Monthly Archives: June 2012

Creativity Round Up


I’ve found a couple of cool articles/websites on creativity and thought I would share them with you.

This is an article that summarizes a speech given by John Cleese.

This website is by author Michael Michalko who wrote several books on the topic. I liked this article about Picasso but dig around, there is some very interesting stuff here. I particularly like the article 10 Myths about Introverts, especially since I am an introvert. It took me a long time to realize there was nothing wrong with me, I was just wired differently. And I happen to agree with these myths.

And here is another post about being creative.

That should give you enough to think about/inspire you this weekend.

Garden Art


A couple of weeks ago I visited the Dallas Arboretum. Beside being an avid lover of flowers (peonies are my favorite if you must know), it is having a fabulous Dale Chihuly exhibit.

I have always been a big fan of his and I can’t think of a better setting for his large scale glass art than in an outdoor garden.

The exhibit runs through November. If you are in the Dallas area, it is definitely worth the trip. But be prepared – it’s hot down here!

Fashion Victims


There is a new book out – Overdressed – The shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline. To be honest, I want to read the book but I’m already a convert so I don’t know if I’m willing to shell out the $13 for the Kindle version (a great Christmas gift, by the way).

 Back in 2003, Michelle Lee wrote Fashion Victim – Our Love-Hate Relationship with Dressing, Shopping and the Cost of Style, which I just finished reading. While Cline’s book seems to focus more on the manufacturing process of clothes – the pollution, exploitation of human labor and inherent waste of cheap fashion, (and not having read it yet, I stress that I am making assumptions based on reviews I’ve read), Lee’s book skims the surface of those issues and is more focused on our mentality as a consumer towards fashion. As she states in the epilogue, “Whether you rejoice over or bemoan fashion’s staying power, hopefully some of the words in this book have opened your eyes to the way fashion affects your life and the lives of others.” 

Here are some points that stuck with me from this book:

“McFashion stores will have effectively pushed originality from our closets. Eventually we’ll forget that our clothes can serve as a creative extension of ourselves. And we’ll be a society of outrageously boring dressers.”

Our culture is becoming homogenized – we eat the same foods, we buy the same clothes. We don’t want to take risks and strive to fit in. Most of us like to think we’re unique and would scoff at being called a conformist, but that’s what we’ve become. What a shame. Luckily, I think that this is starting to turn around a little bit (remember this book was written in 2003). I think the whole handmade, refashion movement is helping revitalize individuality and originality. At least I hope it is. I personally love to shop the art & crafts shows for one-of-a-kind pieces and support craftspeople.

 “It’s infinitely sad to see shopping quickly eclipsing other, more rewarding activities (art, reading, volunteering) in popularity. Something is seriously wrong when we’d rather spend three hours at the mall than with friends at the park, and when our main motivation for taking a trip across the country is to visit the hot new destination mall (which has the same exact stores you would find in your local mall – Lynn). The act of shopping may offer us temporary respite from our daily worries, but consumerism adds few lasting benefit to our lives.” (emphasis mine)

No wonder depression is on the rise. Everyone is living their lives on the surface instead of really digging deep into their relationships, passions, talents and interests. What do you get when you go shopping? A momentary high that just puts you deeper into debt. Shopping fuels the emptiness in our soul while forging meaningful relationships, doing creative work (you get to define what that is based on your passions and interests), helping others and growing as a human being by challenging yourself fill that void.

 “Fashion Victims hate to think that workers are being exploited but we love our inexpensive clothes. We feel some level of pity towards workers who earn pennies for each shirt they make, but usually not enough to do anything about it. We shake our heads at news of big name retailers caught up in sweatshop scandals but don’t stop shopping at their stores.” (emphasis mine)

Two points here. The first is: we vote with our dollars. Throughout the book Lee talks more than once about the “injustices” that the fashion industry makes and how we don’t like it but still continue to buy from the offenders. Are we just a nation of hypocrites or are we all leading unexamined lives?  Second, everyone deserves a fair wage for their contribution. If you accept the exploitation of third country workers, how soon do you think it will be before someone is trying to exploit you? It’s all connected.

 “So, can we ever know if our clothes were sewn under good working conditions? I posed the question one day to (MIT’s) Dara O’Rourke. After half-heartedly giving me the obligatory answer that some brands are better than others, he paused and conceded, ‘If you sewed it yourself, you might know.’ “

I point this particular quote out because I am a sewer. My fashion philosophy has changed a lot over my 40+ years. I used to live for shopping and had the debt and the full closet with “nothing to wear” to prove it. I understand the power of looking good but I also understand that it doesn’t just come from your clothes. It comes from knowing your values and living them, knowing yourself and being secure in who you are. I am working on making myself a real working wardrobe – clothes for work and play. Clothes that flatter my figure, are made of natural fibers, easy to care for (no dry cleaning) and classic so I can wear them for years with proper care. I am using reclaimed fibers because I want to leave a smaller footprint and the challenge of finding them is as fun for me as is actually making the items.  I want to look good, but I also have other things to do with my life – places I want to experience, relationships I hope to deepen, new things I want to learn.  I don’t want to be bothered with the endless question of “what should I wear?” and waste valuable time shopping. I want to be confident knowing that whatever I throw on will look good when I leave the house to go about the adventure of living my life.

Think for yourself



I came across an interesting post today about teaching the arts and standardized tests:

 The part that really resonated with me is this:

” I have noticed that very talented, intelligent, well-educated students coming to my classes from countries with test-driven education systems often struggle with musical analysis, for one very simple reason: What I value most highly in my student’s analytical work is the capacity to have an original insight into a piece and develop it convincingly. In other words, the student’s task is not to master what I think, but to teach me something I didn’t know before.” (emphasis mine)

How much of our life do we spend regurgitating other people’s thoughts instead of coming to our own conclusions? I fear that it is more often than we even realize. It took me a long time to realize that I had adopted other people’s thinking, like my mother’s, as my own. Reading and reflecting on what is really important to me, defining my values, has been crucial in helping me break out of this bad habit that has literally been conditioned in me since I was old enough to talk.

Time Management for Crafters (and everyone else)


Today I’m going to switch gears. I just got accepted into a craft show. I’ve done this show before but this is the first year they made it a juried show, which I have no problem with. I’m tired of seeing people sell obviously commercially manufactured goods at craft shows (Pampered Chef, Tupperware, cheap Asian imports, etc) and this particular show has always advertised that everything is handmade but some decidedly non-handmade stuff has slipped through the cracks in recent years.  

I realized that I only have 4 months until the show. I haven’t been working on anything because I wasn’t about to invest all that time if I wasn’t accepted.  But now I am behind the eight ball and need to put it in high gear. 

Keeping in line with my current philosophy of mindful living, I am trying to extend that to my crafting (for which I could be accused of having craft ADD – I want to try all things). I have decided for this show to focus to bags, jewelry and knitted accessories. I have had success with these categories, I have the supplies on hand and I enjoy making them. 

I’m not really interested in doing the craft show circuit full-time for several reasons. First of all, I don’t want to carry around the inventory of things that don’t sell (remember I’m trying to downsize). Second, while I am interested in pursuing a design career, I don’t want to have to make everything I sell. It would limit my income to how much I can do in so much time. Third, I hate production work. I don’t want to make the same exact thing over and over and over again. For my long-term goals, I am really more interested in designing and teaching. But, I do have a large stash of stuff that I am trying to reduce and since I enjoy making things, why not make some stuff and sell it? I get the gratification of designing and creating things, I clear out some of my stash and I make a little cash on the side. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. 

I have about 18 solid weeks to work on the show, which if properly managed, will be enough time, “properly managed” being the key. I know myself well enough by now. I am capable of coming up with the most amazing plans but end up falling short on the follow through, mainly because I try to do too much. I tell myself that I’ll spend 6-8 hours Saturday and Sunday and then 3 hours every night working on stuff. Who am I kidding? By the time I get home from work, make dinner and generally unwind, I’m falling asleep on the couch because I’ve been up since 4:30am for my run.

Which brings me to a good point. How is it that I can get up at an ungodly hour (I am not a morning person) 4-5 days a week for an activity that I wasn’t even fond of in the beginning and have managed to do it consistently for going on 6 years? It’s because I have a running partner. I am accountable to someone who helped me remember. Plus I enjoy her company. Obviously I am capable of dedication, perseverance and commitment if it is framed in a way that suits my temperament and personality. My mistake all these years has not been the plan per se (unrealistic expectations aside), but the system that I have used to implement the plan. The system needs to match my temperament. My goal may be to have X number of items completed and if I work backwards I can decide that I need to make X number of things a week but how I set up the system to remind/motivate myself to make those is going to be my key to success.

Here’s what I decided to try this go round and it really boils down to just two things:

  1. Remembering 
  2. Preparation

First of all, I need to have reminders in my face, all the time. I have bought tons of calendars and date books only to abandon them within a week (you’d think I’d learn). This time I put my schedule on the fridge – where I can’t miss it. I am also using an online calendar to post my deadlines then setting up automatic reminders. I’m already in the habit of using it for my job so I know it works for me. Just in case, I’ve also put a note on the fridge to remind me to check my calendar. And if that wasn’t enough, I’m trying to figure out the best way to use the alarm on my phone as another reminder. I know, it seems like overkill but my biggest problem is not procrastination – it’s that once I get home I’m easily distracted (mail, chores around the house, getting dinner, etc) and it’s bedtime by the time I remember I should have done something.

Once I remember, I need to have materials ready to go. I have made a very bad habit of eating at my desk at work. The “experts” say you would be more productive getting away at lunch and I agree that a change of scenery is good. So I decided that my lunch break would be a perfect opportunity to work on some of my projects. The key will be to have a bag ready with multiple projects (I want choices) ready to go – materials, supplies and patterns all handy. This way when I am at lunch I can just grab a project out of the bag and go. Much can be accomplished an hour at a time.

This leads me to a little sidebar on time management and preparation. I need to quit looking for the big chunks of time. Sure I’ll have them here and there, but I work full-time and have an active social life so having everything ready to work on if I have a spare 15, 30 or 60 minutes can accomplish a lot. Plus, working in small time frames is easier to buy into than trying to schedule 6 straight hours.

For sewing projects, another way I can be prepared is to have the material cut out and make sure that I have all the supplies (zipper, interfacing?) that I need to actually complete the project. Having to stop in the middle because I am missing something really plays havoc on my momentum.

This is a different approach than I’ve used in the past but given the one I was using didn’t work, this can only be an improvement. I’ll monitor how it goes and adjust accordingly. Hopefully, at the very least I’ll figure out a better time management process.

Around the Web


Here are some interesting stories I have come across on the internet:

Why you should pay more for your clothes:

Crafty, eco-friendly (and cheap!) business cards:

An innovative business concept that uses garbage and helps build a local economy (love the floor cushions):

Diving Deeper


Yesterday I had a garage sale to start purging the stuff from my previous life. I went through closets, cabinets, drawers, on top of cabinets, walls, etc. I didn’t leave a stone unturned in my house. It was an enlightening process.

First of all, how much stuff does a person really need? After pulling everything out of my kitchen cabinets I started evaluating things. Do I really need three sheet cake pans? (No.) Do I need this much storage? If I wasn’t using it when three people were living here, would I ever really use it when it was just me? No. Are there baking dishes that can pull double (triple, quadruple) duty? Yes, so I can keep the ones I use often and get rid of the rest. Do I need five sets of chargers? No, my entertaining style has changed. As I went through my whole house I kept in mind this criteria: do I love it or does it have meaning to me (such as things I’ve brought back from my travels); do I use it alot (or can I adapt something else) and is it multi-functional?

The result was an enormously successful garage sale and a clearing out of my house. Nothing is going to replace the stuff I got rid of. The top of my kitchen cabinets will remain empty. Walls will remain blank. When I get ready to sell my house this will work to my advantage since many people can’t see past your house’s “personality” or decorating style. 

All of this decluttering is part of a bigger goal, my ever constant search to do more of what I love, to be more and find balance in my life. It brings me back to my search for simplicity and sustainability.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject. My most recent one is “Living More with Less” by Doris Longacre. It was written in the 70’s but there is an updated version. Doris was a Mennonite so the book has religous overtones, but her life standards are ones that anyone can adopt and embrace, no matter what your religious view are.

Doris’ five life standards are: do justice, learn from the world community, nurture people, cherish the natural order and non-conform freely.

Many people and companies have hopped on the sustainability band wagon, which is good, for the most part. Some just do it for marketing purposes while others are really trying to follow the philosophy. I think educating yourself and examining your values play a large part in making it stick. As one author said, sustainability is not the goal, it is a process. When you live an examined life, when you ask yourself if you are really happy and fulfilled, the questions you ask yourself tend to point towards a sustainability mindset, though most people might not label it as such. When you find yourself doing meaningful work, becoming deeply involved with the people you love and building rewarding relationships, you will probably find that most of the trappings that corporations would have you believe are important, really aren’t. What you’ll find is that you’ll quit living your life on the surface, where you are at the mercy of the elements (ie. what other people think) and your resolve towards a life of purpose will grow deep roots that will support you.