Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Years are Short

Tintype collage by Lani

I got an email from Gretchen Rubin from the Happiness Project. She's very excited, because her short internet movie, The Years Are Short, just launched this morning.

Please check it out!

The title comes from a phrase that she invokes constantly -- usually in moments of aggravation as a parent, to remind herself to appreciate this time of life: "The days are long, but the years are short."

After you view the film, you can go to her blog and leave a comment. Let her know what you think, and if you enjoy it, pass the link on!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Artella's Questions for the Artist

Well I had some fun last week. Artella is featuring various artists in the Daily Muse and last week was my week. What fun! They ask questions and you have to figure out what your thoughts are an a variety of things. So here were the questions and my answers:

What are your favorite books, movies and music?

Lately my favorite books have all been art related. Anything by Keri Smith, the 500 series by Lark Books (such beautiful photography), Rice Freeman-Zachery's Living the Creative Life, and Mumaw and Oldfield's Caffeine for the Creative Mind. Lots of creative inspiration in these books! My favorite movies of all time are ones directed by Akira Kurosawa, Yasujirō Ozu, Frank Kapra, Werner Herzog, Robert Altman, and Horton Foote. If anyone out there loves these directors and has another favorite director that that I haven't mentioned, please feel free to educate me! Music? Well, I'm an old Dead Head through and through, but lately I've really gotten into the healing effects of binaural sounds. Curious? There are quite a few websites devoted to this unique sound experience, so my advice would be to "google" "healing binaural sounds" and I'd be very happy to answer any questions you might have on the subject.

Your Zines and Yahoo group often seem to pair happiness and art. How did you first become interested in that combination?

I was once doing some research on creativity, generosity, and the brain chemical which makes us happy, endorphins. I had an idea that there was a connection so I thought I'd see what was being written about this combination.

I found there were a group of psychologists who called themselves "positive psychologists" and they were doing research into positive emotions. They also had a lot of exercises which were part of their research. I found that a lot of these exercises could be turned into art challenges without much trouble. The more I did this, the more interesting it got, the happier I got. Kind of a positive spiraling effect!

Anyway one of their big findings is that the more we practice our strengths (the things that make our souls want to dance) the happier and more resilient we are. So that when life throws us those curve balls which it does fairly regularly, we are actually stronger and more able to cope.

Do you have some ideas for finding time for creative pursuits in a day or week filled with job, family, home care and so on? By the time I finish my daily rounds, I'm ready for sleep!

Back in the days when I worked for THE MAN in New York City, the end of the day was pretty much a vegetation time for me. I would be so beat after a long day of working in the highest energy place on the planet (I'm sure of this) that I would barely be able to fix dinner. My husband felt the same and since he was typical "boomer" he would want the TV on after dinner. So I found artful ways to amuse myself back then during that post dinner TV hours. I found I could draw, paint, sculpt little things, stitch, and string jewelry all while the television chattered away. I could even "watch" Monday night football that way! No one felt ignored, least of all my inner artist!

What is your favorite organizational tool for your studio?

The best thing invented for the artist/pack-rat is the clear plastic container, clear glass container, and clear plastic ziplock bags! The main thing is the "clear" part! Organization is so much easier when you can see what it is you are organizing. Simple shelving helps too, so that you can keep all your clear containers right where you can see them.

An issue that consistently pops up in the Daily Muse and the Artella Cafe is about time. Specifically, how to find the time to do all of the creative projects that we want to do and take care of all of the other responsibilities and activities we do on a daily basis. There never seems to be enough time to do all of the things we need to do. Do you have any suggestions or tips on how to deal with this problem?

Great question! I think a lot of us could benefit by doing some time management work. Maybe a collaborative round robin altered art book on favorite time management techniques! What do you think? Any way, I'll give you my favorite time management techniques:
* Figure out when your most productive time of day is. Find ways to free up a little time for yourself during that period. 20-23 minutes of creative time just for you in what the psychoimunologists say we need in order to maintain our health. If you are a morning person, you could get up 20-23 minutes earlier, if your big creative push time is when you are at work, schedule yourself a coffee break or lunch break at that time. The idea is to carve out some time for your inner artist. You won't be sorry, I guarantee it.
* Make sure that you have some way to do art-to-go. Create a bag just for art projects that can travel, like an art journal, stitching, knitting or beading to go.
* Make commitments to do the artful things that make your inner artist do the happy dance, like specific art swaps and exchanges. Sometimes committing to someone else to create something you would love to create is just the push you might need to make it happen.
That's just three ideas, but I think a round robin altered art book on this subject would be really great. Anyone want to play?

Did you start out in your current art form or is this a new twist in your journey?

My current art form? My goodness, I'm not sure what that is. Puppets, zines, book binding, art journaling, dolls, assemblages & mixed media sculptures. Lately I've gotten into stitching little colorful hand made baskets and even bottles with cloth wrapped mop yarn. I love it. I'm using lots of cloth and fiber that I've collected over the years for my dolls and puppets, but it's a bit like building a coil pot, but instead of clay this is fiber and cloth. I stitch, wrap and coil slowly as I go. Actually I love the rebellious slowness of it! Have you notice how fast things are getting these days? I'm totally into SLOW!!! Slow food, slow walks through a wilderness area just up the road, slow talking, and of course slow art! I love anything that slows me down so I can really be in the moment, right now.

What's your secret to balance "chaos", necessary for working with order, also necessary for working?

I think the biggest secret to balance "chaos" with order, is knowing just THAT, that chaos is necessary for creative efforts. Society will give us plenty of pointers about bringing order to chaos, but really giving ourselves permission to create some chaos seems to be key to managing and balancing the two! Once you give yourself permission and really embrace that aspect of the universe or your art room, then things start to fall into place. Sometimes it's the denial of the necessity of chaos which actually makes it overwhelming and that creates a lack of balance in our lives.

And of course Artella wants the life story as well, so here's a tiny bit of it. I was raised in Taiwan where I developed a fascination with asian food, street theatre, dragons & art, was educated in the US, and am now living in a fishing village in Nova Scotia, I tend to find life an amazing unfolding delight.

I make puppets, jewelry, artists books and other sorts of folk-arts. I share this magical, artful life with my husband, two cats, two dogs and any relative or friend that drops by.

The welcome mat is always out. We will put on the kettle and have tea or coffee and watch the waves. (We've seen whales from the dining room window.) Just give us a shout.

And if you can't come to Nova Scotia you could always drop by my website or my blog, where you can always find the Happiness and Art connection!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ancestral Resilience

My sister Lucia sent me this amazing website about the Eastland disaster.

The Eastland Disaster was a part of our family history because our great grandfather and uncle were divers who worked in the recovery of those who lost their lives that day.

It was on the morning of July 24, 1915, the lake passenger steamer Eastland cast off from the Chicago River dock at the Clark Street Bridge with 2,572 people aboard (some reports had the numbers closer to 3,000).

As soon as she cast off, the ship listed away from the dock, righted herself, listed again and slowly rolled over on her side and settled on the mud of the river bottom. (Why it happened has been a topic of debate for many years.)

Some of those on board were able to jump into the water and swim ashore, but 844 passengers lost their lives before rescuers reached them, making the Eastland disaster the worst in the city's history in terms of loss of life.

If you go to this website, you can read accounts from survivors and eyewitnesses. My great grandfather's story was there, and I'll copy it here as it shows amazing resilience (which really interests me), and because he was my great grandfather. I always ask the students I teach at NYU to find family history or cultural history that would teach them a little something about resilience, so here's my own family history with a perfect example.

Charles Gunderson

...It was up to me to live or die...
Charles Gunderson was the proprietor of Chas. Gunderson and Son Submarine Divers. His biggest job was diving for bodies of the Eastland Disaster. He dived almost continuously for four days, staying underwater two to five hours at a time, groping his way into the pleasure boat's grand ballroom where many were trapped.

Charles Gunderson came closer that any of the divers, grave though their peril, to losing his life. The story brought back to the surface with him was the most thrilling of all.

"I was down in the dance deck," he said, "when I got mixed up with some twisted stanchions. I had jerked the signal cord a half dozen times before I discovered it must be fouled above - and I hadn't started jerking it until I was satisfied I couldn't get free by myself."

"It was as tight a place as I ever had been in. And then I made another discovery. My air tube had fouled, too, and I couldn't breathe. I was down there alone without air. Those above had no way of knowing what I was up against. It was up to me to live or die."

"I kicked until I must have been blue in the face, and then, all of a sudden, I was free. I took a step and the signal cord was cleared. Air began to come through the tube, but not enough of it to do me much good. You can bet I gave the cord a jerk!"

Gunderson lost consciousness on the upward journey, and it was a half hour before he recovered. Still weak, he insisted on going into the hull again.

Copyright © Chicago Tribune
reprinted from the Chicago Tribune
Please direct questions and comments to the Eastland Disaster Historical Society at info@eastlanddisaster.org0

There's a website that tells ghost stories and they have a page related to the disaster and the armory building, where most of the dead were taken during the disaster. This building had been incorporated into Harpo Studios, the production company owned by Oprah Winfrey. Folks who work at the studios claim that the ghosts of the perished passengers are still restless in the new studios. According to reports, many employees have had strange encounters that cannot be explained, including the sighting of an apparition that has been dubbed the “Gray Lady”. There's lots more on the website so if you like ghost stories, check this one out!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Creating More Joy and Resilience with Your Art

This little art doll/puppet was created in a round robin and I started it out with the altoid tin body and watch head, drift wood arms and legs. I love broken pocket watches and the idea of using them in art to "create time" for myself.

Do you ever get the feeling that that life seems to be moving so quickly, that you are working so hard just to stay in one place, as if you hardly have any time to breathe? Are you longing for someone to come along and give you a "time out" to create some art and nurture your self?

We need spirit whisperers, like Chick Moorman's book "Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish A Child's Spirit". But I think we can all be our own spirit whisperers, nourishing our own spirits. We can call our own "time out," step off the tread mill for 20 minutes a day (minimum daily requirement according to psycoimmunologists' research) and turn to our art journals for nourishment. For 20 minutes do the things that give you a deep and abiding pleasure. Laundry, dinner, the kids homework, what ever it is, 20 minutes later than usual doesn't make a difference. But your spirit will notice! It will make a huge difference to you!

Do you wonder about your own resilience? Here is a brief resilience questionnaire:

Do you feel happy and content with most aspects of your life?
Is your work life satisfying?
Do you have beliefs or a personal philosophy that sustains you?
Do you find that you want to learn things from the people you work with?
Do you feel connected to others at your work? (Is it a collaborative or competitive place to work?)
Do you feel calm?
Do you have a good balance between your work and your free time?
Do you feel that you have enough friends you can talk with about highly stressful experiences?
Do you feel invigorated after working with those you help?
Have you become the person you always wanted to be?

If you answer "maybe not" to any of these questions, you might like to consider the idea of becoming your own spirit whisperer. Doesn't that sound like an interesting or encouraging idea? Join the next "Artist's Happiness Challenge" and learn more about resilience and happiness, starting the week of Jan. 14, 2008. I believe that when we actually take the time for ourselves, to practice the things that give us delight and satisfaction, we are a lot more resilient and a lot happier. We are thriving.

Meanwhile have a "conversation" with your Spirit Whisperer. Go to A Girl and Her Journal where you will find a lot of great journaling prompts and in particular there's one where Samantha has created a neat worksheet that she invites you to use and alter. Try using it to have a Spirit Whisperer conversation. Let me know how this works for you!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Artists' Happiness Challenge

Get ready, The Artists's Happiness Challenge starts January 14.
Information here.

Permission to be Inspired

Permission tickets by Lani

It's a new year! Almost brand new and almost unwrapped! Here's what I think we need to do immediately before the new year gets away from us, give ourselves permission right now to be, do, explore, find, and create! Keri Smith has a great story about sitting in her local cafe with friends and talking about giving themselves permission to do the things that their souls were aching to do. So she created beautiful permission cards just for that purpose. (You could buy hers or you could make your own, which would be even better since you know what your soul aches to do.)

Now just in case you need an example of what can happen when people give themselves permission to do things, let me introduce you to my friend Ellen started Art Journaling about 2 months ago. You can read about the process here and I'll include images from the past two months to spark your curiosity and inspire you to give yourself permission to GO!

If you want further inspiration, remember Suzi Blu creates a new video every week all about making art and living an artful life. (In a recent one she found a puppet theater which she's going to decorate in vintage Parisian style and of course create puppets for. Can you wait? I can't!!!

Then there's ArtFest 2008. I can't recommend this enough! The whole idea of taking time out from normal life, going to new places, meeting new folks, learning amazing new things... It's just the best thing you could do with time and money! Seriously. Just going to the ArtFest webpage and looking through the courses is sometimes enough to get the whole permission thing happening.

If you are the kind of person who likes the structure of art challenges for your art journal, do check out the Artists' Happiness Challenge, starting the 14th of January. Give yourself permission to explore art challenges that are created to make you happy. Get into the upward spiral and create an authentic, playful, happy life. You deserve it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

Here was one of the best things I did in 2007, played the front end of a pantomime horse in "Death in Character" presented by the Prospect Players in Prospect. What a hoot! May 2008 have many more such wonderful experiences.

What amazing and wonder-filled things did you do in 2007? What amazing and wonder-filled things would you like to do in 2008?