This year seems to be the year where I’m making good on some promises I made to myself early in the year. Some promises have come up empty when they don’t get fulfilled year after year, but for whatever reason, this one’s has been different. Maybe it’s some cosmic force at play that tries to balance the good with the bad – isn’t that a nice thought? Or maybe things come into your life only when it’s the right time.
The ironic thing about having a job is that I feel like I have more “free” time. Ok, scratch that because things are always busy around here no matter what, but what I mean is that I feel like I can schedule things without fear of every plan getting usurped by a last minute freelance assignment. What some people don’t realize about freelance is that even though you’re your own boss, you’re sort of a slave to your clients. It’s its own brand of “golden handcuffs”. You don’t want to say no because you don’t want to risk losing that client and you don’t want to say no because you might regret it when work dries up. What often happens is that you find yourself in an impossible schedule where you’re juggling too many things and working non-stop. It’s a perpetual cycle that breeds it own version of being on that hamster wheel.
So imagine my surprise when I realized that having a set schedule begets a different kind of freedom I haven’t had before (more or less – I’m still freelancing a bit on top of my job right now. What was that I just said about not being able to say “no”? Oy vey). I got rather excited when I realized that some of my time away from the office would be entirely mine again. That meant carving out regular time to work on our business, something that always seem to end up getting pushed to the back burner, and also making things with my hands.
I met my friend RJ in the early years of Etsy when the community seemed much smaller and we were all stumbling our way around twitter. I’ve been wanting to play in her studio, on her invitation, for quite a while now, but I was never able to find the time. I finally cleared my schedule this month for 2 sessions of studio time and it was the best time I’ve had in a while. Art therapy, I guess. There’s something really therapeutic about working clay in your hands and hand building objects. Can’t say whatever I made is good, but who cares. It wasn’t about making anything good and I suppose that’s the point of it all. Drawing and painting is still a bit too intimidating because these are things I studied for years, in a highly rigorous academic setting, no less. I *should* be able to do these things, right? Wrong. Insecurity, self doubt, and lack of practice does a number on anything that should make sense (hi, piano), no matter how many degrees you’ve earned. All of that goes out the window. But clay. It’s something I’m not familiar with aside from a wheel throwing class I took while in college (doesn’t everybody take a pottery class at one point?). So here’s another check mark on the list of positives this year. I’ll take what I can get, but it was a big one.
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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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I’m alone in the house for the first time in almost 3 weeks. Feels a little strange, you know? But the girls have started camp today and it took a bit of effort to get back on some sort of routine, complete with earlier bedtimes. If you told me that my kids would be the sort of kids who sleep in till 9am, I would have thought you were crazy. This, after years of waking up at 5:30 am as babies and 6:30 – 7am as their usual wake up times. It’s not often that I’m up before they are and I found myself peeking into their rooms the last 2 mornings, wanting to poke them because I couldn’t believe they were still asleep.
I’m attempting to get back into my routine as well since the girls will be in camp for a few weeks. This includes getting back to exercising which I admit went down the crapper ever since school got out. I’ve been indulging in all the bad habits – drinking iced coffee like it’s water, getting to bed at 3am. I’ve got multiple work projects going on right now, so I’m welcoming the quiet and the return to some sort of schedule.
Mark and I discussed last night how crazy it was that we’re in mid-July already. We’re starting to see signs of Back-to-School marketing and sales which is always slightly annoying because we still have almost 2 more months of summer vacation left here in NY. For us, vacation has only really just begun and I feel like we’re always being rushed towards the next season. Plus it’s going to be a million degrees all week as we head into a long heatwave. Fall feels so far away.
Speaking of Fall, these photos were taken at Hiho Batik in Brooklyn last October. It was just a few days before Hurricane Sandy hit so the photos got completely buried in hurricane madness and I only just rediscovered the photos the other week. The last photo is a picture of the finished shirts that the girls batiked at a birthday party last Fall. This week, they’ll be doing more fiber arts and textile designs at camp. Makes me want to go to camp too. We definitely didn’t have such cool summer programs like that when we were kids.
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I don’t know why I even have a “craft” category for the blog seeing as we seem to only accomplish 2 kinds of crafts each year – paper snowflakes and Easter egg dyeing (and if you click on crafts, that’s pretty much all you see post after post – so much so that it’s laughable). We haven’t even carved pumpkins in the last few years because the girls get too attached to their pumpkins and can’t bear the thought of stabbing them with knives and scooping out the guts. Oh! I tried to teach the girls how to make origami cranes last week, but that didn’t really go over so well because I forgot how to fold one myself and the only origami paper we had was too small for tiny hands trying to make precise folds. Hey, I tried.
After last year’s rather successful first attempt at natural egg coloring, we went back to the Paas dye tablets, mostly because Mark’s mom sent us a box in the Easter care package she sent us. We didn’t do anything fancy this year (though I thought about it for a minute, I swear). Mia did scratch a phrase in wax on one of her eggs: “Peace, love and hamburgers” (uh, whatever that means to 9 year olds), but we did try ombre-ing a few of the eggs. I think next year I might try experimenting with tape.
We took our traditional drive upstate to spend Easter with Mark’s dad and uncle. The girls get super excited about Easter because of the egg hunts (this year we drove out to a state park to hide chocolates in the woods). Nothing was Spring-like about it because the weather was still a bit chilly and the trees still so bare, but they still had a super good time. I find it funny that they are both so blinded by the fact that one of us is obviously the Easter bunny hiding the candy. I’m surprised that Mia still believes there’s a furry animal with thumbs capable of placing chocolate eggs on window sills and perched on tree branches. She knows there isn’t a tooth fairy and hasn’t really believed in Santa in awhile (though she claims to believe in him again), so why the Easter bunny? Especially when I had “mysteriously disappeared” while Mark took them to a bench to look out over the lake.
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My high school art teacher, who was the most awesome teacher to have during those formative teenage years, would often tell me that the one of the best parts of being a teacher was being inspired by his students. He once thanked me for making him a better artist. I never forgot that. Even back then I pondered what that statement meant, an adult who was nearly twice my age thanking me, a kid, for inspiring him to be a better artist.
I get that now though. I know what he meant.
Mia brought home this little weaving that she made at a birthday party held at the Textile Arts Center and it sort of blew me away. Not in that, “oh look how precious this drawing of our family is”, but more in a “wow, this is a really interesting textile piece and I love the colors that she chose” kind of way. I don’t know anything about weaving on a loom, so my unfamiliarity about weaving fabrics totally heightened the mystery of how she was able to make this in 2 hours. I was really proud of her and she was obviously proud of her work. I also wanted to learn how to weave something myself immediately, and this is what made me think of my high school art teacher.
I’m not a crafty person, which is a bit ironic considering how I used to spend my childhood days. Designing paper dolls with outfits and creating elaborate dioramas were my absolute favorite activity (and I cringe to admit that my 10 year old self was pretty competitive about dioramas at school). Sometimes I feel regretful that I’m not THAT mom. You know, the one who whips out the craft box on rainy days and can lead their kids into hours of “crafting” (I really dislike the verb usage of words like that) and come out the other end with puppets made out of old sweaters and bird feeders from milk cartons. I mean, damn. Sometimes I really wish I were that mom. I have the potential and know how to be, but I will ashamedly admit…I am just too lazy (how awful to reveal that). But this weaving that Mia brought home might mark a new beginning because I’m realizing that the kids’ ability to comprehend and handle activities that require dexterity and patience opens up a new world of art projects. I think I underestimated their abilities because they were “still kids”. I was wrong.
One of the more vivid memories from my childhood is taking painting classes with my mom. I must have been 9 or 10. Our teacher was a big Romanian woman with a husky voice who held small open studio classes in her attic art studio in her house in Queens. She was a chain smoker and had a big black labrador whose tail would wack against the closed door as she patiently sat outside the art studio, wanting to be let in. My mom and I would paint side by side on our respective paintings, hers in oils and mine in acrylics, every Saturday with our Romanian teacher giving us critiques and helping us with our technique. It’s a memory that I think back on fondly and it would be cool to share a similar experience with the girls one day.
Incidentally, I signed the kids up for a week long camp session during the summer at the same Textile Arts Studio where Mia learned how to weave (yes, that’s right. In NYC, many families will have registered for camp already by January. Craziness!). It’s really great to have so many different specialized camps right here in the neighborhood – rock climbing, robotics, skateboarding, video making, textiles. It’s a far cry from the camps that I remember going to in the 80s, where the only thing I can remember was making sure I had the right Jordache jeans and choreographing a musical routine to “Hey, Big Spender” with 20 other girls (um, what?). It makes me want to sign up for a class myself too. And so it comes full circle – the girls are inspiring me to want to create things again, to take classes and have fun while doing it. But more importantly than that, they’re inspiring me to let go of some of the fear of failure that has prevented me from doing so in the past.
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