These reflections often end up in the ‘insight’ section of my Studio Yearbook.

 

The Worst Kind of Comparison

We’re used to hearing about comparison in the context of comparing ourselves to others. Today I want to bring up a different kind of comparison, one that can rob us of years of our life: comparing where we are to where we want to be.

I don’t know about you but I have a visceral reaction just thinking about all the ways this shows up.

I thought by now I’d be…
I used to be able to….
I hate that….
What if I never…

This way of thinking has shut me down many a time and I have witnessed how often it has shut down the creatives that I coach.

I have learned to do three things in order to move through this painful comparison towards something else.

Acknowledge the truth.
Mourn the losses.
Open to the belief that even here there is goodness.

Many of us are facing, have faced and will face difficult and devastating circumstances. Many of us are facing the fact that our lives are simply different than we expected. Whatever the distance between what is and what we hoped for, if we lock ourselves into comparing the two, we can stay stuck in a loop of suffering for years.

Creativity lives in the present and, in an unexpected twist, it’s magic is strongest when it works with what is real.

Instead of losing years locked into comparing the way it is to the way we wanted it to be, let’s find the good that is available and get creating exactly where we are with exactly what we have. Who knows what we’ll achieve, experience and become on the adventure ahead!

PS This is an excerpt from Letters from the Studio, which I send out on Sundays. Join the studio and I will send these creative inspirations to you. Plus you’ll get a discount on classes, a free workshop series and more!

When You Make Something You Hate

I’m working on the painting above for a class. This photo was taken after my second pass at it. When I had finished my first pass, I took one look at it and thought ‘blech‘. I was ready to drop it, paint over it and use the board again. Then I realized something…

Hating the piece gave me permission to be reckless.

Suddenly I felt totally free. I couldn’t wreck this piece – it was already awful! I could do anything, try anything. I felt like a little kid with big messy markers who just wanted to go for it! Scribble, scribble! Glop, glop! If I was going to paint over it anyway, why not experiment? And that thought revealed the second gift of creating a piece you don’t like.

Let the unloved piece be your teacher.

The feeling of disliking our own work is so uncomfortable that we mostly want to just walk away. We want to forget we made anything so hideous! We’re afraid of what it means about us. We’re afraid it signals to ourselves and, now that it’s visible, to others that we’re not artists at all. We’ve been fooling ourselves. I mean… look at it!! Would an artist get it so completely wrong?!? The answer is yes. Artists get it wrong all the time and one piece is never the sum total of you. If you can calm your nervous system and not believe its hype, a piece you don’t like can be a tremendous teacher.

With this piece the turning point for me came when I showed the work to my sister Shannon, who I know to be a perfectly safe person to discuss my bad art with. I was able to talk out what I thought wasn’t working and find my way back in.

Here are some questions for when you don’t like a piece:

  • What specifically isn’t working?
  • What might be a resolution for that? (Bonus points if you try it!)
  • What do you like?
  • How can you build on that?

Give It Time

Sometimes we may need a break to really see our work. First, to soothe and remind ourselves that all is well and our artist’s life is not over because of this piece. Second, to give ourselves perspective. Artist Lynda Barry says it best, “There’s the drawing you are trying to make and the drawing that is actually being made – and you can’t see it until you forget what you are trying to do.” What would be different if you let the work be what it is?

Honour the Work

Honestly, I always feel uncomfortable when we generate ill will towards our work, like we’re berating a child for not living up to our expectations.* It also seems to me that it’s going to frighten away the next piece. I mean, who would want to arrive to that kind of reception?

I’m certainly not saying that you have to like all of your work. I sure don’t like all of mine, the above piece included. But I do believe that in order to move forward as an artist, to find our way and our work, we must respect each piece for what it is – maybe our teacher, maybe a step, maybe something whose value we are yet to discover.

Instead of chucking out your piece with despair, anger or frustration, ask yourself what creating it has contributed to your artistic journey, offer it your sincere gratitude and then go ahead and bin it!

(Note: This is originally from my Sunday  morning Letters from the Studio. Subscribe here if you want inspiration, Studio news and discounts!)

Is Making Art Worth the Time?

When I was a little girl, I was blessed with a creative mom who believed in the magic of art and art supplies. I grew up in an environment of books, puppets, paints, maracas, markers and construction paper. Even so, sometimes my mom’s approach would shut me down, like the time I proudly showed her some drawings and she said, “That was too fast. Real art takes time.”

Real art takes time.

What a terrifying thought.

Now before I go further, let me say that as an adult it occurred to me that what my mom really meant was, “Jamie, I literally just set you up to do some drawing. How can you be finished already? Do more! Take longer! I have my own things to do!” But at the time, I just felt shot down and confronted with the concepts of ‘real art’ and ‘time’.

I think time may be one of the things that confounds us creatives the most. There’s never enough of it and knowing that, we sink into a panic about whether we’ll ever make the work we want to create in this lifetime.The problem is that the worry slows us down – even paralyzes us at times.

Time is so limited we look for guarantees.

We don’t want to start unless we know we can finish – better yet, if we know we can finish and the work will be good. And not only good but good enough that other people will love it. Even better, other people will love it so much they’ll pay for it and then we will finally know that time invested in making art was worth it

Is making your art worth the time if it doesn’t make money?
Is making your art worth the time if other people don’t appreciate it?
Is making your art worth the time if sometimes even you don’t like it?
Is making your art worth it if you run out of time before completing every project?

When is art-making worth it?

My answer is, “Always.”

I have dozens of projects I want to bring to you in the studio and 5 books so real that I can call them by name. It’s hard to make some wait in line while I work on others but I know that’s the way for me to make progress. I have no idea how many of these projects I will be able to bring into being during my lifetime, nor do I know how any of them will be received. All I know is that I will use the time I have to create what I can. I hope you’ll do the same.