the heart of the forest

I’ve been muddling with my daily routine in the interest of having more time to work on things that fall more squarely in the ‘productive’ sphere than things of the more time-wasting variety. There are so many habits that take up a huge amount of time that are so easy to fall into. Some I’ve managed to (mostly) kick to the curb – scrolling through my whole Pinterest feed every day, for example. The latest in a series of triumphs is getting a handle on checking in with Facebook. I used to feel compelled to see what was up every hour at least. I’m free of that now (thanks to a couple of new tactics that are working well) and not to exaggerate, but I feel much more alive, like all that extra time means possibility. More on that later, maybe.

There are only so many hours in a day and it’s important to fill them with things that make our hearts sing. Things that help us to feel connected to the earth and the sky and the people and the wonder of it all. Yes, that feeling can be found on Facebook – some of the time. But not all of the time.

Blogging is still a tough one. It is one of those productive things I aim to do more of. Because, I like it. A chronicle of someone’s artistic journey – their thoughts, perceptions, observations… a backstage pass to what goes into making art and living a creative life. I find that so interesting and valuable. We read, we find something of ourselves in other artists’ realizations and struggles, and we don’t feel so alone. I have a hard time getting there. But I’ll keep trying.

Maybe I just have to let go of that part of myself that is so bleeping WORDY. As if that will ever happen. But a challenge is good sometimes.

Speaking of challenges.

Sitting at the torch one afternoon, I was listening to CBC Radio (Canada’s public radio station) and the program was all about the life of Canadian painter Emily Carr. It was interesting stuff, because I’ve always been so drawn to her work. I had the good fortune to see many of her paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery one afternoon a long time ago, and I remember that day well. Just sitting on a bench surrounded by these deep, dark, woody, damp, moody things was a deeply spiritual experience.

Emily Carr
 ‘Forest, British Columbia’ – Emily Carr (1932)

So I was listening to this show, and they were interviewing people who had known her during her life. People remembered her as odd, uncompromising, kind-hearted, and passionate about the things that inspired her.

Emily Carr

When I look at photographs of this interesting, strange lady, I love her but I am also kind of scared of her and based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like that is not far off the mark. She was ousted from a short-lived teaching position at the ‘Ladies Art Club’ in Vancouver for her rather un-ladylike habits – smoking and swearing at her students. In her day, clearly, she was a real badass.

Most Canadians, reflecting on her legacy, will probably think of her paintings depicting First Nations iconography. Her first visit to an aboriginal village was in 1898 to Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. There were other visits throughout the years to other villages in Canada and Alaska. She documented the sculptural arts she saw in these places – the beautifully carved totem poles, in particular.

Emily Carr, Big Eagle, Skidegate BC, c. 1930.
 Big Eagle, Skidegate BC, Emily Carr (1930)

Her work was beautiful, but it was also meaningful and purposeful. Through her paintings, she educated the public about the incredible, impermanent beauty she saw, and she said in one of her lectures:

“I glory in our wonderful west and I hope to leave behind me some of the relics of its first primitive greatness. These things should be to us Canadians what the ancient Briton’s relics are to the English. Only a few more years and they will be gone forever into silent nothingness and I would gather my collection together before they are forever past.

She started her most iconic work at the age of 57, the deep dark forest paintings that I mentioned earlier. She had her first solo show at the age of 64. Sometimes I think about the fact that I’m almost 40, and I mourn the ‘lost years’ – creative years – when I was busy pursuing other interests, and not making anything at all. I think of all that could have been made had I not given it up for so long. It is a mournful feeling – I can’t describe it any other way. But then, Emily’s story just serves as a reminder that any time is the right time to create. Wherever you are, whenever it is, just start now. She had a creative dry spell 15 years long (while she busied herself running a boarding house), yet went on to do incredible work and to earn a place among Canada’s great painters when that dry spell ended.

Emily Carr, Self-portrait
 Emily Carr, Self Portrait

Believe it or not, this is really a post about a bead. For those who don’t know Emily Carr’s work, I felt it necessary to share some of her fascinating story. She was a total expression of a singular creative vision – the way she dressed, the way she interacted with people, the way she painted. It’s inspiring – and reassuring – to know about other creative people who were relentless in embracing their eccentricities.

But.

The bead.

As I continued to listen to the radio program, I became totally possessed by the need to make a bead inspired by one of her paintings. I chose one called ‘Heart of the Forest’. The lines, the complexity and layering of the color, the movement, the primitive brushstrokes, the light and the dark… it all said something to me. And maybe… about me.

Emily Carr 'Heart of the Forest'
 Heart of the Forest, Emily Carr, 1935

I propped the image of the painting up on my worktable and frantically plucked glass rods from my jars. When I was done I probably had 25 colors out on my table. I really should have taken a picture of that. It was a sight to behold.

I wanted to make a hollow bead, because for me, those are the most soul-stirring beads I make. Something about the shape, the weightlessness, the large, receptive surface. Of course, once it began, it was a totally in the zone bead, all compulsion and flow. Sometimes your hands and your heart do the work and you just get the hell out of the way.

Julie Wong Sontag hollow bead
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After all was said and done, it wasn’t a close representation of the painting – not that it was meant to be. The way I was able to apply the colors was much more crude than I had hoped. Glass doesn’t move the way paint does. But the spirit was there. It was special.

It became a special bead on more than one level after it was made. A few days after I made it I saw that the monthly challenge on the Art Bead Scene blog was an Emily Carr painting. I love those moments when you realize that people you don’t know are on the same creative wavelength, finding inspiration in the same things. Synchronicity is maybe my favorite thing ever.

A little while later, during one of my online sales, I showed a photo of some beads I had yet to list. Just a crummy 3 second shot with my phone.

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Do you see it in there, the Emily Carr bead?

In the end, I didn’t have time to list it, and truthfully, I wasn’t sure I was ready to let it go. Or if I would ever be ready to let it go. I just had the feeling that it needed to be appreciated in some special way and that maybe I was the only one who could do that.

The day after the show ended, one of my lovely, lovely customers sent me a note. She had noticed a particular bead in that crummy group shot, and was wondering whether it might be available. It spoke to her, sitting there, barely visible.

I knew right away that there could not be a more perfect person to own this bead. This person has the mind of a dramatist – finding scenes and dialogues in everything – beads and stones carry on an act in her mind as she looks at them. I knew that the story of this bead would be appreciated.

I teared up a little, trying to explain the inspiration behind it all. The whole process of creating the bead was so rare and so moving. And all the happy memories of that day spent wandering the art gallery many years ago – taking in the wonder of Emily Carr’s powerful work – came flooding back looking at it.

And the future owner of the bead said, “I bow before the Spirit Bead (sorry, not quite the right name, but there’s everything in this bead, not only forest, also sky, and insights, and even difficulties, when you fall and get up again, and everything in life has been worth it), and if she’s willing to undertake the journey, I would welcome her with the greatest enjoyment.”

You can see, this bead found its rightful place in the universe, as I believe all my beads do, somehow.

a sign or two

Obviously I’m the worst blogger of all time. It’s ok. There were a lot of things I added to the ‘must try harder’ list in the new year, but you know, blogging wasn’t one of them. It could have been, it probably should have been, but… it wasn’t. I do often think of it, but I’ve had so many other things on the go… and… you know… choices.

But recently there have been a few signs from the universe that I really should pick it up again. First off, there were a couple of challenges going around on Facebook – there was an art jewelry/art bead challenge, and then the #artchain challenge. The idea was to post an image of your original artwork once a day for 5 days and then to nominate another artist to continue the chain. I’m a bit foggy now on what all I posted for the bead and jewelry challenge, but these are the beads I posted on the final day:

hollow series by Uglibeads

Definitely my proudest beads in recent history. They are hollow! Empty! Nothing inside! Whenever I’d attempted hollow beads in the past, they were an epic fail. Tricky, but now that I’ve got the hang of it I just. can’t. stop. Maybe I won’t! They’ve been selling pretty well too, so I’m thrilled about that – a little piece of my soul is in every single one of these beads. Hey, maybe they’re empty so all the love can fit inside. Alright, I’m weird! But you guys already knew that.

Anyway, back to the story about the challenge. On Day 3, I nominated the very lovely, very talented Claire Fabian, an artist from Germany. She makes beautiful artisan jewelry and a lot of her own components -with polymer clay, especially – and she writes a great blog – saraccino. She got me thinking about blogging again because instead of nominating other artists, she chose to share a few of the blogs she follows. One one of the days, she mentioned that she reads my blog, and uhhh…. there’s nothing new to see here. Sign #1.

I straight-up copied Claire when I started the second challenge (which I still haven’t finished, but c’est la vie!). On Day 4, I shared the amazing blog of another dear friend I met through beads and jewelry, Sharon Borsavage. Of course her jewelry is a constant source of inspiration. Check out all the wonderful work in her Etsy shop. But besides the jewelry, I’ve been so inspired by her absolutely mind-blowing mixed media and collage art… She’s one of those multitalented people who will make you absolutely green with envy. There’s jewelry, there’s art… but it doesn’t end there. She’s a great blogger too: Livewire Jewelry Blog. I’m really inspired by that. Inspired enough to feel like blogging again. Sign #2.

Did I tell you my creepy blog secret before? The one where I find a blog I really love and read it from start to finish like a novel? I’ve been working my way through Sharon’s blog for about 4 days now, whenever I have a few spare minutes. There are certain obsessive aspects to my personality that probably make me a better artist and craftsperson… but they also make me a creepy creeper. Surely somebody else out there does this too? Don’t tell me I’m the only one!

Seeing her beautiful art has really pushed me to spend some time doing non-glass creating too. Here’s a fun thing I was working on the other night – totally mindless, color, repeated motion, meditative, simple, fun… I have an irrational love for art supplies that are really meant for children. I used every single color in my coveted set of Crayola markers and some nice thick graph paper. It’s going to be the background for something. Eventually.

marker art by Julie Wong Sontag

So here I am, back in the saddle again. We’ll see how long this wildly successful blogging streak lasts 😉

tapping the force

There are good days, and there are GREAT days, and some days are SO good, SO great, they really give you moment to pause and reflect. Today was one of those days.

It’s been a pretty steady run lately of things going right creatively, and that always helps immensely in terms of boosting the happiness quotient. I think part of it is that I’ve been forcing (or, really, allowing) myself to spend some time each day to do something new, different, experimental, untested. Since I’ve started doing this my feelings of achievement and satisfaction, really, have gone through the roof. As a creative person, time to play is a gift you MUST give yourself, and yet, so often it’s so easy to forget. So anyway, that’s my ‘me’ time, and we all know that me time is happy time.

I woke up today looking forward to my morning coffee, to catching up on stuff online, to turning the Christmas lights on and getting some tunes going. All that good morning stuff that in truth, I look forward to every morning. When I checked in on Facebook, I was greeted with three different jewelry artists’ posts having to do with my work. Two totally beautiful creations made with my beads, and an excited post about the arrival of some of my beads overseas. I say often that my greatest pleasure as an artist is making things that become part of someone else’s creative journey – in whatever way. It’s very special and I never take it for granted.

Maybe that’s what got me going this morning. In any case, by 10:30 AM, I was worked up into a positively incandescent state of bliss.

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The day had established itself as a freakishly fabulous day, and it wasn’t even noon. How often does that even happen? Some days I’m not even up by noon! As the day wore on, I kept thinking about how lucky it was that I was having such a great day, and how thankful I am to be doing what I do every day.

And then it got deep.

I realized that a year ago today, more than likely, I was lying in bed in the dark, wishing and hoping that I could fall asleep again so I wouldn’t have to think or feel anything. I was firmly in the grip of a very serious, deep depression that had been going on for a while. Quite a while. For months and months and months on end I’d been trying to sleep my life away – it was the only thing that brought me any relief. When I was awake, I was wrapped up in blankets reading a book when I could concentrate, or watching my 16th hour of TV that day. I was alive, but I felt dead. My greatest fear, and something that I thought about over and over and over again during that time, was that my creativity would never come back. That I would never paint, or draw, or write, or make beads again.

But I did. And I am. And as I type this, tears are welling up when I think about how much things can change in a year. How much we can survive before we begin to thrive again. It is in us, that ability to withstand. Strength and resilience have been my constant companions throughout life, mostly out of necessity. I know a thing or two about it. And I know, with every fiber of my being, that just when something looks like it will never EVER be good again, it will.

It really will.

The other day I was thinking about what I was like as a person, as an artist, back in the early 2000’s – a decade or so ago. Before a lot of life happened. Before a lot of sadness, a lot of suffering, a lot of loss. I was different then. I know I was. It makes me a little sad to think of it, because when I do, I know that somewhere along the way, I lost some of my magic. Some of that sparkly energy I used to be able to share with the world is gone. Old artist me was a colorful bright happy plant that bloomed without effort, and new artist me has grown gnarled roots and some of my leaves have dropped off. But I still see beauty in everything, and I guess that is a kind of magic in itself.

I will have to think about this more, but I do know that whatever I am now, I am happy. I’m here. I’m creating stuff. And life really is good.

You will love this interview with Caroline Casey, which just resonated in so many ways with all I was thinking and feeling today.


“Handmade things will feed your ancient soul because everything has a story, the story of the maker and then the story of the person who receives the work. By making handmade things, we’re tapping a force that says we’re not destined to accept what fate has assigned us. We want to make things because it’s a way of changing our lives.” – Caroline Casey


free to be

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Sometimes there’s a lot to say. And sometimes there isn’t. I find myself cycling through phases. The talkative, writing, word-spewing phase is full of analyzing, pondering, and reflecting. I’ve always felt that self-reflection is an integral part of being a creative person – heck, any kind of person – but a creative person especially. Writing is always a reliable reflecting pool. You write, and occasionally, you see your soul revealed on the page. It’s a good habit, writing. I’d like to do it more. But sometimes, for me, there are silent phases. Mostly, those phases are just about doing. No talking, no writing, just doing. Planning, working, growing, changing, but above all, doing. I’ve been there lately. The words ran dry for a while.

That’s ok.

They always come back.

I find the Facebook / Blog balance a difficult one, and I’m sure many artists who inhabit both spaces struggle in the same way. Sometimes you have a long-winded thing that is clearly blog territory, but most days you think of a little tidbit to share on Facebook as you go about your day, you post it, and you carry on. You could say more, maybe, but it’s so easy to just post and run. The problem, I find, is that by the time you’ve done a week of Facebook updates, the well has run dry. A blog post is the last thing on your mind.

I feel a little sad sometimes that artists have mostly moved over to sharing their stuff on Facebook instead of on their blogs. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Facebook – for the ease of communication, the wonderful connections I’ve made with bead lovers, friends, far-away family, and other makers. It’s also been a wonderful, friendly, super easy place to sell beads. The thing is, I find that you see a different side of someone on their blog. Facebook isn’t the place for sharing your struggles, your doubts, your insecurities, your vulnerabilities. Nobody likes a sadsack beadmaker/artist/jewelry designer. Mostly, people come to see pretty photos of your work, to gain a little insight into what you do, and maybe read your incredibly inspiring thoughts (ha!).

But how do we connect with each other? I mean, really connect? We find ourselves in others’ stories. We take comfort and solace in knowing that other people survive the things we go through too. It’s reassuring. It means that we’re normal, we’re human. Those struggles, those challenges, that IS life. Real life. Nobody’s life is always shiny and happy and filled with tropical vacations. But on Facebook we all try to be the best, most photogenic, entertaining versions of ourselves. And that’s why I feel much more comfortable leaving the rough edges exposed on my blog. It’s my own little place. A place where people actively come to seek me out, to find out what kind of person I am, to read what I have to say. It’s a place where I can bare my soul and not worry that someone is going to ‘Unlike’ me for it.

Being ‘unliked’ is a phenomenon that I’m somewhat familiar with… I mean, in Grade school I was bullied… When I was a teacher, some disgruntled student wrote ‘BITCH’ in big, bold scrawly letters on my mailbox in the hallway. But before I started my Uglibeads Facebook page, I’d never been exposed to the idea of being ‘Unliked’ in such a literal and graphic sense.

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yes, I can chart my ‘Unlikes’ on a graph.

On a Facebook business page, you can see how many ‘Likes’ the page has. And whenever I’m on my own page, so can I. I see the number so often, I know when it goes up. Or horror of horrors, DOWN. Which means that someone has ‘Unliked’ my page. They actually visited my page for the express purpose of unliking it. How’s that for an ego boost? I know, I know! There are so many reasons why people ‘Unlike’ pages, and really, it is 100% ridiculous to take it personally. But when you put a little bit of yourself into everything you do, it does sting. It is, after all, a teeny, tiny, anonymous rejection. Sometimes, despite my best efforts to focus on the positive, when I see that someone has Unliked my page, I have one of those miserable days filled with self-doubt. Artists really are the absolute best at crippling self-doubt. That little voice inside keeps repeating, “You must have done something wrong! What did you do wrong?” It’s the same nauseating carnival ride every time –

self-doubt…
self-criticism….
self-pity…
self-soothing…

I suppose the key is that the end of the cycle is always, once again, self-respect.

I think it’s healthy to check in with yourself from time to time to make sure you’re happy with what you put out there into the world. But second-guessing never led anyone to a good creative place. It stops the flow, closes you off, puts up little walls around the most interesting parts of who you are.

On the ‘Unlike’ days, I always end up thinking the same thing: I can’t be anything other than myself. And really, truly, I want to be surrounded with people who ‘get’ me, who understand me, who ‘Like’ me, just the way I am.

Yeah.

Don’t we all?

feel the fear and do it anyway

Calgary Stampede midway ride

I have this book that I read many, many years ago – something about face your fears, yada yada yada. I don’t remember much about it other than that it was kind of a slog to get through. But the idea is good.

My creative fears are many, but one that’s bugged me for a long time is that I have an irrational fear of making jewelry. Back in the WAY back days I used to make jewelry. Long before I started making beads. Really simple stuff. When I look now at the things I made, they’re truly laughable. But we all start somewhere. I had a little business that I called ‘Blue Mouse Beads’. I had a tiny table at an arts market. I think I made one sale.

I don’t know why the fear now. I guess I’ve just felt that my talents lie more on the beadmaking side of things. I like to send the beads out into the world, and let people who really make jewelry work their magic with them. Truthfully, I’ve had no real desire to make anything with my beads.

A while ago, I had a friend get in touch with me. Could I make something special for his wife’s 30th birthday? Maybe a necklace and some earrings? Of course I said yes. No problemo!

Then the inevitable panic set in. What the frick was I going to make????? I don’t know how to make jewelry! I’m an idiot!! Try something new!? What?? No!

Well, ok.

I had a few vaguely formed ideas in mind, but nothing solid. I thought, I’ll just go to the bead store and surely something will jump out at me. Soooooo many beads, and soooooo few ideas. I wandered around, feeling lost, examining all the strands of beads, all the findings. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I started to feel ultra-crummy about the whole thing. What if I couldn’t do it? I actually got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I know what will make me feel better! Some new glass! So I left the store with nothing for the jewelry project and 3 new colors of glass rods to make beads with. Jewelry FAIL.

What do you do when you feel no ideas coming on and you have a project that has to get done? Apparently they’ve done studies showing that many creative people have their best ideas when their minds are relaxed and they’re not actively thinking about the problem. In the shower, out for a run, vacuuming the floors… etc. Somehow in letting go, your subconscious mind works it all out.

I was drifting off to sleep one night, and I saw this strand of beads in my head that I’d liked during my failed bead shopping experience. Some little zuni bears, in wonderful shades of black, turquoise and brown. Suddenly I saw it all – the finished piece – all the components I needed. Everything.

Hallelujah moment.

So back to the bead store. Copper chain. Crimp beads. Beautiful copper beads. Clasp. The zuni bears of course. All the bits and pieces. When I got home with all my treasures I couldn’t wait to lay everything out on the table to plan out the beads I needed to make.

A couple of days later, beads ready, I sat down to put it all together. I’m telling you, it was a nearly spiritual experience. I don’t say that lightly… but really, it was like the necklace made itself. Some kind of creative energy struck me like a bolt of lightning and flowed, until I had exactly the piece I’d pictured in front of me. I can’t really overstate the joy and relief I felt in seeing it all done. I was bursting with pride. It didn’t even look like a ‘beginner’ piece of jewelry. It looked like I knew exactly what I was doing.

Necklace by Julie Wong Sontag

In the end, accepting the challenge was a process fraught with emotion – but the commitment I’d made forced me to persevere. If not for that, I would definitely have thrown in the towel after that first trip to the bead store.

Conquering my jewelry making fear has been incredibly empowering. There’s something transformative about turning a big ‘I can’t’ into a resounding ‘I can’.

Since then, I really don’t know what has possessed me. The floodgates have opened. I’ve been making things like crazy. Jewelry things. Earrings mostly. I’m in a totally different mindset than when I’m making beads, and I love it. I find it so relaxing, putting things together, wrapping wire, adding this thing, taking that thing away… fishing through the stash to find that one perfect bead that finishes it all off. Seeing the finished piece, ready to wear, knowing that you made the whole thing, start to finish… So rewarding.

I’ll list some things to list on Etsy next week, so you can see what I’ve been up to.

I haven’t felt this kind of thrill since I started making beads. It’s a whole new world of possibilities to explore. A whole new category of things to buy on Etsy. Not that I needed that.

What’s your fear? What’s holding you back?

 

 

your best is good enough

I swear to god after this I am really going to stop procrastinating. But I was just thinking about something.

I made some headpins the other day… they’re really simple. Sometimes simple is good.

Headpins by Uglibeads

I’ve seen others like them – they’re just one of the ‘standard’ headpin shapes you see out there. But once in a while you see some that are really poorly made. Which always gets me thinking.

I’ve been chatting with a few of my bead friends lately about beads they’ve purchased that were a big disappointment because the quality of the work was bad bad bad. Sloppy dots, really ragged bead holes… Beads with issues. Not my beads, of course. Everything I make is 100% perfect.

Ha!

If only that were true.

But I really feel that if you’re going to put your stuff out there, it should be the very best work you can do. Something you’re really proud to stand behind. Well constructed. Nicely finished. It’s true that everybody’s ‘best’ is different, and that’s ok – we’re all learning, and we all have different preferences, aesthetically. There’s also that kind of desirable and deliberate imperfect.

When you’re aiming for the best you can do, sometimes it means scrapping things that aren’t quite up to snuff. Like the green headpin on the far right in this pic – it goes in the reject pile because the wire isn’t quite embedded properly. I have a huge jar filled with my rejects and probably every other beadmaker does too. People who make jewelry are always tearing things apart, changing things, reworking until it’s ‘right’. Painters have reams of work that nobody ever sees.

Perfectionism can be sort of a disease that’s toxic to creativity. But I think you can create with process in mind (not perfection) and then select the best of it to represent you in places where you’re building a reputation. The experiments, the epiphanies, the creative leaps… those are for you, and if they’re imperfect, so much the better.

Any thoughts?

the agony and the ecstasy

I think that one of the most challenging things about being an artist is pushing yourself to come up with things that are original… things that feel like they are uniquely ‘yours’… things that no one else is doing in quite the same way. It’s the greatest feeling when you make something that you haven’t seen before. For a few days, you feel like a total genius. Then, you figure out that someone else has already done it, and your happy little bubble bursts.

I did some experimenting with headpins last night, manipulating the part that is embedded into the glass – bending and balling up the copper wire. I’m sure there are people out there who’ve already thought about doing this, but they’re new to me, and they genuinely came from the recesses of my creative brain without any outside influence, so I’m pretty stoked about that.

Headpin experiments

It’s kind of tricky business when you see someone else doing the same thing you’ve really, truly, come up with on your own. There is a lot of synchronicity in the creative world, and people DO come up with the same thing at the same time. You see that a lot in the world of science. But in that case, he (or she) who publishes first gets the credit. He (or she) who gets ‘scooped’ usually abandons years of work because it’s not ‘theirs’ anymore. In art, maybe there is room for all of us. I’d like to think so.

If you know in your heart of hearts that you came up with the idea on your own, don’t you think you should go for it – even if there’s something else like it out there??

Back to the experimental headpins. If you’ve seen this before, don’t tell me.

I’m still feeling like a genius.

Although it feels good to strive for something new, the creative process benefits a lot from finding things in others’ work that inspire you, and incorporating those elements into your own stuff. Here’s a refreshing – and generous – take on that issue, that Fanciful Devices posted in her blog sidebar:

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Nice way to look at it, don’t you think?

gathering my thoughts

I keep a pad of sticky notes by my computer at all times while I’m working. When I get an idea for something – bead idea, jewelry idea, blog post idea – I make a quick little sketch, maybe a couple of notes, and then I can get back to what I’m doing. If I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember when it comes time to work on new stuff.

The pile of stickies can get a bit out of control.

Here’s the before:

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And after:

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I stuck them into my sketchbook, all lined up, nice and neat, with double-sided tape (who doesn’t love double-sided tape??) so that when I’m looking for something I don’t have to paw through a big pile of yellow paper.

It kind of goes against the philosophy that a messy workspace is actually conducive to creativity. I am a long-time fan of this philosophy. When I was little, my parents bought me a plastic sign that said, “A creative mess is better than tidy idleness.” Although truer words were never spoken, sometimes we do have to do a little tidying.

To make room for new messes.

a long way down

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I’m not sure whether I got off the horse or fell off the horse, but either way it was a bit of a rough landing. Here’s an important life lesson: it’s much easier to stay on the horse than it is to get back on.

I’ve been doing so well with my 30 day challenge – in fact, it’s almost over (Day 28 today!). But last week I had a bit of a fall. It always starts with a small stumble. On Wednesday I was REALLY feeling a day off. Just one day. Well, that felt good, so I didn’t work on Thursday. Or Friday. Not only did I not work, I kind of disappeared. No blog, hardly any Facebook… quiet. It was odd, but at the same time, oddly liberating.

When you’re running a business online, you have to put yourself out there… constantly. As an artist, you’re always kind of on the edge of your seat, waiting to see if people will like your stuff. On Facebook this is especially true since people can literally ‘Like’ what you post. I try not to worry about it too much. Some days you can’t help but sigh a little… Someone posts a bead and gets 225 Likes, you post a bead and get 4. But it’s important to remind yourself that you can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Many of the people posting beads on Facebook have been around, posting beads, for 5, 8, 10 years and have developed quite a following. Everyone starts somewhere.

Back to the days off, and the derailment of the 30 day challenge. Putting yourself out there all the time can actually be kind of exhausting. It’s a lot of work. In the end, it’s totally worth it – building relationships and communicating with people because of things you have created is just the absolute best. It might be better, even, than actually making things. But something you should know about me is that I am NOT an ‘out there’ person. TOTAL introvert. Every introvert who has to put themselves on display is bound to turtle at some point. Turtles, I know you’re out there, do ya feel me?

So I turtled. You know, I had about a day and a half of the ‘sads’. I just felt blue and I couldn’t tell whether I was sad because I wasn’t working, or if I wasn’t working because I was sad. But when that passed, I started to feel some mental creative space opening up. Energy started to flow… scribbling on Post-Its with little drawings of things I wanted to remember… new ideas. Exciting ideas. I think when you’re totally focused on a certain color palette or design scheme (which I usually am), there isn’t a lot of space for new ideas. So the slowing down, it’s a good thing.

I always say that creativity is cyclical. I really admire beadmakers who can put stuff out there, day after day after day. But for me, there is ebb and flow.

You know, I’ve always loved the ocean.