I’ve been having horrible insomnia lately. The kind where you toss and turn and keep looking at the clock because that window of time between sleep and the alarm gets increasingly short. I’m guessing because there’s a whole lot of stuff swirling around in my head. Some of it’s low-bubbling anxiety that I’m trying to prevent from surfacing, but most of it is actually good things, ideas that are in the very early stages of incubation, or in my case, trying to incubate.
Brenda, a very talented designer and long time blog reader, asked me to participate in her Get Fueled series where she asks creative people about their process. This essay was a bit of a challenge because I’m not exactly sure what my creative process is and quite frankly, I’m not even sure I properly answered Brenda’s question. So I rambled instead (very typical). I might very well have a process that I’m not consciously aware of, but it did make me realize that I do have a different process as a designer than I do when I’m creating work of my own. One of things that I was finally able to articulate for myself in answering this question is that for me, I see design and art as 2 very separate disciplines and they often can’t co-habitat successfully in the same creative space in my brain.
For obvious reasons of needing to make a living and supporting my family, I’ve been a designer for the majority of the second half of my life, whereas art and writing music was all I did for the first half. I really do admire people who can churn out a drawing or a piece of art every day, but I’m not that person. I think I really need to totally immerse myself in whatever I’m doing without any distractions and THIS is what I think my process is as an artist – to have the freedom and the time to just stare at a blank piece of paper for hours if I need to and then run with an idea all night. There’s something to be said about the luxury of time in that regard. I sometimes look back to when I was younger in school and wonder, was I more creative back then? Why can’t I be that prolific now? But then I realize it’s because of that luxury of time when I didn’t have to wake up to a job or a deadline or raising kids. I didn’t do anything else but create. I’m sure that my age has a lot to do with it, as well as the fact that my kids are growing into people right before my eyes, but I have college and retirement so much on the brain right now. You need money for both, and that’s where my focus has been lately.
But isn’t being a designer creative? Yes. But for myself, the answer is also no. I think I’ve always looked at being a designer as a job, separate from other creative processes. I never thought of myself as being particularly good at being creative on demand, so I think it’s a bit ironic that I ended up being a designer where work is always deadline based. But as I mention in that essay, I think those constrictions and parameters have been very good for me. And let me back up a bit when I wrote earlier that I admire those people who could churn out a drawing a day. The fact is, I am being creative everyday when I’m working. I’m not churning out drawings or paintings, but I am designing and when I’m done working for the day, the last thing I want to do is go draw. Photography, however, has been an enormous breakthrough in terms of trying to fit in personal creative work with freelance work. It’s a little less daunting than being faced with a blank canvas and that’s been really instrumental in getting back to being actively creative again. I think this is primarily why I’ve resisted trying to turn photography into anything other than a hobby.
But getting back to that insomnia. I think I’m having anxiety because I’m feeling so creatively empty these days. Work has been steady and great lately, but recent projects haven’t been creatively interesting. Ironically this might very well be the reason why I have the head space to think about personal projects right now. I’ve been thinking a lot about some work that I did in college, a series of mixed media photo collages – and later Photoshop collages when I was learning Photoshop in the mid 90s – incorporating old photos and new photos. The idea has piqued my interest again. The challenge, of course, is finding time (it’s ALWAYS about time, isn’t it? It’s the bane of my existence, really, being pulled in so many directions every day and never feeling like I’m caught up), but I’m determined this year to try and make it work and see where it leads. I am still very interested in collaborations with other people and I think this is ultimately where I’d find the energy of the creative process most invigorating since I work so much on my own a lot of the time, but life schedules have made this a challenge and in the end, a failure. So I’m finding that I need to turn inward. Whatever the means, it’s time to get creative again.
P.S. I think I might be the queen of rambling blog posts. Guess I didn’t get that memo that nobody has the attention span to read long blog posts anymore, sheesh.
Posted by Jenna | 22 Comments
A few weekends ago, the girls and I stumbled upon this exhibit, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” at the New York Public Library. We were in the neighborhood and on a whim decided to take a look inside since they had never been. Although the exhibit has been open since summer, it was a fantastic, unexpected find. Well curated and beautifully designed, the rooms brought some of the most beloved children’s books to life including a life-size replica of the green room in “Goodnight Moon”.
As we made our way from room to room, we spotted well-loved characters around every corner like Alice, Harold and his Purple Crayon, Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”, and one of Max’s monsters recreated as a cutout entryway covered with fur on one side of the wall and gilded with gold around the edges. When you step back and look at the entire wall, you discover that the monster is a cutout from a wall that is in the shape of Max’s crown.
Books to pull out and read can be found throughout the exhibit and if your kids are like mine, they’ll take every opportunity to sit down and read. One of my favorite little details was an ivy covered wall from The Secret Garden which had a carved out ledge for sitting. On either side, almost hidden by the ivy, were 2 slots in the wall wide enough to hold a single book.
Leonard S. Marcus, a children’s book historian who is the curator of the exhibit, draws together 250 artifacts from the library’s archives including original artwork, manuscripts and letters. On display is a rare illustrated edition of Aesop’s Fables, the original stuffed bear and tiger that inspired the characters in “Winnie-the-Pooh”, and original watercolors from “Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”.
The exhibit runs through March 23 and is free to the public. Make sure you visit the library gift shop too. Can’t remember the last time I bought a book for myself (the kids buy books all the time), but the gift shop is stocked with some great books and we walked out with a few.
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Had a rare free day from work commitments yesterday so I took care of W&S business that’s been hanging over me since the holiday rush is now basically a little over a month away. Reordered product labels, took stock of inventory and finally listed the 2014 Year in Food Calendar. A little late this year, but here it is. Available in our Etsy shop and on our website.
I get asked quite often where I get my calendars printed. I print them in-house, trim the pages one by one with an exacto knife, collate the pages together with a bellyband, then slip each one inside a cello sleeve. Pretty sure I do a lot of things like this in the least efficient and most time consuming way possible. But hey, at least you know it’s handmade.
Last year when I held my fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy relief through my NYC calendars , I literally spent the whole month of November printing, trimming and and running to the photo store – sometimes twice a week – for emergency ink and paper runs, in addition to ordering supplies online. It was pretty maddening. It got to the point where the paper guy at Adorama would see me coming and just hand me the boxes of paper that he had in stock (although I could only carry 5 boxes out with me at a time because of my back issues). At one point in January both Adorama and B&H Photo started limiting the boxes of paper that you could order online and then it went out of stock completely. I’m pretty convinced that 98% of the reason why that happened was because of me.
And oh yes…NYC calendars…I’m trying to get it together…I don’t know…we’ll see…
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There are days when plans just come together and midway through the day you realize that you’ve constructed one of those perfect NYC days. We had one of those days over the weekend. It ended with a sunset view of the Manhattan skyline that was so incredible, that it couldn’t have been scripted better.
We also explored a small corner of the city that we have never been to before. As big as the city is, we often tend to stick to places familiar to us. It was a good reminder that the city is big and there is so much out there we have yet to see. I had never been to Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens before and when I saw that they were hosting free sculpture workshops every Saturday during the summer with a different artist and theme each week, I made sure to put it on our summer list of things to do.
It’s kind of hard to describe Socrates. At first impression it’s an odd little park that feels a little rough around the edges, but when you dig a little deeper and see all the art that’s happening – on view and in progress – you realize that it has a creative energy that you don’t see very often in public view. Aside from the free weekly art workshops for kids and adults (and outdoor movies in the summer too), there is a network of cargo containers and an open air workshop that make up artist in residency studios that the Park grants to select artists and architects. A small farmer’s market sold local and regional produce just a few meters away from where artists were working on their sculptures, and a dance company was working their way through choreography as part of a week-long residency program for dancers this month.
While we sat there watching the dancers rehearse, I realized that I felt like I was on an art school campus. It had that type of creative energy that we used to be surrounded by when we went to school, but haven’t really been immersed in since. It made me miss that free spirited energy back in college days when all we did was create and make things. In a city where there is so much art to take in, it’s somewhat unusual to have access to view works in progress like this. In the boat making workshop that we participated in last Saturday, it wasn’t just the kids who wanted to build and create; I saw a fair number of parents constructing their own boats alongside their kids. It’s hard to just stand idly by when there are so many fun and tactile materials to play with. It just goes to show…creativity can be contagious.
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Another reason to visit Governor’s Island this season is this sculpture called Head in the Clouds, constructed by Studio Klimoski Chang Architects and brought to you by Figment NYC. We actually saw a bit of the construction of this sculpture the first weekend we were at Governor’s Island and were debating what it was going to be. The outside structure, built entirely of white milk jugs, is impressive in its size and ambition itself, but having known nothing about the interior of the piece, we were blown away at what we saw when we entered. I love things that are unexpected upon closer inspection. Clear plastic water bottles filled with varying shades and amounts of blue water create this wonderfully textured topographic landscape that shifts with the filtered light above you. The piece is made up of over 53,000 plastic bottles – the amount of bottles, supposedly, that New Yorkers throw away in an hour. Whoa.
The heat finally broke last weekend and temperatures are back to normal, more humane levels. It was even downright brisk yesterday and we pulled out sweaters and wore jeans for the first time in over a month. It felt weird…like the first day you walk out of the house without a jacket.
During the heatwave, I became that person you see carrying an open umbrella around them for shade. I didn’t do it intentionally at first. We’ve been getting a bunch of days where it will rain totally out of the blue, even getting some sunshowers, so there were days when I had an umbrella with me just in case. It didn’t occur to me to use it for shade though until one day when I couldn’t take the sun anymore. I looked in my bag for something and there it was, the umbrella. Sure, it felt a little silly at first because the only people you really see carrying around an umbrella for shade are old people and Asian ladies, but uh, seeing as I am both, I totally embraced it once I realized how awesome it is to walk under a constant shade source wherever you go. Can’t argue with that, can you?
Sometimes I feel like I’m raising little old ladies. They told me to turn down the music the other day and Mia said that she didn’t like going to concerts because the music was too loud. I was thinking about how I might have to chaperone them to concerts one of these days, but maybe that won’t be happening anytime soon. Maybe I’ve been watching too many Youtube videos of Coachella and Glastonbury performances sorta kinda wishing I could be there. Or maybe not. I don’t know…that ship has probably long sailed, the one where I camp out at music festivals with thousands of other people like I did 24 years ago (ok, now that I type that out it sounds really unappealing), but could you imagine going with your kids? All sorts of potential embarrassment fodder right there. I guess I’m waiting for the day the girls will want to replace their posters of peregrine falcons (no joke, I told you they were bird nerds) with band posters and start fawning over musicians. You know, like we did with Duran Duran when we were 10.
Speaking of music, I’ve been listening to these 2 Australian bands a lot lately, Tame Impala and Pond who both share band members who play multiple instruments and are like 25 years old. I can’t remember the last time I got this obsessively into a new band, maybe since the 90s???
Posted by Jenna | 11 Comments