Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Inspiration Prompt 2

July 2, 2018

Old school dictionary and encyclopedia

My book club discovered Dictionary Stories by Jez Burrows. It is literally that – stories made up entirely from example sentences in dictionaries. Some of the stories are so good I hope Burrows will someday pick up on them and write chapter 2. My prompt today is to take your dictionary off the shelf and find a word, example sentence, or bizarre secondary definition and see where it takes you. Please share your first lines or concepts!

Demonstration Projects – Beginning

June 27, 2018

I volunteered to demonstrate quilting techniques at the county fair, which means coming up with projects. There are 1001 projects waiting for attention in my sewing room, and I had the hardest time choosing. In the end, I decided to go with what I could reach.

A few beaded flowers, and I’ve got myself a landscape

This piece of fabric is the last one I “printed” from a tray of acrylic paint. I gently pressed the fabric into the tray and let it absorb the paint, then moved it to other areas to get the last blobs. Viewing the piece from this angle, it looks like an impressionistic landscape. I plan to demonstrate beading techniques to enhance that effect.

Think trees

While searching for a background for a Challenge Group assignment, I found this commercial print. It will work perfectly for my idea of an abstract landscape (specifically a forest floor). Beads, embroidery floss, and sequins are in its future.

Whether these experiments work or not, at least I’ll have something to show today. If the crowd is particularly creative, they may give me better ideas.

Luck and wisdom!

Scraps Be Gone

June 20, 2018

My plan to use scraps for my tea towel quilt is working. I pulled out all the odd blue remnants, cut them into 1 1/2” or 2 1/2” strips, and started sewing.

The great thing about a scrap quilt is the more fabric you use, the less you notice the disparities. Country calicoes and ethnic prints? Cool. Formal versus funky stripes? No problem. Blues that don’t always play nice together? The flow keeps them from fighting.

I decided I would try the same technique with the backing. My flannel collection is getting thin, but I bet I can piece together something interesting from this stack.

This will be a couch quilt, something to huddle under on a cold winter day (yes, we get one or two of them in California). It might also be a conversation starter, although I’m well aware that when someone asks, “How did you come up with the idea?” they’re really asking, “Mercy, what were you thinking!” Doesn’t matter – my scrap pile is smaller, and I’m getting my projects finished.

Luck and wisdom!

My Life As A Sawhorse

June 18, 2018

I’ve always said if I ever get around to writing my memoirs the first volume will be called My Life As A Sawhorse, and the second will be Getting Lost With Lani. Rachael Herron spoke at Tri-Valley Writers the other day and gave me the title for a possible third installment in my life story: Packing Up.

Herron said that good memoir doesn’t have to cover one’s entire life. One could relate a series of stories that are thematically linked, or focus on the events of a few years. Getting Lost With Lani is an example of a theme memoir. Sadly, it will be a rather long book.

My Life As A Sawhorse would cover our first years as homeowners. My husband is a talented woodworker, and he decided to make a lot of our furniture. That’s all well and good, except we had moved from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 4-bedroom house, which meant three-quarters of the space was empty. We were also extremely house-poor. We had the money for the supplies for the furniture, but not for workstations or sawhorses. Thus it came to pass that when my husband was cutting large sections, I was on the output side of the saw holding the pieces steady.

The title for a third installment of my life story, Packing Up, comes from one of Herron’s writing exercises. She told us to write down six pivotal moments in our lives, then choose one event and write a couple of sentences about that. I realized the most life-changing moments for me center around the many times I’ve moved. It isn’t just the pulling up stakes that changes a person, it’s the putting those stakes in a box with all the other bits of one’s existence. Packing is an art form as well as a skill. It is fair to say that one of the reasons I am married is because the man who became my husband made an off-hand comment about my packing. He was part of a group of friends helping me get the last load out of one apartment and over to my new one. The last load is always a bit sloppy, and I wasn’t going to let his comment slide. I went on a campaign to make him think better of me. Five months later, he proposed.

So there you have it, notes for a 3-volume story of me which I will write in my copious spare time. What are the titles of your life story?

The Creative Power of Packaging

June 13, 2018

I bought a kit at a white elephant sale simply because of the way it was packaged. The kit contained all the makings for felt ornaments. They’re cute, but I didn’t buy the kit for the ornaments. This is the item that drew me in:

I can’t resist bright shiny things that are also tiny and cute

As I disassembled the kit to retrieve my shiny, glittery rick rack (which I have no idea what to do with but I really, really wanted), my inner voice spoke. “Self, use this same technique on your next Unfinished Quilt Project.”

My challenge is to create a quilt out of these tea towels. I like them too much to wipe dishes with them. They don’t go together thematically, but they have a similar color scheme. And I have a drawer full of blue and green scraps.

I realized that successful packaging has a point of interest and good flow. Since the concept worked to sell me a kit of felt ornaments (which I will make at some point), it will work to create a quilt.

Luck and wisdom!

Gambling With Beauty

June 11, 2018

My husband and I are not gamblers, except with plants. Going to the nursery is our version of hitting the casinos. We never spend more than we can afford to lose, because although we are gambling with beauty it’s still even money whether those plants will live or not.

Most of the time we’re willing to let the plants accept their fate, but this little orange critter was an exception. We both loved the leaves, and the way the orange petals glow. It wasn’t doing well where we first planted it, so my husband dug it up and put it in a pot. It did okay, but wasn’t thriving. My husband moved it next to the front door, gave it a new pot, and hoped for the best. The gamble paid off.

I realized that I can use this example for both my writing and my quilting. Sometimes I write a scene or a character that doesn’t fit the story, just as I sometimes make a block that doesn’t fit with the other units of the quilt. Instead of trying to force the odd one to conform, I’m going to save it. I can cut a scene or even an entire chapter and paste it to a file. I can put the orphan block in a bag or bin. Someday, I’ll find the right place for those bits, and watch them bloom.

In Praise of Talking to Yourself

June 4, 2018

Have I mentioned that talking to yourself is really useful? The other day my husband was trying to remember to plug in his electric car. In the morning, he asked me not to let him forget to do that later in the day. In the afternoon, he told me he had written himself a note about charging the car. With each iteration, I smiled, nodded, and refrained from observing that he was really talking to himself, not to me. Speaking aloud is a fabulous memory aid.

Just pretend you’re talking to the plant

I often talk to myself when I’m trying to remember something. If it happens when I’m home, no problem. I just pretend I’m talking to the plants. Grocery shopping brings out the worst in my memory lapses. I cringe to think of what I must look like wandering down the aisle, squinting at my shopping list, and berating myself for not being more specific in my descriptions (what exactly does “salad stuff” mean today, for example).

I’m starting to think that I should be a little less harsh when I’m trying to remember ideas for my writing. I’m tired of having a great idea that disappears like a leaf in a strong wind when I finally get to a notebook or scrap of paper. From now on, I’m going to jabber loud and proud whenever an idea I want to remember strikes. If anyone gives me a funny look, I’ll smile and say, “Sorry, but I’m writing my novel just now.”

At the Beginning

May 28, 2018

Whether I am writing or quilting, the first hurdle is always the same – the beginning. No matter how wonderful my idea is, until I get the first line of a story or the first fabric in the quilt established I flutter around like the butterflies in my backyard.

Ready for the first line to reveal itself

When the first line flows easily, I can convince myself that the rest of the story will spill out as if by magic. It rarely happens, but the joy of a good beginning can carry me through the hard work of creating a decent middle and respectable conclusion.

Even if the first line comes easily, it might not be what the story requires when I finally reach the end. The hardest thing about rewriting for me is reworking the beginning. I can gleefully slash whole pages in the middle, but cutting my first line is painful. That’s when I pull out the advice Mary Ellen Hopkins gave to quilters: “If your quilt isn’t working, take out the fabric you love the most.” When I find myself protecting that first line as if it were a cherished heirloom, then I know it is probably time to let it go.

One Step Forward, One Step Back, One Step Sideways

May 16, 2018

The inevitable result of clearing out my backlog of quilting projects is discovering how much I’ve grown as a fiber artist. I don’t mean this in a good way. The next project on the list for my guild’s Unfinished Quilts Challenge is a top I made years ago of swirling fish. The top wasn’t where I expected it to be, so I had to pull out the entire stack of unquilted tops from the closet. That was the step forward.

This is as neat as I get

Believe it or not, this is the tidiest my closet has been in years. The tops on the bottom shelf at the back are ones I will quilt as gifts or for donations through the guild’s Community Quilts outreach program. I culled these tops from a much larger stack. That’s when I discovered the step back.

I am not the same person who made these tops

This pile represents tops or tops-in-progress that really don’t deserve to be quilted, at least not in their current condition. When I’m in a better mood, I will re-evaluate each top and determine which (if any) can be salvaged. That’s the step sideways.

This stack contains tops I still sorta kinda maybe like. I will put them on a different shelf, with a note on each as to what I think I should do with it. Perhaps that will save me from once again going through that horrible experience of asking, “Self, what were you thinking!?”

Luck and wisdom!

Writing Down The Dates

May 14, 2018

I was a history major in college, as were most of my roommates. We threw dinner parties to commemorate important dates. The Chicago Fire, the invasion of Poland, Pearl Harbor Day, Armistice Day – anything that came close enough to a free weekend so we had time to cook.

Dates and food are still important to me. I once made Cheesehenge Fondue for a summer solstice. As a writer, however, I want to do more. My friend and fellow writer Marlene Dotterer published her wonderful alternate history The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I started writing a story that is set in World War I. While the 100th anniversary of the end of that war is fast approaching, the end of that story is not.

I decided part of my trouble was pulling myself out of the “what-does-this-date-mean-to-me?” role. Separating my ego from my words is job number one for getting a story written. One of these days, the right story for the right date will reveal itself. Until then, bring on the cookbooks. There’s always another anniversary to celebrate.