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.

 

An Antidote to Fear

nielsbohr1-2x

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.