Try Something Different and See What Happens

I did something different today.  I wrote a letter.  A real letter, not a card.  With a pen.  In cursive. On notepaper.  And I addressed it.  And put a stamp on it.  There’s a mail box on the corner across from my house.  I fought my fear that there were corona virus germs on the mail box handle.  I pulled  the handle down, and dropped the letter through the slot.   And then I looked across the street toward St. Paul’s church and saw this.

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Saint Paul’s Church, South Philadelphia

Actually, St. Peter is the one in the picture.  How do I know?  Peter’s the one with the keys to the pearly gates and I think the big book he’s holding  is where all your transgressions are recorded.  You die, you go to the pearly gates of heaven,and St. Peter meets you like a  bouncer at an exclusive night club and decides whether you get in.

How do I know all this?  Twelve years of Catholic school.  That and the fact that I had a mother who had a hard time allowing herself to relax, and enjoy something like a nice outfit or a yummy dessert without feeling guilty.  And when I got older, I would ask her, “Why tease yourself?  It’s not like there’s a prize for the person who suffers the most.  It’s not like St. Peter’s gonna meet you at the pearly gates with a ******* Kewpie doll.”

St. Paul is down at the end of the block out of camera range, and he is wearing a mask too.  And he’s holding a sword to smack the heads of passers by who might not be wearing a mask or observing proper social distancing.  Which is why I did not go down there to take his picture.  Because even though I was wearing a mask, I knew he was down there waiting to see if I would screw up.  Twelve years of Catholic school will do that.  I’m scarred for life.

Try something different and see what happens.  It just might spark your creativity.

Stay safe and well.

 

Connecting with Beads

My friend Gladys Glass operates  the Woodstock Trading Company with her son Seth and husband Harvey.  Woodstock specializes in vintage one-of-a-kind Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia.  and Rock ‘n Roll oriented gifts, clothing, incense, posters and novelties.  (Their store is closed because of the Coronavirus, but you can shop on line.  They ship anywhere in the US. )

For years,  the spacious lawn in front of  Woodstock’s  colorful psychedelic storefront in Cherry Hill, New Jersey was a gathering place for people to enjoy live concerts,  Maypole Celebrations, and Drum Circles.

Until the coronavirus stopped all that.   It’s been hard not just for business, but also because of the loss of social interaction that people really need.

Gladys  was recently commiserating with her friend Suzanne about how difficult the isolation and social distancing can be, and suggested  the idea of stringing beads of “hope” to mark the days in isolation.  She thought that sharing  the beaded creations with like-minded people  would be a good way to stay connected.     A few days later, Suzanne  called Gladys back to tell her she and her friend Galen had created a web site so people could do just that.  It’s  called Safe-String.Com.

Safe-String.com is a free site whose purpose is to help its users “navigate stress, panic, raw nerves, uncertainty, and loss during one of the most challenging episodes in human history.”  And it uses beads to connect people to one another.

The Safe-String.com site offers a forum where its users can share their creations and ideas.  The forum topics are not limited to beading.  One asks, “What expectations of normal are you letting go of today?”   Another asks, “Who have you checked in on today?”

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If you are interested in joining the forums but need beads, you can  buy a kit  from Woodstock which contains  31 random beads, spacers, string, and  ending finial as an ornamental bead stopper.  Also included as a bonus is a hand-painted card, gift bag, and instructions.

But you don’t need to buy a thing to participate in safe-string.com  or to join the forums.   You can make beads  from cloth.  You can make beads from paper and old magazines.  And you can string anything with a hole it it.

Stay well and keep washing those hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Antidote to Fear

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Some years ago, I decided to interview any elderly relative who would share family stories with me.  I planned to tape and transcribe the conversations for the rest of the family.

Those who agreed to talk to me told me stories of  wars, epidemics, natural disasters, and the early  deaths of their children.   (And no, they weren’t used to that in the old days any more than we are now.) They told me their stories and recounted stories they heard from their  parents, and from their grandparents. They talked for hours, and I wrote everything down.

I was surprised by what I took away.  I discovered that I had taken so much for granted about the lives of other people.

For the first time,  I got a real sense of  the anguish that historical events could cause when they played out in the lives of real people.   I got a sense of the despair an Uncle felt as he  recounted stories of growing up as a teenager during the Depression,   I had never thought about the mantle of uncertainty he lived under-how he felt his life was on hold because he had no prospects- and how nobody around him knew when or even if  the Depression would  end,  because nothing like it had ever happened before.

And in my extended conversations  with my Mother  about her family’s daily life during the Second World War,  I got a kind of understanding of the fear and anxiety she lived with every day because no one knew how things would play out.

None one bit of this had occurred to me when I studied these things in school.  There was no suspense; we already knew how the Depression and World War 2 would end.  But it was different living through it.  Which brings me to the present.  Because this is where we are now.

Every day, I see draconian pandemic  headlines in the newspaper and online that are  geared to alarm people and gain readers, not to inform.   We don’t need toxic nonsense like this in our lives.  It’s  useless. As  Neils Bohr  said, “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”     But we humans have a deep-seated need to fill in the blanks.  We have a hard time with uncertainty.   Where does that leave us?

When the world seems enigmatic, it helps to be  pragmatic.  And creative.  Theodore Roosevelt said   “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” 

If ever there was a time for creative thinking, it is now.   And people are creating.    Dyson is making ventilators.  Hospitals are developing ways to reuse N95 masks. There are many more examples.  Like this one.

The innovators, the makers and the creative thinkers will help us to get through this.  Creativity, coupled with effective leadership, and a rejection of ego-driven solutions are the best hope we have.  Of course no one knows how this is going to play out.  Don’t listen to those who claim to know and don’t forget to embrace your creative side.

Some more practical stuff:

Life coach and fellow creative Phyllis Mufson, @phyllismufson, recommends this article on health insurance for the newly-unemployed.

Here is another pattern for a face mask that has just four seams and no bias tape. Easy Sew Face Mask

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity in the Time of Coronavirus

Most of us are stuck at home and the more fortunate of us are merely apprehensive or bored. Not knowing what’s going to happen is a scary, but think about it-when did we ever know what the future held?  And if we did, who among us is smart enough to know what to do with it?  With brings me to today’s question:

Should we wear face masks to protect ourselves from the coronavirus?  Here’s one point of view.  Here’s the other.   This link goes to an article that says that DIY face masks can offer protection from coronavirus.  I am not prepared to debate this with anyone because I simply don’t know the answer.  I have resolved this question for myself with an “off label” application of Pascal’s wager.   I  know that wearing a face mask does not offer immunity or an excuse to dispense with hand washing, etc.  But if you are already taking all the precautions you can, how can it hurt?  That leaves the question of where to get face masks.  They have become a precious commodity.

I already have some N 95 respirators that I use for enameling and metalwork.  But you can’t wash them and they say to throw them away after one use.  Who knows how long the pandemic will last?  I need a better face mask option.   For me, the option is to make some face masks.  Will they offer any protection?   As you can see from the chart below,   certain materials offer more protection than others.

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I don’t have many vacuum cleaner bags, but I have many dish towels (a more accurate description would be old fashioned tea towels-a closely woven cotton fabric made for drying dishes and glass ware).  Here is a link to the kind of tea towels you would use to make face masks.  I would not use terrycloth or micro fiber.  You have to breathe while you wear the mask.

There are many sites with directions for sewing face masks.  Most of them use two or three layers of material.  The tea towel fabric is tightly woven, however, so you will have to adapt any pattern you use to make it work for you.  A single layer with a thin cotton fabric as a liner might be best.  I plan to experiment.

Here are some links if you are interested in making face masks.

CraftPassion

Medical Mask for cancer or COPD patient (including child’s masks)

 

Hand-sewn mask

And here is some helpful advice from Ana Belchi

 

Since I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, the CDC has changed its no face mask position.  The CDC now advises that wearing non-medical grade face masks might help to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  For instructions on how to make a no-sew face mask, press here.

 

Making a Box

Continue reading “Making a Box”

Peyote Triangle Patterns for Dummies

I start off with a confession. I am horrible at following patterns. I am not making this up. OK, I can follow sewing patterns because they are all flat on the table and you have a basic idea of what you are supposed to come out with. But I could never pull off a paint-by-number picture when I was a kid and my first attempts at origami went into the trash can.  I can, for the most part,  follow simple beading patterns.  (In fact, one of my first published articles was a beading project.)  But unless I can count beads easily, I am lost.  This means I am mostly ok with loom graphs, Cellini Spirals, bead crochet and  flat peyote graphs.  So I learned how to make a peyote triangle with little trouble.

When I began to salivate over  beaded kaleidocycles, (you can read all about them and download a free pdf  from the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork website here) and wanted to try making one,  I hopped over to YouTube to learn how to make peyote triangles. ( VPBiser has an excellent video tutorial here.)  But for the life of me I could not figure out how to make anything more interesting than a two-color basic  triangle and I wanted some more exciting variations for my kaleidocycles.

After making a few peyote triangles, I began to notice some patterns emerging.   I figured out how to make a three-color pyramid! (See chart below.  I am assuming you already know how to make a standard peyote triangle).

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You can use the same reasoning to make a two-color pyramid.  If you simply alternate colors for each row, you can make a striped pattern.(See kaleidocycle picture in the bottom row.

 

 

 

You can see that for some triangles, I merely beaded rows in different colors much like you would crochet granny squares.    For the  triangles in the  bottom left-hand corner,  I started the triangle with white Delicas for the first two rows and began adding red Delicas in the third row.  From then on,  I added a red Delica whenever I could see that it would be totally surrounded by white Delicas.  This gave me a lovely chicken pox pattern.   If you double click on an image, you can view it full size.

I realize this might not be clear to some people, but the real aim of this post is to encourage you to find new ways to solve problems even if you think they’re over your head.  That’s the only way we learn.  Now that these peyote triangles make more sense to me, I think I’m ready to start tackling some more complex designs.

POST at Bok 1

Last month I visited the Bok Makerspace which was on the South Philly list of participants in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST).  

Bok Technical High School was a vocational school that opened in South Philadelphia in 1938.  Thousands of students passed through Bok’s doors learning trades like brick laying, plastering, plumbing, machine building, tailoring, and hairdressing until the school closed its doors in 2013.

The Bok building is massive. That’s a cardboard model in the above picture. It takes up an entire city block and the interior is 340,000 square feet.   The surrounding neighborhood is made up of  mostly residential row houses.   The  residents were understandably concerned about what would happen to the building.

They need not have worried.  In 2014, a developer named Lindsey Scannapieco proposed converting the former high school into a  space for creative entrepreneurs.  The neighborhood liked her ideas  and her efforts were lauded by Inge Saffron, the Architectural Critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.   Read more articles about the transformation of Bok here and here.    

While Bok  is thought of as a space for artists, it is really so much more as I learned on my visit for the POST tours.  All of the artists I talked to came from the surrounding neighborhood and almost all of them were business people in creative fields. 

I hope to profile some of the artists I met during the tour and show you some pictures of their spaces.

My Introduction to the Construction Junction.

My husband is a silly man who often claims, when I ask him a question, that I am “grilling him like a salmon.”  But he is a good sport.  After all, he married me, didn’t he?  So when we were in Pittsburgh last year for the opening of Into The Forest, he agreed when I told him I needed to make a stop at the Construction Junction. He even opened the door for me!

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The Construction Junction is a nonprofit used and surplus building material retailer.  It accepts all kinds of donations-construction materials, old appliances, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, tools, lighting, building materials and many other things too numerous to mention.  This keeps stuff out of landfills and gives it a second life when it leaves in the hands of a customer to be used in a new project.

 

 

But the construction junction is also a mecca for creative types.  I found some embossed tiles there that make perfect polymer clay texture sheets.  I got some brass pipe and metal parts that I will recycle into jewelry.   If I wanted one of the vintage stoves that seem to be all the rage these days,  I could pick one up at the Construction Junction and restore it to working order.

 

 

 

The place is HUGE, the staff is friendly and there is plenty of parking.  Check it out if you find yourself in Pittsburgh.

 

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No One Creates Alone

That’s one of the conclusions reached in an article I recently read in Psychology Today. Another one is that “discovery cannot be produced by chance.” In other words, someone who has not logged sufficient time in pursuit of a given endeavor does not have the tools to recognize a significant discovery.     Read the article for yourself and see what you think, Deciding to Create.  

My creative pursuits have been proceeding by fits and starts.  I have thrown away almost all of the pottery that I have made this year because of glaze disasters and “what was I thinking?” moments.  But I am learning and trying new things.  And I am very fortunate to share studio time with some creative and generous people.

Here are some pictures of a few things I made last year.

 

We Need to Get Creative Right Now!

I have been posting on this little blog every week for almost ten years.  I rarely write about politics because the blog is supposed to be about creativity in its many forms and incarnations.  And this post will (I hope) be no different.  Not because I don’t have opinions, because I do.  Very strong opinions shaped, in large part, by an insatiable curiosity about history and a career that enabled me to witness parts of American life that many of my fellow white middle class Americans don’t ever get to see.  But I digress.

3-march4I went to Women’s March Philadelphia last week and came away with the feeling that people on both sides of the political arena are scared.  Some are scared by globalization and the instability it brings.  They want to move the clock back, but things can  never be like they were before because the world has changed.  Community has broken down, technology is racing ahead and people are migrating throughout the world on planes, boats and the Internet.  The frightened response is to circle the wagons and hunker down. But this is not as simple as it seems because every action has consequences.    The yearning for a simpler time raises the possibility of  draconian measures that will imact public health,  national security, women’s health and reproductive rights, funding for arts and eduction, and, some fear, racial relations and religious tolerance.  No one knows what is going to happen.  And prediction is hard, especially when it is about the future.   Where does that leave us?    I came away from the march with the feeling that it will be a long time before things settle down.  Probably not in my lifetime.

My proposal: let’s get creative.  In the future, all kinds of organizations are going to need help if  funding  is cut for health care, legal services for the poor, education, the arts, mental health and drug rehab, community groups, child care and similar things.

Right now, people are fired up to volunteer,  give money and to get involved.  That momentum must not be lost.    Organizations that need help will have to be able to draw from beyond their traditional volunteer pool. People who want to volunteer need the ability to connect with  the right organization for their skills and passions.  Some organizations will be flooded and others will go begging unless there is a means by which they can make their needs known.

This also applies to fund raising.  Groups must be able to raise money to serve their communities and clients.  They need a way to reach beyond their  traditional pool of donors.  

We need something new.  I envision a kind of Craig List to do the job.  Why the Craig’s List model?  It is local and it is national.  It contains an abundance of categories to  facilitate the exchange of goods and services and to connect people with one another.  It is constantly updated by the people who use it.  It is organized and  easy to navigate.

A tool based on the Craig’s List model could also pair volunteers with programs, solicit donations of items like clothing, books and school supplies, publicize  community events, and alert the public  to vital issues related to the community, the nation and the world.

It goes without saying that there also has to be a way to maintain contact and to reach out to groups and individuals that are marginalized or feel uncomfortable getting involved or don’t use the internet.

Developing a tool like this is a huge undertaking that would need the expertise of programmers, tech companies, charitable foundations, libraries, designers and more.  But things have changed drastically in the past year and new tools are called for.  I ask everyone reading this post spread the word and get people thinking about how my proposal could be improved and implemented.  There is no way that I could do it but I hope someone takes this idea or another one like it and runs with it.  Maybe someone has already started!

And now, some creative posts about the past few weeks from around the Internet.

Sign making and the Boston Women’s March from the Be Creative Mary blog

For us visual thinkers,  A guide to Trump care from economixcomix

From The Economist, a Visual Guide to the Trump Administration

What you can do now,  10 Actions for the First 100 Days

And finally, let me point out that this is not the first time in world history that existing societies could not address the challenges of rapid change.  For those interested in looking at the past to see how other societies reacted to turbulent change, check out  The Axial Ages of World History: Lessons for the 21st Century  by Ken Baskin, Dmitri M. Bondarenko.  [Disclaimer:  I am married to Ken Baskin.]  This is the short version of a longer book they plan to write.  

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