Space

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.

Intermission 

Our move date is nearly here and the house is filling up with boxes. Stacks of empty ones to be filled and stacks of packed ones ready to be transported across the yard to the new house. 

Studio packing in progress

There is much to do still. I’ve not been very organized about this so far so there is much disarray as you can see.

But for some reason the most pressing obligation this morning was some quiet time with my poor neglected spinning wheel. 

Spinning amidst the boxes

Today I was practicing plying. I’ve spun some fun blue and white merino and filled bobbins. I’m plying my singles into a two ply yarn. I finished the first skein a couple of weeks ago and just filled the second bobbin which is ready to wind into a skein.

I made yarn!

But now the packing calls. Quiet time is over and there is work to be done. My new studio awaits.

Tipping point

Things on my project list with no firm deadline have always been a challenge for me. These aren’t things that shouldn’t be on the list because they’re not relevant to my current goals. And they aren’t things that will never get done.  They are commitments I’ve made, to myself or others, that just need to get done sometime.

This happens when the client says “whenever you can get to it” and I look at the current list with firm deadlines and say “OK, sure” because I know I can get to it eventually. In some cases the “client” is me. I may assign a far future due date as I put it into my queue, but I’ll let myself slide that date if something more time-critical comes along.

And that’s when the trouble starts. Soon that thing has been hanging out on the list for an embarrassing number of months. It’s easily brushed aside. It doesn’t take offense. It knows I’ll dredge it off the back of the shelf sooner or later.

It doesn’t take much though for an “I’ll get to you soon” to morph into an “Oh my gosh are you still here!?!?!?!” I’ve reached my tipping point. At that moment “do sometime” turns into priority one. It happens with unstarted projects and it happens with things that are in progress.

My knitting is more portable than weaving or using the sock machine. I can pick it up when I have just a few spare minutes, or spend hours on it. Lengthy projects have tipping points too. It isn’t that I’m not enjoying the process, but I’ll get close enough to the end that 15 minute stints are just frustrating. I want to be done. I want the thing off my list, off my couch and out the door.

The current knitting project has enjoyed both of these scenarios. It took me forever to bubble it up to the top of the list and now that it is going I can’t finish it fast enough.

I’m trying to be better about this. I’ve considered that I might need to say no more often. Or maybe “yes, but not for n months”. Or perhaps I just need to set those deadlines and stick to them.


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Listening skills

I’ve had a muscle ache for the last couple of days in my upper back/shoulder area. I think that means that an hour+ at the loom followed by an hour+ at the sock machine and a few hours of hand-knitting all in one day were too much. I try to be good and listen to my body but I think the early warning system is defective because I often don’t know there’s a problem until the next day.

This time though I think it was my fault. When orders build up and I’m feeling nervous about the size of the queue my listening skills seem to be the first thing that go. So I plunged right in to weaving the scarf that’s in progress. I kept telling myself I could finish it but the little twinge in my back finally got loud enough. It would have been an excellent idea to get away from all the projects but instead I just shifted to the sock machine. It was really only some fussy yarn that made me step away from the machine and take up the hand knitting.

So I’ve been taking it easy for a couple of days. It’s been an excellent opportunity to get to paperwork and planning that I need to do but I’ve been ignoring. And to think again about how to make myself structure the work day differently so I don’t feel like I’m getting behind and so I don’t allow myself to put off the tasks that aren’t as much fun as making something.

It’s not that I don’t know what needs to be done. I’ve got lists (I’m GREAT at lists) and deadlines attached to many of the items. I know what steps have to be taken to do the item. I know I’ll be happier when I cross things off the list. But still, I choose the potato chips over the carrots.

So, this week the word needs to be Moderation. I’ll ease back into the fiber projects and see if I can knock off a couple of the non-fiber items on the to-do list.

And I’ll spend some time relaxing, stretching and looking out the window. We’ve had a pair of herons visiting the pond this week. It’s a bad photo but as soon as I try to get closer it flies away.

Heron at the pond
Heron at the pond