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.

St. Paul'sChurch
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.

 

Week Three and My Hair Looks Great!

 

IMG_4352Social distancing has changed my life.  I have finally learned how to clean and operate the various remote controls scattered around my living room.   I have learned how to use less toilet paper.  I have spotless  door knobs.  I have become acquainted with Joe Exotic, and wonder whether he had to remove his body piercings and start wearing underwear when he went to prison.   I have learned that when you can’t find tofu at the neighborhood Acme or Whole Foods, that a nearby Asian supermarket will have it in stock and everyone there will be wearing face masks.

I don’t have to worry about missing a manicure, because my nails are snowy white from all the hand washing and bleach.  I  don’t have to worry about my roots growing in, because they are the same color as the rest of my hair.  And I don’t have to worry about missing a haircut because my hairdresser and I are sheltering in place together.  Here’s how that happened.

A few years ago, I sent away for a hair cutting kit,  gave it to my husband along with a sharp pair of scissors and asked him to watch a YouTube video on how to use it.  Then I asked him to cut my hair.   Why did I do this?  I knew I needed to start getting regular haircuts but did not relish the idea of scheduling trips to a hair salon.   I see my dentist as recommended and that’s about all I can manage. But quite frankly I was getting to that age where every woman must pay attention to  personal grooming lest she start to resemble Alice the Goon.  And why did I pick my husband?  Because all men who love me must suffer.

My husband is not one to embrace new experiences.  He does not run from them so much as sidestep toward them kicking and screaming with one eye closed and his arms waving frantically.   But for some reason known only to him,  he watched the video then cut my hair.  And  he did a great job!  I was still working at the time and my office colleagues loved my new look.   When they asked me who cut my hair, I replied, “Mr. Ken.”  When they asked for his number, I said it was the same as mine.

So if you are fretting about your hair, hand your significant other a pair of scissors and have at it.  This coronavirus thing is not going away any time soon, so if your partner screws up your hair, you will have one more reason to stay inside.   And support  your hairdresser when this is over.   They will need your business more than ever.   Check out this link for more information.

 

Mr. Ken recommended this video.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

mask-materials-effectiveness-1-micron-en

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.

 

Say it with Flowers

I had intended to write this week’s post about Beading Yoda’s lovely beaded flowers.   But that will have to wait.

What a week this has been.   Boris is almost recovered from the Benjimonster and is much less stressed.  I cannot say the same for myself.  It all started so innocently.  My health insurance company decided to give its customers a discount on their premiums if they enrolled in a program called Active Health to learn about healthy habits,  adiet, exercise, and so on.  You get points for each module you complete. Collect 100 points and you get your discount.   Easy, right?  Wrongo Bongo!

I logged onto the program’s website and managed to enroll after numerous calls to customer service to learn how to navigate a website obviously designed by Dr. Mengels.

In the weeks that followed, I duly entered my blood pressure, my cholesterol,  completed questionnaires, and studied health topics.  As I completed each module, I was awarded a certain number of points.  I was on my way to my discount.

Nor so fast.

Yesterday, I foolishly downloaded the Active Health iPad app for the program and completed more tasks.  As I tracked my progress, I noted the app was not saving anything.  And there was no option for me to save. I tried to contact customer service online.  There was a place to write a message but no way to send the message.  So, I called customer service.

I was referred to another number.  Then a third number.  Then I spent almost an hour  with a service rep who tried to guide me through the website.  But, as I repeatedly reminded her, I was using the app, not the website.   Alas,  she could neither help me nor refer me to someone who could.  “And yet,” as the saying goes, “she  persisted.”  As I hung up I wondered where she got her stamina.

Later that evening, I decided to try again on the website instead of the app.  I ran into the same problem.   I called customer service again.  As the conversation with a different rep wore on, I realized that he knew that the website did not work,and that tech support was non existant. But the rep was  creative-I’ll give him that-he suggested that I abandon the online health education module altogether and opt for phone counseling in order to get my points  So I agreed. We scheduled an appointment with a health counselor.  Then the rep started to rattle on about the Philadelphia Eagles.  Time to say goodbye.

The health counselor called the next day at the appointed time.   “What health issues would you like to work on? ” she asked.

“Stress,” I replied, “I really need to work on my stress.”

“What gives you stress? ” she queried.

“I was doing pretty good before I enrolled in the Active Health program,” I admitted, “but broken website coupled with service reps who don’t have the resources they need to do their job  has caused me a great deal of stress.”

“Oh.”

The counselor suggested that I meditate and gave me a number I to call if the stress became overwhelming.  “There are counselors there to help you,” she informed me.

“Is this covered by my insurance?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded.  “Let’s schedule another session.”

“How’d it go?” my husband asked me later that day.  “Not as bad as I thought it would be,” I admitted.  “In fact, I’ve decided to start smoking again so at our next session she can give me advice on how to quit.”

Only two more counseling sessions to go.

And now, to keep myself honest, here are pictures of flowers taken on my walks around Philadelphia.

 

What Happens When You Fool Around

10

I don’t know if you expected a post on teenage pregnancy but that’s not what I mean by fooling around.  I mean playing.  I’ve always liked to play and to try new things.   My wild imagination has confused and alarmed most of the adults that I’ve met since the age of 12.   Those who can roll with it and play along usually become friends.

Creativity is currently a sexy topic Internet topic, (maybe not as popular as pictures of cats) and people are exhorted to play with color, try strange and exotic spices and  have experiences rather than collect consumer durables.

A website called,  Creative Something.Net says

“Play is more than just important for creativity, it’s often necessary.  Without a play-like attitude, creative insights hide from us behind fear and uncertainty. When we don’t embark on activities that involve play, being creative becomes a challenge.”

Remember, creativity brings something valuable to most things in life (OK, so maybe not accounting.)

I ‘ve been playing in my workshop lately.  I haven’t come up with anything new yet, but I’m having fun and trying new things.   Here are some pictures.

Fooling around with bronze wire which I squared in the rolling mill.  How would it look if I soldered the rings together and bent them into a cuff bracelet?

Fooling around with shapes to see what would make an interesting cuff bracelet

What can I do with a fork?

What can I do with rings I never finished and jump rings?  The medallions on the right are Hadar’s white bronze clay which is not a favorite of mine because it is fragile.  Still, I like the medallions.  They remind me of old miraculous medals.

Here is some more white bronze clay I fooled around with.  I think the dangles look a little like sea urchins.  I wrapped the ones on the left as if they were briolettes.  I think I like that better than the ones on the right with the jump rings.  I like the way the clay turned color and  I  decided to leave them like tha.

I am trying the rings and medals as embellishments for polymer bangle bracelets.  I also used some pre-made gear charms.

I am also fooling around with bronze metal clay.  The picture on the right shows torch-fired Prometheus Clay on the left and kiln-fired BRONZclay on the right.

Next: I’m going to try to make my own gear embellishments using Five Star metal bronze clay Something good is bound to emerge.  I hope.   That’s usually what happens when I fool around long enough.

My True Colors

I’ve decided that it’s time to redo my powder room and master bedroom.  I’ve been wanting to paint the bedroom for a while while but could not decide on the paint color.  I  finally settled on Special Gray by Sherwin Williams.  I needed something that went with the purple headboard  I painted on the wall years ago.  People thought I was insane to paint a headboard on my wall back then.  Now, I am happy to say,  the Internet is loaded with images and ideas for painting a headboard on the wall.   Those who came to scoff stayed to paint.

I have started prepping the powder room for painting.  I’ve selected Positive Red for the walls and Gulfstream for the trim and the funky ornate framed mirror that I found at a thrift shop.  I’ll post pictures if I ever finish.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of some unconventional paint jobs in my house.

 

headboard

 

My insanity is not limited to headboards.    I went through a funky painted furniture stage.  This is my husband’s nightstand.  He said he quit drinking because he was afraid of waking up one morning with a hangover and seeing it first thing.

nightstand

And this is the broken mirror mirror that goes with it.

brokenmirrormirror

These are some shots of the upstairs hallway.   I made the built-in bookcase on the left  from an old wooden ladder and paneling.    Necessity is a mother.

This is the kitchen door and the third floor dormer.  I painted clouds on the dormer walls because it’s the highest room in the house.

frontdoorwithpic bottomright

This is the front door.  Yes, that’s a picture frame in the right hand corner. Here’s the story behind that:   My husband  threw a shoe at the door during a rather heated discussion we were having.  The shoe left the perfect image of a shoe on the then white door. We ceased our donnybrook to admire the image. Better than a marriage counselor.  When I painted the door, I put a frame around the image and dated it to preserve the memory.  My Stepson noted that the image resembles George Bernard Shaw from a certain angle.  And so it does.

 

These images show a counter that I tiled and a wall of empty frames in the living room.  The counter mosaic consists of cut up scrap stained glass, broken dishes, and pottery.  Most of the frames are street finds or flea market purchases.

Boris

Boris  likes to hang out in the hallway so I guess he approves.

There’s Many a Slip ‘Twixt the Mug and the Lip

 

Isn’t that the old artistic dilemma?  You have a vision and you can’t quite realize it.  But for me, the fun is in the exploration.   I experimented with handle shapes and tried mixing Mason Stains into  Amaco Velvet Underglazes to enhance the colors of the surface decoration.

The mugs are glazed with a clear satin glaze on the outside and a white glaze on the inside.  I like the way the colors turned out.  The handles are another matter. Some of them look great but are not comfortable to use.   Other handles look awkward but are extremely comfortable in the hand.  Unless your handle is tried and true, there’s no way of knowing how the mug will feel until it’s fired and filled with its first serving of Java or tea.   But experimenting is all part of the fun.

 

Line by Line

TPA Winter 2017

I am happy to announce that an article I wrote, The Art of Emily Squires Levine” appears in the latest issue of The Polymer Arts.   You can access a sample version of the magazine here.   Besides writing about the gorgeous, colorful, vessels works of art that Emily constructs from  the dinky plastic dough made for children that we call polymer, writing the article sparked a personal exploration of why the process of artistic growth, or any type of growth at all, can be so achingly frightening.   Even when we know what we must do.   

The process of shifting from one stage to another involves leaving part of one’s self behind.   This process can be made less painful when it is part of a ritualized experience  (think of your first day of school), or a group experience.  But we are usually on our own when it comes to personal transformation.  And it is so hard to let go of what is familiar  and what (we tell ourselves) has worked so long.  Why change?

I think that all change involves letting go, but our human nature and instinct for survival can make us resist letting go.  Letting go involves a death of sorts.  But without letting go, things don’t change.  We don’t change.

How to let go?  Acting in love is one possibility.  Love can help us do things we never thought possible.   There are  concrete examples of this in The Art of Emily Squires Levine. ” 

 I am still thinking about all of this and would like to know how you feel if you care to share your thoughts.  

 

 

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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