Unfinished Business

Ahoy. I hope that the month of July has been treating you well.

With our moving day on the horizon, we’ve been packing up a storm. And, as a crafter, there is nothing as humbling as stumbling upon my unfinished business — unfinished WIPs to be exact. UFOs are a direct line to sobering reflection on the finitude of time, energy, and intention.

I thought I’d post some of those UFOs here as a way of remembering them. Each project started in a flurry of excitement, motivation, and planning. Each project was born of a dream, idea, and inspiration. And each one, at some point, got relegated to the bottom of the project pile, only to be fished out too late. To cut down on movables given our limited space, these projects have either been frogged or given away.

So, with this post, I am saying goodbye to all the WIPs that never made it to the finish line: the tiny tapestry that never was, the ribbed winter hat that never saw it past the brim, the mitered-square blanket that couldn’t be made. I learned a lot from starting these projects, and I’m resting in the assurance that they will endure in another form. The yarn will be salvaged, and the skeins re-directed into new dreams and undertakings.

I write this to remind myself that not all things need to be “finished” in order to have served their purpose. There is meaning and learning, still, in incompletion; sometimes, E is for Effort and it’s okay to have left some loose threads in one’s wake…

So, without further ado, the things that never were:

Frame loom tapestry (cotton and acrylic)
Mitered-square blanket
Winter Hat
Lace Blanket

Wishing you the gold of summer. We’ll be on the road to our new destination. See you on the other side. 🙂

A (mush)room of one’s own

Hello, makers and creators. I hope the last couple of weeks have gone by smoothly, and that you’ve been enjoying the glories of summer.

We are still in the thick of our move. I forget how much energy it takes to sift through over a decade of things. I often find myself at the end of the day feeling like I have fully tapped my reserves(!). With a large part of the work now done, however, I am taking my fatigue as a sign to slow down and enjoy some creative time.

Last May, I drew this little figure of reading happiness. As a life-long introvert, I rely pretty regularly on moments of solitary reading (and the pandemic has only deepened this tendency). In childhood, I remember enjoying books before I could actually ‘read’ — it was enough to turn the pages, look at the pictures, and tell myself a story about what I was seeing. And when I did learn to read, everything was fair game — even the black and white residential phonebook managed to capture my interest (all those alphabetized names!). I’m not usually one for typologies, but I am pretty far on the reading-introvert side of things.

During busy periods, though, reading can be the first thing to fall off my day-to-day activity. It takes energy and focus to read a physical book from cover to cover; it takes a steadiness of mind distributed over several reading sessions (unless you’re a speed reader!). Busy-ness makes my mind feel like a bag of squirrels. So, I need a reminder to slow down and make the time. This little scene has been providing me with that reminder. Everyone ought, I think, to have a (mush)room of one’s own to read, rest, and daydream under.

The other day, I realized that while the picture was done and inked, I hadn’t yet coloured it in. I cleared my worktable of all the lists, receipts, and stacks to sort, took my pencils out from the cardboard box I had packed them in, and enjoyed some scribble-time, discovering that colouring is a pretty good antidote to moving fatigue, and a fun way to come down after a busy day.

So, lesson learned: I’ll try to make time for art and reading even in the busy periods (they are perhaps even more needed then).

Until next time, happy Friday. Wishing you many joyful summer reading days. 📚 🌻

Saying goodbye

Hello friends, I hope you are doing well. I seem to be heading towards a bi-weekly blogging habit. It’s less than I’d like, but I am rolling with it for now.

We (our household) are in the middle of a major life transition. Let’s say it’s one that involves getting rid of/packing up all of our stuff, getting in a car and making a new life in a new place. A move! A big one. A big move that follows on 12 years of accumulated life and memories and things (so. many. things.). This work has taken a bit of the wind out of my blogging sails. If my future posts tend toward moving-related themes, that is why.

Art has been helping me to reflect on the process of moving. I drew this picture in pencils late winter this year. I remember wanting to depict the process of creating something in my mind — to show how shapes and colours move around and turn into an idea. This state of play and possibility is one of my favourite creative experiences; it’s a source of motivation and energy that I don’t find anywhere else (not even in writing).

Returning to the drawing more recently, I noticed some curious details. In the background, there are ‘raw materials’ grounding the image in grey while the colourful forms hover over them, searching (in my mind) for a medium to land on. This speaks true to my experience: when it comes to making, I can’t stably predict what medium I’ll be compelled to try. My interests migrate around a lot, and my different projects can appear disjointed and disconnected. But, this picture helps me to realize that there is one creative impulse and energy that undergirds all of that wandering. I am coming to terms with having been a wanderer for a very long time.

But. There is also the image of the house, the dwelling place. I have been thinking a lot about the creative work of un/re making one’s home, and that helps me find joy in the big task ahead of me. It’s hard to say goodbye to 12 years of things and the memories attached to them, but when I have trouble deciding on what to keep, I ask myself, “What kind of life do I wish to live?” or “What is the most loving version of life that I can envision — for myself and others?” If the object contributes to that vision in some way, then it’s a keeper. Visioning / imagining in a loving way has been central to my process.

Even though many of my craft supplies have had to be down-sized (majorly), my biggest consolation is knowing that creativity abides. Ideas yet-to-be-realized abide. Inspiration abides, as does the quiet little voice inside. There is a freedom in knowing that, whatever needs to be shed for now, there will always be good walks, good friends, and the colours of the world. This sense of what abides allows me to stay in touch with a feeling of abundance through the lean years and scarce periods of the past, and now, the goodbye.

Until next time, wishing you creativity. 🙂

Flower bed

Hiya. How the time flies. Nearly two weeks have passed in a blink without a post; time to redress that.

I am doing well. How are you? We’re in the full flush of Spring, here. It’s a joy to see all the colours coming back again — everywhere I look, now, there are buds on the bushes, flowering trees in full bloom, fields of dandelions, and flocks of crumb-eating park pigeons and their iridescent head-feathers. After the long and arduous winter, the sight of pigeons and dandelions has been an uplift.

So today’s sketch is just a few Spring thoughts, in picture form, of a small garden enjoying the day. I don’t know what compels me to draw gardens the way I do. The drawings are intuitive and child-like in some ways, and I enjoy their simplicity. Something about picturing the process of coming into bloom feels good and hopeful. Creating these blooms on the page means the garden within is always alive. For the past year, I’ve found myself in the process of being “grounded,” not only by the quarantining we have all entered, but by life events and uncertainties which have compelled me to see things from a new view — not a rarefied bird’s-eye view that looks down at my life from a level of abstraction, but very much an earth- and worm-level view that dwells among the roots and soil and mushrooms. The view of mud and murkiness from which living, in part, draws its force (as I have come to understand it). Psychologist James Hillman writes about the process of “growing down” into the world — taking on roots, commitments, responsibilities, a life — as an alternative to our usual metaphor of “growing up.” I like to think these drawings signal a sense of rootedness and generativity, even in a simple way.

What do the things and images you make teach you / show you? And do we grow down, or do we grow up?

Until next time, may you have a beautiful weekend and bask in the sun.

shawl nostalgia

This one’s a knitting post, looking back.

When I finished my very first lace project in 2019, I gained a new appreciation for lace-knitting. The Dinner at the Eiffel Tower Shawl is a good entry-level lace project. By that, I mean that most of the shawl’s lace panels consist of simple yarn-overs (skipped stitches that produce little holes) that repeat across the entire row. Nothing too complex.

Knit up in Berroco Folio, a blend of rayon and superfine alpaca, I remember that I completed the shawl over the course of 3 weeks. I remember that, to avoid mistakes in the lattice lace (the “diamond” areas), I pre-marked the 7-stitch repeated pattern with a piece of yarn at 7-stitch intervals before working all of the actual stitches. It was labour intensive, doing this over 200 or so stitches, row by row, but I learned that dividing my stitches in this way made trouble-shooting problems infinitely easier.

I love the flow state of “mindless knitting” — the kind of knitting that consists of rows and rows with few stops and starts. I learned that lace is quite different. It required my intense attention. The contrast is the difference between getting to cruise on the highway vs. making frequent stops and starts in city traffic. Lace absorbs you. It is a state of being.

When I completed this shawl after having worked at this turtle pace, I was incredibly proud. It marked a “level up” in my knitting skills after years of doing simple stockinette projects and some minor work in cables.

Nowadays, I don’t feel like I’m doing much “leveling up.” I am learning to be content if I feel like I am holding steady, creatively-speaking. Given the current circumstances, I find my knitting (and general creative) bandwidth narrowed. Drawing and art feel fluid, improvisational, and forgivingly open-ended; I draw a little pink cat-person in 20 minutes, and I am happy. The counting, casting on, stitching, and modifying required of garment-knitting surpasses what I feel I’m capable of these days, and I am coming to terms with that hiatus. I’m learning to see it not as a limitation, but an opening onto something new; there is value in taking a break and adapting my media to the constraints of what is possible. But how hard it can be (for myself, and others) to adapt expectations to a new set of circumstances… When these days are over, I’ll keep this wisdom of treading gently (again, on myself and others).

I guess I write this post to acknowledge my knitting nostalgia. It’s not merely nostalgia for a much-loved project, but also a remembering of the maker that I was, and had grown into over years — she had focus and capacities which, now, seem far away and unreachable given today’s atmosphere of ambient uncertainty. Maybe, one day, she’ll see lace glory again. For now, I’m okay with looking back in gratitude that something beautiful was possible.

A favourite moment after completing this project was going to the woods and filming the shawl under the sun on a breezy day. This clip makes me wistful for that summer.

Until next time. 🎶