moving into a new mind-space

Just three years ago, on July 31, 2011, I began my crafthatchery blog to support my class work in an online course on blogging that I found at Media Bistro. At the time, my workplace (you know, the one that gives me paychecks) wanted me to start a blog for them, so taking the course gave me valuable instruction and insights about business blogging, as well.

I found that I really enjoyed blogging, much more so at crafthatchery than for my paycheck-work. At work, I had to do a lot of research about a subject that just didn’t thrill me. Here, I get to explore making art, and maybe even give you some inspiration to pick up a pencil, a pen, or a brush. I can pull ideas and expertise from my head, and when I need to do research, I love the process.

If you click back to my post on August 5, 2012, you’ll see the first post I wrote about my discovery of Zentangle. It’s truly been a love affair for me. I love the art form, drawing patterns, and the incorporation of meditation into the practice. Mostly I love that it is a way to open other people up to the incredible benefits of drawing as a spiritual practice… even people who say things like, “I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler!”

Just a month after that post, I was on a train, headed to Providence, Rhode Island, to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher. I look forward to a time when I’ll have more time to teach people this amazing practice.

For now, I’m still at the paycheck-job, though I stepped back into a graphic design role from the writing I was doing. Definitely more up my alley.

And so I come to my mind-space quandary. In all the time I’ve been writing posts and showing you my Zentangle work, I kept thinking that the name, crafthatchery, just wasn’t right. The little thoughts come to me something like this: If I had a sign on my door, announcing that there were unique drawing classes and inspiring products for sale inside, would the sign say crafthatchery? Doesn’t the idea of craft make people think more of knitting, or making carvings, or other more functional work? Shouldn’t there be “art” in the name since it’s a more artful result?

Well, it’s been just wrong-feeling enough to make me think about another name. Something that I can have for a blog, and maybe a website, and a place with a sign on the door. My mother said, “But I like crafthatchery!” And really, so do I. I like how the two words, craft and hatchery, play together. I like the visual images that emerge as a result. But I’m a stubborn one, and so are those thoughts in my head. A new name it will be! And it has to be two words that play together nicely and create positive, creative images in peoples’ minds.

After some thought, and playing with words and images, I’ve got a name that I think solves my problem. Without further ado, I invite you to join me at the art kettle. Same me, same art and meditation and hopefully inspiration… just a different place. crafthatchery will still exist, just without any new content. So come on over and see what’s brewing at the art kettle.

Oh, and of course I can’t leave this space behind without a tile for you to see. This is a little Bijou tile. They’re exceptionally cute at two inches square.

LastTileBIJOU

Tangles used: quandary, flukes, crescent moon, leaflet, and deelish.

new ideas

I had the pleasure of attending a living room show last week, in Madison, Wisconsin. My daughter was the star performer, kicking off her Kickstarter crowd-sourcing project. You can see a video and read all about the project (and donate, if you like) here.

The hosts introduced us to the house they call Muriel, and a fun idea: living room shows. I drew a tangle in honor of Muriel. She’s 99 years old.

muriel

Tangles used: all about v, juke, mi2, shattuck, knightsbridge, quandary, and flux.

This week’s diva challenge invites us to tangle on an outline of the Moebius Syndrome Foundation logo. The syndrome is dear to the hearts of many tanglers now, because diva Laura Harms shares her experiences with Artoo, her son who has the disorder.

We did this challenge last year (here’s my tile), and I really liked the Zentangle I came up with. That made the second time around a little daunting! I decided to try a Zendala tile this time, and abstract the moebius strip a little more than last year by not including all of it on the tile.

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Tangles used: striping, betweed, hibred, knightsbridge, flux, sláinte, emingle, printemps, knase, and unyun, plus an African-inspired symbol and a technique I saw used with beautiful results by a man named Witold Reidel. You can see his delicious drawings here. Click on catalogue for a clickable list of his drawings.

stories and names

I had to review the step-out instructions on how to draw the tangle called fengle this week for the diva’s challenge, and was reminded of another reason that Zentangle is so appealing. It’s the stories!

Not just the stories behind the tangle names, even though those are great, but stories about discovering Zentangle, and learning from it. Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas share their stories in the same way they talk about their family (and often their family is included in the tale, as with fengle). It enriches the experience. It gives you a sense of belonging. It builds meaning. And, as with fengle, it’s nonchalant, just a simple part of the larger story.

I was delighted to teach Zentangle to people from two families last night. I always come away from beginning classes with a sense of wonder. Just sharing a few ideas about why the process is so inspiring, and then teaching the basic elements of drawing a tile always seems to affect people deeply.

I know that people who “don’t draw” are amazed at their own inherent ability, but there’s something more to it. Maybe it’s the simplicity (something we all need more of, these days). Maybe it’s because they now can bring the Zentangle story (and experience, and language, and community) into their own lives and families, and create new stories of their own. And of course, create beautiful images.

Here are the tiles that the students did last night. I won’t tell you who did which, but they were done by a mom, a dad, and their two teenaged daughters, and a dad and his young son (about 10 years old). I don’t have words. Okay, one word: incredible.

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As for me, I worked on the diva’s challenge this week. We learned both fengle and quandary at the 10th CZT seminar in September of 2012. I adore quandary! Maybe because it was newly released to us (they always have a special tangle, shared with seminar attendees first) at the time, but I think because it is visually complex and full of possibility. I am still warming up to fengle. I struggle with it. It feels clunky and weird under my pen. But, I will keep trying it, because it’s one of those tangles that gets under your skin.

And that’s my story.

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trying new ideas

The grid came alive with the diva challenge 131 this week… use the tangle dex as a monotangle (that is, use only the one tangle (and any tangellations thereof that you create). I think maybe I didn’t gravitate toward dex before because it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of room for expansion and elaboration. Here is the original step-out, if you would like to learn it. Sometimes it takes a challenge to really investigate an idea, and realize that there really is room to play.

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On July 25, Margaret Bremner created an absolutely wonderful post about cadent, one of the official Zentangle tangles. Wow, and bravo. She even made charts! I couldn’t read the post and NOT try some of the variations.

PlayCadentAug13

Tangles used in addition to cadent: river, rain, flukes, black pearlz, coaster, sez, paisley boa, and betweed.

Try your own! Once you learn the basics of Zentangle, and have a few tiles (or a fresh new sketchbook page) at your disposal, it’s easy to start with the basics and then start asking “what if?” What if I make more than one line? What if I draw an aura around this? What if I do it again? What if I don’t draw it the way they direct me to?

As a CZT (certified zentangle teacher), I get to witness the profound transformation that happens when everyday people, who believe they cannot draw, take the first steps in asking these what-if questions. At first, they ask for permission: can I do this? or this? And I always say, “Yes, you certainly can.”

And that’s what it’s all about.

a year of zentangle

Every day for a year now, since my Zentangle Kit arrived by mail, I have enjoyed making Zentangle tiles. I’ve learned so many tangles, and really gotten into the groove of picking up a pen and drawing in a mindful way. What was it that I did before? It’s really hard to say.

The diva started her challenges long before I caught wind of this lovely practice. Every week she issues a new idea for investigation and interpretation. This week it was a repeat of her second challenge: draw a string with two pencils banded together.

This week I also enjoyed seeing and learning from Margaret Bremner, who lives in the same province as diva Laura Harms. She shared a sampler of linear tangles, just perfect for the narrow alleys created by drawing a string with parallel lines, and a super fun post about the tangle called cadent. Wow!

Of course I had to try all of the ideas! My first tile includes a tangle that Margaret created, called chebucto, and some experimenting with cadent.

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The tangles used in the tile above are knightsbridge, chebucto, paradox, bateek, tripoli, flux, deelish, flukes, cadent, and voga. Bateek is a tangle created by Linda Farmer, and voga is by Carole Ohl; two more people from whom I draw a lot of inspiration.

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More tangles from Margaret and Carole, also vigne from Sue Jacobs, elven from Helena Hadzijaneva, and deelish from Stephanie Skelton. The list of them all: beadlines, quib, vigne, punzel, black pearlz, striping, knightsbridge, adente, elven, coaster, unyun, diva dance, deelish, knase, and voga.

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I did the above tile without a challenge in mind, but it seems to fit the theme. Tangles used: knightsbridge, copada, vega with zander, bunzo, camellia, flux, striping, and hollibaugh.

summer tangling

Two winters ago, the ice and snow did their best work and popped out a section of the retaining wall next to my garage. Last summer, I pulled and dug and dragged all the rock down. Dodging the heat wave, I managed to put in the first three layers before winter.

This spring (and into the summer) I was back, piecing together the layers for a few good hours every weekend. Here’s a picture of the wall without the heaviest stones on top. I’m still working on those.

AlongtheWall

While hefting fifty-pound rocks is nowhere near gently drawing on a small, square tile, there was something very intriguing and engaging about fitting the pieces together, kind of like drawing.

I have continued my Zentangle practice when I’m not outside, and thought I’d post my most recent tile, done in response to the diva’s challenge this week: use birdie feet, by Owl Loving April.

diva125The tangles in this tile are hibred, sláinte, riverstones, tripoli, knightsbridge, bridgen, and birdie feet.

left to my own devices

Focus, frame, string, fill, shade, and sign. I can’t remember where I read this condensed list of the steps to create a Zentangle, but it stuck with me (and it’s easier to remember than the more in-depth lists out there. And, for me, it’s a perfect, no-nonsense way to proceed. Here are some recent tiles I did when I was not responding to a challenge or a chapter in a book.

I don’t really have a notion of what tangles I’m going to use when I sit down and draw a string. Often I want to try new ones, so I usually begin with those. In the first tile, I wanted to try vigne, by Sue Jacobs, so I started with that (I varied it a little). That suggested plant-like forms to me, so I followed with punzel, chillon with a little flower in each square, and an old favorite, flux, with tipple in between the leaves.

Hibred, onamato, striping, and kitchener became a sort of backdrop to the leaf forms. Because those are more familiar to me, they are more likely to pop into my head when an area is suggested by the string.

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Another combination of old and new happened in the tile, below. I wanted to try an interesting shape for the string, one I’ve used in drawings here and there, incorporating elongated tube forms on either side of a lightly curving central line. I wanted to try 8’s, by Jane Eileen Malone. Again, the new was balanced by old favorites that came along as I worked: indy-rella, purk, striping, knightsbridge, tripoli, sand swirls, printemps, and nipa.

June13Devices-2

I haven’t done a lot of Zendala tiles, but definitely want to try more. I like the blank tiles the best so far, because I can choose how much symmetry I want to incorporate. In this Zendala, I use a tangellation of hibred and knase, deelight, shing, eye-wa, and lotus pods.

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processing ideas

With this week’s challenge no. 120, diva Laura Harms provided, for me at least, a chance to really dig in and explore a tangle. Her assignment: use bales, one of the official tangles of Zentangle, and play with it. Here are the instructions in an issue of the Zentangle newsletter. One of the fun things about Zentangle is that play is allowed and encouraged. There’s even a name for creating variations on a tangle: tangellations.

In my first tile, as is often the case, I loosened up and tried a few tangellations that didn’t stray too far from the grid with arcs on all four sides.

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I felt that I wanted the tic-tac-toe grid lines to go away, or at least not be as apparent, so I came up with the next tile to try different options.

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Ah-ha! I really liked the tangellation with high-contrast stripes, so I decided to fill a tile with that idea.

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analog to digital continuum

I just saw the phrase, “analog to digital continuum” on one of the blogs that I follow. I enjoy being one of the many who can claim existence in both worlds, and by default have been an active participant in the transition between them.

My career in graphic design and marketing communications began with a traditional fine arts degree, learned by standing at an easel and squishing paint colors together on a palette. My boyfriend at the time stole a cafeteria tray from the student union for me to use. Ever since then I have used old, worn out cookie sheets as palettes. Total analog. Squish out color, mix it, paint it onto a canvas. If you want someone to see your work, you invite them over or get a gallery to hang your work. I usually opted for the former, because I was so busy working for a paycheck that I didn’t accumulate enough work to hang.

So then I landed a job as an office manager with a print broker, and the rest is history. They asked me if I had used computers before. “Yes,” I said, thinking about the computer game I had played with the kids when I was a nanny/housekeeper, on their amazing contraption called an Apple. Could I type? ”Yes,” I lied, ”35 words a minute.”

They hired me on the spot, and I spent the weekend before work began learning how to type. On a typewriter. So I could go to work and use a computer. See the transition? There it was. A little bridge between analog and digital happened right there, in my life.

Before I knew it, I wasn’t just running their office, I was designing things with a page layout program. Leap ahead two years, I was designing things for a newspaper. Then I owned a design business, and soon I was working with four-color photographic images, getting them ready to be printed, going directly from a computer file to a printing press.

And now? Well, now I can type about 75 or 80 words a minute. I use computers all the time. In fact, I just used a digital camera to take a picture of an ink drawing I did by hand. I connected a wire from the camera to my computer and transferred the image. I opened my software (Photoshop) and adjusted the image saturation, the levels of dark and light, and the size and resolution of the image so that it not only looks a lot like the original, it can be shared, quickly and easily, with you.

It’s really amazing, when you think about it. I know when I link this image to the CZT diva Laura Harms’ blog, people from all over the world will see my interpretation of this week’s challenge, using the tuxedo tangle. It’s like I just invited you all over to see something I did by hand.

And that is the biggest thing of all: I did the drawing by hand. Because we all need to return to that kind of immediacy and wonder: that of seeing the ink flow out of the pen onto the lovely paper tile. The immediacy of my cat jumping up next to me and making my hand jump a little. The surprise and wonder at creating something new. Sure, I can do it a million times over on the computer, but when it is ink on a little piece of paper, it brings me back to why analog is important:

There is just one, I did it just now, and I cannot do it again. That is life.

Here is this week’s tile for the diva challenge #112:

diva112

I used tuxedo, mi2, knightsbridge and tripoli.You can check out the challenge and everyone’s work at the diva’s blog.

fall fuel

Fall is a busy time. Every year I need to get ready for delivery of the wood pellets for the winter. I supplement my city gas heat by burning wood pellets in the cast iron pellet stove which sits in the middle of one wall of my main living space. The electrician who installed the stove also delivers my pellets. This year, I ordered two tons of 40-pound bags, which arrived today on two pallets.

Last year, Hymie, who operates the delivery fork lift, had trouble maneuvering the pallets to where I wanted them at the side of the garage. I wound up re-stacking the pellet bags myself… not a task I wanted to repeat this year. So, instead of writing blog posts for the last few weeks, I’ve been rearranging my garage to facilitate a straight-in pellet delivery.

It worked out beautifully— despite the fact that pallet number two took a dive off of the fork lift as Hymie turned into the driveway this morning— he was marvelously quick at stacking the bags back on the pallet (lots faster than I would have been) and I am now ready for the winter.

I took today off of work to take delivery of my pellet-pallets. Hymie has been notoriously unpredictable in past years. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the beep-beeping of the forklift at 7:30 this morning. That gave me the day to work on my art-fueling.

Everyone who works in the visual arts needs to draw their energy and ideas from somewhere. For me, it’s a lot like stocking a third of my little garage with wood pellets. If you’ve been reading this blog (bless your heart), you know I’ve been really attracted to patterns and motifs lately. My self-imposed quandary— and challenge— has been to find what I want to express through pattern and motif.

I tend to be non-objective (no recognizable realistic forms) in my paintings, but this has been a source for some anguish. As I work, I start to ask questions about purpose, and meaning, that can be big-time mood killers, pushing me to the brink of stagnation.

Today, with the hours granted me by Hymie’s early arrival, I first went to the web for some visual inspiration. On http://www.pinterest.com, I wandered through my pin boards (pinterest.com/crafthatcher) and let them take me beyond, into the great visual inspiration collection that is pinterest. I happened upon a very inspiring (for me) Canadian artist by the name of Mandy Budan, who does wonderful acrylic paintings which are abstract, yet realistic. Her color sense— and use of pattern— is incredible.

Her work inspired me to head out for a visual fueling: a walk at the nature center next to my city. It’s a bounty of prairie and woods, and an excellent resource, ready to be collected with a digital camera. Late summer, here, was quite dry, so the vibrancy overload that makes Wisconsin falls unforgettable didn’t have a lot of oomph this year. However, I was able to find some vibrancy here and there, with plenty of visual purpose, now collected in a file on my computer, just waiting to be incorporated with pencil and crayon and paint.

I am ready to get back to my journal now. I will take some of Mandy’s inspiring ideas and make them my own. I’ll peruse the images I collected today for a starting point, and will let them continue to warm me through the cold and the snow.