My usual morning routine finds me in the studio with a cup of coffee and a knitting project. I love the early morning quiet, watching the sky lighten and the sun rise. And there is almost always some client project on the needles looking for my attention.

But this morning, I decided to spend some time reading first. I’ve pulled back to the top of my reading pile “Master Your Craft” by Tien Chiu. A book that I was very excited to purchase last summer and which has been falling ever deeper into the reading pile since. I had read a few pages when I first brought it home and was enjoying it, but production deadlines pushed it firmly into the “someday” pile.

I don’t know what prompted the shift in focus this morning, but as I read strategies for exploration, creativity and design I recalled that I have been wanting my studio time to be more than just production, more than just pushing out designs that I’ve already developed and refined. But I haven’t yet figured out how to do that. How to explore. It’s so … unstructured. There isn’t a plan to follow. And telling myself to “just play” hasn’t worked out so far.

Recently I was lunching with an artist friend, talking about this same idea and I mentioned that I’ve been wanting to try quilting and had even bought a small amount of fabric to play with. I committed, at that lunch weeks ago, to find the fabric and do something with it.

So after a few sections of the book I wandered into the studio to find the fabric. Finding it wasn’t really the issue, I knew exactly where it was, in a box marked “studio art” on a shelf in the closet. A box I packed up last summer before we moved into the new house. A box of art supplies, design prompts and fabric that I’d not made time for. As I found places for most of the box contents, I moved into a declutter and discard mindspace. I filled a bag with yarn donations from a bin that hasn’t been opened since the move. I found yarn that I thought I’d lost, and yarn that desperately needs a project to use it.

And as I was emptying and sorting and rediscovering, I realized that I wasn’t fretting at all about the production that wasn’t happening. I was allowing myself the space to be with my stuff and think about what it might want to be.

I was allowing myself space to be. To imagine. To not be manic about a deadline. It was an important first step on the way to experimenting/playing. To allowing myself to believe that there is more to my “work” than churning through production. That my growth as an artist requires having the space to try something new. And that the lifestyle I want to have is not that of a one-woman factory churning out the same thing over and over.

The fabric is on the sewing table. I didn’t get to it today, but it is out in the open waiting for me. And I thought, as I sorted, and then moved on to my current knitting project, about what my fabric might want to be.

The burden of stuff

I was going to write about knitting, but “stuff” has been on my mind this week.  We have a three-ish season porch. During the winter I store on it the things I need for my farmers market booth (table, display racks, etc.) These normally live in the shed but we don’t shovel a path there.  Usually other random bits end up there as the snow creeps in, and there they stay for months. As soon as Spring springs I want my porch back so I start moving things back to the shed.

In addition I’ve been working through boxes of stuff from my childhood. These came to the porch last summer and I was successful in selling some things on eBay, but when I ran out of time and energy for that the boxes ended up living on the porch for the winter.

I bought a new loom late last fall and as there was no room in my studio for three floor looms one went to, yes you guessed it, the porch.

It is April, and warmer, and I’ve been reclaiming my porch.  Some old magazines went to the recycle bin.  The loom is compactly stored in a corner until I can make room in the shed.  Books were sorted into the library sale donation pile.  The back of the car is full of donations and recycling.

And I’m back to the childhood boxes.  Most of it is my doll “collection”.  I expect there is little to nothing of monetary value there.  Many pieces were gifts or inexpensive souvenirs I picked up on trips. If I never saw any of it again there is a good chance I wouldn’t even miss it.  Yet every time I open one of the boxes there is a memory of a place and time. Or of the giver.

I’m not a hoarder but neither am I one to throw away everything. It is an especially difficult decision about things that are not worn out.  If I had plenty of space I could leave the stuff boxed up out of sight and not give it another thought. But that’s not really a solution, it just defers decisions.

For whom am I keeping these things? I don’t have children to inherit them. The dilemma isn’t about sunk cost, any expense was decades ago and long forgotten. Other than one or two very special pieces, I don’t envision putting them out on display.

Why is this so very difficult?  Comments welcome.  Suggestions about doing more eBay (or similar) selling, not so helpful.

And because no post is complete without a weather report.  Last week was gorgeous.  Warm and sunny.  Lots of snow melted.  New birds have arrived (goldfinches, grackles, cowbirds) to my feeders.  This week is starting out raw and rainy.  Rain is welcome as I would like a green expanse rather than the brown lawn that winter has left behind.  The raw part I could do without, but it is all part of April in Vermont.