When as Good as it Gets is Good Enough

I can’t believe its been 9 months since my last post.  There are two reasons for that. The first reason I won’t go into as it is depressing and dark and not at all interesting. I know, depressing and dark is almost always interesting, but in some cases it is also just predictable and boring. Besides, the second reason is a little bit better.

I’ve been busy. Busy is, of course, always a good thing. Busy with life and busy with business.

Well, maybe I should elaborate a little on the first reason, otherwise I may have to come up with another title and angle for this post and frankly I don’t have the mental energy for that.  I’ll leave out the years of psychoanalysis and relentless (somewhat narcissistic) self-analysis and get to the point: I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I think I’ve mentioned that before. Now, if you know me, have been to my house, or just peeked around any of my social media sites and have picked up all the glaring typos, you may be thinking “A perfectionist? Really?”

It’s true, though I’m not one of those perfectionists whose need for perfection has worked to my great advantage in life. You know those types who are always well put together, live in pristine homes or are wildly successful? Or those designer types with exquisite attention to detail with the skill set and patience to bring an idea to such a high level of perfection they are known as innovators in their fields?  Yeah, I’m not that kind of perfectionist. I’m more or less the kind who becomes so overwhelmed at the idea of failing that I can’t try at all.  Yes, I meant can’t. In short, I am a typical under achiever. Of course, there are other reasons for my lack of success, which according to the rules of psychoanalysis are all my mother’s fault, but over all I’m pretty sure it’s my desire to be perfect that is the root cause of all my failures. Or lack of success, since failing means you actually have to try.

Let me just get one thing straight right now – for the sake of this post, I am only talking business and my experiences in working for myself and my experiences in trying to figure out what that means. In all other aspects of my life, I’m perfect. (just seeing if you’re paying attention)

Now ,here is the funny thing. It took me so long to write this post (I’ve omitted several paragraphs) that I decided delete a good chunk of it and post without all the elaborate, frivolous details; just to prove that sometimes done has to be better than good.  But I now have ideas for future posts, so all that writing wasn’t a complete loss. After much editing, here is the best I can do today. I’ve come up with just two points (maybe three, you decide and let me know).

This morning I spent so much time fretting over my new Etsy listings being absolutely perfect, I almost decided to shut down my whole shop. What difference does it make? I asked myself, My shop has been closed more than it has been opened. One reason for that was due to building inventory for shows, but honestly it was due to my absolute unrealistic fear of publicly posting anything less than perfection. I can’t tell you how many times I have logged into Etsy, eager to revamp and reopen, only to be so discouraged by every single imperfection in my photos that I’d just decide to keep my shop on vacation. Then there was the pressure of writing the most enticing, entertaining product descriptions. I simply go blank when I see that white space staring at me. One thing became (once again) blatantly clear to me: I need to get over it. So I told myself “something is better than nothing”, gave up on anything close to perfection, hit that publish button and got over it.

Point 1 – I’m over it. ( really, I am…. )

Then I headed over here, knowing how long its been since my last post, feeling the shame and the pressure of it all. I was excited about “getting over it “and wanted to share that liberating feeling with you and offer you encouragement and advice and inspiration(!).

But as it turns out I have so much to say on the topic of  “good enough” “done is better than undone” “something is better than nothing”  that I went off on so many angles and tangents I became overwhelmed with finding the most perfect way to let you know you don’t have to be perfect. I started thinking ” what difference does it make? It’s been months since I posted, why bother now?” Then I remembered a promise I made to my blog, which brings me to the second point.

Point 2 – this might be as good as it gets.

I started blogging a little over 5 years ago. I promised myself I would make a commitment to keeping my blog alive. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Forever? Maybe. As long as I live? Possibly. My absence here lately has been weighing on me. I’ve felt the need to write something, but well, there is point number one which I wont go into. I thought announcing the reopening of my Etsy store would be a good way to restart and as I started to write about my struggle with perfectionism I remembered that promise  I made a few years ago. As I searched through past posts, I found it quite entertaining that today is the actual to-the-date 5 year anniversary of the promise to my blog.  The promise to never let it die a slow death, to just do my best and not worry about being perfect.

And so I face the harsh reality of point number 2.  This truly is all there is in life. This is me. This is as good as it gets. Sad.

But I can’t leave you with that, what kind of person would I be to leave you with such a dismal fact of life? A realist, true, but a realist who is not willing to force sad reality on others.

So instead I will leave you with this: I’ve  been working lately with new ideas and trying to find my “thing”.  For now, the main support for any medium I choose is still an Altoids tin. It seems so weird and silly, but by keeping this one constant thing in my art, I’ve discovered I really thoroughly enjoy working in small-scale, regardless of the medium, and I also enjoy creating with paper, regardless of scale. Here are a couple of pieces I made and sold recently. I WILL NOT talk about their imperfections and I’m happy to be sharing them here with you today.

 

IMG_3580

Inspired by a photo of a Japanese garden – hand cut and painted (punch used for the lotus flowers, center of lotus is hand cut, rolled paper) 

 

cottage

Cottage garden. hand formed and painted irises, daffodils and pansies, hand cut fence. Hand painted cottage. Gate opens and closes.

And now, to just hit that publish button and breath. Ahhhhhhh it feels pretty good to be back in the blogosphere.

Are there times when you’ve had to completely let go of perfection and just settle for good enough? How did that work for you?  I look forward to hearing your stories and advice.

 

 

 

Life on the EDGE?

There have been many  blog worthy events in my life lately, but my poor time management skills have prohibited me from scheduling any serious writing time.

I guess I’ll start with the most recent happening in my life. Most likely that is also where I’ll end because lets face it, too much of a good thing can get boring. I’ll try to make it quick.

Two months ago I stepped (actually, I was pushed) way out of my comfort zone.  Now, I consider myself a very adaptable person and I’ve had my share of positive life experiences that were often the result of my being pushed out of my comfort zone, but for the most part, I prefer to stay in my comfy little zone and maybe extend an arm or leg into the uncomfortable world of unknowns from time to time. After all, what is life if you don’t live on the edge just a little?

What makes me uncomfortable?
Strangers
Writing
Large groups of strangers
Talking about myself
Talking about myself to a large group of strangers

Oddly enough though, I’ve been known to respond to online invitations to attend groups and meetings with people I’ve never met before and for the most part I have always had good experiences with doing that. I’ve also had to give presentations and even talk about myself just a little to rooms full of strangers. I can do it, I just don’t like to.  But nothing causes me greater discomfort than having to share my “art” and vision with people, strangers or not. That may come as surprise to the  faithful few who follow me  on Facebook, Instagram and here where all I do is write about my explorations in artistic discovery, but trust me, it is not something I feel entirely confident or comfortable doing. Which explains some of my long absences here. I  do it because I feel I have to if I expect to go anywhere with any of this. ANYWAY….

On one of those occasions where I  decided to drift into the unknown by attending a lecture on social media marketing for artists (with a friend who I also forced out of her comfort zone…) there was mention by the facilitator about applications being accepted for EDGE. EDGE is a one week professional development resident program that helps emerging artists develop their goals. It has helped many an artist set goals and launch successful careers.  The deadline to apply was June 31st. I found out about the program on June 29th – I’m a little foggy on the exact dates, but the point is I didn’t think about applying because well, that would have been way too uncomfortable. I would have had to show actual artists my work AND write about myself AND write about my work and I was not / am not  in any way ready to think about applying for anything like that.  I knew though, that my friend was more than ready and I encouraged her to apply, which she said she might consider while also making a million excuses as to why she shouldn’t. Oh, we are so good for each other.

I put EDGE out of my mind and on the morning of the 31st my friend sent me a hilarious text message. She had decided to apply for EDGE and she thought I should too.  I sent her back  an “LOL” she – of all people! – had decided to apply! I was shocked, amazed, impressed – she did it, good for her! But I had to laugh at her thinking for one moment I was at that level. And that is when she pushed me. But for some reason, I was ok with playing along and thought: what is the worst that could happen?

Well, I could have my soul crushed like a walnut under a wheel loader is what could happen! And frankly, I have had enough of that for the past two years. It’s not so much that I can’t handle rejection. Well, yes actually it is that. I suck at rejection, even though I’ve had plenty of practice with it over the years, it never gets easy.

At her urging and pushing I decided to arm myself with some duct tape for the soul and give it a try. After all, I had 9 hours to fill out the application. Plenty of time. I completed the process with about 10 minutes to spare.  Then I waited. I figured there would be no news until after the July Holiday, so it was pretty easy to forget about it, plus I was pretty sure there wasn’t a chance at all I would be accepted. Then still I wondered…

A couple of weeks went by and I received a very happy and nervous text message  from my pushy friend (yes that is how we communicate – rarely do we ever talk to each other, this way we can stay in our comfort zones and still be social) that she had been accepted! I was so super happy for her. And I patiently waited for my rejection letter to come.

It never came. I began to feel a little tremor in my soul. After a couple of weeks, my soul cracked.

Apparently my artist’s statement, statement of work, my “art”, my application was so horrible none of it was even worthy of a rejection letter. I laughed to and at myself. What was I thinking? If It was just a mail in application perhaps the rejection would not have caused me such distress. However, with social media and so many of us on-line everywhere, there was a very deep gut wrenching feeling that not only do I suck, but that I was being passed around on every type of  media device known to man. I could hear the laughter, the jokes and I convinced myself to be happy that I had brought so much joy to so many people for a day. But I seriously became quite embarrassed for a few days too, thinking that everyone from the program might have peaked at one or all of my social media sites in order to assure themselves that they really don’t suck so bad after all.

As my soul crumbled to dust over a couple more weeks, I did finally receive the rejection letter I thought I was so unworthy of. I felt better. I looked at the bright side, the application had forced me to look hard at my goals and think about what I really want to do, should be doing or NOT doing. I also wrote an artist’s statement, a bio and about my process. True, none of it was good enough to convince anyone of my potential, but what I had left was a really polished rough draft that could be tweaked for future use.

HA! Future USE? Like that is ever going to happen.

Yet, I keep at it. Why? I’m not sure. I  will say though, I think I have given up on the art aspect of what I am trying to do and  may just stick with making what sells. Or I may not. I guess I’m still riding that wave.

And Then

And so I continued to go to my studio on a fairly regular basis and just kept making anything that came to mind. Feeling pretty satisfied and generally happy with the process, but like a complete failure with the finished “work”. Yes, these are fun, people like them, but what do they say?

Then, leaving my studio yesterday I had a thought; “#@(K  this *(&T  I’m going to do ART. And it might be weird and strange and SUCK but at this point , I just don’t care.” But then, maybe it wont be weird. Maybe it will be pretty and nice and that is ok, right? And no one even needs to know it exists.

And Then (Again)

I came home yesterday and went through the routine of checking emails and OMG… what should I find in my in box?

These exact words:
Happy Wednesday to you! You were next on our alternate list in case someone from Visual EDGE had to unexpectedly drop, which just happened.

Well, how funny is this? I was pretty quick to want to say “YES!” but before hitting ‘send’ on that, I stopped to think… I was still super excited about my friend getting accepted and the thought of us going together was more exciting than my receiving the offer of acceptance (for a few seconds). I knew she was going, but I also know how she can sometimes talk herself out of things and I wondered if perhaps her anxiety might have gotten the best of her. How funny would it be if I accepted and SHE was the one who dropped out? Clearly this was beyond a text message and a phone call was absolutely in order. Plus, I was not entirely sure I really wanted to go, the thought of being there with all those strangers, talking, showing my “art” to judges and critics… not exactly healing balm for the soul.

After confirming she was, indeed, still attending and convincing me of why it was super important for me to go and what an honor it was to have such a great opportunity, I went ahead and hit ‘send’ on that email reply.

And now, I must go sweep up the dusty crumbles of my crushed soul and return to my comfy place where I will take aim and get ready to toss every little bit haphazardly over the EDGE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Garden

Today I’m feeling like I need an escape; a peaceful place to gather my thoughts and tune out the world. I have it in my mind to create such a place in my own back yard, but for now I’ll just have to pretend.

Here is a simple paper cutting I finished last month. It was a good month for me. I think all the sunshine helped energize my mind and awaken a little creative beast with in me.

I did this tin because Japan during springtime is one of my favorite places to be.  I wanted to capture the serenity of a tranquil Japanese bamboo forest, the soothing sound of bamboo leaves rustling in the breeze and the trickling of a gentle stream.japanese garden papercut

I’ve started to use more of my own hand made embellishments and I like to keep it as true to handmade as possible, but I did use two texture plates for the sky and the grass. Also, I cheated a little and used a small circle punch for the cherry blossoms. I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge of cutting out 50 little tiny circles by hand.

bamboo garden

Japanese garden collage

As I said, this was a pretty productive month for me and I’m excited to be finishing up a few projects, which I hope to share with you next time. But now – I must go tend to the garden –

Cheers!

 

 

Happy Camping Everyone

I’m excited to be doing a few Holiday shows, but I’m also feeling very pressed for time. With that, I can only leave you with a photo:

caravan tin Collage

This Christmas caravan was created from an Altoids tin. The roof is made from Sculpey III  polymer clay and rests on a trailer hitch made from a clothes pin, spool and wood bead. Other embellishments include decorative paper, beads, pipe cleaner and charms salvaged from thrift store jewelry. I decided not to make my own bottle brush tree because, well, I just wasn’t feeling motivated to do so.

I’ve done a good job this year using only items I can salvage from my stash and using the paper scraps I have collected over the years. The only purchases I have made are for products I have run out of and some really beautiful, hard to find decorative paper. Mostly I’ve been working on creating my own background papers using photo editing programs.

Hey, this was supposed to be a quick photo only post. So with that, while all is quite and calm, I must get back to work. I have about 100 more of these to make.(!)

And Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

What Happens at the Forest’s Edge

After weeks of battling serious artist’s block, I decided it would be best to give up on forcing an idea to develop and not think about doing anything creative. At all. Ever again.

This new outlook was just a little stressful. I was thinking about an upcoming show I’d be doing and I wanted to have new merchandise on display. But I just couldn’t come up with an idea. When there was a flicker of an idea, I lacked ambition to do anything with it.

So I did what all frustrated adult children do in times of stress; I picked up my coloring book and crayons (and my Oreos) and headed to my happy place.

Ahhhhh, there’s nothing like the feel (or smell) of brand new coloring book to transport you to that feel good place of wonder and possibilities. At first it was very intimidating, I was afraid I’d turn those gorgeous, magical illustrations of enchanting forest life into something more of an environmental doomsday disaster. How can a middle-aged adult woman be afraid of a coloring book? I realized how ridiculous I was being and after a few days of admiring and caressing the pages I decided this was MY coloring book and I was going to do with it what I wanted.  I then made the mistake of Googling how others were coloring their books and quickly realized how much I suck… not just at coloring but… MY GOD…. did I actually Google and watch other people coloring?  Well, I embraced my crazy, slammed down a fistful of Oreos, opened the book, grabbed the first crayon within my reach and threw caution to the wind.

After a few days of this madness I started to feel a little happy. After a few more days I had an idea.

I began to gather my pieces.

small bits

I approached this project with the same attitude I did the coloring; I just went for it. The idea was just like the illustrations in the book; there for me to fill in and expand on, but not to be feared. It was ok to color outside the lines. And it was more than ok if things got messy. And it would even be ok if it never got finished.

getting there

I rolled paper (for the scrolls and mini books – not what you’re thinking), picked up and smashed up twigs, broke mirrors, cut up twine, went through my stash and pulled out little pieces I’ve stored away for this very day, then smeared it all with black paint. I worked away and became one with that crazy old cat woman, alone in a ramshackle cabin at the edge of that enchanted forest, collecting and hoarding all the dead and dying things it spat out. All while not having a care or concern in the world.

I created my true happy place. Which is a complete opposite of my zen garden happy place, but there is room for more than one happy place.

LAB Collage

apothecary tins

After dabbling with these pieces,  I was able to easily move on to other projects that required a little more focus and neatness.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the lesson is in all this. I think it’s that sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and do something completely different, no matter how silly it may seem. And sometimes we don’t have to DO anything. In doing nothing we allow new ideas to form…. you know, “listen to the universe”…

If you haven’t already caught on to this new coloring craze – I would highly recommend it. I find it to be quite relaxing and meditative. You can find these “adult” coloring books in craft stores, book stores and even in the book section of some retail grocery stores – I suggest picking up a supersize snack pack of Oreo cookies as well – to achieve the full effect of the experience.

coloring book collage

I’d love to hear how you combat and overcome your artist’s block. You can also find out more about the artist and creator of these stunning coloring books, Johanna Basford, by visiting her website johannabasford.com.

I Have Ways to Make You Talk

You never know what twists and turns might happen in the studio.

What started out as two separate pieces, each destined for starring roles in their own story, turned into something completely different.

First, there was a bird, which I stumbled upon (literally, I tripped right over him) in a thrift store and paid too much for, probably because the thrift store was an antique store – and you know how the word antique increases the price of an object by about 200%. This bird is definitely not an antique. But I couldn’t resist, he was taking to me, chattering away about all the grand dreams he had. Until I got him home, then not a peep. For months.

One day, I decided to make him talk, so I painted him, hoping to coax some ideas from him. I would’ve been happy with anything he had to say. I was just tired of him sitting there, mocking me, blank eyed and mute.

The Empire, start

And he stayed in this whitewashed comatose state for many more months.

I decided I would tackle another project until that damn bird decided to start talking again.

The Empire, project beginning

This would be easy, I had a few ideas of what to do with this piece. Some kind of diorama for sure. I began collecting and forming parts to create an underwater scene but ended up going down another path chasing butterflies through a secret garden. ACkkkkk. This clock was not the right shape for that. But the butterflies carried me back to another time; the days when primordial sludge oozed over the earths surface and that one tiny little single-celled organism supposedly brought forth all the diverse, amazing and complex life we see on our planet today. I would create a time line of life on earth.

Then something happened and I lost interest in the idea.  To the unfinished project pile went the clock along with that mute, mocking bird.

When I hit an artistic block, I start reorganizing my work space. This could be to make room for the flow of creative energy or just simply a diversion tactic, I’m not entirely sure. As it happened on this particular day, in a moment of reorganization when I haphazardly placed the bird atop the clock, a new idea sprang forth.

First, a bit of surgery would be required. bird project I needed to repair the gaping hole in my not so feathered friend’s chest. Dry wall compound worked well for this. And while the opening in his chest was too large, the opening in the clock was too small, so that needed to be fixed as well.

After a few minor alterations…

The Empire

I wanted to include a globe in this piece and I was glad to find a papier-mache egg in my stash. I was not so glad though, when I made a few mistakes in painting it and had to find a way to wash the paint off the papier mache. You know what happens to paper when it gets overly wet… as I tried to gently erase my mistakes the paper began to disintegrate. But I was pretty happy to find a black smooth surface underneath.  I free hand cut a tiny map of the world – my deepest apologies for those island countries that may have been relocated or completely omitted – I think Italy is missing its boot heel. But, it doesn’t matter it is the end of the world after all.

The egg sits atop a rumbling wave of black sludge; a polymer clay tsunami.

It was important that the egg rotate, notice it is not on its axis, I struggled with tilting or keeping straight. I thought an earth in complete turmoil would most likely be off its axis, so this works, which was nice because the egg already had centered holes in it.

egg Collage

To make the earth rotate, I used a battery operated clock mechanism. This presented two problems; one, the mechanism sat too low and two, the battery would have to be changed which meant the egg would have to be removable. A small wooden spool made a good support and added the right height for the mechanism. I drilled a small hole in the clock bottom to place a peg which the spool would fit onto (2), giving the egg a little support and also allowing for the unit to be removed so the battery could be replaced (3).

That is about it for this month. I suppose I could go on and on about all the symbology of this piece here, but I think it speaks on its own. Or maybe not. But I do think maybe that bird learned a valuable lesson.

TTFN –

Altoids Tin Pop-UP

For some strange reason I had a strong need to create a chrysalis from polymer clay. I had no idea why or what I would do with it once I made it.

polymer clay chrysalis

How could I tell its story?
Cacoon tin collageI thought it would be fun, and maybe challenging, to create a pop-up.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I just love the way the butterfly unfolds when the tin is opened. Actually, the first photo is the second chrysalis I made, because I like this one so much I decided to make another one and thought I would give you a peek at how they look l before I paint them.

I also became so inspired by the pop-up concept I thought I would attempt it with something other than butterflies.

sparrowCollage

Again, polymer clay was used to make the eggs, which are then hand painted. The nest was made from wire. For both tins I used Steampunk Botanica scrapbook paper by DCWV. The lovely little sparrows were taken from the Graphics Fairy, an amazing resource of vintage images available to all crafters and artists for use in their projects. Thank You Graphics Fairy!

Well, it has been a rather productive week so far – wait, it is only Wednesday, I actually started these projects a couple of weeks ago, but I was able to get them finished up yesterday – just in time for a show I will be doing this weekend too. 🙂

Well, cheers to you all – have a fantastic day.