Tag Archives: The Artist’s Way

Hook to Heal: Wk 12 reading/Wk 11 check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 12 reading/Wk 11 check-in

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It’s our final week of the read along, and we are reading:

Week 12: 18th-24th July

  • Conclusions and Reflection, pp. 227-254

For Kindle folk that is from the chapter heading “Conclusion: Back to the Beginning” to the final paragraph before the section “References and Resources.”

We are past the main chapters and the exercises this week, and reading the final Conclusion pages, where Vercillo details the circuitous journey leading to the creation of Hook to Heal. We have the opportunity to reflect on our own journey, what we have learnt and our experience with the crochet exercises.

All the information about the read along, including how to join, can be found on the project page.

Personal check-in, week 11

  • Morning pages: 3/7
  • Artist’s date: Me and my garden
  • Exercises: 4/12

So in this final chapter before the book concludes we swing back to the theme that we started with: Artistic Development. “I am an artist.” Am I?

This is a real theme for Vercillo, and resonates with both mine and the author’s study of The Artists Way. So it is a question that I have sat with for several years now. I still don’t have an answer. And maybe that’s the best way. To come to a final answer would be to stop thinking through the question. If you visit my facebook page you will see that the category I chose for the page was “artist”. This isn’t a declaration to you. It is a challenge to me. And every time I load that page on my browser, the word still challenges me.

I have come a long way in the last few years. I now accept that much of what I do every day is creative (having previously thought of myself as completely uncreative: a mere technician, skilled only in following the instructions of others). That self-categorisation represented the boundaries of my comfort zone at the time. And my struggles with the A-word are a reflection of my comfort zone as it stands now.

I struggle with the idea of calling myself an artist. It seems far too big a claim. It seems like a claim that would expose me and my work to much greater scrutiny. And I think that is the heart of the struggle for me. The biggest leap I have taken in this whole journey is to open me and my work to the public, when in many ways I’d really rather stay unnoticed. I don’t see an end to that any time soon, and I was struggling to finish this blog post, having no satisfactory conclusion. Then something happened.

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My daughter, who hadn’t been privy to these ruminations handed me this note. It says:

Mum, you’re the artist.

Time to shine.

I asked her why she had given it to me. Why “artist”, I wanted to know. “Because that’s what you do,” she said, “with your spinning and your crochet and your drawing and writing.” It was so simple to her. She doesn’t carry the baggage that I cling on to. She doesn’t care about the weight of others’ expectations. Would I reach the same conclusion as her if I started from that place of simplicity? I shall think on …

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Hook to Heal: Wk 6 reading/Wk 4 check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 6 reading/Wk 4 check-in

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Our week 6 reading assignment is:

Week 6: 6th-12th June

  • Facing Fears, pp. 116-138

For those on Kindle that’s from the chapter heading “Facing Fears” to the text box “Yarn for Thought: More Musing on Fear.” This box has 6 bullet points and the last one begins “Make a list of all the things that make you unique,” and ends ” – celebrate that!”

Vercillo pulls no punches in the opening to this chapter: “The things that you are afraid of are holding you back.” I cannot overemphasise the truth of these words. It is a lesson I have learnt time and time again from working on these kinds of projects and on personal improvement. Every single time I have felt ‘stuck’ with creative work, or with wanting to go in a new direction or improve a situation in my life, I have traced the cause back to fear. Basically, I’m not making progress because I am scared to make progress. The specific fears may vary between individuals. Mine tend to be very consistent. I’m scared to fail. And at the same time I’m scared to succeed. But there are ways into dealing with and overcoming these fears, and chapter 6 of Hook to Heal is a great way to start. But let me ask you a question. Are you someone who’s been following this read along, hoping or trying to participate? Is something holding you back from really engaging with the process? Could that barrier be a fear?

Have a great week. Slay some dragons. 🐲

All the information about the read along, including how to join, can be found on the project page.

Personal check-in, week 4

  • Morning pages: 5/7
  • Artist’s date: kinda. Great days out, but it’s hard to do that alone in half-term!
  • Exercises: Of 14, I completed 4, prepared the ground for another 3, am intending to do 3 more in the future, and decided the remaining 4 are not right for me just now.

I have to say, I’ve had a great Hook to Heal week, which is the first time I can really claim that. Maybe it’s no coincidence that this breakthrough came in week 4: Self-Care and Self-Esteem Building. After all, I started this whole process after I recognised a lack of self-care and decided to do something positive to address that.

This week there was a heavy focus on affirmations, another valuable technique I first came across in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I got so much out of this process. I will show you the fisrt and last steps of my working of exercises 1-3. Here we examined the negative things we say to ourselves about our craft. We dig down to the roots of these ideas – where do they come from? – and analyse their validity. Then we flip them into positive affirmations and use them to start an upward a spiral of self-esteem building.

First I identified the negative things I tell myself about my work. One of the suggestions was to ask a friend about the negative statements they’ve heard from you. This was the response I got to that experiment:

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It is true that I’m generally a positive person and very forgiving of mistakes in myself and others. However I did come up with six pieces of negative craft-related self-talk with which to work:

  1. I should be working/tidying/etc.
  2. I should work on my commissioned piece.
  3. I spend too much money on this.
  4. I have too many unfinished WIPS.
  5. I am not organised enough with my projects.
  6. I can’t charge more for my work.

After examining each of these self-criticisms, and identifying how much I really believe them, if at all, I followed Vercillo’s steps for turning them into positive affirmations.

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  1. I am working on my mental health, and that is important.
  2. The amount of time I spend on paid work is exactly right.
  3. The money I invest in myself, my health, and my happiness is money well-spent.
  4. My unfinished WIPs are not a problem and I can return to each project whenever I like.
  5. My organisation is good enough.
  6. I can ask extra-special prices for extra-special yarn.

These affirmations, and more, provide the basis of many of the exercises in this chapter. The exercises are too good to be confined to a mere week of my time and, like many of the exercises I have discovered from Hook to Heal, will become regular, maybe daily, features of my craft work.

The Story So Far …

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The Story So Far …

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[Quote by Lexi Boeger.]

It’s just over two months since Story Skeins officially launched. I’m feeling reflective tonight, so I thought I’d write a little blog about it.

This time last year I was working my way through The Artist’s Way as part of the training course I started in 2012. It was challenging in lots of ways. I was challenged to explore my creativity (after having been challenged to think of myself as someone capable of creativity in the first place…). I was challenged to identify my dreams. I was challenged to become more authentically, and wholly, myself. I was challenged to drop some of the artifice I thought I was using to protect myself, but was actually trapping me in the small space I had labelled ‘safe’.

How far I have come in just a year. One of the dreams I identified was to become a yarn maker. Why does it fascinate me so? I guess it’s always been how my creativity has snuck out, even whilst I was denying it and safely labelling myself as someone capable of learning practical skills. I still deeply appreciate the practical skill element of the work I do, but it’s not what fires the heart and soul. That fire is fed by the abundance of possibility. The freedom to play with shape and space, twist and angles and geometry, fibres and textures and wacky inclusions, colours and patterns and combinations, and ideas. Every creation is unique. Every moment is unique. As long as I don’t forget that, I have the excitement of a beginner every single day.

I’ve never liked attention. Making my work public has been one of the biggest challenges for me. Because my approach to my work is very experimental (not just in the spinning, but in the writing and the planning and the kind of projects I explore) I rarely have any sense for whether the work I’ve produced is any good or not. Old me finds that very difficult. I have about three decades behind me which are full of trying to be good and trying to get things right. New me thinks a little differently. New me is excited by the uncertainty. (Old me looks on from the sidelines, wondering WTF is going on.) New me has, to a large degree, given up rushing to judge myself as succeeding or failing. New me just wants to play. Old me just wants to play it safe.

So, I took a risk. I decided to show you all my creations. You may love them, you may not. So far I’ve loved most of what I’ve made. Sometimes right from the start. Sometimes a slow burn. Sometimes not until the moment of completion. Some stuff I’m still not sure about. Every bit of it has taught me something. Being brave enough to put it out there has taught me something. Why brave? Because maybe, if you really look at the things I make, and the way I do it … maybe you’ll see the real me.

The Birth of Story Skeins

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The Birth of Story Skeins

Would you believe I reached this point in my journey believing that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body? Despite physically creating so much, despite making things with my own hands every day of my life. I was holding onto an idea of myself that didn’t fit the facts. I had written off the idea many years ago that I was creative. That wasn’t the label for people like me. I was systematic, I was methodical. I could learn a skill, could practise a craft. But I didn’t see that as creative. To me “creativity” implied inspiration, talent, freedom and risk. I didn’t want the risk. I didn’t want to try and fail. I didn’t want to expose my ideas to scrutiny. I didn’t want my unacknowledged fear that I just wasn’t good enough to be confirmed.

And then, as part of a training course, I started reading a book called The Artist’s Way [1]. It’s a 12 week course in rediscovering your creativity. (Yes, rediscovering – for what child isn’t creative?) It unblocked the mental barriers I had spent most of my life building. I allowed myself to try new things, to discover, to play. I started creating in all sorts of ways, some familiar, some new. Crucially, I freed myself to explore all these modes of creativity without rushing to judge the end result. It’s a process, not a product. It’s a journey that has given me new life, and which I heartily recommend.

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As part of the course I undertook exercises, some of which involved writing about my dreams for the future. It really forced me to think, hard, about what I wanted from life. One of the dreams that came from those exercises was to be a yarn maker. Thanks to my newfound willingness to explore all manner of creativity, I felt able to experiment with combining my love for the fibre arts with other modes of expression. I was knitting socks from some experimental drop-spindle spun yarn when the connection between crafting with yarn and creating physical memories occurred to me.

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I realised that every single thing I have made for myself or my family is so strongly associated with at least some of the story of our lives. The metaphors we use for story-telling are closely linked to fibre craft: spinning a yarn … weaving the tapestry of life, etc. And throughout history, cloth, clothing and textile art has played an important role in communicating information between individuals and societies. Stories and yarn seem to complement each other in a very profound way.

And that, my friends, is why we are here right now.

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[1] The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self by Julia Cameron. Pan publishing, 1995.