New Work Round-up Now That I’m Home

It took a few months for me to get my work life in order earlier this year so I could do as little work as possible on the road. As it turned out, that ended up meaning a bunch of stuff I did before May came out while we were away. In case I did a sub-par job of letting you know about it when I was relying mostly on my phone – with terrible cell service and nearly nonexistent wifi – here’s what came out while I was otherwise cavorting through the desert with my family:

  • Next Steps in Crochet (that’s a half-price link right there), my new Craftsy class. It’s an advanced-beginner class, designed to be, um, a great next step for people who are comfortable with basic crochet stitches and techniques and are ready to up their game. If this is you, I hope to see you in there! Here’s way more about the class. (And if you don’t know how to crochet yet, my beginner class will get you going. I promise. [That’s also a half-price link.])
  • Kim Werker quote from Fresh Rag PodcastI did a long and meaty interview with Dave Conrey on the Fresh Rag podcast, in which I talk about a bunch of things I rarely address explicitly (like how my religious non-belief relates to my creative life and my identity as a person and my own internal consistency across my personal, work and creative lives, and more). I finally had a chance to listen to the interview, and I’m proud of it. I agree with everything I say – which doesn’t always happen, because it can be hard to say a complex or sensitive thing well when you’re doing it off the cuff and it’s being recorded – even when I was ready to cringe because I was sure I was going to say something not quite right or downright dumb. Also, there are shout-outs to Wil Wheaton, JK Rowling, Oliver Burkeman, and my drinking buddies from college. If you have a little over an hour, I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know if it brings anything up for you.
  • From our hotel room near Disneyland, I wrote a post for the CreativeLive blog about how connecting with people through social media enhanced our long trip.
  • I was also on Tara Swiger’s Explore Your Enthusiasm podcast, talking about how things in life spiral around. It’ll make more sense if you listen to it.

I finished up a huge editing project before the trip, which means I have some time available now, if you have a project you’d like to work on together. I have time enough to take on a larger project like a book/ebook, or a bunch of smaller project, like craft patterns/tutorials, essays, etc. (If you’re new to the editing game, I’ll walk you through what I can do for you. Just ask!)

To celebrate being home, here’s a coupon for 15% off orders over $5 in my shop (or on Etsy); use code YAYHOME15​.

Visiting the Edward Gorey House

During our family holiday last month, we spent a week on Cape Cod. It was my first time there, and my, what a wonderful place.

Other than spending loads of time with family, my highlight of our time there was visiting the Edward Gorey House, on Meighan O’Toole‘s recommendation. I didn’t grow up knowing Gorey’s work, but I’m sure it’s no surprise that as an adult, I’ve fallen in love with his stark, gruesome, utterly odd illustrations and stories. I wish I had known about him when I was younger; surely I’d have felt a little better being so weird, you know? Anyway, I was surprised to learn that he was also quite prolific in puppet/doll-making and costuming! Anyone know if his textile work has been written up anywhere?

Needless to say, I bought books.

Gorey puppets

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What. Wouldn’t you be fascinated by the faucet in a beloved artist’s home? Whatever. Don’t judge me.

Taking a Stab at Art Journaling

Taking a Stab at Art Journaling

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We spent the middle couple of weeks of this month visiting a ton of family back east, and I used the opportunity to try out art journaling. I brought my knitting with me, but I wanted to have a new kind of activity to escape into when I needed a break, and also I’m sort of amused that I’ve become a person who takes a sketchbook when I travel (see).

So I signed up for this new class on CreativeBug.

And I went on a truly astonishing marker-buying spree (sidebar: I was really excited to try out acrylic paint pens, but it turns out I don’t enjoy them at all. Sadface).

And when I couldn’t find a non-spiral-bound mixed-media sketchbook, I got a watercolour one, since that’ll do, though the texture of the paper is a bit much.

And then I watched only the first lesson of the CreativeBug class, and was on my way. (This is my usual M.O. – take only part of a class, read only part of a book, half listen to someone explain something to me, then just go off and make of it what I will until I’m ready for more instruction.)

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it tremendously. I had no plan, and I had no idea of an expected outcome. I decided to be a little literal with it, because I was at a loss for any ideas at all for what to make, so I made things related to our trip and what we were up to, and that seemed like a lovely thing to do, and as a now-avid bullet journaler, it was in line with my relatively newfound passion for recording daily life. I enjoyed messing around with patterns and doodles, and colours and lettering. And a bit of collage. As an added bonus, Greg’s cousin’s ten-year-old daughter would sidle up to me as I messed around in my journal on a picnic table, and the two of us would share markers and doodle or whatnot for an hour at a time.

I haven’t touched the art journal since we returned home last week, but as things settle back down to normal (before they spiral out of control in October), I anticipate I’ll go back to it every now and then, not as a daily practice, but as an occasional visual check-in. And I’ll certainly take it with me in October, when I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to glue all manner of things into it. Hm. Maybe I should dedicate a wee book to those travels, alone…

Do you art journal? What’s your practice like?

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Creative Mornings Talk: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Failure

Last Friday I did something I’d been thinking about doing for months and months. Something that kept me up at night and occupied an increasing part of my brain as the spring and summer progressed. Something I was exhilarated and terrified of doing.

I delivered the Vancouver Creative Mornings talk on the August theme of failure.

I was exhilarated because it was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to speak at an event that was not in some way crafts-related. And because I got to explore ideas I wouldn’t otherwise have given myself the time or space to explore. And because I had a time constraint, and I knew the talk would be recorded and distributed, and it was a big deal.

I was terrified because this is my topic, man. I had to get it right. I had to say something important. I had to nail it. It would be recorded and distributed. It was a very big deal. And I suck at giving talks with slides. I just suck at slides.

After two years of writing and speaking about the ugly voice in our minds that tells us we suck, I eventually decided not to talk about that at all. I had realized there’s another voice in our minds – our inner monologue. And we sometimes use that voice – our own, deliberate voice – to tell ourselves stories. Stories about failure. Stories we have full control over, and that we have a tendency to believe as true.

What might happen if we started to listen to that voice more closely? To tease that voice apart from the ugly voice? To exert some power over it to alter the stories we tell ourselves with it?

So here’s my talk. (The sound improves dramatically at around 2:45.) If you enjoy it, please click through to the Creative Mornings site and click the little heart (hover over the video to make it appear on the right). Go ahead and join the site, too. Creative Mornings is pretty wonderful. Hopefully you have a chapter in your city.

That part where I throw my hands in the air and exclaim, “How fascinating?!” Before the talk, a group of wonderful people led the room in an improv exercise that involved everyone throwing their hands in the air and exclaiming “How fascinating!” whenever someone screwed up. I’d like to always have the room do an improv exercise about failing before I speak. So much less nervous! Everyone was laughing! And it gave me something to say when I did, indeed, screw up. (Click to embiggen.)

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I know some of you have been following along on the bullet journal adventure; it’s my bullet journal that I’m holding throughout. Without it, I would have failed at slides even more spectacularly than I did with it telling me when to click.

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My Great-Grandma Marian’s Sewing Machine

I mentioned this in my newsletter a few weeks ago, but finally took a photo so wanted to share it here, too. Last month, my cousin Marsha and her wife embarked on a two-month cross-continent road trip, in part to distribute some family heirlooms.

image of vintage Singer sewing machine

My great-grandma Marian was a tailor, and I was very touched when Marsha told me she wanted me to have her treadle Singer. Marian had bought the machine new, in the early 1920s, and it was her livelihood for much of the ’30s and beyond. (The box on top in the photo is her button box, and it is an incredible treasure. I’ll take photos of its contents soon. And, naturally, there’s a Matchbox car on there, too, for there’s nary a corner of our home uninhabited by toy cars these days.)

The machine has been unused for many a decade, but it should be pretty easy to get it into working order. Singer makes old manuals available online, so I have a copy of it to use for reference. (Singer also will let you know when and where old sewing machines were manufactured. I emailed them the machine’s serial number and they wrote back to tell me it was made November 3, 1920 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.)

Greg is intent on restoring the oak table the machine sits in. In the late ’70s, my great-uncle Abe used some wood paneling he had leftover from a home remodel to cover up the very worn original oak. Greg finds it horrifying but I think it’s a part of the machine’s history, and is therefore quite loveable. But I’m also not at all opposed to repairing the table in a manner more consistent with its original state.

It’s unlikely we’ll do anything with it this summer, but hopefully come winter we’ll start getting the restoration going. I’m really looking forward to learning how to use it!

Got any tips for sewing with a treadle machine?

Teasing Apart Fear and Danger

Now that I no longer get hives when I think about my inbox*, I’m able to start processing the dozen browser tabs I’ve kept open for weeks, and oh man am I glad I didn’t close the tab with astronaut Chris Hadfield’s TED talk in it. If there’s one person whose word should be gospel on the topic of addressing fear, it’s this guy, who has, you know, floated around in space in a tin can transported there by a humongous ball of fire.

Hadfield implores us to examine our fears and figure out what’s actually dangerous. “By looking at the difference between perceived danger and actual danger – where’s the real risk? What is the real thing that you should be afraid of?”

Most of us don’t have a real thing to be afraid of, do we? Most of us don’t have to undertake, as part of our profession or the day-to-day workings of our lives, a 9-to-1 chance of dying. (And isn’t one of Hadfield’s points that if your passion is strong enough, taking that risk might well be worth it?)

When we talk about fear holding us back in the context of expression or creation, what we’re really doing is choosing not to examine whether there’s any real danger. (If you’re reading this, you probably don’t live in a place where an oppressive regime might storm your house and kill your family because you’ve decided to express yourself. What a blessing.)

“The danger is entirely different than the fear,” he says. How can we tease them apart for ourselves? How can we get to the heart of why we allow fear to inhabit a place that isn’t dangerous?

Hadfield uses the common fear of spiders as an example, spelling out clearly that spiders are, with very rare exceptions, not at all dangerous. And so he suggests we start walking through spider webs, to train ourselves through experience that there is no danger, and therefore nothing to fear. “If you walk through a hundred spider webs, you will have changed your fundamental human behaviour.”

Imagine what we might accomplish – how many dreams we might realize, how many people we might touch, how much change we might affect – if we started walking through our creative spider webs.

Now let’s stop imagining, and start doing.


* Sanebox. Seriously.