Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Eggs Everywhere

I am seeing eggs everywhere. They keep reminding me that today is a beginning. And so is tomorrow, and the next day, and the one after that. I just finished watching a great movie last night, one I had never heard of -
The Prize Winner of Definace, Ohio. It's a true story based on a book her daughter wrote. Check it out - or read the book. But Julianne Moore does an excellent job in the movie. It just hit the right chord with me - it's about being creative, being optimistic. It's about the lack of opportunities our mothers endured. That is, if you are a baby-boomer, of course. Well, it's time for me to get into the studio. There are eggs that need to be cracked.

Monday, May 22, 2006

This Bird has Flown

This weekend I drove to Philly. While I was there I learned to fly.

My weekend with the Oiseaux Sisters, Susan Andrews and Carolyn Fellman, was exactly what this weary traveler needed - a chance to explore, to renew, to discover and to refill. The Sisters are strong, yet gentle, powerful yet unassuming - the perfect women to teach you how to fly. I walked in the door of Ellen Carver's Crafts for Living Gallery, located in The Mills at East Falls, and shed the Lesley Riley we all know in order to rediscover the Lesley Riley that has gotten buried over the last few years. Don't get me wrong - I love what I do and the opportunities that it has afforded me....but I had not stopped to take any discovery time for myself in such a long time. The time to explore without an agenda, a deadline, a committment.

I arrived late on Friday because of the rush hour traffic, so everyone was waiting for me and it was hard to slip in quietly. (I never like to draw attention to myself.) I wanted to be incognito this weekend, to step away from fabric and play with other media, ideas and inspiration.
There was a series of exercises to help us hone in on what we needed to be focusing on in our art lives. It was so exciting to experience how abstract play led me to focused work....something I know and teach/preach, but rarely do. (I know - practice what I preach).What emerged was this egg shape. I have always been drawn to it; I think it is a universal symbol and part of our collective consciousness, but I have never explored it. And I truly stumbled upon it through the series of exercises we were doing. Over the weekend, I worked from the abstract to the realistic, using this shape as a metaphor for what I was experiencing - both breaking out of my shell and beginnings. It wasn't until the very end when we did our sharing and walk-through that I also made the connection of oiseaux (french for bird) and egg.

I was also able to draw energy and inspiration from the wonderful and VERY talented workshop participants. Philadelphia is a hotbed of artistic and fun women. We made plans for me to return and explore their scene. I also had wonderful talks with Ellen about her plans for the gallery and future workshops and exhibits. The fact that some women stayed until 11:30 pm on Saturday night and others (including me) showed up extra early on Sunday, made Ellen's heart take flight. Her vision was becoming a reality. I hope she will soon get a website and expand her workshop offerings. Then others can share in the magic of taking flight. And if you cannot make it to Philly, or a workshop with the Sisters, just arrange for your own flight lessons...go into your studio and play. Play until you feel your wings flutter, unfold and lift you up into the sky. I'll see you up here.
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.~ C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 19, 2006


I met Judi 10 years ago. It was a turning point for me. I had just had my 6th child and was trying to figure out how to combine art & motherhood. I registered for an evening class at the Corcoran School of Art - Unlocking Creativity. Perfect title, as I knew it was there, I just didn't know how to tap into it. I was the oldest student in the class, 43 years young, but the closest in age to Judi, and we shared the common bond of art. I don't remember much about the class, only the one pivotal assignment - turn a negative into a positive. I had a week to mull that one open ended could you get?

The biggest negative I was facing at the time, was lack of it. How could I turn that into something positive? It was then that I discovered how to make time. Funny thing was, it had been there all along, but I hadn't recognized it for what it was. I began to notice 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there. The ordinary minutes that occur throughout every day that we usually ignore or fill with meaningless nothingness. So I captured those 5 and 10 minute opportunities to work on my art. Looking around for some concrete way to present this to the class, I recorded my found time on blocks, blocks of time!

Shortly after that class, Judi wrote a profile article on me for Arts & Crafts magazine. As the years passed, we had sporadic communication and meetings - I went to her book signing, we emailed, I visited her studio, she reviewed my book....but we let the dailiness of life get in the way - and we only live 4 miles apart!

Serendipity brought us together again this week. Both of our careers have grown. Judi now writes articles, book and product reviews for several magazines. She still teaches at the Corcoran and always tells her students about the student who found blocks of time. We have made a promise to carve out blocks of time from our lives to meet regularly. It's important to share conversation, art, ups and downs, the highs and lows of living an artful life. Thank you, Judi, for being part of my journey.

In the Merry Merry Month of May

This time last week I was at Art & Soul in Dallas teaching my Transfer Master class. We all had a wonderful Mothers Day weekend. I don't think anyone missed being home for Mothers Day. We could not think of a better way to celebrate than by being with like-minded souls and spending the day creating. As events go, it was small, but the energy level was high..Enthusiam, creativity and art took center stage. This teaching trip took on special meaning for me because it was the first time I offered individual coaching sessions. I called them Creativity Critique Coaching sessions, leaving them open-ended for anyone to get feedback on whatever area of the artmaking life that they needed. I love being in the classroom sharing what I know about materials, techniques and design, but working one-on-one with someone, helping them find or define their path in the arts - well, it was, it is magical. Maybe magical isn't the right word, but it did feel that way. I felt like I had finally found my heart's work. I started on this path in the arts to share my own discoveries and to do what I could about spreading the word on the magic of artmaking - how it can change your own life and those around you. It changed mine, filling all the voids I still felt even though I was living a blessed life - the Life of Riley, so to speak. So I offer myself as a guide - either in the classroom or at the conference table. Annie Bevan sums it up best -
Art is our memory of love. The most an artist can do is say, let me show you what I have seen, what I have loved and perhaps you will see it and love it too.

Here we are at a good Tex-Mex dinner Friday night: Susan Smith, Keely Barham, Claudine Hellmuth, me and Laurie Mika. It was our only escape from the hotel. We ended our big Texas night out at Lowe's and Wal*Mart (doesn't everybody) stocking up on munchies and picking up last minute class supplies. Today I am off to Philadelphia to spend the weekend playing with the Oiseaux Sisters I can't wait to report on that.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Getting Down to Work

It seems like ages since I have been in the studio. The axiom - the longer you've been away from the work, the harder it is to get started, has once again proven itself to be true. It's not that I don't have ideas or want to create, it's that I have so much to do that I don't know where to begin and hence, the dizzy tizzy in the studio.

I did this journal page Thursday for the Self-Portrait round robin I am in, stitching on paper, collaging fabric and over-dyeing the whole thing with fluid acrylics - a self-portrait in the looser sense - me as an extension of my new sewing machine, a Bernina 630. It's my first "sewing computer" as they call these computerized machines and I love it. It arrived about a month ago and I've been adding decorative stitches in my work, just the tip of the iceberg as far as the machine goes.

I leave again for Art & Soul Dallas next week. I'm teaching 3 classes and doing a day of individual Creativity Coaching and Critique sessions. When I was just starting out I really wanted to sit down with someone and see if I was on the right track with my art. A few well placed comments and evaluations made all the difference in my level of confidence, and kept me heading in the direction of my dreams when I got cold feet or thought I wasn't good enough. So here I am, offering that to others...wanting to make a difference, giving back, or paying it forward. Yes, Pay if Forward. I like the implication of the phrase "paying it forward" as opposed to "giving back". There's more growth in forward movement.

I seem to be rambling on this morning, carried off on tangents. Perhaps I should take this energy into the studio. ~