Thursday, March 31, 2016

Exciting News ~ Altered Couture Magazine

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Well, maybe you've already guessed from the title, but I'm so excited to let you know that Altered Couture, one of my very favorite magazines, accepted my vintage upcycled slip for an upcoming issue! (You might remember me talking about submitting something?)

I don't have any more details right now, other than that I need to complete a 600 word synopsis of my process by mid-month. I actually have already sketched it out but still need to type it up and fine tune it a bit. When I got the email from the editor, I literally bounced in my seat, a wide smile on my face. I will remember this moment when I'm next feeling that sense of creative frustration.

I'm telling you this because I'm excited, yes, but also to encourage you to smack that inner critic in the head when he/she next pipes up and tells you, "oh, well, that's for other people, not you," or "you want to do what?!" It's for anyone, thanks so much, and doing things is absolutely the only way that we learn.

There are still so many creative things I want to try, some of which are very scary for me to admit. Most often when I'm enthralled with something new, I prefer to research it extensively. I read books/magazine articles/blog posts, etc., on the topic, listen to podcasts, try to find someone else to talk to about it.

The problem is that all that excitement and education about a topic, while wonderful and sometimes necessary, doesn't help you as much as trying to do the thing.

Creativity = Trial + Error (maybe lots of errors)

When it comes right down to it, you rarely learn how to do something if you never pick up the material/piece of furniture/beads/thread/lace and just give it a go.

What are some of the creative things you've tried that have flopped? What's turned out fabulously? Please share one of your experiences in the comments. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Getting Sick Reminded Me

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I hope you had a wonderful Easter, if you celebrate it. It's one of my favorite holidays ~ unfortunately, this year I completely missed it.

No, I didn't forget to put it on my calendar or oversleep and miss the entire day. I got sick. Just the flu with one of the worst sore throats I've ever had (!). It was such a bummer, imagining my family all sitting happily around the big table at my parents' house, enjoying conversation, yummy food and the beautiful weather. I'll admit, I shed a few tears of self-pity.

However, as I was alternating lying prone on the couch or in bed, I started thinking about how out of control life has been feeling lately. I won't go into my "busy list" here--I'm sure you have your very own to worry about.

Lately it feels though, that I'm spending more time blasting through life than experiencing it. Vacation helped me to slow down and notice things, but it was still a busy time. When you're keeping up with a quick-paced six year-old, there's not a lot of time for quiet and reflection!

Anyway, I certainly don't have things figured out yet. I know that some things need to change, that I need to start practicing my "no" more, even with some things that I wish I could do very much. It's so hard to make those kinds of decisions, but it's imperative especially when you don't have all the free time in the world, right?

I have a short list (there are a ton more I could share, but I'll start here) of simple living/minimalist websites that I'd like to share with you.

Just reading about how others are paring down activities, saying no to some things so that they can say yes to their priorities, and going a little counter cultural by refusing to buy their way to "happiness" inspires me.

It also reminds me that one doesn't simply arrive at a simpler, more authentic life. Instead, it's a gradual process that is worked on ... maybe your whole life.

What do you think about simple living, minimalism or going against the grain of the society you're a part of? Do you have a favorite website, book or blog to share? Please do so! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Inspiration: Bead Creative with Nancy Eha

Picture this: it's a dark and snowy night. You're on your way home from work and stop "just for a minute" to browse at the local library. You wander the stacks, looking for creative inspiration, when a book catches your eye. It's all about beaded embroidery. You flip through the pages ... and realize 15 minutes later that you're still rooted to the spot.

This is what happened to me several weeks ago when I found a copy of Nancy Eha's first book, Off the Beadin' Path. A couple of things struck me about this book:

  1. It was self-published by the author. 
  2. The patterns included in the book were simple and easy to follow (this really struck me because I'm not very good at following patterns. I tend to get confused, so mostly look at the diagrams and figure stuff out as I go). 
  3. The tone of the book was friendly and down-to-earth. In fact, I learned later that Nancy was previously a classroom teacher. It definitely comes across in her writing and instructions, which I found clear and without a lot of extraneous detail. 
After skimming the book at home over the next several days, I contacted Nancy to tell her how much I was enjoying it (side note: I've contacted several authors in this way and Nancy is one of the few who wrote back. And wait until you hear what she wrote!). 

I tried one of the most simple beading stitches when I created this upcycled slip dress. It was so much fun! I had to keep going so started working on a vintage bib/collar thing. In the meantime something exciting happened: Nancy visited my blog. Then she sent me a nice email reply to my 'thank you' email. 
It turns out that Nancy has been very busy! She's written two more, full-color books since the first. One is titled, Bead Creative Like Crazy, and the second, Bead Creative Art Quilts. Both appeared packed with great information and instruction. 

Nancy offered to send me a free copy of Bead Creative Like Crazy. It was slightly worn, she said, and one that she wouldn't feel comfortable selling. It was mine if I wanted it. Yes, please! In return, I agreed to mention it here on Joy Creates, if I found it helpful. 

Well, I'm sure you can guess that I did find it helpful. Though I haven't yet made it to the end, I've already learned a few techniques which will save me lots of time on future projects. I love the brightly colored photos and again, the simple and easy-to-understand directions. Plus, Nancy's tone is very friendly and not at all "preachy." 

Even if I do get stuck, Nancy has a bunch of free video tutorials. I found this one particularly helpful: 

Downsides: With any book there are bound to be a few downsides, right? 
  1. The spine of the book: if it were to lie flat when opened, that would be super helpful. It's hard to follow the directions and hold the book open with your other hand. 
  2. An index would be helpful. There are times when I'm looking for a bit of specific information, and an index would come in handy. 
Overall, I'd highly recommend this book, particularly for beginning bead embroidery learners like myself. I'm not new to hand sewing or embroidery per say but it's been a long time since I've worked with needles in this way. And never with beads before. 

I'm looking forward to finishing the book and applying more of the techniques and different stitches to future projects. 

In addition to the books, Nancy offers free online tutorials, classes (paid), beading supplies and will even teach at events. She's been beading on fabric for more than 25 years (!) so obviously has a lot of knowledge to share. Be sure to check out her website, for more information. If you like her work, drop her a line, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you. 

Have you tried beaded embroidery? If so, what are some of your favorite pieces? If not, are you interested in it? 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Falling Out of Creative Sync

Do you have those times when it feels like everywhere you look, the world is blooming? Ideas come to you easily, inspiration is found around every turn, and your creative future looks bright.

Then, it happens.

Maybe it's because of a few bad nights of sleep, sickness (your own or a family member's), stress at work ... or maybe none of these things. But something changes and you start to lose that artistic glow.

Recently, I've been on cloud nine creatively. After months of burnout, I embraced the inspiration that poured out of the universe and covered me. Dreaming up ideas for new upcycled clothes designs, playing with beading, and generally receiving inspiration everywhere I turned refreshed my soul and renewed my hope that my creativity wasn't dead, after all.

Then we went on vacation. This was a big deal because: a) we'd been saving for months for this one, special trip to Long Beach, California and b) it was the first time we've traveled together as a family on a plane and c) it was the first paid, week-long vacation I've had in many years.

To say that my hopes were high would be an understatement. The trip was wonderful. I drank in the scenery, the colors, the sounds, the smells, the tastes that were all so different from home. I thrive with new-ness and there was plenty of that everyday!

It was also depleting because, as an introvert, I had extremely limited amounts of time to myself and I wasn't able to bring any creative projects with me. (I did do a little sketching, as it's easily portable.)

This week, I've been struggling. Not only because of the jet lag and recovering from the red-eye flight we took home Sunday night, but because I seem to have lost my creative mojo.

I finished one beading project--a vintage collar I've been working on for weeks--and feel at loose ends. I tried a new beading technique (on tulle) with very bad results. I have about a zillion and one ideas/projects for upcycled clothes but can't seem to get myself motivated to start even one.

Sometimes it feels like my dream of joining the ranks of creative women who have successful little side businesses is impossibly far away. Sometimes that voice saying, "who do you think you are?" is very loud. And sometimes it feels easier to tackle projects at home--sweeping the floor, tidying, washing dishes--than delve into a new project. At least housework shows immediate results.

But it doesn't feed my soul ...

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Is it Possible to be Creative AND Clutter-Free?

This is a question that haunts me: is it possible for one to be both creative and clutter-free? So many of the hobbies that creatives love--painting, mixed media, sculpture, and sewing to name just a few--come with supplies.

In some cases, many, many supplies.

I'm a clutter-phobic in many ways. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the post-season clean out, where I give away gifts I've gotten that I know someone else will love a thousand times more than me, or other, older items that I've received in order to make room for newer gifts.

It's a sort of sickness, I know. Along with taking down the Christmas tree sometimes hours after the holiday has ended.

Two years ago when I read Joshua Becker's book, Simplify, and decided to make my kitchen counters clutter-free, it was literally life changing.
There is something so beautifully freeing about it all. The process of letting go, of opening space, emotionally and physically, and allowing oneself the freedom that comes through clearing out and clearing away.

I'm by no means a true minimalist (if there even is one specific definition of the word), but I know that I feel better mentally and physically when there are places of bareness in my life.

What then, is a creative to do with necessary supplies?

In the past I did a lot of mixed media. As a treasure-hunter and upcycler, it was the perfect outlet for all the bits and pieces that others were tossing but that I found beautiful.

How much is too much, though? How do you know when you've reached your comfortable limit? I came across this lovely post by Renae at A New Journey talking about what being a minimalist crafter would look like.

What are your thoughts on the subject? If you consciously choose to minimalize your craft/hobby/art, how do you do it? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Creative Inspiration and the Importance of Fun

Not long ago, I was severely burned out creatively. You can read more about it in Part I of  'Who Am I and How Did I Get Here?'

Honestly, it came as a bit of a shock. I'd heard people talk about creative burnout, but had never experienced it, at least not at the level that I did last year. I talk in the post about how gray life had become: like I was living in a black and white movie.
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Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out what I could have done differently to avoid burning out like I did. Or maybe more importantly, to help myself once I got to that place. Instead I trudged on, week after week, month after month. I thought if I just kept my nose to the grindstone at work and resting when I wasn't at work (i.e. zoning out in books/magazines/TV shows) then all would eventually be well.

Maybe there was something else going on. I've gone through a big decluttering phase in recent years and during the time before and even during the burnout, I was decluttering like a mad woman. I knew on some subconscious level, that I had to get rid of the old in order to make room for the new. I'll blog more about my simpler living change at some point.

The importance of fun in one's life can't be overstated, though. That's the biggest takeaway that I learned through this whole process--that and being kind to yourself when you're struggling--that's key, too.

When I first started feeling myself get interested in things again--for me it was historical dress, fabric, sewing, and upcycling--I noticed one thing. It was FUN. So much fun just to learn without any pressure. There was no, "I must know this so that I can be more successful in my business," or any, "Is this going to help me make money?"

Sure, I now have an Etsy shop ... with zero sales so far. Go me! Of course I want to make a little money from my side gig because of my dream to own one of these. It's not at the forefront of my mind though.

The priority is once again having a creative outlet, learning new things, opening up my (rusty) curiosity and letting my imagination soar. For me, that makes all the difference.

How do you incorporate fun into your life? Do you find that it influences your creativity? Leave a comment and tell us, please. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Failed Sewing Attempt: Dress from Hell

OK. I'll admit that I might have exaggerated slightly in the title of this post. This dress isn't exactly from hell, but it certainly has some issue. (But hey, who of us doesn't?)

I've wanted to use this certain vintage sewing pattern for more than a year. What was holding me back? The dreaded zipper. (You might remember me talking about zipper-installation fears before.)

Well, I finally found what I thought was the perfect fabric. Plus, it was deeply on sale so I wouldn't feel as horrible if I ruined the dress.

Since I mostly re-make/upcycle clothes and accessories, buying fabric of any kind new and fresh from the bolt is sort of frightening. I mean, I feel badly enough if I mess up a thrift store or free item, but virginal, perfect, new fabric?


Anyway, I was lucky enough to have President's Day off of work so after kissing my husband and son goodbye for the day, I settled in with some soft music, the material and the pattern.

All was going well. Cutting was as slow as ever, but the fabric, a sort of denim-like material, was a dream to work with. All the pieces were cut and laid out. And I got the zipper in!

When I went to try it on, however, I noticed something. Even though it was a Size 10, it seemed really large and ill-fitting. Well, I'd fix that.

I took the side seams in by about an inch on either side. This helped. Still, I felt a little like I was wearing a potato sack. The length wasn't helping. Was it made for a giraffe? On the pattern front (which I'm now learning to be very suspicious of) the dress came up above the models knees. Mine was closer to mid-shin.

It still looked large on me but I wasn't sure how to successfully take it in anymore without altering the basic shape. Once the hem was shortened it would surely be better, right?

Well, ahem, no. Not necessarily.

Now it looks something like a short potato sack.

Look at those shoulders puffing! Can you say Igor in Frankenstein?

I made this for a warm-weather trip that's coming up. I thought maybe if I styled it, I could still wear it. I'm not sure if a sweater will be possible to keep on where we are headed though.

Better, but still reminiscent of a potato sack ... 
What to do? Do I try to take it in myself? Drop it off for alterations? Shrug and call it a learning experience? Give or sell it to someone who would look better in it?