Change and fear

Mal | Art Journal | Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Change [FEAR] (© turning*turning.com)

So much has happened, friends.

So much of miracles and sadness. So much change. So much opportunity and growth and risk and reward.

And it’s possible that I have resolved one of my major ethical dilemmas regarding this blog — the question of personal and professional space, of balancing anonymity and confidentiality, of client privilege vs. self expression.

I hope this new plan works because I miss this space. A lot. And I’d like to start visiting here again.

Purpose, re-purpose

Mal | Simplicity | Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

fortune

A few days ago, I found myself shopping for domain names. Within the next week or so, I will be embarking on a new chapter in my life and I am feeling the itch to document it. I brainstormed, trying to find a site name that could grow with me and reflect my values and priorities. Naturally, I spent quite a bit of time journaling about it, making lists, and creating vision statements. At some point, I stopped and wondered — is turning*turning a place worth returning to?

After all, my original intention for this website was to muse about all kinds of things that were important to me — not only art/craft stuff, but also simplicity, mindfulness, practical philosophies, and organic living. The phrase “turning, turning” comes from a Shaker hymn that talks about being simple, free, and accepting of life’s ups and downs. It is a song about insight and introspection. Shoot, it’s a song about being flexible and open to all good and simple things. What I’m saying is that this blog was always intended to be about living a good and rich life, not about one craft niche or another. In fact, very early on, there were some posts which addressed these broader ideas.

But, what seemed to happen is this: when I would post something about quilting, I found a community of quilters who wanted to chat about quilting things. Cross-stitch? Here come the cross-stitchers. A blurb about ceramics would bring in a slew of questions about clay. My post about folding fabric seems to have achieved a cult following and to this day I still get emails about my ladder-stitch tutorial. The reality is that my interests are varied, and my loyalty to one medium or another is very fickle. I am a re-inventor by nature and I sometimes felt myself being pigeon-holed into a niche knowing that the allure would wear off in a month or two.

I am also continually learning about my professional life; every day I must balance public and private realms when it comes to making a living, serving my clients, and advancing my field.

So, I’m really not sure if I’ll be returning to this spot or not. There is much to catch up on, and the idea of a clean slate is certainly enticing. But, so is the idea of using this domain for the things I originally intended — to document my attempts at living a meaningful, connected, and purposeful life.

To turn, turn ’til I come ’round right.

Hi

Mal | Universal | Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Just thought I would check in.

thinredthread

I’ve been missing this place.

The a-ha moment

Pie Chart, Integrated

A good friend (and amazing art therapist) came over last night for dinner and was tooling around in my workspace. She illuminated the fatal flaw from the pie charts. Several of you also pointed it out. (Leslie, Victoria, I’m looking at you.)

Integration is the key. Combining. Overlapping. Interlocking. I am better focused now after speaking with her. I have clarity again. I remember my bigger-picture goals and I feel like i’m back on track.

  • Taking a walk with a friend and bringing the dogs along, rather than always just going out to dinner = fun + chores + health.
  • Photographing a project I do for work, or bleeding the project out into one of my own journal quilts or blog entries = work + creativity + fun.
  • Taking the stairs, avoiding the cookie counter at work, and planning ahead for snacks = work + health.

At least I made sure not to overlap the dating stripe into the work wedge. Some things just aren’t made for integrating.

Fitting it all in

Mal | Universal | Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Pie chart before

I know I posted something very similar a few months ago (I guess feelings of overwhelm are common around here), but it is really hard to fit everything in right now.

Pie chart after

I’m trying to evaluate the everything’s place in the grand scheme of things — including blogging.

I highly recommend subscribing to this blog so that you don’t miss it when I do post.

Journal Quilt: Membership

Mal | Art Journal,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, August 31st, 2009

Journal Quilt: Membership

 A new journal quilt, titled “Membership.”  It’s sized around 12″x12″ and was one of the many that I sketched/designed before going on hiatus for my licensure exam.

My next exam is scheduled for this Friday. Oy.

Journal Quilt: Membership (back and tag)

I’m experimenting with new ways to attach the title to the quilt. This is permanent marker on a strip of ribbon, hand-stitched into the binding. The flip side shows the date, ”August, 2009.”

I’ve been using “throw-away” fabric for the backs of these journal quilts — the less it matches the quilt itself, the better. I’m a little bit thrilled to realize that I subconsciously chose a fabric for this cheeky quilt that matches the favorite pajama pants of my ex-boyfriend. I’m just sayin’. You do the math. Membership.

Journal Quilt: Membership (closeup)

Stop planning, start doing

Mal | Simplicity | Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Stop planning.

There comes a time when you have to stop planning

(fretting, wondering, worrying, thinking, debating, obsessing)

and just start doing

(moving, acting, deciding, changing, growing, progressing).

PS: I passed

Mal | Art Journal,Collage,Here and Now,Media,Paper | Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

PS: I passed

Against all odds, I passed my exam yesterday. Thank you for all the well-wishes, public and private.

I’ve got one more exam to take for my license, and will likely attempt that one in a few weeks.

Hopefully I can get back to normal for 10 days or so before the freakout starts again and release some of those ideas that are bursting at the seams.

PS: I passed.

Please hold

Mal | Here and Now,Prosaic | Friday, July 31st, 2009

LA Skyline

I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.

(Andrew Wyeth)

I hate this. I have scheduled my first license exam for 8/10. I don’t really think I will pass it this first time, but at least it gives me a deadline to cram towards.

Unfortunately, it means that I have to put a stop to all creative/artistic work for the next 2 weeks. I can’t sew the beads on the ice cream. I can’t cut out shapes for my next 3 journal quilts (already planned and sketched out). I really shouldn’t even be photographing or blogging.

I guess I’ll just have to reframe this time as an incubation — a preparation for the deluge of work that is certain to come after I finish these stupid exams.

What about you? Are you incubating anything right now? Or are you actively harvesting?

On bodies, fragility, and journaling

Mal | Art Journal,Media,Paper | Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Bodies are Fragile

It’s been a bit of a rough patch at work. I know that this kind of thing is to be expected when you work at a hospital or hospice. (PS: “This kind of thing” is death and, whether we like to talk about it or not, death is to be expected for all of us.)

Mort

One of the things I like best about my job is that it keeps me constantly aware of the brevity of life, the preciousness of every day, and the power of human connection. I process these big emotions in my art journal, as always. The image above was done in the subway on my way home from work one evening last week.

Am I hungry?

Bodies and health have been much on my mind recently, and not just because of work. I’m trying to return to better eating habits and nutrition (you may recall), so naturally these themes are showing up in my journals, too.

The plateau

It is my life’s struggle to explore my relationship to food and its effects (positive and negative) on my body. This image was made as I contemplated last year’s dramatic and successful loss of 80 pounds, and post-medical-crisis plateau in weight. There I stand, a little figure on the precipice of the plateau, wondering how to jump off into the next phase of health.

Just begin

Thankfully, my journal often reveals answers when I ask it questions.

What about you? Do you journal?

Journal Quilt: Ice Cream for Dinner

Mal | Art Journal,Finished Projects,Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, July 27th, 2009

200907279315

One of the personal issues I have dealt with over the years is a form of disordered eating. These struggles become pronounced whenever I have extended or intensified contact with my family, as I’ve had recently.

200907279320

I’m happy to say that although I’ve mostly been able to get my binge-eating under control, I still slip into patterns of unhealthy eating choices when faced with stress. I eat out, neglect proper nutrition, and generally choose convenience and comfort over actual self-care.

Journal Quilt Inspiration

My recent indulgence has been a treat from Cold Stone Creamery. Unfortunately, the “Ice Cream Dinner” became all too common in these past few weeks, as I compulsively ordered and ate “Founder’s Favorite with chocolate base, please add marshmallows and could I get that in a sprinkle bowl?”

200907279321

When I needed to turn this ship around, I started to journal about it. I journal about everything that is on my mind, and this was definitely something that I needed to explore.

200907279314

And, in fact, one evening this week, rather than engage in the behavior, I decided to make a journal quilt about it instead. This is also my submission for this week’s Mini Quilt Monday.

200907269305

I used Dale Fleming’s pieced circle technique for the first time, and found that it worked perfectly for this purpose.

200907279313

I even pieced the fabric of the “waffle” to represent the waviness of that crunchy bowl of artery-clogging death.

Journal Quilt: Ice Cream for Dinner

At least making this quilt kept me from actually having an Ice Cream Dinner for a few nights. Maybe I can finally put this bad habit to bed.

200907279311

I still haven’t attached the beads to represent the sprinkles. What do you think? Beads? No beads?

 

Band sampler: Chain stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Handmade,Media,Sewing,Stitching,Works in Progress | Friday, July 24th, 2009

Band Sampler: Chain Stitch

I picked up my band sampler again last week, and scanned the list of embroidery stitches I intend to learn and/or practice. Not to be all emo-14-year-old, but the chain stitch jumped out at me as a nice way to reflect the experience of the past month.

Band sampler: Chain stitch (closeup)

I free-handed the text and stitched it on the subway to and from work for a few days using Sharon B‘s hand-dyed mulberry silk. The variagation is so vivid! I really enjoyed the process.

Band sampler: Chain stitch close-up

I was surprised at how well the chain stitch handled curves, but a little disappointed in starts-and-stops. Still, I got good practice with it.

If you’re interested in giving chain stitch a try, here are some good tutorials:

What to do: Get into the Flow

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Colored wall

I recently reviewed Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience. In it, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi describes what he calls “optimal experience” — being so involved in an activity that you lose sense of time, place, and self. Others call it the Zone. For most of us creative types, I think this flow experience is what keeps us coming back and back and back to our projects.

But, flow as described in the book is not just “having a nice time.” It is a powerful force, and can contribute to better mental health, greater individual complexity, and growth.

Following a flow experience, the organization of the self is more complex than it had been before. It is by becoming increasingly complex that the self might be said to grow. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration. Differentiation implies a movement toward uniqueness, toward separating oneself from others. Integration refers to its opposite: a union with other people, with ideas and entities beyond the self. A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies. (page 41)

Csikszentmihalyi outlines the elements of a flow experience — the requirements or steps that must be taken in order to achieve it. Based on his research, flow is broken down into 8 components:

  1. A challenging activity that requires skill but is achievable.
  2. The merging of action and awareness.
  3. Clear goals.
  4. Immediate feedback.
  5. Concentration on the task at hand (which “removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life).
  6. A sense of control over your actions.
  7. Loss of self-consciousness.
  8. Transformation of time.

The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it. (page 49)

It seems to me that items 1-6 are at least somewhat in our control, and are elements that we can manipulate and employ in the service of achieving flow, while items 7-8 are really measures of the flow experience. They are indicators that we have achieved flow.

Utilizing these principles, I’ve been able to make deeper and more powerful connections to everything from my artwork and writing to watching sports with friends and enjoying a concert from a performer whose music I didn’t know.

I’ll spend some time over the next few weeks talking about some of these elements in more detail, but for now maybe we can take some time to consider the importance of goals, feedback, and internal locus of control can be on our enjoyment of activities. These elements are fairly inherent in art-making of all kinds. In some ways, we are lucky to have such a powerful tool for growth and change at our fingertips.

What about you? Please share with us — when did you last experience flow? What were you doing? How did it feel?

iPhone “Brushes”

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I don’t own an iPhone. Like most outsiders, I occasionally have envy, but perhaps never so much as I do after hearing about  an iPhone application called Brushes —software for digital paintings that can be made at any moment on your tiny screen.

There is a flickr group dedicated to the images, and the application has received a lot of attention lately because the latest cover of New Yorker magazine was painted on it — using nothing more than an expensive gadget and a fingertip.

Predictably, “fine artists” are balking. The age-old question, “But, is it art? is being ponged around the globe. I used to have an art therapy professor who insisted that if you didn’t get messy making it, it wasn’t art.

But I disagree.

What do I like about the idea of Brushes? A few things, all of which are in the service of (hopefully) getting more people to do more art:

  1. It’s portable. You can always have it with you, unlike your fancy easel, your sewing machine, or your favorite buzzsaw.
  2. It’s small, which means that you are more likely to finish what you start.
  3. It has an undo function, which creates an illusion of safety in risk-taking and may encourage experimentation.
  4. A special viewer allows you to replay your painting, stroke by stroke, which is a neat way to honor, reflect on, and celebrate artistic process.

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Resources,Roundup | Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Stats Spike

This was the look of my stats counter a few weeks ago after someone on StumbledUpon and rated one of my posts. It’s quite incredible to go from a few hundred hits a day to a few thousand. Beyond that, though, every time I would see this spike — the visual representation of a sudden and dramatic increase in activity — it felt like a metaphor for my emotional life. Between visiting my parents’ house, relationship stuff, and work politics drama, you may remember that I was pretty maxed out.

Fortunately, I’ve come back down to earth. My psychic energy has been freed up and I am back to working on creative projects and relationship-building in my free time.

News

I was honored to be featured on WhipUp.net for my fabric folding tutorial. Hope people get mileage out of it! It definitely saved us at my mom’s house, and now I’ve folded all of the fabric that I “inherited” from her stash and put it into my own system. I guess it’s time for photos of my new studio work corner. Stay tuned.

I also had a photo highlighted over on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog. Thanks, ladies! I’m a long-time fan of the Mamas.

Comments You Should Read

Its been a while since we featured comments, but there have certainly been some great ones!

Great reader contributions on my review of Mihaly Csziksentmihalyi’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Mal, Interesting commentary. I find that for me, being in the “zone” makes me a more relaxed and happier person. And that the creativity seems to unintensionally spill over into other areas of my life. And I absolutely agree that while sometimes creativity is spilling over (I call it having itchy fingers that just want to sew), other times I have to sit down and make myself sew and the next thing I know I’m there, (or in a place that leads me “there”).

Shelly of Shelly’s Quilts

I’ve always found that the first step to “getting into the flow” is just DOING something. For me, it translates to a natural progression of ideas and work and then i DO forget all else. This also happens on the rare occasion that Greyman and i take off for a weekend—-when we are in the moment in the wild of the mountains, our separate ” lives” disappear except for the exact minutes we are there—we have even forgotten about our “babies” for awhile (the cats :}). I have done that at work also while arranging flowers!

There is a very refreshing feeling to this when it happens and it happens often enough that i am taking great joy in my/our life for the first time in years.

Arlee of Albedo Design Journal

On the entry about organizing things in rainbow order, lots of fellow color-organization ”freaks” came out to comment!

Mr. BIV lives at my house, too, esp. in Fabric Land. I have warm colors (ROY) each in their own containers but all next to one another. I have cool colors (G. BIV) same situation. Then a container each for White/Cream, Beige/Tan, Gray/Black. A zipper bag of fabrics which can represent soil (White Sand to Black Clay).

My “theme” fabrics are in their own containers: Food, Quilts of Valor (lots of donated fabric here; I don’t want to mingle it with my own), Reproduction (19th c. vs. 1930s), Holidays, Cats, Dogs, Bounty (harvest related), Tea/Coffee, Critters (mostly fish and birds, but some juvie lizard prints, too), Batiks, Hand Dyed, and Bright Multi-Colored What Color Is It Really? (one container). Probably missed a couple, but you get the idea….

I like the fruit color sorted, though I haven’t done it yet–it looks very cheerful!

Cynthia, no blog (but great reader/commenter!)

Interesting comments, too, when I shared about The Intervention —sorting through and purging my mom’s hoarded fabric stash.

That’s inspiring- seeing all the pretty organized colors, purging, admitting there is a problem, but I can also imagine the daunting feeling hanging over something like that to even get started.

I have the fabric I have because my aunt has brown boxes filling her garage. Luckily though, when I said I was taking a class and needed some- all my aunts opened their doors. I’m working really hard on making things with what I have before accumulating anything more. I only buy something if I cannot in any way substitute something I already have.

Thank you so much for the organization inspiration, congratulations on all the hard work you’ve accomplished so far and definitely sending positivity to you for the future goals.

Liz of Chunk of Cheddar

There were some fun declarations of independence on the giveaway contest a few weeks ago. I encourage you to read them all! Here’s a sample:

I declare my independence today from worrying about the future, it’s a waste of time.

Deborah (no blog)

I declare my independence from procrastination! I’m taking care of some pesky details instead of letting them cause me to fret.

Courtney of Woodland School

I am declaring my independence from thinking I have to do everything without asking for any help.

Patty (no blog)

Finally, some good thoughts arose from my post about video games and creativity (constructive vs. destructive freetime pursuits).

I absolutely believe there is something healing in using our creativity. About a year ago, I went through a bout of depression after losing my job (and the circumstances surrounding it). I did nothing but read, losing myself in imaginary worlds. I read 23 books in two weeks. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t sew, couldn’t make decisions. I finally realized that I had to make myself do something to break the cycle. I chose to design and sew a complicated quilt block. I wanted to do something that required focus and attention to detail, but had no consequences if I failed. I credit that quilt block with starting me back to health. I named it Anxiety. Shortly after that I designed an entire quilt, followed by a couple more. I found a new job, and while things could be better, I also know they could be a LOT worse. I feel my best when I’m working – being creative in some form, even if it’s just figure out a software program at work. It’s when I stop sewing at home that I feel myself sinking again. So… gotta get sewing!

Sandi of Piecemeal Quilts

Good Reads Around Blogland

I’m really behind on my blog rounds, but here are a few things I’ve been reading lately.

Fashion Origami

Mal | Art Therapy,Paper | Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Origami date

One of the benefits of my job as an art therapist is that even when my personal life is crazy and I don’t carve out time for creativity in my off-hours, I’m required to be creative from day-to-day in my professional life.

When I found a “Fashion Origami” kit on sale for $1.50 at Urban Outfitters, I snapped it up. Origami is a project which, although there may be low potential for emotional expression, is a good rapport-builder and ice-breaker. Particularly in the hospital, where patients don’t have a lot of energy, they can do a little folding project on their lap and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Origami bra

Naturally, the first project I folded from the book was a paper bra. I had to learn this one first. Do you have any idea how many teen boys are on my caseload?

Mr Herman. Paging Mr. Herman

After I folded the grey suit, I couldn’t help but fold a red tie to go with it.Mr. Herman. Paging Mr. Herman! Mr. Herman, you have a telephone call at the front desk.“ It should be a bow tie, but still.

Origami Stiletto

I (and all my staff) have had a hard time deciphering the instructions for the stiletto shoe, but here we have found a reasonable alternative. It still stands on its own and opens up where the foot should go. That’s good enough for me! Creative problem solving at its finest.

Origami Bra

Therapy theories accordian book

Mal | Art Therapy | Monday, July 13th, 2009

Old homework assignment

I’m now deep into studying for my state psychotherapy licensure exams. Last week, I came across a homework assignment I had done while in grad school to compare/contrast two different psychotherapeutic theories. I had chosen Solution-Focused Therapy and Object Relations Therapy. I guess I’m always interested in exploring the farthest ends of any spectrum…

Homework book

At the time, I was doing a lot of professional bookbinding work (including teaching classes and taking commissions) so a lot of my homework assignments in my art therapy program ended up taking the form of books.

Homework book

This is a double accordian book, like the one you see here. The red strip in the center can be easily removed and displayed on its own, which is one of the advantages of this type of binding. Opening the book from one end shows the first collage, and opening from the other end shows the second. It’s neat the way the concepts interplay with each other with this type of book.

Homework book

It was really fun to dig through my collage boxes for images to represent different psychological and psychotherapeutic constructs. The one on the right (the baby with the receding hairline and moustache) is to represent introjection. Don’t think I’ll miss that question on the exam!

Book review: Flow (4.5/5)

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Resources,Reviews | Saturday, July 11th, 2009

flow

 ★★★★½ 

Introduction

In addition to having the most unpronounce-able name in all of western psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is also one of the most prominent “positive psychology” theorists and researchers around. It’s no surprise that his book, Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, describes the “state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in the activity.” What might surprise you is Csikszentmihalyi’s claim that flow (optimal experience) is not elusive or mysterious, that it doesn’t just come and go at random. Rather, he asserts that flow can be cultivated, courted, and put to use in our self-development.

I’ve chosen to re-read and review this book because I think that so many of us art-makers have experienced flow, and could benefit from Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about how to create it and experience it more often.

I’ll cover some of the book’s content below, but you can skip directly to my opinion if you prefer.

(Read on for more…)

Tutorial: Folding Fabric

Mal | Home,Media,Organizing,Sewing | Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Fabric progress

Several people have asked about the techniques we used when cleaning out my mom’s fabric stash last week. There are of course many ways to purge, sort, and organize fabric, which I’ll write about later. But first, I wanted to address questions about the folding station and the folding method we used.

Studio Corner Sneak Peek

It’s the same method I’ve been using as I’ve been sorting and organizing fabric in my own apartment. Here you see an in-progress picture of my new studio corner with stacks of uniformly-folded fabric. This is a method I first read about from Monica, the Happy Zombie and later from Marilyn Bohn’s video.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Of course there are other ways, but this is the cheap, easy, quick one that works for me. The goal is to end up with a stack of fabric that is uniformly folded — the same length and width.

Tutorial: fabric folding

The height of each folded piece varies according to how much yardage you have to begin with.

(Read on for more…)

Mr. Roy G. Biv

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Color study | Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Rainbow fruit

Maybe it’s odd, but I love to organize things in rainbow order. Actually, I’d consider it a kind of coping mechanism. When I get really stressed, something about that old ROYGBIV just soothes me.

When I was little, I would sort everything from t-shirts to pencils to food in this color order. I would line up candies in a spectrum row before I would eat them. M&M’s and Skittles frustrated me because they didn’t have all the right colors. Now that I’m older, I don’t have time to be quite so obsessive about it, but most of my art supplies and clothes are still sorted this way.

Am I the only one?

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